Becoming a vegetarian isn’t as hard as everyone thinks. There are many tools and guides to help you discover new ways to get protein while filling the void of not having meat in your life. I explored this while in Culinary School and discovered lots of vegetarian cook books along the way. One vegetarian cookbook I highly recommend is  “The Vegetarian Kitchen” by Nicola Graimes. She has over 300 wholesome recipes with different global cuisines and inspirations that all help to fill the variety that we crave, and also the need for proper nutrition.  

In The Vegetarian Kitchen, there are recipes for everyone. For those of you looking for a light meal after work, to a comforting soulful dish to have on your cheat day there is a recipe for you. One great dish I recommend is Baked Onions Stuffed with Feta (pg. 234). This dish melted away in my mouth! It goes great with some warm toasted olive bread. (For those of you that live in North Carolina the best olive bread comes from this amazing bakery that lives right off of Ninth St. in Durham, NC, it’s called the Ninth Street Bakery.)


Baked Onions Stuffed with Feta:

Ingredients:

Serving Size: 4

4 Large red onions

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup pint nuts

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup fresh white bread crumbs

1 tbsp. cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper freshly ground

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a shallow ovenproof dish. Peel the onions and cut a thin slice from the top and bottom of the each. Place onions in a large saucepan of boiling water and cook for 10-12 minutes.
  2. 2. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon. Lay them out to drain on a sheet of paper towel and let them cool slightly.
  3. Using a small knife or your fingers, remove the inner sections of the onions, leaving about two or three outer rings. Finely chop the inner sections and place the outer shells in an ovenproof dish.
  4. Heat the oil in a medium-sized frying pan and sauté the chopping onions for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown. Then add the pine nuts and stir-fry for a few minutes.
  5. Place the feta cheese in a small bowl and stir in the onions, pine nuts, bread crumbs and cilantro. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the onion shells. Cover loosely with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, removing the foil for the last 10 minutes to allow them to brown slightly. Then serve hot! 

Next on the list from The Vegetarian Kitchen, Baked Squash with Parmesan (pg. 252 under Main Courses)

Baked Squash with Parmesan

This vegetarian dish uses spaghetti squash and is a healthy and delicious alternative to eating a plate of pasta. Baking the spaghetti squash and then shredding it to have that pasta consistency is the best decision you will ever make. We are growing spaghetti squash in our garden this year just for this recipe! Add in the herb butter and the parmesan cheese you add on top and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal. Try this recipe below at home – you won’t be sorry.

Ingredients:

Serving Size: 2

1 Medium Spaghetti Squash

8 tbsp ( 1 stick) butter

3 tbsp mixed herbs (anything you’d like)

1 garlic glove, crushed

1 shallot, chopped

1 tsp lemon juice

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Salt + pepper to taste

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Place the halves cut side down in a roasting pan. Pour a little water around them, and then bake for about 40 minutes until tender. Do not allow to burn, cover with foil if necessary.
  2. Meanwhile, put the butter herbs, garlic, shallot and lemon juice in a food processor and process until thoroughly blended and creamy in consistency. Season to taste.
  3.  When the squash is tender, scrape out any seeds and cut a thin slice from the base of each half, so that they will sit level. Place the squash halves on warmed serving plates.
  4.  Using a fork, pull out a few of the spaghetti-like strands in the center of each to make room for filling. Add a dollop of herb butter, then sprinkle with a little of the grated Parmesan. Serve the remaining herb butter and parmesan separately, adding them as you pull out more strands.

What’s next!?

Crispy Spring Rolls w/ Sweet Chili Dip

These dainty little spring rolls make for the best party appetizer. Even the non-vegetarians will love them! And for those of you who are vegan these are a great appetizer to indulge in (without the egg white wash). Dying for the recipe? Here ya go!

Ingredients:

1 ounce rice vermicelli noodles1 tbsp Peanut oil

1 tsp fresh ginger root

2 scallions, freshly shredded

2 ounces carrot, finely shredded

2 ounces of snow peas, shredded

1 ounce young spinach leaves

2 ounces fresh bean sprouts

1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped

1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

2 tbsp light soy sauce

20-24 spring roll wrappers, each 5 inch squares

1 egg white light beaten

For Dipping Sauce:

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 fresh red chiles, seeded and finely chopped

  1. First make the dipping sauce. Place the sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then boil rapidly until it forms a light syrup. Stir in the chiles and let cool thoroughly.
  2. Soak the noodles according to the package instructions. Rinse and drain well. Using scissors, snip the noodles into short lengths.
  3. Heat a wok until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the ginger and scallions and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Add the carrot and snow peas and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach, bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, soy sauce and noodles and stir-fry everything for another whole minute. Then set aside to cool.
  4. Place a spring roll wrapper on the work surface. Put a spoonful of filling in the middle. Fold the wrapper to encase the filling.
  5. Fold in each side, then roll up tightly. Brush the end with beaten egg white to seal. Repeat until all the filling has been used.
  6. Half-fill a wok with oil and heat to 350 degrees. Deep fry the spring rolls in batches for 3-4 minutes, until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot, with the sweet chile dipping sauce.

Ravioli with Ricotta and Spinach

Looking for some comfort food!? This delicious Ravioli dish will do the trick. The first time I made this was when I happened to be stuck at home with my best friend during a rainstorm. What better way to keep busy than to make some homemade pasta along with a perfect glass of red wine! You can find this recipe on page 276 under main course. 

Ingredients:

Serving Size 4

14 ounces fresh spinach

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

1 egg

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

 

For the Pasta

1 1/2 cup flour

3 eggs

 

For the Sauce

6 tbsp butter

5-6 sprigs of fresh sage

  1. Wash the fresh spinach well in several changes of water. Place in a saucepan cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. When cool, squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Chop finely. Transfer into a large bowl.
  2. Combine the chopped spinach with the ricotta, egg, parmesan and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.
  3. To make the pasta, place the flour in the center of a clean smooth work place. Make a well in the middle. Break the eggs into the well ass a pinch of salt.
  4. Start beating the eggs with a fork, gradually drawing the flour from the inside walls of the well. As the pasta thickens, continue mixing with your hands.
  5. Incorporate as much flour as possible until the mixture forms a mass. It will still be lumpy. If it still sticks to your hands, add a little more flour. Set dough aside. Scrape off the dough from the work surface until it is smooth and fairly clean.
  6. Lightly flour the work surface. Knead the dough. Work for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  7. Divide the dough in half. Flour the rolling pin and the work surface. Pat the dough into a disk and begin rolling out into a flat circle. Roll until it is about 1/8 inch think. Do the same with the second half of the dough, making it the same size.
  8. Cut the dough into sheets. Place small teaspoons of filling along the pasta rows 2 inches apart. Cover with another sheet of pasta, pressing down gently on the edges to expel an air pockets.
  9. Cut in between the rows to form small squares.
  10. 10. Place ravioli on floured surface and allow to dry while bring a pot of water to a boil.
  11. Heat butter and sage together on a very low heat; Drop the ravioli into boiling water they will take about 3-4 minutes to cook. Drain carefully and pour with herbed butter.

Wild Mushroom and Broccoli Tart

Last be certainly not least. A VERY yummy tart recipe. If you look on page 336 under Tarts, Pies and Pizzas you will find the recipe for Wild Mushroom and Broccoli Tart. This is such a rich and cheesy meal. One bite of this savory family favorite tart you will be begging for more.

Ingredients:

Serving Size 8

4 ounces small broccoli florets

1 tbsp olive oil

3 shallots, finely chopped

6 ounces mixed while mushrooms, slice or chopped

2 eggs

Scant 1 cup of low-fat milk

1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Salt & pepper to taste

 

For the pastry:

3/4 cup brown rice flour

3/4 cup cornmeal

Pinch of salt

6 tbsp soft margarine

4 ounces cold mashed potatoes

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated

  1. First make the pastry. Place the rice flour, cornmeal and salt in a mixing bowl and stir to mix. Lightly rub in the margarine with your fingertips until the mixture resembles bread crumbs
  2. Stir in the mashed potatoes and cheese and mix to form a smooth soft dough. Wrap in a plastic bag and chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Roll out the pastry between two sheets of waxed paper and use to line 9 1/2-inch loose-bottomed tart pan, gently pressing the pastry into the sides of the pan. Carefully trim around the top edge of the pastry shell with a sharp knife. Chill the pastry while making the filling. Any extra pastry can be used to decorate the top.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the broccoli florets in a saucepan of lightly salted, boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain thoroughly and set aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the shallots and cook gently, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Spoon into the pastry shell and top with broccoli. Beat the eggs, milk, tarragon and seasoning together and pour over the vegetables. Top with cheese. Bake for 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly set. Serve warm or cold, garnished with fresh herbs.

Happy eating everyone!

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