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Thursday, May 16, 2013

7 Delicious No-Sodium Herb and Spice Blends

Ever heard of Meniere's Disease? Yeah, neither had I.

Until two of my friend's were diagnosed in the past few years. As I understand it, it's an incredibly painful swelling of fluid in the inner ear that causes vertigo, tinnitus, migraines, nauseousness and permanent hearing loss. And in Alyson's case an uncanny ability to predict the weather in her eardrums.

One of the few (and most effective) treatments for Meniere's is through a very strict extremely low-sodium diet. My friend Alyson lives just down the street from me and received her diagnosis just in the past few months. In two months she's gone from hobbling like an 85 year old woman needing support (she's 33) and taking numerous medications all of which had pretty awful side effects and still having regular attacks anyway, to losing twenty pounds, being attack free for over thirty days now and totally free of medication of any kind. All through diet. She feels better than she has in years. She blogs about it over at Dirty Green Jello.

She and I have been talking a lot lately and about food and health and it's gotten me looking at my own sodium intake. It's so easy not to realize how much sodium you eat in a day. Reading labels just for the sodium content has gotten me making different food choices. And in honor of that, I'm sharing a few of my favorite herb and spice blends. These blends add flavor to your food, no salt needed!

Chili powder
1 t paprika
2 t ground cumin
1 t cayenne pepper
1 t oregano (opt)
2 t garlic powder

Chili powder from the store lists salt as the third ingredient. Did you know that? This spice blend gives you all the flavor without the salt or silicon dioxide. Whatever that is. Use as you normally would any other chili pepper. I like chili powder on roasted sweet potatoes myself.

Spicy Mexican Seasoning
½ C ground black pepper
½ C onion powder
½ C garlic powder
¼ C chili powder (use the powder listed above!)
¼ C paprika
¼ C dry parsley
¼ C crushed red pepper flakes
¼ C cayenne powder
¼ C ground cumin

This seasoning makes my favorite steak salad ever. To marinade 1lb of steak, add 1 T seasoning + 3 T olive oil. Marinate in the fridge for at least two hours. Top the steak salad with lime dressing.

Taco seasoning
1 T chili powder (use the powder listed above!)
1 T ground cumin
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
½ T dried oregano
¼ t crushed red pepper

Fantastic seasoning for any taco, either chicken, beef or steak.

Herbes De Province
5 T dry thyme
3 T dried savory
3 T dried marjoram
5 T dried rosemary
1 ½ T lavender
½ T fennel

This blend goes well on anything. There is some debate as to whether or not this really is an authentic French seasoning, but I don't really care. I use because it tastes divine, not because it's "authentic". Especially good on roasted vegetables. Just coat root vegetables in olive oil, toss with a T of herbs and roast as you normally would. Use on chicken or mix with olive oil and rice vinegar for a light salad dressing. If you're adventurous, grow these herbs in your own garden. The flavor that freshly dried herbs is out of this world! You'll never be able to buy dull, dusty store bought herbs again.

Try coating one side of a grilled cheese sandwich lightly with this blend, then grill as you usually would. Be warned, there's no going back!

Italian Seasoning
3 T basil
3 T oregano
1 T rosemary
1 T garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1 t thyme
¼ t black pepper

Everybody loves Italian! Use in Italian sauces and cooking. Or mix with olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar for a light and lovely dressing. Again, grow your own and you'll never buy from the store again.

Herb Pepper
1 C fresh ground pepper
½ C dried red bell pepper, ground
1/3 C dried parsley
1 t dried mint

Here's an unusual one for you. Pepper with a freshness. Try it on chicken or a salad. One of the things I love about cooking at home is not being backed into having to eat only what they sell. To dry your own bell pepper, cut it in quarters and lay it on a screen in a warm, dry room. In a week or two it will be all dried out and ready to go.

Seasoned Flour
2 C flour (whichever flour you use)
½ t dried basil
½ t dried parsley
½ t oregano
¼ t fresh ground pepper

Use this flour in any of your regular baking. Simply substitute this flour 1 for 1 for your regular flour for a savory treat.

I'll be working to lower my own sodium intake over the next while because I think it'll be good for me. And while I likely won't go to the extreme that Alyson has had to, I can feel the difference less salt is making just in the past two weeks. I'm not as "puffy" when I wake up in the morning. I have fewer headaches. I have more energy thoughout the day. I can actually taste my food. It's sort of wonderful. I'm sort of enjoying it. I hope you do to!

If you happen to be looking for information about low sodium diets, Sodium Girl is a fantastic resource! To die for recipes, that prove you don't need to salt to eat amazing food.

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