There's no surprise that many New Year's resolutions include becoming healthier. Gyms are more packed than any other time of the year; spinning classes are filled with new faces, and treadmills are lined from wall-to-wall with folks sweating away those holiday pounds.
As we've heard time and time again though, becoming healthy isn't just about exercise, it's also about what we eat. Given the abundance of fabulous articles about how eliminating meat (see Mark Bittman's "No Meat, No Dairy, No Problem"), even on a part-time basis, does the body good, it's no wonder that many health resolvers are testing the waters of vegetarianism to purify their bodies.
I'm all for helping people eat vegetarian, whether it's part-time or full-time, which is why a recent email from a friend has inspired me to share my main tips about transitioning to a vegetarian diet over the next few weeks.
Today, I want to share my top three vegetarian recipes that are absolute crowd pleasers, and can also be made with any budget:
1. Shurbat Addes (Syrian Red Lentil Soup): this is a soup that will convince anyone you're a culinary whiz even though it's jaw-droppingly easy. Seriously! It's rare to find a recipe that's this easy and this tasty, and considering it only requires five ingredients, you have no excuse to not go invade your pantry right now and eat it within the hour.
Serve it with a green salad and you've got yourself a balance meal. The recipe requires a mortar and pestle to grind the spices, but if you don't already have one, then one can easily be found secondhand, or at Ikea for under $10. I got mine at Sur La Table for $15. Bonus points: this soup is easy to make and ready to eat in 40 minutes.
2. Vegetarian Split Pea Soup: soup is the best, as it whips up quite quickly and always hits the spot. This is another recipe I enjoy because it's incredibly easy, dirt cheap to make and is down right delicious. The See clan doesn't consider split pea a real dish unless it has ham in it, yet when I made them this version, they demanded thirds!
Serve a bowl of this magic with with a slice of homemade bread, or again, with a fresh green salad and you're done. Note: a blender makes this soup far easier to gulp down. If you don't have one, reconsider making this recipe, as the unblended split peas will make it incredibly thick.
3. Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad: there hasn't been a time where I've made this recipe and it wasn't gobbled up. It's good warm, it's good cold...it's even good half made. How you best enjoy this dish is up to you. I have made this as a main and as a side. I reckon if you're going to cook it as a main, you could serve it on a bed of peppery greens (like arugula, mache, etc.) and it would be scrumptious. If serving it as a side, make sure your main attraction isn't too hearty, perhaps a brothy soup, as this salad is surprisingly filling.
For further tips on transitioning to a vegetarian diet, please see my post, "Six steps to going meatless". And stay tuned over the next few weeks, as I will be posting more recipes for transitioning vegetarians, my favorite vegetarian blogs and cookbooks, as well as general health tips to keep in mind when going veg.
Oh yes, and happy 2012!
(I spent New Years Eve with some new friends at Caravan of Dreams, one of my favorite vegan restaurants in New York City!)