Salt – How Much is Too Much? – 5 Easy Ways to Lower Salt Intake

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I truly believe that many Americans are consuming way too much salt, do you?

One of my dearest friends Fran, recently asked me why someone would suggest adding additional salt to a watermelon salad that contains feta cheese (given the fact the most feta cheese is fairly salty.)  My answer was that I didn’t think you’d need to.  I hope that you all have noticed that I try not to use very much salt in my recipes.  Now, some recipes require salt for the proper chemical reaction to occur…but most of the time, heavy use of salt is not necessary.

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Fran and her hubs are trying to reduce the amount of salt that they are consuming and I really applaud them for this.  They are now looking at food labels closely and noticing just how much salt creeps into their diet.  Fran is diligent about finding products that fit their new regime and many manufacturers are realizing that more and more of us are looking for these low sodium alternatives.  She’s also scouting out resources for “no salt” items such as nuts, chips and ketchup.  By doing her homework, she has found many foods that are really helping to reduce their daily salt consumption.  I have to say that we do have to remember even natural foods such as carrots and milk contain a slight amount of naturally occurring sodium,  so you should take that into account as well.

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So, how much salt do you really need per day in your diet?  Dietary guidelines recommend 2,300 mg a day for those folks under 51, and only 1,500 mg for those above that age or if you are diabetic, have high blood pressure or kidney disease.  We need salt to every day to control and correctly balance the fluids in our bodies, but too much salt can lead to fluid retention which can increase your blood pressure.   If you develop chronic high blood pressure it can lead to a variety of problems…heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure and kidney disease.  Some folks are more salt sensitive than others, for them it’s even more important to watch the amount of salt they consume.  Just one teaspoon of table salt contains 2,358 mg of sodium.

So what are some easy ways to get started lowering your sodium intake?

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5 Easy Ways to Lower Your Sodium Intake

1. Look at labels – become aware of how much sodium is listed for the products that you purchase.  I believe that if you realize how much sodium items contain,  you may make better choices or at least balance those items with ones containing less sodium.

2. Look for items that are “low sodium” or “no sodium”.  You might just be surprised at just how many of your favorite products offer this alternative.  You don’t always have to make the soup from “scratch”, you just need to reach for a different can.  Soy sauce is a great example: 1 tablespoon of regular soy sauce contains around 1,100 mg of sodium, while the low sodium alternative has only about 550 mg.  That’s a savings of 50% of the sodium content!

3.  Use less.  If a recipe calls for salt, try using less than the amount listed.   Also, salt the food right before it is served, instead of while you are cooking it.   You can use less and it will still taste salted.

4. Taste your food before you salt it.   We’ve all seen this.  A person liberally sprinkles salt on untasted food out of habit, not necessity.

5. When you eat out, ask if the kitchen can use less salt.  Most restaurants use liberal amounts of salt because it’s the world’s least expensive flavor enhancer, but I’ve found that if you ask them to use less, they do.

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Our taste buds have become accustomed to salt and it will take a bit of time to get used to using less, but once you do, you’ll actually taste the natural goodness of the food more and it’s better for your health.  Try it!

 

Benefits of Honey

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For this week’s post, I asked Dana if she would talk to you about some of the benefits of honey.  She was very enthusiastic to share her knowledge with you.

“I’ve got an easy assignment this week because honey is one of the most healing foods in the world!  First, I should preface that these benefits are greatest when high quality RAW honey is consumed.  Pasteurized honey does not have as many health benefits as it has been boiled and therefore loses nutrients. Make sure to check you label to look for RAW, honey.  Whole Foods, as well as your local farmer’s market will have quite a few great options.

Raw honey is antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal.  It can be used topically for minor cuts, scrapes and burns.  It can also help reduce swelling, minimize scarring and promote faster healing…just thoroughly wash off the minor wound with soap and water, dab on a bit of raw honey and cover with a bandage.

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I believe honey’s greatest and most interesting benefit is that it may help fight seasonal allergies.  To explain this theory, when bees eat the nectar of a flower, they ingest the pollen spores that so many of us are allergic to.  By eating local honey in small amounts daily for at least a 2 month period, your body may become used to the presence of the allergens and become immune…like what happens when you take a vaccine.  (Note: make sure that you consume honey local to your region to reap the benefits!)

Daily consumption of honey will also boost your level of antioxidants which may help prevent heart disease and keep cancer-causing free radicals at bay.  Yay!

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Possible allergy immunity, lower risk of disease and an antibacterial in one tasty package.  Honey is a no brainer!  I add honey to my coffee, yogurt…and of course, toast!  It’s also a great sugar substitute in baking.  If you’d like another Sunday Supper recipe using honey, please click here.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Honey contains bacteria than can cause infant botulism, this is why doctors forbid honey for infants under the age of one.”

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Disclaimer – Please note: the information presented is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease.  Please consult your physician if you are having any medical problems.

 

 

 

 

Crostini with Blue Cheese, Honey, Walnuts & Figs Recipe – Kangaroo Island – Postcards from Australia

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Kangaroo Island ( known as Australia’s Galapagos) is one of the most unique spots in the world.  Secretly (or not so secretly) this was the place that I most wanted to see during our Australian adventure because of the opportunity to spot kangaroos ( lots of them) in their natural habitat.  The closest I’ve ever gotten to a wild animal in their natural environment was Angel the cheetah, who was the first large cat ambassador for the Cincinnati Zoo.  There’s nothing like feeling your heart beat like crazy because one of the fastest animals on the earth is sprinting towards you,  then feel her hot breath and sharp, sandpaper tongue as she starts licking your leg.  No, she wasn’t washing me before taking a bite…she was just saying “hello.” Angel was a gentle, beautiful animal and this was one of my “all time best” life experiences.  Jeff and I “met” her before a photo shoot we were preparing to do.   The shoot never happened, but the experience has always stayed with me.  You can read more about my friend Angel, here.

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So, when I heard that we were going to visit fields of kangaroos and get “up close and personal” with them, I was very excited.  As you can see from this pic, they’re pretty close, but I was expecting a different experience.  As I said a few posts ago, my chance encounter with a kangaroo on Hamilton Island was much closer and more spontaneous, but I still will cherish all of my time with these beautiful creatures.

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Every foot of this area was covered in “roo pooh.”  Really, I kid you not…you could tell where they had been just by looking at the ground.

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We took every opportunity to view the natural flora and fauna on the island.  We went “bushwalking”  along the steep trails of the coast with a naturalist guide.  It was incredible to see how the plants and animals have adapted to their surroundings.

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In an area where fresh water can sometimes be scarce, these plants funnel water towards their roots.

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While these plants “sacrifice” some of their leaves to survive the harsh conditions.

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I’m glad that we didn’t run into this “critter” on our walk, but we did see the dens where the Goanna lives.

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We traveled to the wildlife sanctuary to visit koalas, birds and the occasional kangaroo.  Koalas are VERY picky eaters. Of the 20 plus species of eucalyptus found on the island the koala only eats 6.  The blue eucalyptus is their fav.

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Next stop: the Remarkable Rocks.  Formed 500 million years ago from granite that has eroded from the corrosive effects of sea spray and wind. These boulders balance on a  large lava dome.  We may not fully understand how they got here, but we can all understand their grandeur and beauty.

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Then off we went to Flinders Chase National Park and Admiral’s Cove where the New Zealand fur seals live.  Can you spot them basking on the rocks?

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After our morning adventures, it was time to stop for a proper tea and admire the view.

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The New Zealand seals are not the only seals on the island. Later we visited the Seal Bay Conservation Park to get a glimpse of Australian sea-lions.   We visited them as they were waking up from their naps and heading out for dinner with friends and family.

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I think this little guy just wants to stay close to his mom and have dinner at home.

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Kangaroo Island is also home to Ligurian bees.  They were brought to the island in 1881 and in 1885 Kangaroo Island was declared a bee sanctuary.  It’s now the oldest bee sanctuary in the world. The bees on Kangaroo Island are extremely special because they are genetically pure due to their isolation.  If you would like to read more about the Ligurian bees, Native Food and Wine has done this knowledgeable post.

Due to their purity, these bees are actually helping stabilize the rest of the world’s bee population and are also involved in cancer research.  I’m a big proponent of honey, and Dana will soon be writing a post explaining some of honey’s benefits.

We were still plagued with bad weather, but right before sunset the sun came out to play and Jeff grabbed these wonderful shots.

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Return To Sunday Supper

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Flora, fauna and fun in a very special and beautiful place.

This week’s recipe has to include some of the golden, sweet Ligurian honey, right?  This is what we were served as an entree (remember that’s Australian for appetizer).  Fresh, local ingredients served in simple Sunday Supper style.

Kangaroo Island is  truly one of the most magical places on earth…I’m so glad that we went and that I got the chance to take you there with me.

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Crostini with Blue Cheese, Honey, Walnuts and Figs Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

A sweet, savory and crunchy appetizer of toasted crostini, blue cheese, honey, walnuts and figs.

Ingredients:

6 thin slices of baguette grilled or toasted
4 oz. good quality blue cheese (can substitute goat cheese)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3 figs, sliced in quarters
6 tablespoons honey (local if possible)
Micro greens for garnish

Directions:

Grill or toast 6 thin slices of baguette and place on plate. Sprinkle blue cheese then walnuts evenly on top of bread. Add 2 slices of figs per plate. Drizzle with honey and top with a dash of micro greens. Serve.

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Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affogato (Easiest Dessert Ever!) Recipe – Adelaide – Postcards from Australia

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This really is by far the easiest recipe EVER!  So, if you have friends and/or family that pop over for Sunday Supper unannounced, don’t worry, you can pull off this elegant dessert in an instant for them…you probably already have the ingredients in your kitchen.

We were served this dessert several times in Australia, including during our brief stay in Adelaide.  Adelaide was a “stopover” for us.  We arrived late at night and took off early in the AM, so we spent time at the airport and that was about it.  I’d heard that Adelaide loves to promote the best of Australian food and wine via their many food festivals. Sadly, we just missed one!

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Our biggest decision when planning this trip was whether or not to stay in Adelaide and then drive up to the Barossa Valley wine country, or, go to a place that very few folks (even Australians) have ever been, Kangaroo Island. Well, the island won, which means that the next time we’re in Australia, we’ll be going back to Adelaide and on to explore the Barossa and all of its lovely, world class vineyards.

Our visit was short and sweet and so is this week’s recipe.   The hardest part might just be picking out what dish you are going to use.  I opted for small, vintage compotes, but you could use wine glasses, martini glasses, or if you don’t want to get fancy, just a tumbler.

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If you like this recipe, but are saying to yourself, “I don’t have an espresso maker,” you can either use instant espresso, or perhaps just make a pot of very strong coffee.  Pour a jigger of the aromatic brew over a scoop of rich, creamy ice cream…add an optional cookie or two, and “voila”…the easiest dessert ever!

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I recommend that you use good quality ice cream.  I went with classic vanilla, but feel free to change it up with another flavor if you’d like.

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Affogato Ice Cream Dessert Recipe

Yield: 4

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Rich, creamy and easy! Hot, dark, rich espresso over cold, buttery ice cream.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (4 jiggers) freshly made espresso
4 - 8 scoops ice cream

Directions:

Scoop ice cream into whatever container you choose...glasses, compotes, tumblers.
Pour 1 jigger (or more, to taste)) hot espresso over the ice cream. I like to use a small, glass pitcher (as shown) and pour at the table.
Serve and eat immediately.

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Enjoy!

 

 

 

Spicy Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

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Last Sunday’s recipe included Spicy Pumpkin Seeds.  The ones that I used for that recipe were purchased from the grocery, but I kept thinking that I’d like to make them differently… a little sweeter and a bit less spicy since hubs is not fond of a lot of heat.

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Since fresh pumpkin is not always available, and not everyone likes to scoop out the seeds and rinse them, I wanted to start with something that would be available year round. I purchased plain pumpkin seeds that are available at your local store and started to “doctor” them with a bit of this and that, and here is the finished product.   I had a few taste testers in the kitchen that day and they all agreed that they liked these much better than store bought.

After they cool, you can store them in a glass jar.  I also think these would be great sprinkled on top of soup.  Or, you can do as we did and just scoop them up by the handful warm from the oven as a savory treat.  Have to say, they lasted less than an hour at our house!

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Spicy Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

Yield: 6 - 12 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Simple, savory, sweet and salty!

Ingredients:

6 oz. pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon light soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
5 drops Tabasco sauce
5 drops Liquid Smoke
Several grinds course salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Pour pumpkin seeds into a small bowl.

In a small saucepan melt butter, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, light soy sauce, garlic salt, Tobasco sauce and Liquid Smoke. Stir until blended.

Pour over pumpkins seeds and stir until seeds are evenly coated.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with several grinds of course salt.

Cool and serve.

May be stored in container for up to 2 weeks.

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Enjoy!