Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Forget the Salt and Add the Herbs

Salt is thought of as the ultimate seasoning and if you watch Food Network, you'll see the chef hosts tossing quantities of salt into their dishes as they cook, and then again when plating them up.

"Good Lord," I mutter, "That much salt would kill us."

The human body requires a certain amount of sodium, about one to two teaspoons a day. That may seem like a very minute amount, but to your kidneys, it's just about right. Your kidneys may eliminate excess sodium, but if you're consuming five to six teaspoons a day, your kidneys won't keep up. Water retention sets in, resulting in high blood pressure. High blood pressure leads to heart and kidney problems.

After my husband's heart surgery, the doctors and nutritionists warned us off salt. I feared the food I served would be bland. My husband salted food even before he tasted it. I would have to wean him off salt.

Well, thank heavens for herbs.

The only salt in my homemade chicken noodle soup is in the broth. That's less than a 1/4 teaspoon because I make my own chicken broth to control the fat and salt content. Instead of salting the soup, I add dried thyme. Thyme enhances the natural flavor of foods, including broth. It's a natural substitute for salt.

Sage, shown in the photo to the left, has a pungent aroma and a strong, earthy flavor to it. Dried sage rubbed into a pork roast before cooking means no salt necessary, during cooking or when it's served.

A dried herb mix of sage, rosemary, oregano, basil and parsley is the perfect seasoning blend for Italian meatballs. Add the herbal mix to the raw ground turkey and bread crumbs, cook the meatballs in the slow cooker in a homemade red sauce and serve up a low sodium plate of spaghetti and meatballs.

I grow a selection of herbs in my garden: rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, sage, parsley, dill and lemon balm. I dry the herbs myself. This not only saves me money, it ensures the food I serve won't be bland.

My husband no longer salts his food, not only because I will nag if he were to do so, but because he no longer wants that salty taste. In his own words, "Salt is too salty. You can't taste the food."

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