You might think because I’m a foodie I loooove going out to eat but I’ve got to tell ya something… you’re wrong. I would much rather spend my time making food at home, sitting at my kitchen island, talking with roommates and knowing exactly what is on my plate and what it is I’m putting into my body. Sure Chicago has some great healthy restaurants these days but they’re by now means any Café Gratitude or True Food Kitchen. If you know nothing about these two restaurants, they are both located in California and probably my favorite two healthy spots to grab a bite to eat.
Because many things on both of these menus are similar to what I eat at home – such as organic eggs with chicken sausage and sweet potato hash (at True Food Kitchen) or oven roasted brussels sprouts with a maple-miso glaze (the I Am Ecstatic dish from Café Gratitude) – I thought the other day that I could easily take what I see on these menus and recreate them. Not only will I save money doing so but I’ll also be able to make dishes similar to the real thing, only hundreds of miles away.
Now when I first went to True Food Kitchen’s San Diego location in January 2015, I spotted the “Andy’s Favorite TLT” under the sandwiches heading. That little guy is what has inspired this post.
What’s a TLT you ask? It’s tempeh (fermented soy), avocado, tomato, lettuce, vegenaise (vegan mayo) and whole grain bread. While TFK sells it for $12.50, I made two of these for probably half that price! I did not end up buying the TLT when I was in California so when I heard the restaurant was going to be opening a location in Chicago near my college campus this coming fall, I knew I’d soon get the chance to try this sammy.
But why wait until fall to eat a veganized BLT when we can do it NOW!?
I did a few swap-a-roos on the remake of this sandwich by subbing whole grain bread for my all time favorite Whole Foods baked “Seeduction” and instead of using processed vegenaise I whipped up a batch of cashew cheeze made with less than 10 ingredients. Yes, “cheeze” because it is dairy-free!
I wanted to nail that salty bacon flavor of the tempeh so I used Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. Liquid aminos are a liquid concentrate derived from soy. Think of it as an alternative to soy sauce! I purchased a tiny bottle of the aminos at my local Whole Foods and after making the “fake bacon” tempeh, I don’t think I’ll ever want to eat it any other way. That’s probably a lie since I could eat tempeh a million and two different ways.
- 1 avocado
- 6 tomato slices, roughly ½ inch thin
- ½ cup mixed greens
- 4 large slices of whole-grain or house-baked bread
- For cashew cheeze:
- 1 cup cashews, soaked in water for 4 hours or overnight
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- Himalayan pink sea salt
- Black pepper
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- For tempeh "bacon":
- ½ block of tempeh
- 2 tsp liquid aminos, or tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ tablespoon maple syrup
- ½ tsp cumin
- Dash of red pepper flakes
- Begin by prepping your tempeh and cashew cheese the night before you make your sandwiches. Soak your cashews in water overnight.
- For your tempeh, mix aminos, acv, maple syrup, cumin and red pepper flakes in a small tupperware container. Cut ½ a block of tempeh into ½ inch pieces and let sit in the marinade overnight.
- In the morning or follow afternoon, drain and rinse your cashews and blend in a food processor or blender with vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and garlic powder. It should be creamy and not too runny. Add more veg broth if too thick! Set aside.
- Take tempeh out of the marinade and place on a baking sheet. Preheat oven to 375º and bake tempeh on each side for 15 minutes each. You want it crispy!
- Time for the sandwich (to make one):
- Toast your bread and spread ½ avocado onto both sides. Follow by ¼ cup or a handful of lettuce, 2 tbsp of your cashew cheeze (you'll have some leftover! yay!), and 3 tomato slices. Lastly, add about 5-6 tempeh strips and place other slice of bread on top. Cut in half.
- Enjoy your little plant-based sammy! 🙂
As you pick this sandwich up, it will ooze with cashew cheeze. That’s when you can say BLESS UP. If I could add 10 gold key emojis to this sandwich I would. I sat in one of my university’s buildings yesterday eating this like a savage and still managing to savor every bite.
I’ve seen tons of tempeh bacon recipes online that call for liquid smoke and due to the fact the only one I could find at Whole Foods had added caramel color to it (yuck) I opted out. Regardless, it tastes amaaaazeballs and I think you all need to get to it as soon as you’re out of class or work. Make it for your favorite vegetarian friend and make their jaws drop. Make it for your mom and dad who can’t live without bacon.
After trying this recipe out, I am ecstatic for True Food Kitchen to finally be coming to Chicago and for the moment I can finally try an original TLT or what I like to call it: The BLT Without the B.