Do you ever experience real food cravings? I’m talking about fruits, vegetables, or whole-food animal products — foods that I’d call base ingredients: raw, simple and essential. Real food cravings are surprisingly common, and I’m sure you’ve experienced this feeling or know someone who has. For example, after months of not eating beets, I’ll suddenly want beets in a salad, hummus and a smoothie. Or I’ll wake up one morning and decide that I’ll want avocado for lunch, or steak for dinner.
To me, a “real food craving” feels like an intense hankering from the gut rather than the tongue. Unlike a sugar-monster craving or a caffeine headache, it’s a controllable feeling — a gentle, yet firm request, repeatedly asked for by the body. “Beets sound SO good right now…I wonder if that cafe has the beet salad on their menu right now…” I’ve learned to listen to this bodily signal and follow-through, and each time I’m met with a deep sense of satisfaction and restoration.
The latest real food craving came during lunchtime. Well actually, it was quite a bit past lunch time and I was verging on hangry territory. I wanted a meal that was as easy and delicious as it was nutritious. And I couldn’t get the idea of dulse out of my mind. I’d picked up a packet a few days before and didn’t make it out of the parking lot without snacking on a third of the bag. My body was in need. I took the dulse packet down from the cupboard and scanned the fridge for a possible pairing. I had fresh green lettuce, gluten-free bread, smoky tempeh bacon and ripe tomatoes. Lunch would be a BLT done-up vegan-style, and I wanted it clean yet verging on sloppy-good in the middle…
What makes this particular rendition special is the combination of dulse with tempeh bacon. Alone, they’d make a decent vegan BLT. However, the strength is in the pairing, creating a super-savory and toothsome vegan BLT. You get texture and flavor: crispy, chewy, salty, smoky heaven.
Of all the things to crave, dulse might seem obscure, or boring, even (depending on your proclivity toward eating sea vegetables), however dulse is a nutritional powerhouse that adds complex texture and flavor to recipes. Nothing is quite like the chewy, briny, umami savoriness that dulse adds to a recipe. And if you’re wary of including a sea vegetable in your meals, open your mind! Dulse enhances the flavor and texture of a BLT, so much that’d I’d even include it in a non-vegan version. Think of the way salt lights up the flavors of a dish or how nutritional yeast gives a cheesy base-note to nut cheezes— there’s a similar principal in action here.
These days, bread is less of a staple and more of a treat, but sometimes you want a sandwich. And you know what’s worse than wanting a sandwich? Wanting a sandwich while denying yourself of said sandwich, thus creating an internal reminder to eat a dang sandwich. This takes up time and mental space you could use elsewhere. You know what’s better than languishing over a craving? Saving your time and energy by finding a mighty-fine workaround.
For this BLT, it’s an easy substitution with gluten-free bread. Some of you may be able to eat wheat no problem, and if so, treat yourself to the best loaf of naturally fermented bread for this experience— or really, anytime you eat bread, because you’re worth it. Naturally fermented and risen breads taste better, are lower in gluten than yeast-risen breads, have excellent texture, and toast up like a dream.
If you’re not sure whether you can or can’t do wheat bread, experiment! Try noticing how you feel after eating it— do you feel bloated, tired, itchy, cranky, still hungry? If you feel anything less than a sense of well-being, try eliminating bread for a week or two and see if you notice a difference. Keep in mind that you may notice a bigger difference when reintroducing the food.
Don’t want the bread? I feel you. Skip the bread and wrap the whole she-bang in the lettuce and chomp away. I regularly give gf bread a rest, and when I do, lettuce wraps save the day.
Whatever you do, remember that your body asks for experiences as much as it asks for nutrients. Eating nutritiously means feeding your mind, body and soul through keeping the experiences you want, while modifying them to fit into your personal eating practices. Listening to your gut’s signal of real food cravings, while following an eating practice that relies on enjoyment and experiences makes for a solid start.
The Ultimate Vegan BLT
- 3 strips Tempeh Bacon
- 1 tbsp Coconut Oil — for frying the bacon and toasting the bread
- 1 tbsp Dulse — wild harvested
- 6 Cherry Tomatoes — halved, or a few slices of in-season larger tomatoes
- 1 pinch Salt — to sprinkle on tomatoes
- 2-3 leaves Green or Romaine Lettuce
- 1 tbsp Vegan Mayo — or regular mayo if it's in your diet spectrum
- 2 slices Gluten-Free Bread
Wash the lettuce and tomatoes, then dry them. Tear the lettuce into medium-small pieces (so it fits nicely on your bread.) Slice the tomatoes to your desired thickness. I prefer halved cherry tomatoes or thick slices of in-season heirlooms. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the tomatoes.
Get out a pan and turn the heat onto medium, add in a little coconut oil, and once it's melted, add the tempeh bacon and pan-fry 2-4 minutes until crispy. Set aside.
Meanwhile, toast your favorite gluten-free bread to a golden brown crunch. If you'd like, you could also pan-fry your bread in your choice of cooking fat (such as coconut oil, or butter if you're not vegan.) That's what I recommend.
How to assemble: Place toast on a cutting board and slather (yes, slather) both pieces in mayo. Place leaves of lettuce on both sides. Pile tempeh bacon on one side of the lettuce and sliced tomatoes on the other. Arrange a tablespoon of dulse on the temph bacon side, and carefully close the sandwich.
Cut in half, if desired. Demolish said sandwich with plenty of napkins close by.
- I wouldn't judge you if you put a couple of slices of ripe, fudgy avocado on your BLT.
- If you're not gluten-free, use any bread you like, however let me recommend a real sourdough with some chew and flavor to it. Mass-produced "dead bread" (aka. not baked with a living starter) lacks the flavor and texture needed for this recipe. Get the best quality bread you can find.
- Not vegan? Keep the tempeh bacon and the dulse— live a little! But get down with your bad self if you want to use non-vegan mayo.