Posts Tagged ‘Upton’s Naturals’

November 5th is a big day for the Chicago Vegan community. Not only is Vegan Mania that day, but Mercy for Animals will be screening the new documentary, Vegucated, at the Viaduct Theater that evening!

Chicago Vegan Mania


This is Vegan Mania’s 3rd year and once again it’s being held at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse (1419 W Blackhawk, Chicago, IL) from 10am – 5pm and it’s FREE! Parking can be hard to come by, so come early or ride your bike/take public transit.

Some of you may be wondering, “What is Vegan Mania?” It’s a celebration of everything that is vegan – food, community, commerce, fashion, and more! It’s where I discovered St Martaen’s delicious artisan cashew cheeses (long before they had the food truck) and Vaute Couture’s lovely coats (before they left us for New York 😦 ).

Even though the event is free, you’ll want to bring some cash with you because there will be a food court, which will feature delicious options from Chicago’s vegan restaurants and food companies, like Upton’s Naturals. In the past there have also been a wide variety of vegan goods for sale, like Ethically Engineered soaps, Herbivore Clothing, the aforementioned Vaute Couture coats, and more!

This year’s speakers include, Chicago’s Mercy for Animals Campaign Coordinator, Kenny Torella; vegan body builder, Robert Cheeke and Vegan Outreach’s Director of Outreach, Jon Camp. This year’s food demos will include culinary delights from Laviyah Ayanna of the Vegan Food Truck, Sandi Swiss of Canary Confectionary, Linda Szarkowski of Green Spirit Living, the Chicago Diner and Chicago Soy Dairy. All dishes demonstrated and sampled will be free of all animal ingredients.

Finally, there will also be a Family Activity Area with eco-crafts, and a culture cafe featuring a DJ, acoustic acts, artists, a coffee bar and a Vegan Rockstar photobooth!

Hope to see you there!


Saturday, November 5th, 2011
Viaduct Theater
3111 N Western Ave., Chicago, IL

Vegucated is a new documentary that follows 3 meat and cheese loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for 6 weeks. Along the way they discover the cruelty behind the industries they supported and are soon eager to fight back. The film is described as part sociological experiment, part science class and part adventure story.

The film will be followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Marisa Miller Wolfson.

To be sure you get a chance to see this film’s Chicago premier, purchase tickets in advance at http://vegucatedchi2.eventbrite.com/


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I use hashbrowns as a base for a meal on a regular basis. It’s something I learned from Nick. The neutrality of the potato allows for a wide variety of flavors to be added, as well as various vegetables, vegan meats, vegan cheeses, nuts, etc. This simple meal has taught me how to be a better cook by allowing me to experiment with a wide variety of spices, like cumin, chili powder, curry powder, paprika, etc. as well as whatever I happen to have in my fridge.


I always make sure I have a bag or two of frozen hashbrowns in my freezer. Today’s meal was made up of cauliflower, red and orange bell peppers, peas (frozen), nutritional yeast, Upton’s ground beef seitan, chili powder, flax powder (have to get those Omega 3s in there) and a little bit of olive oil and salt.

What I typically do is pour half a bag of hashbrowns into a pan coated in oil and place the heat on medium. Then I chop the veggies before adding them and stirring everything around to make sure everything has some oil on it, so nothing sticks to the pan. I don’t add spices until the end when most of the hashbrowns have browned because they absorb a lot of the oil. If you add them beforehand it’s not the end of the world though, just add a little more oil to keep things from sticking to the pan, don’t add water cause your potatoes will turn to mush. I typically also add nuts, daiya and hot peppers towards the end if I’m going to add them because burnt nuts can ruin a meal, spicy peppers heated for too long can become unbearably hot and Daiya can melt and stick to the pan instead of your food, which is a waste.

Do some experimenting of your own. It’s an easy meal, you can throw in pretty much anything you have in your fridge and more often than not you’ll be pleased by your results.

If you need more ideas try:

Southwestern Style: Hb’s, jalapenos, corn, peas, green onions, chorizo, flax powder, vegan cheese (the cheese can help cut the heat of peppers sometimes), and chili powder.

Indian Style: Hb’s, peas, cashews, garlic powder, cumin, curry powder and coriander powder.

Midwestern Style: Hb’s, broccoli, Daiya cheddar cheese, onion powder.

The possibilities are endless!


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So as you all know we went MIA around the end of August, right before we went to the first ever Vida Vegan Con in Portland, OR; which was supposed to inspire more blogging and it did (I have so many notes and ideas – many of which will come to fruition this month if all goes according to plan), except life got in the way.

First we’ll go with the conference highlights (Lisa was the only one able to attend the conference itself) :

  1. I got to meet lots of cool and inspiring vegans from all over the country and put faces to names of locals we’ve followed for a while, like Vegan Milwaukee and Snarky Vegan.
  2.  I got to learn how to make meringue (!!!) from Hannah Kaminsky and delicious chocolate delights from Fran Costigan.
  3. I learned a lot about marketing , review writing,  photography and more!

Now onto Portland itself:

1. Sweet Pea Bakery, 1205 SE Stark, Portland, OR.

Sweet Pea is located in the vegan mini mall, so you can get your pastry fill either before or after checking out Food Fight (Portland’s vegan grocer), Herbivore or Scapegoat, the vegan tattoo shop. Among their offerings are delicious danishes with sweet creamy filling, the likes of which I haven’t had in ages:

Decadent chocolate mousse pie:

And the Charlie Brown, a classic pairing of peanut butter and chocolate:

Not only were their pastries delicious, many of them were vanilla extract free, which made Nick happy!

2. Homegrown Smoker, SW 4th and Hall, Portland, OR.

The Homegrown Smoker is a vegan food cart with a southern twist. They have delicious macaroni and cheese and I highly recommend the Portorrito (smoked portobello slices, macnocheese, smoked soy curls, grilled peppers, onions, two cheeses and chipotle aioli wrapped in a warm tortilla). Nick got the Reuben with sweet potato fries, it was not Portorrito, but it was good, too.*

*Edge folks: Ask about their BBQ sauce before ordering any BBQ items – I believe I saw something on their sign about it being bourbon based.

3. Sizzle Pie, 624 E Burnside, Portland, OR.

Though Sizzle Pie isn’t entirely vegan, they offer quite a selection of vegan pies both with and without vegan meats and cheeses (including our very own Upton’s Naturals!). You can either buy it by the slice or get an entire pie. The slices are pretty big, too!

This slice was my favorite:

It’s the vegan Angel of Doom, which is topped with Daiya mozzarella, jalapenos, pineapple, almonds and fresh cilantro. Something about the jalapeno paired with the creamy Daiya and the pineapple makes this special. It definitely has kick to it, though – you’ve been warned.

Other pies we tried were the Spiral Tap, which is topped with caramelized onion spread, marinara and nutritional yeast:

And the Steve Caballero which is pepperoni, Italian sausage, green peppers, white onion, and Daiya:

Other places you should check out if you have the time are Voodoo Doughnuts, which offers a wide selection of vegan donuts, including the Old Dirty Bastard (right corner, front):

And Prasad, if you’re looking for something healthy after stuffing yourself with junk, like this curry bowl with red rice and kale:

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I made these as a snack for a craft circle I held the day after Christmas. They were a big hit! Nick, named them “Pizza Cookies” because the crust is soft, as opposed to crunchy, so if you’d like pizza crackers I suggest you make the crust thinner than I did.

1 ball of pizza dough (I’ve been using Trader Joe’s pre-made vegan crust a lot lately)
1 cup marinara sauce
1 cup Daiya mozzarella
1/4 cup Upton’s Pepperoni, cubed

Roll out dough until it’s about 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut out 1 inch circles, place them on a cookie sheet. Spread marinara sauce in the center of the circle. Sprinkle on a little Daiya and add a couple of pieces of pepperoni. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes or until crust edges are tan.

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Upton’s Naturals is my favorite seitan and not just because they’re from Chicago. Upton’s is produced in a small warehouse hidden in an industrial park in Skokie, IL. They offer a wide range of flavors (chorizo, ground beef, Italian sausage, gyros, bacon & more!) to local eating establishments, as well as at select grocers AND they have “grab & go” items, like the Gyro Wrap and the Breakfast Sandwich! We recently sent Dan a few questions to find out a bit more about Upton’s and here’s what he had to say:

SCV: First off, who is the mysterious mustachioed man?

Upton. No, he’s not flesh & blood, but was created by us along with our friend & illustrator, John Sampson.

SCV: Upton’s has been around for 4 yrs now, tell us how the company started and how it’s changed since it’s early days.

Although it says “Since 2006” on the retail packs, we actually formed Upton’s in August of 2005 and were developing the products about a year before that in a shared kitchen. I started the company with a good friend of mine who has since gone on to pursue other interests. We’d both been vegan for 10+ years and were looking for a project to work on together involving food. We did some thinking and realized there was a hole in the seitan market, especially for restaurants, so we decided to try and fill it. Neither of us had a culinary background, so it was all trial and error. We began selling to a handful of restaurants in Chicago and about a year in to that we decided to launch the retail line. We started with 7 stores in Chicago and delivered to them ourselves…then started working with a distributor and expanded to about 20 stores in IL & WI until earlier this year when we began selling to stores throughout the Midwest and Southwest. How things have changed…the first 3 years we did everything ourselves, just the 2 of us. We’ve added an employee about every six months since then.

SCV: How come your seitan is so delicious?! We can’t get enough Upton’s Chorizo or Bacon!

We just use the most simple ingredients and try to base our flavors on traditional recipes.

SCV: Are all of your products produced in your warehouse in Skokie?

All of the seitan and ready-to-eat items are made in Skokie, but we do use a third-party to produce the tamales.

SCV: How many people does it take to keep Upton’s running these days?

5 total. Three people handle all of the production and two of us keep things running in the office.

SCV: You recently added some new sandwiches to your offerings, how do you come up with such tasty sandwiches, wraps, etc.? Are any of them based off of customer suggestions? (We’re particularly fond of the Chicken Bacon Wrap and the Breakfast Sandwich with Bacon).

We just try to put out products that we think are good. We tried soliciting ideas for new ready to eat items a few times, but didn’t get much feedback.

SCV: Is there anywhere in the city we can get your sandwiches, wraps, etc. besides Whole Foods?

The only independent store currently selling the ready to eat items is W Grocer on North Ave. The retail seitan packs & tamales are available at most of the indie shops (full list on our website). Some restaurants don’t like it when their “secret” ingredients are made public, but we occasionally Tweet about new places that are serving Upton’s.

SCV: Are there any super secret recipes in the works for new items?

No, we’re trying to focus on widening the distribution of current products over the next year or so. After that we’ll likely package a couple more varieties of seitan for retail… bacon and chicken are at the top of the list.

SCV: We own some of your shirts & buttons and all the cool kids we know want them (especially the pin collection of mustachioed men, though I’m partial to the clean shaven guy). How can they go about getting their own?

They should be available on our website soon. Also, we occasionally give them away at events, so keep an eye out!

To find out more about Upton’s, including recipe ideas, check out their website: http://www.uptonsnaturals.com/

If you want the inside scoop make sure you follow them on Twitter & Facebook!

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I visited Mista Pizza last winter with a couple of friends. We’d heard through the Vegan Nerd Meetup that they had vegan options, so we decided to check it out. At the time most of their pizzas could be veganized by substituting Veganrella for whatever cheese was on the pizza. I’m not a huge fan of Veganrella and I wasn’t impressed, however, I recently heard they’d given up Veganrella in favor of Daiya, so Nick & I went to check it out again on Friday night.

Mista’s Broadway location is small and cozy. The man behind the counter was friendly when we walked in and he offered to answer any questions we might have about the menu, so we asked if they had vegan options. We were informed that most of the “Signature Pizzas” could be made vegan with Daiya (which unfortunately he said was soy based, even though it is not). Mista offers 10 signature pizzas and their menu informed us that most of their ingredients are organic, which I support. After perusing the menu and conferring with each other, Nick and I ordered a large (12-14 inch) “Florentine” which was topped with sauce, cheese, mushrooms, garlic and spinach.

Mista's Florentine Pizza

If you’ve never been to Mista you should be forewarned that they are home of the “cracker crust pizza” and they’re not kidding around. Their crusts are about as thick as a soda cracker, with moist centers and crispy edges. I, however, am a bread lover and enjoy thick crusts. As a whole, the “Florentine” was a tasty pizza. The ingredients were fresh, nothing was overcooked and the switch from Veganrella to Daiya is something I support wholeheartedly. However, a large pizza was not enough to satisfy both Nick & I and at $14 a pizza we weren’t about to get another one and since Mista doesn’t have anything else vegan on their menu (with the exception of a couple of salads, though most of those contained cheese and/or meat, as well), we opted to go somewhere else to satisfy our appetites.
I have yet to visit Ian’s Pizza in Wrigleyville (which has vegan options) and Delisi’s which offered deep dish vegan pizzas with faux meat & Teese seems to be gone for good, so my only point of comparison is Whole Foods Deli’s vegan pizza which I find to be a better bargain since 1) it has a thicker crust, 2) it’s roughly the same price and 3) they offer both Daiya and Upton’s as toppings and will top pizza with pretty much any faux meat you buy in store, plus you get to pick your own toppings!
But, if you find yourself in Andersonville or East Lakeview and you’re a fan of thin crusts/are looking for a snack, you should check Mista out.

Mista Pizza
2929 N Broadway or 5351 N Clark

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Minku was one of my roommates for a brief time while I was going through a recent transition in life. The things I miss most about living with him are Tidbit, the cat, and our house dinners, mainly because it meant Minku was making pizza. Though the rest of our roomies & guests made pretty tasty dishes, the pizza was always very popular.

Minku introduced me to the idea of making vegan stuffed crust pizza (why not?), as well as adding a variety of spices to crusts to make them deliciously unique. He also introduced me to my favorite topping combo: Upton’s Bacon and bananas! Maybe if we’re all lucky he’ll open his own vegan pizza joint someday!

Try his curry pizza with some vegan cheese, bell peppers, onion and broccoli as toppings. It rocks!

Dry Ingredients:
3 cups Flour
1-2 teaspoons Salt
1-2 teaspoons Yeast

1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1 teaspoon Black Mustard Seeds
1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Wet Ingredients:
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup Water

For the pizza pan:

Mix Dry Ingredients & Spices together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, and add the Oil & Water. Mix into a dough.

If the dough is too sticky, add a little bit of flour at a time until it’s just right. If the dough is too dry, add a tiny bit of water at a time until it’s just right.

Knead the dough for a few minutes, and roll into a ball. Cover & let sit in the bowl for 45-60 minutes.

Flatten and roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a clean, flat, dry surface, and make it in the shape of your pizza pan. (For stuffed-crust pizzas, roll the dough 2-3 inches larger on all sides.)

Generously sprinkle Cornmeal on your pizza pan, place the dough on the pan, and add everything you want to add

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