Sunday, April 23, 2017

Shopping at Whole Foods: Part II

From Whole Foods - Hot Dogs, Cream Cheese, & Roast Chicken

It was time to make another trek down the hill to shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. I picked up the usual culprits at both stores. But, I got a few things at Whole Foods that were relatively new finds.
Nancy's Cultured Cream Cheese
Only 35 mg Sodium per 2 Tablespoons

The first was Nancy’s Cultured Cream Cheese. I discovered it at my local grocery store several years ago and even wrote about it (Click HERE). But, as often happens, they stopped carrying it. “Out of sight; out of mind.” I forgot about it until I was in Whole Foods a couple of days ago and re-discovered it. Only 35 mg sodium for 2 tablespoons. I’m happy to have a new source for this fine product. I'll stock up whenever I shop at WF.

Nature's Rancher Uncured Pork & Beef Hot Dogs
250 mg Sodium for Each Link

I also came home with two packages of Nature’s Rancher Uncured Pork and Beef Hot Dogs. As an experiment, the last time I made the TJ/WF trip, I got a package of Applegate Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dogs (280 mg sodium per link) at TJ and a package of Nature’s Rancher Uncured Pork and Beef Hot Dogs (250 mg sodium per link) at Whole Foods. My husband and I liked both brands. But since that shopping trip, Applegate has changed their formulations and their hot dogs are now 500 mg sodium per link. Such a disappointment! I was happy to find that the Nature’s Rancher links hadn’t changed and are still 250 mg sodium per link, so I got a couple of packages. When I got home, I packaged them up into bundles of 4 links each for freezing. Each bundle is perfect for two days worth of hot dog lunches. Another product to stock up on when I shop at WF.

According to its website, Nature’s Rancher products are exclusive to Whole Foods. However, not all WF stores carry all Nature’s Rancher products. The website advises checking with your local WF market’s meat manager for availability.
Whole Foods "Perfectly Plain" Unsalted Roast Chicken

Finally, I bought a Whole Foods hot, ready-to-eat roast chicken — Perfectly Plain. The chickens are supposed to be free from any salted injections, brines, or seasonings. I was shopping around noon, so by the time I got to the hot food section, most of the seasoned chickens were gone. Not a problem for me, though. I picked up a Perfectly Plain chicken, paid for all my purchases, and headed out to the car.

Even though the chickens were supposed to be salt free, I wanted to make sure for myself. So, once in the car, I opened the package, and tore off a leg. One bite confirmed that the chicken, was, indeed, salt free, and I drove straight home. No need to worry about that day’s lunch.

WF "Perfectly Plain" Unsalted Roast Chicken

Although the roast chicken was fairly small in comparison to the 4-5 pound birds I can get at the grocery store, we didn’t eat all of it in one sitting. The next day, I fixed chicken salad with some leftover breast meat. Plus, I saved the all the bones and skin, combined them with some chicken backs languishing in my freezer, and made broth in my electric pressure cooker. So, I sort of got my money’s worth.

The judgment: The WF salt-free roast chicken tastes fine. However, my husband said he preferred my home-cooked roast chicken. Me too. After all, I season our roast chicken with various herbs and spices. Also, a WF bird is quite expensive. Stands to reason – It’s organic and the work is done for you. I can find salt free Foster Farms whole chickens at all my local grocery stores, and they’re often on sale for 79¢ - 99¢ a pound.

Would I buy one again? Probably only if I found myself in a similar situation –— It’s mealtime, I need to get home, and I don’t want to chance anything from the WF deli/salad bar section or stop at a restaurant on the way home.

For more good products from Whole Foods, click HERE.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Manestra (Orzo) with Hamburger - Greek Style

I’ve loved manestra (aka orzo) since I was a child. It was a staple in my family’s Greek household. Funny thing, though. It was never served cold, in a salad, or toasted and combined with rice for a pilaf. It was always cooked in a tomato broth and seasoned with cinnamon, allspice, and oregano. My mother cooked it as part of a braised meal, with either chicken pieces or beef/lamb chunks. (If you’re interested in my family’s Chicken with Manestra recipe, click HERE for a video on YouTube and HERE and scroll down for a PDF version. Just be sure to eliminate the salt altogether and used low sodium/NSA products.)

For some reason, my mother always added cubed carrots to the dish, so that’s what I do too. The manestra was served with grated Parmesan cheese and a large dollop of plain yogurt. The tanginess of the yogurt was a nice contrast to the sweetness of the spices and carrots.

A few weeks ago, I was craving some manestra, but I wanted to cook a quicker version. I immediately thought of hamburger. Now, this was something my mother never did. But I figured, “Why not?” It couldn’t have been simpler. The end result was quite tasty and definitely satisfied my hankering for manestra.

Manestra (Orzo) with Hamburger – Greek Style

1 lb. ground beef, turkey, or chicken
1 small onion, finely diced
1 carrot cut into small cubes (or equivalent amount of baby carrots cut into ¼ in. slices)
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
1 8-oz. can NSA tomato sauce
¼ - ⅛ tsp. cinnamon (if you’re unsure, use the lesser amount)
1 pinch - ⅛ tsp. allspice (if you’re unsure, use the lesser amount)
1 tsp. oregano
2 cups water (or NSA chicken broth)
1 cup manestra/orzo

Brown meat,onion, and carrot in large pot over medium heat. When meat mixture is almost cooked through, add garlic and continue cooking for about 1 minute. Then add the tomato sauce and spices. Add the oregano by crushing in your hand to release flavor. Stir everything well to combine.

Add water/broth and bring to a boil. Add manestra/orzo. Stir well and turn heat to low. Simmer covered, stirring occasionally, until pasta is cooked through but not mushy (about 20 minutes). Add more water by tablespoon if needed, but do not overcook the pasta. Remove from heat and let rest for about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serve with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan or crumbled feta. (If you’re brave enough, try a couple of dollops of plain, unflavored yogurt. A forkful of manestra dipped into a bit of tangy yogurt.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Salmon Patties

Salmon Patties

A few weeks ago I made an old timey meal – salmon patties. Usually I make tuna patties, but this time I used Trader Joe's salt-free canned salmon and was pleasantly surprised. No bones or skin to deal with. Also, the canned salmon was a lot moister than canned tuna, an added bonus.

Trader Joe's NSA Salmon
Skinless, Boneless, & NSA
60 mg sodium / 2 oz

It all came together quickly and was super easy to prepare. I seasoned the salmon mixture with The Spice House’s salt-free Cajun blend along with a bit of onion and garlic. I also added one packet of True Lemon for an extra flavor punch and a couple of tablespoons of mayo for extra moisture. The end result was quite tasty even with all the low sodium ingredients.

Instead of frying the patties, I baked them. I didn’t coat them with crumbs, but that might add a nice crunch whether baked or fried. If desired, the patties could be dredged in flour before frying.

This is a dish my husband really likes. Now that I’ve got a good source for NSA canned salmon, I’ll make it more often. It can be served with homemade tartar sauce or your favorite dipping sauce. Or, if you want something fancier, I’ve served tuna patties with avgolemeno sauce (sort of a Greek hollandaise sauce). The lemony tang of avgolemeno pairs really well with fish. (Click HERE for the sauce recipe.)

The leftover patties are also delicious cold with a dip on the side. I think they’d be fine in a sandwich too. My only suggestion for a sandwich would be to flatten them out more.

The salmon cake recipe is from a former member of GardenWeb’s Cooking Forum. I've been using it for quite a while now, but mainly with low sodium canned tuna. I used salmon this time because I wanted to try out the TJ salt-free canned salmon.

Baked Salmon Patties with Homemade Tartar Sauce

Salmon Cakes w/ Dill Sauce
Adapted from Diana55

Salmon Cakes: (Makes 6 -8 patties)

2 6 oz-cans of salmon
2 eggs
¼ cup dry low sodium bread crumbs (I use homemade)
¼ cup NSA dry potato flakes
2 Tbs. - ¼ cup onion, finely chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ tsp. dill or favorite spice blend (I alternate between using dill weed or a salt-free Cajun spice blend)
¼ tsp. celery seed
Enough olive oil to coat pan
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
(I also add some lemon juice and about 2 Tbs. mayo)

Dill Sauce: (or use your favorite tartar sauce/dip recipe)

½ tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 Tbs. mayonnaise
¾ tsp. dill
1½ Tbs. buttermilk, milk, or yogurt

For the patties:

Beat the eggs and set aside. Mince the garlic and the onion. Shred the salmon into a large mixing bowl. (Remove skin and bones, if present) Mix in eggs, garlic, onion, bread crumbs, potato flakes, dill/spice blend, and celery seed. Mix well. Let the mixture rest for about 10 minutes so the liquid is absorbed equally throughout. Form the mixture into 6 -8 equal sized balls. Press balls into a cake shape. The cakes will be fragile so be careful with them.

Coat a pan with olive oil. Cook the cakes for 5 minutes on each side over medium heat. Be careful when flipping them. If desired, coat the patties with flour or crumbs before frying. If using a coating, add a bit more oil to the pan.

(I have never tried frying them. Instead, I lightly coat both sides of each salmon cake with cooking spray and bake in a 375 oven for 8-10 minutes per side.)

For the dill sauce:

While the cakes are cooking, mix the Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, dill, and buttermilk/milk/yogurt to form the sauce.