Saturday, February 15, 2014

High Effort, Low Sodium

Hello, everyone!  As you may remember from my previous post, I have high blood pressure.  And I decided I was going to try low-sodium dishes, based on a cookbook by Sodium Girl!  Well, being night shift definitely has its disadvantages, and one of them happens to be the fact that it's pretty difficult to prepare food.  So, I haven't really stuck to my plan of eating low sodium.  I decided that this, however, would be the week.

Sunday night, Tom and I went to the local Ralph's armed with a list of ingredients from Sodium Girl's cookbook.  Some of the stuff I'd already bought the first go-around (when I didn't actually cook anything, but bought a bunch of ingredients), but I still needed a few spices and some fresh veggies and meat.  Apparently everyone does their grocery shopping on Sunday evening, because the store was packed.  We collaborated on getting some items, and used our handy-dandy smart phones to google what ingredients actually were.  For instance, neither of us was familiar with a green onion.  I asked a couple people working in the produce sections where/what the ingredients were.  For instance, is there a difference between a Zucchini and a Zucchini squash?  The internet says there is, but the produce man said there isn't, so since all the store had were Zucchini squash, I went with the produce man.

Anyway, standing in line at the checkout stand, we tried to guess how much our order (always find it a little weird when people call it this, but oh well) would be.  I guessed $150--I guessed first, so he guessed the same.  

Our grand total was $159 and some change--this included a copy of the Rolling Stone Nirvana magazine, and a Cosmopolitan magazine (I'll let you guess which magazine was for whom).  We were a little shell-shocked, but we pulled out our wallets and loaded up our groceries in the car.

The first meal I was going to make was Sodium Girl's Chicken Wraps-- I woke up Monday a little later than I intended, I ended up falling back asleep after taking the dog out.  Nevertheless, I was confident that I could still make dinner and allow us to get to work at a decent time.  I started prepping everything, and Tom went for a run.  About 30 minutes later, I began starting to freak out.  It was taking SO LONG, and WHY DID I THINK I COULD DO THIS?! And OMG, I ALMOST JUST CHOPPED MY FINGER RIGHT NOW.

Let me tell you, mincing garlic in a garlic press = NOT FUN when you have pretty much zero upper body strength.  I'm not sure it would be fun even if you did, but you get my point.

Eventually, I calmed the storm of crazy raging within me and realized that it just wasn't going to happen that night--I made myself be okay with it, and finished prepping most of the ingredients. When Tom came back from his run, I delivered the bad news (no chicken wraps this evening), and the good news (we get to eat Chipotle [i know, i know, SO NOT low-sodium]).  So, that's what we did.

When Tuesday came around, I was in the same tired boat, and didn't get up until too late again.  But, this time, everything was already prepared, except water chestnuts which needed dicing.  I got right on that, and began cooking.  

Our kitchen is small.  Like... really small.  So, it was kind of a challenge, and I made sure that the ingredients were ready and measured out so I could add them right away.

Everything went pretty smoothly... until the end.  The recipe called for plum jam (or other dark berry jam). Unfortunately, I couldn't find plum, so I ended up going with blackberry.  Anyway, I was making the sauce, and all was going really well-- it's a mixture of sesame oil, jam, brown sugar, and rice vinegar.  It was bubbling and smelling nice, and then all the sudden it's on my finger--and, as I turn around to turn on the cold water (that's how small the kitchen is), it drips onto another finger!

Ouch.  I haven't been burnt like that in a long time, if ever. Thankfully it was just a first degree burn, and I kept it under cool water for at least 10 minutes--but, still.  Not fun.  And not an auspicious start to my cooking endeavor.

Also, I cooked the chicken too long.  This was my first time working with ground chicken (actually, ground anything, I think..). The recipe said to cook it for "about ten minutes," for 1.5 lbs (I used 2 lbs), and I probably ended up cooking it for like 20 minutes, if not more.  Oops.  Oh well, we won't die from salmonella that way, at least.

We scooped some of the chicken onto the lettuce (or cabbage?  I'm not really sure.  The guy at the grocery store told me it was butter lettuce, but everyone who sees it says cabbage), and put some of the blackberry sauce on there (I had to microwave it because it became this hard, thick thing--more reminiscent of sludge than a sauce).

The end result?  Tom really liked it.  I feel confident that he wasn't just saying that because I personally did not care for it all that much, and told him as much-- which would have been the perfect opportunity for him to be like "Yeah, it's not that great."  But, he said he loved it.  So, that's good.  He ate a lot of it, and I didn't eat very much (in fact, I was still hungry after dinner)-- which sucked because it was dinner for Tuesday AND Wednesday.

[I actually wasn't feeling well on Wednesday, so I ended up not really eating, and cooked a few eggs when I got home--seasoned them with white pepper, and began to feel better.  Tom ate the chicken wraps and insisted again that they were delicious.]

Despite the fact that I didn't care for it very much, I'd definitely like to try this again... for the next time, maybe only a pound of chicken, and I'll not be cooking it for double the recommended time.  Also, I'll find some plum jam.  And try to figure out what I did wrong with the sauce to make it turn to sludge.

Meal #1 - Tuesday and Wednesday - Chicken Wraps with Plum Blackberry Sauce  Sludge:

Not quite P.F. Changs...

Thursday brought about a different meal-- the Honey Baked Pork-chop.  I was searing, I was baking, I was broiling, I was making gravy!  This one went relatively smoothly, until the end, when I couldn't get my meat thermometer to read correctly!  I'd been cooking for an hour, and needless to say I was a little frustrated, as I am wont to get when I've been doing any one thing for too long.  I finally ended up taking them out and giving up, after which time the meat thermometer read properly.  In fact, I would have liked them a little less done, actually.  Oh well, for next time I'll know!

I also cooked some asparagus in the toaster oven at work, I drizzled a little olive oil on them, and then cooked them for approximately 20 minutes before seasoning the stalks with some pepper.

Meal #2 - Honey Baked Pork Chops and Roasted Asparagus

Toughen up, Pork-chop!

For Friday's meal, it was leftover pork-chops, asparagus, and I ended up making some baked sweet potato chips (honestly, it was just too hard to cut them into fries with my crappy knife) with cinnamon and brown sugar.

Not quiiiite as crisp as I had hoped,
but enough to break up the flavor!

So, yes.  This was my first week of low sodium cooking.  Overall, not too bad.  I definitely learned some lessons:

1) Prep the night before.
2) Make sure you have all ingredients/proper tools before cooking.

3) Don't stress.  Yeah, right...

I kind of like cooking-- I like the accomplishment I get from having actually made a meal.  It's pretty satisfying.  I'm definitely not a world class chef or anything (nor will this likely turn into a food blog), but I'll definitely be sharing some stories, I can definitely tell.

I'm looking forward to branching out into more snack foods, and desserts.  I found another low-sodium blog via Sodium Girl's blog called The Daily Dish, and she has some really great desserts on there I'd like to try in an effort to keep me away from the vending machine at work.

Going out to eat this weekend with Tom. Originally, I had planned to cheat a bit at Outback steakhouse and have some delicious bloomin' onion, which I haven't had in a very, very long time.  However, I've decided to go ahead and try to keep the low sodium thing going, instead.  It'll be a challenge.  But, I am planning on rewarding myself after I've stuck to the low-sodium game for at least a month... with In-N-Out! With the caveat that the next day, it's right back to low-sodium.

Definitely looking forward to seeing how my culinary skills progress, though.  It'll be an adventure, to say the least!

Also, it's been 5 days since I minced garlic in my fancy garlic press, and I STILL smell like garlic.


  1. Hey good job, Natalie! Trying new recipes can be stressful for sure but it sounds like all in all it went OK!

    I love fresh garlic but I hate the after-smell on my fingers. Supposedly if you rub them on something that is stainless steel, it should take away the smell. Sometimes toothpaste works OK too. Or there's always disposable rubber gloves - something I keep telling myself would be a good idea to buy, but have yet to remember!

    Keep it up! You can do it! Just remember, you can always improvise with recipes when cooking (not always with baking). If one ingredient sounds gross, is too much work, too expensive or you just don't have it, eliminate it. You can also always add in things that you like. Tonight I made multigrain Belgian waffles...with Turkey, cheese, tomatoes, bacon, & chives inside! Lol! Sounded good, so why not. Not the picture of health however! Anyway, have fun with your cooking adventures! And keep blogging - I'm getting some good dinner ideas :)

    - Heather S.

    1. Heather! That is so funny that you say that-- I worked with garlic again today, and I used some vinyl gloves we had from when Cash had some unfortunate problems, haha. Worked like a charm! Also used them for the onion, and my hands smell normal. Also, one of the dishes I am making this week called for tequila, but we really didn't feel like buying tequila, so I'm just eliminating it. I'm sure it'll be fine!

      Thanks for commenting! And now I want some waffles, haha. :D

  2. Way to go, you! I think once you get into the swing of things you might start to like cooking - or maybe not, but you'll at least be eating better so that's good :)

    I am a huge fan of kitchen gadgets and had to recommend this little guy to you, it is the best garlic masher thingy ever. I never use my regular garlic press anymore.

    Then, there's this little magic thing that takes any nasty smell off of your hands. I need to buy another one as I think the last one ended up in the trash with veggie peelings (very sad indeed). I don't know how it works, but it does.

    Also, I don't know if this would work for you with the low sodium thing, but I follow this blog: She posts amazing recipes all the time. Her stuff is always easy to understand and pretty much always turns out for me. Again, she's not specifically low sodium, but you might still be able to use some of her recipes anyway.

    Happy cooking!

    1. Oooh, awesome! I'll have to look into the bar thingy! And the masher, even though I've gotten MUCH better at mincing haha.

      I'll check it out-- maybe I can figure out how to adapt it or whatever. I find myself wishing my birthday were closer so I could ask for cool kitchen stuff, haha. If only our kitchen weren't soooo small. :(