October 1 is World Vegetarian Day, which kicks off Vegetarian Awareness Month. When it was created in 1977, vegetarianism was still a fringe thing. Today, 40 years later, vegetarian diets are mainstream. Most restaurants across the country offer vegetarian options on their menus, and grocery stores pack their shelves with packaged quinoa dinners, multiple brands of tofu, and other soy-based meat substitutes.
In honor of Vegetarian Awareness Month, October is a great time to think about adding more vegetarian dishes to your rotation of meals. If you're not doing it already, try Meatless Mondays for the month of October.
Are Meatless Mondays already a tradition at your house? Then add another day of the week this month -- say, Thursday -- and have 2 meatless dinners per week!
Mostly or entirely vegetarian already? Commit to trying some new dishes. Explore a new vegetable or grain this coming month, and have some fun with it.
Here's one of my new favorite vegetable side dishes, which can easily be made vegan. You'll need a spiralizer, a sharp knife, a large sauté pan and a juicer.
Make it Vegan
Substitute olive oil for all of the butter, and you've got a great vegan side dish that's packed with flavor.
Spiralized Sweet Potatoes and Apples with Dates
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium red onion
- 3 pounds sweet potatoes peeled
- 2 apples, Honey Crisp, Gala or Fuji work great
- 1 large navel orange, juiced (about ½ cup)
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- ½ teaspoon dried sage leaves, not ground sage
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons hemp hearts
- 10 dates, pitted and quartered
- ¼ cup parsley, coarsely chopped
- Slice the red onion in half, and remove the outer skin. Trim the ends. Slice each onion half into ¼" wedges.
- Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the oil and the onion wedges. Sauté until lightly caramelized, about 15 - 20 minutes.
- Pro-Tip: For best caramelization results, do not be tempted to move the onions around a great deal while they cook. Move them around after 10 minutes, and then after 5. If they aren't yet caramelized, leave them in the pan without moving them for an additional 5 minutes.
- Using a spiralizer, use the smallest blade for slender noodles. For thicker noodles, use the blade with larger holes. While the onion caramelizes, spiralize the sweet potatoes.
- Pro-Tip: The easiest way I've found to spiralize sweet potatoes is 1) slice each potato in half, widthwise. 2) Place the small end of the sweet potato on the round metal core in the blade attachment, and 3) press the prongs into the other larger end. I place a bowl under the blade to catch the noodles. Turn the crank and you have instant amber noodles.
- Heap the sweet potato noodles into the pan with the onions. Using tongs, turn them to coat with the butter/oil and caramelized onions. Don't worry if it seems like a LOT of noodles. As they cook, the pile will reduce in size.
- Add the orange juice, toss and simmer for 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
- Slice the apple, unpeeled, into 12 wedges. (Be sure to remove the core and seeds.)
- In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, and all of the spices including the salt and pepper. Pour over the sweet potatoes, add the apples and hemp hearts, toss, and continue to cook until the sweet potato noodles are tender - (about 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the noodles.)
- Add the dates and toss. Cook for another 2 minutes.
- Serve warm, garnished with a spray of parsley.