Early last week, the World Health Organization released a shocking statement: eating processed meat causes cancer. They didn’t say “is linked to” or “shows evidence”, but “causes.” This puts bacon, sausage, pepperoni, ham and hot dogs, into the same category as cigarettes and asbestos. The WHO panel stated that consuming just two slices of bacon daily can increase your chances of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. In a country struck by bacon mania, what is a foodie to do?
Processed meats add irreplaceable amounts of flavor to foods. The smoky, umami and salty characteristics of these foods have made them staples in American diets. Does this proclamation mean the end of BLT’s and chocolate-dipped bacon, of Baconators and baconnaise? No more breakfast sausage or bratwurst? Has veggie bacon’s time finally come? Not so fast.
Like many things in life, the answer is moderation. Many experts, from epidemiologists to nutritionists, admit that the risk is relatively small when compared to the cancer risks due to obesity, lack of exercise and alcohol consumption. Maybe the best course of action is not to cut out pepperoni but to cut down instead.
We developed a few recipes where you can substitute out processed meats, and a few recipes that we believe are too indulgent to change. Eat at your own risk:
BLT to the ALT (Avocado, Lettuce, and Tomato)
Swap your bacon for mashed avocado, and add a dash of sea salt and smoked paprika or chipotle powder. Slide grilled peppers and parmesan cheese in the middle of your sandwich. You’ll get some of that same salty, smoky umami flavor that bacon is known for, plus the creaminess of the avocado.
Bacon on cheeseburgers to mushrooms
Although same may argue that you can never have too much meat, the bacon on your cheeseburger generally hides that meaty ground beef patty that should be the star of this sandwich. Top with shiitake and baby portobello mushrooms that have been slow roasted in the oven instead.
Bacon bits to cheese
Bacon bits are generally an afterthought at the salad bar, and tend to get lost among your other toppings. Skip the bacon bits and instead melt Parmesan cheese on top of a handful of toasted bread crumbs. Toasted coconut flakes and almonds also lend some crunch.
Pepperoni pizza would not be pepperoni pizza without pepperonis. Sometimes it’s that simple. The amount of processed meats on your Hawaiian, pepperoni or sausage pizza is relatively small. Few of us eat pizza everyday, so moderation is a big factor here. They also lend punches of flavor to an otherwise plain pie. Just forgo the XL meat lovers.
Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies
Not something we eat everyday (although in a perfect world, we might). We love the salty-sweet combination in these treats, and bacon is hard to beat for the salty component. Try this recipe from Tablespoon.com for Candied Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies:
8 slices thick cut bacon
½ cup brown sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup melted butter, slightly cooled
½ cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bacon in a single layer on a foil lined sheet. Sprinkle brown sugar on top of bacon strips. Bake for 18-25 minutes or until crispy, making sure to turn bacon over after 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack for cooling. Once bacon has cooled chop it finely. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Sift flour and baking soda. In a medium bowl, cream butter with the white and brown sugar. Add vanilla, egg, and egg yolk to the bowl and beat until light and creamy. Add flour mixture and mix well. Add diced candied bacon and chocolate chips and stir until just combined. Place golf ball sized balls of dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes or until edges are brown. Remove from oven and let cookies sit on the pan for a couple of minutes before placing on a wire rack.