A local woman with a severe health challenge turned her disease into a culinary passion that helps her and others cut back on salt intake. The so-called "Sodium Girl" has a refreshing take on traditional holiday treats.
"I have to watch the sodium in my diet, it's basically so that my kidneys can function better and my body can function properly," said Jessica Goldman-Foung.
A form of Lupus had Goldman-Foung on dialysis and on the list for a new kidney.
"I was on dialysis doing it every day and I decided I would try diet," she said.
A cooking show lover, Goldman-Foung took the DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and made something boring, beautiful for her body.
"Slowly my kidneys actually started regenerating, they work about 30 percent now and I'm kicked off the transplant list, kicked off of dialysis," said Goldman-Foung.
She calls herself "Sodium Girl," creatively working around salt with recipes that fool many salt lovers, especially during the holidays when savory foods are abundant.
One of her favorite tricks is to take fat-free ricotta and blend with a medley of herbs in a variety of ways, like pre-cooked pastas.
"Fill a little plastic baggie, tie it off, make your own little piping bag by cutting the end," Goldman-Foung suggested. "I fill mine with ricotta cheese."
Then fill each pasta noodle for a cheesy nugget bite. She also stuffs pitted dates with that herbed ricotta, then wraps them with uncured seasoned thin pork and secures that bite with a sage leaf. You can also make mini cheese balls with various spices - smoked paprika, fennel seed, cocoa or cinnamon - to spread on a cracker.
Instead of reaching for a high-sodium boxed or store bought breadstick, try making your own zero-sodium breadsticks by baking day-old pasta. After boiling some papardelle noodles and refrigerating for up to two days, twist the noodles together, lightly drizzle with oil olive and tasty herbs, then bake for a flavorful crunchy treat.
Try salt-free bruschetta on toast and smoked paprika couscous in lieu of caviar on crème fraiche; both burst with taste and texture.
"All really easy, all lots of flavor, nothing that's going to take you too much time, and nothing's going to cost you any sodium," said Goldman Foung.
Keep in mind the majority of the salt we get comes from processed foods, so if you're making a holiday meal you have a fabulous opportunity to offer foods low in salt, high in flavor.
Here are even more ideas from Sodium Girl to slash the salt from your holiday recipes:
When it comes to broth, even the low-sodium varieties can start to add up when you consider all the recipes that use it-the stuffing, the gravy stock, the soup, and oh how the sodium levels rise!
For a quick low-sodium substitution, simply boil dried mushrooms or fresh shiitake mushrooms in some water for 30 minutes to an hour (depending on how much time you have to spare). This simple broth has a rich, earthy flavor and as an added bonus, the mushrooms lend their own natural umami to any dish.
Also, if you happen to have any kernel-less corncobs lying around, don't be afraid to throw those in homemade broths or soups as well. The corncob will release leftover juices, adding a creamy texture and flavor to any pot, without adding milk or sodium.
To cut back on the sodium, you'll most likely cut out the milk and cheese from your potatoes this year. But that doesn't mean you have to lose flavor; it's actually an opportunity to try something exciting.
If you want that classic creamy texture, skip the milk and mix in mascarpone or even crème fraiche right before serving. Or if you crave that classic zing of Parmesan, use nutritional yeast in its place. This secret ingredient adds a familiar, cheesy flavor to everything from potatoes to popcorn. Just make sure the product you buy is MSG-free.
But if you're ready to ditch the conventional, skip the cheeses and creams and mix in fresh herbs, homemade pesto, roasted peppers and corn, sautéed mushrooms and leeks, or even unexpected spices, like curry. These additions are a quick way to add color, texture, and taste to your spuds. No salt necessary.
A quick word on the bird: most turkeys come pre-plumped. So make sure you order a turkey that has no added water, is free of brine, and air-chilled.
But onto the real sodium culprit: brining. While this technique keeps the turkey meat juicy, it also adds a more sodium to your plate. Instead of soaking your meat, try these techniques to keep the succulence without the salt:
- Rub unsalted butter (or unsalted herb butter) under the skin to keep the meat moist throughout the hours of oven time.
- Create a salt-free spice mix for the outer skin to give every bite a burst of flavor.
- Go for a glaze. Use preserves, molasses, and honey to create a tasty coating for the turkey.
- Use all of the above!
Classic graham cracker crusts are high in sodium. But that doesn't mean you have to slave away at making dough from scratch this holiday season. Simply substitute sodium-free matzo crackers for the graham kind, and make the dough as you normally would: butter + sugar + cracker + food processor.
And get creative by adding in cinnamon, nutmeg, and even pumpkin pie spice to give the matzo more flavor. Or really go for it by adding in cardamom, orange rind, or other unexpected ingredients.
Without the salt, you have total creative license. So this holiday season, get ready to make some new traditional dishes of your very own.
Low-sodium, everyday recipes mentioned above:
- Recipe: Roasted Tomato Bruschetta - two ways
- Recipe: Strawberry Balsamic Bruschetta
- Recipe: Herbed Pasta Breadsticks
- Recipe: Rigatoni Ricotta Bites
- Recipe: Curry Couscous Caviar
- Recipe: All-Spice Pork Wrapped Dates