What in the world is a TLT? Think BLT without the ‘B,’ yet every bit as good as the original.
When I first started cleaning out my diet, processed meats were one of the first things to go, meaning no more salami, pepperoni, prosciutto or bacon.
‘No more bacon?!’
You read that right, no more bacon.
Trust me when I say that this wasn’t easy for me in the slightest. I was that weirdo who absolutely loved anyone who sent me one of those meat and cracker filled baskets at Christmas, and often opted for a combo of pepperoni and pineapple to top off my pizza. For a while, I enjoyed nothing more than a few slices of prosciutto and a glass of wine, but sadly, my body didn’t share the same affection for cured meats that I did.
So why cut out cured/processed meats in the first place? Well, to start, processed meats are extremely high in sodium and saturated fats, which can completely wreak havoc on a heart-healthy diet. Sodium nitrate, a preservative often found in processed meats such as bacon, pepperoni, beef jerky and luncheon meats, is even worse.
According to HowStuffWorks, sodium nitrate is added to food for the following two reasons:
- It preserves the color of the meat (meaning that it looks pink rather than gray). Nearly all processed meats that contain sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite remain pink or red even though they are cooked during processing.
- These chemicals inhibit botulism to some degree.
Although sodium nitrate is used as a preservative to keep food from spoiling and becoming contaminated with harmful bacteria, it can cause adverse effects that in some cases can even be fatal. Nitrates are associated with an increased risk of cancer in both young children and adults, and can also affect oxygen circulation throughout the body in young children through a condition known as baby blue syndrome.
If sodium nitrate is so dangerous, why does it continue to be used in our food? The simple, sad truth is that it keeps meat looking ‘attractive’ to the consumer, long after it naturally should. Its’ ability to make old meat appear fresh and vibrant has food manufacturers insisting on it, so it is solely up to us if we want to avoid it.
So how can we avoid sodium nitrate in our food? Eliminate processed meats and start reading labels! Sodium nitrate is in a lot more than you think, so it is important to be diligent when it comes to reading ingredients.
While bacon may be out, I do have a pretty delicious substitute for you that has health benefits to boot. Have you heard of tempeh? If not, it’s time you know about the awesomeness that is tempeh! While you may be well aware of the dangers of soy (if not, click here) non-GMO, organic soy products, like miso, tempeh and natto are acceptable to add into your diet because they are fermented.
Why does the process of fermentation make consuming soy okay? The answer is in our digestive system. Fermented foods have been shown to support the beneficial bacteria in our digestive tract, and when our digestion is functioning properly, our immune system works the way it was intended to, making us better equipped to fight off disease and illness.
Tempeh was something I only recently came around to, but I have to say, its’ incredible versatility has made it a staple in my kitchen. Outside of the tempeh ‘bacon’ recipe I am about to give you, I came up with a tempeh bolognaise sauce that is to die for, along with a few other recipes that I will be sure to soon post.
Tempeh is a fantastic way to incorporate fermented foods into your diet, and if you can find it at your local health food store, I would highly recommend picking it up and giving it a go with this TLT sandwich.
*Note: To make gluten free, please make sure to use gluten free bread and a certified gluten free brand of tempeh.
- ***Tempeh Bacon:***
- 1 (8 oz.) package of tempeh cut into very thin strips (1/4″ thick); I used Lightlife brand
- 2 Tbsp. + 1 Tbsp. 100% pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup liquid aminos
- ½ + ¼ tsp. liquid smoke
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 slices gluten free bread; toasted (this is for 2 sandwiches, but you will have enough tempeh for up to 4 sandwiches)
- 1 ripe avocado; mashed
- Thinly sliced cherry, grape or roma tomatoes
- Romaine lettuce
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Prepare your tempeh by cutting it into very thin slices (1/4″ thick).
- Place prepared slices into a shallow dish or Ziplock bag, and set aside until your marinade is ready.
- In a small dish, whisk together 2 Tbsp. maple syrup, liquid aminos, ½ tsp. liquid smoke and black pepper.
- Pour marinade over tempeh strips and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
- In the same small dish, combine 1 Tbsp. maple syrup and ¼ tsp. of liquid smoke. Set this mixture aside for later.
- Prepare a non-stick baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray, and evenly spread your tempeh strips out on the sheet.
- Place tempeh in the oven and cook for approximately 10-12 minutes, then flip pieces over and cook for an additional ten minutes.
- When finished, remove tempeh from the oven and lightly coat one side of the tempeh with your remaining maple syrup mixture. Place tempeh back in oven for 5 more minutes, then flip tempeh over and coat with the remaining maple syrup mixture. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- When finished, remove tempeh from oven and let slices cool.
- While waiting, toast your bread, prepare your lettuce and tomato and mash your avocado.
- Once bread is toasted, lay down romaine lettuce on one half and mashed avocado on the other.
- Top romaine lettuce half with your desired amount of tempeh ‘bacon,’ then finish by topping with thinly sliced tomato.
- Season your half with avocado with freshly ground black pepper, then place on top of the rest of your sandwich.