The Year of the Veggie

Vegetables are having a moment and you’re actually going to like it.



Dry cured zucchini with tomato jam by Tracy Darling. Photo by Dave Compton Wolff.

In 2017, vegetables will transition from side dish support to the main meal event in both restaurants and home kitchens. Driving this trend are more meat-eaters experimenting with “flexitarian” (semi-vegetarian) diets and an overall growing interest in healthy eating.

Janel Abel, owner of Seven Boutique Catering in Appleton, says people are more willing to experiment with vegetables than ever before.

“The availability and variety of vegetables has increased through our local farmers markets,” she says. “And maybe people are just inspired by recipes they see on Pinterest.”

Whatever the reason, vegetable-forward entrees are coming in hot this year and even carnivores will like what they see.

Preparation Tips

When it comes to successful veggie-centric meals, preparation is key.

“There are two ways to approach plant-based cooking,” says Chef Tracy Darling, owner of Heirloom Kitchen Company in Brillion and Pop Up Fox Cities. “You can try to replicate the texture and flavor of meat, or just let the ingredients shine.”

Darling hosted a vegan Pop Up Fox Cities dinner on Feb. 4 where she served chickpea cakes on roast tomato pepper braise. Another course was roast vegetable filled sweet potato ravioli.

“People are charmed by meals with an abundant and innovative use of vegetables in them,” she says.



Submitted by The Source


Vegetable purees make flavorful additions to soups and sauces, but they are delicious on their own. Drew Steinke, chef at The Source in Menasha, recommends pureeing root vegetables such as turnips.

“Peel and roast them for 45 minutes or until they’re golden brown, then whip them in a blender with some olive oil,” he says. “The cool thing is vegetables lend themselves to do whatever you want with them.”

Steinke says grilling vegetables is another one of his favorite cooking methods. “Broccoli is amazing on the grill,” he says. “Cut it into big pieces and blanch it for 15 seconds. Then toss the broccoli with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill until it has grill marks.”

Darling suggests roasting a vegetable medley consisting of classics such as potatoes as well as unexpected vegetables like radishes.

“You can eat them as they are or put them in a pie crust and make a vegetable pie,” she says. “Keeping a supply of roasted vegetables on hand means you’re always only 30 minutes away from a delicious meal.”

Fresh Vibes 

Jazmin Martens, barista and baker at Seth’s Coffee in Little Chute, writes a lifestyle blog called “This Must Be the Place,” which chronicles her journey on a plant-based diet.

“There is this common misconception that vegetables are boring,” she says. “But with the right approach and seasoning, you can totally transform any dish.”

Martens, who has been incorporating more vegan baked goods at Seth’s, sees vegetables taking over the realm of comfort food. For example, take her favorite mac and “cheese” (recipe below) and even cauliflower “wings.”

“You basically butcher a head of cauliflower, batter the chunks and the pieces become the ‘wings.’ Crispy on the outside, with a meaty texture on the inside,” she says.

Eric Seyler, line cook at The Source, with the BBQ sweet potato sandwich.

Eric Seyler, line cook at The Source, with the BBQ sweet potato sandwich.

The Source serves a sandwich made from shredded sweet potatoes smothered in house made BBQ, topped with vegan slaw on a vegan Pretzilla bun.

“People really don’t think about everything they can make with vegetables instead of meat,” Steinke says, “but sweet potatoes make a great substitute for chicken.”

Darling predicts this year we will also begin to see vegetables in the front and center of morning meals in things like savory pancakes and breakfast bowls.

“I don’t consider it breakfast unless there are three vegetables in it,” she says. One of Darling’s favorite breakfasts is a homemade vegetable breakfast cake with poached eggs.

Even if you don’t plan to give vegetable cake a go anytime soon, Darling sees advantages in knowing the options.

“Many people on this planet never eat meat a day in their lives,” she says. “In this world we live in, learning about different ways of eating is wise.”

Veggies on the Rise


Beets are popping up in all sorts of recipes, especially those with a retro flair – pickled, shredded or just cooked and seasoned with herbs. “Some of those vintage recipes are making a comeback,” Abel says.


From pizza crust to rice substitute, cauliflower’s adaptability makes it a veggie to watch in 2017. Abel says the simplicity of vegetable purees makes them ideal for home cooks and cauliflower is one of the best. Try pureed cauliflower as a great low-carb stand in for mashed potatoes.

Brussels Sprouts

An undeserved bad rap makes Brussels sprouts the underdog of the vegetable world, which only primes them for a success story in 2017. One easy preparation? Cut in half, drizzle with good olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, then roast until the bottoms almost caramelize.

Stuffed Brussels Sprouts

Submitted by Seven Boutique Catering, adapted from
Serves 6



Photo by Melissa Alderton Photography


1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
salt & pepper


Preheat oven to 375 °F. In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch Brussels sprouts for two minutes. Transfer to an ice bath and then drain. Using a paring knife, cut out insides of sprouts and place shells on a parchment lined baking sheet. Finely chop the insides and quickly sauté them over medium high heat with olive oil. Once sprouts are tender, place them in a medium bowl. Stir in the ricotta, parmesan and bread crumbs to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon mixture into sprout shells. Top with additional bread crumbs if desired for a crunchy topping. Bake sprouts for 20-25 minutes until they are crispy. Serve immediately.


Mac and “Cheese”
Submitted by Jazmin Martens, adapted from
Serves 4


Vegan day IIII

Photo by Jazmin Martens

1/4-1/3 cup potato, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup carrot, peeled and chopped
1/4-1/3 cup onion, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups raw cashews
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
4 garlic cloves
6 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp mustard
10-12 oz uncooked macaroni
1 slice bread
1 tbsp Earth Balance or butter
Fresh or dried parsley and paprika, to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Set aside a small casserole dish. In a medium sized pot, add the chopped potatoes, carrots and onion, and fill with water until just covered. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low-medium heat. Cook about 15 minutes until tender.

Add your pasta to a medium sized pot and fill with water until the pasta is covered by about one inch or so. Bring to a boil and reduce to low, cooking for about seven more minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Meanwhile, process one slice of bread in a food processor until crumbs form. Add in one tablespoon of Earth Balance or butter and process until incorporated. Place in a small bowl and set aside.

Assemble your sauce ingredients (cashews, almond milk, garlic, lemon, salt, yeast, pepper, mustard) and add just the cashews to the food processor. Process until a fine crumb forms similar to corn meal. Now add in the rest of the cheese sauce ingredients and process until smooth. Drain the veggies and add to sauce mixture in food processor. Process until smooth.

In a large bowl, mix together your sauce and pasta. Scoop into your casserole dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture. Now garnish with paprika and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 °F. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley or dried parsley to serve.

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