Cutting back on the salt …

It appears I have been fairly inactive on the blog for a while (and in every single other way too, let’s face it). Let’s just say Easter went for a little too long. So, my healthy cooking has fallen by the wayside a little, and I have been pretty careless about my sugar and salt consumption. Alas, I am not perfect! 🙂 Today’s post is about salt (sodium chloride).

There is a lot of confusion and misperception about salt in the diet. Most people think that because they don’t add salt to their cooking then they don’t have to worry about it – wrong! Salt is hidden in all sorts of things, and it’s pretty scary considering that Australian’s salt consumption is way above the recommended level of 2300mg a day (which equates to just over one teaspoon).

Sodium is a mineral that is important in our body, it is a major part of electrolyte balance, working with potassium and chlorine to maintain an acid-base balance and control osmotic pressure. So yes, it is necessary to have a little sodium in our diet. But guess what? Sodium is naturally occurring in a lot of whole foods including fruits and vegetables, so you don’t have to go adding it on to to your hot chips thinking that you are contributing to your recommended daily intake! The major concern with having too much salt in our diet is the risk of increased blood pressure.

The real problem with salt consumption arises in processed foods. If your diet is high in ready-made, processed foods rather than whole foods, you might want to have a think about sodium. Salt is used as a flavour enhancer and preservative, appearing in just about everything we pick off the supermarket shelf: breads, tinned soups, tinned vegetables and legumes, pasta sauce and condiments, ready-made frozen meals and items such as packet noodle cups. Have a look at the sodium column in the nutrition panel on a processed food product in the pantry (per serve column). Keep in mind that the AGHE recommends a maximum of 2300g per day!

It’s not all bad news though; you can still have delicious tasting food minus the high salt content. My recipe for lentil and zucchini fritters, for example! By using lots of fresh herbs, onion and pepper, you don’t need to add any salt because there is already enough flavour. Salt substitutions can also include lemon juice, chilli, garlic, vinegar and spices. Another important note: a lot of people are under the impression that because it is sea salt, rock salt, pink Murray river salt, salt sourced all the way from the Dead Sea etc. that it is good for you because it has a higher mineral content. Yes, it has a higher mineral content, but it is still salt and still behaves exactly the same way in your body!

Time for food.

green herbs

Zucchini and Lentil Fritters with Fresh Herbs

Makes 6 fritters

1 x zucchini, grated

1 x cup canned or cooked lentils, (no added salt)

½ x onion, finely chopped

½ x cup self raising wholemeal flour

2 x eggs

1/4 x cup fresh dill, chopped

¼ x cup fresh coriander, chopped

Pepper, to taste

Place the grated zucchini, lentils, flour, herbs, pepper and eggs in a big bowl and stir well to combine.

frittermix

Heat up a large saucepan on a medium heat. Use a non-stick pan or a light spray of cooking oil so the fritters don’t stick.

Now get your hands dirty! Form the mixture into patties, and place gently into the hot pan.

Cook each one for about 3 minutes on each side, they should be golden brown. Use a spatula to gently flip over.

fritters

You can serve these fritters with a side salad or have them on their own as a snack. I served mine of a bed of sautéed kale with a bit of lemon juice. Yum! And no added salt 🙂

I Heart Vietnam

You know the awkward ice breaker questions that you have on a first date? … ‘What’s your favourite food?’ always tends to come up.

I dread it. It just opens up a can of worms.

I’m hopeless when it comes to picking just one. So now I just go by cuisine, which makes it marginally easier. At the moment it’s Vietnamese. Not that I have ever been to Vietnam so my concept of the Vietnamese cuisine could be way off, but I trust that Swan Street, Richmond is doing something right so I’ll go with my gut instinct.

Eating out as a vegetarian or vegan can be a bit tricky when it comes to Vietnamese because of the fish sauce, so I tend to make it a lot at home. Also a restaurant down the road that I used to work at does a lot of Vietnamese stuff, and I still like to think I have a bit of influence around there so I am allowed to be that pain in the ass customer and make super annoying requests to my order which is handy 😀

I found a vegetarian fish sauce the other day when I was at Vincent’s Vegetarian in Footscray (last I checked they also have a little stall at the Prahran market). If you ever need a vegetarian substitute for ANYTHING, go here. Literally anything. Ribs, prawns, duck, beef jerky (see below), they got it. So the fish sauce doesn’t taste exactly like the real thing but it gets shit done. And that’s all I ever ask for ya know?

vegan jerky

From a nutrition standpoint -> awesome option for take away. Lower in fat that Thai because of the lack of coconut milk, and a lot less oil and sodium than Chinese. Lots of fresh veg and herbs for flavour, although if you’re eating out the dressings tend to be quite high in sugar and salt so keep that in mind. But if you’re cooking at home, use coriander, chilli and lime juice instead.

I think Vietnamese is best to make when you’re cooking for a group of people. Because who wants to spend an hour rolling rice paper rolls when you’re the only one eating them? My beautiful housemate made an amazing banquet the other day with rice paper rolls, Banh Xeo (crispy pancakes) and noodle bowls. Delish.

banquet

 

Today I did something new and made Dao Hu Sot Ca. Yeah I dunno either. But it’s crispy tofu with tomato sauce. To be honest I’m not sure if it came out right because I’ve never done it before. But it’s tasty so all goooood.

Recipe adapted from Hungry Huy.

 

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Crispy Tofu with Tomato Sauce

Serves one. Because I am destined to be alone forever.

 

1/2 block of firm tofu (about 150g) (and make sure it’s firm not silken!)

1 tbs of coconut oil

2 ripe tomatoes
1 green capsicum
1 red chilli
1/4 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp [vegetarian] fish sauce
Coriander for garnish

Heat oil in a pan until you can see little bubbles
Slice up the tofu into cubes and place in the pan, it should sizzle, if not the oil isn’t hot enough
Let the tofu brown on each side until crispy

Chop up tomatoes
Slice capsicum and chilli finely
Place into a sauce pan with water, sugar, salt, and fish sauce and bring to the boil
Add the tofu and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce has thicken
Serve with lots of coriander

My Kale Romance

Ever since I can remember I used to have a problem with green leafy vegetables. Throw anything at me and I would eat it, but the green leafy stuff I just couldn’t do. It was a textural thing I think. The thought of putting a big bunch of salad leaves in my mouth still turns me off a bit..especially that ‘gourmet salad mix’ with the red lettuce leaves..that one’s the worst 😦

It was a shame really, because the first thing that comes to mind when we think of ‘health food’ is green veggies. And rightly so. They are definitely full of the good stuff. So my not eating them probably didn’t do me any favours…..Our green leafy friends do all sorts of things..they provide us with fiber, folate, fat soluble vitamins A, E and K and can also be a good source of Calcium and iron. Fiber provides the roughage in our diet that keeps our digestive system happy and also fills us up. Folate is needed for cell growth and development and is especially important during pregnancy as it reduces the risk of neural tube defects. And for those of us who are not eating red meat, green leafy veggies are a really important source of iron! Combine with a source of vitamin C and even better, so throw some red capsicum into the mix too 🙂

I could continue raving about them but I’m sure you get the point?!

Then one day I discovered rocket/roquette/arugula/whatever and my world was turned upside down (this also coincided with the Green Smoothie Discovery – but that’s another for another day). I loved the stuff! I like the peppery taste and it must be because the leaves are a bit finer so it doesn’t give me that horrible soggy texture thing going on in my mouth.. Anyway I used to eat bags of the stuff..take a look at my mega sized salad bowl that I would eat out of at work (I was the running joke come lunch time.)

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Fast forward to 2014 and I have ventured out into bigger and bigger things (sorry rocket). Kale! I really dislike following trends..especially nutrition trends..and I know kale is one of those super foods at the moment, but I honestly think it is fantastic. Again, it’s the textural thing. You can cook it and it doesn’t break down or go soggy. I usually just stir fry it for a few minutes until it turns bright green and then throw it into a salad, or you can bake the leaves and make kale chips, or you can shred it finely and put it into a soup, the possibilities are endless! Can you tell I’m in love?

Here is a really simple, tasty recipe that I’ve found on Taste.

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Roast Pumpkin & Kale Salad

500g pumpkin, diced

1 TBS olive oil

1 TBS minced ginger

1/2 tsp sea salt

1tsp cumin

1 bunch kale, shredded, stalks removed

1 cup cooked quinoa

1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Toss the pumpkin in the oil, salt, ginger and cumin, place in a roasting pan and cook for 30 minutes on 180C or until golden and tender.

Use cooking oil spray to oil a deep frying pan to lightly cook the kale until leaves turn bright green.

Don’t skip toasting the pumpkin seeds, it makes the flavour a million times better! Place them in a dry frying pan and toast until lightly golden, watch they don’t burn.

Toss the roasted pumpkin, kale, quinoa and pumpkin seeds in a big salad bowl.

Drizzle with olive oil and add S & P to taste.

Makes around 3 large or 4 small serves