Trader Joe’s is AWESOME

Took a small day trip into the Metroplex; Dallas/Ft. Worth for those not familiar.  Trader Joe’s is now in Ft. Worth off S. Hulen (just off I-20, don’t go to Hulen Mall off I-30).   We’ve heard from friends and on internet sites this is one of the best places to go for organic, gluten free, and low sodium/no salt.

As we pull into the parking lot, there is a crew member directing traffic to parking.  They would not let us proceed to find a spot and instead directed us to one as they saw it emptying.  This place was PACKED!!!!  We get inside and get a basket and start at the produce department.  All organic and fresh and wonderful.  We picked out some pears, nectarines, and pink lady apples.  All very reasonably priced.  We also found some true baby carrots.  I take those to lunch instead of chips.   Satisfies the desire for something crunchy.  And I like raw carrots.
It was hard to get around, as so many people had the same idea to shop on a Saturday afternoon.  We checked out the cheese department and there is quite a variety.  Even a yogurt cheese!!!  Found some snack cheese sticks with fairly low sodium, only 135 mg per stick.  That’s quite good as the stick is much more cheese than just a slice.  So, being careful, Old Rooster can now add cheese to his tacos and garnish other dishes.

As is so stereotypical of hens and roosters, the Old Rooster went too quickly through, only looking at what he immediately was interested in, whereas I really wanted to browse.   It was awfully crowded, so I just followed his lead.

We found some chips very low in sodium so he can enjoy a small snack.  Found cracker even lower in sodium that he can enjoy with cheese or salt free, organic peanut butter, no salt tortilla chips, no salt added marinara (which has about the same low sodium as our homemade spaghetti sauce and can be used for those rushed times), some delicious cookies (we ate some on the way home) with very low sodium, natural fruit juice gel candy (like the orange slice candies, but healthier) and two kinds of cereal with very low sodium.  A frosted flake and raisin bran.  We have only been able to find shredded wheat as a no sodium cereal.

We also bought some wine and beer that was very unique.  Oh, and picked up some seaweed snack for Sailor Man, our son.  He just LOVES seaweed.

Do go to Trader Joe’s website and visit one personally if you get the chance.  The prices were very reasonable, even though we considered the fish and meat high, you can expect to pay more for organic.  I look forward to going again and maybe getting to go through a little more leisurely……

Great finds

Great finds at Trader Joe’s


What’s for dinner???

Old Rooster works from home; I work outside of the home.  Dinner is, of late, a very much joint effort.  However Sunday dinner and Monday dinner were all Old Rooster.

On one of the last grocery trips he made solo, he found an unprepared brisket.  Just what we needed and at a great price.  Old Rooster took it out Saturday, and seasoned it with some Mickey & T’s Rib Rub, spices by Frontera, Mrs. Dash Teriyaki Marinade and course ground pepper.  He covered the dish and let it marinate over night in the fridge.  Put it in a 275 deg oven for about 3 hours and bumped up the temp to 325 deg for another 2 hours.  Opened the foil to reveal tender, fall apart brisket.  Put about a teaspoon of bbq sauce (not sodium free) over the entire brisket.  PERFECTION!!!!  Served with homemade sodium free bread and fresh cantaloupe.

Monday I get home from work HUNGRY!!!  He has laid out some white fish and plans to fry it and make his red sauce (made with the low sodium horseradish sauce (Sandwich Pal), no sodium ketchup (Heinz), and garlic to taste), red potatoe w/salt free butter, and red grapes.   Practically a completely sodium free meal.



Nachos, the no salt way!!

We have found no salt tortilla chips and have liked them and our homemade salsa.  One night we needed a quick meal and take out is not an option anymore.  Rummaging around in the refrigerator/freezer I found some leftover taco meat in the freezer.  We have found and use a no salt taco seasoning.  Also found some leftover salt free beans that we’d made.    And, lo and behold, there’s still some homemade salsa in the frig.  Wheels start turning and I have a “Eureka” moment.  Nachos for dinner!!!!  I lay out the tortilla chips in a shallow baking dish.  Old Rooster starts cutting up some jalapenos (without seeds) and chopping some onion.  I start re-frying the beans.  We dollop the refried beans over the chips, sprinkle on the jalapenos and some chopped onion and add just a bit of shredded cheddar cheese (cheese is fairly high in sodium as we keep Old Rooster to under 750mg/day).  Heat thoroughly in a 350 deg oven.  Plate and garnish with salsa.  A very successful and satisfying meal.  Took less than 45 minutes from start to finish.


Experiments in the lab do go wrong…

I posted not too long ago about creating a dish out of what was available.  It was a kind of stir fry.  We’ve created variations of it depending on what was available.  So far the meat of choice has remained chicken.  However, the vegetables and seasoning vary.  We’ve used scallions in place of onions, added shredded carrot to the mix, and used a Mrs. Dash marinade (garlic and herb) along with the butter for the sauce.

One night we had a fail.  Well, Old Rooster liked it, but PhatHen didn’t.  Old Rooster likes jalapenos, a lot!!!  PhatHen likes them in moderation.  So, one night Old Rooster decides he’ll cook out new favorite dish.  He’s a good cook, learned at his mother’s knee.  It smelled so good; he used carrots, and scallions, and Mrs. Dash, and jalapenos.  Just like before.  Except….. got a little heavy handed on the jalapenos.  And he failed to remove the seeds.  Its the seeds that make the pepper so brutal; if you just want the flavoring and gentle “bite” of jalapeno, you remove the seeds.  After he plated it, he could tell by my expression from the first bite that it was far too hot for me.  I did my best to eat it.  After all, he has graciously eaten my failures.  But, as I told him, all I could taste was the jalapeno and every bite hurt.  My mouth was on fire.  Food should not hurt.  Food nourishes and pleases.

This will not stop us from using jalapenos or any other pepper.  We just got reminded that while the meal before with jalapeno was great, the next could be unpleasant.  Jalapenos and other peppers are not always the same.  The heat in each pepper varies from pepper to pepper.  So, again, use different seasonings and vegetables and herbs, just be aware that fresh items vary in their flavor, and you must constantly taste as you are cooking to measure what is needed and what is not.

Squash and tomato are on the list for next trial


Wow, that’s salty

Old Rooster, the hubs, has been low sodium this whole time.   I am taking the journey with him, well, because I love him and care about him.  And, frankly, its easier than preparing meals separately.  However, I still get some processed foods; I take my lunch everyday and use lunch meat and store bought bread.  Otherwise, I’m eating what he eats.

I took left over spaghetti for lunch today (recipe posted in the category of Recipe).   Ordinary day, right?  Ordinary lunch, right?  Well, it wasn’t.  I took some bread to eat with my spaghetti.  I hadn’t buttered it when I packed lunch because the bread would stick together and well, I am a texture person.  There was butter in the fridge at work.  Not unsalted butter, regular creamy, sweet butter.   I added some to my bread and went to eat.  I wasn’t expecting the taste I got.  It was waaaaaay tooooooo salty.  What happened to the sweet creamy taste of butter?  Nothing, actually.  I had changed, not the butter.  I have been using the unsalted butter long enough that when I used “regular” butter, it tasted bad.

Not a sad tale though.  Truly one of hope.  When we first learned of the changes we were going to have to make and chose to make, we were sad.  All that flavor gone…..  How wrong we were.  There is flavor out there, so much that you really don’t need to add salt.  Endless vegetables, fruits, herbs and other seasonings like pepper, cumin, celery, garlic, etc.  You don’t have to suffer.

Our advice… Experiment.  Take recipes you like and de-salt them.  You don’t need to get rid of all sodium, but you sure can lessen the salt by taking it out and using no salt added/no sodium products.  If there is an epic fail, don’t despair.  Figure out where you went wrong, and try again.  Soon, you will have wonderful dishes to serve that you can enjoy.

We are adapting and having a new kind of fun… Cooking together and experimenting and just enjoying life.

Spaghetti sauce

1 can no salt tomato sauce, lg

1 can no salt tomato paste

1 can no salt diced or stewed tomatoes

1 lb ground meat of choice, we have used both beef and turkey and like both

1/4 chopped onion, white or yellow

minced garlic, 1 t

1 T basil, dried

1 T oregano, dried

1 t Mrs. Dash original

chopped mushroom, however much you want

sugar to taste (we like our sauce just a bit sweet.  warning, without salt you taste the sugar more, go slow)

Combine all ingredients, except meat, mushrooms and onion, in pot and simmer.   While that is simmering, brown meat, mushrooms, and onion together.  When meat is browned and onions and mushrooms tender, drain if necessary, and add to sauce simmering in pot.  Continue to simmer and let the flavors marry.  Taste and adjust as needed.  Cook pasta, drain and plate, then spoon over sauce.

It will not taste salty, so don’t be disappointed.  There is minimal sodium in this recipe.  It comes from the canned tomatoes, which have about 15mg per serving.  Even no salt has low amount of sodium.  As you need some sodium, approximately 500mg a day, it won’t hurt. Especially if you’ve been keeping to low sodium in your other meals as well.  You will taste the tomato more and other seasons.  Use fresh, even herbs, where possible.   It will increase the flavor and overall taste.

I plan to start an herb garden for my kitchen window.  Those that already use fresh herbs regularly will now what a difference fresh makes.

Enjoy and Mangi!!!

Learning To Cook All Over Again

Fortunately, for the hubs and me, we both grew up with parents that know how to cook and shared that knowledge.  And when I say,  “know how to cook”, I mean they don’t open boxes or order take out.  They actually know what to do with a raw, whole chicken, or other fresh meat.  What seasonings and spices, other than salt, are for, as well as how to use fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables for flavoring and condiments.

It’s a lot like being a contestant on the original Japanese show “Iron Chef”.  “Fukuison, you have chicken tenders, fresh mushrooms, fresh asparagus, fresh jalapenos, minced garlic, salt-free butter, Mrs. Dash Original seasoning, Ramen noodles, half and half and a dollop of Worcestershire sauce.  You have 30 minute, GO!”

Yeppers, that’s what we had today to make lunch with.  So, here’s what we did:

Chopped and browned the chicken tenders in olive oil.  Sliced the fresh mushrooms, diced the spears of  asparagus and minced the jalapenos.  Used 1/2 stick of the unsalted butter to saute all the fresh veggies, and added just a dollop of the Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic and a liberal sprinkling of the Mrs. Dash seasoning.  The Worcestershire sauce had minimal sodium and was the only sodium in this recipe.  Added about 1/4 cup of  half and half to the sauteed veggies and let it simmer while the chicken was being browned.  Poured the sauteed veggie mix onto the chicken and let that simmer while we cooked the Ramen noodles.  Drained the noodles and plated them, then poured the chicken and veggies mixture over it.

It was a SUCCESS!!!!  Next time we’ll add fresh onion to the whole mix.

So, what we have learned is that, while we may not be able to depend upon processed, convenience foods anymore, we can rely on our ability to cook from scratch and to experiment with various no-sodium seasonings, fresh or dried herbs, and fresh veggies/fruit to liven up a meal and give it flavor.  All with NO SALT!!!

We did it and you can too!!!!