Skip the meat and enjoy sauce-smothered sliders made from sweet potatoes, carrots and onions. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES
Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

Healthy Cooking: Take a break from meat with these vegetarian ‘pulled pork’ sliders

On a recent weekend, we celebrated our son’s birthday in our usual way: I grilled an outrageous amount of red meat, and over the course of two dinners, a lunch and a brunch, the family picked every last T-bone clean. By Sunday evening, Dear Husband Bob felt sluggish and a little sheepish. Even though he was born in cattle country, he admitted that he had enjoyed too much of a good thing.

As I planned a handful of vegetarian dinners to even out the debauchery, I wondered how to make a meatless meal that my people would embrace with equal enthusiasm. The secret, it turns out, is in the sauce.

Here’s what I know about barbecue sauce: It’s magical. Whether you simmer your own, or grab a bottle off the market shelf, a dollop of the smoky-sweet goodness gives even the most basic Monday night meal a party vibe. For example, if I presented my family with a bowl of shredded, sauteed vegetables as the main course, they would bless my heart and scavenge in the freezer for some chicken breasts. But when I offered a bowl of shredded, sauteed vegetables smothered with barbecue sauce, they dove into it like it was pulled pork. Which, coincidentally, this dish resembled, both in appearance and deliciousness.

If you have a food processor with a shredding blade, you can make this dish in less than 20 minutes. (The large holes on a box grater will also work, but shredding by hand will take a little longer.) Shred raw sweet potato and carrots, then saute them along with sliced onion. Add your favorite barbecue sauce and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Whole-wheat rolls are full of protein and fiber; skip the white buns and serve the veggies on the rolls pulled-pork sammy-style.

I like to garnish the sliders with shredded cabbage for extra crunch, but feel free to use pickles, red onions or any of your other favorite toppings.

Since the barbecue sauce is essential to this recipe, give your favorite variety a quick nutritional assessment. Some bottled sauces are full of refined sugar; if the first ingredient on yours is corn syrup, make another choice. Our former go-to barbecue sauce had a whopping 16 grams of sugar per serving. Instead, look for a sauce with half that amount (or less). If you make your own, experiment with more molasses and pure maple syrup and less refined white or brown sugars.

And if better nutrition isn’t enough of a reason to rethink your sauce, consider this: The sweet potatoes and cooked carrots are naturally and literally sweet. You’ll want a tangy sauce to balance the flavors. Otherwise, you may find yourself with too much of another good thing.

It’s a good idea to use whole-wheat rolls for these meatless, sauce-smothered sliders. CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES
Photo: For the AJC

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