What’s cooking?

Hello all! Happy weekend to you! What’s cooking? 

Speaking of cooking, I have been wanting to share a little bit about my new eating regime. There’s a sentence I never expected to type. 

I’ve now been following a low sodium path for almost three months. 

You know what they say; time flies when your heart’s enlarged. Bahahahaaaa. 

But seriously folks… 

When I was told to radically reduce my sodium consumption, after being diagnosed with heart failure, I felt quite daunted by the prospect of it. I’ve always had a combo sweet/salty tooth and I was worried that going #loso would mean banishment to the land of bland. 

I have had to make some big changes to my shopping, cooking and eating habits. The first thing I did was clear out my fridge and pantry, getting rid of so many every day things, from benign looking pasta sauces to chocolate biscuits that had crazily high levels of sodium. Self-raising flour, forgetaboutit. Tinned soup, buh bye. So many things you’d never think we’re loaded down with sodium – bread, salad dressings, peanut butter, mustard, even some brands of tinned corn. Tinned chickpeas didn’t even make the grade. 

The “grade” by the way, is 200mg of sodium per 100g. That’s the dietary advice I was given before I was discharged from hospital, so that’s my standard. If I wanted to be super hard core, I’d ratchet that down to 120mg, but I am allowed to ease in at 200mg. In a perfect world, I should consume less than 1 teaspoon of salt per day. That’s not as easy as it seems. Turn a few tins over, you may be mightily surprised by what you find. 

Those first days were truly eye-opening. I think often the only salt people pay any attention to is table salt, which when combined with salt used in cooking, accounts for less than 25% of the salt/sodium we consume, according to the Heart Foundation Australia website. Just 25%! 

Shopping for groceries used to be an opportunity to zone out, just me and my trolley, starting in the fruit and veg section and winding our way unhurriedly to the milk and eggs in the opposite corner of the supermarket. 

Once I started reading every single label, and avoiding the chip aisle entirely, grocery shopping became a chore, and a frustrating bore. 

It took a while, but I found my feet and didn’t have to spend 40 minutes shopping to return home with only tinned tomatoes and not very loso at all bread, which was the only exception I allowed myself. Overall I’m grateful it hasn’t been as difficult as I first anticipated, but it was a big adjustment. Big.  

In the past almost three months I have eaten:

zero McDonalds, 

no pizza, 

not a single more-ish piece of KFC popcorn chicken, 

nothing involving soy sauce, oh I miss you Asian cuisine…

not a bought from a cafe/fast food joint/nestled-beside-a-juicy-piece-of-restaurant-chicken chip or french fry or a paper wrapped fish and chip shop burger… none of these things have passed my lips. 

I haven’t even had a scraping of Vegemite on toast. 

And, I have lost NO WEIGHT AT ALL! Going #loso is not the next 5:2 diet, I assure you! 

I went completely cold turkey on potato chips, which I ate mostly every evening as an after work snack. This withdrawal made me cranky enough to kick a kitty on several occasions. Properly, swearily cranky. Thankfully, that’s passed now.

In fact, a couple of weeks ago a friend sent me a message saying she’d noticed a particular brand of potato chips had only 200mg of sodium per 100g…. (right on the edge of the gold standard). Intrigued, I bought a packet. I weighed out a small bowl of chips (65 grams to be precise) and sat down on the couch, raised a chip to my mouth and cough, splutter, choke, they were SO SALTY, they actually burned my tongue! Potato chips. Weakling 200mg sodium potato chips, I found them almost inedible. 

Proof positive that our tastebuds regenerate pretty darn quickly. 

Those chips got binned a few days later. So that’s over. 

The thing that I can’t get over is that the brand and varieties I used to devour daily had three and four times more sodium than those weakling, tongue burning ones. Triple and quadruple the sodium. Almost every night. For years!  

Poor heart.   

I’m sorry. 

For everything I’ve had to give up, there’s been a gain, or a new discovery. 

I bake my own bread, and it’s delicious! I use this recipe. Works every time. 

Bread.jpg

I have replaced the savoury crunch of potato chips with lightly pan-fried wholemeal pita breads. There’s even a low sodium sweet potato dip in my fridge at the moment! I do miss the ease of a thrown together dinner of bakery bought bread, ham, olives, dips, and cheese. Beloved cheese… but there’s always a cheeky slice of Swiss, which is one of the lowest sodium cheeses, or a teensy sprinkling of parmesan on my crispy pita bread. 

I’ve discovered Sophie Dahl’s wonderful recipes. Her cooking is robust, simple and vegetable driven, and delicious! 

Lentils and pumpkin and kale, oh my! 

Fooled you – I don’t eat kale. I haven’t gone bonkers. 

I do eat these… absolutely scrumptious, super low in sodium, full of flavour chicken meatballs. Thank you Jamie Oliver! 

They’re my favourite fake-away dinner, and I get three meals from a $5.50 tray of 20! Frugal AND #loso! 

Also on high rotation, loads of mushrooms, sautéed with leeks and olive oil, a little garlic and some passatta – heaven. Perfect with the one brand of low sodium gnocchi I’ve found, or atop a crunchy slice of home baked toast. 

Tomorrow I’m going to make BabyMac’s chicken and vegetable soup. I haven’t had soup for almost three months, as I’m on a daily fluid restriction. It is crazy cold in Melbourne at the moment, so I’m going to give it a whirl, measuring cup in hand!

Thankfully, I found a super low sodium (but quite expensive) chicken stock at my local Coles, and the Coles brand salt-reduced chicken stock is close enough to 200mg to pass muster. 

Tip: home brand products are often lower in sodium than their fancy shelf mates. Organic doesn’t mean low sodium. Foods labelled “low sodium” can still be off the richter scale if you really need to cut back. It’s all about reading every label, until you get the lay of the land. 

Like anything, change takes time. I’m changing one pantry clear out, one shopping list, one home baked loaf of bread, one label, one new recipe at a time, and I’m happy about it. So is my heart. 

It’s good for me to have a reason to take better care of myself. I am worth the extra time and effort. If only I could find someone to do the dishes for me. So. Many. Dishes. 

So that’s a little insight to what’s been going on in my world. 

What’s cooking at your place this weekend? Let me know, I love it when your comments keep the conversation going. 

Cheers, and don’t forget to read your food labels! 

 

Annette ❤️

 

Update: That BabyMac soup, it’s utterly EPIC! Here’s a progress shot. Oh so good! 

Allen’s date, carrot & honey loaf

This week’s recipe for #sundaybakingsunday comes from Ella, who I ‘know’ via Instagram.

It’s her grandpa Allen’s recipe – isn’t that lovely?!

photo (19)

I saw a photo of this loaf on Instagram a while ago, liked it and really wanted to try making it myself.

Ella was kind enough to email me the recipe, which I found super easy to follow.

ALLEN’S DATE, CARROT & HONEY LOAF

1 1/2 cups chopped dates*
1 cup honey
1 cup water
60g butter, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups self raising flour, sifted
1/2 cup carrot, grated

Grease and line a 10 x 20 cm loaf pan.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Place chopped dates, honey and water in a small saucepan.
Stir over medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes, until dates soften.
Add the chopped butter to the saucepan, then remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla.
Transfer the saucepan contents to a medium sized mixing bowl and fold in the flour and carrot.
Pour the mixture into the lined loaf pan and smooth out the top.
Bake for 35 – 40 minutes – test with skewer (when skewer comes out clean, your loaf is ready).
Cool in pan for 5 minutes then cool on wire rack.

* You could substitute figs or raisins for dates. This loaf can be frozen, if it lasts more than the day. If you’ve ‘quit sugar’ I imagine this recipe could be modified by switching out the honey.

Put the kettle on, cut a few slices and you’ve created a perfect morning or afternoon tea. Thanks for sharing this great recipe Ella, it’s one that the kids could easily help you with and it only takes a few minutes to get in the oven. That’s my kind of baking.

What’s baking in your kitchen this weekend?

I’d love to see your efforts on Instagram – just follow @igiveyoutheverbs and tag your baking photos with #sundaybakingsunday.

There are some great bakers getting on board. Are you one of them?

And if you have a simple recipe you’d like to share, I’d love to try it.

Happy baking!

 

Annette