Monthly Archives: June 2011

How to Float

It’s finally summer. Really. I swear.

The sun has been shining for at least a few days in a row and I even got burned (burned I tell you!) just by sitting outside for more than an hour. And I didn’t mind one bit. Cause summer is finally here.

Which brings up thoughts of pools and floaties and root beer floats. Which suddenly reminded me of an old friend: Hanson’s Natural Soda.

Now I can’t believe it has taken me this long to write about Hanson’s, which has been making sodium-free pop since long before low-sodium food was hip.

I grew up drinking Hanson’s. Gallons of it.

My grandparents had an extra fridge in their garage which, it seems looking back, was kept plugged in with the sole purpose of chilling a million Hanson’s sodas. There was a rainbow of flavor choices, from cream soda, kiwi strawberry, mandarin lime, and root beer. And because they were “natural,” I thought drinking these was akin to eating my broccoli.

Now if you haven’t turned a can of root beer around lately, let me warn you that it is usually high in sodium. Higher than other big favorites like Coca-Cola and 7-up. So I usually skip the stuff.

But Hanson’s has nada. Which means it is perfect for us low-sodium sippers and even better for a big scoop of sodium-free ice cream.

And with 4th of July around the corner, it seems like the perfect time to get to know your new best friend, Hanson. Pick up some cans  and some carton’s of Coconut Bliss ice cream, and get fizzing. Or jazz it up the traditional combo with some mandarin lime and sodium-free sorbet. With this line of soda, you can make any fountain dream come true.

Float on.

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Filed under quick fix, recipe box, sweets

Thoughts on Release and Sesame Seeds

Sometimes you just need to let go.

You need to find time to sit down and watch Country Strong and cry your eyes out over a few notes of twang. Or make it to that yoga class to stretch, breathe, and namaste. Or just shake that sesame shaker so hard that the entire thing opens and all the little seeds spill out.

Sometimes blockages just have to get blown apart.

And sometimes you don’t know when it will happen. But you just have to accept it and go with it.

Like with this pork stir fry. It started out as a simple little dish: some leftover kale, a little bit of pepper, and a drizzle of honey. And then I decided to gussy it up with some sesame seeds (just a sprinkle, of course).

But when I opened the bottle, the seeds wouldn’t budge. The clock was ticking. The pork was tightening. The greens were wilting. And I shook and shook. And the seeds remained stubbornly inside.

Until I shook so hard that both sides of the bottle (“sprinkle” and “full shower”) opened. And out poured the sesames in all their glory.

Blockage removed, chi was returned. At least for those seeds.

And instead of crumbling apart myself, I went with it. I added more honey and a sticky glaze of Ginger People Chili Pepper Sauce (salt-free) and 1 tablespoon of Chinese five-spice powder. And then the seeds – instead of being a disaster – became a wonderful salt-free, crunchy coating for the pork. Peace was returned, to life and the kitchen. No tears and no salt necessary.

So I guess the lesson is, when the flood gates open, embrace the overflow. Then add some honey.

And always, chow on.

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Meet Padrón

Today we are voyaging to Spain. Actually, a small coastal town on the north western tip of the country called Padrón.

This town is famous for two things: first, and most obviously, the medieval poet named “Macias the Lover” (which I know was on the tip of your tongue). And secondly, the Padrón pepper (which, if you haven’t had yet, should be on the tip of your tongue).

Now this is no ordinary pepper, just like Macias is no ordinary poet. Or lover.

This pepper is small, green, and related to all the other capsicum family members (like jalapeno and habanero). But their most intriguing characteristic comes in the anticipation of their spice. Some are hot. Some are not. And you play a little bit of pepper roulette when you eat them.

But even the ones that are spicy are just perfectly so. Nothing that would send you to the ER or even the grocery store to glug up a gallon of milk. The majority of them are sweet and mild. And that’s why these little guys are most often eaten whole.

Just give them a quick saute with some hot oil (until their skin begins to wrinkle and char), toss them with some fried onions and garlic, and serve up an interesting, gorgeous, and exciting low sodium starter that is fun for any guest. Salt eater or not.

I’ve also had these guys served alongside fresh, fried sardines. Which are low in sodium too, especially if you get them straight from the fish counter. And I also like throwing them in with other greens, like this kale, to help brighten a dish in color and in taste.

These peppers make a tasty low sodium tapa and definitely add an entertaining (and interactive) quality to your meal. And they just happen to be in season. So get to your farmers market and look for these Spanish gems.

Good luck.

And chow on.

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Filed under recipe box

Salt and Stove-Free Pasta

Hi! What did you do this weekend?

I set my oven on fire.

Yeah. I really did. I meant to make chips. I made a huge mess instead. And I’m pretty sure I’m inhaling tons of chemicals as I’m writing this. If anyone has advice on cleaning this thing out, please let me know.

But let’s talk about something with less charcoal flavor and more taste.

While my range is taking a brief vacation, I started to think about no-cook meals. Ways that I could eat food full of vitamins and flavor without using any kind of flame.

And that’s how I came to this stove-free and salt-free pasta dish. Which is not only a great idea for those times when your oven is covered in fire-extinguisher dust, but also when you have limited time to throw something together for dinner, lunch, or any other snack attack.

This particular “pasta” is made from thinly sliced asparagus, which I cut with a peeler. I then chopped up some fresh summer fruit – nectarines and tomatoes – gave it a squeeze of lime, sprinkled it with chive, freshly ground pepper, and a quick dressing made from the final bits of my salt-free Mendocino Sweet & Hot Mustard and some olive oil.

Drizzle and dig in.

So the next time you find yourself in a hazmat suit, just know that your cooking appliances may be limited, but your food doesn’t have to be.

Chow on. And safety first.

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Filed under dinner, lunch, quick fix, recipe box

Pork for Pops

Let me tell you something about Dads – they love pork.

Even if they say, “Jess, I don’t like pork,” the thing is, they do.

And this brings me to the second point that I want to make about the big guy – they also don’t know what they like. And sometimes, you just have to tell them.

Take my dad for example. No really, take him. Just kidding, I want him back.

My dad says he doesn’t like a lot of things. Like eggplants, curry, curried eggplant, and pretty much anything that you can’t find in (a) a snack mix, (b) in a Cobb salad, or (c) at the ballpark.

After years of playing to his so-called dislikes, I finally realized that the problem wasn’t that dear old dad hated the food, but that he just didn’t know he liked it.

I started making things like “yellow chicken” (i.e. curried chicken) and “really soft zucchini” (i.e. roasted eggplant). And turns out, dad liked it all. Even the bean dip (well, that was just bean dip).

So with father’s day around the corner, I wanted to say thank you to my dad for letting me trick him into liking things and for keeping his mind open (and his heart and kidneys safe) with all my low sodium creations, even as he settles into that time of life where’s he’s allowed to exclaim that he just likes doing things his way.

And for all those dad’s who love pork (and may or may not know it yet), celebrate them this weekend with these three recipes.

Just tell them they’re filled with love. And chicken.

Chow on.

Matzo Ball Meatballs

Honey Baked Ham Chops

Sausage Pepper Poppers

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Filed under dinner, lunch, recipe box

Pasta Pretzel Bites

Um…wait…what?

Pasta pretzel bites! I made pasta pretzel bites.

I’m still not sure what you’re talking about. I’ve never heard of those before?

I know, neither had I. Until I made them 15 minutes ago.

Still lost.

Basically, let’s say that you have a serving of leftover pasta. Like two day old noodles that are facing the grim reality that, most likely, they’ll have to be tossed away. It gives a low-sodium green god or goddess like yourself a bit of a heart attack. But what can you do?

First, turn on your oven to 400 dg F.

Then, pour a drizzle of oil on your pasta and sprinkle it with salt-free spices. Like dried dill. An herb blend. Or spicy chili.

Then, simply fold them into pretzel shapes. Or a lump of old pasta shape. Or really, whatever shape they’ll make.

Then put them in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until the pasta puffs up and becomes crisp and crackly. Take them out and eat immediately or serve as a pre-dinner snack. Or on top of salads in place of salty parmesan crackers and bread crumbs. Or in a cup like pasta pretzel bread sticks.

And that’s it. Pasta pretzel bites.

Totally salt-free, totally awesome.

Chow on.

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Filed under cooking, dinner, lunch, quick fix, recipe box, tips & tricks

Monday Morning Sandwich Cake

For a long time, I resisted using Twitter, Facebook, or FourSquare. Not because I was against the free sharing of private information. But because I thought it was really weird that people felt the need to constantly tell me (and the entire world) what they were eating.

Thanks to these public broadcasting systems, it’s 11 am and I already know that Katie is enjoying a frozen yogurt with berries. And that Tom and six other friends are meeting at the local pub later to watch the game and eat some hot pepper pizza. And that Michelle has already had her second lunch of the day and she’s still not full. Someone get the girl a burrito.

Sharing details about today’s news, your latest accomplishment, or even the weekend’s funniest YouTube video – that’s all great. But the black bean salad you just downed? And the aftermath? I’m not sure I really wanted to know about that…

Of course, I eventually gave in. Big Time. I mean, I own a blog about food. I welcome stories about your bean salad. And I take it all back. The guffaws, the judgment, the misunderstandings.

Because this is what I am eating for breakfast.

And I couldn’t resist telling you about it.

I now totally understand the enthusiasm for sharing live updates on the food you put into your body. Because while this low sodium breakfast sandwich is nothing special, it is really good. I am enjoying it very much. And I want you to be able to enjoy it too.

So here’s what we have: a salt-free rice cracker, topped with a layer or no-salt spicy mustard, a mound of alfafa sprouts, a layer of (leftover) roasted vegetable and bean spread, and slice of no-salt-added turkey. A sandwich that is just as filling, colorful, and flavorful as something you would find at the deli. Without the salt.

Sure, it is gorgeous. And yes, it is just as a tasty. But most importantly, it is easy to make. A true feat when it comes to low-sodium breakfasts and lunches.

So yeah. I just told you about the sandwich I made. Now I’m going to take a bite.

And I hope you’re inspired to make something this simple and flavorful the next time you need a healthy snack to start your day off right.

Sharing is caring.

Chow on.

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Filed under breakfast, lunch, quick fix, recipe box