Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bangalore Wings

A very different twist on Buffalo Wings. Serve with cool cucumber raita.

2 lbs chicken wings
4 T red curry powder
2 T lemon juice
1 t cayenne pepper
4 T mango or Major Grey chutney*
1 t low sodium soy sauce
1 T hot sauce

Remove wing tips and separate wings into drums and flaps. Whisk together the curry, lemon juice, cayenne and half the chutney in a small bowl. Marinate the wing pieces in this mixture for at least 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 475F. Line a broiler pan with foil and place a broiler safe rack inside the pan. Arrange the chicken wings on the rack and roast for about 25 minutes until chicken is done. Remove pan and change oven setting to broil.

Mix the chutney, soy sauce and hot sauce in a small bowl. Brush half of this mixture over the cooked chicken and place 4" under the broiler for 1-2 minutes. Flip each wing piece over and brush on the remaining sauce. Broil 2-3 minutes longer or until chicken is crisp.

About 16 wing pieces; 110mg sodium per piece

*The commercial brand chutney is the largest source of sodium in this recipe, much higher than the chicken, which is the next largest contributor. Next time we make this, we are going to make our own chutney from scratch to greatly reduce the sodium content. We'll update this recipe with new instructions once we come up with an lower sodium alternative.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Don't you hate it when you want to make a north African stew, but you don't have any Harissa? Yeah, us too. We whipped up a quick substitute that was quite serviceable:

Instant Harissa

1 T hot sauce (we used Hillside Orchard Farms Habanero Hot Sauce, which adds both heat and flavor)
1 T red pepper flakes
1 T garlic cloves, peeled and crushed/chopped (about 3)
1 T olive oil

Place garlic cloves in a small dish with the oil and microwave 15 seconds. Add the hot sauce and red pepper flakes. Mix well. You now have enough fake Harissa to make one pot of stew. Enjoy!

This will do just fine in a pinch. If you are not in a rush, it is definitely worth your time to make it the right way: Salt Free Harissa

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lemons to the Rescue

Adding lemon juice or zest really is a great way to add or enhance flavor without salt. Don't just take my word for it... read on. We have rescued many a bland dish by adding lemon or lime.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Green Beans with Harissa

This is a great way to jazz up an otherwise quite ordinary vegetable. If you can't find harissa in your local market, you can make it at home using our recipe. (As an added bonus for those counting sodium, our version of harissa is salt-free).

3/4 lb green beans, stem ends removed
1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, sliced into matchstick pieces
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T harissa
1 T olive oil
1/2 t freshly ground pepper

Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan. Cook beans until bright green and crisp-tender (1-3 minutes). Drain beans and transfer to ice water to halt cooking, then drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, then cook pepper 1-2 minutes. Return beans to the pan and add the Harissa and garlic. Stir fry 2-3 minutes to reheat the beans and mix the ingredients. Season with black pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 - minimal sodium content unless you use store-bought harissa. Check the label!

Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Sweet-Hot Lime Vinaigrette

One more bowl of awesomeness in this series of summer salads! We could eat this every night and not get tired of it.


1/4 c lime juice
zest from two limes
3 T sugar
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t black pepper
1 T canola oil

Mix all ingredients using a immersion blender until well blended (or shake in a sealed container to combine).


1 box baby spinach leaves, large stems removed
2 c strawberries, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 shallot, sliced thin
2 T fresh mint leaves
2 T pine nuts
Vinaigrette (see above)

Combine spinach, strawberries, mint and shallot in a large bowl and toss with dressing. Transfer to serving bowls and garnish with pine nuts.

(If you want this to be the main course, you may wish to add pan seared chicken as shown in the photo.)

Serves 2 (if main course) or  4 (if side salad). Sodium content is near zero unless you add chicken.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Citrus Salad with Honey-Lime Vinaigrette

Here is another delicious salad for those hot summer months. This one is light and refreshing, and is easily converted into a full meal by adding some pan seared chicken.


1 pkg Arugula
1 grapefruit
2 oranges, clementines or tangerines
1/2 c red onion, sliced
2 T fresh mint leaves
almond slivers, toasted
shaved parmesan cheese

Cut grapefruit in half, then cut peel and pith off outside with a sharp knife. Loosen the sections from one another, then remove seeds and outer layer from fruit. If using orange, repeat this process, or for clementines or tangerines, section the fruit and remove all pith and seeds. Combine first five ingredients in a large bowl and toss with dressing. Garnish with almonds and cheese. Top with cooked chicken if desired.


3 T freshly squeezed lime juice
1 T cider vinegar
2 t honey
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 t lemon verbena leaves, minced
2 T olive oil

Place all ingredients in a glass bowl and mix with an immersion blender until emulsified.

Serves 4 - sodium content is low, but depends on how much parmesan cheese is used and if chicken is added

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mesclun Salad with Chicken and Lemon Vinaigrette

What to do with a single leftover chicken breast? On this warm July evening, we decided to make a light and healthy dinner salad with it. Good call! This meal was both delicious and satisfying. As an added bonus, we didn't heat up the kitchen and cleanup was minimal.

For the dressing:

2 T lemon juice
1 T white wine vinegar
1 t Dijon mustard
tiny pinch of salt (~1/16 t if you insist on a measurement)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
dash of onion powder
1 T extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in a small, deep container (a 2 c capacity glass measuring jar works very well) and mix with an immersion blender. Set aside. If you don't have an immersion blender, then add everything except the olive oil. Whisk the ingredients rapidly while you slowly add the oil. Stir vigorously until well blended.

For the salad:

1 chicken breast, sliced into two thin cutlets
5 oz box of mesclun salad mix
1 carrot, julienned
1/4 c dried cranberries
2 scallions, sliced thin
2 T pine nuts
2 T shaved parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
Mrs. Dash original blend seasoning
1 T vegetable oil

Season the chicken cutlets with black pepper and Mrs. Dash. Cook in oil over medium high heat until outside is browned and inside is cooked through. Set aside to cool, then cut into bite sized pieces.

In a large bowl, combine the salad greens, carrots, cranberries, scallions and pine nuts. Pour dressing over salad and toss well to coat evenly. Transfer to serving bowl, then top with parmesan and chicken.

Serves 2
<250 mg sodium per serving

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bourbon Barbecued Chicken For Two


 1/4 cup onion, minced
2t vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced tomato in sauce
2T molasses
1/4 cup bourbon
1t Worcestershire sauce
1t white vinegar
2T brown sugar
1T chipotle chile powder
2T honey

Sauté the onion in oil until softened. Add remaining ingredients, then simmer to reduce volume by about half, mashing any tomato chunks as you stir.

 Dry rub:

Combine the following in a small bowl -
     1T brown sugar
     1T chipotle chile powder
     1 t garlic powder
     1/2 t cayenne

 The Chicken:

 4 boneless thighs (use bone-in if grilling)

Apply dry rub and let sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Preheat broiler* (or grill). Broil (or grill) for about 2 minutes per side to sear, then baste with BBQ sauce and return to heat. Continue to alternate flipping and re-basting (less than one minute per side each time) until chicken is cooked through. Bone-in chicken will take a bit longer than boneless.

Serve immediately. We paired this with corn and cucumber salad for a delicious summer meal.

Makes two servings, <300 mg sodium per serving

*Broiling Tip: Line a half sheet pan or roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place non-stick cooling rack on top of foil. Arrange meat on rack allowing some space in between pieces. This keeps the meat from getting soggy and lets the edges get crispy.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


A batch of guacamole for our Cinco de Mayo feast:

2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/2 c canned diced tomatoes, rinsed and drained
2 T cilantro, chopped
1 fresh jalapeno, finely diced
1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 limes, juiced
pinch salt
dash pepper

Place all ingredients in a bowl, then mash/stir with a fork until blended and still slightly chunky. Serve immediately with low-sodium tortilla chips.

Serves 4, 90mg sodium per serving (not including chips)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cheesy Pasta Bake, Revisited

I've been in the mood for comfort food, so we decided to give the cheesy pasta bake a second look. This dish used to be in regular rotation - it is easy to prepare, tastes great, fills you up, and makes good leftovers - but since the sodium restriction went into effect we haven't tried it many times. Our previous attempt at converting this recipe was not a bad effort, but it wasn't quite as wonderful as we had remembered. Something was missing, and it wasn't hard to define: this recipe just isn't the same without real smoked sausage. Out of all the adjustments, substituting raw homemade (and unsmoked) sausage for the Andouille had the biggest effect (in terms of sodium and flavor/texture).

Last night we cooked this dish with Thomas Ragin Cajun Andouille Sausage. Yes, it has 550mg of sodium per 2.5 oz, but I found a way to manage this and keep the sodium per serving of pasta at 700mg. I followed our previous recipe (other than the sausage) with these modifications:

1. We started with 3/4 of the package of sausage, saving the remainder for use in omelets and such. This left us with 10.5 oz (2310mg sodium).

2. After browning, I separated about 1/3 of the cooked sausage and did not return it to the cooking pot. This left only 7 oz of Andouille in the pot (1540mg sodium). The reserved portion of meat was added at the end to my husband's portions only. My servings had less of the salty meat, but it was enough to provide the correct flavor and texture. PDM certainly didn't mind taking one for the team and eating the extra Andouille.

3. With less meat in the dish, I increased the amount of pasta (16 oz instead of 12 oz) and low sodium organic chicken broth (3.75 c instead of 3 c).

While noticeably less meaty than our traditional version, this revised recipe had ALL of the yummy texture and taste of the original. Unless we get a smoker and start making our own real Andouille, this will be the "go to" version of the recipe, and the cheesy pasta bake will be back in the regular rotation.  Happy!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Grilled Swordfish with Tropical Fruit Salsa

Fire up the grill for this easy and delicious meal!

Grilled Swordfish with Tropical Fruit Salsa - serves 4 (~250mg sodium per serving)

1 lemon, juice and zest
1 lime
1 ripe mango, diced into small pieces
1/4 c diced fresh pineapple
2 fresh jalapenos, seeded and chopped fine
1/2 red onion, diced fine
1/2 red bell pepper, diced fine
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 t sugar
1/4 t cayenne
2 lb swordfish steak (four 1/2 lb steaks)
olive oil
salt and pepper

For the salsa:
Combine the mango, pineapple, jalapeno, red onion, red pepper, sugar, a scant 1/8 t salt, and cilantro in a small container. Add the juice of 1 lime, plus the juice of 1/2 lemon and stir. Cover and set aside until the swordfish is ready.

For the swordfish:

Prepare the grill - light the charcoal and when ready pile onto one side of grill to create a two zones of heat. Brush each swordfish steak with olive oil and season with a very small amount of salt and black pepper to taste. Grill over coals in hot part of grill for about 3 minutes per side, turning once. Transfer to cooler part of grill and cook for another 3 minutes per side, turning once. Serve on warm plate topped with lemon zest and tropical fruit salsa. Cut the remaining 1/2 lemon into quarters and place one onto each plate to squeeze onto the swordfish if desired. Serve immediately.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lamb and Butternut Tagine

A tagine  is a North African stew that is named for the traditional pot that is used for cooking. We altered our chicken version to take advantage of some lamb that we had in the freezer.

Lamb and Butternut Tagine - serves 4 (500mg sodium per serving)

~1.5 lb lamb stew meat, cubed
1 T canola oil
1 medium onion
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T harissa
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1/4 t salt
1/2 t ground cinnamon
3 c low sodium organic beef broth
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into cubes
2 c golden raisins
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Preheat oven to 350F.

Brown the lamb in oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat, then remove meat from pan, cover and set aside. Saute the onion until softened, then add garlic and cook another minute or so until fragrant. Return the lamb to the pot and add enough broth to cover the contents. Cover the pot and braise the lamb in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hrs. Add broth as necessary to keep the lamb covered.

Return the pot to the stovetop. Add all remaining ingredients except chickpeas and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the chickpeas and cook for about 5 more minutes.

Serve alone, or with couscous.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Salt-Free Harissa

Harissa is a hot chili sauce that originated in Tunisia. We use it mainly to make tagines (North African stews), but have had to get it via mail order since it is too exotic for most grocery stores. Since this is kind of a pain, we decided to make our own. After synthesizing about six different recipes, this is the one we came up with:

Harissa (makes enough to fill a small jelly jar, and will keep for one month in the refrigerator)

4 oz dried red chili peppers (such as guajillo, ancho, etc. - we used California chiles)
10 cloves garlic
1 T whole coriander seed
1 T whole cumin seed
1 t whole caraway seed
2 T lemon juice
olive oil

Soak the dried chiles in very hot water for 30 minutes to 1 hour, then drain.

Meanwhile, toast the seeds in a dry skillet until they pop and become fragrant. Grind the toasted spices to a fine powder. (We use a dedicated coffee bean grinder for this, but you could use a mortar and pestle or a small food processor.)

Pulse the chiles, garlic, spice mix and lemon juice in a food processor. Add oil as necessary to bring the consistency to a thick liquid paste. When the ingredients are thoroughly processed, use a small spatula to transfer the contents to a small jar. Add a thin layer of oil to the top of the sauce so that none of it is exposed to air. Cover and refrigerate.

Use 1-2 T at a time to add flavor and heat to soups and stews.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chicken Piccata

It did not take too much effort to create a lower sodium version of chicken piccata. We did it by starting with organic chicken, using white wine only instead of broth for the sauce, and reducing the amount of salt and Parmesan cheese in the breading. These reductions allowed us enough leeway to keep the delicious capers that are a signature flavor in this meal.

Chicken Piccata (serves 4) - 545 mg sodium per serving*

2 chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
1 egg
1/2 c flour
 2 T grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 t salt
1 t pepper
~2 T olive oil
4 T unsalted butter
1/2 c dry white wine
3 T lemon juice
3 T capers, rinsed thoroughly and drained
3-4 T chopped fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley

Slice the chicken in half to make two thin cutlets from each breast. Pound the cutlets until they are evenly flat and about 1/4" thick. Beat the egg and place into a dredging bowl. Mix the flour, cheese, salt and pepper in a second dredging bowl. Coat each piece of chicken with the egg, then dredge in the flour mixture to cover, then brown in a skillet with a small amount of oil. This is best done in two batches. Remove chicken from skillet and cover.

Add more oil to pan and use 1 T of the flour mixture to make a roux. Add oil as needed to maintain a thick liquid consistency. Cook the roux until slightly browned. Add the wine and lemon juice and cook to for a few minutes to reduce the liquid. Whisk in the butter 1 T at a time until combined. Add capers and cook for another minute or two, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Plate the chicken, cover with sauce, and garnish with parsley. Serve hot.

*Actual sodium content is probably less than this maximum because not all of the salt in the flour will be transmitted to the finished meal. Rinsing the capers probably reduces their sodium content as well.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Recipe Coversion: Batter Fried Chicken

Week 14's adventure was a successful recipe conversion.Unfortunately, success did not occur the first time we attempted this! Our starting point was a wonderfully delicious batter-fried chicken recipe from Cook's Country (the August/September 2009 issue). When we made this in the pre-salt-avoiding days it was messy, but super good. Well worth the clean up.

The major problem we needed to solve was how to brine the chicken in a low sodium way. When we tried again about a month ago, we substituted KCl for the NaCl. The result was some really funky off tastes that overpowered all of the other flavors. We could have tried the recipe and omitted the brine altogether, but we felt that it was important to the texture of the chicken - especially the white meat. This week we tried again with a modified "brine" with greatly reduced salt content and had better luck. Our only other modification was to omit the salt from the batter.

*Since I cannot tell how much of the salt in the brine ends up inside the chicken, my sodium math is only approximate. To be safe, I will assume that all of it somehow gets incorporated and my estimate will represent an upper limit for this recipe.

Batter Fried Chicken - serves 4 (not more than 675 mg sodium per serving*, but probably much less)


1 Q water
1 T salt
3 T sugar
2 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (breasts should be cut in half to reduce volume of each piece)


1/2 c flour
1/2 c cornstarch
1 T pepper
1/2 t paprika
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 t low-sodium baking powder
1 c cold water


3 Q oil (peanut or vegetable)

Dissolve the salt and sugar in 1 Q of water, then soak the chicken in this brine for 30 minutes to 1 hour (in refrigerator).

Whisk the flour, cornstarch, seasonings, baking powder and water together in a large bowl. Refrigerate this mixture while chicken brines.

Heat the cooking oil in a large Dutch oven to 350 degrees. Remove chicken from refrigerator and drain the brine. pat chicken dry with paper towels. Stir batter and add chicken pieces to bowl. Transfer chicken to cook pot one piece at a time, allowing excess batter to drip back into bowl. To avoid crowding the pan, work in small batches. Keeping oil between 300 and 325 degrees, cook the chicken until batter is golden brown and meat meat reaches 160 F for white meat and 175 F for dark. This should take 12-15 minutes. Drain cooked chicken on wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Reheat oil to 350 F between batches.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Week 13: Seared Ginger-Balsamic Salmon with Hot and Sour Slaw

We didn't have the energy to create something original this week, so we tried a new recipe that was published in last Sunday's newspaper. I found it online here, if you want to give it a try. It was not particularly low sodium, but we did manage to reduce it to an acceptable level by leaving out the salt and using less soy sauce. It made a delicious meal that was a nice change of pace from our usual salmon dish.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hot and Sour Soup

Our first attempt to convert a hot and sour soup recipe was OK, but not great. It tasted a bit bland and under seasoned compared to our memory of the original recipe. We jotted down a few ideas for improvement and tried again this week. This time the soup was deliciously flavorful and spicy - comfort food for a rainy Friday night.

Hot and Sour Soup - serves 4 (<400 mg sodium per serving)

4 c organic low sodium chicken broth
~1/4 lb mushrooms (we used baby bella and shitake), sliced
1 small can bamboo shoots, sliced into matchstick size
1 1/2 T ginger root, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T  low sodium soy sauce
1 t hot pepper flakes
1/2 lb pork tenderloin, cut into bite sized strips
2 t sesame oil
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
3 T Chinese black vinegar (or substitute 1 T balsamic and 2 T red wine vinegar)
2 T cornstarch
1 egg
1/4 t salt

Season pork with salt (very lightly) and pepper. Drizzle with the sesame oil. Lightly brown the pork in a dutch oven over medium heat, working in batches. Remove and cover (the pork does not need to be cooked through at this point). Set aside.

Add garlic and ginger to the pot and saute about 1 minute. Add stock, soy sauce, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, red pepper flakes, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer about 10 minutes. Add pork and simmer an additional 10-15 minutes.

Mix vinegar and cornstarch in a small bowl. In another small bowl, beat the egg. Slowly pour in the beaten egg, stirring constantly. Stir in the vinegar and cornstarch. Cook uncovered for about 3 minutes, until soup begins to thicken. Stir in scallions just before serving. Top with cilantro and a dash of sriracha sauce if desired.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Braised Beef Burritos with Tomatillo Salsa

PDM came up with this recipe to improve our beef burritos, which were always tasty but sometimes a bit on the chewy side. The braising method tenderizes the meat and adds to the flavor, plus it makes a nice sauce that can go into the burrito with the other ingredients.

Braised Beef Burritos - serves 4 (~400 mg sodium per serving)

1.5 lb skirt steak, trimmed of excess fat and cut into skillet sized slabs
cumin powder
cayenne powder
chile powder
black pepper
garlic powder
1 T canola oil
1 cup beef broth (low sodium if possible)
1 medium onion, sliced into half rounds
1 T unsalted butter
Tumaro's Gourmet Tortillas - multigrain, low in carbs variety
Mexican shredded cheese blend
Tomatillo salsa (recipe below)
Hot sauce to taste

Preheat oven to 300 F. Sprinkle the skirt steak slabs liberally with cumin, cayenne, and chile powder. Dust lightly with black pepper and garlic powder. (See photo below.)

Sear seasoned beef in oil, working in stages using a cast iron dutch oven or oven-safe skillet over medium high heat. Remove and set aside. Add broth to pan and use wooden spoon to deglaze the pan and incorporate the fond into the liquid. Return the beef to the pan, cover, and cook in oven for about one hour. Turn the meat over half way through the cooking time, and add enough water to keep the liquid level about halfway up the side of the meat.

During the braising time, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add onion slices and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to carmelize (~30 minutes).

Remove meat from braising liquid, transfer to cutting board and slice into small, bite-sized pieces. Meanwhile, reduce the braising liquid over medium heat on the stovetop until it is about 1/3 of the original volume. Return chopped beef and any juices to the pan, toss and saute briefly, and remove pan from heat.

Steam or heat tortillas topped with cheese until the cheese melts and tortilla is softened. Fill with beef mixture, carmelized onion, hot sauce and tomatillo salsa; wrap and serve.

Tomatillo Salsa

3 tomatillos, diced into medium cubes
~1/3 medium onion, diced medium
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced
juice of 1 lime
1 t sugar
1 t cumin powder
2 T minced cilantro

Saute tomatillos 3-5 minutes until softened. Drain excess liquid and allow to cool. Add the remaining ingredients, mix and refrigerate until ready to use.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Orechiette with Cannelini Beans & Spinach

We had a busy week, so this week's new recipe was from one of our cook books. We did not make any substantial changes other than to omit the salt and use organic low sodium vegetable broth, which has much less sodium than the usual kind. I could not find no-salt-added cannelini beans, so I bought the normal kind and rinsed them thoroughly to remove as much sodium as possible. Since this is NOT an original recipe, I will simply cite the source and tell you it was very tasty. We'll definitely make this again.

Gourmet Meals in Minutes by The Culinary Institute of America, Lebhar-Friedman Books, NY, 2004, page 264.  ISBN 0-86730-904-0

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lamb Vindaloo

Lamb Vindaloo (serves 6-8)

Whole spices:
4 dried Arbol chiles, seeded and cut into coarse shreds
2 T coriander seed
2 T cumin seed
1 T peppercorns
1 T cloves
1 T mustard seed
1 stick cinnamon, cut into 1-inch lengths

Dry Spices:
1 T turmeric
1 T cayenne pepper
1 T cardamon
(If you can get your hands on whole cardamom pods, grind that with the whole spices.)

1 cup yogurt
1 T sugar
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 t salt (or salt substitute)
2 lb lamb sirloin, cut into cubes

1 potato
1 onion
3-6  finger hot (serrano) peppers (how hot do you like it?)
~10 cloves garlic
~equal amount minced ginger root
14oz can diced tomatoesoil
chopped cilantro for garnish

Dry saute whole spices to toast, then grind. Add powdered spices. Mix with yogurt, half of lemon juice, vinegar,  sugar, and salt. Marinate the lamb pieces in this mixture for at least 1-2 hours (overnight if you can).

Dice potatoes and lightly fry in oil, set aside to drain. Remove about 1/2 - 1/3 of lamb from marinade, scraping off excess liquid, and brown in batches in a large Dutch oven or heavy stockpot (goal is to build up a good fond); set aside.

Add onion and hot peppers and saute for about five minutes, or until onion begins to brown. Add garlic and ginger, saute one minute more. Add tomatoes, scraping up fond to incorporate with liquids. Add potatoes and all of the lamb, and bring to a simmer.  Cook 30-45 minutes until liquids reduce.

Remove from heat, and stir in remaining lemon juice.

Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice.

Less than 300 mg sodium per serving.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spicy Szechuan Stir Fry

This was, quite simply, the best damn stir fry we've ever made. It was even tastier the next day for lunch! We started with a recipe from one of our cookbooks, but went off the reservation pretty quickly and ended up with something that we can definitely call our own. You can make this less spicy by leaving out the hot peppers. We served this over a plate of noodles.

2 T Hokan Szechuan Sauce (bottled, found in the Asian section of a well-stocked supermarket)
3 dried habanero peppers, reconstituted in warm water and then minced
1 t garlic powder
1 t ground cayenne pepper
1.5 lb chicken breast, cut into strips
1 onion, sliced into half rings
1 red pepper, cut into strips
3 scallions, sliced thin
2 cups napa cabbage or bok choy, coursely chopped
8 oz shitake mushrooms, sliced
1" piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 T low sodium soy sauce
2-3 T peanut oil

Mix the first four ingredients and combine with the chicken pieces. Marinate at least fifteen minutes.

Heat 1 T of the peanut oil in a wok or large skillet until almost smoking. Cook one half the marinated chicken until browned on all sides, remove from pan. Add more oil and cook the remainder of the chicken. Remove from pan and set aside, covered. Add enough oil to loosen the fond in the pan and bring up to cooking temperature. Add the onions and red peppers to the hot pan. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add the green onions and ginger. Continue to stir fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until the released liquids have reduced or evaporated. Add the chicken back to the pan along with the napa cabbage or bok choy and the soy sauce. Cook for another minute or two, until the chicken is hot and the vegetables are crisp-tender.

Serve immediately over rice or noodles. Makes 4 servings, with 360 mg sodium per serving.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


A change in the weather inspired this week's recipe choice: chili. After several weeks of unseasonably warm weather, we finally got another taste of winter. A giant pot of hot chili seemed like a good idea for warming ourselves up. Nothing beats a big bowl of comfort food and some homemade jalapeno cheddar cornbread.

The best way to have complete confidence and control over your sodium intake is to make as much as you can from scratch. This chili recipe includes instructions for making your own chili powder. It isn't difficult at all, and tastes so much punchier and fresher than industrial mixes. You also have the advantage of making it to your taste. You will need to start with whole dried chile peppers, which can be found in the ethnic food section of a well-stocked grocery store.

PDM's Chili Powder

3 dried Ancho chiles
3 dried California chiles
3 dried Guajillo chiles
1 T garlic powder
2 T whole cumin seed

Cut up the chiles into small strips using kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Toast the ingredients in a dry saute pan briefly until fragrant. Remove and grind into a find powder.

Chili (serves 8-10)

2 medium onions, chopped and divided
5 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 lb sirloin
1 lb chuck roast
~40 oz diced no salt added tomatoes, pulsed in food processor to remove chunks
2 14-oz can(s) organic mixed bean, rinsed and drained
8 T chili powder (recipe above)
1/2 oz "secret ingredient" (some of you can guess what this is - it complements chile peppers)

"Grind" the beef by cutting into 1" chunks and then pulsing in food processor 5-6 quick bursts. Brown ground beef in small batches over medium high heat in a large dutch oven. Set aside to drain when done. After all meat is browned, cook the jalapenos and all but 1/2 cup of onion over medium high heat until softened. Add tomatoes, meat, beans, chili powder, and secret ingredient and cook covered over low heat for about an hour, until the meat and beans are cooked through. Near the end of cooking, add the remaining 1/2 cup onion.

Serve with cornbread. Each serving contains less than 200 mg sodium (not including cornbread).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

This is our low sodium (but very tasty) version of Mellow Mushroom's "Funky-Q" pizza (with jalapeno, because that's the way we roll). We started by making homemade barbecue sauce and simmering it for hours, made our own dough for the crust, cooked the meat and onion, and then assembled and baked. This makes six generous slices with less than 200mg sodium per slice. We ate three each and were pleasantly stuffed afterward. And did I say it was delicious? Just making sure.

Barbecue sauce

1/4 cup minced onion
2 T vegetable oil
1 14-oz can no salt added diced tomatoes, pulsed in food processor
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
3 T brown sugar
2 T OJ
2 t chile powder
1 t mustard powder
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t garlic powder
1 t liquid smoke
1/2 t black pepper

Saute onion in oil until golden (about 8-10 minutes). Add remaining ingredients, turn heat to low and simmer about 2 hrs, stirring occasionally. Blend with immersible blender. Keep warm until ready to spread over pizza.


This herbed pizza crust recipe is from Dick Logue's 500 Low Sodium Recipes book, page 442. The only changes I made were to increase the water to 7/8 cup and I add 1/8 t salt. Process in bread machine on dough cycle. Preheat oven to 500F. Roll out flat on a lightly floured, large piece of parchment paper over a cold pizza stone. Prick surface with a fork as shown and let rest for a few minutes.

Prepare Toppings

For pizza toppings, caramelize a sliced onion in butter over low heat until very soft and browned. Cook 2 slices of low sodium bacon, reserving the drippings. Chop or crumble bacon into small pieces and set aside. Cook two diced chicken breasts in the reserved bacon grease until browned on the outside and cooked through. Drain and combine with enough barbeque sauce to coat. Coarsely chop a few pickled jalapeno rings. Grate 1 ounce of low sodium cheddar cheese and 1.5 ounces of fresh mozzarella (it helps if you freeze the mozzarella first).

Final Assembly and Bake

When the oven reaches 500F, place the pizza dough (on stone with parchment) in the oven. Bake 4-5 minutes, until top is dry but not golden brown. Remove from oven and place on heat-safe surface. Top the crust with the remaining barbecue sauce, then add the chicken, bacon, jalapeno, caramelized onion, and cheeses. Return pizza to oven and bake until cheese melts and just starts to turn spotty brown. Slice and serve, baby!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Spicy Asian Slaw

This recipe was something I threw together to use some random odds and ends from the fridge. It was good enough to be my new recipe of the week. We'll definitely make this again. Super fast and easy! If you don't have all the ingredients, this recipe is flexible enough to make substitutions with similar foods. I chose this particular mix partly because I had the onion, jalapeno and cilantro left over from a burrito meal, and the cabbage was left over from another recipe. The only thing I had to buy was the cucumber.

Spicy Asian Slaw (serves 4)

2 T rice vinegar
2 T vegetable oil
1 T sesame oil
1 t low sodium soy sauce
1 t sugar
freshly ground pepper
2 c. shredded cabbage
1 cucumber, peeled, quarted lengthwise, seeded and chopped into 1/4" slices
2 T chopped onion
1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 T sesame seeds, toasted

Whisk first six ingredients together in a bowl until well blended. Fold in remaining ingredients, stir to combine with liquid sauce, then refrigerate for about an hour prior to serving.

40 mg sodium per serving (or omit the soy sauce to remove all but trace amounts of sodium)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spicy Shrimp and Peppers with Orzo

A recipe conversion. Serves 4.

This was one of my first attempts at converting a former favorite recipe to low salt back in June, and I really made a mess of it. My first try was way too spicy, with an amateur idea to have heat replace the salt. It didn't work. The dish just tasted hot as hell, with no other discernible flavor to redeem it, and we couldn't even taste the shrimp. And it still tasted like it needed salt. Total fail!

This version was savory, shrimpy tasting, not overly spicy, and best of all did not seem lacking in salt (at least not to my altered taste buds). If you are not on a sodium restriction, this would be great as is but with some salt shaken onto your plate just before you eat it. That was all Marty needed to enjoy his portion and just about lick his plate clean. I was OK with some freshly ground pepper and Mrs. Dash lemon pepper seasoning on my plate.


8 oz orzo, cooked and drained (we cooked ours without salt in Wyler's no sodium chicken flavored instant broth for added flavor) - this can be cooked concurrently with the shrimp dish and will be ready together.
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
3 T white wine
2 T low sodium organic chicken broth
4 T olive oil
1/4 t salt
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2" squares
1 vidalia onion, diced
1 t cornstarch
1 lemon, cut in half


1. Combine garlic, wine, broth, 3 T olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes in a medium bowl and blend with a whisk. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate at least five minutes.

2. Pour 1 T olive oil into a skillet and heat over medium high flame. Add onion and cook ~2 minutes until translucent. Add peppers and cook 1-2 minutes more, stirring often.

3. Spoon out about 2 T of the liquid marinade and mix with cornstarch in small bowl, set aside. Add the shrimp and remaining marinade to the pan. Cook shrimp, covered, stirring about every minute or so, until opaque pink through and curled, about 2-3 minutes.

4. Uncover and add reserved liquid and cornstarch mixture. Stir to combine. Cook about 1 more minute uncovered, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Turn off heat. Squeeze in the juice from one lemon (using a strainer to catch seeds) and stir to combine.

5. Serve shrimp and sauce immediately over drained orzo.

Sodium content ~300 mg per serving, mostly from the shrimp. You can reduce this by about half by leaving out the salt altogether, but that 1/4 t really does add a lot to the flavor.

Recipe conversion secrets - not a whole lot really. We greatly reduced the added salt, and made up for it by adding the lemon juice at the end to brighten the flavor. We also increased the amount of garlic and red pepper flakes (but do not consider this a "spicy" recipe by our high standards). Also by cooking the orzo in the Wyler's "fake chicken broth" that has zero sodium we add flavor that would normally come from salted cooking water. If you can't find this product, you could add flavor with unsalted butter in the cooking liquid.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Prime Rib for Two with Asparagus

This week's New Thing was a prime rib recipe in the Cooking for Two section of Cook's Country magazine (Dec/Jan 2012 issue, page 5). This was a 2.5-pound bone-in rib eye steak that was browned on all outside edges over medium high heat in an enameled cast iron skillet, and then finished very slowly in a 200F oven until medium rare in the center (about 122F on the meat thermometer). After resting, it was cut on the bias for serving. Since we did not make any significant changes to this recipe I refer you to the magazine for details. We won't do much differently the next time we prepare this meal other than to brown the outside of the meat a little longer and take steps to make the sauce a bit thinner and more like a classic jus.

The "prime rib" from this recipe was accompanied by asparagus that we cooked with lemon juice, shallots and garlic. We sauteed for a few minutes and then added a dash of water and cooked covered until just crisp-tender. Simple and delicious.

Good meal for week three!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

French Style Onion & Mushroom Soup

This week we adapted a low sodium French onion soup recipe to our tastes by adding mushrooms and changing up how the bread and cheese are used in the recipe (because I don't dig soggy bread). The soup was rich, tasty and surprisingly filling. Here is how we made it:

RECIPE: French Style Onion & Mushroom Soup (4 servings)
Sodium = 325 mg/serving

For the croutons --

1/2 french bread loaf (about 6-8 slices), slightly stale, cut into cubes
4 T unsalted butter
1/2 t dried thyme

Preheat oven to 425F. Melt butter in baking dish in hot oven. Add bread cubes and thyme, toss to coat evenly. Bake, stirring often, until light golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven, set aside to cool.

For the soup --

1 lb onions, sliced into half rings
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
4 T unsalted butter
4 cups organic low sodium beef broth
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t low sodium soy sauce
dash of hot sauce (optional)
1/4 t No Salt (KCl)
freshly ground black pepper
4 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
Croutons (see recipe above)

Melt butter in dutch oven on medium heat. Add mushrooms and onions, stir. Cover and cook on medium low for about 15 minutes on medium low heat, stirring occasionally. Uncover and reduce liquids for about 5 more minutes. Add beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and hot sauce, KCl and black pepper, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Preheat broiler while soup simmers.

To serve --

Ladle soup into oven-proof bowls. Layer with croutons and top with shredded cheese, then place under broiler for a couple of minutes, until cheese is melted and just starting to become spotty brown. Handle hot bowls with care, placing them on a plate for transport. Serve immediately.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Mother of All Recipe Conversions: Spicy Pasta Bake with Sausage

This used to be one of our favorite "go to" recipes for winter comfort food. It was tasty, filling, and not much trouble to prepare. Unfortunately, it was also the one recipe we had been completely unable to alter enough to bring the sodium down to a reasonable level. The original recipe (from the Feb/March 2008 issue of Cook's Country) had five significant sources of sodium. Here they are in order, along with our lower sodium substitutes:

1. The sausage. Big, big problem, no matter what variety you choose. The recipe calls for one pound of chorizo, but we also used to make it with andouille or other smoked sausages. The amount of sodium in one pound of smoked sausage varies widely, but the range would be 3200mg on the low end to 5500mg on the high side. This was the toughest ingredient to substitute. We cut the sodium by a factor of 10-15 (yes!) by making our own andouille sausage using a recipe found in Dick Logue's 500 Low Sodium Recipes cookbook. This homemade version contains just 330mg of sodium from the pork meat itself. If you aren't feeling ambitious enough to grind your own sausage (although it is not difficult), you could also substitute Trader Joe's chicken Italian sausage, which only has 787mg/pound.

2. The cheese. We used to grate 8 oz of pepper jack cheese to add to this dish, which contributes 1440mg of sodium. I have not been able to find a lower sodium version of this type of cheese, so I cut the amount of pepper jack to 4 ounces and substituted 4 ounces of grated swiss to cut the cheese contribution down to an even 1000mg of sodium while keeping the flavor and texture the same. Swiss is the lowest sodium variety of hard cheese.

3. Low-sodium chicken broth. Yep, even the "low sodium" variety has 450mg/cup. This is better than the regular kind, which has about 760mg/cup, but since we need 3 cups this adds 1350mg to the pot. Fortunately you can easily find organic low-sodium chicken broth that has only 80mg/cup, bringing this ingredient's share down to 240mg.  If you really wanted to get stingy, Wyler's makes an instant chicken flavor broth that doesn't have any sodium (and probably doesn't have any real chicken either, but still tastes pretty good in recipes). Sometimes we use it half and half with real broth.

4. Next up is the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. That adds 1180mg to the total. We ended up reducing the sodium level enough with our other substitutions that we were able to leave this in for flavor, but you could also substitute KCl salt, which contains zero sodium. I added about 1/4 teaspoon of KCl to bump up the salty flavor.

5. The last problem child is the 10 oz can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, which contains 1040mg of sodium and has no low sodium alternative from the same manufacturer. We got around this by using a 14.5 oz can of Eden Organic Diced Tomatoes "Just Roma Tomatoes" that we purchased at Whole Foods and adding hot peppers into the recipe as a separate item. It contains only 20mg of sodium. If you can't find this product, most grocery stores carry no-salt-added diced tomatoes that contain 175mg for the whole can.

So... how did we do? The original recipe states that it serves 4, although in practice we usually get 6 meals from it so I will divide everything into 6 portions. The dish as made in the past contains anywhere from 8340mg to 10640mg of sodium depending on what sausage is used, which works out to 1390mg - 1773mg per serving. Way too high! Our version as cooked last night contained 2820mg in the pot, which is 470mg per serving. (If you use the Trader Joes's chicken sausage and regular no salt added diced tomatoes this would become 572mg per serving, which is still quite respectable.) I seasoned my plate with Mrs. Dash Table Blend and about a tablespoon of Hillside Orchard Farms Habanero hot sauce (add 43mg to my serving for that).

Bottom line - this conversion was very challenging, but I would call it a success. The texture and taste were nearly identical to the original recipe, although it definitely tastes less salty and needs more of the other seasonings to compensate.


1 lb homemade "andouille" sausage (Logue, page 412)*
1 T vegetable oil
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced fine
3 habanero peppers, seeded and diced fine (optional, but we like it extra spicy)
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups organic low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 14.5 oz can no salt added diced tomatoes
12 oz penne pasta
4 oz swiss cheese, shredded
4 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
4 scallions, sliced thinly
1/2 tsp salt - optional
1/4 tsp potassium chloride ("NoSalt" or other brand) - optional
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat broiler. In a large dutch oven, cook sausage in batches until browned. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. Add the vegetable oil to the pan, then cook the onion and hot peppers until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, then add the sausage back to the pan.

Pour in broth, cream, tomatoes and pasta and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add salt, KCl, and black pepper to taste. Cover and simmer until pasta is done, stirring often. This should take about 15 minutes.

Turn off heat and stir in the swiss cheese. Sprinkle the pepper jack cheese on top, then place pot under broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is spotty brown. Place into serving bowls and top with a handful of scallions.

*A worthy substitute is Trader Joe's chicken Italian sausage, if you do not wish to make your own andouille flavored sausage from scratch. If you decide to make the sausage yourself, we followed the Logue recipe for the most part, but we prefer to grind our own pork in a food processor rather than purchasing ground pork because you can control the fat content by selecting an appropriate cut of meat - Boston butt works well, but you can use other cuts. Pork tenderloin is not recommended because it is too lean.

**RECIPE UPDATED 5/3/12 because it just isn't the same without real Andouille sausage. We found a way to make it work. Hooray! Changes are detailed here: Cheesy Pasta Bake, Revisited.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Project: 52 New Recipes for 2012

We're five days into 2012, and while I don't do resolutions, I do enjoy a year-long project. This year's new venture is food related -- namely to cook one "new" recipe every week this year.  This could mean trying one of the low sodium recipes from our cookbooks, converting an old favorite into a low sodium version, or inventing something entirely new. The only rule is that the meal has to meet my sodium restriction and must be something that we haven't made before in its current form.

I will post recipes that we have created (or modified substantially enough to call them our own) here on the blog. If we make something straight from a book or other copyrighted source I will indicate where you can find the recipe. First up is a winter comfort dish that formerly clocked in at 1400-1800 mg of sodium per serving, depending on what kind of cheese and sausage was used (and how much of each we threw into the pot). We used to make this dish a few times a month and I have really missed it. Stay tuned...