Category Archives: tips & tricks

The kitchen utensils, grocery shopping short-lists, and pre-screened snacks that will make sodium-free living a cinch

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.

 

4 Comments

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.

1 Comment

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

Low-Sodium Square One

I received a couple emails this week from readers who had been newly diagnosed with some life-altering situation and, as you can probably guess, had been told to start a low-sodium diet.

Some of them were friends. Some of them were strangers. Some were nearing their sixties. Some had barely left the nest at twenty.

All of them were stunned.

So while I had a lovely seven layer low-sodium salad ready for you today

I thought it might be better to pause from the cooking and talk about taking on this low-sodium diet, starting at square one.

First, it is important that you focus on the positives and find that silver lining…

…wait, wait, wait. That’s not right. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Because before you can really, guininely believe in any of that Pollyanna stuff, you need to do something else. You need to swear. Loudly. And I’m not talking about “shoot” or “goshdarnnit” or something really creative like “fothermucker.”

I’m talking about shit.

SHIT!

Yes, I just wrote that. And I’m going to write it again – shit. Because that is exactly what this sudden, unexpected crack in your life feels like. And when your life has changed, start picking up the pieces by swearing. I know you thought I would say something else inspiring. But this is just the truth, people.

And don’t just sit there. Scream it with me. I’m running through the halls yelling at the top of my lungs and you should be too. Or if you need some more support, phone a friend and scream it with them (although, please do let them know why you are doing this so as not to scare them off). You don’t have to be on a low-sodium diet to swear. And I’m sure your friend will find it equally therapeutic.

Now, doesn’t that feel better?

I know. It really does. It feels like pirate yoga. And it is an extremely important exercise to practice, because you have to own all the anger and the fears and the anxieties that come with a life changing moment.

Then you have to release it. And while it is ok to be scared and sad and swear-crazy, it is equally important to not let those emotions paralyze you.

With that out of the way, now you can really, truly start seeing the positives.

Like the fact that you may be able to be healthier just by changing your diet. And that this diet – the one you thought was going to be boring and difficult – can actually be very tasty and a lot of fun. Did you see that seven layer salad?

And that you are not alone and there are many wonderful, creative, and caring people out there who will rally around you. If you let them. And you don’t always swear when they answer the phone.

So it is up to you to own your feelings, let them go, and then latch onto those silver linings. And to change your perspective from feeling limited to limitless.

Because this is not the end to an exciting life. It is just the beginning of one.

Pinkie swear.

For more thoughts on taking on a low-sodium diet, check out some recent articles on Stanford’s Scope Blog and Lifescript.com. Oh, and have a good weekend too.

12 Comments

Filed under good living, tips & tricks

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.

7 Comments

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

Turmeric Tofu Bites

Can we talk about tofu for a second?

What was once thought of a bland and boring brick of vegetarian blah, has now made its way to the culinary big leagues. And while its pure white cube form is probably the most recognizable to meat eating eyes, tofu now comes in a variety of dressed up variations. Some are soaked in teriyaki, others are made to taste like chicken, some are even transformed into “cheese.”

The point being that tofu is a great canvas for flavor. And while I think it is rather tasty just cut up, raw, on its own, tofu can become something really special with just a quick soak in sesame oil and curry powder. Or turmeric. Or garlic powder. Or miso and sake. Or sesame seeds. You get the point.

And to kick it up one extra notch, I like to bake my tofu in the oven (425 dg F) for 10 minutes on each side so that they puff up and get crispy. You could also fry them in oil if you want them to be a bit more moist.

Use them as colorful (and flavorful) toppers to a simple salad or rice bowl. Or even stick a toothpick in them and serve as an unusual appetizer with a low-sodium chili and ginger dipping sauce.

It can be a snack. It can be a meal. And no matter what, it is low-sodium and full of flavor.

Happy weekending.

Chow on.

 

3 Comments

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

Look What I Made Wednesday: Low Sodium Ravioli

You may have noticed that I was a bit slow in posting today. Almost twelve hours late. Where did the time go?

I think I lost it with my words, marbles, and vision as my face has been tightly pressed against the computer screen this past month in order to get all the low sodium tips, recipes, and other salt-free nuggets of advice down on (electronic) paper so that sometime next year, it can be in your hands.

That was a really long sentence I think I have lost my ability to punctuate too.

While I reboot my brain, I wanted to give you a sneak peak of some love pockets. Some would call them ravioli. But this blog is about embracing the freedom to be creative with food. So I’ll call them by whatever name I want.

Sorry, did that sound cranky? Then, seriously, check out these love pockets. They’ll fill you with warmth. Herby, buttery, butternut squash warmth. And I rolled the dough by hand. Just for you. Also because I don’t have a pasta roller. But whatever the reason, it was surprisingly easy. It makes me want to do it again. On a school night.

So thanks for hanging in there with me and enjoy virtually making these salt-free raviolis.

Weren’t they easy?

Chow on.

Leave a comment

Filed under good living, tips & tricks

Bunny Bars

Hey. Congratulations.

We all totally survived that whole “end of days” thing. What a load of hype. There wasn’t a single meteor, no invasion by aliens, and hardly a tremor. I think the rattling I felt was just a combination of the wind and the Muni passing by. Sometimes I do think it’s an earthquake. Don’t judge. The supposed Rapture sure didn’t.

So, yeah, that whole apocalypse thing not happening was kind of a relief. Although we took full advantage of the buzz and hosted a party to celebrate. The theme: your last meal on earth.

I made low sodium meatball subs. Obviously. Was that even a question?

But the idea of impending disaster – whether real or highly dramatized – was also a good reminder to be prepared. To have your earthquake/apocalypse kits packed and ready to go. And I’m not just talking about water, first aid supplies, and a cross bow. I’m talking about filling those 911-bags with low sodium foods that are lightweight, nutritious, and low in salt.

I’ve found some great products already, which include things like individual packets of tahini butter and these other goodies. But finding a granola bar has always been a bit difficult. Between my salt-free needs and my nut allergy (ugh), there aren’t many cunchy oat snacks that I can eat.

Until Bunny Bars. Which are sold in WALGREENS. And are gluten, sodium, and nut free. Score.

They’re great for the emergency kit, as an afternoon snack, for hiking, for lunch boxes, for baseball games…

…and definitely good for magic shows too.

I think these treats may be marketed specifically for children. I just have a hunch.

But their taste is definitely appropriate for adults. A population that can eat chocolate at all times of the day without having to ask for permission. Ever.

So yeah, sodium-free Bunny Bars. Hop to it.

And chow on.

1 Comment

Filed under good living, snacking, tips & tricks