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Not for Vegetarians Only

Not for Vegetarians Only

More Meatless Mondays mean more beans

This is a special message from Bush Brothers.

As Meatless Mondays become more popular, foodservice professionals need to develop more vegetarian recipes. Many of the experts are looking at beans.

While many people think Meatless Mondays began with celebrity chef Mario Batali, the concept had much earlier beginnings. According to The Monday Campaigns, a nonprofit initiative in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Meatless Monday actually began during World War I. Americans were encouraged to eat less and reduce consumption to save valuable resources for the war effort. The campaign also had Wheatless Wednesdays.

Over the years the concept faded, but in 2003 the Monday Campaigns reenergized the idea to promote healthful eating. Restaurants took up the issue, and also saw opportunity in offering Meatless Mondays as a promotion to encourage people to dine out on most restaurants’ slowest day of the week. Like anything related to vegetarianism, Meatless Mondays appeal not only to staunch avoiders of animal products, but to people who occasionally want to eat something plant based, and to people who simply want to try something new or more healthful.

Today dozens of restaurants, mostly independents and small chains, offer Meatless Mondays. Also many commercial and noncommercial cafeterias, everything from hospitals to K-12 schools to colleges and universities are also offering Meatless Mondays. The menus are not entirely meat free; instead they offer many vegetarian and vegan options among the entrees, sides, and salads.

Last year Sodexo announced it had taken the Meatless Mondays concept nationwide to 900 hospital clients and to 2,000 corporate and government client locations including Toyota, Northern Trust Bank and the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Gaithersburg, Md.-based foodservice company also launched Meatless Mondays in a few colleges and universities.

In 2010 Compass Group launched its “Be a Flexitarian” initiative. A “flexitarian” is someone who is not a vegetarian but sometimes likes to eat meat-free foods. The Charlotte, N.C.-based company offers meat-free options in 8,500 U.S. corporate and academic foodservice cafes. Compass Group has a “Be a Flexitarian” Facebook page in which it offers links to recipes such as Southwestern Layered Bean Dip, which contains black beans, scallions, salsa, sour cream, tomatoes, avocados, lettuce, and spices.

Aramark offers Meatless Mondays at several colleges, including the University of Southern Florida, where students get a $1 coupon towards the vegetarian or vegan grab-and-go selections.

One bonus for foodservice companies, especially the ones that serve schools, is that beans are a very low cost protein, so the food cost helps with budget issues. The challenge is to create menu items that are different but still appetizing, especially for picky eaters such as kids. For example instead of a bean burrito, a variation would be to slice the tortillas and cook them with black beans, onions, bell peppers, chiles and potatoes and serve on a plate.

Another variation of an old standby would be instead of beans and rice, a bean and corn salad with diced red peppers and onions, and sesame oil and soy sauce to add an Asian flavor. Although the salad might look unfamiliar to kids, the fun colors might appeal to them.

For grownups, there’s always bean burgers. Freshly made patties appeal to people who are tired of the ubiquitous frozen veggie burgers. The “better burger” chain Smashburger, perhaps to prevent the veto vote among groups of vegetarian and meat eating friends dining together, offers a Spicy Black Bean Burger, which contains pepper jack cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, onion, spicy chipotle mayo, and fresh jalapeños on a spicy chipotle bun. A foodservice variation could use garbanzo beans for example, or avocado instead of a prepared guacamole.

The Meatless Campaigns website offers ideas for vegetarian foods, and many offer beans. There are familiar American foods such as baked beans, three bean salad, and vegetarian chili. There are also more creative items such as Panzanella, a tomato salad with white beans on Italian bread. Instead of beef tacos, a substitute could be black beans with salsa or taco seasoning in taco shells.

Other entrees include Garbanzo Bean Soup with carrots, onions, garlic, cumin, mint and parsley; Three Sisters Stew, which contains pinto beans, squash, hominy, onion, celery, tomatoes, salt and pepper; and Black Bean Casserole, black beans, onions, brown rice, plantains, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.

The Black Bean Casserole was approved for use in New York City schools, as was Chick Pea of the Sea Tacos, Magical Moroccan Beans and Greens, which uses red beans, and North African Gumbo, which contains garbanzo beans. Restaurant chefs created these and other recipes for the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food.

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