As a former lover of bacon and all things pig and cow, it is still very much difficult for me to attend a summer BBQ without eating burger or hotdog. But, truth be told, most of the time I do it.
I’m totally fine with admitting this; changing my habits was no small feat. And developing the mindset of a healthy eater, as opposed to one who ate Yodels like they were the only thing left on earth, was a slow and, at times, tedious process. I come from a fourth generation chocolate family, after all. In my household, calories know no bounds.
That’s why, for me, it’s about the good calories. I don’t count them; I just make sure that, for the most part, they’re worth every bite. Concession: This statement does not include gummies of any kind.
My habits tend to come and go. I’ll go through weeks — months, even — where I am a complete, 100% vegetarian. And then there will be occasions when it’s simply easier to eat meat simply because that’s what my host provides. Perhaps if I had more of an animal rights mentality about the whole vegetarian thing, it’d be a different story. But I don’t. Simply put, I just like the way I feel when I go heavy on the greens. One example is when, at my new office, there was a platter of fried chicken (and only fried chicken) brought out for appetizers last week; I took a small plate and noshed on it here and there.
Let’s set the scene.
For Memorial Day Weekend, I spent Saturday and Sunday with my folks in Connecticut — both meat eaters to the core. Since my metamorphosis, we’ve developed somewhat of a routine.
First, we fish.
Then, as my dad prepares the pork chops, I whip out a plate of prepared veggies. I will never ask anyone to change the dinner menu just for little old me, but if I’m in a situation in which I can cook my own food too, like a family BBQ, I make sure to be well-equipped. Better yet, I’m very much willing — and happy — to share, and more often than not, I’ve found that people appreciate the greens.
Grilled vegetables are one of the easiest ways to make sure you don’t go hungry during BBQs this summer. All it takes is a bit of salt and pepper to amplify the flavors. If you have olive oil, salad dressing or balsamic vinegar, then great. If not, it’s no big deal either; fresh vegetables often become sweeter once charred on the grill, so you can’t really go wrong with the flavors. Here are a few of my favorites.
Asparagus: These are one of the best vegetables to throw on the grill, not to mention one of the heartier options around. Just don’t forget to slice off the thicker, coarser ends, as they can be difficult (and kind of icky) to chew.
Orange peppers: I love how sweet these are during the summer months. Plus, they add a brilliant hint of color to an otherwise dull spread of food. Be sure to cook up extras too; I’ve found that meat-eaters love to add these between their burger buns.
Endive: Did you know that lettuce and greens can take on an awesome taste when grilled too? Endive, a slightly bitter type of lettuce, becomes less harsh as it soaks in heat from the coals. To prepare, slice in half vertically without removing the bottom core. This helps to keep the leaves together. You can remove the core when eating or, if you’re like me, finish off the whole thing.
Scallions: If you ask me, these are the underdog of a good BBQ. Scallions–a sweeter type of onions–are one of my favorite foods to grill come summer. Tasty and extremely versatile, scallions can be eaten alone or atop a sandwich from the Q — like chicken, pork chop or steak. Just know that they cook and burn quickly, so keep an eye on these puppies.
Portobellos: Mushrooms are an awesome alternative at a BBQ thanks to their generally “meaty” texture. Toss on a slice of cheese, and it’ll look like you’re eating a cheeseburger.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been Memorial Day Weekend at my Connecticut house without tossing a little running into the mix. But to be honest, that wasn’t the highlight of my weekend; it was more like something I did out of habit to enjoy the fresh country air and to get out of the house, if only just for a few minutes. In fact, the best part of those quick 3 miles was the post-run stretch on the small finishing dock at the foot of the lake.
This was total perfection.
What are your favorite vegetarian options to throw on the grill? I’m still toying with the idea of fruit; I typically don’t mix pleasures, but the sound of a grilled peach this summer sounds amazing.