Friday, April 19, 2013

While You Were Painting

Tofu Mayo Mess, Digital Photograph
While you were painting this week, I was creating no sodium to just a trace of the poison sauce recipes. After a winter, and now spring, battling sinusitis aggravating a chronic vertigo condition so much so that constant lightheadedness and clogged sinuses kept me from dancing at my easel most days, I totally swore off salt and set about to lower the content in the condiments/spreads in my frig.

My distraction from art over physical issues is one of the major reasons, I will never sell my paintings seriously if I don't do what I can to improve the quality of my life. For me, art comes from my life experiences. This photo of this morning's activities will be a good reference for a still life in watercolor some rainy day this summer. For now, it's a record of what I've been up to: radically cutting salt from my diet.

No salt added to food is a snap cooking at home, but sauces are what make already low salt foods interesting, enticing, gourmet, delicious.  This week three sauces and a salad dressing got my attention:
Mayonnaise, Soy Sauce  Red Pepper Rouille and a 'vinaigrette dressing' more tasty than plain oil and vinegar. ( I'll spare you the Soy Substitute recipe and the salad dressing for some other day).

My activities don't sound too interesting to artists I know, but if any of you suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure, hypertension, vestibular disorders (like vertigo)--and sinus afflictions, no salt diets lower pressures caused by too much water being retained in the body. Eating low to no sodium these last weeks, I've lost seven pounds and my tinnitus is a lot less noticeable--wouldn't that be grand to get rid of?

NO SALT GARLIC SPREAD is the easiest of the things I made. It's great on crackers as a snack, (we like Kraft's Whole Grain Wheat Thins with only 55 mg of sodium in 16 pieces, a serving). All you need buy is elephant garlic bulbs. I get three. I peel them and roast them sprayed with vegetable spray in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes--then run them through the food processor--or a blender.  The batch yeilds about 14 ounces. The hardest task is pealing the bulbs. The rest is easy. 0 mg. salt.

I got the basic recipe  RED PEPPER ROUILLE SAUCE  from the Canyon Ranch Cooking by Jeanne Jones. I made no salt adjustments, for this sauce has a spicy kick  and is quite satisfying as a condiment and a spread. It also freezes, which makes life a lot easier. It too is easy:

3/4 C roasted red peppers (4 red bell peppers)
2 garlic cloves
2 slices of low sodium whole-wheat bread broken into pieces, (lowest sodium you can buy).

The next ingredient, 1/4 C fish stock or clam juice, I eliminated and used low sodium vegetable broth instead.
I totally eliminated the 1/4 tsp. of salt, of course.

The rest was okay:  1/4 tsp. of pepper (or to taste); 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste).

1 Tblsp. extra-virgin olive oil.

Roasting peppers is the tough part of this recipe. It's busy and best done ahead a few days if you want to get any painting in at all. I've edited Jone's directions, but they are basically as given in her book. I like to simplify chores if possible being the lazy cook I am and preferring to be elsewhere.

1. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds and membranes. Roast the peppers under the broiler till the skins are completely black and blistered. You want to peel them off.
2. While the peppers are still very hot, place them in a Ziploc freezer bag and leave them sit at least 20 minutes to "sweat."
3. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, remove the skins, scraping off any stubborn pieces with a knife, (Do not rinse them in water to remove the skin. That would remove the flavor as well). Rub them with the olive oil and either leave them as they are or slice or chop to desired size. They will keep for several days in the frig stored in a tightly covered container.

While the energy is good, the blackness of  this acrylic
painting in progress is troubling. It also needs  taming.
To do so, I had to side track.
 The last basic sauce I was interested in was a  tasty substitute for mayonnaise, note I said 'substitute.' Hellmann's has nothing to worry about from me.

Till these last weeks,  I had been using Hellmann's Low Fat with 130 mg of sodium in just 1 tablespoon. Given the aggravation I have had this season with my sinuses and vertigo attacks, 130 became too much.  Patients with Vestibular disorders should have no more than 800 mg of salt a day.  By spending time in the kitchen, I got my intake down to 620 mg. I kept a salt journal. I couldn't believe it. This morning, I put together this concoction starting with a recipe I got from Donald A. Gazzaniga in his book, The No-Salt, Lowest-Sodium Cook Book, and then doctoring it to my taste. Everything goes directing into the food processor.

14 oz. SOFT tofu drained and cubed.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 egg white (this is the culprit that contains the salt in an egg, not the yolk. I used it anyway).
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp.pepper (or to taste. I used a sprinkle).
3/4 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. tumeric
1 tsp. powdered garlic

Then, because I adore garlic and the mixture still needed something, I added 2 Tblsp.of my garlic spread. That did the trick. Process till creamy smooth. This recipe made about 1.7 pints.

Boring as all of this might be to you, to me, my well being and my art depends upon eliminating as much sodium as I can from my diet. That last landscape  was looking a bit black to me. It lacked vivid color and in it's first stage, the energy was coming from complete frustration and anger over my health issues. To finish it with a bit of finesse, I had to cure what ailed me. Salt is my poison.  Knocking my intake down to 620 mg. to 800 mg a day was a huge success though no paintings got painted.  Two containers of my sauces will be in my purse this evening when we go out to dine with friends, (wearing a size smaller skinny jean).

NOTE: Both cookbooks mentioned are available at Amazon.









26 comments:

  1. Good for you! Salt is awful. We take in so much more salt in our American diets than the maximum safe limit every day! I am a vegetarian, actually a pescatarian because I do eat fish. In any event, I eat no salt at all. I also monitor ANYTHING I consume for salt content. It really must be monitored. Some ingredients will say, No Salt Added, which could really mean about ten times the safe amount with no extra added. You must check out serving sizes. Some will say only 10 milligrams per serving, but when you check further you find there are about a million servings in each package! You are doing the right thing. Keep it up - and paint!

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    1. I didn't get into the quantities other than the ideal number of milligrams for me. Smaller portions of everything has always been right. All processed foods should be avoided. Also to be avoided is alcohol, chocolate and caffein--anything that alters mood--depressant or stimulus.

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  2. I know for a fact, adding fresh herbs, any citrus juice, even the zest helps boosting the taste in food,...ginger is another great one... I am probably one of the few who doesn't salt their food.. Fresh herbs and spices and citrus do the trick.

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    1. ABSOLUTELY ! I cut out salt in cooking years ago, but 1200 to 1500mg per day is way over what I should have given my chronic vertigo, the vestibular disorder called Meniere's Syndrome. As low as I can go is the best control I have to avoid attacks that instantly set the world spinning which causes vomiting and dehydration. It's a bear. Spices are everything. I like ginger too and cumin, etc.

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  3. good for you---improving your health! I haven't given salt much thought--I'm currently thinking of cutting sugar out. Sugar is so bad too! I bet everything you make is delicious! I like the painting. I know how you are....you'll revisit it and make it how you want it to be. Happy weekend!

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    1. Saving my health to fight another day. Some say salt and sugar both have adverse effects on our bodies. The dietary treatment of vertigo also reduces sugar. That was never a problem for me. I was a salt person, not a sugar person. Next I'll be buying a mandoline so I can make my own potato chips. I tried once--had the slicing machine in my hand and was on my way to checkout when Ellis made me put it back. He didn't think I should use any machinery that might cost me my right hand. He didn't want to risk losing his artist and draughtsman. :-)

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  4. As we get older it seems that we spend greater amounts of time facing up to the frailties of our bodies and the experience we have of our individual mix of developing weaknesses points us in the direction of sensible action to alleviate the problems. If we don't we just risk a rapid decline in our condition. You are clearly a very thoughtful, intelligent woman who explores these matters in a way that achieves fruitful outcomes for yourself. Good luck with your new regime and thanks for the information and inspiration.

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    1. Unfortunately true. The seventies are the seventies. Chronic vertigo popped into the tapestry of my life before seventy, I'm sorry to say. So low salt has been an issue for seven years. Living in Michigan surrounded by 20% of the world's fresh water, the Great Lakes, sinus has been a life-long travail. This winter one ailment aggravated the other when I caught the cold from the young woman on the plane coming home from Cancun who didn't cover her mouth when she coughed. (A pox on her house). The clash of the two maladies, involving water retention in the middle ear,meant I had to cut more salt out of our diets. That's what I'm doing. Going a step further and tackling the offending condiments and sauces that add fun and flavor. By all means, low salt cookery isn't new to me. The no salt act has just gotten more severe. Ellis, as a one time heart patient, will benefit too. It's just our friends who will shun us for taking so long to give wait-people our order at restaurants. I used to fool my eyes at folks like me. Now, I'm one of them, for this last winter was the worst. Also, from now on, I will be wearing a surgical mask on the plane. Say hello if we happen across one another on a flight.




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  5. Yes, we all have to start watching what we eat!! (Unfortunately). I try to watch my salt intake since I have high blood pressure..it seems like everything has salt in it, so we have to be careful...I love chocolate, but too much of that give me heart palpitations!! So we all have something that we have to watch! Painting is safe..LOL I like your painting, Linda...walk away
    then go back to it!! take care!!

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    1. Thanks for the warning Hilda. When I first did it, I was shocked by my palette, which I do put together instinctively against all the rules for good planning. It seemed so dark and ominous--Danielle used the word violent in her comment. Observing the painting of this last week as I went back and forth between pantry and freezer though, I liked it. It's rough. It's dark. It suggests ominous feelings, but it's expressive and it's true. It's got life. It's a keeper. Thanks for reinforcing my judgement.

      The funny thing about having to watch our intake of salt and sugar is everybody in our age group sits around remembering the fantastic bar barbecued ribs they had at that restaurant on the corner down from the high school? I suppose those kind of memories is why I like to paint pastries. :-)

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  6. Interesting. I Have high BP and retain water so I double in size every day, yet I do nothing about it. I admire your get up and go, and your determination. laziness makes me say que sera sera! I like the painting. If you squint it is much more light than dark!

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    1. I'm going to leave the painting be.

      High blood pressure you can't feel and aren't aware of. Extreme dizziness sometimes followed by vomiting gets your attention. It sure got mine. I had two such bouts this winter pushing me to bring my already low salt intake lower still. That can only happen in my kitchen. Years ago, I started making my own saltless soups and buying really low sodium products (Eden Beans for chili, etc.). Now,I'm making condiments and sauces and cutting down on wine, another item that affects circulation. Those dizzy spells are f---ing scary. My first one happened in the fast lane on a highway. I was damn lucky to be able to maneuver the car off the road without killing myself and others. I didn't drive for a year afterwards and finally took myself to a shrink to get over the phobia. Horrible period of life. I was 64. I retain water too. I gain four pounds just drinking eight ounces of water.

      I always suspected sinus problems added to this malady. This year I learned I was right the hard way. --Do you believe that there was snow on the deck this morning? --With scilia blooming in the garden? Weird spring.

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  7. Just catching up with your blog after a long time away from my computer. So sorry to hear of your health challenges and hope that the salt restriction works well so you can get back to painting. I was heartened to hear that you are considering yourself a gallery artist as I completely agree! I also greatly admire the latest self portrait - its very accomplished. I can see that your time spent studying Sargent and others and copying the Masters has paid off.

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    1. Thanks Susan. It's both nice and depressing to have you confirm my thinkings about being a gallery artist. I find galleries a bit scary. So much to know about how they operate. The co-op is easy enough to understand, but the rest do have various ways of doing business that are not always fair to the artist. I'd like Honey to take care of that end. My eyes glaze over when confronted with business details OR I get totally bitchy when it comes to negotiating on my behalf. It is best left to people who have been doing that all their lives.

      I wish I had more energy this last season for charcoal sessions. But that was then and things are looking up now.

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  8. As the weather improves so, hopefully, will your health! I've been fat-free(ish) & salt-free(ish) for 15 years (heart attack). I've managed to shed another ten pounds since Christmas largely through eating properly rather than dieting. Pat's home baked bread is tailored to me, and is my main weakness.

    Close your eyes and think Mexico!

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    1. We've been the same since Ellis' heart attack twenty two years ago. With my mysterious affliction, we went much lower on the salt intake. Now, it seems I have to go lower still. Thankfully, I am not a lover of bread. I can eliminate it. So you won't be seeing any salt-free bread recipes taking time away from painting here. I do like a glass of wine at cocktail hour, that's a sad one to give up socially, but great for dropping pounds and keeping one's head clear. --I think my eyes have been closed all winter thinking Mexico.

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  9. I enjoyed your post Linda. :) I am always on the lookout for healthy recipes, even though I have a massive sweet tooth, I try to keep the rest of our meals and snacks whole and clean. I am really going to have to give your garlic spread and roasted red pepper one a try.

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    1. The rouille sauce is good especially when made with clam juice. Making it with salt-free vegetable broth, I threw in a pinch of that wonderful spice Saffron. Expensive, but oh so worth it. Good cooking.

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  10. Linda!
    Hang in there!
    I am so sorry for your health issues!
    You are a stong person and I wish you the best!
    Thank you for your recent visit to my blog! Your suport is greatly appreciated!
    I am looking forward to more of your very colorful,wild,and very interesting paintings!
    Take care my friend!
    Your art buddy!
    Michael

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    1. Me too. There's crud on these supposedly 'golden years.' --I haven't visited enough over these last weeks. I've been too involved seeking solutions. More home cooking being one of them. The other being ferreting out the right doctors.

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  11. To knock down the salt intake could only do good to all of us, I will take your advise , am already trying to cut down or even totally eliminate the sugar ( very difficult ) . I LOVE garlic too ! Wish you well !

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    1. Garlic is the best. Sugar needs monitoring. If you eat out a lot, you're lost. Unfortunately home cooking is the only way, given all the chefs who believe food is tasteless unless salted, sugared, or loaded with fat. Art enriches our souls. Intelligent food preparation and diet enriches our bodies. I need both an art agent and conscientious chef schooled in physiology. :-))

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  12. Dear Linda I hope that soon all the best in your health ...
    As paint may seem like a light activity, it is not so.
    And so you have to be healthy to do it! The crisis affecting the balance are particularly disabling ...
    When it happened to Danilo, in a moment, a person who seemed to be able to do everything, it was not able to do anything!
    The salt-free diet will help a lot ... and then, as I have seen on my husband, climate stability contributes to greater well-being. The change from cold to hot and vice versa are always difficult.
    You're a fighter, so you win!
    Ciao, Rita.

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    1. Thank you Rita. You know my problem. The weather has been stormy the last few days. Then it clears, but still there is no warmth. Add the budding of the trees to the barometric pressure shifts and I've got a headache and no energy. Hopefully, things will improve soon. Meanwhile, I cook and read.

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  13. We, for once, are having lovely weather.

    I've just added a picture of the finished greenhouse to my last post, as you requested!

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    1. Thanks. Though, seeing you up there in the rafters was impressive.

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