Tag Archives: low sodium pickles

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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Sushi Picks

No sodium.

Lots of flavor.

Thanks to Ginger People, homemade, salt-free sushi just got a whole lot sexier.

Chow on.

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The Pot Luckiest

This Sunday, I spent the afternoon gallivanting at Filoli and Edgewood Park, all in the name of celebrating a very special lady’s birthday.

And while there were – of course! – cupcakes and candles and birthday wishes galore, this summer festivity was equally filled with the delights of Filoli’s gorgeous gardens (did someone say white pigeons and pear trees? Yes, I just did) as well as a picnic feast filled with low sodium treats.

And while it wasn’t my day of birth, boy oh boy, did I eat like it was. We consumed a feast of perfect picnic proportions, and, thanks to the adventurous (and caring) spirit of the hostess, I was able to eat almost every bite.

Today, I want to share this fabulous picnic menu with you, not just because I think my pictures look awesome (although, in all modesty, they do), but because this is the ultimate lesson in eating beyond your kitchen and trusting your food needs in the hands of others.

Here’s the set-up: you are attending someone else’s party – a birthday party, no less – in which you are far from being the guest of honor. Yet, if you want to partake in the culinary delights of the day, your needs demand special attention.

This is where the dilemma lies. Do you say something and risk feeling like you’re making a fuss? Do you offer to bring your own low sodium fare to share? Or do you eat a massive amount before and after you attend the event and simply sip on low sodium lemonade to pass the time?

No matter which option you pick, they are all the right answers. Your approach depends on the context of each situation – how well do you know your company, how comfortable are you sharing your needs (and food) with others, and what will make you feel most at ease (and full).

But I will say this: the more open you are with the people around you, whoever they are, the easier these situations will become. That is because, the people around us are caring and good. And once your loved ones know what you need and how to make low sodium food, chances are they will want to try. All you have to do is teach them.

As such, I treat most occasions as if they are pot lucks, even when they are not. I  bring along one or two low sodium dishes for myself and the rest of the guests to enjoy. And I always ask the host if it is ok to bring some extra food, just in case they have a “vision” for the event that they do not want disturbed…but thankfully, that never happens.

From there, two things happen: 1) I get to eat without worry or fuss, and 2) people ask a lot of questions. They taste how tasty low sodium cuisine can be and they get inspired to try cooking low sodium food themselves. And before I’ve had time to wipe my mouth, I get asked for recipes and recommendations, so that they can make low sodium dishes for me the next time around.

Over time, you’ll find that your friends will want to cook salt-free food for you. They will actually tell you to leave your roasting pan at home. Because when you approach your needs with a positive attitude – and show people that low sodium cooking is a fun challenge, the results of which make you feel accomplished and proud – your friends, without a doubt, will want to jump on board.

After a few years of collaborative efforts and sharing (the definition of a pot luck), I was able to sit down at a beautiful picnic lunch where almost every dish was prepared with low sodium care.

My measly contribution consisted of some freshly prepared, low sodium hummus and fresh crudités (yay for French breakfast radishes!)

And then there were the real masterpieces, starting with a French carrot salad (yes, there was an unintended theme happening here), made with grated carrots and a simple vinaigrette;

low sodium pickled green beans and fennel (recipes from Sodium Girl);

a sodium-free frittata, with purple new potatoes, peppers, and fresh herbs;

and to finish it all off, some juicy, ripe strawberries which were dipped in crème fraiche and brown sugar. Pure yum.

So don’t be shy with your low sodium requirements. Cutting down on salt is the latest health craze and whether it is for the health of your body or theirs, I promise people will be excited to learn and experiment with you. Share your recipes, share your success, and remember, chow on.

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Salt-Free My Recipe

For all of you who love the new “Biting Mr. Bittman” series, I have exciting news. I’m expanding it!

Yes, it’s true. After consulting with my business development team (aka KMLake), I’ve decided to announce a new, weekly series called Salt-Free My Recipe. It’s like Pimp My Ride but for food. Without salt. And a lot fewer hub caps and decals.

But there is a catch – it requires your participation.

Just like Mr. Bittman has (unknowingly) been submitting his recipes to Sodium Girl for salt-free transformations, now you can send your favorite dishes to SG for a sodium-free make-over as well.

Need more explanation?

Ok. Let’s say your grandmother makes a totally rockstar salad with quinoa, tomatoes, and avocado. To which I say, your grandmother is awesome. But while the recipe sounds simple and easy, there’s one problem. She also uses her famous pickled beets, which taste more like the ocean than a backyard garden. So you think, sadly, that because of your dietary needs you will never be able to enjoy grammy’s picnic delicacy again. Tear.

But this is where I come to the rescue.

Simply wipe that tear aside and send the recipe to sodiumgirl@gmail.com, or include it in a comment below. Then, I’ll swap out the salt-heavy ingredients with some really genius substitutions and post a Salt-free’d Recipe each week.

For example, in order to make grammy’s recipe Sodium Girl-friendly, I would suggest using freshly roasted beets and a vinegar dressing or, to really blow your mind, I would tell you to grab a jar of Rick’s Picks Phat Beets

and make life a little easier. And since we are already making changes, I might also tell you to add some chopped chives and fresh radish – which has a naturally strong, pepper flavor on its own – to the dish, so you can really spice things up.

Depending on the number of entries, I will either post the one and only recipe I receive on the site, or, for some real fun, I’ll pose a poll to the rest of you, the loyal readers, to decide which dish (of the thousands I’ve received) to make. Isn’t that exciting? Yes it is!

To get things started, check out Grammy’s Salt-Free, Pickled Beet Picnic Salad below and start sending me your sodium-free recipe queries – they can be from websites, cookbooks, or just your imagination. So start your engines, get those creative juices flowing, and let’s get interactive!

Chow on.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup of quinoa
  • 1 cup of water
  • 5 radishes, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 small tomato (heirloom if you can find one), diced
  • ¼ cup of Rick’s Phat Beets, diced
  • 1 handful of chopped chives

Directions:

1. Soak the quinoa in a cup of water for 30 minutes, or until the grains begin to sprout their white tendrils.

2. Put quinoa and water into a small pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook until all the water is absorbed – about 15 minutes.

3. While quinoa is cooking, wash and dice all the vegetables – avocado, radish, tomato, and pickled beets.

4. Take pot of quinoa off the direct heat and allow to cool for ten minutes.

5. Add the diced veggies directly to the pot (to avoid extra cleanup) and mix. Sprinkle chives on top and serve.

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Fancy Food Show

Two weeks ago, I was literally a kid in a low sodium candy store when I was lucky enough (slash: I bought a ticket) to attend the Fancy Food Show in New York City. Although I didn’t think I would find too many salt-free products in the endless aisles of food booths, I actually ended up discovering a handful of wonderful artisans and manufacturers who are based throughout the US (from Cali, to Wisconsin, to NYC) and who are making delicious and shelf-safe products, without the salt.

Although I had my camera with me and was prepared to take some fabulous shots of the bustling scene, the light was low and my hands were too busy stuffing cheese, chips, and chocolate into my mouth. So none of them turned out to be blog-worthy. Case in point below:

But luckily, my good friend and fellow blogger, KM Lake, was to the rescue and introduced me to a new cyber tool called Polyvore. Although it is most widely used for fashion websites, Polyvore is quickly infiltrating the food world. And with this collage-creating gadget, I was able to locate and clip out all the products I loved from the Fancy Food Show and create a nice little set of them for you. Not only does Polyvore produce a beautiful picture, it also provides links directly to Amazon where you can buy the product, if so moved. It’s a win-win situation: a pretty sight for your eyes and a satisfying treat for your mouth.

(Note: The only product that is not low sodium in this Polyvore set is the cheese – truth be told, I couldn’t find a picture of the paneer I saw and ate at the food show, so here is the real link to the Karoun website, where you can buy a block of paneer that only has 5mg of sodium per serving).

So have a Fancy Food Show of your own with this Polyvore set and look forward to many more grocery store round-ups with the same polished look in the near future.

Collage and chow on.

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Fireworks and Fried Chicken

Somehow the Day of Independence has already snuck upon us, (seriously, where did June go?) which means you most likely have a weekend of pot lucks, picnics, and other culinary gatherings to attend. So, to make sure you partake in the gluttonous festivities along with the rest of your flag-wielding friends, here’s my list of favorite low sodium dishes that are perfect for sharing with others and all scream, “I love America…and I’m not afraid to show it.” (Just click on the underlined link above each picture to be transported to the full post and recipe).

Although these dishes all lack salt, they make up for it with other strong flavors, created in interesting ways, and I promise you that most people will not even notice that something (what could it be?) is missing. As an extra nugget of fun, don’t tell anyone that your food contains low to no sodium, and instead, wait until the bowls and plates have been licked clean to reveal the truth. Trust me, seeing the look of awe and amazement on people’s faces feels better than holding a sparkler. And it’s also a lot less dangerous. Let’s be honest, no one should ever let me hold something that is one fire.

So have a happy and full fourth of July and as always, chow on!

God bless the kitchen.

Low Sodium Hummus

This dip is spicy, smooth, simple, and better yet, it’s low sodium too. Cut up some crudite (fancy for sliced vegetables) or pick up some no-salt added chips to accompany this spread. And for extra flare, sprinkle the top with smoked paprika or chopped parsley or cilantro.


Low Sodium Pickle Trifecta

This recipe is definitely a blue-ribbon contribution for any potluck. The combination of mustard seeds, peppercorns, and the surprise ingredient, turmeric, perfectly mimic the expected flavors of pickles. Use any produce you want – beets, cauliflower, green beans, you name it – and allow them to soak in the vinegar marinade for at least two days. Then, bring some chopsticks or a long spoon – for a hygenic means of getting the pickles out of the jar – and let your friends go to town.


Low Sodium Hot Potato Salad

Although the name says it’s hot, this potato salad can be served cold and can definitely be made a day ahead of time. The flavors become deeper as it marinates in the refrigerator. So take off a few items on your to-do list and mix up a batch of these spuds when you have a free moment on Saturday.


Low Sodium Curry Chicken Salad

I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but this one is care of my wonderful mother-in-law-to-be, who has taken on low sodium cooking with guts and gusto – and I happily reap the benefits.

This dish is not only a wonderful example of how food (when you use savory spices and fresh ingredients) needs little to no salt to be mind-blowingly tasty, but it is also a great lesson on allowing those who love you to join in your cooking challenge. Because the more minds that are thinking and the more hands that are cooking, the more incredible meals you will discover and create.

Low Sodium Crispy Fried Chicken

As you will read in the full-length post, the first day I had fried chicken is my most favorite day of my entire life. This is not an exaggeration by any means. And we’ll just see if my upcoming wedding can trump the experience of biting into a perfectly crisp chicken leg skin only to discover the mouth-watering and impossibly moist meat beneath. It’s definitely going to give wedding bells a run for their money.

So if you think about deep fried poultry as much as I do, get some oil boiling. This recipe will not disappoint.

Low Sodium Dream Bars

These squares of sugary delight are a special treat straight from grandma. They are a perfect end (or start) to any meal and are quite easy to make. And nothing says “happy eating day” like powdered sugar smeared all over your face.


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Welcome to Sodium Girl

Okay, don’t panic.

I know that you come to this blog to see pretty pictures of food and to find mind-blowing low sodium recipes. And today, you open your inbox to find a picture of a black dress.

“What is this about?” you say, furiously slamming your cold coffee on the table.

Well, I can promise you that I haven’t totally lost my culinary mind and I do not plan on giving you a recipe for stewed cocktail dress. Nor will this blog transform into a barbie-doll site about fashion, or the fashion I wear while enjoying low sodium food. I mean, let’s be honest, this dress looks a bit tight and I require elastic-waisted pants when I eat.

But this post does indeed involve a dress. A little black dress, in fact, that I believe sums up my thoughts on low sodium cooking and the joy you can find from the challenges of a dietary restriction.

You see, this past week I was honored with a profile in Arthritis Today magazine that featured my story, my blog (the one you are reading right now), and some of my favorite, mind-blowing, low sodium recipes. Which means that suddenly, loyal Sodium Girl fans are being joined by handfuls of brand new converts. And just as much as I love defying the odds of low sodium cooking, I am equally infatuated with making people feel welcome and at home. So to all the newbies, I say, welcome! And make yourself feel at home.

Now, a quick introduction to the site: Blog, meet new readers. New readers, meet blog.

Other than this particular post, you’ll find that, three times a week, Sodium Girl is filled with recipes, tips, and restaurant reviews that make living on a low sodium diet easy and enjoyable. As the writer, adventurer, and overall merry-maker in charge of this blog, I am determined to make sure that dietary restrictions do not keep anyone from enjoying anything – whether it is eating pickles or traveling abroad – and that instead, they open up more kitchen doors and enable people to explore places and foods that they may have never otherwise tried.

So with that, let me present to you one of my earliest posts on The Little Black Dress Theory. I hope you enjoy my follies, shenanigans, and successes and feel free to write with comments, questions, and tales of your own. You never know when they may end up on the front page.

Later this week, we will be back to the stove with some low sodium cooking and a recipe for pantaloon pot stickers. Just kidding. I’ll leave fashion to the fashionistas.

Eat well and as always, chow on.

The Black Dress Theory

Let’s face it, food tastes good with salt. French fries, pasta water, even chocolate – salt is everywhere and is the universally adored flavor enhancer. We are so accustomed to eating meals laden with the shimmering crystals that, to cook or eat a dish without them seems like an impossible feat (or at least impossibly boring).

When people find out that I cannot have salt, they often react with horror and remark that, if they had to do such a thing, they “would commit hara-kiri.” But this morning, I thought of an analogy that illuminates the ultimately positive reality of eating low sodium. Although it takes some getting used to, not relying on salt has helped me discover other ways to heighten the delicious factor in my food. Eating low sodium does not mean eating without flavor. Sweet butter (when browned) can add nutty, earthy and delicious notes to your food. Vinegars, which are mostly sodium free and can help lower your blood pressure, come in many varieties – apple cider, rice wine, balsamic to name a few – and lend a tang and a zip to meats, greens, and even ice cream when reduced to a sauce. And don’t forget about spices – no one said you can’t have spices, you just have to look for the brands that are salt free. Cayenne, cumin, curry, star anise, coriander, fennel seed, mustard, white pepper, wasabi – holy moly, there is no shortage of options here. And then there’s wine reductions and beer baths, honey and molasses, citrus and fresh herbs. Choices abound, your meals will never fall flat.

So here is a small tale to help highlight the silver lining of low sodium living. And bare with me, this gets girly:

Limiting your sodium intake is like someone telling you that you cannot wear black anymore. Ok, at first, that seems like it would be difficult. People love wearing black. It’s slimming, it’s bad-ass, it’s professional, it’s easy. We all have the little black dress or the killer, I’m-going-to nail-this-meeting black suit. So at first, having to clear the closet of all your go-to black items feels like a bad, practical joke. And having to re-fill it with other things (what could those even be?) and re-style your wardrobe (what will I wear!) seems like an expensive and ultimately time-consuming venture.

Then, a moment of brilliance. You realize, a nice, navy dress doesn’t look half bad and is just as snappy for business meetings. And actually, that metallic gold number you’ve had your eye on forever, but didn’t think you had the guts to pull off, is actually way more bad-ass than that cliché (and face it, fading) black dress.

The point is, in having to limit your choices, you begin to discover new worlds, new combinations, new possibilities that you would have never otherwise explored. And when that black-tie event rolls around, and you can’t put on the standard black outfit, you’ll just have to settle for the fuschia pink pantsuit. And honestly, standing out never is a bad thing.

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