The vegan guide to grilling: Do’s & Dont’s

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GRILLIN SEASON YO! But oh snap, you’re vegan! That’s right – YOU were the one that, in the sanctity and potato soup laden months surrounding New Years, elected to stop eating animals without even considering that, YES, fish is an animal and, YES, that one douche from college that shows up to backyard parties with the ‘bags’ and Bud Light will call you a pussy.

Here is good general advice: don’t let the douche get you down. Use this as an opportunity to parade around your plant-powered washboard abs, drink your new-age classy microbrew,  and show off your hot vegan girl/boy toy you snagged while reaching for the same bottle of kombucha at the Coop – then watch smugly as “el douche” houses your secretly vegan foods. Congrats on being the bigger person.

That grill looks like it was dumped on by a rainbow. A nom nom rainbow.

The following is a general outline of how to have a proper a vegan BBQ, and how to properly jack up a vegan BBQ.  Grab a cold one, sit back, and explore the dos and don’ts of vegan grillin’!

Brian demonstrating how to look casually cool while the thunderous excitement for vegan grillin’ steeps manically beneath the surface.

DO:  Purchase your favorite seasonal grill-able veggies.  The key is cutting the veggies in BIG slices and putting them directly on the grill, brushed with a little oil and salt and pepper or your favorite herbs.

  • red onions
  • asparagus
  • peppers
  • zucchini
  • corn
  • portabella mushrooms
  • eggplant

DON’T:  Speak like a vegan food scientist in casual conversation. Also, try not to add the words “vegan” and “cruelty free” when describing any food OR find tricky ways to politicize the meal. Examples include “Are you enjoying your reconstituted TVP burger?” or “How is the vegan potato salad? The potatoes are locally grown and the farmer assured me that no Monsanto poisons pollute any farms within 100 miles of his.” Basically this “Don’t” should read: Don’t be an asshole.

DO:  Have plenty of beer on ice.  Expensive, cheap, or somewhere in the middle. The word in the hipster underground is that Miller High Life and PBR  are the new cheap-chic…so depending on your camp, either stock up or post a passive aggressive anti-hipster sign such as “I brake for Coors Light” or “Down with Ray Ban’s”.  Our house microbrew fav’s are Rogue Dead Guy, Fat Tire, Pyramid Apricot, and Caldera Ashland amber.  Besides quality produce, cold beer IS essential.

DON’T: Put out the fire with your urine. It may sound fun, but the only meat getting near the grill should be made from plants.

DO:  Experiment with the many faux-meat grill-ables. Everybody from Tofurky to Boca to Field Roast makes a version of brats and veggie burgers. Our go-to brats are the Field Roast Apple & Sage, or you can try making your own version using this recipe. Veggie burgers are up for debate in our fam, but I have been power-eating the Don Lee veggie patties at about every meal lately – not only do they have a rad indian food flava with a burger-like texture, they are also hella cheap at Costco.

Preparing the sausage for the Battle of the Grill.

DON’T: Alienate anyone based on food preference. Life is about doing what brings you the most happiness, and while I would love it if everyone thought like me – it would also be boring and terrifying. The key is sharing your passion for veganism, or any other belief and passion , is to listen loudly, be open to answering questions, let go of judgements, and offer a supportive ear. Your friends will be curious about how you can be so happy with all that veg, but they may not quite be ready to make the change. Cook your fare then let them cook their goods. Oh, and it’s totally cool to just say you prefer not to cook the meat if it weirds you out – and if they are a true friend, they will be equally as cool with cooking.

DO: Cook veggie burgers on a mesh grate or foil over the grill. Since some of the burgers are bound together by beans they tend to get soft on the grill and will fall between the wider grate. Nobody likes a dusty-ass, charcoal covered burger.

black bean burger from Veganomican (killer cookbook)

Grilled tofu protein bomb

DON’T: Skimp on the sides. Be sure to have the standard chips and guacamole, a creative potato salad , and plenty of dippin’s. I can no longer eat vegetables without Cafe Yumm’s Yumm sauce – I can, and have, eaten that stuff straight up with a spoon. And lest we forget it was Chaucer who once said, “Woe to the cook whose sauce has no sting.” Don’t bring the woe – bust out that hot sauce and bedazzel the grill you f’in grillers!

DO: Get creative with greens. Sturdy greens such as bok choy, kale, and romaine can be grilled with a little oil, salt, and pepper and used to cut up in salads, toss with beans and a dressing, or as an alternative to buns (such as our little grilled tempeh lettuce wraps seen here).

Top it with some hot stuff and apply some sauce. (that’s what she said)

Dang that lettuce look good!

DON’T: Forget dessert. Have some dairy free ice-cream, we heart Coconut Bliss vanilla island, and while the grill is hot, grab some peaches or other stone fruit, and try this delicious grilled peaches recipe from PPK.

I fell into a burning ring of fire…and it was delicious.

DO: Sell it to your friends that this vegan grilling experience is an adventure or turn it into a competition. How about hosting your own grilling Iron Chef with meat free ingredients? Or most creative use of grilled vegetables wins a sweet veggie themed apron like this?

Lastly, DON’T forget why you made this decision to cut back or go free of meat. We love embracing the challenge to transform our seasonal and traditional cravings into new, kinder cravings. Be sure to share your summer favorites and cheers to a great summer!

Best (iowa) corn: Paprika and chipotle spices, cooked with the husk on. Juicy deliciousness.

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The vegan guide to bar food

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Come for the drinks, stay for the morally superior food.

A few years before becoming a balls to the wall plant eater, a friend asked me why I wasn’t completely vegan, and all I remember is this momentary horror movie playing in my mind: Cartoon mozzarella sticks skipping joyfully down a sidewalk in the rain before getting shoved into a scary van, kidnapped forever. A giant wheel of aged cheddar rolling away for me before plummeting off a cliff into an abyss. Orange cream frosting on Sugarplum cupcakes locked behind bulletproof, impenetrable glass as I kick and scream to get through for just a taste. No way I could be vegan, and give up all the things that make me happy? Screw that. Tell me that you’re vegan, I would have said all of these:

Here’s the thing…you, my friends, can have it all. Seriously. You can treat your body, the earth, and the animals with respect without compromising one iota of your happiness. And we feel we are totally credible in the ‘if we can do it anyone can’ department considering I would receive cheese and meat as birthday gifts for much of my life and I have seen Evan’s morning be ruined over a poorly cooked egg.

The true test and proof that vegans can eat out really is navigating a menu at a bar. It can seen counterintuitive that a vegan can order anything since a bar menu will  typically read like a list of the leading causes of heart disease, but vegans are just like everyone else – some of us like to drink until we make poor eating/life decisions.

Our Portland friends were down for the weekend and gave us a perfect excuse to drink at the local brewery, Standing Stone, in Ashland, OR. The beauty of bar eating in a college town is the menu almost always has special options that are at least vegetarian to start and only take a few requests to veganize. A few tips for ordering vegan at a bar:

  • LOOK FOR FRENCH FRIES OR TOTS . It’s still good to at least ask the staff how the fries are made as the rare restaurant will use beef tallow or lard in processing fries (and always ask if there is an allergy), but 99% of the time the fries are good to go and you can request them to be made with special flavas, such as these fries with curry powder. Just avoid all creamy sauces and stick with ketchup, mustards (we heart dijon), and vinegars for dipping sauces.

Ask for additional spices like curry powder, garlic, or for additional dipping sauces available.

McMenimans spicy tot basket of glory.

  • LOOK FOR ALTERNATIVE MEATS AND DON’T ASSUME. If a veggie burger is available, many bars will allow you to substitute the veggie burger for hamburger on any menu options. Just be sure to check that the veggie burger isn’t made with eggs, a common binder. Really progressive bars will also offer tempeh, seitan, or tofu to be added into a dish.
  • STIR-FRY AND SALADS: If you have to order quick or are too drunk to study a menu, look for these two words. Don’t just stick with the salad listed and pull out the meat and dairy; instead, shop the ingredients available from other salads or entrees and request those items be added to your salad. The same concept goes with stir-fry…do you see they have brussel sprouts to order? Add it to the stir fry. It may cost a little more, but will add some gusto to a mix that may be short on fill once the meat is removed.

Tempeh stir fry “bar food’

  • FRIED VEGGIES. Okay, fried food may not be the best for you, but I really doubt you give a shit if you’re choosing to eat at a bar in the first place. Even my most carnivorous of friends find fried zucchini, fried pickles, or fried, well, anything delicious and just as easily irresistible as the meat options. This brewery just had ‘seasonal vegetables’ listed and when we asked, they said they were frying brussel sprouts..for reals, these puppies were amazing! My prego friend Sarah probably housed the whole plate guilt free…and I couldn’t have been more proud.

These babies will make any unwilling adult eat their vegetables.

  • HOPE FOR A CREATIVE COOK. Some of the best meals that I ever had came after I noticed a menu didn’t have any vegan options that were appealing, so I asked to talk to the chef and he was totally stoked for the challenge! He had fun trying something new and I reaped the benefits. It never hurts to play on the ego on a chef by making it seem like a fun challenge. They know their kitchen and are probably sick of making the same shit all the time. Throw in a big tip, write a great review, and enjoy your meal.
  • DESSERT – THINK FRUITY. I don’t consider a meal complete until I’ve eaten dessert, but at a bar this can be next to impossible. While I have had crazy luck asking questions and getting some great food (like the German Chocolate Cake from The Bye and Bye), usually if you can find a sorbet you are good to go. Or just order a Pyramid Apricot Ale, and call it good!

German Chocolate Cake and Oatmeal Stout. It always sounds good at the time.

Happy eating my friends! As always, we love to hear your thoughts, stories, and pictures of good food, especially great food you found in bars. Happy drinking!

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Monday meal planning: Cabbage soup, vegan goulash, avocado sandwich, & roasted vegetables

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I have a dream.

In this dream, I am spending my Sunday evenings basking in the possibility of a new week by creating a master grocery list to construct beautiful, nightly meals for my mini family. Evan and I breeze through our door after a fulfilling day at work, change into breathable yet well-fitting dinner clothes, pour a glass of pinot, choose from one of our many aprons, and spend the early evening making a beautiful meal in between flirtatious tickle fights. Then we share that meal on our roomy kitchen table over warm lighting and stimulating conversation. Ahhh….

In my waking life, I am unemployed and when Evan comes home we put on our sweatpants, hold the fridge open for five, energy-wasting minutes before we pull out whatever concoction we can throw together with a few minutes and microwave. We walk right past the magazine and mail holder that was once the kitchen table and eat dinner on the couch while leaning over an end-table. At least there is warm lighting, but it’s coming from the glow of Hulu off our laptops. Oh, and we finished off the last of the pinot while watching WWII documentaries last night. *sigh*

I’m an idealist, and I will hold on tight to that dream..but in the meantime, if the latter situation sounds more like you’re style, might as well accommodate reality and have some quick things cooked up and ready to be eaten. Meal planning is a bit of a science, balancing what is in season with your likes while remaining cognisant of money and balanced nutrition. We have found the best technique is to go to the grocery store with only one special meal in mind (don’t let the idealism die!), but then just purchase a healthy amount of whatever is in season, which is usually also less expensive.  Then you can build your meal plans using a recipe-builder tool like the one on Allrecipes. Just type in the ingredients you purchased and it brings up recipes that include your fare.

Finally, we have staples that we cook every week – usually lentils, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and a marinated protein like tofu or tempeh. Your best bet is to cook when you have time and when you’re feeling happy, we believe that how you feel manifests in how well your food turns out…so step one is always GET HAPPY! This week was clean-out-the-fridge-of-dying-vegetables  week, so enjoy these peasant inspired ideas!

“CALORIE FREE” CABBAGE SOUP *gluten-free

This soup comes with consequences...eat it only around friends.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups chopped cabbage
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green beans, fresh is best!
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to tast

Spray pot with non stick cooking spray saute onions carrots and garlic for 5 minutes. Add broth, Tomato paste, cabbage, green beans, basil, oregano and Salt & Pepper to taste.

Simmer for a about 5-10 minutes until all vegetables are tender then add the zuccini and simmer for another 5 or so minutes. Makes 7-8 cups, serving = 1 cup.

 CABBAGE SOUP NUTRITION: 28 calories – 0 g total fat – 0 cholesterol – 55 mg sodium– 6 g carbs – 2 g fiber – 3 g sugar – 1 g protein- 0-1 WW points

MOM’S VEGAN GOULASH

Use spelt or other GF pasta to make the celiac's happy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 box elbow macaroni (I used Vitaspelt elbows)
  • 1 cup yves or boca soy crumbles (check for vegan-ness)
  • 1 can diced tomatos
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 3-5 tsp bouillon, to taste (I used 4.5 tsp Better than Bouillon vegetable base…a vegan kitchen staple)

Cook macaroni al dente, drain and rinse with cool water to stop cooking.

Combine garlic and onion and saute for 3-5 minutes until onion began to look translucent. Add the remainder of ingredients, except pasta, and cook for 5 minutes until warm and combined. Add in pasta and simmer on medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Makes 7-8 cups – serving = 1 cup.

VEGAN GOULASH NUTRITION : 157 calories – 8 g total fat – 0 cholesterol – 559 mg sodium– 30 g carbs – 5 g fiber – 6 g sugar – 10 g protein- 3 WW points

AVOCADO SANDWICH

(LATS sandwich..lemon, avocado, tomato, spinach)

LATS = YUMM

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 slice multigrain bread, toasted (diggin’ on Dave’s Killer Bread 21 grain)
  • 1/2 avocado, pitted, peeled, and thinly sliced (make it look easy, like this dude)
  • Tomato, 2 thin slices
  • Spinach, fresh, to taste
  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon Juice
  • Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper, to taste

Lay spinach on toasted bread, cover with tomato, and fan avocado thinly on top. Drizzle with light olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper.

AVOCADO SANDWICH NUTRITION : 256 calories – 14 g total fat – 0 cholesterol – 208 mg sodium– 31 g carbs – 11 g fiber – 6 g sugar – 9 g protein- 5 WW points

ROASTED VEGETABLES

*The key is using whatever veggies you love and/or whatever you have in the fridge. These are just a baseline of how they are made, and the only calories I count are the ones in the olive oil!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/2 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 cup of carrots, chopped
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss vegetables with olive oil and seasoning.

Spread veggies in one layer onto a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Roast for 30-45 minutes, rotating every 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning once removed.

*TIP: Try adding tofu or tempeh to vegetables, then sprinkle with Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids. Bragg’s is a great source of protein and includes 16 amino acids, while also having a great flavor to enhance the roasted veggies.

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