Meatless Memorial Day

Monday is Memorial Day. It’s a day to celebrate and honor our heroes by firing up the grill and eating burgers until we burst. But Monday is also, well, Monday. Which, for ZooFit and many other households, means it’s Meatless Monday. This might be a bit of a dilemma for those who want to eat green. We want to eat healthier for ourselves and more sustainable for the planet. Meatless Mondays makes it easy to remember to do our part of eating just a little less meat. But Memorial Day is definitely a grilling holiday.

How can we have our cake, or burgers, and eat them too?

Flexitarian Gives You Flexibility

If you’ve followed me for some time, you know I follow a fairly flexitarian (leaning more toward vegetarian) diet. The flexitarian lifestyle basically follows the general idea of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: Eat Food, Not too Much, Mostly Plants. There is an emphasis on the mostly plants part.

While meat is allowed on the flexitarian diet, it’s suggested in very small quantities. Think ideas like switching our meat and veggie amounts. Instead of eight ounces of chicken and four ounces of veggies, eat eight ounces of veggies and four ounces of chicken. Make sure the meat you do eat is sustainably and ethically sourced. Go for pasture-raised and grass-fed meats, sustainably and wild-caught fish, and support local farmers or ranchers. Avoid the factory farm cheap meats, as well as highly processed and packaged meats.

And that brings me to my first suggestion for Memorial Day. Yes, it’s Monday and many of us want to honor Meatless Monday. But giving up meat once a week doesn’t have to be on Monday. You can celebrate Animal-Friendly Friday, or Sans Meat Saturday. Leaving Memorial Day to allow you to eat meat without guilt (I don’t want you to feel guilty anyways).

But practicing the flexitarian diet encourages eating less meat even when we aren’t practicing a meatless meal. Instead of processed hotdogs, just grill grass-fed beef burgers. Make your burgers a little smaller and pile on more veggies. Limit your burger consumption to one rather than two or three. Instead, fill up on watermelon, salad, grilled peaches, corn on the cob, or fresh veggies. I personally love grilled zucchini and red bell peppers.

Grilling Up a Mean Meatless Memorial Day

There are a couple other options for Memorial Day.

If you really want to make a difference in the world, challenge yourself to maintain your practice of Meatless Monday. This action can help inspire others to make dietary changes for their health and the health of the planet.

This does take a slight change in mentality and wording. Make Meatless Monday part of your identity. Rather than tell yourself “I can’t eat meat on Mondays”, tell yourself “I don’t eat meat on Mondays”. This simple switch in wording shifts from a deprivation (punishing) mindset to an empowering (positive) mentality.

But what to eat on Meatless Memorial Day?

I get it, you want burgers. We want to grill. There are dozens of options out there. Even in the supermarket, meatless or plant-based products are becoming quite popular. Beyond Meat is a new-ish brand of meatless alternative that looks and tastes like real beef. Even top names in the meat industry have recently come out with meatless alternatives. Tyson, Smithfield, even Nestle have all rolled out plant-based “meat” products.

But just like we must use caution when choosing our meats, not all plant-based burger companies are equal. Factory farms are harmful to animals and even consumers, but plant-based foods are not completely free of controversial and harmful practices on the environment. GMO products, companies partnered with Monsanto, and big agriculture (Big Ag) which uses pesticides, neonicotinoids, and destroy the soil and environment are also jumping on the plant-based bandwagon.

If you decide to go the meatless burger route, choose wisely, and keep not just your health in mind, but what’s good for the earth as well.

Think Outside the Bun

There’s one more option for those who wish to honor our heroes, and the earth this Memorial Day. While burgers are certainly ubiquitous to Memorial Day, they aren’t actually a requirement. You can have a great time grilling without cooking up burgers.

For a special meatless Memorial Day, you can try something new and exciting– meatless, healthy, and absolutely delicious.

Are you a fan of barbecue? Then try a barbecue tempeh recipe, complete with homemade barbecue sauce. Or for something completely new, go for grilled polenta. And an all-time favorite of mine is grilled Pablano peppers with portobello bacon and goat cheese (not vegan, but still absolutely delicious).

Barbecue Tempeh

Serves 4: 400 calories, 20g protein, 15g fat,  38g carbs

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz (1 cup) pureed tomatoes 
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ½ small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • One medium canned chipotle pepper, seeds removed, optional depending on spice desired
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup or agave nectar
  • One tablespoon tamari
  • One block tempeh
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine puree, paste, onion, garlic, chipotle, and rosemary. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered. Transfer to a blender, add the syrup or agave nectar, and tamari and process until smooth.
  2. Turn on grill over medium heat. Cut tempeh block in half and then down center to make each pattie thinner. Brush oil on a piece of aluminum foil. Pour barbecue sauce over each tempeh pattie and place foil on grill for 5-10 minutes, until sauce is bubbly.
  3. Remove patties from foil and place directly on grill to finish cooking and add nice smoky flavor to patties.

Grilled Polenta

4 servings: 323 calories, Carbs: 31g, Fat: 15g, Protein: 13.5g

Ingredients

  • 1 cup instant polenta
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter (optional- for polenta)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil + extra for brushing polenta for grilling
  • One shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes (optional)
  • 1/3- 1/2 cup veggie broth or veggie stock
  • 2 Tbsp raspberry or apricot jam (I like getting from local vendors)
  • 1 1/2 tsp thyme

Directions

  1. Make polenta according to directions. Often to make polenta, you need 3 times as much water as polenta. You can use 2 tablespoons of butter to make polenta a little creamier, or omit for a vegan version. Place a sheet of parchment paper in a square baking dish. Once prepared, pour polenta into dish and smooth out to make an even layer. Set in refrigerator for 2-3 hours, or you can make the day/night before you need it.
  2. Turn on grill to medium heat. Once ready, cut the polenta into 8 portions. Brush olive oil on either side and grill for 5 minutes on each side.
  3. While polenta grills, make the glaze. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Thinly slice shallots (if you haven’t done so already). Add shallots and chili flakes (if using) and cook for 2-3 minutes, until shallots are soft. Once shallots are softened, add veggie stock and bring to a simmer. Add jam and thyme, stir to combine. Continue to simmer until the mixture thickens to a glaze consistency, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Serve polenta with glaze drizzled on top with your choice of veggies, or grilled fruit.

Grilled Poblano Peppers

I actually don’t have a recipe for this one. But I should, because it’s ridiculously good.

You’ll need 2-3 poblano peppers. These are not hot, but make sure you remove the seeds in any case.

Make my Portobello Bacon.

And grab a small package of chevre goat cheese.

To make this tasty treat, fire up your grill to medium heat. Cut peppers in half length-wise (de-seed them). Grill for 5-6 minutes. Remove from the grill and spoon or spread chevre goat cheese inside the peppers. Top with portobello bacon and then try to share some with the rest of the family.

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