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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tempeh Bacon (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

A recurring theme of life that keeps coming up the older that I get is that life is not a picnic, my friends. In fact, it'll rain all over your picnic all day long, maybe the next day it'll storm, and the next a tornado will roll through. Sometimes the storm clouds hover for way too long and never seem to go away. Yes, that is how the last three years of my life has been. But on that same token, I have also learned that the sun will shine again when you find the strength to pick yourself back up, trudge through the valley with an umbrella in hand and continue climbing with an unlimited supply of self-love in your backpack and a tribe of true friends and family for support.

I felt like the world stopped when it was reported that Robin Williams committed suicide on Monday. I also felt like the world stopped when my mom passed away last year and also when a loved one of mine fell into a severe depression this year. When a beloved person dies or becomes extremely ill, our lives seem to come to a halt. It forces us to slow down, reminds us of what is actually important and allows us to re-evaluate how we want to spend our lives every day, because it can be gone in a flash. There is always a silver lining in every cloud, no matter how dark it may be. I have learned to find it in every cloud that has hovered over me and it has made all the difference in how I live my life and how I treat others.

Robin Williams' death hit me hard because it is so close to home for me. I have seen the painful effects of depression firsthand. For anyone who has gone through depression or mental illness, nobody can understand what you feel other than you and I know from my experience with my family member, it is hard to explain. Either way, I want you to know that your life is immeasurably valuable and that you will get better with help. And for those who have lived with someone who is depressed, my heart goes out to you, because it is one of the most heartbreaking and difficult things to watch and that is because ultimately, you cannot "fix" them. The most helpful way to show your love and support, as told to me by my family member, is to just be there and also give a gentle push when needed.

As an avid believer in and advocate of holistic health, it is hard for me to say that I believe medication is the answer. In some instances, it is necessary, but I truly believe, genetic predisposition or not, there is always an inner underlying issue that needs to be resolved, and with my family member, we have found that is absolutely the case. When you take responsibility, you retain your power, which then enables you to make changes. When you leave it up to chance or genetics, you give your power away to an external source and in that state, you are not as motivated to make positive changes for your own life because you have taken yourself out of it. This article from Mind Body Green sums up my feelings about it quite perfectly (just to be clear, this has nothing to do with Robin Williams' situation since obviously I didn't know him).

I am glad that depression has been brought to the forefront these past few days, though I say that reluctantly as someone had to take their life for it to be talked about on the news. It is an illness that many feel ashamed about, but millions suffer from it daily, many in silence. If any of you ever need someone to talk to, I am here.

Top left: Veggie Burger. Bottom left: Cauliflower Scramble.
Right: Tempeh, Lettuce & Avocado Sandwich
On a lighter note... TEMPEH BACON! I have been trying to perfect this recipe for awhile now and I am oh so proud to present this final recipe to you. I have to say, first, that it does not taste like the traditional pork bacon mostly due to the soft texture of tempeh. It is still so tasty. Most notably, no pigs are harmed or killed in order for you to obtain protein and pleasure. Hooray! You can see to the left how I enjoy tempeh bacon. Slap it in a tempeh, lettuce, avocado sandwich or a tempeh bacon Daiya cheese veggie burger, crumble it on nachos or vegan pizza or spaghetti, or pair it with a cauliflower scramble (I like to mix it in to the scramble).

So, what is tempeh, you ask? It freaked me out when I first bought it because it looks strange, but it is supposed to look that way. It is the ugly duckling of foods. Poor tempeh. Anyway, I stayed away from soy for awhile while transitioning to a healthy diet because I had heard about its potentially harmful effects on the body (that's for another day but here's more credible info on soy), but what it really comes down to is the quality and quantity of the soy product. Tempeh is a fermented soy product, which means that its nutrients are easily digestible and assimilated unlike non-fermented soy, which contains phytic acid that binds with certain nutrients and prevents proper absorption causing digestive problems. Fermented foods also contain probiotics, which are essential for optimal digestion, improving the immune system and replenishing "good" bacteria in the gut that help to ward off illness.

Tempeh is a super source of plant-based protein, containing 16 grams per serving. I always buy organic soy products because over 90% of soy crops in the United States are genetically modified and I do not want to put obscure ingredients into my body, thank you very much. Always purchase organic soy products to ensure it is GMO free! There are also tons of products that contain highly processed and concentrated soy byproducts (ex: soy protein isolate) on the market these days and those I definitely avoid.

Tempeh Bacon
YIELD: Approx. 14-20 slices depending on how thinly sliced the strips are


• 1/2 (8 oz.) package of Lightlife original tempeh *I buy mine at Whole Foods
• 2 1/2 Tbs reduced sodium tamari or Bragg's liquid aminos
• 1 1/2 Tbs raw coconut nectar or pure maple syrup
• 2 tsp grapeseed oil or other light-tasting oil, divided
• 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
• 1/4 tsp cumin
• 1/4 tsp garlic powder
• A pinch fine sea salt and black pepper

DIRECTIONS *See note below if you'd rather bake them (just as delicious)!

1. In a small mixing bowl, combine all of the (marinade) ingredients together, except for the tempeh and using only 1 tsp of the oil, and whisk well. Now, heat a medium-large skillet (I use this non-toxic non-stick skillet) and the remaining 1 tsp oil over medium heat.
2. Cut the tempeh block in half. Store one half in a baggy or container in the refrigerator. Using the remaining half of the tempeh, cut thin strips (less than 1/4 inch) lengthwise, as seen in the image above.
3. Place the tempeh in a small baking dish and pour in the marinade making sure each slice is coated in the marinade. Let them marinate for 30 minutes for optimal flavor (optional).
4. Place the marinated tempeh strips and remaining marinade in the heated skillet and cook on one side for 4 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side for another 3-4 minutes, until browned.
*To bake instead: Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place marinated tempeh strips on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper. Bake for 8 minutes on one side, then flip each strip over, and bake for another 8 minutes.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Plato


  1. Yay! I am so excited to try this recipe! I actually deactivated my FB and IG to focus more on studying, but don't you worry...I am still keeping up with your blog posts! :)

    -Alyssa P.

    1. Aw you did?! Med school is intense! Thanks for still keeping up with me though. I feel special! :-) Let me know how it goes whenever you make this. xo.


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