Grilled Onion and Eggplant Sandwiches with Sweet Potato Fries

As much as I’ve been loving my Thrive meals over the past few weeks, I have no intention of eating that way every day.  Cooking new stuff is just too much fun, and there’s only so much you can do with vegan ingredients and low-temperature cooking.  I mean come on, no meat is enough of a limitation!

[grilled veggies photo]So I’ve felt really inspired to make the most of my non-Thrive days by cooking new, fun meals.  Yesterday I knew I wanted to make something buffalo (my favorite sauce in the world), but I wasn’t sure what.  So I pulled out a cookbook that I think I’ve literally never pulled out before, creatively titled Grilling.  Marketing brilliance.

I found a good-looking recipe for grilled onion and eggplant sandwiches, which are supposed to be made with an Asian grilling sauce.  Since my wife Erin doesn’t have the unconditional love for buffalo sauce that I do, I made hers with the Asian sauce and mine with the buffalo.

[ezekiel bread photo]Even though this wasn’t a Thrive day, I opted for sprouted whole wheat buns for some added nutrition.  Sprouted bread is something I’ve discovered only recently, and it actually tastes just as good as any rustic whole wheat bread you’ll find.  The brand I’ve been getting is Ezekiel—so named because of some Bible verse that my Catholic school education must have omitted— that’s actually quite popular among health foodies.  I found it in the frozen section of the health food store; it’s sold frozen because sprouted stuff doesn’t last long, owing to the high nutrient content.  Rule of thumb: if something has a long shelf life, it’s either loaded with preservatives or has been stripped of so many nutrients that it’s of no use to the microorganisms that cause food to spoil!

To go with our grilled sandwiches, I also made some sweet potato fries.  Though I guess they’re not technically fries, since I cooked them on the grill.  I adapted a Thrive recipe for these fries, substituting canola oil for coconut oil and cooking them at much more than 300 degrees.  (Hey, it was an off day!)  And I stole an idea from my sister Christine (of Sweet-Tooth Friday fame), who suggested dipping sweet potato fries in honey Chobani as part of the Chobani giveaway contest a few months back.  Thanks Chris, and sorry if I was ever mean to you when we were little!

The sweet potato fries in honey Chobani were awesome, but to be honest, the sandwiches fell a little flat.  Neither the buffalo sauce nor the Asian sauce did justice to the grilled vegetables, which can be so heavenly when prepared with just some olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe a little garlic.  So I’ll just give you the basic recipe, without the marinades, allowing you to use your favorite (or none) instead.  If you do want to make buffalo sauce, it’s really simple.  One part Frank’s Red Hot, one part melted butter.  But I’m telling you, olive oil and S&P would be better!

[grilled sweet potato fries photo]

Grilled Onion and Eggplant Sandwich Recipe (adapted from Grilling)

Ingredients (for 4 sandwiches):

  • 4 eggplant slices, 1 inch thick
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into 4 slices (as thick as possible)
  • 4 tomato slices
  • arugula or other lettuce
  • 4 whole wheat buns (Ezekiel Sprouted Whole Wheat buns are great)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup favorite grilling marinade, I think simple EVOO, salt and pepper, and garlic would be best

Soak some wooden skewers in water for 15 minutes.  Stab each onion slice with a skewer to hold it together.  Marinate the onions and eggplant for 15-20 minutes and preheat an outdoor grill on medium while you wait.

Remove the vegetables from your marinade and save the excess.  Move the vegetables to the grill; grill for 15-20 minutes until tender, basting with the marinade a few times and turning once.  During the last few minutes, toast the buns on the grill.

Top the buns with the eggplant, onion, lettuce, tomato, and whatever condiment you like.  Power to the people!

Grilled Sweet Potato Fries Recipe (adapted for the grill from Thrive)

Ingredients (serves 4 people)

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 Tbsp coarsely chopped pumpkin seeds
  • 1.5 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup greek yogurt, like honey-flavored Chobani
  • drizzle of honey

Heat an outdoor grill to medium.  Combine all the ingredients in a bowl except sweet potatoes, yogurt, and honey.  Coat the potato wedges in the mixture and grill for about 5 minutes per side, testing them for doneness and being careful not to let them burn.

Serve with yogurt drizzled with honey as a dipping sauce.

Cow-rating, you ask?  I give the sweet potato fries 4 cows out of 5, the sandwiches (with the buffalo or Asian sauce) only 2 cows out of 5.  But like I said, a simple marinade that doesn’t step on the toes of the simple flavors of grilled vegetables would make all the difference.  If you find a winner, let me know!

[matt eating sandwich photo]

I had been eating a vegetarian diet for seven weeks and initially felt more refreshed and lighter- not so bogged down. But then I noticed that I did not feel quite right. My body needed more protein- I could feel it. My muscles started to feel limp and saggy. And I could feel that feeling inside, when you just aren’t getting what you need. I’m really concerned about my muscles. Some people want to be strong- I want to LOOK fit and LOOK good. And my vegetarian diet was moving me away from my goals.

I definitely was not getting enough protein. I spend my day in a deli that is known for its pit beef and cold cut subs. After we close, I usually meet friends for a late evening dinner in places that serve fried foods and hamburgers. I wasn’t eating meat, but I was filling myself with french fries, pastries, bread and pasta. Not conducive to a healthy, no-meat diet.

Instead of giving up and going back to eating meat, I decided to be pro-active and learn exactly what my body was missing and how to replenish it. I have read “by consuming a wide variety of plant foods, a full set of essential amino acids will be supplied and the human body can convert the amino acids into proteins”. But that wasn’t enough- I wanted details.

Which amino acids does my body not make? From where do I derive the amino acids that are most responsible for strong, healthy muscles and how much of those foods do I need to consume? And what if I only get half of the required essential amino acids or… what if I’m missing one amino acid? What’s the effect?

I thought that others might have the same questions I had and would be interested in an easy-to-read guide that describes which foods are best to consume to produce healthy muscles.



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  1. “Rule of thumb: if something has a long shelf life, it’s either loaded with preservatives or has been stripped of so many nutrients that it’s of no use to the microorganisms that cause food to spoil!” …unless it’s honey 😉 I haven’t tried Ezekiel bread yet just because it’s so ridiculously expensive. One day!

    That looks deliciously yummy even if it wasn’t quite what you were hoping for. Mmmmm.

  2. That looks Good!!! The eggplants I am growing are the long thin ones – so not too good for the BBQ
    I love Ezekiel’s English muffins too.

  3. Oh cool I’m glad the Chobani idea got 4 cows!

    The last pic of the burger looks super delicious. I can’t believe it was only 2 cows. Maybe a marinade of marsala wine and a little vegan worcheshire would be yummy along with the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

  4. Those sweet potato fries look AMAZING! I so wish I had a grill to make those.

    Actually – that entire meal looks completely awesome. Haha. Want to move over here and become my personal Thrive chef?? 🙂
    .-= Cait (Cait’s Plate)´s last blog ..Do All Good Things HAVE to Come to an End?? =-.

  5. Kara- the long thin eggplant are great on the grill, just cut them into long thin slices! They are my favorite.

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