Friday, December 4, 2009

I miss the salt shaker.

I've always been a "salter." It was much worse when I was younger. I used to swipe salt packets from fast food restaurants and carry them in my purse in case of an emergency. (Wendy's had the best ones.) I've really tried to cut back since then. Probably because of how much water I retained when I was pregnant with Franny. My salt cravings are much worse when I'm pregnant. A few weeks ago I made some roasted asparagus and wouldn't stop singing its praise when Bobby finally said, "Um, babe, it's really salty." I didn't even know!

So ever since Thanksgiving my hands and feet have been swelling. Yikes! At 22 weeks? Doesn't that seem a little early? So I've decided to cut way back on my salt intake and have been looking for recipes that are low-sodium. It's not going great. I keep choosing recipes with ingredients like soy sauce- it doesn't get much saltier than soy sauce! I guess my main change for the week is I haven't been adding salt to anything and that's a big step. I'm trying to drink more water and all that. I really don't want to have to buy a new set of maternity clothes after Christmas when my current ones don't fit anymore!

So here's what we ate this week:

White Bean Turkey Chili
adapted from My Kitchen Cafe

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
2 (14.5 ounce) cans Great Northern Beans, undrained- lots of salt in here!
2 cups cooked, diced turkey
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup salsa (I use Pace Chunky Medium)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the remainder of the ingredients, except the mozzarella cheese. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the soup comes to a simmer. Add the mozzarella cheese one handful at a time, stirring to let each addition melt before adding the next. Stir to combine and make sure all the cheese has melted and serve.

I served the meal with my favorite whole wheat bread and some leftover cranberry sauce.

Garlic Chicken Pasta with Spinach
from My Kitchen Cafe

I've never flavored olive oil in the microwave before. I thought about doing it the old-fashioned way on the stove-top, but then I thought, "who am I to deny the microwave of its mystical powers?" Tasty dish. I always turn to lemon when I'm trying a new diet. Lemon rarely lets me down.

6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (this doesn't add spiciness - just the right amount of flavor)
6 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound penne pasta
1 (5-ounce) bag baby spinach
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried
6 tablespoons juice from 2 lemons
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Meanwhile, combine garlic, pepper flakes and oil in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave until garlic is golden and fragrant, about 1 minute.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and cut into bite-size pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer 1 tablespoon of the garlic/red pepper oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat until oil is rippling. Add chicken and cook until well browned and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil.

Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta to boiling water and cook until tender but still slightly firm (al dente). Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water. Drain pasta and return to the pot. Stir in chicken, spinach, basil, lemon juice, Parmesan, and remaining garlic mixture, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Cauliflower-Potato Curry
from the cookbook Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure

My good friend Marie is letting me borrow her pressure cooker and cookbook for a time and the other night I tried this vegetable recipe to go with our garlic chicken pasta leftovers. I have to admit, it was not a huge hit with this family. I liked it. If I were going to make it again, I think I would leave out at least a tablespoon of the curry. I just thought it was too much.

1 large head caulifower (about 2 1/2 lbs.)
2 tsp safflower or canola oil (I used vegetable oil)
2 tsp whole cumin seeds (I don't have the seeds so I waited until later in the process and just added a few shakes of cumin. Hmmm... a few shakes vs. 2 tsp doesn't seem like an even substitute. I just noticed that.)
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (I just used 1 can)
2 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs mild curry powder
1 tsp ground coriander seeds (skipped this)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt, or to taste
pinch of cayenne
1 1/2 pounds thin skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/4 cup minced coriander (I just remembered that I was going to add cilantro to this. Whoops!)

Cut the cauliflower into florets about 2 inches wide across the top. Set aside.

Heat the oil in the cooker. Sizzle the cumin seeds over medium-high heat just until they begin to pop, 5 to 10 seconds. Turn off the heat and add the coconut milk (stand back to avoid sputtering oil) and tomato paste. While stirring with a fork, sprinkle in the curry powder, coriander, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne. Bring to a boil. Set the potatoes and red bell pepper in the liquid and place the cauliflower florets on top. Lock the lid in place. Over high heat, bring to high pressure. Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 3 minutes. Reduce the pressure with a quick-release method Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow any excess steam to escape. If the potatoes are not quite done, replace (but do not lock) the lid and let them cook for a few more minutes in the residual heat.

Stir well to combine the cauliflower and the potatoes. While stirring, the cauliflower will break up into small pieces and amalgamate with the cooking liquid to create a thick sauce. Mix in the coriander before serving.


Jessica said...

Katherine: How did I not know you were a saltaholic? I am too. My siblings always make fun of me when we have family dinner about drenching my food in salt. Or putting salt on fruit. One more reason I think you're great. But I feel for you with your self imposed low sodium diet. It's for the best I'm sure.

The last Unicorn said...

I have been craving salty foods too! I can do with out the sweets... give me my salt! I have low blood pressure, so my doc has always said to eat salt, but I fear now it will not be doing me any favors. This food looks so good and savory enough to satisfy that need for something salty. I will have to try it. Love you!

Jane said...

I had to laugh when you said Wendy's has the best salt packets because I agree 100%. I have a major salt problem too. Do you put it on your pizza? yum yum.

Music Quest said...

Hello Katherine,
After just finding your blog and enjoying some of the antics of your family, I am quite enjoying reading your old entries and the artwork you do, that is amazing.\

You are a really delightful, hard working mother. I admire you for that.

Cheers, Meg

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