Category Archives: cooking

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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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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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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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.

 

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Look What I Made Wednesday – Macaroni N’ Peas

Ah, the wonders of Stouffer’s Microwavable Macaroni and Cheese.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this cheddary, oozy, black box of noodles was my comfort food. It is right up there with Bagel Bites and Choco Taco’s in my little black book of favorite foods. Did I mention I was a junk food junkie?

In my younger days of watching Saved by the Bell after school and wearing boxer shorts as shorts (nice trend, America),  a fluorescent orange bowl of Stouffer’s sunshine was the cure all for anything gloomy.

Got the sniffles? Stouffer’s. Stressful day in home-room? Stouffer’s. Craving the taste of melted plastic with your elbow pasta? Stouffer’s. Stouffer’s. Stouffer’s.

The answer was always Stouffer’s.

I know, it isn’t healthy. It isn’t even real food. And the taste I lovingly remember was probably a good dose of salt mixed with BPA. Two things I can’t and shouldn’t have. But even to this day, I still crave the taste of silky cream sauce with a toothy bite of noodles.

As with my other food longings, though, I tried to recreate the memories using pureed butternut squash,a masterful roux or two, and even low sodium “cheddar” that I ordered online.

And I came close; but no Stouffer’s.

So I gave in.

I know. You’re thinking, what? Give in? You never give in! Tell me it isn’t true.

But I gave in and I said, Stouffer’s, take your Mac n’ Cheese. Because I finally realized that the only way I was going to win this low sodium challenge was to ditch the obvious and take a new tactic. Forget trying to use cheese. Forget attempting to match salty taste. Forget the whole kit and kanoodle.

And that’s how we got here:

An equally orange, “milky” concoction with a secret sauce and the surprise addition of bright green peas. Without the high sodium content or salt. Or the melted plastic.

That’s how my favorite comfort food got a sexy new makeover. And now, when I think of runny noses, hectic afternoons, and cravings for hearty and heartwarming food, I think less of my old friend (Stouffer’s) and more of my new discovery (Mac N’ Peas).

And remember no recipes on this post…you’ll have to wait for the book on this one. But if you’ve got an old favorite that needs a low sodium makeover, post below and we’ll put the test kitchen to work.

Chow on.

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Serious Spice

Readers, meet Furikake.

Furikake is a magnificent Japanese seasoning made of sesame seeds, bonito flakes (dried fish), nori, and that enigmatic fifth flavor, umami.

And guess what? While most Furikake mixes contain MSG, you can find no-salt, no MSG versions at your favorite Asian market. With just a few shakes, you can infuse dishes with exotic Eastern flavors. And your new friend, salt-free Furikake, can be used to spice up pickling blends; home-made sushi; or as a decorative and delicious topping for a simple rice bowl.

Furikake can even help you more accurately recreate low sodium versions of traditional Japanese dishes, like this onigiri ball.

Now, meet my friend Max.

He writes for a little online site called Serious Eats. You may have heard of it.

Max likes Furikake too.

As well as cardamom. Grains of paradise. Kodampuli. Vadouvan. Sumac. Pandan. Hyssop. Fenugreek. And Cinnamon.

If it looks like I just made all those words up, I swear, I didn’t. They are all real spices. That’s the truth.

But even if you held a salt shaker to my throat, I couldn’t tell you what they look like. How they smell. Or what kind of foods to pair them with. So I might as well have invented them.

My friend, Max, on the other hand, can give you all the dirty details. He’s a spice hunter. He can wax poetics about mace and paprika until the cows come home. And, of course, he’ll provide an innovative recipe in which to use them too. Not the cows. The spices.

Max and his column on SeriousEats.com – Spice Hunting – are an essential resource for low sodium cooks everywhere.

As a Spice Hunter, he is proof that flavor comes in all shapes, sizes, and languages. Not just white, small, and salty. And in following Max’s lead, you will quickly become a more creative and risk-taking cook. And your food and cocktail chit chat will become increasingly more interesting too. Who needs to talk about weather when you have coriander to contemplate?

So I encourage you all to dive head first into Max’s world of spices. Taste the rainbow, or maybe more appropriately, the United Nations of flavor and see how just a sprinkle of something different can awaken even the simplest of meals.

And if Vadouvan sounds more like voodo than dinner, start with his Top Ten List of the spices that should be in your pantry right now. Who knows what new food friends you’ll make?

Happy hunting.

Chow on.


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Zest Friends

You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose. But you can’t pick your friend’s nose. Because that is gross.

Unless that friend is a best friend.

And then, if they ask you to pick their nose – because both of their hands are in a cast or are currently caught in a drain – you’d totally do it. Because that is what best friends are for. They are there in a time of need. They are there to scratch your back (or that itch in your nasal cavity). They are there to brighten your day.

And when it comes to low sodium food, citrus is your best friend.

Just a little juice or zest can instantly light up a plate, much like salt does. Even the most drab dishes suddenly smile with the sweet pucker of lemon or the sassy spring of lime. Orange juice can energize gamier dishes and the most played out BBQ recipes. Blood orange pulled pork, learn about it.

And don’t you dare forget about the other more elusive varieties like kumquats, pomelos, and Buddha’s hand.

Shave it on salads or use it for a Halloween prank – either way, this edible appendage is bound to make your food and life more interesting.

So like the many awesome people you’ve collected throughout your life, be sure to similarly stock up (and fill your fridge) with some exciting citrus. And when you think that a recipe needs extra zing, pass on the salt, and give your zest friend a loving squeeze.

Ready to try?

Check out some of these recipes that use the power of produce to create fantastic flavor.

Orange Moroccan Lamb

 

Risotto Cakes

Ceviche


Chow on.

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