August 22, 2016

Meat substitutes for Meatless Monday — or any other day

by

Meat substitutes aren’t just for vegans or vegetarians. These delicious meat alternatives will have everyone coming back for seconds. 

If Boca Burgers, tofu-based chicken breasts and other processed products are the only ideas that come to mind when you hear the term “meat substitutes,” it’s time to expand your knowledge of vegetarian-friendly barbecue alternatives that can be made fresh at home. Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan or meat lover, meat substitutes are a nutritious, enticing option for everyone and can be included in a healthy eating plan.

With outdoor grilling season still in swing, these main dish meat-free ideas may just become your new favorite for Meatless Monday or your next backyard barbecue:

  • Grilled eggplant: Eggplant is an ideal vegetable for grilling. Simply brush eggplant slices (each 1/2-inch thick) with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and grill over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side or until eggplant is tender and grill marks are visible. Place on a whole-grain bun or panini sandwich bread and add your favorite toppings. For additional ways to use grilled eggplant, check out balsamic grilled eggplant and grilled eggplant and tomato stacks.
  • Grilled portabella mushrooms: Juicy portabella mushroom caps can serve as a faux hamburger or can be filled with tomato sauce, part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced veggies and Italian seasoning to create mini mushroom pizzas. To grill, toss de-stemmed mushroom caps with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper (optional). Grill over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes on each side.
  • Vegetable/tofu kabobs: Mix-and-match vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, sweet corn, sliced onion, bell pepper, green/yellow sliced zucchini and baby potatoes. Toss with light Italian dressing or extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with desired seasoning and a dash of salt and pepper. Add cubed tofu for additional protein. Looking for a flavorful marinade? Try one of these flavor combinations or experiment with your own.
  • Veggie flatbread: Grilled flatbreads are simple and fun to create. Go ahead and get creative – add any combination of vegetables, low-fat cheese, spices, fresh herbs and sauces like pesto or sun-dried tomato basil. For a healthier appetizer or dessert, swap savory for sweet ingredients. Consider these combinations:

Savory

  • Pesto + spinach + artichoke + cherry tomato + shredded parmesan cheese (sprinkle)
  • Hummus + kalamata olive + red onion + crumbled feta cheese (sprinkle) + red bell pepper + artichoke + parsley
  • Shredded fontina cheese (sprinkle) + spinach + mushroom + red onion + garlic + extra virgin olive oil (drizzle)

Sweet

  • Part-skim ricotta cheese (light spread) + fresh peaches + honey (drizzle) + balsamic vinegar/reduction (drizzle)
  • Goat cheese + fresh pear + arugula + honey (drizzle)
  • Part-skim ricotta cheese (light spread) + apple slices + walnuts + cinnamon + honey (drizzle)

Try these sides

Enjoy these mouth-watering sides to complement your grilled main dish:

  • Grilled watermelon salad: This refreshing salad combines watermelon, feta cheese and cucumber topped with a light dressing. Switch it up by topping with fresh, thinly-sliced basil leaves and drizzle with balsamic reduction.
  • Mexican street corn salad with avocado: Turn classic vendor-style Mexican street corn into a bold-flavored salad mixed with irresistibly creamy avocados. Swap the vegetable oil for one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and cut back on both calories and fat by using reduced fat/light mayonnaise or Miracle Whip.