Monday, November 29, 2010

Low-Sodium Cooking

Dad had a new problem a few weeks ago: his feet and ankles were swollen like elephant legs. He went to the doctor, got a 2-week supply of a diuretic, and was told to lower his salt intake and not to eat ham or canned soup.

What had I been serving for lunch every day the previous two weeks? Canned soup and lunch meat sandwiches. Oops.

What did I cook almost every evening meal with? Either canned cream of mushroom soup, dry onion soup mix, or chicken or beef broth/bouillon. I was appalled when I looked at the sodium count on those items! I've been killing Dad!!

So, I went to the store, determined to find some ingredients that I could cook with that wouldn't be horribly high in sodium. Low-sodium cream of mushroom soup: still too much sodium. Low-sodium dry onion soup mix: yeah, um, that one doesn't exist, at least not in the grocery stores in Big Town.

That meant it was time to find new recipes. Google, here I come!

So many recipes call for the canned and boxed items I'd been using that the first step was to find substitutes for those. And I found a wonderful site that has been very helpful in teaching me how to make homemade cream soup, chicken stock, and beef stock, for which I can monitor and control the amount of sodium that goes in. The site is Home Ec 101: Real skill for real people with real lives (what you wish your mama taught you).

From this site, I've learned to make:
  • Bechamel sauce--a creamy white sauce that is made from butter, flour, and cream/half and half/milk. You can vary the recipe by adding chicken stock, vegetable stock, or fish stock and adding things like mushrooms to mimic cream of mushroom, cream of celery, cream of shrimp, or cream of chicken soup. I've learned that if you're careful with the re-heating process (heat it on low on the stove from frozen), it doesn't separate, and so it can be made in large batches and frozen.
  • Chicken stock--chicken stock takes a lot of cooking time, but not a lot of effort, to make, so I made large batches of it and freeze it in 1 or 2 cup portions.
  • Chicken soup--her homemade soup is delicious, and once you've made the chicken stock, very easy and quick to prepare.
  • Dumplings--my husband loves chicken and dumplings. He prefers the firmer, almost pasta-like dumplings, and I always made the fluffy, biscuit-like dumplings. I found on the Home Ec 101 site that adding egg is what changes the consistency.
So now, I will be able to post some things about cooking from scratch.

Oh, and Dad's feet and ankles are back to normal! Yay!

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