Hope for a Green Zebra?

**Galaxy Granola Giveaway ends tomorrow!!! Click here to enter!**

How many vegetarian restaurants do you know in Chicago? I can name about…5, and trust me, I’ve done my research.

Chances are, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan living in Chicago, you have heard of or been to Green Zebra – probably one of the most hyped up veggie restaurants in town. Sadly, I have to say that “Overhyped” would be the word I’d use to describe my GZ experience.

Nick and I have heard a mixed bag of reviews for Green Zebra, but most of them decent! All the dishes are priced around $12 a plate, and because the dishes run small, the restaurant recommends diners order 3-4 dishes each.

If you read Lucky Taste Buds, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of vegetarian and vegan food, even though I don’t have strict dietary mandates (love my seafood!), so I was SOOO excited about going to Green Zebra. What I love about the GZ concept is that it isn’t vegetarian food pretending to be anything. IT JUST IS. The chefs try to create an inspiring menu with non-meat options that have a unique spin by itself.

While I found the concept refreshing, the execution was poor on most of the dishes we ordered. Over-salted and over-greased seemed to be a recurring theme across all 6 plates.

Starter: Bread, Butter, and an Amuse Bouche

A waiter came around with a small metal basket of sliced crusty bread – you can choose between white or whole grain. I picked the nutty whole grain, which was delicious by itself with a crunchy crust and a soft chewy center. Paired with the butter cube topped with coarse sea salt, it was a perfect starter…and you can bet I asked for 2 more slices.

Amuse Bouche was a carrot salad that was in a vinegar dressing. Nick and I agreed this tasted exactly like pickled sweet and sour Chinese cucumbers you can get as cold appetizers in restaurants. In other words, DELICIOUS!!

My Dish #1: Grilled Mu Shu, eggplant, cucumber, spring onion, peppers, pickles $7

Tastiness: 4/10. ULTIMATE FAIL. I asked the waitress if she would recommend this, and she said she “likes it” kind of half-heartedly. I now realize she probably lied. The dish was made of a few components – 2 oiled and grilled wraps, 1 of which was soggy and had no grill marks (boo!), and 4 different vegetables. What the menu does not tell you is that you are literally eating sliced up kimchee from a jar, sliced pickles from a jar, and diced red peppers from a jar. The only exciting element was the curry flavored eggplant that MAY have been “cooked” at the restaurant. This dish was a slack-off and I was incredibly disappointed. I can DEFINITELY remake the same dish at home from grocery store ingredients, and there is no doubt that any one reading this can make a BETTER one that the dish I had.

My Dish #2: BBQ Black Eyed Pea Dumpling, hoisin, ginger, Chinese mustard, scallion $12

Tastiness: 5/10. The menu should have said: a sweet pot-sticker served with jarred hoisin sauce you can get from the grocery store for $1.49.  I did not expect that the black eyed pea filling inside the dumpling to be so sweet and so salty all at once. The dish had 4 dumplings, 1 of which was soggy and mushed. The other 3 were fried well and had a dark crunchy char on the bottom. The skin of the dumplings were chewy and well-made, but everything was extremely greasy. What was more maddening was that the dumplings sat atop a boring thick hoisin sauce that made the dish even more salty than it already was. Let’s not even talk about the sad looking strips of green on top and stingy scattering of shelled edamame.

I’m half-annoyed by this point and asking for my third slice of bread.  Don’t worry, the review only gets better from here because Nick had better dishes than I did.

My Dish #3: Slow Roasted Shittake Mushrooms, in crispy potato with savoy cabbage $12

Tastiness: 7/10. If you can look beyond how much oil and salt was used in this dish, this would have been quite a successful dish in terms of concept and execution. The mushrooms and cabbage were sautéed and wrapped in thin slices of potato. The whole roll  is then fried to perfection, sliced into pieces, and topped with a light foam. While I found the level of salt in this dish appalling, Nick was able to rescue me and finish this dish while downing 3 glasses of water while he was at it.

Nick’s Dish #1: Sunchoke Ravioli, grilled leeks, medjool dates, preserved lemon, quail egg $12

Tastiness: 7.5/10. Sunchoke is a Jerusalem artichoke that has a sweet flavor. This dish was a compliation of 3 ravioli’s, boiled and served atop an INCREDIBLY sweet bed of leeks and dates. The mush was so sweet this dish could have passed as a dessert. The egg was perfectly cooked and placed atop the sweet ravioli to add some savory flavors into the dish. Nick enjoyed this dish, but probably wouldn’t be something he’d order again. The concept is definitely a win here!

Nick’s Dish #2: Creamed Spinach Filled Crepe, oyster mushrooms, confit artichoke, parmesan $14

Tastiness: 9/10. Both of us agreed this was the best dish of the night, on par with the scallops. The crepe was soft and fluffy, stuffed fully with piping hot spinach, and topped with an even layer of melted parmesan. The chef topped the crepe with a delicious concoction of fresh pan fried mushrooms and flavorful artichoke confit that I could NOT stop eating. I have no complaints about this dish…I just wish I had ordered it instead. And…I wish I took a better picture!!! Sorry guys.

Nick’s Dish #3: Maine Sea Scallops, braised wild mushrooms, yukon potatoes, pomegranate $17

Tastiness: 8/10. Two large fresh sea scallops were pan fried with the top slightly seared and the inside still soft, sweet, and chewy. The braised mushrooms and tiny cubes of potatoes decorated the center of the plate, and apart from (again), the over salty flavors of the elements, this was a delicious dish. Pomegranate was in the form of a SPECK of sauce on the side of the dish, which I found unsuccessfully implemented. Also, $17 is too much to pay for 2 scallops.

RATINGS

Taste: 2.5/5 (Hit or misses all the time…but mostly Misses)

Originality: 4/5

Plating: 4/5 (Dishes were far better looking than they were tasting)

Value: 2/5 (A restaurant I’ll probably never go back to)

Service: 4/5

It sucks that I have to give mostly negative reviews of Green Zebra, but I honestly believe vegetarian can be done SO MUCH BETTER and I am incredibly disappointed. Nick and I filled up on pieces of bread and thank god the waiter took great care of our water glasses – making sure it was filled up 100% of the time. (Probably a good thing since salt content in the dishes were sky high)

A hit ratio of 2 great dishes out of 6 is hardly good at all, considering the menu is not large and 1/3 of it is a salad of some sort (anyone can throw some greens together, no culinary skills required). Green Zebra’s sister restaurant Spring was far more impressive, in my opinion.

Overall, it was a decent restaurant but I would not go back again. Both Nick and I felt our dishes were ALL over-salted and unnecessarily greasy. Perhaps the chefs felt that vegetables didn’t have enough flavor by itself and overcompensated by adding too much salt and oil. This approach may work for some diners, but not for Nick and I. Green Zebra is far better off NOT changing their menu all the time and making sure the ones on their permanent menu rocks.

For those who still want to/need to go: *My Green Zebra Tip* Dishes are hit or miss. Make sure you know what you’re ordering, ask for descriptions, and keep your mind open!

Green Zebra on Urbanspoon

Have you ever been to a restaurant that you had high hopes for, but left utterly heartbroken??

Easy Lunch Boxes Uncensored

**Click here to enter my Galaxy Granola Giveaway!!!!**

Before I review the lunch boxes, I just found out that you can SAVE UP TO 70% ON EASYLUNCHBOXES FOR 1 DAY ONLY on Jasmere.com! NOW and for 24 hours only, online shoppers can purchase the already very affordable lunch box system for up to 70% off the retail price!! (Click HERE to buy!)

And this is what you’d be buying…

At first glance, the plastic lunch boxes look like your standard compartmentalized Tupperware. However, here is what is missing from the picture…

1. The Lunch Boxes are more sturdy and durable than your average plastic Tupperware. It is made out the highest grade plastic polypropelene plastic (#5) a thick, PBA-free plastic that will hold up very well to rough journeys to work or school.

2. Safety safety safety!! Easy Lunch Boxes have ensured that all the materials used in their containers and bags are food and child safe and even pass strict FDA requirements! Easylunchbox products contain NO Lead, Vinyl, PVC, Phthalates, or Bisphenol A (BPA)!!

3. Microwave Safe. Easy Lunch boxes are FDA-approved for microwave usage. The plastic that does not leach any BPA or Phthalates when heated or cooled.

4. Lots of Colors. Lunch is way cooler when you have 4 colors of Tupperware lids to pick amongst. If you buy a cooler bag, you’ll also have multiple colors to pick from!

5. Portion-controlled and Size-appropriate. The well-sized Tupperware allows you to pack a lunch that is more nutritiously dense and filling. There’s enough room to pack your sandwich and 2 sides. Check this out! No more sandwich bags for your extras!!

6. Bento/Compartmenting concept! I love the fact that I don’t have to just pack sandwiches. Sometimes, I like bringing stir fry with a side of rice or beans or meatballs, but I don’t want it to turn into one giant bowl of jumbled mess. The separate compartments really allow your food to appear as elegant as when you first packed it.

7. Get creative in the kitchen!! See the picture below? Homemade guacamoleeee!

Downsides…

  • I found that you can’t pack anything that resembles liquid or else…it will leak. The seals are not made to snap all around the container, so I would recommend solid foods, no sauces or soups.
  • I haven’t been able to replace all my Tupperwares with Easy Lunch Boxes. Sometimes, I do need a hearty thick stew for lunch or a ginormous salad, which just won’t fit.

My Recommendation: these lunch boxes ARE perfect to supplement your stash of leak-proof Tupperwares. They are also great for kids and folks who like color. The bento concept inspires me to think out of the box when it comes to lunch packing! You definitely don’t have to always have sandwiches or wraps for lunch.

Online: Food Container Set (Contains 4 lids and 4 bottoms) $13.95; Cooler Bag (In 5 colors) $7.95

Take advantage of the Jasmere.com deal, 4 entire food container sets are only $4.19!!!! That’s $1 a piece!!! Jump on it savvy bloggies!!

Galaxy Granola Giveaway!

Since so many of you commented about how you’d love to try your own Galaxy Granola on my review, the Galaxy Granola folks have generously offered to give away one bag of their granola to a Lucky Taste Buds reader!! (Don’t worry, there will be more GG giveaways!)

Prize: A big 12oz bag of Galaxy Granola in your flavor of choice!!!

To win:

  • 1 entry – Visit the Galaxy Granola website and tell me what your favorite flavor to try would be (mandatory)!
  • 1 entry – Twitter about this giveaway with link-back to the post!
  • 3 extra entries – Either add me to your google reader/blogroll OR blog about my giveaway in your next post!!

Make sure you come back and leave a comment after each entry!!!

Giveaway Ends Thursday April 1st at Midnight CST!!


SnackTAXI Winner!

Winner of the SnackTaxi eco-friendly bags giveaway is…

# 58 via Random.Org

Ashlei at The Vegster!

Congratulations to Ashlei and Thank you to everyone who entered!!

More giveaways will be coming your way soon!

Habanero Curry Black Bean Muffies

Once upon a time there was a girl who was inspired by all the awesome black bean burger recipes she’d been seeing in the blogworld, so she decided to make her own without thinking to check if she had all the ingredients in her pantry.

She decided she’d pick the easiest recipe and improvise from there. Unfortunately, at step #2, she realizes she had NOTHING that resembles breadcrumbs. No panko, no flour…uh oh, SCREWED.

She looks in her giant, well-stocked, over-filled pantry (ironic isn’t it?) and suddenly a stroke of genius hit her.

Trader Joe’s Multi-grain pancake and waffle mix!!!

No patties today! Muffins they will be! And then, the black bean muffin balls were born. Seriously, the easiest, simplest, tastiest savory muffin I’ve ever made.

Habanero Curry Black Bean Muffies

The bottoms of these guys are messed up because I forgot to grease the muffins pan…Oops!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can black beans, mashed
  • 1/3 cup Trader Joe’s multi-grain pancake and waffle mix
  • 1 egg white or a flax-egg (dissolve 1 tbs flax seed with 3 tbs water and let stand for 2 minutes)
  • Up to 2 tbs Seasonings of your choice! (I used 1 Tbs curry powder, and pinch of Hot Habenero Salt Blend from Beyond the Shaker)

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350.

2. Roughly mash 1 can black beans and combine with the remaining ingredients.

3. Grease your mini muffin pan (or regular muffin pan) and spoon mixture into the pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes until muffins are firm on the top but not dry.

You can substitute this for corn bread when you eat chili or homemade vegetable stew!

My Recipe Self-Evaluation: I was surprised at how delicious these were. It wasn’t a black bean burger by all means, but they were fluffy, chewy, moist, and flavorful. I went a little heavy-handed on the curry, so next time I’d cut that back a little and perhaps add some finely diced onions. Apart from that, I LOVE my newly invented source of “protein-carb”!

A helpful flavor addition…since I like things HOT – Beyond The Shaker Hot Habenero Blend

Who is Beyond the Shaker? They are a company that makes premium gourmet salts.

How is that possible? Beyond the Shaker says, “Real salt should excite the senses similar to the finest five-star meal, and so we would like to introduce you to this amazing agent of flavor.  Beyond the Shaker offers several collections to choose from: the Pure Foundation series highlights natural, unrefined salts in their basic form. The Beyond Blends collection contains chef-crafted blends that marry superior salts with only the finest ingredients. Our unique Wet Salts combine exotic oils with unrefined salts.”

Hot Habenero Blend (on the Right)

Tastiness: 9/10. The ingredients say it all. You might be thinking, HOW does one review salt?? Simple! This isn’t JUST salt. Apart from providing plenty of saltiness like regular salt would, the blend has a bold, unmistakingly spicy, aromatic flavor profile to it. I like my things hot and flavorful, and this blend offered the complex flavors I was looking for – almost as if it were a hot sauce, a spice blend, and salt all in 1.

If you’d like to check out Beyond the Salt company and their BIJILLIONS Of other flavors, check out their website here. To get you started, think: Bolivian Rose, Bamboo Jade, Citrus Basil, and Cyprus Black Lava.

*Disclaimer” The product reviewed is a complimentary sample from Beyond the Salt. This by no means has an impact on the product reviews given. All opinions of the products are independently formed and reflect my own personal opinions.

And there you have it. Muffins made out of an unlikely product! Success!!

What have you created lately with a product/ingredient that isn’t made to do that job? In what ways do you think out of the box?? 🙂

(For me, rarely, so I’m super proud of these my muffies!)

Galaxy Granola Uncensored

**Enter the SnackTAXI eco-friendly, adorable lunch & snack bag giveaway here!**

I don’t know why nobody “invented” and sold this product sooner, but FINALLY, granola that isn’t baked with fat! How oats turned into an unhealthy product with loads of sugar and oil I will never know. That’s why I stick to baking my own granola, or if you’re busy…Galaxy Granola!!

Galaxy Granola really has it down – they absolutely 100% show that granola does not require fat to taste great! I highly recommend their products, especially the fruity raspberry flavor.

Galaxy Granola was founded by a few health conscious folks who had the ingenious idea to substitute applesauce into their granola instead of oil or fat.

If you’re a blog reader, you may have noticed that Galaxy Granola is popping up all over the place and always with raving reviews!! I was fortunate enough to be invited to join the “Fit not Fat” movement and sample some of their truly healthy granola.

Check out 1 serving (1/4 cup or 30g) of Galaxy Granola. For most flavors (except vanilla almond), each serving is 115 calories, almost HALF the amount of calories of standard store-bought granola!

My overall verdict: I would DEFINITELY buy Galaxy Granola over any other brand of Granola on the market! Raspberry is my favorite flavor followed by vanilla almond and not sweet vanilla. The granola is chewy, crunchy, fresh, flavorful and absolutely healthy ‘n DELICIOUS!

Raspberry

Click here to find out nutritional stats and exact ingredients.

Tastiness: 9.5/10. This flavor is my absolute favorite. Galaxy Granola absolutely did NOT skimp on their freeze dried raspberries, which were mostly whole and uncrushed in my bag. They add a wonderful tart crisp airiness to the denser, crunchier texture of the oat flakes. I love this flavor eaten just with unsweetened almond milk because the lightly sweetened oats and the tart raspberry naturally brighten up the milk with flavors. The granola doesn’t get soggy quickly so you can enjoy your bowl of granola cereal as leisurely as you please!

Not Sweet Vanilla

Click here to find out nutritional stats and exact ingredients.

Tastiness: 7/10. Contrary to what the name suggests, this flavor is not NOT sweet, and don’t worry, it’s not salty at all.. I like to think that the natural sweetness and nuttiness of the oats really comes through in this flavor. The granola has a very mild flavor overall and there is a light vanilla aroma. This flavor is perfect on a flavored or fruity yogurt. In terms of texture, the bag is dense with chewy oats and a few light crispy cereal bits, but overall more one-dimensional (may be bland to some people) than the other 2 flavors.

Vanilla Almond

Click here to find out nutritional stats and exact ingredients.

Tastiness: 8.5/10. This is an addictive flavor mainly because of the extra-crunchy whole glazed almonds scattered throughout the granola bits. This is certainly more sweet than the “not sweet vanilla” flavor and holds up very well in both milk and yogurt. There aren’t as many almonds as I would like, but I guess nuts don’t come cheap!

For more information on Galaxy Granola, check out their website here!

*Disclaimer* The products reviewed are complimentary samples from Galaxy Granola. This by no means has an impact on the product reviews given. All opinions of the products are independently formed and reflect my own personal opinions.

P.s. Check out Anne’s awesome (or should I say Amazing) giveaway!

**Don’t forget to Enter the SnackTAXI giveaway here!**

SnackTAXI Giveaway! Easy. Eco-friendly. Adorable.

Dear SnackTaxi, thank you for inventing a “stick ‘n lock” bag to help me carry my little lunch snacks without being wasteful.

When I first saw Hungry Girl introduce these bags, I was skeptical as to how useful they’d be. After all, I use zip lock bags for a variety of MESSY and sometimes, wet things!

Enter Erin Kelly Dill – the owner and inventor of SnackTaxi bags, who sent me a starter kit to review on Lucky Taste Buds. Ever since I got ’em, I realized that (A) I don’t pack liquids/wet things in sandwich bags as much as I THINK I do, and (B) I really do enjoy NOT being wasteful! I haven’t used a single plastic ziplock bag once! (No need to buy ’em in the future!)

This mom of 3 started her own business in 2003 to eliminate waste from packing her kids’ lunches!

#1. I’m a sucker for color and adorable designs! There are a million patterns to choose from on their online store.

#2. The bags are a great size! The sandwich sack fits 4 mandarin oranges…

Here are the dimensions to all the bags you can get!

  • snack-sack  6″W x 4.5″H
  • sandwich-sack  7.5″W x 6″H
  • lunch-sack 10″W x 11″H w/ a 3″ bottom
  • bulk/produce bag 10″W (20″ circumference opening) x 18″ L

#3. The fabric of the pouches are thick, durable, and the inside is WATERPROOF!

Jill put a lot of thought into the design of these pouches. While the outside layer is 100% cotton, the inside is made out of nylon with a polyurethane waterproof coating. The nylon is free of heavy metals (like lead), PBB’s, and PBDE’s.

#4: They’re eco-friendly!! Eliminate waste and cut down the cost of buying plastic bags to hold your snacks and lunches.

#5: EASY CLEANING!! You can throw ‘em in the dish washer or run water and soap under the sink straight into the bag!

#6: A great way to support local business – SnackTaxi pouches are made in a home workshop by local sewers in Plainfield Massachusetts!

#7: You get to be creative with the things you pack! Bake homemade treats and bring ‘em to work or school!  Pack cereal or granola with no spillage! It has more padding than a zip-lock, and when you’ve finished what’s inside, simply turn the bag upside down and pat out all the crumbs!

Jill and her baggies were featured on Daily Grommet, so check out the video here and see if there are any designs that float your boat!

If you’d like to order your own adorably awesome pouches, click right HERE for the online SnackTaxi Store!

And if you’d like to win a SnackTaxi sample pack, enter this GIVEAWAY!!!

Prize: You will win a sample pack of 3!

  • 1 Sandwich Sack
  • 1 Snack Sack
  • 1 Twice-As-Nice Napkin

To win:

  • 1 entry – Visit the SnackTaxi website and tell me what your favorite pattern is (mandatory)!
  • 1 entry – Tell me what you’d pack into your eco-friendly SnackTaxi pouches
  • 1 entry – Twitter about this giveaway with link-back to the post!
  • 3 extra entries – Either add me to your google reader/blogroll OR blog about my giveaway in your next post!!

Make sure you come back and leave a comment after each entry!!!

Giveaway Ends Friday March 26th at Midnight CST!!