Category Archives: recipe box

Low-sodium recipes for satisfying and flavorful home-cooked meals

Spam. No, Seriously.

I don’t think I am going to blow anyone away with this next statement, but SPAM is super high in sodium. One serving (and remember, there are usually multiple servings in one package), contains over 770mg of sodium. Even the oxy-moronic Low Sodium SPAM (really?) has over 530mg of sodium. So unless you want to eat one serving of SPAM musubi for your entire day’s worth of food, I’d suggest leaving SPAM on the shelves.

Maybe.

Last weekend, I attended a dinner party. More like a potluck. And the theme was SPAM. Going traditional was seriously frowned upon by the group. So instead of SPAM and pineapple pizza, more curious concoctions (like SPAM carbonara, SPAM empanadas, SPAM latkes, and SPAM pate) were afoot.

And let me back up by saying that this kind of get together is not strange in any way. A few weeks ago, the theme was nachos and before that, the apocalypse. So SPAM was just a part of the natural progression. And the crazier the challenge, the better the food. Or at least the memories.

Even with the high sodium content of the star ingredient, there was no way that I was going to shy from this culinary opportunity. If anything, I was even more determined to make it work. Which lead me to putting meat in a blender. Specifically browned and seasoned pork butt. Which, again, let me stress, got put into an actual blender and pulsed until it formed a silky smooth meat puree.

If you aren’t puking yet, you’re my new best friend.

The thought, “this is just like making pate,” ran continuously through my mind as I packed the now blended pork butt into a little tart pan. I covered it with plastic wrap, said a prayer, and then stuck it in the fridge.

Two hours later, I had my very own Salt-Free SPAM cake. In the shape of a flower. Because I am classy like that.

And for a second time today, I’m going to state the obvious and tell you that the recipe wasn’t perfect. When I tried to slice and fry the SPAM, it immediately fell apart. And the texture was far less desirable than plain ground meat (see: blender).

So next time–yes, there will be a next time–I will have to use some sort of emulsifier or glue, like cream or egg, to keep that SPAM cake together.

But the attempt was well worth it. Even with my chunky, strangely monotone SPAM, I made fried rice with pineapple, a tamarind “soy sauce,” and lots of bright veggies. It was all edible. So points for that. And as usual, the goal was more about overcoming sodium obstacles than creating a shelf-worthy salt-free SPAM. So on that end, I think the mission was completed as well.

Of course, the great lesson is to not shy away from the impossible. And with every attempt, you’ll either get closer to achieving your goal. Or you’ll realize that eating a whole, juicy pork chop is way better than putting it in a blender.

Chow on.

 

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Filed under improbable eats

A Tahini Chocolate Pie for Mikey

It seems that sometimes food bloggers can get a bad rap. Some people are quick to draw a line between real writer and blogger. And many people joke at the enormous number of folks who now own a web address and talk about the delicious nature of food. Which is pretty on point. Because really, who doesn’t own a food blog these days?

But over the past two years of being a part of this community, I have witnessed something extraordinary.

Whenever a disaster strikes, no matter where or to whom, this group of strangers, all connected by their love of making and sharing recipes, gathers together. They rally. They support. They fundraise. They bake sale. They give back, no questions asked and no thank yous necessary. And whether or not these people are real writers or even cooks, they are truly all generous.

Perhaps it is the nature of the subject.

Food is about gathering one’s community. And when you share food with others, you are telling them you care. And when you eat what you have been given, you are sending that love right back.

Food is about connecting. Food is comfort.

The first time I ever lost a loved one was when I had just turned thirteen and my grandmother passed suddenly of a heart attack. There are three parts of those first days of mourning that I remember most. I was at my friend’s bat mitzvah when my parents came to tell me the news. I saw my father cry for the first time. And a friend brought over fried chicken.

The chicken came in a picnic basket with a note. This was a special recipe, one that only appeared when someone was experiencing loss.

Without having to say anything, this fried chicken expressed all the condolences, hopeful thoughts, and juicy words of wisdom that anyone could impart. And that first night, we sat silently as a family, chewing through that basket. Left alone to simmer in our thoughts, yet constantly hugged by the warmth and care of others with every bite.

That’s how I get to this pie.

A few days ago a loved member of this food blog community suddenly lost her beloved. Out of no where. No explanation.

One day they were walking hand-in-hand. And the next, she was letting his go.

Tweets, facebook posts, comments, and other 14o words of support have been flooding the internet. Some people are close (both in proximity and in friendship) to Jennifer.  And others, like myself, have had mere exchanges online. But everyone has once again come to the rescue, pouring out affection and a desire to help in anyway they can. Heartbreaking and uplifting all in one breath.

In a moment of inspiring strength and clarity, Jennifer left the community a note on her blog.

For weeks, she says, she was planning to make her husband his favorite peanut butter pie. And every day she would promise herself that this day, she would finally sit down and make it…

And today, her one request is for everyone to make that peanut butter pie. To hug those you love. And to share it with those you hold dear.

So this is my pie. For you all, for Jennifer, and for Mikey.

This is my pie that helped me slow down and enjoy the traffic. To revel in the fact that I had a to-do list and that even if I didn’t cross off all the items, I enjoyed the ones I accomplished. A pie that I made with my mother. And a pie that I ate with friends I don’t see often enough, many of whom have also experienced untimely loss.

This is my pie that reminded me to live in the moment. To always tell people that you love them. To never go to bed mad. To not sweat the small stuff. And to replace stress with chocolate and whipped cream.

This is my pie that celebrates life. The flakey crust, the bittersweet chocolate, and the rich filling.

And this is just one pie out of the hundreds, maybe even thousands, that celebrates Jennifer and Mike.

So today, I implore everyone to be a food blogger, a real writer, a cook, and rescuer. To join this community at our big, ever welcoming virtual table. To cheers to Mikey and to appreciate eachother, one bite of pie at a time.

Chow on.

adapted from Jeniffer Perillo’s Peanut Butter Pie

….if you do make a pie, and you’re on Twitter, the hashtag is #apieformikey. If you tag your post with that, Jennie will able to find them all someday

Salt-Free, Nutty Chocolate Pie for Jennie and Mikey

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup ground matzo crackers or matzo meal (about 5 large crackers)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
  • 5 tablespoons ice cold water
  • 4 ounces chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 oz plan Greek (FAGE) yogurt
  • 1 cup tahini butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Directions
1. Place the matzo crackers, brown sugar, and chilled butter cubes in a food processor and pulse until it forms fine crumbs. Add the cold water (1 tablespoon at a time) until the crumbs come together to make a dough. Then press the mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the side of a 9-inch springform pan.
2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or a microwave. And then pour it into the bottom of your matzo cracker crust, spreading to the edge with a spatula. Place it in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
3. Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Transfer the whipped cream to a small bowl and store in the fridge. Place the yogurt and tahini buter in a deep bowl. Beat on medium speed until it gets light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar. Add the coconut milk, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.
4. Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the tahini filling mixture and then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream. Pour the filling into the springform pan (over that melted and now hardened chocolate). Drizzle more chocolate on top or use a microplane to grate chocolate dust over the pie.
5. Keep in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before serving or place in the freezer 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat to make sure the filling is firm. Eat with loved ones and enjoy.
and for more amazing pies and people, check Food Network’s FN DISH blog for the ever growing list

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Filed under recipe box, sweets

The Incredible Edible Purple Egg

Yesterday I made purple eggs.

Yep. Dr. Seussish, delicious purple eggs.

Not because it was Easter, although I wish I had thought of doing this earlier this year. But because I was pickling cabbage (for something very, very special) and I had a tub of fuschia pickling liquid that just couldn’t be wasted. Seriously, can you imagine just pouring it down the drain? I couldn’t.

So I quickly learned how to hard boil eggs — yes, I had to look this up, no judgment — and I plopped my freshly peeled gems into the cabbage container. A few hours later, they were a sweet shade of purple. Which I then used for something very, very special. Which I’ll show you very, very soon.

But why all this talk about my purple eggs? My pretty, little, low-sodium purple eggs? That I made just for you. That look even more amazing when sliced. For something very, very special.

Well, first off, I wanted to show you how much color can literally brighten up an ordinary ingredient. It’s a great low-sodium tool to add some “spice” — as in pizazz — to foods that might otherwise seem plain or simple. Plus, it’s pretty impressive. And you definitely don’t have to tell people that your cabbage did all the work.

But really, this rockstar egg is just a small example of some secret projects I have working on. Tinkering on. Having difficulty hiding from you. (And I’m not even talking about the very,very special meal I made for you last night).

Other than this little egg, I’ve been working on something big. Real big. A real, big girl website.

That’s right. Sodium Girl is growing up and now she has a website. That has a logo, tons of pictures, a link to Sodium Girl approved restaurants and kitchen tools, and most importantly, a very comprehensive RECIPE INDEX!

You asked for it, you got. The purple egg is just a bonus.

Thanks to the genius and patient team at Shatterboxx.com, the blog has been transformed. And I seriously cannot wait to share it with you. In the next week or so.

No need to thank me. This is my way of saying thank you.

As we move, though, I’m going to need a little help. Don’t worry. No heavy lifting required and I definitely do not need to borrow your car.

But I will need your patience as I work out kinks, upload recipes, and get all the little ditties in order. And I want to hear from you — comment, high five, tell me what’s working and what isn’t. Or that I’ve put a seafood dish in the vegetarian folder.

And if you are a Sodium Girl Subscriber, you rock. You will also need to reenter your email information on the new website once it is live. I’ll remind you, so need to waste that post-it note right now. And if you aren’t a Sodium Girl Subscriber yet, you are a rockstar too and this is a great time to become one. Because if you sign up on the new website, neat things (like purple eggs and very, very special secret dishes) will automatically pop into your inbox.

I know, enough with the purple eggs. With some help from spinach watcher, they can also be green. And with beet juice, you could even turn them red.

So get excited for a lot of fun in the coming weeks. And as always, thanks for visiting me and for taking on low-sodium cooking with whimsy and gusto. It really is more exciting than dying eggs fun colors.

Chow on.

 

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

Salt-Free Dolmas

So I had a job.

It wasn’t supposed to involve food — there was a lot more paperwork than stirring or standing over a stove. But nonetheless, it was a subject we always found ourselves gravitating towards.

I also had a manager at this job, to whom I always paid a quick visit before heading to the nearest market to grab something for lunch.

And upon said visit, I would ask, “is there anything you want me to get for you while I’m in the outside world?”  To which I expected answers like: sandwich, coffee, maybe chips.

But she always replied with “dolmas.”

Now a dolma is not a cousin to the llama or a place for meditation or prayer.

A dolma is most commonly a soft grape leaf stuffed with rice, vegetables, dried fruit, and sometimes meat and then, THEN!, wrapped up real tight in into a vegetable pouch. Perfect for popping into your mouth. Kind of like a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern sushi roll.

When it has meat, the dolma is served warm. When it is purely for herbivores, the dolma is served cold. Either way, it’s great with yogurt. And usually, because of the salt-soaked grape leaves — it’s most common form of packaging — it is also loaded with sodium.

So just as quickly as I learned what a dolma was, I learned that it was also no good for me or my kidneys.

Until I realized that grape leaves weren’t the only greens that would work as edible wrapping paper.

Turns out many people stray from the grape leaves and use other pliable veggies, like squash blossoms, swiss chard, cabbage, and even thinly sliced or hollowed eggplant to act as the dolma vehicle. And since my garden is exploding with gigantic proportions of collards, I thought I could give them a try.

So I took to my collards with newfound excitement and determination, and with a quick saute and the removal of their hard stem, I had a limp leaf that was just perfect for filling, rolling, and eating.

I kept this initial trial version simple and filled it only with some steamed (and sticky) white rice. But for my next attempt, I might take my inspiration from this Epicurious.com recipe — which I already salt-free’d below for your experimenting pleasure.

And whether you’ve been craving to eat dolmas again or are just discovering them for the first time, have a go at rolling your own low-sodium delicacies in whatever crazy, edible envelope you can think of.

Chow on.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • White or black pepper, to taste
  • 1½ cups uncooked rice
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried dil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped
  • ¼ cup ricotta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup salt-freepine nuts
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 12 gigantic collard leaves, stem removed and leaves split into two “dolma” wraps each
  • ½ cup lemon juice

Directions

In a saucepan, sauté the onion in olive oil until light brown. Add the rice and brown lightly. Add the water and pepper.Bring the water to a boil and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until water is absorbed but rice is only partially cooked. Make certain rice does not stick or burn.Add all the ingredients except the lemon juice and collard leaves and mix well.

Quickly steam or sauté those collard leaves (really, only 1 minute or so until they are just soft enough to mold). Then place 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each leaf. Fold the sides in and roll the leaf up.

Place stuffed leaves in a pot in even and tight rows covering the bottom of the pan. When the bottom layer is complete, start another layer. Continue rolling dolmas until all of the filling is used.

Add ½ of the lemon juice and enough water to cover half of the rolled leaves.Place a plate on the top layer to hold the stuffed leaves down and to prevent them from unrolling while cooking. Simmer over low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.

Remove the plate and dolmas from the pan, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and serve. May be served warm or at room temperature. Serve with low-sodium Greek yogurt mixed with leftover mint or dill if desired.

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Filed under brunch, cooking, dinner, improbable eats, recipe box, tips & tricks

Pickled Chard Stalks, Rainbow Style

Oh hi.

Remember that garden I told you about a few months ago. The one that made my heart burst (in a good way)? That looked out to the gorgeous city skyline? That was a mere, dirt-filled twinkle in my eye?

Yep, that’s the garden.

Well, only a few months later, our little plot is full to the brim.

With squash, eggplant, budding asparagus,

walking stick kale, monsterous amounts of collard greens, a splash of herbs, and you guessed it, tons of rainbow chard.

But a funny thing happened. Not funny haha, but funny as in we had maggots crawling out of our compost bin. Pretty hilarious as you can imagine. Slash, my worst nightmare.

While we were attempting to consume our DIY veggies as fast as they were growing, some other little buggers were chowing down on them too. These guys were digging into the middle cells of the leaves, turning them brown. And the only way to stop them from ruining the whole crop was to either eat them (which we did for a bit, extra protein) or, in true Alice in Wonderland style, lop off their heads. The chard, not the bugs. Who has a guillotine that small. Really.

So there we were, a plot full of topless stalks. Beautiful stalks. In shades, colors, and neons that shouldn’t be natural. And I just couldn’t let them go to waste.

With a quick chop, I cut the stalks into perfect bite-sized chunks.

And after mixing up some salt-free pickling spices (2 teaspoons turmeric, 1 teaspoon black pepper corns, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed, 1 to 2 teaspoons dried dill, 4 cloves of garlic, and a sprinkling of whole cloves) and heating up some salt-free brining liquid (1 cup water, 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, and a splash of orange juice), I turned my chard stems into rainbow pickles.

And that’s how my headless garden was saved. And that’s how I am not eating any more bugs. And that’s why my breath smells like vinegar.

Happy weekend to you all and as always, chow on.

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Filed under brunch, improbable eats, recipe box

Seven Layer Salad

Sometimes, food is good just because it looks cool. Like bagel bites and chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs. Or noodles made of zucchini. Or bananas flambe. Which is fruit on fire.

So when it comes to jazzing up the basics, a simple twist in the presentation goes a long way. And the next time you think of salads, forgetting about mixing and tossing, and try some layers.

This lovely bowl had stripes of chopped red onion, fennel, apple, raw asparagus coins, fresh dill, green onions, cherry tomatoes (heirloom of course), avocado, a twist of lime, a drizzle of vinegar and oil, and a frosting made of greek yogurt and chive sprinkles. Okay, so that is about  ten or eleven layers. But counting aside, I think you get the point. And don’t you just want to lick off the top? If you do, sprinkle on some more chives. No one will notice.

To serve, simply spoon out portions, careful to dig deep into the bottom. It will naturally mix the layers up and give everyone a bite of the flavor rainbow. It is also fun to see the carefully constructed layers quickly mix themselves. Adding a bit of entertainment to the already enjoyable meal. And the best part of all, because there is no cooking involved, this nifty dish can be made up in seconds. Giving you plenty of time to primp and prep before a party or afternoon potluck.

So there you have it. Simple layers make a sexy low-sodium salad. And you can try this same trick with desserts or pasta or even dinausor nuggets topped with bagel bits and zucchini.

If you can dream it, you can layer it.

Chow on.

 

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Filed under brunch, lunch, quick fix, recipe box

Edamame Education: The Ultimate

Today is completely dedicated to edamame pate. Because sometimes people don’t like chicken livers.

And also because a dish like this exemplifies why (and how!) low sodium cooking can be so much more than just a restricted diet. Or worse yet, a boring diet.

In reality, low sodium is the ultimate test of your creativity in the kitchen. And once you’ve whole heartedly accepted the salt-free challenge, your mind starts coming up with some crazy ideas.

Like edmame pate. Which is just silly crazy. And it tastes equally bonkers.

For my dear reader who asked for a salt-free and equally satisfying edamame dish, I wanted to make something that went beyond eating beans in their round form. That used more innovation than just dousing them in garlic and sesame oil – which is pretty great in its simplicity. And something that really stretched the imagination. That blew people away in taste and concept.

And the answer was found in some browned shitake mushrooms. Some sake. Edamame (of course). And a blender.

But enough jibber jabber. Let’s just make silky smooth soy beans.

And tell those chicken livers that they get the day off.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts sliced (makes about 1/4 cup)
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1-inch nub of ginger, peeled and or roughly chopped
  • 6 shitake mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • Pinch of white pepper and red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups edamame, blanched and cooled

Directions:

Heat the sesame oil over medium-high flame in a medium sized frying pan. Then add the leeks, garlic, and ginger until the leeks become soft, about 3 minutes. Then push the ingredients to the side, making a well in the center of your frying pan, and add the mushrooms. Let them sizzle and brown undisturbed for about 3 to 5 minutes (adjust heat if necessary) and then shuffle them around a bit with a spatula or wooden spoon to (hopefully!) get the other sides browned as well, another 3 to 5 minutes.

Add your sake and vinegar to the pan and allow the mushrooms (and etc.) to continue to cook until the liquid has completely boiled off.

Place everything in a blender or food processor along with the edamame, white pepper, and pepper flakes. Then pulse until a delicious pate paste forms.

Scoop edamame pate into small ramekins or a small serving bowl, cover the ramekins or small serving bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you serve.

I ate my pate on salt-free rice crackers and I also frazzled up some extra shitake mushrooms and a jalapeno pepper for some garnish jazz.

Chow on.

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Filed under brunch, dinner, quick fix, recipe box