Over the Salt

Mindful choices for healthy and low sodium cooking


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Chocolate Chili Meringues

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Light, fluffy, chocolate chili meringue cookies.
Low salt, spicy treats.

Once baked will last about a month if not eaten sooner. Hide them.

Ingredients

Egg whites
1/2 cup baking sugar
Cocoa with chili and cinnamon
2 cups hazennut meal

Equipment

Electric Mixer
Baking sheet with parchment paper
Metal spoon
Glass Bowl

Preheat oven to 400 F

Making

Whip egg whites to stiff peaks
Add baking sugar and whip with egg whites until stiff and glossy
Add cocoa to egg whites and mix on low speed until powder absorbed
Mix on high speed for around three minutes
Remove bowl away from mixer and change to metal spoon
Pour hazelnut flour around edges of bowl and use spoon to fold
from outside to center in lifting motion (down and lift up through center)
Do not over-mix at this stage
Drop spoonfuls onto parchment
Bake for 12 minutes
Remove from oven and allow to cool before moving from paper
Slide a butter knife under cooled meringues to lift and store
Store in air tight container
Makes 3 dozen

 

 


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Perfect shortcrust pastry

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My sister is visiting for the holidays this year, taking a break from the hot Australian summer. We’ve been spending our time trying out recipes for cookies, pastries and savory meals. Along the way, Colleen has been teaching me to make pastry of various kinds, something that was sadly lacking from my repertoire.

Pastry 101

Colleen tells me that shortcrust pastry gets its texture from shortening the gluten strands with a fat. This makes it melt-in-the-mouth. In Seattle, the humidity in the air requires attention to the texture of the mix and you may need to add or subtract flour to get the desired end. A light hand is needed to avoid overworking the pastry.

Ingredients

1.5 sticks of butter at room temperature
2 cups all purpose flour
1 large egg
2-3 tablespoons of water

Equipment

A large bowl
Plastic wrap or wax paper (either is good)
Rolling pin
Measuring cups
Pie dish or dishes
Pastry weights (this can be rice or uncooked split peas)
Oven preheated to 400F

Making

Add flour to bowl
Break butter into small pieces and rub through the flour
Texture should hold together when squeezed
Add egg and one tablespoon of water
Mix together to create a soft ball
(you may need to add more water)
Pastry should leave sides of the bowl clean and not be sticky

Wrap in plastic or wax paper and put in fridge for half an hour.
This allows the gluten strands to relax and not be stretched, creating the desired ‘shortness’.

Using pastry

Take out of refrigerator and place between two sheets of plastic or wax paper.
Use rolling pin to roll out to the desired size and thickness.
Remove one side of the paper or plastic and roll loosely around the rolling pin to lift it.
Roll out over pie dish, pastry side down.
Ease pastry into the corners without stretching.
Finish the edges by pinching between finger and thumb to flute edges.
Use parchment paper as a barrier for the weights. Add pastry weights to fill base evenly.

Blind Baking

This will prepare the pastry and cook it partially so it does not become soggy when you add a wet filling.

Place in oven and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove the weights and parchment paper (dough will still be moist on bottom).
Cook for another 5 minutes to dry the bottom of the pastry.
The pastry is now ready for filling.

 


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Honey Jumbles – tea cookies

HoneyJumbles.pngThis is a variant of a shortbread recipe that adds lightness and spice. There’s a childhood version with molasses, but we get our flavor intensity from the ginger and a dark honey. It’s terrific as a tea cookie. The citrus glaze is delicious.

Variants:
Skip the ginger and honey
and add lemon zest to make
lemony tea cookies

Ingredients

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup of baking sugar (fine)
1 stick of butter (4oz)
1 teaspoon of ginger
1 egg
(2 teaspoons ginger if powdered)
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon baking powder

Equipment

Clean hands
Mixing bowl
2 desert spoons to shape the mix
baking tray with parchment
Make a wax paper piping bag
Oven preheated to 350 degrees F

Making

Cream butter and sugar by hand in a bowl
(the heat of your hand will melt the butter)
Add the ginger and mix well
Mix in the honey and egg
Add the baking soda and gradually add flour
Form lozenges using the desert spoons
Bake for 12 minutes

Glaze

1 cup of confectioners sugar
1 lemon
Beat until slightly stiff
When the cookies are cool, put 3-4 stripes of glaze on each
(push the cookies together and you can glaze a row at a time)

 

 


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Scones with spice

My favorite weekly bake is curry scones with shredded cheddar. This has become a staple in our house, substituting for bread in many cases. The spicy scones go well with both sweet and savory toppings.

Recipe

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking flour
  • 1.5 sticks butter
  • 4-6 oz shredded cheese (to taste)
  • one teaspoon curry powder
  • half cup sugar (brown is good)

Method

  • Combine all the dry ingredients, including cheese
  • Melt the butter and rub through the dry mix
  • Add two eggs and half cup juice
  • shape palm sized rounds (or cut out with cookie cutter)
  • Bake for 19 mins at 400 degrees

Enjoy!


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Cooking with low salt

I’ve learned a bunch of things in the past year about reducing or eliminating salt from our diet. Most of the heavy work was right at the beginning, where I read the ingredients on every can, jar, package and bottle of food in the house. I was so surprised to find how much sodium and potassium were in almost everything. And if it had low salt, then the sugar and fat were higher than usual. Through a process of elimination, and re-learning to cook with raw ingredients, we were able to keep the salt minimal, and well within the impossible-sounding 1500 mg a day we were presented with at first. Nowadays, it is a rare thing indeed for Raven to exceed 1000 mg a day, and my own salt intake is around 1500 most days.

We had been reading cans for a while (for sugar content), but had missed the sodium as a health risk. Now we are shopping in the produce rows at the grocery store, for the most part, and cautiously adding other “safe” foods along the way. The amount of processed food has gone down so much, we are losing pounds effortlessly without feeling like it is any kind of diet.

It does take practice, and mindful attention, but I have to say it is worth it. My sweetie is taking the heart meds and diuretics (which helps) and has dropped 60 pounds now. For me, just following along and eating the same food has dropped 45 pounds. That’s like a small person. It certainly leads to more energy to do the things we want to do, and playing with recipes has been a whole lot of fun.

Have been collecting recipes and photos along the way, and the next little while will see me posting a bunch of vege bakes, fabulous potato dishes, and quick ways to make caramelized onions. Hope you are enjoying our journey as much as we are – R