Tag Archives: Salt-Free My Recipe

Me, You, Blue River Stew

It has been a food education-palooza this week.

I’ve clocked approximately 8.7 hours of watching Food Network competitions and past episodes of Top Chef. I’ve made shrimp-less shrimp curry with fellow blogger and Wiley Publishing author, Allison Fishman, over Skype. And tonight, I’m taking a very prestigious course in chicories (read: free wine and fun Bi-Rite staff) at 18 Reasons. That’s a lot of info-cramming for one low sodium brain.

But of all the didactic shenanigans, I have to say that one of the must fulfilling (and filling) events in these past seven days has been recipe testing for food52.com’s latest contest: Short Ribs.

Quick aside: if you haven’t perused the lively food52.com site yet, leave this page immediately. And then come back. But definitely give it a visit.

Home cooks from all over the world (the WORLD I say!) gather at this interweb address to share their take on a particular ingredient, competing for a place in the second food52 cookbook. While principal creative chiefs, and chefs, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, pick two finalists every week, they also pick a group of runners-up, affectionately known as “Editor’s Picks.” And since the site and the contests are as much about community as they are about good food, Hesser and Stubbs leave some of the reviewing to be done by the people. Like me.

And this brings me back to stew. For the Short Rib contest, I was not only honored with an Editor’s Pick nod for my Char Sui Short Ribs, but I was also given the opportunity to test and taste escharlie’s Blue River Stew.

A hearty combination of beer, beef, and potatoes, this dish was as simple as pie and as All-American as…well, pie. And because the focus of the dish was meat, I didn’t need to do too much to the other ingredients to make it sodium-free.

So if grandpa winter is hitting your household this weekend, bundle up with a bowl of low sodium Blue River Stew. It will keep you warm and put some meat on your (short) ribs.

Chow on.


  • 2 tablespoons of ground black pepper and 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika, mixed
  • 4 beef short ribs with the bone in
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 Russet potatoes, peeled, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 packet of Herb-Ox Sodium Free Beef Bouillon
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup of blonde beer or light ale with citrus hints (Blue Moon is a great choice!)
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Handful of sliced purple cabbage for each bowl


1. Season the short ribs with pepper and smoked paprika on both sides.

2. Oil a large pot with olive oil and increase heat over medium-high flame. Add onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, 5 minutes.

3. Add the short ribs to the pot and brown on all sides, 5 minutes each side. Stir the onions to the side so they do not burn.

4. Add the beer, water, and beef broth and bring to a boil. When the water is rolling, stir in the corn and potatoes.

5. Lower the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 2 hours. Add additional water if the stew looks too thick. The meal is ready to eat when the meat easily falls from the bone.

6. To serve, place a handful of cabbage at the bottom of the bowl. Ladle stew on top and then garnish with some fresh parsley. Serve the stew with the bones in or take them bones out – whatever pleases and appeases your palate!

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Homework & Kimchi Pancakes

What you see before you is a bonito flaked Kimchi Pancake made by Namu at the SF Ferry Building Thursday street cart Farmers Market.

And this, my salt-free friends, is a foursome of salty but succulent duck sliders from Tilth restaurant in Seattle.

And if turf is not your thing, then behold! A crisp skate wing with frothy chorizo/clam broth from Redd in Napa will do the trick.

Or maybe your taste buds want to travel and they’re ready to hop on a plane and try some real pad thai from a market in Thailand.

Before you commit me to the low sodium looney bin, or worse yet, you decide to UNsubscribe from this blog, let me explain the tortuous food porn photo essay above. As a low sodium eater, I rarely feel limited. I’ve been able to substitute savy salt-free ingredients for typically salty ones. I eat out often and I eat well. And I was even treated to some real Thai cuisine while in Thailand, without having to compromise my diet or my health.

Food boundaries? Not for this ever-hungry bunny.

But, the truth is that there are many dishes, whether from my childhood memories or my neighborhood pizza place, that I cannot currently eat. That I crave. That I dream about. That I want to makeover, without the salt. And with time, I will.

I do not see these dishes (featured in the pictures above) as examples of my limitations. I see them as inspiration. Muses for salt-free masterpieces. And I want you to do the same.

For this upcoming weekend, I’m assigning you some homework. I want you to think about food. Salty food.

Start (re)collecting the meals, the menu items, and the culinary memories that you wish you could enjoy on your low sodium diet. Then, send them my way. Post them on the

  • TWEET ME @sodiumgirl
  • or simply POST A COMMENT BELOW

Yeah, that’s right, you have three options. Three! So I expect to see these sites blowing up with sodium free activity!

And with the upcoming, national sport holiday – the Super Bowl – I’m sure there is a dip, a wing, or a 27-layer dip that you are dying to eat. So let’s get the Salt-Free My Recipe requests going. You never know, it may end up in the book!

Happy Friday to you all. May there be many happy hours, happy meals, and happy bellies. See you on Monday.

Chow on.


Filed under tips & tricks

Salt Free My Recipe: Pecan Pie

For two days in a row now, I’ve had pie for breakfast. Sorry I’m not sorry. And sorry I don’t fit into my pants. But as someone that rarely enjoys the lusciousness of baked goods, I’ve been digging into my latest creation with abandon.

Pecan pie. There are two things about this gooey holiday dessert that usually deter me from eating it. First, there are the pecans. I happen to not only be on a low sodium diet, but also quite allergic to nuts. Fun.

And second, there’s the corn syrup, which (surprisingly) happens to be high in sodium – one cup equals around 200 mg.

But even though these two ingredients are somewhat “essential” to a pecan pie, I was determined to make a low sodium, nut-free version that had similar tastes and textures. Which meant taking my food processor down from the top shelf (oof!) and making a mess of my kitchen with flour and butter. A daunting task with an end goal that was well worth the trouble and clean up.

I started by searching for a recipe on Epicurious.com that used maple sugar as well as corn syrup, so that there was less of the salty stuff that needed to be replaced. I then decided to swap pomegranate molasses for the remaining corn syrup, unsure how it would affect the taste and consistency of the pie, but willing to try.

As for the nuts, I mixed some pumpkin seeds directly into the filling batter. But because of their rather small size, I was not yet satisfied. The pie needed to be chunkier. It needed crunch. It needed Whole Food’s 365 Unsalted Pretzels (40mg per 16 pretzels) that I added to the top of the pie fifteen minutes before the baking was done, so that they didn’t get soggy.

The result? Well, I was shocked to say the least. The buttery crust was a dream

and the extremely liquidy filling actually solidified and was even better by day two and three – meaning you can make this pie ahead of your holiday gathering and it will only get better with age. Like a fine wine or Brad Pitt.

My taste testers said that the pie was delicious and slightly tart from the pomegranate molasses, but that it was very rich and sweet. So be prepared to cut smaller slices and maybe even scoop some ice cream on top to cut the sugar rush.

If you decide to give this pie a try this Thanksgiving, be sure to let me know what additions you make. Did you add chocolate chips? Did you dust it with powdered sugar? Did you throw some dried cranberries inside?

Sure, with extras like these, you’ll be traveling farther from the original. But that’s exactly how you’ll create your own signature pie. Pecans are just a starting point and don’t let anyone, or any cookbook, tell you differently.

Dig in and chow on.



  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour


  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1  cup crushed unsalted pretzels
  • 1 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds


For crust:

1. Using electric mixer or food processor, beat butter  until smooth.

2. Add sugar and egg yolk and beat until blended.

3. Add flour and beat just until dough begins to clump together.

4. Gather dough into ball and flatten into disk.

5. The original recipe says to “roll out dough on lightly floured work surface to 10 1/2-inch round.” But my dough was so buttery that I immediately transfered it to my 9-inch-diameter pie dish and used my hands to press dough onto bottom and up sides of pan.

6. Pierce dough all over with fork and place crust in freezer 30 minutes before filling and baking.

For filling:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Whisk eggs and brown sugar in medium bowl until well blended.

3. Whisk in maple syrup, pomegranate molasses, and melted butter.

4. Stir in pumpkin seeds and pour filling into unbaked crust.

5. Bake tart until filling is slightly puffed and set, about 30 minutes.

6. Add the pretzels to the top of the pie, using a wooden spoon or spatula to pat them into the filling slightly, and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes.

7. Cool, serve, and enjoy. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert.


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Salt-Free My Recipe: Mama’s Enchiladas

A few weeks ago, I received the following, lovely letter from Sodium Girl reader Cindra Fox:

Dear Sodium Girl,

I’m on a low-sodium diet to prevent complications from migraines. I’ve been on it for over a year now and have found a whole new world of food and flavor that I ignored back when I could just grab a burger at the closest drive-through.

What I miss the most, though, is Mom’s famous enchiladas. I’m half-Mexican and we would make these at least once a week. Now it’s been over a year since I’ve had them.

But here’s the catch: not only can’t I have high salt, I can’t eat dairy or onions. I’ve found a great cheese substitute (Linsanatti’s soy cheese) and I can have scallions and green onions.

I’ve seen your skill with recipes. Can you help me out? Or am I stuck never eating Mom’s delicious enchiladas again?

Well, Cindra, my answer to your question is loud and clear: you can make your Mama’s Enchiladas and eat them too! Of course, you’ll have to make some nifty low sodium substitutions, and make a lot of things from scratch, but it is entirely possible to make the dish with all the familiar flavors and without the salt.

This Monday, armed with a few spare hours and a hankering for Mexican food, I took to the enchilada challenge.

I started by examining the ingredient list in Cindra’s original recipe:

  • 1 large can of red Las Palmas Enchilada Sauce
  • 2 small cans Chicken or Turkey Gravy
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 large onion, white or yellow (chopped)
  • 1 large block of cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 2 pkgs of small corn tortillas, 12 per pack

Other than the onion and red pepper flakes, everything else contained a high amount of sodium and needed to be replaced. To make-over this recipe, it was clear we needed to stay away from canned products and make similar ones from whole foods.

Now, I must confess, I took creative liberties with this Salt-Free recipe. I didn’t use cheese, I didn’t make gravy, and I didn’t use the red sauce. But I I stuck to traditional flavors and textures, and I aimed to achieve them with as little effort and clean up as possible. Food can be homemade without being a hassle.

So with fingers crossed and an apron tied on, I began to craft a crispy dish that blended creaminess, crunch, and spice in perfect harmony.

Normally, I would have reached for crème fraiche or ricotta to a mimic the cheese. But because of Cindra’s dairy sensitivity, I needed to think of another way to introduce a milky texture to the dish. The answer was corn. I puréed two cups of kernals with a medium sized avocado. This thick, but silky spread acted as a “melted cheese” substitute while also providing a scrumptious, unexpected flavor.

For the sauce, I made a salsa verde from tomatillos, a poblano pepper, a serrano pepper, and some cilantro.


With an immersion blender in my hand, it took only minutes to whip this up.

As for the meat filling, I wanted to make sure my chicken was infused with deep flavors. But I also wanted to be able to cook it quickly. So I poached the thighs in a pot full of Tecate (no joke) and the juice of one lime. In thirty minutes, my chicken was drunk and tender enough to be shredded.

Finally, because corn tortillas (without salt) are not as pliable and tend to fall apart easily, I chose to layer the ingredients like a Mexican lasagna rather then roll. Again, I was clearly taking liberties with the classic preparation, but I think the alteration works well and you still achieve the hug of crispy tortillas wrapped around the ingredients.


Fifteen minutes in the oven and Mama’s Enchiladas were done. Crunchy, creamy, and spicy – the meal was familiar and filling. And I hope you, Cindra, find it to be as delicious as your Mama’s version.


Truly, you can recreate any dish without the salt and most of the time, the restriction will lead you to more adventurous, tasty discoveries that will not only satisfy your craving but will also impress everyone else.

Chow and enchilada on.

  • 4 – 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 can of beer (like Tecate or Blue Moon)
  • 1 lime
  • 4 cups of water
  • Corn tortillas (no sodium)
  • 1 avocado
  • Kernels from 2 ears of corn or 2 cups of frozen corn (no sodium)
  • 1 cup of roughly chopped cilantro
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4 tomatillos, with husks removed and washed
  • 1 poblano pepper, with seeds but with stem removed
  • 1 serrano pepper, with seeds but with stem removed


1. Turn oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a medium sized pot, bring beer, juice from one lime, and two cups of water to a boil. Add the chicken thighs and cook for 5 minutes with strong bubbles.

3. Reduce heat to medium and allow the chicken to simmer for another 20 minutes.

4. In a separate pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic for 5 minutes. Add the tomatillos and 1 and 1/2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Cook until the tomatillos have softened, about ten minutes.

5. Add both peppers and cilantro, and cook on low heat for another 5 minutes.

6. Take the pot off the flame and use an immersion blender to blend the ingredients. You can also transfer the tomatillos, pepper, and water mixture to a standing blender. Purée until the combo is liquidy, but still chunky. If the sauce seems to thin, put it back on the stove and simmer on medium high for 10 minutes to reduce it.

7. In a pot or a tall cylinder, combine corn, avocado, and 1/2 a cup of water. With the immersion blender (or a standing one), mix ingredients until you have created a thick spread.

8. Take the poached chicken off the stove and out of the pot. With two forks, pull the chicken apart until it is shredded.

9. Now for the fun: in an oven safe dish or a cast iron skillet, begin to layer the ingredients. Start with tortillas (tear in half to fit your cooking vessel). Then cover them with half of your chicken, half of the avocado/corn cream, and a generous drizzle of the salsa verde. Repeat with a second layer – tortilla, avocado/corn cream, and generous drizzle of salsa verde – and throw into the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

10. When the enchiladas are hot and crispy, remove from oven and scoop big portions onto plates. Enjoy.


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

Salt-Free My Recipe: Cold Avocado and Fish Soup

I’m beyond thrilled to present to you the first ever post of the Salt-Free My Recipe series.

Today’s make-over is brought to you by none other than our good friend Mark Bittman (who always comes through in a pinch) because the submission box was a bit bare this week. Ahem, ahem. So for future posts, don’t let Mr. Bittman have all the fun (or hog the spotlight) and remember to email sodiumgirl@gmail.com or comment below with your salt-free recipe challenges.

Ok, so back to this week’s “submission.”

Last night, our wonderful blogger group (which continues to grow by leaps and bounds) met up for a Mexican fiesta of sorts. The inspiration for the meal was a recipe from Chow.com for zucchini blossom tacos. More instruction on how to make these treats and others from the blogger consortium will come in the following week. So hold on tight.

Since I was hosting the grand event, I decided to make an additional dish to kick off the meal. I remembered eyeing a recipe for a cold avocado soup on Mr. Bittman’s blog: it was creamy, brightly colored, and incredibly simple. The summer starter only required five ingredients: avocado, milk, cayenne pepper, salt, and lime. And even better, Bittman offered the option to add shrimp or lumpy crab meat to the mix, which would give  the dish extra texture and depth and would, taking it from guacamole to “holy moly!” I couldn’t imagine eating this soup without the balance provided by the seafood. But as you are well aware, there’s always a low-sodium catch(-of-the-day).

Instead of launching right into my suggestions for sodium-free substitutions, let me pause for a brief moment and give you time to spot the sodium road blocks. Think of it like those photo games you find in magazines (or sleazy dive bars) where you have to compare two pictures and find the differences. Tick tock. Time’s up.

To start, yes, you are correct. Salt definitely must be nixed from this recipe. So get rid of that and add a few shakes of cumin and black pepper in its place.

As for the second sodium-heavy culprit, right again! Milk also contains too much sodium. To remedy this ingredient, you have a few options:

  • Use 2 cups of water and 1 cup of half and half (0 to 10 mg of sodium per serving)
  • Use 2 cups of water and 1 cup of crème fraiche (0 to 10 mg of sodium per serving)
  • Use 3 cups of coconut milk (0 to 10 mg of sodium per serving)

I used unsweetened coconut milk, and even though I was worried about it tasting too sweet, the end result was quite mild and the milk successfully thinned out the consistency of the soup.

And for the third and final sodium offender, you hit the nail on the head again. Crab, weighing in at almost 1000 mg of sodium per serving, definitely must be removed. To mimic its luscious and lumpy texture, I fried some tilapia filets, coating them first in cumin and smoke paprika. This particular white fish is a great substitution for crab as it crumbles easily and takes on a similar look and texture. And while the taste may not be exactly the same, at least your fish is cheaper.

So there you have it folks: a simple, satisfying, and sodium-free version of Mark Bittman’s Cold Avocado and Fish Soup. It takes under thirty minutes to make, and as it was tested last evening, I can guarantee that it is an impressive way to start a party.

Chow(der) on.


  • 3 or 4 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 3 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • Cumin, black pepper, cayenne, and smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange or lime juice, and zest to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 2 filets of tilapia

1. Put the peeled and pitted avocado in a blender (or use your immersion blender and a tall container).

2. Add half the coconut milk, a large pinch of pepper, a small pinch of cayenne, and a shake of cumin. Process to a purée.

3. Beat in the remaining milk by hand, then chill for up to 6 hours if you have time (Bittman advises: press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the soup so it doesn’t discolor).

4. In a medium sized pan, heat sesame oil over medium-high heat.

5. While oil is getting hot, season your tilapia filets with cumin and smoke paprika.

6. Add the fish to the pan and sear the filets, five minutes each side.

7. To plate, taste and adjust the seasoning of avocado soup if necessary, and add the citrus juice if you’re using it.

8. Put about a cup of avocado soup in each bowl and place your tilapia (slightly shredded and pulled apart) on top.

9. For additional garnish: toast some blue corn tortilla strips (0 mg of sodium); make your own roasted red pepper sauce (o mg of sodium, 15 minutes of your precious time); and add a few sprigs of cilantro.


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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.


  • 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


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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