BBQ “Pulled Pork” Quesadillas

This recipe was inspired by my husband’s former love of pulled pork sandwiches.  He’s from Texas, so meat was a big part of his diet.  Now that we stopped eating meat, he sometimes misses the texture and sauces that accompany it.  For those days when a former meat-eater needs such familiar comforts, this quesadilla should help.  Of course, I don’t use pig, but rather a barbecue-flavored seitan (wheat-derived protein, usually comes already cooked in a vacuum sealed package) that I can easily find at my local food market.  You’ll realize, when you don’t eat meat for a while, that what makes it so appealing are the sauces, spices, and texture.

Seitan, for those who aren’t familiar, is not a new food borne of a hippy vegan movement.  Nicknamed “wheat meat”, it has been eaten as a high protein food by vegetarians in Asia for years.  It has a texture similar to chicken, making it useful as a meat substitute.  You can make it yourself too, which may be healthier than buying from the store.  This website talks about it more in depth: http://www.vrg.org/recipes/vjseitan.htm

This quesadilla is savory, flavorful, and packs a hearty barbecue taste.  Vegan cheese is added, because IT’S A QUESADILLA!  Serve it with half an avocado and prepare to fill up on the tastiness.

Servings: 6. Time: 45 minutes.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 red onion, chopped into 1-2 inch moons

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 large tomatoes, chopped into 1 inch pieces

2 bell peppers, chopped into 1 inch pieces

3 tablespoons tomato paste

6-8 Crimini or other comparable size mushrooms, chopped

16 oz seitan (may be bbq flavored)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Juice of 1 lime

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons cumin powder

2 teaspoons chili powder

A sprinkle or two of cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 avocado per person (optional)

Tortillas

Shredded vegan cheese

1 tablespoon vegan butter per serving

Instructions:

  1. In a sauce pan, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and sauté for a few minutes.
  2. Add the peppers and mushrooms, continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir.
  3. Meanwhile, in a different pan, start heating the vegan butter on low (if using), and once melted, put a tortilla with vegan cheese on it to start melting. Sandwich the cheese with another tortilla.
  4. Add the seitan, cilantro, lime, and all the spices to the vegetables.   Stir all together and cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Once the seitan is heated through (should not take more than a few minutes), open up the tortilla and add the vegetables and seitan.
  6. Heat for a few minutes and then flip to the other side. Again, cook for a few minutes and then cut and serve.

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Cauliflower-Currant Quinoa

 

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Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it has all the amino acids that your body can’t make on its own, all in one place.  It is also packed with fiber, which helps your blood vessels steer clear of clots, and your colon clear of … you know.  (But besides talking about feces and food all in one place, I’d like to also remind you that fiber is also anti-cancer, as it decreases the amount of time that toxins in the food you consume interact with your intestines!)  This dish also has healthy leeks and cauliflower, which I talked about in a previous post, and is brightened with fruity currants.  Almonds complement quinoa’s nutty flavor.

Here’s some other fun facts of why this dish is great for you:

-Almonds and other nuts have phytosterols (plant sterols), which lower your cholesterol.  How do they do this? They act like cholesterol in your gut, binding to the same receptors on your enterocytes (small intestine cells) that cholesterol molecules use to enter your blood stream.  Therefore, the cholesterol molecules can’t bind to these receptors, and they are led through and out of your colon.  Plant sterols are so effective that their effects are additive to the most commonly used cholesterol-lowering medications: statins. (Marangoni, Pharmacol Res. 2010 Mar;61(3):193-9)

-Polyunsaturated fatty acids (you’ve heard of them as omega-3’s, omega-6’s, and perhaps alpha-linoleic acid) are abundant in nuts, tofu, soybeans, and flaxseeds. (http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Polyunsaturated-Fats_UCM_301461_Article.jsp) They’re beneficial for lowering your levels of bad cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease, and they also help in other inflammatory conditions. A study of 2514 people in Australia age 49 and over showed that increased nut consumption was protective against mortality from inflammatory disease (examples of these diseases include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma). (Gopinath et al. 2011 ). Another group examined patients in the Physicians’ Health Study, a cohort of over 20,000 male U.S. physicians, and found that increased nut consumption was associated with a decrease in all-cause mortality, including cardiovascular mortality, in a linear fashion. (Hshieh et al., Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Feb;101(2):407-12).  The largest study that came out in 2015 pooled the results of 15 studies, and found that nut consumption is associated with decreased all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and cancer mortality. (Grosso et all., Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Apr;101(4):783-93.)

Recipe (serves 4, takes 30 minutes):

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1 head cauliflower

2-3 leeks, diced

1 large carrot or 2-3 heirloom carrots, diced

1/4 cup currants

4 tablespoons coconut oil

1-2 teaspoons turmeric powder

1 teaspoon each allspice and cinnamon powder

Salt and pepper adjusted to taste

  1. Cook quinoa: in a saucepan on medium, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add 1 cup quinoa. Toast quinoa in oil for a few minutes until the nutty fragrance develops, then add 2 cups water and bring to a boil, then simmer.
  2. In a pan on medium-low heat, melt the coconut oil, then add leeks and cauliflowers. Saute for several minutes until the leeks get more translucent and the cauliflower softens; then add the almonds and currants and spices. Cook all together until the quinoa is ready.
  3. Once the quinoa is cooked, add it to the mixture. Adjust spices to your taste preference. Enjoy!

 

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Human Rights: Part I – Slavery in the Thai Fishing Industry

Animal rights are an obvious part of why it’s beneficial for the world to stop eating animals.  Did you know that human rights are also involved?  I hadn’t thought about that until I stumbled upon some articles, but it makes sense.  In order to provide the vast number of animals humans want to eat, industries must employ people to raise, catch, and kill the animals.  Would you want to work at a slaughterhouse or live on an industrial fishing boat, out at sea for years at a time?  When greedy and nefarious businesses in need of labor intersect with vulnerable populations in need of work, human rights violations can run rampant.

A few articles I read recently involve Thailand, a country that, according to the State Department, is among the worst in the world for human trafficking, and also supplies a large amount of the world’s seafood.  In the Thai fishing industry, migrant workers escaping their neighboring home countries for better opportunities end up living and working essentially as slaves.  Their labor in turn allows the industry to cheaply acquire lots of fish and has contributed to advancing Thailand’s $7.3 billion/year fish industry.  With the global demand for seafood increasing (haven’t we all heard the supposed benefits of eating fish?), the supply must keep up.

An estimated 200,000 unregistered people currently work on Thai fishing vessels, and many have died already – the count will never be known (http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/11/asia/freedom-project-thailand-fishing-slave-ships/).  The industry has institutionalized lying, coercing, and even violently forcing people to work for them.  Once out at sea, the crews are at the mercy of the captains.  Over time, the vessels must travel further from land in search of fish, as overfishing depletes the fish in the Gulf of Thailand.  Crews may work 20 hours a day in dangerous conditions for years at a time, never returning to shore, risking their lives to infection, accidents, and violence, for meager to no compensation.  Migrants are trafficked and kept on tiny islands that have become open air prisons, so the fishing industry can use them as labor on fishing vessels.

The Thai government has vowed to crack down on human trafficking, and Western countries have tried to track the origins of seafood that they bring onto their grocery store shelves.  Despite these efforts, the problem is getting worse as global demand for seafood increases and overfishing worsens.

How can you help end this form of modern day slavery? If the fishing industry doesn’t have anybody willing to buy their fish, they and their cruel practices will sink.

Here are the articles I’ve read (all accessed 8/17/2015):

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/11/asia/freedom-project-thailand-fishing-slave-ships/

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/07/27/world/outlaw-ocean-thailand-fishing-sea-slaves-pets.html?emc=edit_na_20150727&nlid=56062739&ref=cta&_r=0&referrer=

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/jul/20/thai-fishing-industry-implicated-enslavement-deaths-rohingya

Image: http://www.newsecuritybeat.org/2015/08/crossing-borders-defying-policing-abuses-thailands-fishing-industry-challenge-international-system/ accessed 8/18/15