I wasted 15 minutes of my life trying to decide which bacon bits I should buy.
Has this ever happened to you? If you’re transitioning into more of a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, you can probably relate. It was Sunday and my hubby and I were going to a friend’s to watch some football. You KNOW football Sundays mean snacks galore, so I wanted to make this “crack dip” recipe that is just terrible for you, but flipping delicious. (Shout out to Pinterest for showing me the best dips in the land.) The recipe called for cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, ranch flavoring and bacon bits.
DUH I try not to eat ANY of those things, and of course can substitute with vegan versions - but here is my conundrum as I stand in the grocery store, going back and forth on the idea of bacon bits!
1 - I try not to eat meat, ESPECIALLY from piggies
2 - the friends we were visiting definitely eat meat, especially from piggies!
3 - I wasn’t sure WHO else was going to be at the party (aka meataholics, etc)
4 - I wasn’t sure if the dip recipe NEEDED that bacon flavor (fatty, saltiness)
So I kind of freaked out because time was running out before the game. Here I am in the aisle with a cart full of Follow Your Heart vegan substitutes to make this stupid dip, and I’m googling vegan versions of the recipe while also thinking “My mom used to eat bacon bits on her salads, and they definitely didn’t taste like real meat, so I’m wondering if bacon bits are even real???” Cut to the salad dressing aisle and I’m standing in front of SEVERAL options for bacon bits. Some are touting “Real, natural bacon pieces,” while others are saying they’re “bacon flavored bits.” I think “Ok, Schanen, get the real bacon bits - you can put the bacon bits on the side of the dip for people to add, or just not eat the dip, or just set aside a portion for yourself sans bacon…”
Then I thought, “No, get the bacon flavored bits so you can have the flavor too, just without the dead piggies.”
THEN I checked the ingredients on all of the jars of bits, and was disgusted at how loaded with chemicals and preservatives everything was - ESPECIALLY the fake bacon bits! Gross! One ingredient found in those little chunks is Red Dye #3, which has been found to cause DNA damage of liver cells, and disrupt thyroid function. Yeah, no thanks, FDA! (Read more about that nastiness HERE)
So I thought to myself, screw it! Eating real bacon is better than eating any of this processed crap. So I put the jars down and was just about to head to the butcher section before I caught myself. What the heck am I thinking? I am literally about to go buy bacon for people knowing that it’s terrible for their health, it’s horrifically produced, and it goes against what my heart says. NOPE, ya’ll can eat this dip without bacon! After 15 embarrassing minutes of arguing with myself and weighing all the options, I bit the bullet and bought my dip ingredients without the bacon. And guess what - the dip was a hit! You can’t really go wrong with ranch flavored cheesy dips anyway, but the bacon was not necessary to make it delicious and satisfying.
But honestly, why did I have to look at several jars of bacon bits and bacon flavored bits anyway? There are WAY too many options in our food aisles, with way too many chemicals and preservatives. No wonder our country is sick! Now, I know the processed products I bought for the dip were not healthy either, but luckily I don’t eat crack dip every day ;) It’s so important for us to have the knowledge of what’s in these products, so that we can make our own educated decisions about what’s good for us. If we’re aware of the ingredients and the consequences of ingesting them and we still choose to do so, that’s one thing, but SO many people don’t even think twice before picking up the jars of cured animal pieces, or the peanut butter that’s loaded with sugar and additional oils. Just because it’s on our store shelves does NOT mean it’s safe.
Take, for instance, another ingredient in bacon bits - hydrolyzed protein. This is isolated protein that’s been extracted through intense processing with sulfuric acid and lye. Mmmmm, delicious. Anyway, this isolated protein contains high levels of allergy inducing glutamate AND is connected to MSG - another way for major food manufacturers to get around using MSG in their products but still provide that same great taste and health benefits! (Complete sarcasm, by the way.) Hydrolyzed proteins are jammed into TONS of processed food items for flavoring purposes, and it could be what’s giving you some of those unwanted health probs. #EatRealFood
Ignorance is not bliss, it’s disease!
So even though I wasted 15 minutes of my life thinking about bacon bits, at least I was asking myself those questions, you know? Why does naughty food tempt me so? Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this…
We do have some GOOD news, and in true Kale Whale fashion, want to provide you with a substitute to the bacon bits my crack dip recipe called for. It’s a plant-based version, made with coconut flakes and other flavorings that provide the most delicious, cruelty-free, more alkaline option to piggy or hydrolyzed protein products.
Our friend, Katie, a chef at Ai Love Nalo in Hawaii, is whipping up some dank plant based creations. If you’re on Oahu, be sure not to miss this taste bud explosion. One of the ingredients that makes her veggie bowls so next level is the crispy bacon bits. Featured here in a Hawaiian veggie inspired dish called the “Coco-Bacon Super Salad.”
Ingredients: (makes 10 cups “bacon bits”)
½ cup tamari
⅓ cup maple syrup
¼ cup coconut oil
½ tbsp smoked paprika
½ tsp liquid smoke
10 cups coconut flakes (fat flakes, not shreds!)
Preheat oven to 350 F
Add all ingredients (except coco-flakes) to a mason jar and shake well.
Toss sauce and coco-flakes together in a mixing bowl until coated not soaked.
Spread out on a non-stick baking sheet and bake for 10 mins.
Continue to bake, flipping every 5 mins till crispy.
Sprinkle over salads or your fav dish!