OK, I admit it! Now that summer is here--I miss my barbecued chicken and hamburgers. They're easy, fast, and just plain taste great. No, I'm not missing the meat--I'm just missing real outdoor barbecue flavor. And I'm not ashamed to admit it!
Somehow grilled veggies and vegetable kabobs don't quite fill the bill in the summer-time!
Last week I finally found the fix for my vegetarian BBQ Blues! First I experimented with barbecued chicken sandwiches made in a flash. And then I discovered Smoky Portobello Sliders, better-than-real-burgers-with-grilled-onions, in the July/August issue of Vegetarian Times. Not as quick--but worth it.
The Healthy Librarian's Five-Minute Barbecued Chicken Sandwich
1 package of Trader Joe's Chicken-Less Strips. Find them in TJ's refrigerated case. Substitute a package of frozen Morning Star Farms Meal-Starters "Chicken", if you aren't near a Trader Joe's. I no longer have the box they came in, so I can't fess up to exactly what's in them--but as far as "fake food" goes, they are mostly "real" ingredients, and the taste & texture would fool most chicken-lovers. I'm not a big fan of fake meat substitutes--but for summer BBQ--I'm changing my tune.
1/2 cup more of less of your favorite pre-made barbecue sauce. My new favorite is Trader Joe's Bold & Smoky Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce.
4 whole wheat mini-buns. Once more, my new favorite is to use Trader Joe's whole wheat dinner rolls, instead of the buns. Less bun, less calories!
1. Oil or spray a grill topper & heat it up on your grill. For easy veggie grilling just go out & get a grill topper.
"With a vegetable grill topper, the size of the vegetables doesn't become a limiting factor and you don't have to worry about slices falling through the grate," recommends master vegetarian griller, Andrea Chesman.
Recommended topper: The Danesco Stainless Steel Topper ($19.99; target.com)
2. Quickly grill the chicken strips until slightly browned. Don't let them dry out. Then brush with sauce. Continue grilling for a few minutes until the sauce caramelizes & the strips are nicely glazed. You could do the "saucing" in a fry pan, if you wanted, but it does need the initial grilling for the right smoky taste.
3. Toast whole wheat buns on the grill.
4. Add some extra sauce, coleslaw, avocado slices, or whatever you like on barbecue chicken sandwiches.
One package of TJs Chicken-Less Strips serves 3. (nutritional info on the strips: 9 strips, 1.5 g fat; 0 sat fat; 0 cholesterol; 330 mg sodium; 3 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 20 g protein)
For the future: I plan to experiment with Trader Joe's Beef-less strips on the grill for both barbecue beef, ribs, & teriyaki flank steak substitutes--especially as salad-toppers. Chicken & beef for grilled fajitas, too.
Vegetarian Times Smoky Baby Portobello Sliders
This one takes a little more time and I've made them as mini-sliders with baby portobellos, and as full burgers with regular portobellos. The sliders take a little more fussing, but they're fun to eat--definitely company fare. No exaggeration--these burgers are fantastic--sweet & spicy & smoky & juicy & darn right sophisticated! It's hard to believe, but they're even better as leftovers--which I would never say about a hamburger.
Note: the grilled onions can be made up to 2 days ahead, and once you've made the Classic BBQ Rub, it's ready to go for the next time you make burgers.
8 nice sized baby portobello mushrooms, stems removed. Or 4 regular-sized portobellos, stems removed Note: I could only find smallish baby ports, & needed to grill more, using 2 per slider. Or just take the easy route & use 4 regular-sized portobello mushrooms, stems removed. Full-sized portobellos=Full-sized buns.
3 Tbs. olive oil, divided.
2 Tbs. Classic BBQ Rub (see below for the recipe)
1 large Vidalia, Spanish or other sweet onion thinly sliced.
1 tsp. herbes de Provence
1/2 cup prepared barbecue sauce (I like Trader Joe's Bold & Smoky Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce)
2 oz. (3/4 cup) shredded smoked Gouda (Trader Joe's has a low-fat version--or substitute Vegan casein-free Follow Your Heart cheddar or Monterey jack cheese)
8 Trader Joe's whole wheat dinner rolls (or mini-challah rolls) if making sliders, or 4 regular whole wheat buns if using full-sized portobellos.
1. Mix 1 Tbs. olive oil with 2 Tbs. Classic BBQ Rub & rub it on the portobellos. Set aside.
2. Heat remaining 2 Tbs. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and herbes de Provence, and cook 30 minutes, or until golden, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
3. Heat grill or grill topper over medium-high heat. Rub grill topper with oil, or spray well. Place mushroom stem side down on grill. Brush mushroom tops with barbecue sauce, and grill 3 or 4 minutes until soft & charred around the edges. (Larger mushrooms may take longer) Flip, and grill 3 minutes more. Divide cheese among the mushrooms, placing in center of each stem side. Grill 1 minute more, or until cheese is melted.
4. Meanwhile, warm buns on the grill.
5. Spread barbecue sauce on bottom buns, then top each with 1 mushroom, sauteed onions, and top bun.
6. Wrap leftovers in foil, refrigerate & enjoy the next day.
Serves 4. 2 sliders per serving with baby portobellos, 1 regular sandwich per serving with full-sized mushrooms.
Vegetarian Times Classic BBQ Rub
"This basic spice blend can be added to marinades or sprinkled directly on grilled vegetables. The recipe makes enough for a number of Smoky Portobello Sliders. Store in an airtight container to use throughout the summer." VT
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup smoked (or sweet) paprika--or go 1/2 & 1/2
3 Tbs. ground black pepper
3 Tbs. kosher or coarse sea salt
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in small airtight container. Mix well to blend. Store in the refrigerator.
My Big Barbecue Brat Disappointment
Kathy over at the The Lunch Box Bunch blog raved about Tofurky's Vegan Beer Brats. "They are higher in calories, but very tasty and a nice
plump size. Uses real microbrewed Full Sail Ale in the flavoring. Grill approved. 260 calories, 13 g fat, 27 g protein." The microbrewed beer is what suckered me in.
I couldn't resist Kathy's delicious photos. Too bad the brats were such a disappointment. This was supposed to be a real treat for my husband on Father's Day. We both really really wanted to like them. Didn't happen.
Flat bland taste, an unappealing fake mealy texture, with a bit of a nutmeg in the flavor--not the kind of taste I was hoping for in a brat. Looks good, tastes--not-so-good. Actually, I did enjoy the left-over brats cut up on a salad the next day for lunch. Go figure.
Anybody else care to share their vegetarian barbecue winners? I'd love to increase my BBQ repertoire.
I want to try these "new to me" Field Roast Vegan Sausages made in Seattle--Mexican Chipotle, Italian & Apple Sage. Has anyone else tried them?