Thursday, April 29, 2010

more curves...

Sadly no recipes or photos to show today, but just more on the learning curves of cooking healthy and low sodium, and moving (we hope) towards normal blood pressure, naturally.

Growing up in Alaska and having easy access to fresh, FRESH seafood, I didn't learn till the military moved Klark and I to Colorado just exactly what the repercussions of "land-locked" really were. Colorado has been good to me, and I've reconnected with some great friends, but I am finding that I miss not just sea level (and the breathability it affords) but the ocean itself. I bought fish for the first time in my life last summer, and learned just how good I had it! Am perhaps waxing poetic about things over which I have no control, but have started treating the fish I buy with a little more respect and have made the mango peach blackened ahi again. 

I have been extremely pleased to learn that many of my favorite curries and other Asian foods can be made low sodium. And I've made chicken tikka masala a few times in the past month -- using the bottles from Whole Foods -- I LOVE that store... I could spend hours and Bill Gates' salary in there very easily. 

On the flip side, I learned that some of my favorite low-calorie, low-fat snack foods are extremely high in sodium - notably dill pickles. How disappointing. What did I do, but Google low-sodium dill pickles and I found what promises to be a great recipe from Low Sodium Cooking.I'm very excited to try it. 

In perusing the rest of the site, I learned that the owner, Dick Logue, has created a cookbook, 500 Low Sodium Recipes: Lose the salt, not the flavor in meals the whole family will love. It just arrived today and I looked at most of the recipes, and I'm very excited to start experimenting! Everything looks really really tasty, and I can't wait to try it all. His book combined with Clean Eating Magazine and Rachael Ray Magazine makes me look forward to cooking and playing around in our kitchen again, at least until summer hits, the house is 80 at its coolest, and the simple act of boiling water turns the house into a sweltering carpeted swamp.

It also makes me feel better about subjecting poor Klark to my new food reality when he gets home from Afghanistan -- there are lots of great favorite foods that we can make that will be super tasty. All things in moderation, but I am excited cook lots of fabulous romantic, healthy dinners in, and to save money, especially as we start to look at a move to our next duty post and we'll be living on a single income again.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

blackened ahi with mango peach salsa and tortilla chips

One of the things that I miss the most about living by the ocean is fresh seafood -- and by fresh I mean caught on my dad's boat and eaten same day. It doesn't get much fresher than that... I remember when we were in Panama, often it wasn't productive to order off the menu (because they hadn't necessarily caught everything that day and thus, didn't have it), but rather was more productive to ask what they did have, also caught same day. I miss that a lot. I also really miss my friend Shina's spicy tuna, but that's a story for another day.

Today, while at Costco on a plan to get veggies, fruit and chicken, I inevitably spent $125, including a beautiful ahi steak and a container of mango peach salsa -- all natural and surprisingly low sodium -- among many other must-have purchases. Funny how that works. I immediately decided to make blackened ahi tacos with the mango salsa, but mistakenly thought I had tortillas at home, so I decided to use tortilla chips instead, an awesome decision.

I withheld about 3 oz of tuna steak to make spicy tuna, which is now refrigerating while my brown rice cooks (I made enough brown rice to last for a few meals, so I'll turn it into sticky sushi rice later). In the meantime, I coated the bottom of an 8" pan with olive oil and 1/2 tsp of blackening powder and turned on medium heat before cutgin the rest of the steak (13 oz remaining) into 1/4"-1/2" wide inch-long strips. Once sliced, I placed in the pan and allowed to blacken.  Once blackened and cooked, I divided into thirds (a little over 4 oz each), mounded on a plate, topped with two tablespoons of the mango peach salsa, and surrounded with tortilla chips. When eating, I used the chips as scoops and ate utensil-free. 

Final dish: 355 calories, 13 g fat (nearly all unsaturated), 38 g protein, and only 321 mg sodium. Super yummy and super tasty!

I also made two spicy tuna rolls afterward using brown rice; first try with brown rice... the taste was fine, but the rolls didn't stay together very well. Not very pretty as you'll see, but looks aren't always everything. Spicy tuna rolls are some of the healthiest rolls out there, although sodium can be high depending on ingredients used (mine of course is low sodium).

Really good!!! I forgot how much I love spicy tuna and how easy it is to make. I used 3 oz tuna cut into 1/4" cubes, with a green onion diced, and a splash each of rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce + a tablespoon of  sriracha sauce. Then using my sushi mat, I spread the rice on the nori, place the tuna mix near the top and roll up. Then slice and serve. I didn't even need soy sauce or wasabi because of the extra sriracha. Very tasty.

Also I learned that not all things that can be ground up by the disposal should be ground up by the disposal as they don't go down the plumbing. I've learned that I can also be a plumber extraordinaire, as I took apart the plumbing underneath the disposal and pulled out the remains of my chopped off ends from the tropical flowers I bought today. The things I never thought I'd have to do, but have I mentioned that I can't wait until my husband is home to take care of little things like that?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

the learning curve

I haven't done much cooking from scratch this week since the great Cornish game hen night (yum yum yum), but I did a lot of wandering through Safeway, King Soopers, and Whole Foods looking for low-sodium foods and salt-replacement products. I'm shocked at how much sodium some of my favorite foods actually have — mac & cheese, pre-packaged Annie Chun's meals, Progresso soups, the list goes on, even including some of my favorite "healthy" dressings. Maybe no more easy meals for me. I was also shocked and disappointed to learn the amount of sodium in one of my favorite "healthy" lunches -- Pita Pit.

A good friend told me about a product called Fortisalt out of SLC, made from minerals that works just like salt to enhance flavor, but with no sodium that is carried by natural food stores. No luck there, I called everywhere in COS including my shopping expedition to Whole Foods, and finally settled on purchasing a product called Nu-Salt, along with another sodium-free seasoning and a sodium-free Thai seasoning. Then I bought Fortisalt from Amazon, because I can't do anything half way. Will be sure to note how it works and how I like it.

I was pleased that no one noticed that I'd used Nu-Salt on the hens... and also pleased to find the Whole Foods' Tikka Masala sauce was low enough in sodium to justify purchasing. Soooo yummy.

There's definitely a learning curve to this — as I discover more and more about what is truly healthy. Low calorie, low fat, while important, really don't go the whole way or tell the entire story. I knew this of course, but I'm learning now just how much some of the things I've taken for granted are not as healthy as I thought they were.  It means I've got to do more cooking on the weekends and freeze meals so that when I have those late nights at work, I can have fast and easy and healthy meals... without having to eat the same thing for lunch and dinner three days in a row. Although, when Klark's home, leftovers will be less of a challenge and more of a dream.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

cornish game hens...

This is a recipe I made first for Christmas dinner with some friends as an experiment, fully prepared to order pizza if it flopped. It not only didn't flop but it became a special occasion favorite... and a fun and easy meal to make. Not sure about the nutrition info, and I know game hens are high calorie, but it's a nice treat. Tonight I'm making it for some friends and hope it turns out great --- first go-round I bought some Tyson hens from a butcher, the second, I bought hens from the AFA commissary, and this time I bought some pre-thawed (YES!) hens from Whole Foods. I love that place.  We also found that a great wine pairing is a 2001 Bordeaux from Chateau La Papeterie in Montagne-Saint-Emilion.

So courtesy of the December/January 2010 Taste of Home Magazine, I'm showing off this recipe again.

berry-port game hens
1 large orange
2 Cornish game hens
1/2 tsp salt (will be using Nu-salt)
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup ruby port wine or grape juice
1/4 c seedless strawberry jam
5 tsp stone-ground mustard

Finely grate the orange peel to measure 1 tsp. Cut orange in half widthwise; cut a thin slice from each half, quarter slices and set aside. Juice the orange to measure 1/4 cup.
Loosen the skin around hen breasts and thighs and place orange slices under the skin.
Place hens in greased 13x9 baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake uncovered at 350 for 40 minutes.
In a small saucepan, combine wine/juice, jam, and orange juice. Bring to a  boil before reducing heat and simmering uncovered for 6-8 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir in mustard and orange peel. Set aside 1/2 cup sauce for serving; brush remaining sauce on hens. Bake 10-20 minutes longer, basting with pan juices. Warm reserved sauce and serve with hens.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

devilish sesame chicken with green beans and scallion rice ...

I first made this recipe about a year and a half ago, after finding it on Rachael Ray's web site and it's since become a staple at our house. Super easy to make and really really tasty. I love the chicken stock flavored rice tossed with green onions.

"Hot sauce makes this recipe devilish and honey gives it a bit of sweetness. Why order takeout when you can make this Chinese-inspired dish at home?!"

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 cup white rice
2 cups chicken stock, divided
1/2 pound green beans
1 pound chicken breast, chicken cutlets or chicken tenders, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons Tamari (dark soy sauce)
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

  1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil, one turn of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the rice; toast, stirring, for a minute or two. Add 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, lower the heat, cover and simmer until tender, about 17 minutes.
  2. In a medium size skillet, bring 1 inch of water to a boil, salt it, add the green beans and cook for 2 minutes; drain and rinse with cold water.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, two turns of the pan, over high heat until rippling. Add the chicken and cook until golden, 3-4 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and cook until just softened, 3 minutes. Add the green beans and cook, tossing, for 1 minute.
  4. In a bowl, mix together the Tamari, honey, hot sauce, mustard and remaining 1/2 cup chicken stock. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables; toss. (I've found that it works best to let the sauce simmer and reduce down for optimal flavor.)
  5. Drizzle the sesame oil over the chicken.
  6. Stir the scallions into the rice and fluff with a fork. Serve the chicken over the rice and top with the sesame seeds. Cover to keep warm.

sweet potato fries...

I absolutely love sweet potato fries, and order them whenever possible. I've tried on a couple of occasions to make them and they haven't turned out right. I particularly love the orange color of the ones I've eaten at the Peanut Farm and at Jack Sprat back home in AK, and wonder if this color comes from using yams instead of sweet potatoes... but then, I admittedly don't know much about yams or sweet potatoes, including the difference between them. Sadly, at the grocery store, I have to look at the signs to help me identify which is which.

The first try consisted of tossing julienned sweet potatoes (white) in olive oil and then rolling them in a mixture of ground sea salt and pepper. The taste was fine but I haven't yet found a great dipping sauce, and they got a little crispy. I don't know whether that's the fault of my ancient electric oven (a fabulous ivory color) or of the 6500 foot altitude of my house — or the combination of both, but I certainly miss sea level AND my gas oven!

Attempt number two was much the same, but I added paprika. I tried a wasabi mayo dipping sauce and a ranch dipping sauce, but not quite right. Will try Sweet Thai Chili for the next round. Fewer crispy guys this time. Have learned that I need to set the oven about 25 degrees lower and cook about 80% of the recommended time. It happens.

So, I'm still on my quest to perfect the sweet potato fries (and to make them low-sodium) — can it be done? I welcome any comments and/or suggestions.

lentils madras...

Ok. Lots of lentil posts today — no, strike that. Lots of posts today in general. But, lots of catching up to be done, and lots of recipes to include that have been great! Lentils madras have long been one of my favorites and I usually buy the Tasty Bite boxed meal, but lots of sodium there, and they get pricey. I decided to make my own, this dish from The Daily Green turned out really well, and I served it with basmati rice cooked with a TBSP of unsalted butter. Really tasty, although not much like Tasty Bite's creation, this is a keeper and I'll definitely add it to the repertoire. Their four servings are more like 6-8 and this could be easily halved; I froze about 1/3 and divided the rest into three containers with what I've deemed to be two servings each. YUMMY.

Madras Lentils
The word "Madras" in this recipe refers to the type of curry powder used to create a unique spice blend of curry leaves, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, chile pepper, bay leaves, fenugreek, allspice, and black pepper.


2 tablespoons olive oil 

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger 

1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 

1 small cauliflower (2 pounds) cut into florets 

3/4 pound all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

2 tablespoons curry powder, preferably Madras 

1 teaspoon ground cumin 

1 teaspoon ground coriander 

2 1/2 cups canned tomatoes, chopped, with their juice

3/4 teaspoon salt 
(I just ground a little bit of sea salt in, not 3/4 tsp though)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt, for serving (optional)

1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed


  1. In 5-quart Dutch oven or large saucepan with lid, heat oil over low heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, 1 minute or until garlic is tender. Stir in bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently 5 minutes or until tender.
  2. Stir in cauliflower, potatoes, lentils, curry powder, cumin, coriander, and cook 2 minutes or until well coated.
  3. Add tomatoes, salt, black pepper, and 1 3/4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook 30 minutes, or until lentils are cooked through and vegetables are tender.
  4. Stir in peas and cook 1 minute, or until heated through. Divide curry evenly among plates and top each serving with yogurt if desired.

Read more:
Lentils on FoodistaLentils

lentil soup...

So... another lentil recipe, also from This was awesome, but it made so much that I couldn't finish it all and had to toss it. I hate leftovers and I should have frozen half, but I didn't. Surprise! My lack of foresight is not a first.

2 cups dry lentils
2 quarts chicken broth
1 onion, diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin

In a large saucepan combine lentils, broth, onion, tomato paste, garlic and cumin. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are soft, 30 to 45 minutes. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.

Lentils on FoodistaLentils

lentil quiche...

ok. So, I'm playing catch-up. I tried this recipe while my mom was in town last month -- found it on It was so good that I have tried it once more and have recommended it to tons of people. It's easy, fast, healthy, and delicious.

I found "Italian seasoning" to be a little generic, so I tried Mrs. Dash — and it came out a little bland the first time. The second time I took "Italian seasoning" to heart and added garlic powder, basil, oregano, and parsley and went over my two teaspoons — and found it to be too flavorful. Third time will be the charm. See, I promised lentils... two more recipes coming!

1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup dried lentils
2 cups water
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Place the onion and olive oil into a 9 inch deep-dish pie plate. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until onion is tender.
  2. Place the lentils and water into a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Drain most of the water off, then place the broccoli florets on top of the lentils. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. This will dry the lentils, and cook the broccoli.
  3. Transfer the lentils, broccoli and tomatoes to the pie plate with the onions, and stir to evenly distribute each item. Stir in cheese at this time if using. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Pour over the ingredients in the pie plate.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the center is firm when the quiche is jiggled. Cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Lentils on FoodistaLentils

the beginning...

Recently, very recently, I learned that I love to cook, not usually your normal everyday things, such as steak and potatoes, which I leave to my husband, but fun meals. Often ethnic meals. My mother-in-law told me that I like "weird food", although I'm not sure that salmon and fresh spring rolls count as "weird". I also love pasta and salt and Doritos. I don't drink a lot of soda, don't eat much fast food, and although you could say that a bag of Doritos can be my downfall, for the most part I eat mostly healthy. I do love wine, and though I occasionally have more than one or two glasses, most of the time, there's no excess.

Unfortunately, I've also recently learned that I have high blood pressure... I don't think I'm a stressed out person, but I have gained some weight since Klark and I got married and there's a family history, which are both factors, along with my love of salt. Suffice it to say, I need to cut out a lot of the sodium in my diet.

Hence, the blog.

Once or twice a week, I plan to try a new recipe or modify an old favorite that is healthy, low-sodium, and tasty (tasty is key, otherwise I'll add salt), and make enough for leftovers. This should help me shift from a diet that, up until this point, has been significantly pastatarian to something healthier. Although the CSA shares here in Colorado Springs are too large for one or two people, I'm excited to make weekly or bi-weekly trips to the farmers markets for lots of fresh local meats and produce once they open in a few months. I'll post the recipes, how they turn out, and — if you're lucky and I remember — pictures of the finished product.

*Warning* I love love love love LOVE lentils, so there will probably be lots of lentil recipes.

The experiment begins... hopefully lower blood pressure will be a result... if not fun is next most important.


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