Off the Shelf: The Modern Vegetarian

 In this new series we explore the books, new and old, that sit on our conference bookshelf. 

In the era of  all things food, the word "vegetarian" still shakes people up a bit. Vegetables are still getting a pretty bad wrap, even with the continual rise of more and more people becoming vegetarians, the success of upscale, all-vegetarian restaurants, and the world wide consumer love of Meatless Monday. Contrary to what some believe, you can be vegetarian and continue to experience bold flavors, new textures and have filling lunches, dinners, snacks and everything else in between.

In her cookbook, Maria Elia, chef and author of "The Modern Vegetarian: Food Adventures for the Contemporary Palate", showcases just that... vegetarian food in all of its delicious and vibrant glory. Vegetables have endless versatility and Chef Elia combines them with everything--from whipped ricotta to Indian spices and a variety of cooking techniques to bring out exceptional flavors in all of these show stopping ingredients. Seasonality plays a huge role in this cookbook, as Chef Elia introduces recipes for all peaks of the season, and educates the reader on the importance of using seasonal produce and products. With seasonal ingredients flavors are magnified and the abundance of uses vegetables and grains has, allows you to have a large variety of meals and snacks.

Reading this book, the entire time the thoughts of meat never even crossed my mind. The pictures themselves and mouth watering recipes such as Griddled Radicchio and Strawberry Risotto and Butternut Squash Tagine with Buttered Chile Couscous makes you forget all about meat! After reading this book all you will want to do is cook wholesome, delectable meals and forget all about that they are vegetarian.

Meatless Monday Musts

Happy Meatless Monday! While there are so many reasons why you should make your Mondays meatless, the simple fact that extra fruits and veggies can make for great recipes is all we need.

In case you're looking for a way to spice up your Monday cooking, we've put together a round up of some our favorite recipes with ingredients that are in season right now. Artichokes, avocados, asparagus, apricot and carrots rule our list today for favorite seasonal ingredients. All of these ingredients share more than just alliteration; they offer up tasty alternatives to your meat-heavy weekday meals.

Check out this list of Meatless Monday Musts...

Asparagus with Citrus Vinaigrette

You must have noticed our obsession with asparagus today. It's no coincidence we're featuring plenty asparagus recipes since they're one of the most popular produce in markets right now. This fresh recipe includes both white and green asparagus for contrasting colors and flavors.

Watch the video here.

Avocado and Banana Smoothie

Avocado and banana might sound like an odd combination but when combined the sweetness of the banana mixes with the creaminess of the avocado for a smoothie made in heaven. Pick up a few soon-to-ripe avocados and whip up this smoothie for a healthy breakfast or a great healthy snack.

Watch how to make it here.

Baby Artichokes A La Provencal

Baby artichokes are a beautiful way to bring in spring. A simple and flavorful way to enjoy baby artichokes is to saute them with fragrant shallots and garlic, cooked down in a bright lemon-wine sauce, and baked in the oven until tender and melt-in-your-mouth good. Or serve them as the French do: with a green salad, slice of nutty cheese, and a glass of crisp white wine.

Check out the recipe here.

Carrot Chai Parfait

Easter is over but the carrot need not be forgotten! This nutritious orange favorite is chock full of vitamins and beta-carotene to help keep your skin luminous. Here's a unique flavor combination of carrots, chai, and pears to brighten up a case of the Mondays.

Click here for the recipe.

Spring Pesto Panzanella

Here's another great asparagus recipe. This Spring Panzanella is the perfect salad solution for those still in winter mode. It's fresh and light and the toasted bread adds a bit of comfort.

Check out the recipe here.

Apricot Walnut Cookies

Need another sugary treat for the sweet tooth? These super moist and chewy Apricot Walnut Cookies are just what you need for a low sugar treat to get you through your week. Enjoy them hot out of the oven with some jam and butter for some extra goodness!

Click here for the recipe.

For more Meatless Monday recipes, click here and follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

A Little Less Meat For A Less Hungry Population

By: Dylan Rodgers

How can we feed the world?  This question has been asked generation after generation; it has been the driving force of technological innovation since the beginning of human agricultural dominance.  The idea has generally been to expand our agricultural land as the human population grows.  This seems simple enough.  But we are now realizing the weight of constantly transforming land into farms through deforestation.  How do we then use what resources we already have to boost our crop yield?  A study in Montreal may have the answer.

International researchers have come to a multi-faceted conclusion for nearly doubling the world food supply that will be published in the October 20th edition of the journal Nature.  Because the world population is expected to grow from 6.9 billion to 9 billion by 2050, our current model of food production will be anything but sustaining.

McGill University's Navin Ramankutty, one of the lead writers of the research, explains that if people on average ate a little less meat, say no meat one to two days a week, the impact would be enormous.  An estimated 3/4 of the world's agricultural land is devoted to feeding and/or raising livestock.  By cutting down on our meat consumption and using the livestock-land for human agricultural purposes, the global crop output would be substantially higher.  Pair that with commandeering bio-fuel for human foods and the output could jump roughly 50 percent.

The new study also deals with the fact that global populations waste almost a third of the world's food production to begin with.  Ramankutty's team proposes working out the wasteful kinks involved in the journey from farm to table.

Finally, the research shows that current use of land either isn't used to its full potential or is currently using too many or too little resources (water, nutrients, etc.).  With global education and incentive for farming in a sustainable and efficient way, the global food production could spike 60 percent.

Expanding our agricultural yield through efficiently tuning our current system instead of spreading it out more, is a refreshing thought.  Ramankutty and the team have been able to show how we can feed the hungry while reducing our over-all effect on the already struggling planet.

Photo: Backpack Foodie

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The Mighty Meatless Monday

Why are Meatless Mondays so important? Not only is eating vegetarian healthy for you once in a while, but consuming less meat also helps the environment. So before you pick up that burger today, check out these great Meatless Monday recipes. Trust me, your body and the environment will thank you!

Check out more vegetarian recipes and facts here.

What is your favorite Meatless Monday recipe?

Livestock Economics: Changing How We Eat Beef



There are many reasons to go vegetarian: the environment, animal activism, general health benefits. A recent article in Bloomberg news has given us one more: the livestock economy.

As of July 1, the national cattle herd was recorded at 99.39 million, down 1.4 percent from a year ago, and the lowest it's been since the 1950s. The dwindling cattle population will cause a spike in beef prices; livestock economists predict record prices in 2012.

Why the dramatic population drop? More than 62 percent of land in a six-state southern region, including Texas, the biggest cattle-producing state, is experiencing extreme drought, making life difficult for ranchers tending beef cattle. Two weeks ago, 86 percent of pasture and range conditions in Texas were rated "poor" or "very poor" by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The drought has sent the cost of corn, the main ingredient in livestock feed, shooting up 71 percent in the last year. To tighten corners, animals that could be used for breeding are being slaughtered earlier to cut down feed costs. This cycle (which incorporates the always controversial corn industry) keeps costs down for ranchers, but drives them up for consumers.

Here we have the famous omnivore's dilemma. Even considering all the information we have about how the environment and cattle farming affect each other, it is still difficult for many of us to give up meat cold turkey, so to speak. It's hard to sacrifice the nutrients, satisfaction and taste that meat provides; it's simply a tough habit to break. So let's not take drastic measures just yet. Simply cutting down on meat consumption and making a few purchasing adjustments can have a huge impact on the environment, and a minimal impact on your habits.

For an in-depth guide to wise meat-eating, check out the Environmental Working Group's Meat Eater's Guide to Climate Change and Health. In the meantime, try these five tips for a more cattle-friendly omnivore lifestyle:

Buy grass-fed beef: Make sure your beef is grass-fed. Grass-fed beef may become as inexpensive as corn-fed beef in the new livestock economy, and you will avoid ingesting the processed corn from the livestock feed.

Buy from local farms: Support your area farmers by buying local beef or eating at restaurants that source their beef locally. You'll be contributing to the local economy, and you'll know exactly where your beef came from.

Try beef substitutes: I'm the first to admit that there is no replacement for a cheeseburger, but that doesn't mean that there aren't other delicious options. Cutting down on beef doesn't have to mean ditching meat entirely. Instead of a burger, try a turkey or bison burger. Instead of steak, go for a pork chop or a salmon steak. These meats are lower in fat and cholesterol but are just as flavorful as beef.

Limit your beef intake: Expand on the Meatless Monday movement and cut your beef intake in half. If you eat beef twice a week, try only once!

And if that doesn't satisfy...

Do a beef exchange with a friend: If you really can't kick the habit, make a deal with a carnivorous friend to offset each other's meat footprint. If you're craving a roast beef sandwich for lunch, ask your friend to go with a hearty veggie salad. If your friend is in the mood for spaghetti bolognese, offer to try the vegetable lasagna. Limiting each other's beef intake could be a good challenge, and will cut your combined imprint in half.