Diners are the great American eating establishment. As a child, going to a diner was an event. I pored over the seemingly endless menu encased in crinkled plastic with a sense of awe. Diners are the scenes for makeups, breakups, gossip sessions, clandestine meetings and sometimes, just a good place to hide and read a book while downing a cup of strong coffee. Unfortunately, classic diner food, while inexpensive in general, can get pricey when eaten often. Also, it’s usually so tasty because of how much fat is involved. They’re not nicknamed “greasy spoons” for nothing. Still, I crave those diner classics, so I found healthier alternatives to make some of my favorites at home with simple ingredients that I usually have on hand. You can make these, too, promise!
One of my favorite diner classics is the gyro. It’s pretty much the perfect bite of tender meat, crisp vegetables and cool tzatziki sauce encased in pillowy pita bread. With simple ingredients, it’s almost too easy to mess it up: the meat has to be flavorful, the vegetables not at all soggy, the pita not even a little bit tough but still hearty enough to carry those fillings. Not just any recipe will do for me. I’m picky. Friends, I have found the perfect mix of recipes to create an amazing and easy gyro. Since I’m lazy and already had pork in the freezer, I started with the Slow Cooker Pulled Pork gyro recipe from Damn Delicious, which pretty much allows the meat to cook itself after a quick sear on the stove. You work hard enough, let Monsieur Crock Pot get this. Instead of preparing the slaw from that recipe, I went classic with Wanderlust Kitchen’s easy and tasty Authentic Greek Tzatziki sauce. Budget conscious foodies, this recipe works just as well with regular plain yogurt, just make sure to go full-fat. No one wants runny tzatziki. Prep this while your meat is cooking, then toss it in the fridge. Do some yoga, read a book, take a nap. I won’t judge you if you use store-bought pita bread to complete your meal, just heat it up first to make it nice and pliable. However, if you’re really interested in saving money and have ten extra minutes—really, that’s all it takes—make some flatbread! This Vegan, Yeast Free flatbread from Keepin’ It Kind is so easy and inexpensive to make, you will never want to eat store-bought flatbread again. Soft, sturdy and just salty enough, with the perfect char that adds that hint of smokiness. Add some shredded lettuce and cherry tomatoes, and you have an amazing gyro. Vegetarians, get in on the fun! Skip the meat and fill your homemade pita with whatever vegetables tickle your fancy.
What could be more classic than a big, fat burger with fries? I love a juicy burger, but I don’t love the way I feel after eating one. I’m no longer a full-time vegetarian, but I am still a fan of many vegetarian meals, and that includes good veggie burger. Note: I said good. I’m not here for dry soy burgers or gross patties that fall apart at the hint of heat. One Green Planet understands the struggle and has gifted us all with their easily adaptable, super delicious Vegan Eggplant Crunchburger. The recipe is both gluten free and vegan, but if you don’t have those specific dietary needs, experiment! I used the panko breadcrumbs I had on hand along with regular shredded cheddar, and the burger was so tasty and still healthy, with a filling, meaty texture. The important thing here is to allow the eggplant mixture time to rest, as the recipe says. It helps the burgers hold together during the cooking process. Pair these beauties with these salty, satisfying crisp baked fries from Sweet C’s Designs for a delicious meal that will satisfy your cravings.
I love milkshakes, especially strawberry shakes. One sip brings me right back to my childhood, slurping happily on my tasty treat. Every once in a while, I just need a good, thick glass full of strawberry goodness, but milkshakes are definitely not for everyday consumption.
What to do?
A Spicy Perspective to the rescue! The secret to this super decadent 3-ingredient smoothie is the strawberry jam. I used almond milk and an organic frozen fruit blend I had on hand, and the strawberry taste still came through.
This is a great base for experimentation. Use this recipe’s ratio of milk to fruit along with mix-ins to create your own flavor combos. Try different jams. Throw in some cocoa powder! It’s totally up to you.
With these recipes, your house will feel just like your neighborhood greasy spoon, vinyl booth not included. Tell us: what are your favorite diner classics?