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Vegetarian Series

A blog series by Geppetto Catering intern: Lena, proud vegetarian, age 17

Pleasures of Eating Organic and Local Food

Many people do not understand the push to eat organically and locally raised food. The price difference between nonorganic and organic foods is sometimes large enough to cause devoted organic shoppers to question their motives. The main reason to eat organic food is to minimize exposure to the pesticides used in growing the food. Organic farms cannot use many of the harmful pesticides, making it less likely for consumers to eat pesticide residue. The decreased use of pesticides also benefits the environment by preventing pesticide runoff getting into the soil and water. While there are many benefits for the consumer and the environment, nutritionists agree that people should eat fruits and vegetables whether or not they are organic. According to Carl Winter, director of the FoodSafe program and an extension food toxicologist at the University of California, Davis, "The best thing you can do for yourself is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables and grains. And eat variety. From my perspective, it doesn't matter whether they are organic or conventional."

                While eating organically is better for the environment than eating industrially grown produce, eating locally is even better. Eating locally grown food ensures that the food travels fewer miles from farm to plate. This is more sustainable than industrially produced and distributed food. Supporting local farms by buying food from farmers markets and/or community supported agriculture (CSA) helps smaller farms stay in business. CSAs allow direct contact between farmer and consumer and in turn, they benefit both sides. Consumers are able to get fresher produce for less money, while the farm gets financial support and is able to continue producing. In addition to these benefits, Michael Pollan believes, “To eat from the C.S.A. box, with its newsletter chronicling the week’s doings on the farm, is to eat in a fuller knowledge of all that’s involved in getting food to our plates, including the necessity, and pleasure, of cooking.”  There are many CSAs in the area, so if you are interested in joining one, check out this interactive map to find one close to you!


The Environmental Impact of Eating Meat

I have always been concerned about the environment, so becoming a vegetarian seemed like a logical step in my life. Below are some facts about how meat production impacts the environment that influenced me to change my eating habits. Read on and potentially change how you view eating meat.

While the methane emission from cattle is a more commonly discussed issue, there are many more aspects to the environmental problem associated with meat production. First of all, it is inefficient to eat livestock because farmers first have to feed the animals and only a portion of that feed becomes meat. According to Dan Charles, a Food and Agriculture correspondent for NPR, “your cattle have to eat 20 or 30 pounds of feed to put a pound of steak on their bones.” It is environmentally effective for the land to be used for crops directly consumed by people. Furthermore, to grow these crops specifically for livestock to consume, farmers must use more land. This causes deforestation and in turn global warming. Another major aspect to the problem is water consumption. Water is used to grow crops to feed livestock, feed the livestock themselves, and then produce the meat. All in all it takes about 53 gallons of water to make one burger. Meat production as we know it is unsustainable because it utilizes an expanse of land, crops, and water. With the state of the environment, now is the time to consider eating less meat.

Geppetto Catering offers meatless food options for hot entrees including Vegetable Lasagna and Eggplant Parmesan. You can also substitute tofu instead of protein in the entree salads. Try eating no meat for a week and see how you feel!


Health Benefits of Being Vegetarian

In addition to my personal choice to be vegetarian, several of my family members have chosen to become vegetarian as well. While my decision to become vegetarian was largely based on the environmental impact of meat production, my family members have eliminated meat from their diet for health reasons. According to Randall White, MD, and Erica Frank, MD, MPH, “At present, vegetarians appear to make up less than 2% of the population, but substantial public health and environmental benefits would likely result from a more widespread adoption of vegetarianism.” The benefits of cutting meat out of your diet have been shown in several studies. An article published by The Western Journal of Medicine says that the vegetarian lifestyle has been proven to lower weight, cholesterol and blood pressure. Vegetarians also have lower death rates from ischemic heart disease and certain cancers such as colon, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer. Some doctors even prescribe a plant based diet to their patients to treat heart disease and diabetes.

Despite these advantages to becoming vegetarian, it is important to eat a balanced diet. According to Harvard Medical School, “Unless you follow recommended guidelines on nutrition, fat consumption, and weight control, becoming a vegetarian won’t necessarily be good for you. A diet of soda, cheese pizza, and candy, after all, is technically ‘vegetarian.’” A healthy vegetarian diet will be full of foods like beans, eggs, vegetables and fruits. People who are weighing the pros and cons of becoming vegetarian may be worried about deficiencies in protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and Vitamin B12; however, a healthy, balanced diet will satisfy these parts of your diet. Beans can be a great source of protein, dark leafy greens such as kale can provide iron, yogurt can give you calcium, whole grains offer zinc, and eggs have Vitamin B12. As you can see, vegetarian diets that have a variety of different foods are able to account for all the nutrients that meat contains. Diet supplements should not be necessary if your diet is diverse, and it is always important to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.

A vegetarian diet containing a wide range of food groups can provide many health benefits and ultimately lengthen your life. Embrace a vegetarian lifestyle and see how it can improve your health!


Trying Out Vegetarian

Whether you are a meat eater or not it is beneficial to vary your diet, since it is very common for people to get stuck in a routine.  I included some recipes below that you can test out to see if you enjoy them! These recipes are wonderful because it is easy to change the ingredients within them to create new and exciting meals! The recipes are vegetarian, but they are not restricted to vegetarians.

Breakfast Smoothie
1 banana
1 cup strawberries
½ cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons honey
1 cup ice
Blend ingredients until smooth. Enjoy as a tasty and healthy breakfast!

Quinoa Chickpea Lunch Salad
Ingredients (2 parts)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 ½  teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups thinly sliced leek (about 1 large)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 ½ cups sliced fennel bulb (about 1 large)
1 ¾ cups (¼ -inch-thick) slices carrot (about ¾ pound)
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ cup white wine
1 cup organic vegetable broth
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
1 (14 ½ -ounce) can no-salt-added chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (5-ounce) package baby spinach
1. To prepare quinoa, heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 minced garlic clove to pan; sauté 1 minute. Add 1 cup broth and next 4 ingredients (through ¼ teaspoon salt); cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender.
2. To prepare chickpea mixture, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leek and 4 garlic cloves to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil, fennel bulb, carrot, and fennel seeds; sauté 10 minutes or until vegetables are golden. Add wine; cook 3 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Stir in 1 cup broth, 2 teaspoons thyme, and chickpeas; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in juice, ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper, and spinach.
3. Place about 2/3 cup quinoa in each of 4 bowls; top each serving with about 1 ½ cups chickpea mixture. Sprinkle each serving with ½ teaspoon thyme.

Spinach Lasagna Dinner
20 lasagna noodles
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
2 cups fresh spinach
1 egg
3 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2/3 cup grated Romano cheese
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3 cups tomato pasta sauce
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook mushrooms, onions, and garlic in olive oil until onions are tender. Drain excess liquid and cool. Boil spinach for 5 minutes. Drain, then squeeze out excess liquid. Chop spinach. Combine ricotta cheese, Romano cheese, spinach, salt, oregano, basil, pepper, and egg in a bowl. Add cooled mushroom mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Lay 5 lasagna noodles in bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Spread one third of the cheese/spinach mixture over noodles. Sprinkle 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese on top. Spread 1 cup pasta sauce over cheese. Repeat layering 2 times. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour. Cool 15 minutes before serving.

Hopefully these recipes will give you some meal ideas if you want to try eating meatless a few days a week, or modify your normal diet. Or, if you don’t want to go through the trouble of making the lunch or dinner meals, we make great vegetarian dishes as well that you can order from our website! Good luck!