Category Archives: lunch

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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Magic Mini Cornbread Madeleines

Rule number one: you eat with your eyes. In a sensory-overload kind of way. Not in actual chewing and digesting.

Which brings us to rule number two: do not try to stick a forkful of food near those pretty little lids of yours. It will only lead to disaster.

But back to the first lesson…presentation is perhaps one of the most important tools for a low-sodium cook, other than an immersion blender. It can be just as flavor-enhancing as a good shake of cayenne and salt. And if you play around with the look, feel, or structure of a traditional recipe, the concept becomes as intriguing as the taste.

For ejemplo, cornbread.

All by itself, in its original form, cornbread is a great option for low-sodium cooks. It is a quick, no-knead means of adding a bit of carbs to a meal. And it requires very few ingredients. But to avoid salt, you need to forgo buttermilk and add some special ingredients, like whole corn kernals, honey, low-sodium yogurt, creme fraiche, herbs, or spice to perk up the dense texture. Which is all very doable and delicious.

But since we are already diverging from the original recipe, let’s really have some fun. And instead of cooking our now salt-free’d cornbread in a regular old baking pan (boring) or a skillet (so last year), let’s cook it in a madeleine mold. Better yet, let’s bake it in a mini madeleine mold.

And then, when you serve these little goodies in a little basket alongside your honey baked pork chops or whiskey pulled pork, you and your guests will be so overwhelmed by the cute-factor that no one will even notice the lack of salt.

If you don’t have a madeleine mold (thank you sis-in-law for letting me use yours), try mini muffins or even mini doughnut pans. And if you have any other genius ideas, do share in the comments below. I love genius ideas as much as mini madeleines.

So remember that the look of a meal can be a powerful addition to its overall satisfaction level. And as for rule number three, please, please, please play with your food. Not in the messy kind of way, but in the creative sense. Because cooking in general, with and without salt, is about having fun. Eating it is just the proverbial cherry on top.

Chow on.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cornmeal (whole grain, medium grind)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 pinch (or two) cayenne or chili powder
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium greek yogurt, mascarpone, or creme fraiche
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted but cooled to room temp (so as not to curdle the egg)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 large egg
  • madeleine pan, greased
Directions
Preheat oven to 375 dg F and place madeleine pan in the oven while temp rises.
In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, fresh herbs, and spice together. In a separate bowl, whisk the orange juice, yogurt (or mascarpone or creme fraiche), melted butter, honey, and egg together. Then add the wet ingredients to your cornbread mixture and mix until combined. Batter will be runny.
When the oven is ready, take the madeleine pan out of the oven and grease it up. Pour the batter into the molds and fill until just below the top, because they will rise and puff up a bit as they bake. Bake until the edges of the madeleines turn a golden brown and you are able to insert a toothpick in and pull it out clean, 10 to 12 minutes.
Remove the cornbread madeleines from the oven and allow them to cool. Serve with anything from soup to Southwestern fare and enjoy.

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Filed under brunch, dinner, lunch, quick fix, recipe box

Gazoontite, America

First thought of the day: when I hear someone say God Bless America, it sounds to me like America is sneezing. And since it has been a pretty rough year for allergies, I think my point here makes even more sense.

Second thought of the day (or more of a confession): to celebrate this weekend of freedom (and sneezes), I may or may not have purchased a red, white, and blue one-piece pant suit. True story.

But really what we’re here to talk about is not my Claritin or my closet. It’s my kitchen, which is getting a particularly festive makeover this weekend. And other than Thanksgiving, I truly believe with all of my patriotic heart that the 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays.

In the past, I celebrated with typical American fare. Fried chicken. Potato salad. Cobblers. Pepper poppers. Which, if that is your thang, you can find here. Or try this easy and scrumptious chicken fried potato salad for a combo of everything that is down home and good.

This year, however, I thought I’d take a detour from the typical fare and really explore the diversity of this wonderful nation. And instead of macaroni and cheese, serve Chinese chicken salad.

So this weekend, if you are ready to embrace the melting pot, try out these recipes for your big potluck, BBQ, or dinner party. And get ready to red, white, and blow everyone’s mind.

Chow on.

Yakisoba


Char Sui Spare Ribs

Mama’s Enchiladas


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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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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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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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