Copycat Chipotle Guacamole

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chiptole

Copycat Chipotle Guacamole 
3 ripe avocados
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped jalapenos
1/8 cup lemon/lime juice, 80/20 ratio
pinch of salt

Mash all ingredients with a fork and serve with lime tortilla chips

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Life Changing Hummus

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PICTURES TO COME SOON
RECIPE ADAPTED FROM: BEETS AND BLUE CHEESE

Life Changing Hummus
1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and crumbled feta cheese. Serve with warm pita bread or sliced veggies.

Vegetarian Food Trends and the Effort to Convince Carnivores that Veg Food isn’t all About Tofu

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“So, what do you eat?” “Where do you get your protein?” and “If you were stranded on a desert island, and there was only meat for food, would you eat it?” These are only a few of the questions I get asked when I tell someone about my vegetarian diet.  For most carnivores, the vegetarian lifestyle seems to be one of bland flavors and weird and nasty foods. But for me and other passionate vegetarians and foodies, the possibilities of experimenting with new, fresh and flavorful ingredients and foods are endless. And especially over the last few years, meatless food trends have become popular, delicious and easy for vegetarians and carnivores alike.

I spoke to Jan Greco, the creator of Beats & Blue cheese, a laid back yet sophisticated blog that, although is not strictly vegetarian, embraces healthy, hearty and delicious meatless foods. I asked her what vegetarian food trends she has noticed in the last few years.  “When I think of meatless food trends the first thing that pops to mind is ‘meatless Mondays.’ Meat is undoubtedly more expensive to purchase than a bag of dried beans. . . With the economy being what it is, I think people are looking for ways to cut back on their spending without feeling deprived.” And Jan is right.  According to Eatingwell.com, although “meatless Monday” began back in 2003, it didn’t gain popularity until December 2010 going into the first three months of 2011.  “Meatless Monday” seems to be part of this initiative to eat “clean,” healthy and affordably.  It is also a small step towards reducing your carbon footprint and minimize water usage. According to a recent New York Times article, “the market for vegan and vegetarian food choices is growing fast, driven by consumer concerns ranging from health to economics to the environment and animal welfare.  More families are having ‘meatless Mondays,’ and dining on tofurkey- a tofu based turkey product; other fake meats are going mainstream as well, spawning a fast-growing crowd of consumers who identify themselves as ‘flexitarians’.”

While people may go “meatless” for economical, environmental or health reasons, others choose to go “veg” simply because it is fun and delicious.  And Pinterest, the pin-board photo-sharing website, has made this very easy for culinary enthusiasts.   Scrolling through the “Food and Drink” section, you can’t help but notice colorful and intriguing photos of “baked zucchini fries,” “Mediterranean baked sweet potatoes” or “quinoa and spinach mac and cheese.”  I asked Framingham State University student (and vegetarian for over 4 years) Spencer Buell why he thought Pinterest’s vegetarian “pins” are so appealing.  “I mean, I don’t use Pinterest, but I know people who do, and when people scroll by those pics of completed recipes, those vegetarian dishes look damn good, whether you’re a meat eater of not.  I think if you can get meat-free recipes into the fray a bit more, you might get some people starting to realize just how easy it is to stop eating meat and enjoy some other kinds of dishes.”

Check out the rest of my interview with Spencer:

What are some meatless food trends that you believe have become popular?

I think “meatless” itself has become more popular as more and more grocery shoppers and restaurant-goers have started requesting veggie burgers and the like. You can really see this taking shape on menus, and I think that’s because restaurant owners don’t want to lose out on customers who happen to be vegetarian – if you can’t accommodate the one or two people in a group who might not eat meat, you could lose the whole table, and that’s not good for business. Also, it seems like every year there’s a new variety of veggie burger, veggie sausage or hot dogs at Whole Foods or Stop and Shop. I once even saw some veggie barbeque ribs with, like, fake bones. I passed.

Are you familiar with any food trucks that only serve vegetarian food?  If so, how well do you think they do this?

No, other than the ones I’ve seen on TV. I think it’s a cool idea, and it means that veg people can rest assured that their food isn’t going to be tainted with beef or chicken. Food quality and contaminant separation, to some, might seem more suspect in a cramped little truck, so that’s a plus for people who are already veg. But I think they also have to consider that they might lose business from those who scoff at veg joints. Unless, of course, they can lure them with samples.

Do you believe it is difficult for meat eaters to embrace vegetarian food? If so, why?

Not if you get them to try it out. I think people are quick to dismiss veggie burgers or other meat substitutes as being rubbery or flavorless or whatever, but every time I’ve given someone a veggie sausage to try, they’ve never complained. People get these engrained ideas about what they should be eating – family traditions tell us we have to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, for example – and don’t think objectively about what is and isn’t good. If you try to harp on people about saving the poor cows, etc., they’ll often blow you off, but if you can say, here, eat these vegan chicken nuggets and tell me they’re not delicious, they’re bound to change their idea about what veg food actually is.

What are some chain restaurants that you believe serves good vegetarian food?

I’m really into this place called Veggie Planet in Cambridge, because they’ve got a wide selection of, like, rice and vegetables and pizzas to choose from and it’s all vegetarian. Indian spots, like one called Rasoi in Framingham right next to my house, tend to have lots of meat-free options. And a bunch of chains around here have some good options – at Boloco, an MA-based burrito restaurant, for example, every variety of burrito is vegetarian, and you can add meat if you want to. For me, I’m more likely to check out a restaurant that gives me options, not just one or two throw-away veg dishes or garden salads alongside the meat entrees they really care about.

I’ve seen a lot of recipes on Pinterest and other blogs that are full of recipes with quinoa and kale.  Why do you think these types of food gain so much popularity?

Well, I’ve heard both called super-foods – packed with vitamins and what-not. And there seem to be more “foodies” and health nuts around than ever before, so I think you have this convergence of those two trends. Also, Gen Y culture being as hyperactively trendy- and meme-minded as it is, certain foods really have the potential to take on lives of their own online and in grocery stores. Take Greek yogurt and pistachios, for example. Those two foods really hit the sweet spot of being healthy and delicious. Get some aggressive advertising behind them, tout their health benefits, get them on the shelves, and boom, food trend. Kale and quinoa kind of have this baggage, though, sort of how broccolli and Brussels sprouts did when we were kids in the 90s for some reason. Instead of getting a rap for being “icky,” now they kind of end up being associated with pretension, kale especially. I once saw a woman buy a $10 box of dried kale in a CVS in Times Square. When I’m hungry and in a CVS, I buy a Snickers.

Do you believe blogging and types of social media has helped the vegetarians gain acceptance in the culinary community?

I mean,  I don’t use Pinterest, but I know people who do, and when people scroll by those pics of completed recipes, those vegetarian dishes look damn good, whether you’re a meat eater or not. I think that if you can get meat-free recipes into the fray a bit more, you might get some people starting to realize just how easy it is to stop eating meat and enjoy some other kinds of dishes. It’s all about leveling the playing field, I guess. If you love chicken, but have yet to try chik’n, you’re missing out. Maybe blogs and platforms like Pinterest can encourage people to break out of their comfort zones. Food porn is food porn, even when the star is a vegan bacon strip, I guess is what I’m trying to say here.

Jan from Beats and Blue cheese thinks that “if someone loves food, then they love all food. . . when someone tell me that they don’t ‘eat something’ (salad, meats, carbs, sugar, etc.) it always makes me think of how much they’re missing.  Life is too short to potentially miss out on an amazing meal just contains vegetarian food.  Saying you won’t, can’t or would prefer not to eat a dish because it doesn’t contain meat seems like a missed opportunity to me.”

A decided to try to make falafel, which is one meatless entrée that has gained almost a cult-like following over the last couple years. I have seen multiple versions of this recipe of Pinterest wanted to try my own!

Homemade Falafel – serves 4

2 cans chickpeas aka garbanzo, 15 ounces each

1 small red onion

5 cloves garlic

1/4 cup fresh parsley

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup flour

dash of black pepper

vegetable oil

In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley and cilantro until you have a thick paste like dough.  Do not add any water to this mixture, if you do this your falafels will fall apart when fried and that is just tragic.  Put this mixture in a large bowl and add salt, baking powder, flour and black pepper. Combine well.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Again, if you skip this process the falafel will fall apart when fried.

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Meanwhile, make a Greek yogurt dressing.  This recipe is posted below.

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Take the mixture out of the fridge and roll the falafel into small balls.  Meanwhile, take a large skillet over medium heat and pour around 3 cups of vegetable oil.  Once you have rolled all of your little falafel balls, wait for the oil to become hot.  Use a candy thermometer to test this.  If you don’t have one, dip the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil.  If the wood immediately produces a steady bubbling then you are good to go. Carefully dip the falafel balls into the oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side.  Remove from oil in place them on a paper towel to remove any excess oil.

Serve in between toasted pita bread with Greek yogurt dressing, hummus, tomato and cucumber.

Check out these two vines to see the falafel making process in action!

Mediterranean Dip

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1 or 2 cups of hummus, I made my own and will post the recipe later this week
1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
1/2 of a large cucumber, diced
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, sliced
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup kalamata olives
olive oil
salt pepper

In a pyrex or other shallow ceramic dish, layer the spread the ingredients in order and serve with warm pita.

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Pear, Walnut and Ricotta Crostini

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crostini
Recipe and Photo Credit- Martha Stewart

Pear, Walnut and Ricotta Crostini– serves 4
Raisin or french bread, toasted and sliced about 1/2 inch thick
2 cup ricotta cheese- try to find “extra smooth” ricotta cheese, the texture is great
Pears, sliced thin
Toasted walnut pieces, chopped
Honey
Salt
Pepper

Evenly distribute the cheese among the crostinis. Add 2-3 slices of pear per crostini. Add honey, walnuts, salt and pepper. So easy! Perfect with white wine! Enjoy!

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

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onionsoup
Vegetarian French Onion Soup– Yields 4 crocks
3 pounds yellow onions, sliced very thinly, (I used a mandolin slicer)
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 sugar
8 cups water, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon flour
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 dry white wine
1 crusty baguette, toasted
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, sliced thick

Instructions
1. Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat
2. Add onions, salt and sugar. Toss easily to coat.
3. Cover and cook for 10 minutes
4. Take the cover off, cook for another hour, stirring frequently
5. Add 1 tablespoon water to loosen up the dark brown sugars at the bottom of the pan
6. Continue to cook until the onions are a deep, brown color, another 30 minutes or so
7. Add flour and stir for two minutes
8. Add 8 cups water and thyme, bring water to a boil
9. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes
10. And wine and simmer for an additional 10 minutes
11. Add salt to taste
12. Fill a crock, or any other heat proof bowl, with about 2 cups of soup. Place two pieces of bread right on top of the soup and place the cheese over the bowl.
13. Bake for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is brown and melting. Be careful the bowls will be hot!

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Toasted Ravioli

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ravioli

Toasted Ravioli– serves 2
1 package large frozen ravioli (about 12 raviolis)
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1 tablespoon parsley
1 sprig fresh thyme
salt
pepper
vegetable oil

1. In one medium-sized bowl whisk together the two eggs and milk. Set aside.
2. In another medium-sized bowl mix together the bread crumbs, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper.
3. Dip a ravioli in the egg/milk mixture and shake off the excess. Then dip into the bread crumbs mix. Please the raviolis on a baking sheet.
4. Pour the vegetable oil in a large sautee pan over medium-high heat. Use enough oil to submerge the raviolis.
5. WAIT UNTIL THE OIL IS HOT. The ravioli will be soggy if the oil is not hot enough. Also, make sure to not overcrowd the pan. Place the raviolis in the oil for about 3 minutes or until golden brown.

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Watermelon Lime Sangria

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I’m obsessed with sangria lately, I don’t know what it is.
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Watermelon Lime Sangria
1 bottle dry white wine, I used Charles Shaw savignon blanc
3 cups watermelon, cubed
3 limes, sliced thinly
1 lemon, sliced thinly
1/2 cup white rum, I used Bacardi
1/4 cup watermelon schnapps, I used DeKuyppers
Lemon-lime soda

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and let it sit for at least 2 hours. Top off with soda and garnish with a lime wedge.
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Sweetheart Cookies

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I know Valentine’s Day was a while ago. But I don’t care. These are too cute and delicious to ignore. I do what I want.

All you need are some wafer cookies, melting chocolate and sprinkles. Melt the chocolate- do this in the microwave in deep bowls and you’ll avoid the double-boiler mess/disaster. Lay them flat on parchment paper and chill for 30 minutes.

Love everyday of the year!
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