Flavor Tips for Salt Free Cooking
Take a few minutes and read these low sodium cooking tips. Most of you will find a salt free seasoning tip or several that will help you with your low sodium diet and help you stick to it.
For a Salt Free Tex-Mex Dorito like flavor: take #103 Table Tasty salt substitute and #117 Bravado chili seasoning at about a 50/50 combination. You will get a Dorito like flavor and it's salt free. Sprinkle on unsalted corn chips, unsalted potato chips, unsalted nuts, potatoes, eggs, popcorn. Even in sour cream as a dip and add to guacamole. Beat some into eggs when making a Spanish Omelette and stir in or sprinkle on some of this mix to spice up deviled eggs. This combination is amazing when added to taco meat, even sprinkled on grilled fish for fish tacos. It really does make a good salt free taco seasoning. It's also good added to beans.
Since most of you are not using bacon fat for that nice smokey flavor in your greens or beans, you can try Wrights Liquid Smoke. A drop is all you need as it is very potent but it gives a nice smokey, grilled taste made from roasted hickory wood. Soon we hope to have a salt free seasoning blend with a nice smoke flavor.
There are just three basic carriers of flavor: fat, water, and alcohol.
Avoid croutons, they are usually very high in sodium. Try making your own (it's not hard), or just forget about them.
Corn tortillas are commonly made without salt and therefore have no sodium. Read your labels and even if there is salt they still may be low in sodium.
A pressure cooker is a great way to cook quickly and add lots of flavor. Cooking in a pressure cooker, adds flavor just like you had been cooking all day. It's a great way to cook tougher cuts of meat (as they are usually more flavorful). These tougher cuts will cook up tender, in minutes versus hours. This is a great way to cook soups and stews, for maximum flavor. We have used a pressure cooker for years (one that says can't explode).
Most margarines and shortenings are trans fats. Trans fats are proven not good for your heart. Stay away from anything that says hydrogenated. That means trans fats.
Macadamia nut oil is a very heart healthy oil with a rich buttery taste. It's not butter but it's very good. Try macadamia nut oil on popcorn with Table Tasty and you popcorn lovers who are on a low sodium diet and have felt deprived, will be amazed how good this tastes. A heart healthy, buttery, salty taste. Just air pop some popcorn. Drizzle with some macadamia nut oil. Sprinkle with Table Tasty, toss with your hands, add a little more oil or Table Tasty, if needed.
Buy meats with the bones when possible. Bones add flavor. This works for everything. Beef, chicken, turkey, fish, or pork. A pork chop for example with the bone will have better flavor than a boneless pork chop. It's just the way it is. Always make your soups and stews with some bones. The flavor difference is huge.
When you are shopping, be aware that most of the time when a product says low fat or no fat, the sodium may be 2 or 3 times higher than the regular product.
Try a pinch of cayenne or chili powder, even a little ground white pepper added towards the end of cooking, especially in soups, sauces and gravies. This can add a little zip without making it hot. Soups are some of the most challenging dishes to cook salt free and tasty. Table Tasty really helps here and so does a pinch of #117 Bravado chili seasoning. You can also add a little (a pinch) of red pepper flakes at the begining, to the olive oil, when you are sauteeing vegetables especially when you are going to use these vegetables for a soup or a sauce.
Wood chips are a flavorful addition when grilling or barbecuing or using a smoker. There are many types of wood to choose from and sizes. Just make sure you soak them well, first, or they will just burn up and not smoke. Hickory wood chips are the most popular and can be found in most grocery stores. Try mesquite or apple wood for completely different flavors.
Fresh Meats naturally have 20-30 mg of sodium per ounce.
Nut Oils, are heart healthy, no sodium and no potassium. Walnut oil is considered the most heart healthy nut oil as it has the most omega 3 fatty acids. All tree nut oils have special heath benefits. Roasted nut oils, tend to have the most flavor. Nut oils can turn rancid so always store them in the refrigerator. These are great to create more flavor in salad dressings and vinaigrettes. Also, delicious drizzled over vegetables. Try almond oil, hazelnut oil, pecan oil, macadamia nut oil, pine nut oil, and others. The flavors can surprise you. More flavor for a low sodium diet.
Cook with a rainbow of colors. You've heard the saying "We eat with our eyes first." Make your food colorful. When using the basics, like onion try adding also red onion or some green onion. Bell peppers, instead of just green, splurge and get a red and/or yellow bell pepper. Use celery, (always the darker the green, the better), and carrot (unless used raw is usually peeled, otherwise the peeling may turn dark when cooking). Use different colors of squash, like green Italian zucchini, yellow bar zucchini, and white zucchini (light green) or called Mexican squash. Try different colors of potatoes instead of the same kind every time. Tomatoes come in a variety of colors and flavors. If you miss the taste of a really good flavorful tomato and you don't have a garden, try heirloom tomatoes. They are usually varigated and not the prettiest shapes, but they have great flavor. Even if you just use red and yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half, the color and presentation on the plate is beautiful. It's amazing what a variety of colors on your plate can do. This adds a definite eye appeal. It's healthier. Colors are richer in antioxidants. If you have trouble finding colorful fruits and vegetables, shop your local farmers market. You will find varieties of the freshest produce both colors and flavors that you never see in the grocery stores. We all should be supporting our local farmers markets.
Many of you ask about what kind of chicken to buy? We always tell you watch the labels and the very fine print on the labels. It is a common practice especially with boneless skinless chicken breasts to inject them with a sodium broth. Now I am seeing this more in other chicken products. Many chicken pieces are ice glazed. The glaze is a sodium broth. Here is a link to a page by Foster Farms discussing this process about plumping (injecting with a sodium type broth). http://www.saynotoplumping.com/
Always look for yellow chicken. The more yellow the better. The chicken is usually raised more natural and is usually a little older so a little bigger and we have found almost always has better flavor. Yes, we usually buy chicken with the skin on. It makes for a better tasting and a moister chicken recipe. You don't have to eat the skin. As you read above, most skinless chicken has a sodium broth injected. If you can find a natural cage free or free range chicken, they are usually the best. Usually expensive but amazingly good and no hormones or antibiotics. Kosher chicken is usually brined (read your labels). Occasionally, we shop at Mexican markets in our area and their chickens are usually very yellow. Sometimes the chickens are fed marigold petals to help get that yellow skin. The Mexican shoppers seem to know that yellow chickens are best. Even if the yellow is helped along, these chickens tend to be bigger and more flavorful. Good to cook long and slow. You may find this to be the case in other ethnic markets.
It looks like most all of the turkey is being plumped (injected with a sodium broth) or brined. Look for free range, no antibiotics or hormones. These farmers raise their turkeys this way so they are the most natural and usually the most flavorful. These will most likely not be plumped. Not easy to find. Try natural food stores, or direct from the farms, or mail order.
Breadings - Plain flour is most commonly used to bread meats or vegetables for cooking especially frying. Flour tends to need salt otherwise it tastes bland like paste. Try adding seasonings (like Gusto) to the flour before breading, this makes a big difference in the flavor (not bland) but you still achieve a crispy coating. Try other breadings like ground nut flour or nut meal. Almond meal or almond flour is good and fairly easy to find. Store this in the freezer so it stays fresh. There are many other types of breadings that give you flavorful results. Light batters like a tempura batter, egg whites, beer batter, corn meal, ground or chopped nuts, seeds like seasame seeds, rice flour, cornstarch, arrowroot, a little mustard or ground mustard seeds, freshly ground peppercorns, or try a variety of mixed peppercorns. Even a pinch of cayenne or chili added to a breading adds a little kick to take away the bland. It doesn't have to be hot just flavorful.
If you are eating bread...buy good quality bread. Cheap or inexpensive bread is usually much higher in sodium. Try breads seasoned with garlic, herbs and/or seeds as they will have more flavor and the sodium tends to be lower. For example, try breads like, sourdough, rye, garlic, jalapeno, even olive oil bread for some ideas.
Shop for your groceries in the outer perimeter isles of the store. Most of the high sodium products are in the center isles. The outer isles you will find your fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, dairy and meats. Buy fresh as you can.
Add wood chips to your smoker, barbecue and when grilling. Wood chips come in a variety of woods and sizes. The most common is hickory wood in chunks or chips which you can find in most grocery stores. You can also find mesquite, apple, maple and others. Every wood imparts a different flavor. Make sure you soak them in water before using. You want the smoke not a fire.
Never add salt to water - You will be surprised how flavorful your food will be without adding salt to the water when cooking vegetables, potatoes, pasta, rice, even oatmeal. If you think about it, usually you add toppings, or sauces, seasonings, etc to these foods. There is enough flavor in these to compensate for not adding salt to the cooking water.
Think you must add salt to a recipe? Sometimes, you think you need salt especially in baked goods. Try cutting the salt called for in the recipe in half and you usually will still have good results. Perhaps the next time you can cut that amount in half again. Then eliminate the salt altogether. Think of salt as a flavor inhancer. Salt is not usually needed for a chemical reaction, for example to make bread rise. Depending on what you are prepareing, you can add more vanilla or other flavor extract, or fresh lemon zest, or black pepper, seasame seeds. or other seasoning, with good results.
Sea Salt and other fancy salts, Kosher salt have the same amount of sodium per weight as regular table salt.
Add minced fresh Italian parsley towards the end of your cooking. Usually when you're ready for that last stir before you're ready to serve. Then sprinkle with a little more fresh parsley on the very top of your food just as you've placed it on the platter or bowl, to serve. Parsley adds a nice fresh taste with a hint of saltiness. Parsley is one of the most nutritious herbs and makes the finished dish beautiful. This must be nice fresh green Italian parsley leaves, not old, or yellow and not too much of the stems, for the best results. (This is one of the main reasons we have parsley flakes in all of our seasonings. For taste, with that little edge of saltiness and to make the food beautiful).
Chopped fresh herbs added at the end of cooking really can perk-up a dish. A little fresh basil for instance, stirred into pasta sauce just before serving, adds a lot of flavor and aroma. Sprinkle a little more on top. If fresh herbs are added to a hot recipe, just the warmth of the food will carry the aroma of the fresh herb.
Good aroma really helps food taste better. If you pinch your nose closed and taste something most cannot taste anything. The smell (aroma) of the food is important to increasing flavor. That is why nothing tastes good when you have a cold. No smell, no taste. This is why when cooking with our seasonings (because they are so fresh and have very aromatic ingredients), the smells (aromas) are so wonderful. You can call this true aromatherapy. Aroma definitely helps the flavor of the food.
Note: If you are cooking for someone who is not eating very well. Make sure you try a crockpot or slow cooking. Fill the house with the aroma of good smelling food. It opens the appetite and starts the taste buds working. Remember when you would walk in to a house when someone was cooking something that smelled so good...you couldn't wait to eat.
Note: If you are eating a healthier diet - a low sodium diet, these are lifestyle changes. We highly recommend growing some fresh herbs to go along with our seasonings, as they do compliment and add more flavor. It's less expensive to grow your own and it is enjoyable to eat something you've grown. If you have never had a garden, this is a good place to start. You can even start by growing a few herbs on the kitchen windowsill. If you are wondering which herbs to start with, try the fantastic 5 fresh herbs: Parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme (like the song) and basil. You could add cilantro, dill, tarragon or whatever you like.
Cooking tips are added often, so keep checking back.
Marinades help add flavor and can be used for a variety of foods. A steak marinade is one of the most popular. However, there are many kinds of marindes for chicken, pork, fish, seafood, and vegetables. A marinade is traditionally an acid and an oil plus flavorings. For example, an acid could be lemon juice, or wine or vinegar. An oil could be vegetable oil, olive oil, even a nut oil. Flavorings could be garlic, onion, lemon zest, herbs, spices, seasonings of some sort even cayenne or chilies. Marinading can be for just a few minutes, a few hours or even overnight. Note: Don't use fresh citrus juice for fish for more than a few minutes as it cooks the fish.
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