Eating Plant Based When Traveling: Chicago & Racine + Creamy Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette (oil free)


Hi sweet soul,

When I was born, my mom and dad had no electricity, no running water and no indoor plumbing. They didn’t even have a house! They had a super small 1960’s vintage trailer, borrowed from a friend, and plopped on 5 acres of land in Southwest New Mexico that they had recently purchased.

After I was born, they put up a teepee where me, my mom and dad, and my sister and brother would live until they finished building the first room of the house they built on our land.

Allow me to set the scene of my birth:

Mom was laying on a foam pad on the floor of the tiny trailer, naked and sweaty from the July evening. I don’t know for a fact that there was patchouli oil diffusing, sandalwood incense burning and Joni Mitchell playing in the background on a battery powered boombox, but my gut says, it’s a hard yes.

I do know there were candles placed all around the trailer for light because giving birth in the dark isn’t ideal. My sisters, my brother, my dad and my godfather circled around mom, while her midwife did whatever magical work midwives do. My oldest sister had the job of being a stirrup for my mom to push her feet and legs against when the contractions came.

My dad fanned my mom’s face, to cool her down from the summer heat and from the human that was about to exit from her VAGINA after 40 hours of labor (thanks mom!). My other sister and brother were on standby to do whatever mom needed them to do during this raw and intense process. And finally, my godfather, Rick had the very important job of holding a flashlight for the midwife, directly on my mom’s cooch so the midwife could see all the goings-on.

After a damn long time, I squirted my way out, I opened my eyes, I looked around, and I smiled. Then I went straight for the boob and I didn’t make a fuss or cry for the first week of my life.

Let’s back up this turnip truck because this story really isn’t about me. This story is about my godfather, Rick, who so dutifully held a flashlight where no flashlight should ever go, especially under the circumstance in which said flashlight was held.

Rick and my dad had been best friends since fifth grade. They grew up a couple of blocks from each other in Racine, Wisconsin, and they were inseparable upon first meeting. These two souls just clicked like they had known each other for many lifetimes. My parents were super hippies and they did wild things, like hitchhike across the country, live in a national park in Colorado for an entire spring, and build their home by hand as well as making and gathering all the material that they used to build their home with. And Rick did all these crazy things with them (in a totally platonic kind of way) . He never married and never had kids so, we were his family. He is my second dad. I love this guy to bits.

He did all the things second dads do. He poured beer down my throat when I was little just to see my reaction. He had me dig random holes outside when I was bored. He tried to get me to eat turkey every year at Thanksgiving in exchange for $5 (I never accepted). He gave me candy (because my house was in a constant sugar draught). He taught me about unwavering loyalty by being a Chicago Bears fan. He bought my little painted rocks that I used to paint and sell. He swung me upside down. He made me laugh hysterically. He was a fantastic audience for my Molly shows that I never quite outgrew. The love I have for him is similar to the love I have for my own dad. It’s deep. It’s old. And it’s fucking painful when something goes wrong.

Last year, Rick was diagnosed with a rare degenerative brain disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Syndrome, for which there is no cure. He had to sell his handmade house in New Mexico (just down the well worn path from where he held that flashlight almost 40 years ago) and move back to Wisconsin where he now lives in a veterans home where he can be cared for.

I hadn’t seen him since he moved back to Wisconsin, so Luanne and I made our way to the Midwest a couple weeks ago so I could give him a big hug and have a visit. It was so good to see him. It was also hard because although he is on medication to slow down his symptoms, his disease is still there, taking its course and slowly taking him along with it. His speech is slurred, he is unsteady on his feet, his vision goes double at times, he has a hard time swallowing and he moves slow. But his mind is sharp and he is still Rick, one of my favorite people in the world.

Travel is important for so many reasons, but visiting people you love who you don’t see often is one of the best reasons I can think of to get your ass on a plane and go. And when you go, you have to eat. To help you figure out how to eat plant based on your next trip, I kept a picture food journal to share with you so you can see how I maneuver staying plant based when I travel.

Enjoy our trip!

Ready to head to LA to catch our next flight to Chicago.

My trusty Trader Joe’s almond butter jar makes a comeback! This time I loaded my travel friend up with Apple Pie Steel Cut Oats. I put them in the container cold and added just a but of soy milk and stir. If you add too much milk it will be a problem at security.

I call this Plant Powered Plane Bowl and I make it every time I fly. I basically toss together whatever I have in the fridge and put it in a container. This one had brown rice, steamed broccoli, baked tempeh, whole roasted garlic cloves, hummus and a dressing I was testing for an upcoming meal plan. It more than hit the spot and I was so happy to have it midair.

The inner workings of my Plane Bowl. Yum, yum. Eat like you give a flying fuck!

I love to pack crunchy romaine hearts. I have to eat them relatively soon after we board or they start to go soft. I realize it’s not a potato chip but the crunch is satisfying in that chip sort of way, sans the salt. This time I packed my romaine in a reused carrot bag.

The best sandwich keeper ever! I’m a fan of anything I can reuse.

I made Luanne and I nice juicy tempeh sandwiches. She’s eating hers (left) while I nom on my oats (right).

Here’s the guy who we journeyed 15 hours to see! So good to see my godfather, Rick.

This is me and Rick when I was just a tiny thing. I’m hugging his cat, Tidy. Now that I look at it closer, Tidy and Sweet Pea are twins!

An easy go-to breakfast when I travel is granola and fruit. I go to whatever grocery store is close by after I get settled in my room and I buy a few staples. Cereal with the least amount of sugar, unsweetened, non-dairy milk and fruit are some of the things I buy. Travel almond butter is also a must, though I always pack it so I don’t have to buy it when I get to where I’m going.

Here are a few other things I picked up at the store.

I also bought apples and blueberries. Fruit is the easiest travel food out there.

We were greeted with so much cold and snow. So cold. So much snow. This island chick was traumatized.

More snow. More cold.

Eagle Lake, outside of Union Grove, WI. My dad spent summers here when he was a kid.

So Wisconsin loves their cheese. And their milk. And their fish. And their meat. It’s not a plant based utopia by any stretch of the imagination. Bigger cities, like Madison and Milwaukee, have more options, but in the small little rural towns, options are super limited. So I did what I always do in cases like this, I did the best I could and that was more than good enough. We went out to eat quite a bit while we were there because we had family to see and visits to be had.

Instead of ordering main dishes without the meat, dairy and eggs, I stuck to the side menus. This was a side of sweet potato fries, some steamed carrots, sautéed veggies and brown rice. I don’t worry about the oil when I travel. If I can get some form of plants, I’m happy! The trick to traveling to small towns when eating plant based is to lower your expectations and chill the fuck out. You can get back to your healthy Dirty ways when you get back home!

After our time in Wisconsin came to a close we drove to Chicago to spend a couple days before flying back home. If you’re ever on highway 94 in Illinois and pass the Lake Forrest Oasis Travel Plaza, make a pit stop. You will find a vegan plate at this Middle Eastern food booth. I was happily shocked!

Vegan plate with hummus, baba ghanoush, falafal, tahini cucumber salad, dolmas and pita. Not the best I’ve ever had but it totally did the trick and I was stoked to find it.

Get a load of THIS amazingness! Meal plan and recipe wizard, Tamie Spears (left) has been working for CFDG for over a year and we’ve never actually met in person. That all changed when we were in Chicago because she drove from Michigan to hang out with us! We had a blast together and hung out all day.

We stopped by plant based restaurant, Native Foods in Wicker Park, for lunch and had lots of food. We were too busy chatting to take pictures of all our food but here were a couple things we ate. These are Cauliflower Wings.

We ordered the brussels sprouts thinking they would be sauteed but they came out fried. They were good but they would have been better not fried. I wasn’t about to complain though because they were vegan and we were having too much fun visiting.

After our lunch we went to Tamie’s car where some Dirty desserts were waiting for us to test. Yup, the wizard brought us WFPB desserts that she’s working on for meal plans and the blog. We sat in her car and tested three different types of cookies and chocolate cake, looking all seedy as we huddled around, testing each one. As people passed by the car I’m sure they thought we were doing drugs. Ha! It’s only Dirty dessert, keep movin’!

THIS is coming to a Sweary Saturday Love Letter to you. And it is fucking amazing.

We hit up Kizuki Ramen for dinner and they had vegan ramen with kale noodles. Totally yum.

Handlebar in Wicker Park is worth the visit if you’re in the area and need to eat. It’s a bar that has yummy vegan food. We had Inferno Mac and Cheese and Sambal Tofu. Two solid choices apart from being a bit salty.

Sambal Tofu

Inferno Mac and Cheese

The next morning Luanne had leftover Sambal Tofu and I had cake. Yup, I ate cake for breakfast and I loved every chocolate second of it.

Taking the blue line to explore the city.

If you ever spot a Beatrix Market, go there and your plant based needs will be happily fulfilled! This one was downtown.

This market is buffet style, with lots of healthy vegan options. Note I said “healthy” vegan options. This is a place you can fuel up on simple, unadulterated plants and have a yummy time doing so.

I had veggie soup and a big bowl of plants. Lentils, quinoa, sweet potatoes, tofu, veggies and greens. This was the most satisfying meal of the whole trip, probably because this is how I eat when I’m home.

Our last night in Chicago we went out for Thai food. I ordered Pad Thai without egg or fish sauce. I forgot to request as little oil as possible but I happily ate it anyway.

The flight back home is always a little more tricky because I usually don’t have access to a full-on kitchen and I can’t stock up on ingredients to cook with. So I always go out to dinner the night before I fly home and order extra food to pack for the plane. That, along with fruit, carrots, hummus and nuts usually get the job done.

This time I accidentally left my to-go food at the restaurant. #waterwater. Lucky thing O’Hare airport has a Mexican restaurant called Tortes that had a super yummy bean and mushroom bowl that is vegan if you request no cheese. Our flight from Chicago to Honolulu was 9 hours long. Looking back, I should have ordered two of these bowls!

I did manage to pack a carrot, some nuts and some fruit so I was okay for the long journey home. Here we are ready to go back home to the warm breeze and palm trees.

As a side note, read this book. It is a beautiful read.

The beautiful sight of Hawaii. Home sweet home!

Just like giving birth without electricity or indoor plumbing, traveling while plant based is doable. Take it from me, I’m proof on both accounts! You just have to commit, get creative, and do the damn thing.

May you have a happy journey, wherever this amazing life takes you next.

Creamy Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette (oil free)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Author: Molly Patrick


  • 7 cloves roasted garlic (link to recipe below)
  • ½ cup raw sunflower seeds (70g)
  • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (235ml)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper (about 10 turns)


  • Make sure you have roasted garlic on hand before you start! Link is in the notes. 
  • Place the sunflower seeds into a small saucepan and cover with water. Simmer for 10 minutes and then drain the seeds in a mesh strainer and rinse with cool water. Drain again.
  • Add the sunflower seeds to your blender, along with the roasted garlic, non-dairy milk, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, dijon mustard, salt, onion powder and black pepper and blend until creamy and smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
  • Store in the fridge and chill before dressing up your favorite salad. 


This dressing thickens up as it sets. If it gets too thick, feel free to add a little water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to thin it. 
Here is the perfect oil free roasted garlic recipe. 

Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with Joni Mitchell and your cooch being free of flashlights.


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Our Sweary Saturday Love Letters are written by our ex-boozer, ex-smoker, plant-loving co-founder, Molly Patrick.


  1. Laura on April 28, 2018 at 9:37 am

    That was an awesome blog post. I’ll be 59 soon and it feels like my whole generation is just fading away. It’s hard to see, but we treasure all we had with those who had such impact on our lives. The rest of the trip looked awesome too and just printed out the recipes. Thanks for sharing your lives with us.

    • Cynthia Flagg on April 29, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      Me too, I will be 59 in August. I so relate to the stories about “the hippies”. LOL The picture of Rick makes me think of all my friends from days gone by and my hubby too (psst don’t tell him). I’m currently trying to get him on board with this way of eating. What an incredible life I’ve had so far. Looking forward to what’s next. Hugs, Laura and Molly!

  2. ruth on April 28, 2018 at 10:25 am

    So close and now you’re so far! Next time you’re in town try Quesadilla La Reina Del Sur if you like Mexican food and Chicago Diner (Halsted) for a great ruben. <3

  3. Tamie on April 28, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    I loved every minute of our visit! Counting the days until we’re together again in Hawaii (90 days!!). Can’t wait!! xoxox

    • Shannon Brown on April 29, 2018 at 9:58 am

      5 stars
      Where in Michigan do you live?

  4. Rhonda on April 28, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    What a great read. Thanks for the inspiration. So sad about your godfather .. you are lucky to have a person like him through your life, what a man. Thanks too for the recipe, I really struggle giving up oil in dressings, but I’m going to try this one. ???? it hits the spot! Thanks again, I love reading your blog posts, you are an amazing person and give so much x

  5. Vicky Haluska on April 28, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    5 stars
    Great to see you sexy dirty girls and all your clean food and picture travel log; and SO great to see Rick.. looking VFA (very f..king awesome!) Am truly delighted!.
    Thanks Molly and Luanne for sharing all of it.. a magical tale of being born!!!

  6. Marcy on April 28, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    5 stars
    I’m so sorry to hear about your Godfather, Rick. Your visit meant a lot to him, I’m sure. I live in Milwaukee, and was traumatized by the cold and snow, too! One never gets used to snow in April. Thanks for sharing the travel tips and recipes!

  7. Amanda Mae on April 28, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    5 stars
    Molly, you are such a beautiful human being, inside and out! I loved reading this! ♥️ And I can’t wait to try this dressing, I love roasted garlic!

  8. Nadine on April 29, 2018 at 8:38 am

    5 stars
    This tribute is extremely touching! I have a lump in my throat. Thank you for always reminding us what is important in life.

  9. Mphimis on April 30, 2018 at 9:54 am

    5 stars
    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog! Glad you were able to see your old friend! Also, happy you found some good food and finally met up w/ Tami.

  10. Margot on May 1, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    5 stars
    Such a fun story! Always a delight to read your posts and love your recipes. I am curious as to why you don’t eat any oils.

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on May 1, 2018 at 6:58 pm

      Hi Margot! Thanks for reading and the kind note for Molly! I can help with some insight on the oils. Check out this post Molly penned on oils and there are two prior related posts linked within. ~Karen

  11. Linda on May 22, 2018 at 1:58 am

    5 stars
    Thanks for sharing

  12. Limo S&S Chicago on June 20, 2018 at 12:36 am

    I always find it hard to eat clean while travelling because when you travel you end up eating junk most of the times. I have a bad stomach and junk makes it even worst. Your blog will help me a lot. Thank you so much for sharing.

  13. Melissa Hansen on September 23, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    I’m late to this blog post party, but came across my home town when scrolling the blog and had to read. I work less than a block from the Beatrix market downtown – and I go there often. Even just within this past year since this was posted, there are about 3 more places in a block radius of there which have great plant based options! Hope you will make another stop to Chicagoland soon – we have great restaurant options! Just come in warmer weather next time!

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on September 24, 2019 at 6:40 am

      Hi Melissa – thanks for checking us out! And, for taking time to share the local update about plant based options! ~Karen

  14. Limo Mount Prospect on March 16, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    What a fun read! Love your point of view. Thanks for sharing!

    • Molly Patrick on March 16, 2020 at 4:31 pm

      Thank you for stopping by!

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