Garden, Plant, Cook!

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Vegan "Bacon" - not just for vegans and a One-Pan Meal.

Dear Folks,

Gnarly to "Bacon" :-)

You do not have to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy these "bacon" flavored vegetable strips. They work in sandwiches, pasta dishes, with eggs (of course), or cut up and added to salads. 

Back in 2015 I read about making "bacon" out of vegetables - okay, I thought, I'm in.  I am an omnivore, I like meat-based, vegetable-based and grain-based meals/dishes.  And I love bacon.  One of the continuing conundrums for vegans and vegetarians is many of them miss bacon.

Oh sure you can get the vegan/vegetarian replacement meats (by the way I was super impressed with the Impossible Burger at Burger King - my guy said he did not think he could tell the difference - it was that good - but pricey).  But like many "imitation" foods there are a lot of ingredients that go into making it taste 'similar' to the food it is attempting to imitate.  I remember looking at the ingredients for a vegan cheese some years ago and it had something like 20+ ingredients, most with chemical names - nope!

So back to making vegetables taste like bacon.  The ingredient which makes the flavoring really come close to bacon flavor is liquid smoke.  Do NOT make the mistake of getting "smoke flavoring" - they add a lot of extra things to make it taste smoky.  Wrights Liquid Hickory Smoke is just smoke captured in steam and reduced down.  A little goes a long way.

The rest of the ingredients are simple - you probably have them on hand and do not consider them chemically ladened.

I have made eggplant bacon and used it in sandwiches and more.  This time I had some sweet potatoes I harvested in December from the garden.  I am so bad at getting them out in late October to mid November, so by the time I get around to harvesting them many - but not all - look like that gnarly looking critter in the top shot.

The nice thing about the marinade is it keeps!!  And, you can drain it off and re-use.  Store in the refrigerator.  The combination of ingredients really keeps it fresh as long as it is refrigerated.

I will get to the recipe but first I wanted to explain what I did.  I cut off the roots (I have saved parts that were starting sprout for planting out later), and peeled away all the outer skin.  This is the unfortunate part of harvesting so late, I can't save the entire root peel and all (the skin is really good for you) because there is too much damage.

So I set my mandolin on thick (less than a quarter inch - thickness will impact total cooking time), sliced it all then cut the round slices into 3 pieces each, winding up with "bacon" size slices.

I had enough for two batches from my toaster oven - I like to use it instead of the big oven when I am doing small baking/roasting as it is usually just the right amount for the two of us.

Vegetable "Bacon" Marinade
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce - you substitute Worcestershire Sauce for all or some of the Soy
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons real maple syrup (I have not tried it but you could probably use honey)
2 tablespoons olive oil (you could probably use avocado oil)
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika (do not use the hot)
1/16 teaspoon of Wrights Liquid Smoke*

*If you have those cute pinch/dash measuring spoons, a pinch is 1/16 of a teaspoon.  BTW 2 tablespoons is 1/8 of a cup.

Mix all together and store in a jar.  When you need to use it transfer to a ziplock bag.

Sweet Potato "Bacon"
Pre-heat oven to 325.
Line a pan with aluminum foil - you could use parchment paper, my toaster oven does not recommend paper - probably because of how close the elements are to the pans.

One sweet potato peeled (if you have unblemished sweets keep the peel on) and cut into strips - the thickness of the strips will determine how long to bake and also how crispy you want the end result.

Place the potato strips and marinade in a ziplock back, zip and lay flat for 20-30 minutes, turning periodically to make sure they all get some coating.  You can refrigerate over night up to 12 hours.  The longer soaking will create a stronger flavor.

Drain the marinade off (save and store). Lay out the strips on the pan close but not touching.  Roast for 40-50 minutes turning the strips and rotating the pan half way through. (They shrink.)

I baked the first batch for 40 minutes (pictured) and the second batch for 50 minutes and got a much crispier result - BUT you need to monitor so they do not burn because of the syrup.

Remove and let cool.  Use and enjoy.

I made one of my 45 second microwave eggs with this "bacon" and toast yesterday.  Today I am planning on an apple, "bacon" and cheese sandwich melt.

Any sturdy vegetable would work with this.  My carrots are going to be coming in more so I many try them as "bacon" too.  I know I will also use my eggplants when the begin producing. Yum!

My next recipe came up because I wanted to use an abundance of sweet peppers from my garden and I have limequats too.

I am liking these one pan meals - particularly when I am not feeling well (I am battling my 2nd cold) and I can do the cutting quickly.

Amounts are totally up to you, but I will list what I used.

One-Pan Pepper, Onion, Artichoke Hearts, Limequat, Chicken Meal

Preheat oven to 425.
Prepare a pan with aluminum foil
12 small "lipstick" type peppers seeded and cut into pieces
6 limequarts, quartered and seeded (equal to abut 1 and a half lemons)
1/2 jar of Marinaded Artichoke Hearts only, plus a couple of tablespoons of the liquid
about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of chunked red onion.
1 large boneless/skinless chicken breast cut up into 2 inch chunks

In a bowl, toss all of the vegetables with a couple of tablespoons of the artichoke marinade until well coated.  Spread a bit of the liquid on the foil and put all the veggies on the pan spreading out to a single layer.

Toss the chicken chunks in the bowl, add more marinade liquid to coat.  Tuck the chicken pieces in among the veggies and add a bit of crushed salt (I usually you pink Himalayan Salt.

Roast 40-50 minutes, tossing the veggies and chicken once half way through and rotate the pan.  The cooked pan shows some charring - I could have cooked a bit less, but I really wanted the veggies caramelized.

This was so good. What you see in the finished pan is what I had left after I served our dinner.  I will use that today or tomorrow tossing with pasta and some Parmesan Cheese and chopped Parsley (I have a robust parsley plant that I am enjoying using right now).

I hope you enjoy these recipes and consider making them for yourself.

If you try the "Bacon" marinade on other type of veggies send me a comment or email and I will add the ideas to one of my next posts.

Have a best day,

Keep those in terrible circumstances in your kind thoughts, and be patient,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

You can find my recipe and gardening books and calendars here.

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Monday, January 06, 2020

Sprouting to Planting, and Two Events Coming Up

Dear Folks,

In my last post for December 31, 2019 I shared some "kitchen recycling" tips, so I thought you should see the full sprout to plant process.

First is my celery root re-use.  On December 22nd I cut up two bunches of organic celery (I buy when I do not have enough growing in the garden and I was preparing to cook a turkey with stuffing).  I cut the bottom 2 inch root off and started soaking in water.  On December 31st it had sprouted this much - cool isn't!

On January 1st I planted it.  I have others I have planted through out the gardens and pots to keep fresh celery coming on through late spring and into early summer.  Celery loves our cool winter weather and my seeded in areas are also coming up - just not fast enough for my constant use of celery.

Potatoes are my New Year's Day Planting tradition and I had some additional "offerings" this year because the potatoes I pulled out to make that turkey dinner (December 22nd) were a "little" older. So much so that most of them had sprouted eyes * - so I cut those off to let them air dry, then tucked in a cardboard container in the refrigerator to later planting. * You can see some of the eyes in the upper left of the top picture.

On January 1st I laid them out on the soil surface of one pot - eyes down - (I had another pot with the mini potatoes saved from last spring's harvest).  I then covered with the first layer of mulch.  I add mulch as the plants grow up through to make sure the growing potatoes are never exposed to the sun.

That green ting you see on potatoes sometimes is Solanine, a toxic substance caused by the sun shining on the potato tubers.  It cannot be cooked out or cut out, and can make you very sick if too much is eaten (a tiny bit should not hurt you).  So the growing method is to ensure the growing spuds are never exposed.  Just add mulch!

Oh, and I also planted the seeds from an Orange Bell Pepper I purchased.  What the heck, let's see if they will sprout - I actually have good luck with this process.  I planted the whole stem with seeds plus a bit of the flesh.

The little green leafed plant you see below the orange bit (I did that so I can remember what I planted there) is one of my famous Johnny Jump-Ups.  The seeds wind up everywhere so if they are not interfering, I let them come up wherever they choose.

A Tofu Recipe

Tofu is a love it or hate it food for folks.  The blessing and curse of tofu is its blandness.  The blessing is it picks up the flavors it is prepared with.

Tofu Dip Or Marinated Cubes*

1 package of extra firm Tofu
1 lemon, zested and juiced 
1 orange or tangerine, zested and juiced
Olive oil                                                                                                                               
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 to 1 cup mixed chopped or dried herbs

Slit package of Tofu but leave the top plastic in place.  Drain.  Weigh the tofu down with at least 1-2 lbs (I use cans) pressing out the moisture.  Let it sit with the weight for at least an hour, periodically draining the liquid.

Pat dry, and cut into cubes.

In a bowl, toss the cubes with the zest, herbs and salt.  Let sit on the counter for 20-30 minutes to let the flavors infuse.

Add juices and toss.  At this point you can leave as cubes and store in a jar, adding olive oil.  It is not necessary to cover completely with oil.  At room temperature, turn the jar several times for 30 minutes. Store.  Allow to come to room temperature to serve with other cheese, meats and crackers.


Place the cubed tofu in a food processor. With the processor running stream in olive oil until it reaches the consistency you want.   You can mash this by hand, adding olive oil as you go.

Store in the refrigerator.

* NOTE I actually served the cubes on Christmas Eve.  Then when there was a lot left over I processed into a dip.  I have made the marinated tofu cubes several times and the particular tofu block I purchased had a different texture - not sure why, maybe the brand as the cubes are usually nicely firm and these had a less than firm texture.  Anyway, the dip is wonderful, better than toothpick cubes. 

February Events

Saturday, February 1, 2020
1  to 2:30 p.m.
Mesa Urban Garden (MUG) FREE Seed Share
and Gardening Q&A with Catherine, The Herb Lady

Mesa Urban Garden
212 E. 1st Avenue
Mesa, Arizona 85201

Pick up FREE seed to get your growing on.
Bring your questions.  Catherine, The Herb Lady, will be answering your questions on gardening and on our currently crazy weather patterns and how they may impact your  garden.

Saturday, February 22, 2020
Arizona Herb Association’s 4th Annual
2020 Herb Festival - “Leap into Lavender”

TIME: Check in/breakfast begins at 8:30 am, Program 9:30 am – 1:30pm
COST: $35

"Join us in our annual celebration of herbs as we dive into one of our favorite herbs, lavender!  We’ll be learning about how to grow and use this  celebrated herb.  We are lucky enough to have Brittney Sounart, RH (AHG), Clinical Herbalist, joining us again and discussing how lavender is used medicinally.  The day will include a culinary exploration of the flavor with our very own Nancy Matsui, tips on how to cultivate lavender in our low desert environment from local gardening legend, Catherine the Herb Lady, and a tour of the garden to see the varieties of lavender currently growing.  A continental breakfast will be included."

Tickets available online here:

I hope to see you at these events - however, I am always happy to answer your questions via email or messenger on facebook.

Have a wonderful month,
Be patient, be kind, and always garden and share!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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