A Unique Approach to Making Healthy Eating Delicious, Sustainable and Fun

On October 2, 2015, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a special seasonal fundraising event put together by Green City Market, a nationally recognized Chicago-based non-profit organization that generally serves to provide a convenient and affordable marketplace for sustainable, locally grown foods.

Branded A (Mostly) Veggie Affair, the event itself was a walk-around tasting featuring a wide range of contemporary vegetarian dishes complemented with choice portions of roasted, grilled and braised free-range meats, all of which were cleverly concocted by local chefs (referred to as either “team veggie” or “team meat”) using many of the foods available at Green City Market.

Among the talented chefs representing both teams at the event were Andres Padilla (Xoco Bristro), Paul Virant (Vie/Perennial Virant/Vistro), Lawrence Letrero (Sable), Sean Pharr (Bristol) and David Ochs (Maple & Ash), each of whom clearly demonstrated some real out-of-the box when coming up with their plates.

A definite highlight of my culinary experience was a meatless taco prepared with braised kale, roasted mushrooms and whipped goat cheese courtesy of chefs from Xoco Bristro. This combination might not sound at all appetizing to some, but it was utterly amazing to me. I even got my husband to try one although he was undoubtedly in full support of “team meat”.

Funny enough, I used to hate eating vegetables. Growing up in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood of Englewood, the whole “eat your veggies” idea just wasn’t for me – Unless of course they were salted and boiled to oblivion. However, my former adoption of a vegan lifestyle as an adult truly changed the ways in which I approached and embraced vegetable eating.

Related Article: Eight Super-Simple Ways to Get More Veggies Into Your Diet

Plus, innovative chefs like those at A (Mostly) Veggie Affair have a special way of ‘vegefying’ dishes in creative ways by combining hearty, vegetable blends like sweet peppers, leafy greens, carrots, mushrooms and onions with high-quality meats and other protein-rich foods like nuts and seeds, beans, cheeses and soy foods. And, let’s not forget the savory-flavored herbs and spices included, which bring the veggies to life!

I wholeheartedly believe that much of society’s ill health and health inequalities are directly attributed to a perceived lack of access to nutritious, sustainable foods combined with a general lack of knowledge about proper cooking techniques and food preparation methods. Many folks haven’t grasped the idea of just how cheap, easy and fun healthy eating can actually be.

These are among the many reasons I love the concept of Green City Market.

Through continuous fundraising efforts, this organization promotes a healthier society by supplying a diverse range of fresh produce, farm fresh meats and eggs, cheeses and other high quality foods at very reasonable costs.

Adding to this, they regularly offer affordable, oftentimes free, educational outreach programs, aimed at addressing existing knowledge gaps about healthy eating, which are especially prevalent among individuals and families residing in lower income areas of the city.

Notably, proceeds from every ticket purchased for A (Mostly) Veggie Affair were actually set aside for Green City Market’s Link Card Assistance Program (Illinois’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; SNAP), which matches dollar for dollar, any purchases made by customers using their Link Card at the market.

I can’t think of a better cause, as this initiative further increases the general affordability and accessibility of healthy, nutritious and sustainably produced foods to low-income Chicagoans.

In addition to the culinary delights at A (Mostly) Veggie Affair, there was great music and a real good company of health conscious folks sharing their unique insights and ideas for improving Chicago area communities. Just being part of the overall spirit of the event was (for me) a positive and encouraging experience.