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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mexican Pizza + My Favorite Guacamole (Vegan, Gluten-Free) & More on Danger of GMOs

In true Texas fashion, Tex-Mex is my favorite food. If you were born and raised in Texas and you don't fancy Tex-Mex, please show yourself! Because frankly, that would be an atrocity. Okay, maybe my idea of an atrocity is skewed, but seriously, I could eat Tex-Mex everyday.

The problem with my love for Tex-Mex is that if I'm going to be eating at a Mexican restaurant, I'll be consuming genetically modified foods (unless they offer organic options but let's be real...) including corn, soy, canola, and maybe even sugar beets. Think corn tortillas which make up corn chips, tostadas, enchiladas, nachos, tacos, also food fried in soybean and/or canola oil... and I could go on. Consider that 82% of cotton, 88% of corn, 90% of canola, 94% of soy, and 95% of sugar beets grown in the United States are genetically modified. 

So, in actuality, those vegetarian fajitas that I thought were a healthier option aren't much better than anything else on the menu considering that the vegetables are probably cooked in genetically modified soybean or canola oil. And if that wasn't enough, I recently read an article stating that 25,000 acres of zucchini and yellow summer squash are now genetically modified, as well as all Hawaiian papaya.

I've talked about GMOs in another blog post but since this issue is so incredibly important, I have no qualms about discussing it again and again. If you're as confused as I was about what genetically modified organisms are and what it all really means in layman's terms, the following explanation may help. The New Hampshire Local Grocer blog describes genetically modified organisms as "completely novel organisms created by scientists through genetic engineering" and goes on to explain that "genes from one organism, such as bacterium, virus or animal are "recombined" into the DNA of a plant in the hopes that this plant will express some of the "desirable" traits they are looking for." For example, if a bacterium carries a trait that kills off insects, that trait could be transferred to the genetically modified crop allowing it to keep insects off of the plant. 

Though the biotech companies that produce these genetically modified seeds claim that they increase yields, are cost-effective and provide nutritional benefit, none of these claims have proved to be true. They have, however, been proven to be damaging to human and animal health, the environment, and not to mention a violation of farmers' rights as Monsanto has patented staple crop seeds and is suing farmers for re-planting these seeds the next year. 

Reuters reported on a new study revealing that glyphosate residues, glyphosate being the main ingredient in Monsanto's popular weed killer Roundup, has been found in our food. Roundup is a highly toxic herbicide that is meant to be used with their Roundup Ready genetically modified seeds to kill the weeds and not the plants. According to the study authored by research scientist Stephanie Seneff, she explains that the glyphosate "negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body." Glyphosate has been linked to many degenerative diseases such as cancer and Parkinson's as well as infertility.

You should also know that in 2009, a French court found Monsanto guilty of lying by false advertising. The international biotechnology corporation claimed that their best-selling herbicide, Roundup, was "biodegradable" and "environmentally friendly."

Perhaps it's no coincidence that almost half of Americans get cancer and the fact that food allergy rates have rapidly increased since the 1990s when the FDA allowed GMOs into our food supply. It is estimated that 80% of the processed food in the United States is genetically modified. Unfortunately for us, we've been consuming genetically modified foods unknowingly for over 10 years.

Update: Since going vegan in November 2013, I don't support animal testing. When I wrote this next paragraph I was not a vegan. The scariest part is that no safety testing has been done and long-term studies don't exist since GMOs are relatively new. However, there have been many animal studies conducted demonstrating the consequences of consuming GMOs. In the late 1990s, an experiment showed that rats fed GM potatoes suffered damage to their immune system and gut. A Russian study showed that feeding hamsters GM soy resulted in slower development, high mortality rates, and the third generation of hamster pups were unable to reproduce. Another Russian study (click this link and scroll down to view a picture of the 2 rats, one showing stunted growth) showed that rats born from a mother fed GM feed, consisting of GM corn and GM soy, had higher mortality rates and slower growth than the control group and even more disturbing, the study also found that over half the offspring died within three weeksA new study found that pigs fed GM feed, consisting of GM corn and GM soy, had severe reproductive and intestinal damage. More research has shown that Monsanto's genetically modified Roundup Ready crops contain a pathogen, a disease-causing agent, that has caused farm animal miscarriages. And those are just a few.

Besides buying organic corn tortillas for this recipe, you can make a difference by buying organic foods in general. Certified organic foods cannot be genetically modified and cannot contain any pesticides, synthetic chemicals, chemical fertilizers, hormones, or antibiotics in crop and livestock production. If you consume animal products, make sure to purchase organic grass-fed meat and organic dairy. As seen in the pig study above, the animals you eat are feeding on genetically modified food, which ends up on your plate and in your body too. Buy locally grown produce to support farmers in your community. Many small farms use organic practices but cannot afford the organic certification so be sure to ask them about their practices at the farmer's market and give them your support. Plus, locally grown, in-season produce is fresher, tastier and less expensive.

Look for the non-GMO project label on foods and check out to find non-GMO brands as well as other pertinent information, such as foods to avoid. Also, use the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce to help reduce your exposure to highly contaminated fruits and vegetables.

It starts with us, the consumers. If we demand non-GMO foods, manufacturers and retailers must rise to meet this demand to stay in business. Speak up at restaurants and ask them if they use genetically modified ingredients. The more people who use their voices the closer we'll get to creating sustainable wellness for the planet as a whole.

Educate yourselves. Question everything you eat. Speak up. Vote with your wallet. Join the millions of Americans who demand our foods be labeled by signing the petition. Monsanto and other biotech companies spent over $45 million to lobby against GMO labeling in stores. Seeing how massive their influence is, we have to come together and be even bigger!

On a happier note, this is my go-to meal to satisfy my Tex-Mex cravings! Plus it's beyond simple to put together. I've been making it for the past few days for a quick lunch or dinner. And best of all, it can be adapted to fit your tastes and diet - whether you're a meat eater, a vegetarian or vegan. :-)

Start with your tortillas. (You'll notice I only made 1 serving since it was just for me.) I used gluten-free, yeast-free, vegan Food For Life Brown Rice Tortillas. These are my very favorite tortillas and can be found at Whole Foods. If you use them for burritos or wraps, just be warned that they're stiffer since they're without gluten but they're so much healthier than white flour tortillas.

Gather your delicious delicious toppings. I love, love, love vegan Daiya cheese! It has been a God send for me as I transition to 100% veganism. It may take a little getting used to but I think it's delicious. You can find it and other products of theirs at Whole Foods. 

Loaded and ready to go in the oven!

Mexican Pizza + Guacamole
Mexican Pizza recipe lightly adapted from The Food Babe
Guacamole recipe from Budget Savvy Diva

YIELD: 3 servings

For the pizza: 
• 6 organic sprouted corn tortillas or 3 brown rice tortillas, halved (I used the latter)
• Salsa
• 1 Tbs chili powder
• 2 - 2 1/2 cups black beans cooked* (1 cup dry beans) or 1 (16 oz.) can of organic black beans, preferably BPA-liner free
• 1 green pepper, chopped
• 1/2 onion, chopped
• 1 cup Daiya vegan cheese
• 1/2 jalapeño, thinly sliced
• Romaine lettuce
• 1-2 limes, to serve

For the guacamole:
• 3 ripe avocados
• 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
• 1/3 cup jalapeño, chopped
• 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
• 3/4 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1/4 Tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
• Pinch of Celtic or Himalayan sea salt
• Salsa (optional)

For the pizza:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. While the oven is pre-heating, line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper and place the tortillas on top. Heat in the oven for 3-4 minutes, until tortillas become hard. If using the brown rice tortillas, cut them in half and follow the same instructions as the corn tortillas.
3. Remove the tortillas from the oven and top each with your desired amount of salsa, a sprinkle of chili powder, 1/3 black beans, green peppers, 1/2 onion, Daiya cheese, and jalapeño slices divided.
4. Place tortillas back in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Make the guacamole at this time.
5. Remove from the oven and serve with a slice of lime, romaine lettuce, hummus (I used this as a sour cream substitute), avocado, or guacamole (highly recommend the guacamole!)

For the guacamole:
1. Cut the avocados in half and remove the pit. Scoop out the avocado flesh into a medium mixing bowl.
2. Mash the avocado with a fork or spoon to create your desired consistency. (If you like it really smooth & creamy like I do, the trick is just to mash the heck out of it with a fork.)
3. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix together.
4. Mix in a bit of salsa, to taste, and if desired.

If you make these, send me a picture or if you're planning on making them soon, tell me what you will put on yours! I love seeing how everyone makes recipes their own. :-)


• Instructions and tips for cooking beans on the stove: here & here
• Again, I highly recommend the guacamole. It's one of my family's very favorite dishes that I make.

Sending you lots of love and light and a happy Labor Day. <3

"The wonderful thing about food is you get three votes a day. Every one of them has the potential to change the world." Michael Pollan
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