Tuesday, November 17, 2015


One Can Salsa
Salsa is one of those must-have condiments if you’re following a low sodium diet. A couple of spoonfuls can enliven plain baked or grilled chicken. The same with fish. Add some salsa and you’ve instantly created a tasty meal. Salsa does wonders for eggs too. Want fantastic scrambled eggs? Saute some salsa in oil or butter before adding beaten eggs. Or use salsa as the filling and topping for an omelet. Fix up some speedy huevos rancheros by poaching eggs in salsa and serving over corn tortillas. Top refried beans with it. Use salsa instead of tomato sauce in and on top of meatloaf. Combine salsa and mashed avocado for guacamole. Make Spanish rice with salsa and chicken broth. Use salsa instead of catsup on hamburgers. Slow cook a chuck roast or pork shoulder with salsa. Shred for burritos, tacos, or enchiladas. And, of course, who can resist salsa and tortilla chips? Uses for salsa are only limited by your imagination.

Store bought salsa, whether fresh or jarred, often contains way too much sodium. So what are some low sodium options? One alternative is to make your own homemade salsa. During the summer, you can get delicious, garden-fresh tomatoes (either from your garden or a farmers market). But unfortunately, those wonderful summer tomatoes eventually disappear.

What’s the answer? One Can Salsa! Start with a can of no-salt-added diced tomatoes, add a few other ingredients, and you can easily make a delicious low sodium salsa. And it makes less than 2 cups, so you’re not dealing with a pile of leftovers.

Here’s the recipe:  (Adapted from Happier than a Pig in Mud blog)

1 14.5 ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained* (reserve drained tomato juice)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped onion (shallots or green onions are fine too)
1 clove garlic
Pinch sugar
⅛ teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro**
1 teaspoon lime juice or vinegar
¼ - ½ fresh jalapeno (I have good luck keeping cut jalapeno fresh by wrapping the leftover portion in aluminum foil)

Blend all ingredients in a small food processor. Add spoonfuls of reserved tomato juice if too thick. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes (one hour would be better). Feel free to adjust ingredient amounts to your own tastes.

* For a hotter version, use 1 can of no-salt-added Rotel

**CILANTRO: Fresh cilantro adds a unique flavor to salsa. However, once you use a few sprigs, storing the rest of the bunch becomes a problem. There are plenty of ideas online about how to keep cilantro from going bad. I’ve tried several methods and finally zeroed in on freezing. After using leaves from a fresh bunch, I cut off the stems (plop the bunch on the cutting board and whack off the thicker stems in one fell swoop), wash the remaining leaves and tender stems, and run them through my salad spinner a few times to dry. Then I transfer the leaves to a clean tea towel, roll it up, and let it dry some more in my fridge. Finally I place the leaves in a freezer bag and freeze. Whenever I need some cilantro, I just break off a chunk of frozen leaves. Relatively easy and I always have some decent tasting cilantro on hand. Not as good a fresh, but a whole lot better than dried.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Chili Rellenos

Chili Relleno with Breadcrumb Coating

This is a favorite at our house. It’s probably the item I order most at Mexican restaurants. Unfortunately, as tasty as it is, a chili relleno dinner at a restaurant contains too much salt for anyone monitoring their sodium intake. There’s the relleno batter, cheese stuffing, and sauce. Add to that cheese-topped refried beans and flavored rice. And, of course, there’s the ubiquitous basket of fried & salted corn tortilla chips along with the house salsa. Excess sodium, to be sure.

One option is to just order a relleno al a carte along with some plain corn tortillas when at a restaurant. Another option is to make your own rellenos. They’re a bit labor intensive but worth it.

I’ve made them coated in breadcrumbs & fried. Coated in breadcrumbs & baked. Dredged in masa meal and fried. And dipped in the traditional egg batter. I’ve topped them with homemade salsa and also with homemade ranchero sauce. But no matter how I’ve prepared them, they’ve always been good. Best of all, we’ve enjoyed them without any worries about sodium overload.

Chili rellenos have four basic parts: the chilies, the stuffing, the coating, and the finishing sauce.

The chilies are poblanos. I try to find nice big ones that are shiny & firm. I wash them, place them on a broiler pan with a rack, and broil them until the skin is quite blackened and blistered on one side. Then I turn them over to get the other sides charred. (This can also be done on a grill.) I put the chilies in a bowl, cover them, and let them steam as they cool. Then I peel off the skins and slit one side to remove the seeds inside. (I make a “T” near the top and use a grapefruit spoon to remove the seeds.) I try my best to keep the stems attached. Most of the time, I’m successful. Some people have better luck removing seeds when the peppers are raw.

Broiled, Peeled, Cut, & Ready to Stuff
I use fresh mozzarella for the stuffing. Usually Bel Giosioa brand. It has 85 mgs sodium per ounce. I cut it into cubes or strips and stuff the chilies. I try not to overstuff the peppers, but, at the same, time, I want to use up all the cheese. I’ve experimented with a combination of fresh mozzarella and either salt-free cottage cheese or ricotta but didn’t like the end results. Too watery. Might work if I drained the softer cheeses overnight, but that would require way too much advance planning for me. As it is, I wrap the fresh mozz cubes in paper towels and give a squeeze to remove excess moisture.

No matter what coating I’m using, I dredge the stuffed chilies in flour first and refrigerate them for at least 30 minutes. The flour gets moist and acts like a paste to hold the cheese inside the slit portion of the chilies. The cold stuffed chilies hold up better when frying. I’ve found that it also helps if I fry the cut side first. If I’m using breadcrumbs, I’ll dip the stuffed & floured chilies in an egg wash before coating with crumbs. Same with using masa meal. For the egg batter, I just make sure the whipped egg whites are pretty stiff.

Stuffed, Dredged, & Ready for Batter
My favorite Mexican restaurant serves its rellenos with a delicious ranchero sauce, and that’s what I try to duplicate at home. But sometimes, I opt for homemade One Can Salsa.

As with many things I cook, making chili rellenos is more of a method rather than an exact recipe. Here’s a general guideline for using the traditional egg batter :


4 large poblano peppers
1 8-oz. package fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes or strips
Flour for dredging stuffed chilies

Egg Batter:
About 1 egg for every two peppers; separate yolks from whites

Prepare chilies and stuff with approximately 2 oz. cheese. Line a plate with plastic wrap and coat lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Dredge peppers in flour, place on prepared plate, cover lightly, and refrigerate. Some people have good luck holding the cut chilies together with toothpicks.

Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl; set aside. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the egg yolks to the beaten whites. Fold in gently with a rubber spatula until just combined. Be careful to not deflate the egg whites; set aside.

Pour enough oil into a frying pan to make at least a ⅓ - ½ inch layer. Heat to medium-high. Make sure the oil is hot.

Breaded Relleno Frying
Using tongs, dip the peppers into the egg mixture to coat both sides. Gently lay the coated peppers into the hot oil. Spoon any leftover egg mixture on chilies while the first side is frying. Fry peppers on each side until golden brown and the cheese has melted.

Serve immediately or hold in 325 degree oven. Serve with salsa or ranchero sauce.

Egg Batter Relleno with Ranchero Sauce

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

Japanese Milk Bread Rolls
A few weeks ago I got the latest King Arthur Flour catalog. It included a picture and recipe for Japanese Milk Bread Rolls. I've been wanting to try a roux-based recipe for a couple of years and finally determined to do it. It was an easy technique — heating a combo of milk, water, & flour until a roux is formed. After cooling, add the other ingredients and proceed as usual.

The end result was fluffy, slightly sweet, large dinner rolls. My husband thought they tasted similar to King's Hawaiian rolls. They were soft & fluffy but with a dense sturdiness that most uber-soft squishy rolls don't have. From what I've read, this techniques can be used with most bread recipes. We'll see...

To make this recipe low sodium, I halved both the salt and yeast quantities. I never have whole, liquid milk in the fridge, so I reconstituted powdered dry whole milk that I keep in my freezer. I do have KAF Baker’s Special Dry Milk, but regular, grocery store nonfat dry milk will work just fine.  Thanks to the sugar and milk, the recipe makes a sweet roll. If you’d prefer something less sweet, use only 2 tablespoons sugar. I used my bread machine’s knead and rise cycles.

Here is the KAF recipe:

Also referred to as Hokkaido milk bread, these rolls are incredibly soft and airy thanks to a simple technique involving a roux "starter," known as tangzhong. The roux is mixed into the final dough, producing wonderfully tender bread each and every time.

Tangzhong (starter)

  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk (I used reconstituted whole dry milk)
  • 2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour


  • 2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
  • 2 tablespoons Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I used ½ tsp. salt)
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast (I used 1½ tsp. or ½ tbsp. yeast)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (I used reconstituted whole dry milk)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) melted unsalted butter


  1. To make the tangzhong: Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan, and whisk until no lumps remain.
  2. Place the saucepan over low heat, and cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until thick and the whisk leaves lines on the bottom of the pan, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer the tangzhong to a small mixing bowl or measuring cup and let it cool to room temperature.
  4. To make the dough: Combine the tangzhong with the remaining dough ingredients, then mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — until a smooth, elastic dough forms.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball, and let it rest in a lightly greased covered bowl for 60 to 90 minutes, until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk.
  6. Gently deflate the dough, divide it into 8 equal pieces, and shape each piece into a ball.
  7. Place the rolls into a lightly greased round bun pan. Cover the pan, and let the rolls rest for 40 to 50 minutes, until puffy. To use another pan, see "tips," below.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the rolls with milk or egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water), and bake for 28 to 32 minutes, until golden brown on top; a digital thermometer inserted into the center of the middle roll should read at least 190°F.
  9. Remove the rolls from the oven. Allow them to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Whole Wheat Rolls
A week later I also made a whole wheat version of the Japanese Milk Bread Rolls. The recipe calls for 2-1/2 cups of flour, and I substituted 1 cup of white whole wheat flour. Next time I make them, I will try 50%. Neither one of us noticed an appreciable difference. They were still quite soft and very tasty.

The rolls are, of course, good as big dinner rolls. But they’re also good for breakfast with some unsalted butter or peanut butter & jam. Or cream cheese & jam. Or as vehicles for all kinds of sliders.