More and more people are falling in love with vegetarian (and vegan) cooking. Whether for meatless Mondays or because of health or ethical reasons, it’s become a popular diet choice.
Even if you are not vegetarian, you may find yourself having someone over for dinner who is. Be ready with some meat-free options and don’t worry about providing enough protein, because when you combine vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, and eggs in a balanced way; the result is a nutritionally complete and satisfying meal.
Salads are always a good vegetarian option! For me, they are easy to prepare and they allow you to add different fruits and vegetables to your diet. When deciding what salad to offer to your guests, first get whatever greens and veggies (or fruits) are in season. Then, decide on the dressing (creamy, such as Caesar, or a vinaigrette). Finally, add toppings such as cheese, nuts, or herbs. My recipe is a perfect example of a well-balanced salad; I decided to use baby lettuce, which is very delicate and pairs nicely with sweet pears and strong feta cheese. If feta is not available, use bleu or goat cheese and apples can be used in place of pears.
I always add nuts or olives to my salads, since they are a good source of monounsaturated fats. To toast the walnuts, place them on a baking sheet and bake them at 350°F for 10 minutes or until fragrant.
Winter Salad with Pears, Walnuts, and Feta Cheese
– 4 servings
- 2 1/2 oz. organic baby lettuce mix
- 1 Bartlett organic ripe pear, thinly sliced
- 4 -5 tsp. balsamic vinaigrette (homemade)
- 1 1/2 oz. feta cheese, cubed
- 1/2 oz. walnuts, toasted and chopped
In a large bowl, gently mix the lettuce with pear slices and the vinaigrette. Divide mixture evenly into 2 large or 4 small plates. Top each salad with feta cheese and sprinkle with walnuts. Serve immediately.
Cheese boards are amazing vegetarian appetizer (or a small meal, if you add bread and crackers). Sometimes, a well selected cheese board makes the perfect dessert course. To choose what cheeses to offer, consider different textures and types. For the following recipe, I selected a medium-hard cheddar, a spreadable goat cheese, and a buttery brie.
And remember, strong cheeses are always good when paired with something sweet (honey, fruit spread, or dried fruits). Make sure to add fresh fruits and nuts to the cheese board and you’ve got a sophisticated first course.
Cheese Board Appetizer
– 2 servings
- Cave aged cheddar cheese from Vermont (bold and savory)
- Fresh goat cheese (creamy and tangy)
- French brie cheese (buttery)
- Organic honey or fruit spread
- Organic red grapes (or other seasonal fresh fruit)
- Mix of organic nuts and berries (cashews, almonds, blueberries, cranberries, pumpkin seeds)
Bring all cheeses to room temperature a half hour before serving. Arrange everything on a board; serve with crackers and rustic bread on the side.
Who doesn’t love pasta? It is such a crowd-pleaser and amazingly affordable ingredient. To make an interesting entertainment meal, buy a different shape of pasta (try gemelli, which means “twins,” or casarecce). Splurge on a good organic pasta (try the brand “Garofalo”) and cook it until just al dente.
My recipe for Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Peppers, and Goat Cheese is a simple dish that gets its color from the different vegetables and its flavor from the tangy goat cheese.
Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Roasted Red Bell Peppers, and Goat Cheese Mix
– 4 servings
- 2 red bell peppers, roasted and sliced
- 8 sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated and chopped
- 6 oz. dried organic “gemelli” (or other shape) pasta
- olive oil, balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 8 stuffed green olives, sliced
- 2 oz. goat cheese, mixed with salt, olive oil, and roasted garlic
Boil pasta according to the directions (about 9 minutes). Drain and cool. Mix everything in a large bowl. Divide into serving plates. Top each with goat cheese, sprinkle with olives, and serve at room temperature.
NOTE: The best way to roast peppers is to cut them, remove the membranes, and place them on a sheet lined with aluminum foil. Broil them for 10-15 minutes or until blackened.
I hope you enjoyed these vegetarian recipes that happen also to be very nutritional and flavorful. People around the world are entertaining with vegetarian bites! We are here in California, where most of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts are grown. So, I think, we all should adopt some vegetarian principles and make them look fun, healthy, and interesting, because they are.