May 31, 2014

Doing Without SALT?

Cottage Cheese Shrimp Salad (recipe below)
Click on photo to view larger
It's not very likely that a chef will say "we will do without salt", because like fat, salt is flavor, and flavor is what attracts people to food. Actually doing without salt is not an option anyway, because small amounts of sodium - the element that makes up 40 per cent of salt - are essential for the transmission of nerve impulses, the contraction of muscles and to maintain the body's fluid balance. But excessive amounts over many years can lead to several health problems, like high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Too much salt can contribute to high blood pressure by causing the body to hold on to water, which increases the volume of the blood. So the heart has to work harder to push the blood through the arteries. I know because I have high blood pressure and it's a pain in the you know what to take pills everyday, twice a day, not to mention the cost of the medication.

There are many products that we love that contain high levels of salt like Spam and soy sauce here in Hawaii, but here's a look at some of the saltiest foods we eat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention... called "The Salty Six". Some on the list might surprise you.

1. Breads and rolls. We all know breads add carbohydrates and calories, but salt, too? It may not seem like it because a lot of bread doesn’t even taste salty, but one piece can have as much as 230 milligrams of sodium. That’s 15 percent of the recommended amount from only one slice, and it adds up quickly. Have a sandwich and muffin in one day? The bread alone could put you at about 1,000 milligrams of salt – or two-thirds of the American Heart Association’s recommended daily sodium limit of 1,500 milligrams. Be sure to check the nutrition label as different brands of the same foods may have differing sodium levels.

2. Cold cuts and cured meats. Even foods that would otherwise be considered healthy may have high levels of sodium. Deli or pre-packaged turkey can contain as much as 1,050 milligrams of sodium. They have so much because most cooked meats would spoil in only a few days without the added sodium solution. Look for lower sodium varieties.

3. Pizza. OK, everybody knows pizza’s not exactly a health food. But you’re probably thinking the big concerns are cholesterol, fat and calories. But pizza’s plenty salty, too. One slice can contain up to 760 milligrams of sodium. It doesn’t take a whole lot of math to realize two or three slices alone can send you way over the daily sodium recommendation. You may want to have fewer slices of pizza topped with vegetables and less cheese.

4. Poultry. Surely chicken can’t be bad for you, right? Well, it depends on how the chicken is prepared. Reasonable portions of lean, skinless grilled chicken are great. But when you start serving up the chicken nuggets or poultry injected with added sodium solutions/marinades, the sodium starts adding up. Just 3 ounces of frozen and breaded nuggets can add nearly 600 milligrams of sodium. (And most kids probably aren’t stopping at 3 ounces.) Check labels to be sure you are selecting the lower sodium version and that there are no added sodium solutions.

5. Soup. This is another one of those foods that seems perfectly healthy. It can’t be bad if Mom gave it to you for the sniffles, right? But when you take a look at the nutrition label for some products, though, it’s easy to see how too much soup can quickly turn into a sodium overload. One cup of canned chicken noodle soup can have up to 940 milligrams of sodium. Look for lower sodium options that taste just as great!

6. Sandwiches. This covers everything from grilled cheese to hamburgers. We already know that breads and cured meats are heavy on the sodium. Add them together, and you can pretty easily surpass 1,500 milligrams of sodium in one sitting. Top sandwiches with plenty of vegetables, such as lettuce, tomato and cucumbers.

Ok, so listen to this... the American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 1500 mg of sodium a day, which is a little more than 1/2 teaspoon of salt a day. Ouch! you say, so what do we do? First we need to retrain our taste buds to go without salt, use garlic, lemon herbs and spices instead. Your tastes will adapt within to to three weeks. Another solution if you can't cut down on salt, switch to a salt replacement product like Mrs. Dash, or make your own, see the salt free seasoning recipe below. Being conscious of food labeling in the grocery store is a good start to reducing the amount of sodium in your diet. Eat more fresh foods like produce, fresh meats and fish. Be sure to look for the American Heart Association's Heart-Check mark – when you see it on a product, you know the food has been certified to meet nutritional criteria for heart-healthy foods. Avoid the prepackaged foods isles in your grocery store, when you buy things that come in boxes, cans and frozen meals that is where the sodium has been added.

Other ideas from the American Heart Association:
•  Marinate chicken breasts or pork chops in lemon juice, orange juice, or wine.
•  Roll fish in sesame seeds before baking.
•  Spice up beef with a mixture of onion, peppers, sage, and thyme.
•  Toss in a few fruits and vegetables, such as dried apricots, raisins, red pepper, or yellow pepper for extra flavor.
•  Simmer carrots in cinnamon and nutmeg.
•  Sprinkle some dill and parsley onto potatoes before roasting.
•  Add a dash of chili powder to corn.
•  Toss your pasta with fresh chopped garlic.
•  Replace salted butter with unsalted butter.
•  When cooking with cheese, opt for fresh mozzarella or cheeses labeled "low-sodium."

All I am saying is that everyone can cut down on their salt intake for the sake of their own health, and the health of their family. Remember, most sodium in the diet comes from packaged, processed foods, so try some of these low-salt recipes from the American Heart Association, who knows you may like them and live longer. Low Salt Recipes

One final note: there's almost always no difference between sea salt and table salt. Read this.

Here are a few recipes that I like that are low-salt and delicious:

Make Your Own "Salt Free Seasoning"
This recipe comes from the American Heart Association.
I order most of my spices from Penzeys Spices, I highly recommend them, or try their blend of salt free seasoning called "Penzeys Forward."

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
1 teaspoon mace, ground
1 teaspoon dried basil, ground 
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder 
1 teaspoon black pepper, ground
1 teaspoon thyme, ground 
1 teaspoon sage, ground
1 teaspoon parsley, dry flakes 
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon savory, ground

Mix together and place in salt shaker.

Cottage Cheese Shrimp Salad
This is a low calorie, low salt salad combination that is great as a healthy lunch salad.

1 (8 ounce) package of small curd cottage cheese
1 pound of small shrimp, boiled, and chopped
2 eggs, boiled
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
a pinch of salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
lettuce leaves (leafy lettuce)
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1/2 Japanese cucumber, sliced

paprika and fresh dill for garnish
Ak-Mack crackers on the side

Mix together cottage cheese and cold chopped cooked shrimp. Peel eggs and chop. Mix with the cottage cheese and shrimp. Add cayenne pepper and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

Mix the seasoned rice vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil together. To serve, place lettuce leaves on a salad plate, place the tomato and cucumber slices on the lettuce and sprinkle with dressing mixture. Top each serving with shrimp mixture, then sprinkle with paprika and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill. Serve with a no salt cracker, like Ak-Mack crackers. Makes 2 large servings.

Note: Serving fresh grapes or slices of mango, papaya, cantaloupe on the side would also be a good thing.

Broiled Salmon Summer Salad
What a great way to enjoy a summer salad, and it's so good for you.

1-1/2 pound salmon filet, cut into 4 pieces, skin and bones removed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 teaspoons each of salt and cracked black pepper
1 large cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, seeds scooped out, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large ripe fresh tomato, diced
1 medium ripe, but firm avocado, diced in 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or finely chopped scallion
3 medium cloves garlic, pressed
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons of seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon honey

Press garlic and let sit. Preheat broiler on high and place a cast iron pan under the heat for about 10 minutes to get it very hot. The pan should be 5 to 7 inches from the heat source. Rub salmon with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice, salt, and pepper. While pan is heating, mix together cucumber, tomato, avocado, chives, garlic, and dill in a bowl and set aside. Whisk together 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar, olive oil, and another pinch of salt and pepper, in a separate bowl. Toss with cucumber mix when ready to serve. Place salmon on the hot iron pan and cook for about 7 minutes under the broiler, depending upon thickness (keep an eye on it so that it doesn't burn.) Combine honey and mustard and coat salmon during last 2 minutes of cooking. Divide cucumber mixture between 4 plates and serve with salmon. Makes 4 servings.

Fresh Vegetable Soup
This soup is full of flavor because of all of the fresh vegetables. To make it even more of a meal, add little shell pasta to the mix.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
6 medium sized cloves garlic, chopped
5 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1-1/2 cups finely chopped kale
1/4 cup diced portabello mushrooms, black gills cut out and discarded
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
2 cups or 1 15 ounce can navy beans, drained
a pinch of salt and black pepper to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium soup pot. Sauté onion in oil over medium heat for 5 minutes stirring frequently. Add garlic and continue to sauté for another minute. Add broth and the rest of the ingredients except beans and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil on high heat, reduce heat to low and continue cooking, uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add beans, cook for another couple minutes, season with salt and pepper, and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Tropical Mahi-Mahi Sandwich
Mahi-mahi is a very popular fish in Hawaii, and this healthy tropical sandwich 
is the reason why. 

2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1/8-1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 8-ounce can pineapple chunks or rings, drained and coarsely chopped
2 cups coleslaw mix (thinly sliced cabbage and shredded carrots) or make you own
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 pounds mahi-mahi, haddock or cod, skinned and cut into 4 portions
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
8 slices whole-wheat country bread, toasted

Whisk mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar and crushed red pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Add pineapple and coleslaw mix and stir to combine.

Place cornmeal in a shallow dish. Sprinkle both sides of fish with Cajun seasoning and salt. Dredge the fish in the cornmeal.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the fish and cook until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and fish, adjusting heat as needed to prevent burning.

Top toasted bread with the fish and pineapple slaw to make sandwiches. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Tuna & Bean Salad Sandwich
Tuna mixed with beans makes a delicious combination that is high in protein 
and low in salt.

1 clove garlic, crushed and peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 15-ounce can great northern beans, rinsed
1 3-ounce can tuna packed in water, drained and flaked
1 cup arugula leaves, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 6-inch whole-wheat pita breads
2-4 large lettuce leaves
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

With a chef’s knife, mash garlic and salt into a paste. Transfer to a bowl. Whisk in lemon juice, oil and crushed red pepper. Add beans, tuna and arugula; toss to mix. Season with pepper.

Cut a quarter off each pita to open the pocket. (Save the trimmings to make pita crisps.) Line the centers with lettuce. Fill with tuna & bean salad and red onion slices. Makes 2 sandwiches.

Grilled Asian Flank Steak
This flank steak gets its flavor from the marinade. It looks spicy, but not really... Very Tasty, and the salt gets rinsed off after an hour!

1-1/2-pound flank steak
kosher salt (do not use table salt)

For marinade:
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions (about 1)
1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce (available in Asian markets and many supermarkets)
2 teaspoons Sriracha hot sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil

Pat steak dry with paper towels. Season on both sides with kosher salt and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Let it rest on counter for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make marinade. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. After steak has been coated with salt for 1 hour, unwrap it and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels and place in a large zippered plastic bag. Add marinade to bag, being careful to coat steak on both sides. Seal bag, forcing out most of the air inside and, manipulating bag from the outside, work rub marinade against surfaces of the steak. Refrigerate at least 6 hours and preferably overnight.

Grill steak. About 1/2 hour before the grill is ready for cooking, remove steak from fridge to bring it to room temperature. Prepare grill for direct grilling and medium-high heat. Remove steak from zippered bag and scrape off excess marinade (I used the back edge of a table knife). Discard marinade.

Brush grill grate with a little oil and place steak directly over coals (or gas heat source). Close grill and cook for about 4 minutes. Turn and cook other side for about 4 minutes, with grill lid closed. If first side isn’t sufficiently browned, flip and cook for maybe another minute. Steak should be medium-rare to medium at this point. Do not cook more than than 10 minutes; when flank steak is overcooked it becomes tough.

Transfer to cutting board or platter and tent with foil. Let steak rest for 5 minutes, then slice into 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick slices—the thinner, the better—across the grain. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Grilled Asian Chicken
Grilling is all about flavor. Add an apricot spicy glaze and you can forget about the salt.

4 each, bone-in, skin-on chicken drumsticks and thighs
1/2 cup apricot preserves
3 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (optional depending on your heat tolerance)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
5 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare your grill for both indirect and direct grilling. Remove chicken from fridge about 1/2 hour before you’re ready to cook and trim excess skin and fat. Set aside on counter. If you’re using charcoal, you can do this when you start the coals.

Combine preserves, Sriracha, rice vinegar and fish sauce in a medium bowl, mashing out any lumps in the preserves with the tines of a fork. Stir in the chives. Taste and if it isn't to hot for your taste, add the chili sauce to the mix.

When the grill is ready, pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with black pepper, and lightly with salt. Brush the grill rack lightly with oil and place chicken skin side up on the side of the grill away from the heat source. Cover the grill and cook chicken for about 5 minutes; this will render some of the fat. Move chicken directly over the coals skin side down, cover grill and cook until skin begins to crisp and brown, about 5 minutes (or longer, if needed).

Move chicken away from heat and turn skin side up. Brush with basting sauce, cover grill and cook, turning every few minutes and basting, until chicken is cooked through, another 10 to 15 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should register 165ºF when inserted in the thickest part. Transfer chicken to platter and let it rest for 5 minutes or so, then serve. Makes 4 servings.

Hawaii Banana Cake
This is a low sodium cake with lots of Hawaii flavor.

1/2 cup Crisco shortening
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 egg white
1/2 cup skim milk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed banana
1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple in unsweetened pineapple juice, undrained
3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 tablespoon finely chopped macadamia nuts

Heat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour 10 inch tube cake pan.

For cake: Combine Crisco and sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until blended. Add eggs and egg white. Beat until light and fluffy. Add milk, vanilla, banana and pineapple with juice. Beat at low speed until mixed (batter may appear slightly curdled).

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt (if used) in separate bowl. Gradually add to creamed mixture. Beat at low speed until mixed. Pour into pan. Sprinkle with nuts.

Bake at 350˚F. for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan 25 minutes. Remove form pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Serve with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream (recipe below). Makes 16 servings.

Too Simple To Be True... Angel Food Cake
My wife loves angel food cake so I had to try this simple recipe I found online. 
Adapted from a recipe found on Nancygirl.

18 ounces angel food cake mix
20 ounces DOLE Pineapple, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream or heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl mix cake mix with undrained pineapple and lemon juice. Pour into an ungreased 9x13 inch cake pan. Bake 40 minutes at 350˚F. Cool completely. Meanwhile, make the sweetened whipped cream. Pour the cream, sugar, and vanilla into a well-chilled bowl and whip for 7 or 8 minutes on medium speed until firm peeks form when beaters are lifted. Makes about 2 cups of whipped cream for 8 servings of cake.

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