Beef stew without salt

In the past, I’d make beef stew either in the crock pot or stove top, using a seasoning packet and bouillon.  I’d use left over steak or stew meat bought at the store, with plenty of fresh and/or canned vegetables.  Now that we are low sodium, I can’t just throw in bouillon and seasoning packets.  The sodium is in the thousands in both the broth and bouillon.

What we have been learning is the fresher the ingredients, the better the flavor, even without salt.  I recently  made a beef stew using a low sodium liquid beef broth and just 1 teaspoon of a seasoning packet.  I add water 3 times equal to the broth (14.5oz) This keeps the sodium low, but keeps flavor in there.  Also, the left over steak was marinated in low sodium Teriyaki sauce, so once cubed and put into the stew, it added flavor.

I add cubed potatoes (Russet give an earthy flavor, red potato are a bit sweeter), celery, carrots, green beans, onion and corn.  All add their own flavors to the whole stew.  1/4 teaspoon minced garlic and  a bay leaf also.

It simmers for a couple hours, till all veggies tender.  We like it thickened so right before serving we mix corn starch with a little water and then pour into stew.  It will thicken the whole thing.


Do the Math

Now that we have had ample time to adjust our cooking to very low sodium, its time to start looking at actual measurements of sodium.  We did our homework and learned the minimums and maximums of sodium an average, healthy adult should have.   2300 mg is the maximum amount of sodium and can be found in just 1 teaspoon of salt.  The minimum is 500 mg.  We need sodium, just not an overabundance.

Take the hamburger, for instance.  At Chilis, the Old Timer, which is most like burgers we make (or used to make) at home.  I thought the calories were bad until I saw the sodium.  Go ahead, guess………………………………. Ready?  3,050.  Well over the recommended maximum.  Then add fries, appetizer, etc.  In one setting you could have over 4,000 mg.

Well, we can’t have that, now can we?  No siree.  I set out to completely take the sodium out and help the swelling go down.  It did, and then I decided to keep Old Rooster withing a 500-1000 mg diet.  Now, I need to make sure we are keeping to that level but still manage to add flavor to our meals.  One of our success is a hamburger, modified to fit low sodium.

Ground turkey hamburger patty (3.2 oz) seasoned with Mrs. Dash, salt substitute, and pepper (60mg), with lettuce (0mg), purple onion slices (0mg), bun (190mg), dill pickle (70mg) and low sodium bacon (95mg).  Total 415mg.   Almost half his daily.  But if we make fries they have no salt.  Our ketchup has no salt.  We did without cheese because a slice is extremely high.

Now, I need to go figure out the measurements for the killer spaghetti sauce I made tonight using the left over turkey burgers.  I mean, it was to die for.

Food and memories: an ode to one of the finest….

Food, aromas, tastes, they all can bring hidden memories rushing to the forefront.  Memories from when you are a kid and comfort foods.  Trying a recipe and reaching to call one of the best cooks you know, only to realize she’s not there any more…..

We recently lost Old Rooster’s mom, Mama Rooster.  Best MIL a Phathen could have; to be loved as one of her own chicks, and crowed over as well. Its hard to lose someone you love, but its especially hard to lose someone as wonderful as Mama Rooster.

She raised three kids on next to nothing.  Oh, things got better as the years went by, and she and Papa Rooster eventually lived comfortably on their 5 acres and in their beautiful home.  But the real story of this fabulous cook, lies in the hard times and the creativity it took to make a meal out of very little and fill those 5 tummies….

An old school cook, Mama Rooster used lard/Crisco for her pie crust, and plenty of butter and evaporated milk and all those things the health nuts wince at even thinking of using.  But let me tell you something, no food tasted better than what came out of her kitchen.  She is best remembered for her icebox pies; I especially loved her chocolate and Papa Rooster loved her coconut.  I never liked coconut pie until I ate hers.  Still won’t eat any other coconut, they just are terrible next to hers.   EVERYTHING was made from scratch and her crusts were so good.  You could hold a slice in your hand and eat it like that, they were so firm, but so tender.  I tried making pie crust and served it to her.  It was okay, really it was, but she was so loving and told me it was just so good and I’d done a good job.  Thanks, mom, for loving me and encouraging me.

I wouldn’t eat all day knowing I was going to be sitting at her table that night.  Fried chicken, oh Lord could she fry chicken.  I learned to fry it properly from watching her.  Still isn’t as good as hers, but she taught me.  Pot pies, hams, pork chops, whatever.  If it came from her kitchen, it was delicious and heavenly.  And everyone wanted a place at her table.

She could go into her pantry and whip together a meal that tasted good even if it wasn’t of the fanciest ingredients.  If she didn’t have what was exactly needed, she could find a substitute and you’d never know it wasn’t made just the way it should.  Have you ever had chocolate gravy?  Over biscuits?  Well, her kids grew up having that for breakfast on occasion.

Oh and she didn’t use recipes, no not at all.  So nothing is in writing.  Except Sister, who is as good a cook as her mother, was able to write out the recipe for dressing for Thanksgiving.  Its still a do it by feel type of thing, but we almost have it down.

I sure need her advise and experience as I experiment in cooking without salt to take care of her son.  She had a wealth of knowledge about food and seasoning and such that is gone and lost to me know.  So, as those aromas and foods trigger memories, perhaps I’ll pull out of those memories some tidbit from her said long ago that will help me as I endeavor to make salt free taste good.

Treasure the people in your life, for we all know someday they will be gone.  Right now, Mama Rooster is cooking up a storm for the Heavenly Host and I bet they just love her chocolate and coconut pies!!!  Lucky dogs.

Hospitals can kill ya

Old Rooster had to be admitted to the hospital the night before Thanksgiving.  What it was is not the reason behind this post, merely establishing setting.  And he was treated and released after 4 days.  Observation was important.

Anyway….. While there we both told everyone that he was on a low sodium diet, uber low.  The hospital failed in two ways, and set the Old Rooster back to square one with his sodium levels and bloating.  No one would listen that he should not have the sodium chloride bag attached to his IV.  No one listened that he could only have a diet of 500-1000 mg of sodium per day.

Oh, it drove me crazy; the girl delivering his meals from the kitchen would reply, “its only 2g of sodium in this diet”  Um, there are 1000mg in 1g, so that is DOUBLE what he should get.  So he stopped eating anything they brought that he knew was loaded.  Tried to order things that we knew weren’t.  Unfortunately, his physician that put him on the low sodium diet was away.

He came home terribly bloated despite best efforts…

The purpose behind sharing this with you is to remind you that you must be aware of everything being given to you whether through your IV or diet.  There were times his mom was in the hospital and they were putting potassium in her IV bag and Old Rooster was there and called their attention to the fact that potassium could kill her.  They actually argued!  Ended up flushing something through the IV to get the potassium out.

Be careful.  You are working so hard to stay healthy, don’t let someone undermine all your efforts and cause harm.


Thansgiving: trial and errors, and hospitals

Thanksgiving was, more than years past, the most stressful time of my entire year.

First, trying to duplicate my MIL’s most wonderful dressing sodium free/low sodium was a success and a failure.  The success was in the form of a perfect outcome in appearance and texture; the failure was in the taste.  I had all the ingredients set at either low sodium or no sodium.  I made the rolls and cornbread from scratch so that I could eliminate all sodium from them.  I had the low sodium chicken broth and drippings from my unseasoned, roasted turkey.  The herbs, celery and onion, even a no sodium cream of mushroom soup (recipe calls for cream of chicken, but can’t find that low sodium).  Followed by my SIL’s instructions that it should resemble soupy oatmeal when all ingredients mixed together and baked til golden brown and slightly firm.    It came out beautifully as did the turkey.  Nice and moist……  Test run for Thanksgiving dinner was made about a week before the food fest with family on Black Friday.    See…









Looked wonderful and smelled wonderful.  Taste? EPIC FAIL!!!  Even with herbs and poultry seasoning and broth, low sodium as it was, no flavor whatsoever.  In thinking over what could be done differently, I decided that the next pan of dressing to be made for Thanksgiving dinner would have low sodium breads that I would still make from scratch, the low sodium  chicken broth and regular cream of chicken soup.   Plus, more of the herbs, celery and onion because when you are cooking without salt, you need to increase the other seasonings.  By volume, the sodium in all the ingredients should still be low on a per serving basis.

Alas, the next batch wasn’t made as we never made it to the family dinner.  Old Rooster ended up in the  hospital night before Thanksgiving.  And that began a whole new set of problems that added to the stress of Thanksgiving 2012.  And not just because he was in the hospital (he’s fine and was only there 4 days), but because of what happened, healthwise, at the hospital….. But that’s a story for another post.

So, next attempt shall be postponed and prepared for Easter dinner.  No ham; either chicken or turkey will be roasted for that.


Still kickin’

It has been almost 3 months since I’ve made a post.   Glad to say, PhatHen is alive and kickin’.  Just working like the dickens.  I decided to jump back into retail management after 3 years…  5 weeks out of town training, then placed in my store 1 month before Thanksgiving.  Absolutely hit the floor running and just now slowed down enough to get back to my interests and projects.

There is much to share; more recipes (even the Old Rooster has new dishes), health, and family.

Hoping all y’all have had a Merry Christmas and wishes for a bright New Year!

PhatHen and her Old Rooster

Beef stew and fall days

We worried that we would miss out on the usual, Fall/Winter comforts foods.  Soups and stews that just warm you from the inside out.    We need worry no more.   Swanson and Kitchen  Aid have no salt added and reduced sodium broths; beef, chicken and vegetable.  I prefer we use the no salt version as there is only 140mg of sodium per 1 cup serving.  The reduced sodium still have between 300-400mg of sodium per 1 cup serving.

I have used them to make the Chicken Stew Provencal (recipe posted), Chicken Dumplings, and Beef Stew.

Here is the Beef Stew Recipe, adjust as your own taste and preference dictates:

2lbs stew beef, cubed, coated in flour and brown only, do not cook through.
Veggies you like in your stew.  We use celery, potatoes, onion, and carrot.
Enough water and broth, (about 2 cups each depending on the sodium of the broth) to cover your veggies and browned stew meat.
1 t low sodium Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t dried marjoram
1/2 t dried oregano
1 bay leaf

Add all ingredients to your stew pot or crockpot, and boil gently till veggies cooked. Add additional seasonings as desired to taste and simmer. Serve with whatever is your desire; bread, crackers, etc.

Comfort foods ala low sodium

We can haz bacon!!!

Zippidy doo dah, zippidy-a, my oh my what a wonderful day!!! Its the truth, its actual, everything is satisfactaul.   Low sodium bacon is a reality and we have proof right in our tummies!!!

Farmland low sodium bacon has only 190 mg per two slices.  Old Rooster is doing his happy rooster dance.  And so is Phathen.  Bacon is one of the hardest things we’ve had to give up.  We never ate it a lot, but once it was taken away, it really impacted us.

Cooked breakfast this morning with 2 slices each and it was heaven.  I highly recommend this low sodium bacon even if you do not have any diet restrictions.  It tastes very good and is good for you and your blood pressure.  No help on the cholesterol level, so if your diet restricts that, sorry, this can’t help.

Plan to use it when we fix a pot of beans and now Old Rooster can have a bacon hamburger!!!!!  He even found a low sodium cheese, white cheddar, called Helluva Cheese through

Go to this website to see what Farmland offers.  We found it locally at Albertsons.

Unfortunately for us, the low sodium sausage is still to high in sodium for Old Rooster to have.  But we haz bacon and we be happy!

Could it be???

Bacon, I miss bacon.  Old Rooster misses bacon.   Of all the breakfast meats this is the one we miss the most.  So, when I saw an ad on tv for low sodium bacon I had to know more.  It has only 190 mg per 2 slices!!! That is so awesome.  That means we can occasionally indulge in bacon.  HAPPY DANCE!!!!!

Here is the site:

We have yet to try it.  If you do before I can report back, give me a review.

So, how is the Old Rooster, you ask.

Or not, but I will give an update.

Do to our diligence in taking almost all sodium, naturally occurring or added, out of the Old Roosters diet, he is just marvelous!!!  Our palates have adapted, but the better news is our bodies are very happy.  The swelling is completely down and he is now gaining weight.  Which is a very good thing.  Because he was so full of water (12lbs were removed) he had no appetite.

What we have learned is that he definitely cannot eat out.  We tried Chili’s hamburger because they will leave off the seasoning if you ask.   There is still sodium in the meat because it is processed and not freshly ground.  Hamburger buns have sodium also.  But, by leaving off the cheese and pickles, he is not getting as much.  But, it can’t be very often and he can’t have the fries (even without seasoning).  He felt slightly ill the next day when he ate the hamburger and fries.  It uses up a great deal of his daily allowance.  We are keeping him between 500-1000 mg per day.  The average healthy adult can take in up to 2300 mg.  Remember, you can get that much sodium in just 1 t of table salt.

We’re not as unhappy about this lifestyle change as we were.  There are foods we miss a great deal that we can’t alter.  Like bacon!  I love bacon!  However, as you notice when you come to my blog, we are enjoying creating recipes, altering recipes to our needs and plain ole fun in the kitchen again.

I’ve been gone the last 3 weeks training for a new job.  I am home on the weekends, and last weekend we cooked and put leftovers in the freezer for Old Rooster while I was gone during the week.  Yes, he can cook and cook quite well, I just enjoyed leaving him some food I prepared for him.  We made Chicken and Dumplings (recipe to be shared soon), Spaghetti Sauce, modified Porcupine Meatballs (recipe from Texana’s Kitchen, Chicken Stew Provencal, and Potatoe Soup.

Life is not boring in the least and neither is dinner.