Father’s Day is right around the corner and for all the manly-men out there, grillin’ is on the agenda! But this year, we’d like to encourage you to skip the big, juicy slab of meat for a healthier, just-as-tasty, easier on the budget grilled extravaganza!
Why are we choosing a meat-free menu?
- Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. (Meatless Monday, 2011)
- It’s easier on the budget. You might pay $8 – $12 per pound for a nice New York strip steak at the local grocery store. Say you get only one steak at about 1.5 pounds, you’ve just spent $16! Or you could spend around $20 and get zucchinis, summer squash, vine ripe tomatoes, corn on the cob, fresh peaches, red, yellow, and green bell peppers, and strawberries! (Oh my!)
- Research has shown that choosing to eat a mostly plant-based diet lengthens one’s life! So you’ll get to love Dad LONGER!
So, let’s get ready to surprise Dad with a gourmet grilled veggie dinner!
First things first – the menu!
This menu will satisfy the appetites of a family of 5 or 6.
The main course will be a Mediterranean Pressed Picnic Sandwich from Vegetarian Times.
Time to hit the produce aisle!
This is a great opportunity to get the kids involved! If you have school aged kids you can teach them how to choose the ripest berries and the freshest peppers, then have them weigh them and keep track of how much the grocery bill will cost when you get to the register! If you have younger children, you can clip photos of the items on the grocery list and have them play a game of “I spy” to find them!
Get the kids together to help prepare the meal!
Since we have personally served each of these dishes in our home, we’ve discovered a few short cuts that make the whole experience fun and fast.
By the way, this is a great opportunity to get the kids involved! Washing the fruits and veggies is a simple task that children around age 2+ are able to do. Simply slide a chair up to the sink, place a large bowl in the basin & fill it with water. Give the kiddos the veggie-scrubber and let them scrub away! You can get the older kids involved measuring the oils and spices. Let them know they’re helping to make Dad’s day even more special with all the hard work they’re putting into the meal!
1. Make the dressing for the salad and the sauce for the fruit. You can do this in the morning after breakfast or at least 1 hour prior to firing up the grill!
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp grated lime zest
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
Whisk everything together, cover, and set aside in the fridge.
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 tsp grated orange zest
Whisk together juice, sugar, and zest in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the sauce is reduced by half (6 – 8 minutes). Set aside and let cool completely.
2. Slicing and dicing and preparing the sandwich. Although you won’t have to cut the fruit until just before you grill it, I have found that it’s much more fun cutting up the vegetables for the sandwiches and salad before-hand. When my family gets hungry, they get under my feet and it takes the fun out of cooking. So we take time after lunch to chop up our dinner ingredients! Here’s what you’ll do:
Making the Sandwiches:
1 small eggplant, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch slices
1 small zucchini, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch slices
1 small yellow squash, cut length-wise into ¼-inch slices
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large loaf ciabatta bread, halved
⅓ cup prepared pesto
⅓ cup prepared tapenade
½ cup sliced roasted red peppers
1 8-oz package fresh mozzarella, drained and sliced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Brush the eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash with 2 tbsp olive oil. Grill 3 – 4 minutes per side, or until charred and softened. Transfer to plate.
Hollow inside of bread to make room for vegetables. Spread pesto on one side of bread. Spread tapenade on other side of bread.
Layer eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, roasted red peppers, and mozzarella on one side of bread. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and 1 tbsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Press top and bottom of sandwich together, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place on a baking sheet and weigh down with heavy skillet. Refrigerate 2 hours. Doing this allows the juices of the roasted vegetables to soak into the bread and helps all the flavors to meld. (YUM!)
Chop Salad Fixings:
Thaw 1 ½ cups baby shrimp according to package directions.
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint, a few leaves reserved for garnish
¼ – ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (depending on preference), plus a few sprigs of leaves reserved for garnish
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 seeded and diced Plum tomatoes
4 cups shredded Romaine lettuce (if you have a plastic knife you can shred the lettuce now, if not – wait until just before you serve the salad, otherwise the cut edges of the leaves will brown)
Store all of your freshly cut vegetables in plastic bags in the refrigerator.
3. MEALTIME! Ready? Here we go!
Grab the sandwich out of the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
Make sure your grill grates are cool and add canola oil to the grates to prevent the fruit from sticking. Heat the grill to medium high heat.
To make the salad, drain excess liquid off the shrimp. In a medium bowl, combine shrimp with mint, cilantro, 2 oz queso fresco, cucumber, and tomatoes. Split avocados and discard pits.
With a table knife, gently score flesh of avocado without splitting the shell. Scoop out avocado and add to shrimp salad, reserving avocado shells. Pour half of the dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat. In another bowl, toss romaine with remaining dressing.
2 large peaches, pitted and cut into thick wedges
2 ripe but firm bananas, peeled, halved lengthwise then crosswise
1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch thick slices
Head out to the grill and working in batches, arrange peaches, bananas, and pineapple on grill in a single layer and cook, carefully flipping once, until just hot throughout and golden brown. 2 – 3 minutes each side. Transfer to a large plate.
Dinner is served…
This is when the magic happens and Dad gets to experience all the tastiness of his made-with-love dinner.
To serve the salad, divide lettuce among dinner plates, filling half the plate with lettuce. Set avocado shells on greens and fill with shrimp salad. Garnish with additional cheese, mint and cilantro leaves.
Slice the sandwich in wedges. Serve next to the salad on the other half of the plate.
Divide grilled fruit among bowls, drizzle with sauce and serve.
Don’t forget to tell Dad how well everyone worked together to get the meal ready. And let him know just how healthy the meal actually is! Maybe get the older kids to research what nutrients are in each vegetable and then write a poem about it:
Zucchini’s are green and help lower cholesterol,
Eggplants are purple and have vitamin K,
We really love you, Dad.
Have a Happy Father’s Day!
My poem is fairly cheesy! But after you write your poem, share it here for everyone to adore!