Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quick Tip - Instant Brown Rice (that doesn't taste like it!)

Now that brown rice is becoming more mainstream, I hear fewer complaints from people about brown rice tasting different than white rice.  These complaints are often replaced by comments like, "I would eat brown rice, but it takes so long to cook!"  Having been in a time crunch myself for more years than I can count at this point, I came up with a solution that allows me to have great-tasting instant brown rice for most meals.  For other meals, I have a fun project for kids (or the kid-at-heart).

Affectionately called "rice castles" or "rice cubes" - ready to go into the freezer

1) First, choose a night when you'll be in the house for 45 minutes or so whether or not you plan to eat brown rice that night.

2) Rinse several cups of rice (enough for multiple meals) in a mesh strainer or swish in a bowl full of water.  Repeat until water is clear and drain well.

3) For each cup of brown rice you measured out and rinsed, add 1.75 cups water to a pot along with the rice.*  Add a pinch or two of salt (optional).

4) Bring to a boil, stir well, immediately turn to lowest possible heat and cover.  Set a timer for 35-40 minutes.

5) When timer goes off, remove pan from heat but DON'T UNCOVER.  Allow to sit at least 10 minutes before eating.  Rice continues to cook after removing it from heat.  

6) After resting, rice can be eaten.  Allow leftover rice (or all of the rice if not eating that day) to cool to a temperature you're comfortable handling it at.

7) Take a measuring cup the size of your usual serving of rice for 1 person (anywhere from 1/2-1 cup) and pack rice into in, then overturn measuring cup and tap the edge on a sheet pan to get your very own rice "sandcastle" to pop out.  Repeat with remaining rice until you run out.  

8) Place the sheet pan with all of your rice "castles" on it into the freezer and allow to freeze overnight. The following day, overturn sheet pan onto kitchen counter and rice "castles" will come off.  Put them into ziplock bags and store in the freezer for later use.  I can fit about 8 into a gallon ziplock bag.

9) For instant rice on another day, take one rice "castle" or "rice cube," as I'm fond of calling them, out of the ziplock bag.  Put it into a bowl, sprinkle a few drops of tap water over it, cover with a plate and heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.  The rice is ready and tastes freshly cooked.  This is MUCH better than that terrible instant rice you buy at the store either in the pantry or freezer sections. (That stuff tastes truly awful to me!)  

*NOTE: the amount of water listed here is less than it says on the bag/box of rice you purchased because most of us actually don't end up draining the rice very well and a lot of water clings to in.  In my experience making hundreds of batches of rice this way, the amount listed here will be more accurate if you rinse rice before cooking.  Rinsing rice before cooking helps produce cooked rice that doesn't turn into a mushy, sticky, pasty mess.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pancakes - making them healthier without making them taste healthy

It was my first day off at the end of my first week as Internal Medicine Wards Resident.  I had a fiancé headed out of town on a business trip later in the day.  It had been WAY too long since we'd shared a lazy Sunday morning.  Pancakes seemed like the perfect breakfast food.

The recipe below is what I created in an effort to make a pancake that was fluffy and exactly what you'd expect from a delicious pancake.  Unfortunately for me, delicious pancakes usually have buttermilk in them.  As someone with whom dairy is not a friend, I created this version.  My intention actually wasn't to create a healthier version of the classic buttermilk pancake that didn't taste healthy, but that is exactly what happened.

Blueberry Pancakes with Maple Syrup

Breaking it down:

1) Sneaking in whole grains - as a baker and pastry chef, I've had a lot of time to experiment.  I find that   up to half of all-purpose white flour can be replace by whole wheat pastry flour without anyone noticing.

2) Cholesterol-free - this recipe has no eggs and instead uses baking powder and the combination of baking soda and vinegar to make the pancakes rise to fluffy perfection.

3) Saturated fat-free - canola or other vegetable oil is used instead of butter or shortening in this recipe.

4) Reduced fat - only 1 tablespoon of oil is used in this recipe.  This is 63% less fat than the standard recipe.

5) Healthy flavors - to boost flavor and interest, cinnamon is added to the batter and white sugar is replaced by dark brown sugar.  Frozen berries are added to the pancakes and used as a topping to cut down on the amount of maple syrup and butter needed to moisten and add flavor after cooking.  Other healthy flavor options are to use dark chocolate chips instead of berries and top the pancakes with peanut or almond butter instead of syrup.  A household favorite is to make chocolate chip pancakes, top with peanut butter and drizzle a little maple syrup over the top.  While the nut butter adds calories, it also add protein and decreases the glycemic load of the final dish.  (Don't worry, most people don't know what glycemic load is - more on that later.)

6) Dairy-free - buttermilk is replaced with vinegar and soymilk in this recipe.  Depending on your perspective on healthy foods, dairy may or may not be on your "good list."  For the majority of the people the in world, it's just not very digestible.  If you eat dairy products, feel free to replace the soymilk and vinegar with buttermilk in this recipe.

Fluffy Pancakes

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1-1/4 cups unsweetened soymilk
1 Tablespoon oil
¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 scant teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2-4 Tablespoons water, as needed
Toppings (optional): chocolate chips, frozen or fresh berries, real maple syrup, etc.

1. In a liquid measuring cup, add vinegar and then fill to the 1-1/4 cup mark with soymilk.  Stir to thoroughly mix (it will get chunky).

2. Add oil to liquid measuring up without stirring in.

3. In mixing bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

4. Preheat griddle to medium-high heat.

5. Add liquid mixture to dry mixture and stir just to combine.  Avoid over-stirring as this will make pancakes tough and chewy.

6.  Thin with 2-4 Tablespoons water.  The batter will still be thick after this.  Do not make it as thin as traditional pancake batter.

7. To cook, lightly oil griddle and scoop ¼-1/2 cup pancake batter onto griddle then use the back of a spoon or spatula to spread out the batter into a thin layer (about 1/4 –inch thick).  If using any toppings like berries or dark chocolate chips, immediately scatter these over the top of the pancake.  Cook cake until the edges start to appear slightly dry and like the batter is begin to set, then flip once and cook for another minute.  Pancakes should be lightly browned on both side.  

8. Serve with your favorite toppings.  I generally use Earth Balance (non-dairy “butter) and good drizzle of real maple syrup.

© Chef Michelle Hauser, MD, MPA

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Really Delicious Roasted Cauliflower

previous post featured a recipe for a spice mix foreign to most Americans - Ras-el-hanout.  On the accompanying video, I mentioned a few ways to use the mix.  One of these was on roasted cauliflower or Brussel sprouts.  Since it's officially fall, I figured it was time to share my recipe for roasted cauliflower.  It is the most delicious cauliflower I've ever had - hands' down.  You can use the same recipe to roast Brussel sprouts and lots of other fall and winter veggies.  You can also leave out the spice mix and just season with salt and pepper for a more basic dish.  Enjoy!

Dinner tonight: Red Quinoa, Ras-el-hanout Roasted Cauliflower and Edamame with Sun-dried Tomato and Red Pepper Spreads

Really Delicious Roasted Cauliflower

1 large head cauliflower broken up into 1-2 inch florets
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sliced garlic (about 5 cloves)
2 tablespoons spice mix (curry powder, ras-el-hanout, etc.)

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Spread cauliflower out in a single layer in a roasting pan.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with lemon juice and spice mix. 
3. Scatter garlic over the cauliflower and then toss or still well to coat cauliflower with all of the ingredients.

Ready for the oven

4. Roast for approximately 20 minutes or until cauliflower is staring to brown and there are crunchy bits on the bottom of the pan.  Stir a few times during cooking to ensure even cooking and prevent garlic from burning to the bottom of the pan.

What cauliflower looks like when it's finished

© Chef Michelle Hauser, MD, MPA

Thursday, September 13, 2012

In the Kitchen with the Chef-Doctor

Here are the recipes and video from the On Call with Dr. Darria episode that aired September 4, 2012.

Here's the link to her blog post about the episode  Check out her other posts and helpful tips about all your medical questions!

We’ve all become accustomed to foods flavored and preserved with a lot of salt, sugar, chemical additives, MSG, hydrogenated oil sources, et cetera.  When it comes to delicious food, however, healthy-fresh flavors win out.  

For this episode of On Call with Dr. Darria, I walked to my local Farmer’s Market to find what was in season and combined those fruits, vegetables and herbs with dried spices and a few items from the pantry to show viewers how to make the following sauces, condiments and spice mixes that are sure to add fresh, healthy flavors from around the world to your late summer table.  Many of the recipes can be made, or stored for use, at any time of the year as well. 

I also show how to properly store herbs and lettuces.  One comment I hear often from people is “I don’t buy herbs or lettuce because they only last a couple days and always go bad before I can use them.”  Tune in for tips to keep your herbs and lettuce fresh for up to 2+ weeks!

Seasoning Mixes

The following recipes use the words “spice” and “herb” a lot.  They are not the same thing!

Spice: any dried part of a plant, other than the leaves, used for seasoning and flavoring. This includes bark, seeds, roots, twigs, berries, etc.

Herb: leaves of a plant used for seasoning and flavoring.

Tip for making delicious spice mixes: the best flavor comes from toasting whole spices in a dry skillet and then grinding the spices.  It’s still delicious when made with pre-ground spices, just not the same.

Example recipe – Dry spice mix or rub:


This Moroccan spice mix is excellent on fish, chicken, vegetables, couscous, scrambled eggs, rice, tofu, lentils, lamb and potatoes.  Like any dry spice mix, the best flavor comes from toasting whole spices in a dry skillet and then grinding the spices.  It’s still delicious when made with pre-ground spices, just not the same. Make extra and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry place for use later. Lasts for months.

2 teaspoons ground cumin (or approx. 2-1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds)
1 teaspoon ground coriander (or approx. 1-1/4 teaspoon whole coriander seeds)
1 teaspoon ground allspice (or approx. 1-1/4 teaspoon whole allspice)
½  teaspoon ground cloves (or approx. ¾ teaspoon whole cloves)
½ teaspoon ground cardamom (or ½ teaspoon whole cardamom seeds)
1 teaspoon black pepper* (or 1-1/4 teaspoon whole peppercorns)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons salt, optional
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne*
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder, optional

-Option 1: stir all ingredients together. 

-Option 2: heat sauté pan over medium heat and add whole cumin seeds, coriander seeds, whole allspice, whole cloves and whole cardamom seeds. Shake pan until spices are fragrant.  Transfer to mortar and pestle or dedicated coffee-grinder (never use the same one for spices and coffee – your coffee will taste terrible) along with peppercorns and pound or grind to a powder.  Stir in ground ginger, salt, cinnamon, cayenne, turmeric, paprika and garlic powder.

Makes: just over ¼ cup spice mix.

*Halve these for less spicy mix.

Example recipe – Seasoning mix with ground nuts, seeds and spices:


Pronounced “Da’a” or phonetically Dha-ah, is an Egyptian condiment made of a mixture of pounded herbs, nuts and spices.  Versions vary a bit and generally contain salt, pepper and then one or more of the following: hazelnut or pistachio, mint, salt, pepper, cumin, caraway, sesame seed, cashew.  I’ve even seen some with coconut (I’ve never tried this, though, because it sounds terrible to me!).  It is REALLY addictive!  Traditionally, it’s eaten with flat bread (about the thickness of a pita) dipped in olive oil and then dipped in dukka.  It's also delicious to use as a crunchy coating for baked or roasted cauliflower or brussel sprouts and pork or poultry.

2/3 to 1 cup hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds or macadamia nuts, raw, unsalted*
1/2 cup sesame seeds, untoasted*
1/4 cup coriander seeds*
2 tablespoons cumin seeds*
1 teaspoon white sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon flaked sea salt or kosher salt

Directions :                 
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place nuts on baking sheet.  Grab a handful after 5 minutes to check for doneness.  To do this, look for a slight darkening in the color, smell for a toasty aroma and make a fist around a couple of nuts.  The should quickly heat up your palm if they are done.  If not quite there, they will cool off within a few seconds in your closed fist.  Continue to check every 2-3 minutes until done.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

2. For nuts with skins that are flaking off a bit. Once cool, lie a kitchen towel out on the counter, pour the nuts onto it.  Fold the towel over the nuts and roll around under your palms with gentle pressure to remove some of the excess skin.  No need to try to get it all off.

3. In a medium sized dry sauté pan heated over medium heat, add the sesame seeds, shaking the pan occasionally until the seeds are popping and starting to turn golden.  Keep a lid handy to prevent the seeds from popping out all over!

4. In the same pan, dry toast the coriander seeds and then the cumin seeds each until fragrant and starting to turn a slightly darker hue.

5.  Allow all toasted seeds to cool.

6. In a food processor or mortar and pestle, pulse or grind all ingredients until finely ground.  Beware, don’t grind too long or you will end up with nut and seed butter.

Makes: Approximately 1 cup, 16-1 tablespoons servings.  Varies with exact Kosher salt, but each serving has approximately 100mg sodium and 65 calories per serving.

Store: in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

*Time saver: buy nuts already dry roasted (unsalted), sesame seeds toasted, and roasted ground cumin and coriander.  This is much less tasty, but much faster and still delicious.

Example recipe – Seasoning mix using fresh herbs:

Gremolata  -- OMITTED FROM FILM due to time constraints
This smells heavenly when sprinkled on anything hot just before serving.  The heat releases the natural oils in the ingredients and fills the room with this enticing scent.  Delicious on cooked fish, chicken, pork, potatoes or vegetables (like roasted asparagus or cauliflower).  My favorite way to serve it is to sprinkle gremolata over any of the above, then drizzle with a good extra-virgin olive oil and then season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Gremolata can also be mixed with breadcrumbs to liven up any savory crumb topping.

Zest of 1 lemon (or orange), chopped finely
1/3 cup packed fresh parsley, tough stems removed, chopped very finely
2 garlic cloves, smashed and very finely minced

1. Chop all ingredients together or separately and then mix together. 

Alternative version: substitute orange peel for lemon.

Note: Parsley must be VERY dry before using.  If ingredients are damp, you will end up with a clumpy mess that is difficult to sprinkle.

Serve: As directed above. Use within 24 hours of making as flavors degrade after that. 

Simple Sauces, Dips and Spreads


As a vegetarian in the Midwest in the 1990s, I remember learning to make hummus and thinking I’d struck gold!  Now, it is found EVERYWHERE in the U.S.  However, those delicious eight-ounce containers that sell for $4.50 can be made at home for $2.00 using prepared ingredients and right around $1.00 if you cook your own chickpeas.  Not to mention that making it at home allows you to be creative with your flavor additions and bean choices.

1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (One 14-1/2 oz. can)
2 Tablespoons Tahini, Roasted or Toasted (Do NOT use “Raw” Tahini)
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice, or to taste
2 Tablespoon Olive Oil, plus extra for serving
¼- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
Salt, to taste
Water as needed

1. Place garlic in a food processor or blender to chop even more finely.
2. Add chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, cayenne and salt to food processor or blender.  Process until as course or silky smooth as you want, thinning with water to desired consistency.
3. Taste for salt and acidity – there is a DRASTIC difference between the under-salted and correctly-salted version.  Use additional lemon juice to increase acidity, if needed.

Makes: 2 cups

Serve: with fresh vegetables, pita bread, chips or use as a sandwich spread.  For a traditional presentation, spread in a platter, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with smoked paprika or ground sumac.

Variations: Add a bit of chopped green onion, parsley, carrot, etc., at the end of processing without completely pureeing these additions.  You can also use other types of beans and flavor themes to make a completely different style of hummus (i.e. white beans and sage or sundried tomatoes and basil, et cetera).


Pesto comes from the Italian word, “pestare,” which means “to pound or crush.”  This refers to the original preparation of pesto in a mortar and pestle.  Now, many people save time (and the mess…trust me, herb infused olive oil splattered all over your clothes is difficult to get out!) by using a food processor to create a paste.  Most people think of traditional Pesto Genovese when they think of pesto, so this is the recipe that I’ve included here.  However, you can use the same proportions of other herbs and nuts, plus or minus cheeses, to make as many sauces as you can imagine.

3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½ cup packed fresh parsley, tough stems removed, optional
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese (dairy-free and salt-free version: substitute 1/3 cup nutritional yeast and a couple dashes curry powder)

Food Processor Directions:
1. Place garlic, parsley and olive oil in the food processor and process until garlic is very finely chopped.
2. Add basil, pine nuts and parmesan (or alternative ingredients for dairy-free and salt-free version) and pulse until mixture resembles a paste of finely chopped, but not completely smooth, ingredients.

Mortar and Pestle Directions:
1. Pound garlic to a paste.
2. Add a handful of basil with a little of the olive oil and pound until reduced to a paste.  Continue to add a handful of basil and a drizzle of olive oil until all basil has been used.  Then do the same with the parsley if using.
3. Pound in pine nuts and parmesan (or alternative ingredients for dairy-free and salt-free version) until mixture resembles of not-quite-smooth paste.

Makes: Approximately 1-1/2 cups

-To store for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator, put pesto in an airtight container and cover with a small layer of olive oil to help prevent the browning of the basil. 
-To store for longer, I like to fill an ice cube tray with pesto, freeze, then pop out the cubes and store them in an airtight bag or container in the freezer.  Since the cubes are small, they can be stirred into any dish and thaw very quickly.

Note: Parsley is not traditional, but I use it to keep the sauce green since the basil has a tendency to turn brown.

Peach Salsa

If you have a food processor or blender, nothing could be easier than salsa!  This time of year, when every ingredient is fresh and plentiful at the farmer’s market, there’s no reason to spend $5.00 on a pint of “fresh” salsa at the grocery store made with near-tasteless hot-house tomatoes.  This recipe makes almost twice that much, is MUCH more flavorful and will cost about half as much by volume.

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
½ - 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (use more for spicier or less for less spicy versions) 
     [ how-to video - jalapeños ]
2 medium peaches, pitted and roughly chopped
1 large tomato, cut in half through the widest point at the middle, then seeded and roughly chopped
¼ medium yellow or white onion, roughly chopped
¼ cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
Couple pinches of salt, optional

1. Place vinegar, lime juice, garlic and jalapeno in food processor or blender and pulse until finely chopped.
2. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until and smooth or chunky as you like your salsa.

Makes: 3 to 4 cups

Serve: great as a topping to a savory dish such as grilled fish or chicken (or vegetarian equivalents) or served with chips – basically anywhere you’d regularly find a traditional tomato salsa.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Salt, Blood Pressure and the Diet

In this video, I discuss what salt is, how it is related to blood pressure, why we’re supposed to eat less of it and how that translates to the food we eat and real-life things we can do to cut down on the salt in our diets while still eating delicious food!

The text of the video is below.  Some items, such as “tips to reduce salt when eating out” and the equation for figure out how much sodium is in your salt at home, as well as figures and pictures are not included on the video.  


What do you think of when you think of salt?  In chemistry, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. Salts are responsible for countless essential things that you may not think about including growing food, sanitizing pools and drinking water, making computers work, creating nanotechnology, keeping things cold, melting ice, laboratory tests to diagnose diseases and drugs to treat them. 

Salts can give food any of the 5 flavors – salty, sour, bitter, sweet and savory.  They can be every color of the rainbow. 

But that’s probably not why you decided to watch this video. 

Like most people around the world, you’re most concerned with the health effects of sodium (aka. NaCl or sodium chloride) in your diet.  The average American gets almost 3,500mg sodium per day – way more than 2x the recommended amount and 1,100mg more than the tolerable upper intake. 

Definition: tolerable upper intake is a term used to caution against excessive intake of nutrients that can be harmful in large amounts. This is the highest level of daily consumption that current data have shown to cause no side effects in humans when used indefinitely without medical supervision.

Don’t get me wrong – we need sodium to survive.  How much do you think we need each day for survival? 180-500mg.  Assuming we need 500mg, the average American gets 7x that. 

Source: Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 

Why is this important? 

Because nearly 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to high blood pressure. 

As people eat more salt (on average) blood pressure increases.  The opposite is also true – when populations of people eat less salt, blood pressure decreases on average.  While it is true that many people will get high blood pressure as they age, it has been shown many times that populations of people that eat low salt diets do not develop high blood pressure at the early ages that people in the US (and countries with similar diets) do. 

The people most at risk of high blood pressure or worsening high blood pressure are:

- 51 year-old or older
- African Americans
- Those with diabetes
- Those with chronic kidney disease
- Those who already have high BP

For these groups of people, it is recommended you consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

For anyone else, the recommendation is no more than 2,300mg of sodium per day.

But want does this really mean for real people? How much salt can you have each day? That’s why I’m here.  First, a few more numbers.

You’re supposed to have no more than 1,500mg per day if you’re in one of the groups listed above or 2,300mg if you’re anyone else.  How much salt is this?

Amount of sodium per measure of generic U.S. table salt
1/4 teaspoon salt = 600 mg sodium
1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,200 mg sodium
2/3 teaspoon salt = 1,500 mg sodium ** Maximum recommended sodium for groups listed above
3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,800 mg sodium
1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium ** Maximum recommended sodium for all others

From top to bottom: 1 teaspoon measuring spoon, 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, 

2/3 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt 

Are all salts created equal? No.

Generic U.S. table salt weights 273 g per cup,
Morton’s Kosher Salt weights 218 g per cup and
Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt weighs 142 g per cup. 

Wow – that’s a big difference!  You can eat twice as much Diamond Kosher Salt by volume as you can regular table salt. 

No, I have no affiliation whatsoever with any salt company!  Why is this?  I use Diamond Crystal Kosher salt when I cook because, well, I’m used to it and know how much saltiness a pinch adds to a dish, but also like it because there’s less tendency to over salt, it is pretty inexpensive, has no off flavors and has a nice crunch. 

How much sodium is in your salt at home?

If you want to find out how much sodium is in the salt that you use, you’ll need a scale that weighs in grams.  Weigh 1 level cup of your salt (making sure not to include the weight of the container) and then multiply that number by 40% (or 0.4) to give you the grams of sodium per cup since salt is 40% sodium.  Now multiply that number by 1000 to get the number of mg of sodium per cup.  Take this number and divide by 48, which is the number of teaspoons per cup to get the mg of sodium per teaspoon of your salt.  

[(Weight of salt in grams) x 0.4 x 1000]
_________________________________     =    mg sodium per teaspoon salt

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as saying “hey, I’ll measure out my allotted amount of daily salt and use only that.”  At least 75% of the salt an average American eats comes from processed food.  Unless you make all of your processed food at home by opening cans and boxes and measuring portions and recording sodium per serving, it is almost impossible to keep track of your daily sodium – unless you minimize high salt processed foods and eating out. 

The absolute best thing you can do to reduce your salt intake is to prepare more meals at home using fresh, unprocessed or minimally processed foods.   

I give a number of other tips in other blog posts, particularly the recent on Flavoring Foods with the Farmer’s Market Bounty…Not a lot of Salt and will continue to address this issue in future posts because it is so important, but again, the best thing you can do to reduce your salt intake is to cook at home. 

This doesn’t mean you have to slave over the stove three times per day to make wholesome, elaborate meals.  The point of my blog is to show people how to make healthy cooking, delicious, time effective and reasonably priced.  If I could eat healthy as a poor kid in college and now as a time-strapped internal medicine resident, then you can, too!

Tips to reduce salt at home:

1) Cook at home.

2) Taste before you add salt.

3) Try adding something with a bit of acid – like hot sauce, lemon juice or a few drops of vinegar – either before adding salt or along with adding salt since the combination of acid and salt helps to bring out flavor in foods.

4) Use fresh and dried herbs and spices to add flavor.

5) Add interest to your plate by eating a variety of colors, flavors and textures – we eat with all of our senses and the less dull your plate is, the less likely you are to feel the need to add salt.

6) If you do use processed foods, opt for low sodium or salt-free versions.  You can always add salt or other seasonings or flavorings to taste later and will definitely add less than the processor would have in the full-salt versions.

Tips to reduce salt when eating out:

1) Opt for sauces and dressings on the side so that you can add only the amount needed as these items are generally salt heavy. 

2) Stay away from soup unless it is made completely from scratch. 

3) Stay away from tomato-based sauces unless they’re made completely from scratch with fresh tomatoes since the canned tomatoes used in most restaurant preparations of pasta and pizza sauces are very high in salt.

4) Avoid cheese and deli meats.

5) Look for foods that are grilled, baked, steamed, sautéed or roasted.

6) Ask if your dish can be prepared with little or no salt.

7) Avoid chain fast-food or fast-casual (i.e. Applebee’s, Chili’s) because food is usually just assembled and there is little control over preparing something with less salt.  However, you can look at these restaurant’s websites for sodium information and pick a dish ahead of time that’s lower sodium.

8) Any item with a lot of fruit and/or vegetables in it that is not a casserole or cream and cheese-based dish is likely to be a low-salt option.

9) Stay away from salty condiments like soy sauce, pickles, olives, ketchup.

10) The sauces on Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Indian food generally tend to be very high in salt, again try to get sauces on the side and add only as much as you need to steamed or lightly stir-fried vegetables and rice.

11) Choose sorbets and fresh fruit for dessert or a small piece of dark chocolate or share a dessert with the table.


Finally, it is really important to get plenty of potassium in your diet to maintain a healthy blood pressure as well.  The recommendation is 4,700 mg/day of potassium.  All the details of potassium will have to be another video, but eating a good variety of fruits and vegetables is the best way to get enough potassium. 

Good sources of potassium:

Green leafy vegetables (spinach, swiss chard, kale, etc.)
Beans (lima, soy, pinto, lentils, kidney, etc.)
Potatoes and sweet potatoes
Dried Apricots, prunes, currants, raisins and dates
Nuts and seeds
Dark Chocolate
Chili peppers and powder
Fish (salmon, pompano, halibut, tuna, lingcod, mackerel, anchovies, cod, snapper, grouper, trout, etc.)

Thanks for joining me, A Chef in Residency – I hope you’ve learned something to improve your health and I wish you all Happy Cooking!