Shrimp with cucumbers and fennel, try it, you’ll like it

Fennel is one of my favorite snacks and side dishes and it’s working its way into mainstream cooking more and more these days. It’s like a lot of Italian dishes from my youth that once were ethnic-only foods and now are being more widely recognized (can you say lentil soup or squid, two other similar examples).

A wonderfully simple shrimp, fennel and cucumber salad

A wonderfully simple shrimp, fennel and cucumber salad

Bon Appetit magazine recently featured this recipe for a shrimp salad with fennel and cucumber. It would make a great summer starter for a cookout with friends and family. Rather than cooking the shrimp as recommended in the recipe, you could grill them. Here’s a garlic and herb grilled shrimp recipe from Food.com. I would likely leave out the sugar on that one, as I would leave out the salt on the salad recipe. Continue reading

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Americans are eating less, finally, but what about the salt?

Americans are consuming fewer calories, finally, according to widespread media coverage of recent government statistics. But there’s still too much salt, fat and sugar in most people’s diets, in my opinion after looking at the statistics involved.

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“Calories consumed by the typical American adult, which reached an alarming peak in 2003 having risen inexorably since the late 1970s, are undergoing their first sustained decline since the US government started monitoring them more than 40 years ago,” notes the Daily Mail, a British publication that provides an interesting overseas view of America’s bad eating habits.

“The most dramatic fall has been in the amount of sugary soft drinks consumed by Americans. The average American drinks 25 per cent less of such drinks than since the late 1990s, when he or she drank an astonishing 40 gallons a year,” the Mail reports. Continue reading

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Purple potato chips — make them fat-free, salt-free

Potato chips are difficult to squeeze into a low-fat, low-salt diet, but I found a way to make my own with no salt and no fat thanks to a handy microwave device, Top Chips chip maker, that I bought last year. I’ve come to make them as a special treat from time to time, usually making one large russet potato into chips.

Purple potatoes can be turned into fat-free, salt-free chips in minutes.

Purple potatoes can be turned into fat-free, salt-free chips in minutes.

I recently ran across purple potatoes at our local farmers’ market and wondered what those would taste like turned into chips. I was a little surprised to learn the inside of the potatoes was not actually purple. A few purple flecks were noticeable but other than that they looked like regular potatoes. so these must have been a hybrid of some sort since information I’ve found about true purple potatoes shows them with a purple color inside. Continue reading

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Swordfish and zucchini on the grill, a great summer cookout option

Grilled fish are a great summer alternative to over-eating fatty beef. I often grill salmon, but last night decided to try grilling some swordfish we just bought instead.

Grilling our swordfish steaks.

Grilling our swordfish steaks.

I marinated one piece in Mrs. Dash’s salt-free teriyaki sauce while the other got a dry spice rub (my wife’s choice). I did the fish on a charcoal grill to impart the smokey flavor of the coals.

Zucchini on the gas grill, basted with olive oil and Italian spices.

Zucchini on the gas grill, basted with olive oil and Italian spices.

Grilled zucchini was the side dish for our meal. I cut the zucchini into small circles and covered them with olive oil and Italian spices. I sprayed the grilling pans with olive oil as well to prevent sticking. Those went on my gas grill where I find it easier to regulate the heat levels to get a nice even cook. Continue reading

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Egg white omelette — here’s how to make a quick breakfast, or lunch

Egg-white omelettes have become a go-to dish for me to get for lunch or breakfast when eating out with family or friends in places with few low-salt, low-fat alternatives. Add some veggies and hold the cheese and you can get a low-salt, low-fat meal.

I added tomatoes, onion and basil.

I added tomatoes, onion and basil.

Egg-white omelettes also can be a quick meal at home with very little fuss. All you need is a frying pan and any veggie odds and ends you have in your refrigerator. I recently made one by first separating the whites from whole eggs instead of going with pre-bought egg whites in a carton. Egg prices have been up because of recent bird flu outbreaks, so shop around. Or wait a while until the supply picks up again.

Flip i closed and then flip the entire thing in the pan to finish cooking your omelette.

Flip i closed and then flip the entire thing in the pan to finish cooking your omelette.

Continue reading

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Roasted cheery tomato sauce – a great quick gravy for any Italian dish

Tomato sauce, called gravy in my Italian-American family, is something I simply do not want to live without. I now make it with only the lowest salt-content tomatoes available and have even found low-salt tomato paste. Cooking it, or rather simmering it down to its rich, luscious thickness, is an all-day process, which means when I make it I make a lot and freeze it for future use.

But I recently saw a quick version fo tomato sauce on Recipe Rehab and decided to give it a try. I couldn’t get the recipe used on the show because it’s from the shows first season and those recipe aren’t on its website. But I found several variations of the same recipe for using cherry tomatoes and roasting them in an oven to start the process.

MYy cherry tomatoes on a  baking sheet, ready for roasting

MYy cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet, ready for roasting

I went with a version of this one, using real garlic and real onions instead of powder and leaving out the salt entirely. You cut the cherry tomatoes in half and roast them in the oven. Rather than add the oil and spices on top as the recipe suggests, I mix them all in a bowl to coat the tomatoes first. Continue reading

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Yogurt toast revisited — tried it, loved it

Yogurt toast was the subject of a recent blog post of mine after I saw it written about in Bon Appetit. It looked and sounded tasty so I vowed to try it.

Yogurt toast with Yoplait Greek 100 Boston Cream Pie flavored yogurt.

Yogurt toast with Yoplait Greek 100 Boston Cream Pie flavored yogurt.

I have tried it and I loved it. Rather than regular bread, I used Thomas’ multigrain English muffins which are lower in salt and carbs than plain bread. I tried it with two different fat-free Greek yogurts I buy. One comes from Yoplait and is flavored to resemble Boston Cream pie, a long-time favorite I can’t eat on my low-fat diet. Slathering it on a toasted English muffin gave the whole dish a cakey taste, it was almost like having cake again!

Yogurt toast with Dannon Greek light raspberry chocolate yogurt.

Yogurt toast with Dannon Greek light raspberry chocolate yogurt.

I also tried a raspberry chocolate Greek Yogurt from Dannon, a fat-free, low-sugar variety in this case. It also was very tasty. The Greek yogurts, because they’re heavier than regular yogurt, add some heft to the muffin. And one yogurt container could easily cover two muffins if necessary.

I’ll be eating this morning treat again.
John

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Summer salads and edamame pasta — a light, fun meal

Cooking seems all the harder in the summer when the world heats up around you (if you live in a northern climate as I do. If you live in the South, it’s always hot, so this post is for you year-round). So rather than do a lot of summer cooking, how about a night or two of cold salads, with some edamame pasta thrown in as the cooked center of your plate?

Some fun, and easy-to-make summer salads. And some edamame pasta.

Some fun, and easy-to-make summer salads. And some edamame pasta.

I recently put this assortment together. These actually were all left-over from a gathering we had at our house to start work on our new play, Boys in the Basement, which you can read about on my theater site. Please do, and please contribute to make the play possible and then come to see us perform in November. Continue reading

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Watermelon salsa? I’m going to give it a try

Salsa, at least most store-bought salsa, is loaded with salt. I have found several low-salt varieties I’be blogged about here. But I find most turn up the heat, pepper-wise, to compensate for less salt and I’m not a big hot pepper fan.

Watermelon salsa, check the Food Network link in my post for the recipe.

Watermelon salsa, check the Food Network link in my post for the recipe.


So I was intrigued when I saw this Food Network recipe for watermelon salsa. I love watermelon and eat it often in the summer, and the winter when I can find good ones. So I’m planning to try this recipe, substituting real garlic for the garlic salt to cut the salt content. Continue reading

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Quince in Evanston — a worthy successor to a venerable predecessor

Grant Achatz is perhaps the most celebrated chef in Chicago and across the Midwest these days. His restaurant Alinea and Next are consistently on the culinary frontier. But before he achieved all this fame, he was cooking, and getting lots of attention, at a restaurant in suburban Evanston called Trio.

Squid is a test for any restaurant to cook. Quince passed with flying colors.

Squid is a test for any restaurant to cook. Quince passed with flying colors.

Trio is long gone but in the space it once occupied now sits Quince, also an upscale eating establishment of some renown. I decided to take my wife there for her birthday dinner recently and we were very happy with the results. While not as gastro-wild as Achatz can be, the food was wonderful. Continue reading

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