Welcome spring with Meatless Monday

With the arrival of spring and the big thaw in the northern hemisphere, try instituting a weekly ritual to get in shape for bikini and skin-baring weather and celebrate the humble vegetable.

Meatless Mondays began as a campaign in World War I to wean the public off meat for one day a week when food supplies were scarce. The campaign was revived in 2003 in association with the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, this time as a public health awareness campaign. It's since become a broad-based movement around the world.

In addition to reducing obesity and the risk of preventable illnesses like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, reducing the consumption of meat also lessens a person's carbon footprint. The United Nations has estimated that the meat industry produces one-fifth of man-made greenhouse gases. It's also estimated that it takes up to 2,500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef.

Meanwhile, the arrival of spring heralds a crop of fresh new vegetables and the opportunity to tuck into a plate of vitamin-packed greenery. Here are a few vegetarian recipe ideas to get started:

Spinach and leek white bean soup

This rib-sticking soup has been rated four out of five stars on Allrecipes.com and has been saved by 20,830 readers. Though the recipe calls for chicken stock, it can easily be swapped out with vegetable stock. It's a soup that eats like a food pyramid meal, with beans, couscous, spinach and leeks, and a touch of cumin for a warm, earthy undertone. Pair with a chewy baguette and dinner is served.


Avocado-Goat Cheese Salad with Lime Dressing

The title of the dish is a little misleading as the main ingredient is matchstick jicama, which serves as the base of the salad. The dish is a mix of contrasts with the crunch of the jicama batons, the smoothness of the avocado and cheese, and the tartness of the lime juice. Proclaims Epicurious member feathertutu: "This is THE BEST salad I have ever made!"


Asian Winter Slaw

We know it's spring in the northern hemisphere, but for many of us, March is still in the 'lion' phase of thawing out. Besides, the only wintry thing about this recipe is the choice of hearty, strong cabbage. The vinaigrette, meanwhile, is an earthy, smooth dressing of rice vinegar, miso, ginger and oil that tops a simple but filling salad of shredded cabbage. Light on calories, but bold in flavor.


Lighter  Spinach Lasagna

This spinach lasagna recipe is a hearty dinner that will feed the family with roasted red peppers, frozen spinach sandwiched between layers of lasagna sheets and mozzarella cheese - even sworn carnivores will be appeased. To make up for the use of full-fat cheeses mozzarella and ricotta, the recipe pulls back on the fat in other places, like replacing whole eggs  - the binder - with egg whites only.


White bean bruschetta

The creaminess of the beans against the creamy smoothness of goat cheese smeared on baguettes is what makes this lunch meal or appetizer go down so well. For best results, the recipe calls for letting the beans marinate with the basil, tomatoes, garlic, basil, olives and oil for at least 30 minutes.


For more info on Meatless Mondays, visit http://www.meatlessmonday.com