My mom is a meat and potatoes kinda gal. I am not. Food is something we have never seen eye to eye on. I can’t understand why someone would want to eat a pork chop, and she can’t fathom someone would choose to eat spelt pasta with shiitake mushrooms and vegan “cheese” sauce. What, she asks, is wrong with Velveeta?
“You have to embrace new things when you have this many allergies,” I say lightly. Challenging as my journey has been, I have come a long way in two years and am proud of my progress.
Recently my mom has found herself facing a different kind of dietary challenge – high blood pressure. Rather than swallowing a daily pill forever, she has decided to embark on her own dietary journey and learn to control it naturally. I was thrilled when she told me this. At last! We have food in common!
I’m excited for anyone who chooses to take the leap and alter their diet. When it is my own mother, though, I am ecstatic. I understand the woes of a restricted diet and am so happy that I am able to share some knowledge with my sweet mom.
I have spent the last few weeks reading labels and cookbooks in search of heart-healthy meals that my mom would also enjoy. I must admit that I am shocked that my very healthy diet is not always low in sodium. Much like dairy, sodium lurks in everything, even non processed foods. While a daily allowance of 1,500 milligrams sounds like a lot, it adds up fast and can be challenging to stay within.
Mom expressed sadness at how much sodium her regular bottled BBQ sauce has. “Oh! I make one from scratch that is sooooo good and much better for you! I’ll put together a blog post on it!” Off to the kitchen I went with my notebook in hand. A few days later I began editing photos and putting together nutrition facts and WOW what an eye opener! While this BBQ sauce is better than a lot of prepared brands, it is about the same as the expensive, organic BBQ sauces at specialty stores. You be the judge and tell me what you think? Any tips from sodium watchers on how to further lower the sodium?
Sodium content aside, this recipe is pretty darn healthy and extremely versatile. Bird and I prepare it with the vegan’s “wheat meat,” seitan. Seitan is packed with protein, low in fat and super low in sodium. It is also ridiculously, almost shamefully, easy to make. If mom feels super adventurous she can make this with seitan, or if she is not quite ready to enter the world of veganism, she can easily substitute baked or grilled chicken.
BBQ Seitan Pitas with Roasted Bell Peppers
FIRST: Make the Seitan
Fill a large stock pot with four quarts of water and 1/2 cup low-sodium tamari. This will be the stock that you cook the seitan in. The tamari gives the seitan a bit of color and flavor. If you are watching your sodium intake, you can easily leave this out and substitute four whole cloves of garlic and a bay leaf in to season the seitan.
While the water comes to a boil, add 1 cup warm water to 1 cup vital wheat gluten. Mix with your hand until a sticky blob forms. Add a little more water if there is still some gluten powder in the bottom of the bowl.
Knead the blob a few times and then fill the bowl with fresh warm water and knead the blob under water, changing the water each time it gets cloudy. I do this three to five times.
Once your blob has been thoroughly kneaded and your stock pot is boiling, break off peanut sized pieces of seitan and drop them in the water. Let the seitan boil away for one hour.
SECOND: Roast your peppers!
I love roasted red and green peppers. They are ridiculously easy to make if you have a gas stove, too. If you don’t have a gas stove you can use a grill or your oven. To roast peppers on a gas stove, first wash and dry your peppers and then trim the stem down. For this recipe I roasted one red and one green bell pepper.
Fire up your burners and plop a pepper on each burner. Rotate them periodically with a pair of tongs until they are super charred.
Once soft and charred, place the peppers in a bowl and let them cool off while you prepare your BBQ sauce and slice the onions.
THIRD: Slice 1/2 a large onion.
Slice half an onion into thin strips, then slice the strips in half. Set aside.
FOURTH: Make the sauce.
I much prefer my own BBQ sauce over anything store-bought. This way I know for sure there is nothing funky in it, no strange chemicals and I can control the amount of sodium. This recipe for BBQ Sauce has been tweaked to lower the sodium. If you are not watching your sodium use regular tomato paste, otherwise, hunt down the no-salt paste.
Mix the following ingredients in a small sauce pan and then simmer for five minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly.
1 6 oz can organic tomato paste – 150 calories, 100 mg sodium
1 tsp. Dijon mustard – 0 calories, 18 mg sodium
1/4 cup dark, unsulfured molasses 168 calories, 40 mg sodium
1/4 cup reduced sodium tamari – 60 calories, 2,800 mg sodium
2 TBS apple cider vinegar – 0 calories, 0 mg sodium
3 TBS organic raw blue agave nectar (or other agave nectar) – 180 calories, 0 mg sodium
1 TBS nutritional yeast flakes – 10 calories, 0 mg sodium
1 cup water
This makes about 2 cups sauce. each 1/4 cup serving has 113 calories, 508 mg sodium
Notes about sodium: I am still shocked at how much sodium this sauce actually has. I originally made it with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, which I was certain had less sodium than tamari. Turns out, I was wrong. So this recipe calls for tamari, the picture shows Bragg’s. You choose based on your needs. Using no-sodium tomato paste would also reduce the sodium considerably. I will continue to experiment in finding an alternative to tamari and report back should I have success.
FIFTH: Finish the peppers.
By now the peppers should be cool enough to handle. Using your hands, gently rub the charred skin off each pepper.
Rinse the remaining flakes off and then carefully slice the peppers into thin strips.
SIXTH: Put it all together.
Using a slotted spoon, remove your seitan from the pot and set aside.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions till translucent then add seitan, roasted peppers and the BBQ sauce. Cook until heated through.
Carefully stuff the seitan, peppers and sauce mixture into whole wheat pitas. Drizzle a little sauce over each one and serve with a side of steamed broccoli.