Baked eggplant with garlic mayo, herb and lemon rice, oil-free grilled zucchini and bell pepper with balsamic reduction, and a fresh cucumber tomato salad with za'atar.
Back when we lived in Texas, there was this great Mediterranean buffet that had lots of vegan options, and you'd end up with a crazy overfilled plate and a full tummy. I just love the variety and colorful options when you can eat several things with similar flavors that all blend well.
As my grandpa would say, "It's all on it's way to the bay anyway," so I was never one to dislike food that touched. In fact, I like a perfect bite with a little bit of everything on the plate- like a Buddha Bowl or Thanksgiving dinner.
Last night was Sunday, which means Next Food Network Star. I fantasize about being on the show, but honestly it just doesn't feel vegan-friendly or mellow Erin-friendly. I don't want to race, I just want yummy food and smiles.
Anyway, I was inspired to make something really fantastic for dinner- and it was the last day of the week before my grocery run, but we stopped at a farm stand on our way back from the beach on Saturday, so we had some good produce to work with.
The Gadgets, Meal, and Method
First thing, I started two cups of rice in the rice cooker per directions on bag of rice. It's different for each variety, but cooking in the rice cooker generally takes about 20-30 minutes. If you don't have a rice cooker, just make it in a pot on a back burner out of the way.
Next, I preheated oven to 375 F and peeled and sliced my eggplant in about 1/2 inch thick rounds. and placed them on aparchment paper lined baking sheet. The parchment paper keeps the eggplant from sticking, so I didn't have to add any oil to the pan. On top of each round, I spread out a thin layer of homemade garlic mayo. You could use a store bought vegan mayo with chopped garlic blended in instead if you liked. I baked those for about 30 minutes while I prepared everything else.
George Foreman Grill
Another gadget that kept things low-oil was my George Foreman Grill. I sliced a zucchini in thirds lengthwise and cut a yellow bell pepper into 1 inch strips and filled up the grill with them. A sprinkle of salt and pepper was the only seasoning they needed, and no oil was necessary. Those cooked for about 20 minutes, flipping once half way through the time.
For a tangy, umami, yummy richness, I simmered a small pot with about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp brown sugar, and a dash of salt until it was a thick syrup. It took about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then I let it cool slightly before serving.
The final side to this colorful meal was a fresh salad. I cut a large tomato and an English cucumber (didn't peel) into small cubes and tossed with a splash of extra virgin olive oil, some pink salt, and about a 1/2 tsp zata'ar seasoning. Once it was all chopped up, I put it in the fridge to chill.
While the salad chilled, I went out to the garden and picked a sprig of mint, 2 green onions, and a few sprigs parsley. I chopped that all finely and mixed with the zest of one lemon (you can use a zester or the fine grate side of a box grater- which is my preferred method- or if you don't have either you can carefully cut just the yellow of the skin off in sheets and finely chop them).
Finally, the plating.
One scoop rice with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and those fresh herbs subbed out an overly salty or oily sauce, keeping the meal light and refreshing for summer. I sliced the grilled veggies and served the veggies and eggplant drizzled with the balsamic reduction. The cold salad was scooped on last and after pictures the meal was inhaled.
Overall, a delicious, seasonal, fresh, and crisp summer dinner made in less than an hour and with lots of flavor!
In our house, we love our veggie sushi rolls, and the bamboo roller mat gets used regularly. Our picky eater will always eat avocado rolls, so that's a good sure thing (plus it's healthy and we all like it).
Lots of my friends marvel at our sushi creations with envy and desire, because it is an art to learn to roll sushi well (my husband is better than me, but we can both get the job done).
The game is changed now, though.
I saw this method on a friend's Facebook page and was delighted! I'm all about making cooking more fun and easy, and what could be easier than this! I started the rice cooker and put some Gardein Fishless Filets in the George Foreman Grill (my favorite way to heat them up) while I prepped everything else.
You get the toasted seaweed snacks, scoop your seasoned rice on top (I used a cookie scoop and it worked great), and the top with whatever you like. For the kids, that meant just avocado and nothing else. For me, I added avocado, some vegan mayo mixed with sriracha, fresh jalapeño, and sesame seeds. You just fold it up like a taco and eat! My kids LOVED it! I LOVED it, and it took next to no time to make!
You could top with any of your favorite veg sushi toppings, or even do a "buffet" with just rice on you wrappers and a variety of toppings on the table, like a taco bar but with veg sushi.
I love how easy this is for everyone, no matter there level of rolling prowess.
This meal embodies the message of the Kitchen Gadget Vegan- have fun and make it easy!
Sometimes when you have no bun, you have to use an English Muffin. No regrets!
This week, Inspirilized posted a beautiful picture of a carrot dog on her Instagram and got some seriously rude responses. She's not vegan and most of her recipes aren't vegan, but for some reason some people still really fight back against anything they like made vegan. Well too bad, dudes.
Apart from the drama, that tussle reminded me how great carrot dogs are! I first heard of them when I was living in Alaska an some hot dog specialty restaurant opened and I saw "carrot dog" on the menu as a vegetarian option. I actually thought it was a joke and never tried it.
Then, in my Vegan Parents group on Facebook, I saw a post with a recipe, and I started making them and loving them. Of course I do a mishmash of recipes, so I'll share a variety of them for you to choose from or combine into your own perfect dawg.
The first answer is obviously shape, but actually the sweetness and texture of a carrot really lends itself to a vegan version of a hot dog. As long as you don't boil the life out of it, a carrot retains a nice bite, even when you cook it, and with a good marinade you can really infuse flavor in it.
Also, carrots are healthy, cheap, and readily available. Sure, I like veggie hot dogs, but they are pretty processed and I can't always find them locally, so carrot dogs make for a cheaper and *easier option.
*Easier, but takes some time to really infuse flavor, so not necessarily faster.
Okay, Let's See Some Recipes!
Carrot Dogs from Kid Tested, Firefighter Approved
This was the first recipe I tried and it was a hit. I just love the name and the story that the kids AND the firefighter love these. You going to tell a firefighter he needs a meat hotdog? I wouldn't, if I were you .
All Natural Carrot Dogs from The Easy Vegan Cookbook
I like that this offer a soy-free option for those with sensitivities. You could sub coconut aminos in the other recipes you find too, if that's a concern.
Vegan Carrot Dogs with Spiraled Toppings by Inspiralized
Not only does this recipe have a carrot dog recipe, but I love that she gives 3 different topping ideas that all look amazing. Please, I must spiralize a pickle like NOW.
Chili Cheese Carrot Dogs by Plant Strong Vegan
These are soy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and pack a big filling bite into this healthy alternative to hot dogs.
Looking for a Vegan Hotdog that isn't a Carrot?
My favorite vegan dawg is the Frankfurter from Field Roast. They have a complex taste, densely chewy texture, and they are great with toppings.
Another favorite is the Kielbasa by Tofurkey. This is a big plump vegan sausage with lots of flavor and you can boil it in beer, grill it, and top with grilled onions, sauerkraut, and mustard for a totally satisfying dawg that will make you forget all about meat.
Most veggie dogs are vegan, but read the ingredients in case. My kids like the basic Yves The Good Dog hot dogs, so try out a few and see what you are into.
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I love cooking and playing in the kitchen with my toys, so let me share that joy with you and your family to bring the FUN back into the kitchen!