Some spice blending tips to spice up your pandemic cooking

Having a local source of great spices, I’m not talking about the pre-packaged kind in the supermarket, but fresher and specially blended spices, is a great aid in coming up with fun dinner options, even during this pandemic.

In the Chicago area, we have The Spice House, which has a variety of blends, including an entire section of salt-free mixtures for people like me trying to cut salt from our diets.

Salt-free spices are a must-have for any kitchen.
Salt-free spices are a must-have for any kitchen.

If you don’t have such a place, you can get creative and make your own blends. Here are a few from The Spice House to get you started. How much of each you blend is the art of it, experiment and see what works for you and the people at your table. Continue reading “Some spice blending tips to spice up your pandemic cooking”

Tomatoes are a summer gift, even during a pandemic

During this summer like no other, there is one thing to be thankful for — fresh tomatoes are here, whether you grow your own as I do, or buy them from farm stands or in farmers’ markets. When you taste a fresh tomato, you quickly realize those things we buy in the supermarkets are just pretenders to being real tomatoes.

A quick tomato salad I made recently with mozzarella and basil from our garden.

So if, like me, you stock up on tomatoes every summer, here’s just what you need from Cooking Light magazine — 100 Ways to Use Fresh Tomatoes This Summer.

The article is from 2018, but the recipes are largely timeless, so enjoy. Some that caught my eye as I scrolled through them —

Greek Tomato Salad

Cherry Tomato Confit

Red Snapper With Chunky Tomato-Watermelon Salsa

Seared Salmon with Balsamic-Blistered Tomatoes

Bruschetta with Warm Tomatoes

Meals kits are getting popular but beware the hidden salt!

Meal kits, which have all the ingredients for a given night’s dinner, are gaining in popularity, especially among younger consumers who may not have very developed cooking skills. Several companies will deliver them to people’s home and now supermarkets are stocking their own versions. The idea may sound appealing, but beware and, as always, read the ingredient labels before buying any.

Doing that myself, I found what seemed like a relatively appealing kit — with pasta and tomatoes, was a salt bomb, containing 1,320 mgs of salt per serving or 2620 mgs in the entire package which is supposed to be two servings. Continue reading “Meals kits are getting popular but beware the hidden salt!”

Looking for a low-salt Easter dinner idea? Try fish

Fish is a traditional Friday dish for Catholics on Friday during Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. Easter Sunday itself is usually reserved for salty main courses, like ham, or fattier ones like lamb. But if you want to avoid high-salt, high-fat meals, why not try fish for an Easter Sunday main course instead?

The New York Times recently ran an easy-to-make recipe for Sheet-Pan Roasted Fish With Sweet Peppers.

You can use hake, cod or flounder as the main ingredient. I’d leave out the salt called for, but include everything else, except look for low-salt olive instead of regular salty ones. Ingredients are: Continue reading “Looking for a low-salt Easter dinner idea? Try fish”

Here’s all you need to become an asparagus master chef

Asparagus has a variety of health benefits but can be intimidating to some to prepare and cook. If you’ve been in that group, fear not, this Food Network guide, How to Cook Asparagus, will turn you into an asparagus master chef who will soon be dazzling your friends with your asparagus prowess.

It gives you a basic rundown of how to prep asparagus for cooking, how to steam them and how to grill them.

I regularly use pepper on grilled veggies such as these asparagus and zucchini.

Once you’ve reviewed it all, move on to my recipe page to see how to make asparagus with balsamic tomatoes, or asparagus as part of a grilled veggie selection that will dazzle all your friends. The photo I’m using for this site shows asparagus cooking on my outdoor grill, one of my favorite ways to make them.

 

Salt is salt, isn’t it? I say yes

Salt is my food arch-enemy, driving up my blood pressure and likely contributing to my need for two stents in the past seven years. That’s why I have an entire page devoted to low-salt recipes and another that looks at how to minimize salt when eating out. But some people like to distinguish between types of sale, saying the most highly processed kind we normally consume is worse that other, more raw products that have other minerals in them.

Himalayan pink salt, yes there really is such a thing, fits in that category of the supposed better-for-you salts. Or does it? This article recently caught my eye on the website care4you.com.

Is pink salt better for you than regular salt? Don;t count on it.

“Many ads for Himalayan pink salt claim that it contains 84 minerals. This appears to be true, based on spectral analysis of the salt. But, most of these 84 minerals are found in very trace amounts. Also, not all 84 are beneficial minerals. Himalayan pink salt also contains trace amounts of toxic and radioactive substances, such as arsenic, mercury, uranium and plutonium,” the article states. Continue reading “Salt is salt, isn’t it? I say yes”

Women may benefit more from low-salt diets than men

Women may benefit more from low-salt diets than will men when it comes to reducing their high blood pressure, a study published in the research journal Hypertension.Salt can lead to stomach cancer, one more reason to get it out of your diet.

As all too often happens, past research has looked primarily at men and their reactions to salt, the study authors note.

The researchers worked with male and female rats and found It all has to do  with levels of a hormone called aldosterone. If you want the scientific specifics, click here.

The point is women need to watch their salt intake, especially if they’re already dealing with high blood pressure. We have plenty of low-salt and salt-free recipes on our recipe page, start your efforts to dump the salt there.

Ever eat at Corner Bakery? If you’re cutting your salt, don’t

Life can have unexpected consequences sometimes. Since the New Year began, I’ve been on a cleaning and organizing binge, likely because of Japanese-super-organizer Marie Kondo and her new Netflix series. My wife and I even organized our kitchen junk drawer, usually a no-mans-land of forgotten items.

And in that drawer I found I had an old Corner Bakery gift card. Corner Bakery was an early entrant in the fast casual category of restaurants — places that tried to be a cut above hamburger joints and positioned themselves as healthier with fresher ingredients than tradition fast food.

But as always with such claims, the devil is in the details. Or should I say the salt is the devil in the menu? The reason I never finished using my Corner Bakery gift card was because of the high salt content of most Corner Bakery offerings. So I’ve had this card for years with about $7 left on it to spend.

So I visited the Corner Bakery site today to see if by chance its menu has changed from the high-salt offerings I remembered. Sadly, it has not. It does have some very cool nutrition search functions, including one where you build a meal and another where you can rank all the menu items by salt content (or any nutrition content). Continue reading “Ever eat at Corner Bakery? If you’re cutting your salt, don’t”

Getting the salt out — it’s everywhere, here are some examples

Salt has become one of the three evils for my body since my first stent in 2012, and the second in 2016. I’ve redone my eating, cooking and food shopping habits to get the salt out of my diet and seen my blood pressure fall as a result.

Salt can lead to stomach cancer, one more reason to get it out of your diet.
Too much salt will be in processed and restaurant foods for years to come.

Americans eat more than the recommended amounts of salt daily because salt is in almost every food we buy, especially at restaurants, If you don’t believe that, take a look at this WebMD slide show about where salt hides in our foods.

Some, like frozen dinners or processed meats, you might already know about. But what about cereals, juices and canned veggies? Yep, there too. Enjoy and learn from the show…and do pass [up on] the salt.

A Salt-Free Thanksgiving Side — Roasted Vegetables with Pumpkin Seed Gremolata

If you’re searching for salt-free side dishes to make for Thanksgiving that will amaze and satisfy your guests try this variation on roasted vegetables from Chef Laura Frankel.

I recently met Chef Laura and sampled this wonderfully tasty dish, at a meeting of my local Mended Hearts chapter, a support group for heart disease survivors.

The dish contains things I never eat, like Brussel Sprouts. Somehow, Chef Laura has made them desirable, a miracle in culinary magic if you ask me.

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy!

Here’s the recipe:

Roasted Vegetables with Pumpkin Seed Gremolata

8+ servings as a side

3 large shallots, sliced thinly
1 pound Brussels sprouts, cut in half
2 Sweet potatoes, not peeled, cut into large dice
1 small Acorn or butternut squash, peeled and cut into thin wedges or large dice
2 raw beets, peeled and cut into large dice
1 small celery root, peeled and sliced thinly
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, preheat oven to 400F.

1. Toss vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on lined baking sheet.
2. Roast vegetables in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender.
3. Arrange vegetables on serving platter and sprinkle generously with Gremolata.

Gremolata

½ cup pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
6 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
Pinch of crushed red chili flakes
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
2 fresh sage leaves
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Toast pumpkin seeds in a dry medium saute pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they pop. Transfer seeds to a food processor.
2. Pulse toasted seeds, parsley, garlic, chili flakes, zest and juice, sage leaves and extra virgin olive oil until a coarse mixture is formed.
3. Sprinkle gremolata on top of roasted vegetables, roasted chicken, fish and turkey.

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