VIDEO: An Ode To Anchovies

anchovies

AN ODE TO ANCHOVIES

Anchovies are one of the great polarizers of the gourmet world: beloved by connoisseurs, bedeviled by the less adventurous. Use them incorrectly, and these little fish will overpower any dish with their intensity; but use them properly, and the wonderful saltiness of anchovies will enhance even the most simple of dishes.

Despite their, shall we say, “smelly” reputation, you’ll find cans of anchovies in most chef’s pantries, whether packed in oil or salt. The reason? They’re the ultimate culinary trump card – versatile, delicious, non-perishable, and a great ingredient to give depth and texture to a dish. Add it to pasta, toast, pizza, salad and any sort of sauce, and you’ve got the bones for a great meal. And when it’s hot out, like it is right now, simple and easy sounds wonderful!

Plus, anchovies are not only packed with flavor, they’re also loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, all in a very small, understated fish. Eaten all around the world as a prized delicacy, especially in the Mediterranean regions of Spain (anchovies are a tapas staple), France and Italy, so it’s time to shed the scales of shame this fish has in America!

We wanted some great tips on how to cook with anchovies, and we found them in this great video we’re sharing with you below. Melissa Clark of the New York Times highlights the wonderful versatility of anchovies and shares her secret recipe (hint: it involves toast and butter, yum!). It’s also a great primer on anchovies – from what they are, how they are packed, and how to recognize good quality anchovies when you see them.

Video source: The New York Times

And once you’ve done your homework, go shopping! Our anchovy selection is on sale until Monday, July 21st!

Shop Anchovies on Sale  >

Do you have a great recipe for anchovies? Share it with us in the comments!

How To Make The Perfect Pie Crust From Scratch

how to make the perfect pie crust

Knowing how to make sweet and savory pies and tarts is not only a must-have skill for any cook, it  can also save the day (or night). Yes, you could buy a tart shell pre-made, but why would you, when making pie crust is easy and takes only a few simple ingredients? Tarts are the perfect vehicle for seasonal ingredients, be them savory or sweet. We especially love pies during the summer months when fresh, ripe berries are in season, which inspires us to make all manner of sweet tarts.

Today, we’re giving you our secret, no-fail recipe and method for the perfect pie crust. All you need is flour, butter, salt and water, and a few tricks up your apron sleeves! Once you’ve nailed this recipe, pie-making will truly be “easy as pie”, and your dough will always come out flaky and buttery.

So, read on, take some notes, and make your most perfect pie crust ever at home tonight!

The Perfect Pie Crust Primer

How To Make the Perfect Pie Crust: Ingredients

2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup butter
½ tsp. salt
4 or 5 tbsps. iced water

How To Make The Perfect Pie Crust: Making The Dough

First, cut the butter into small cubes and put it in the freezer to chill - this is an important step!

Place the flour in a mound on the counter.  Make a large indentation in the center – this should look like a crater of sorts. Grab the butter from the freezer and place the cubes in the center of your “crater”.  Sprinkle ½ tsp. salt.

perfect pie crust

 

You could use a food processor or a pastry cutter for making pie crust, but we like to do it old school, with our fingers. This has the advantage of letting you get a feel for the ingredients, and adjusting as you go. With the tips of your fingers, start breaking apart the butter and mixing it with the flour, working it until you get a coarse, meal-like texture.

Form a small mound, indent the center again, and add 3 tablespoons of iced water. Form the dough ball.

perfect pie crust

 

Start forming the dough with your hands, folding from the outside in. Keep adding the rest of the chilled water (1 or 2 more tbsps.), until the dough ball comes together. Don’t knead. You want the dough to be on the softer side.

Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic film. Chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

How To Roll Out The Pie Crust

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. When rolling out, keep rotating (for uniformity) and sprinkling more flour to the dough (so it won’t stick). Depending on the tart pan you’re using, make sure you roll at least 2 inches more than the diameter of your pan.

The formula for perfect pie crust success: roll, rotate, sprinkle, repeat!

how to make the perfect pie crust

 

How To UNROLL The Pie Dough Into The Pan

Wrap the dough around your rolling pin, and unroll into your tart pan, previously brushed with melted butter so it won’t stick.

piecrust_3

 

Finally, press gently with your thumbs on the bottom and edges of the mold, making sure the crust makes contact with the pan.

Let at least 1 inch of dough overlap over the edge of the tart shell. Then, crimp it with your fingers, or press your rolling pin over the edge, to flatten.  Cut any excess with a knife or kitchen shears.

How To Make The Perfect Pie Crust: Final Touches

You’ll want to use your perfect pie crust right away, but resist! Chill in in the fridge for 15 minutes before using (use that time to get the oven pre-heated).

If you want to reserve the pie crust for later,  just wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze.

Perfectly finished tart! Ph: Hiroyuki Takeda

A beautiful, perfectly finished tart! Ph: Hiroyuki Takeda

Do you have a trick for making tarts and pies? Share it with us in the comments!

Herb Crusted Top Sirloin Roast With Ratatouille

Herbed Top Sirloin Father's Day Recipe

 

Want to whip up something delicious for Dad this Father’s Day? This crusty roast with colorful (and healthy!) veggie Ratatouille is guaranteed to make you Dad’s favorite.

Herb Crusted Top Sirloin Roast With Ratatouille

Herb Crusted Top Sirloin Roast With Ratatouille

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. Top sirloin or Strip
  • 5 slices of regular white bread
  • ½ stick butter (room temperature)
  • ¼ tsp. Allspice
  • ¼ tsp. cumin
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. dry basil
  • ¼ tsp. porcini powder
  • 2 tsp. fresh parsley
  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • ½ lb. pearl onions
  • 3 zucchinis (seedless, cubed)
  • 2 eggplants (seedless, cubed)

Instructions

  1. Trim the meat of any excess fat.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. In a food processor, combine the bread with butter, herbs and spices, salt and pepper.
  4. Cover the meat with the bread mix and put in the fridge, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.
  5. On a roasting pan, bake the meat for about 10 minutes, and then lower the temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue baking for about 15 to 20 minutes (depending on how well-cooked you want the meat).
  6. While meat is cooking, start the ratatouille.
  7. Heat a medium saucepan with 1 tbsp. olive oil, and sauté the cherry tomatoes, whole, until they’re slightly charred. Remove and reserve. Don’t rinse the pan.
  8. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to the same pan and sauté the onions until golden, adding 3 to 4 tbsp. of water while cooking, about 4 minutes. Remove and reserve.
  9. To the same pan, add 1 tbsp. olive oil and stir-fry the zucchinis and eggplants until they just change color – about 2 minutes.
  10. Add in the previously sautéed tomatoes and onions, and cook together – about 3 minutes.
  11. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.
  12. When the meat is done, remove from the oven and let rest in a warm place before cutting, so the juices get a chance to settle.
  13. Slice the meat against the grain (cross-wise) into 1 to 1.5 inch slices, and serve with a side of the ratatouille.
  14. Recipe: Marcela Sorondo for Gourmet Food World
  15. Photo: Monica Sempertegui for Gourmet Food World
http://www.gourmetfoodworld.com/gourmet-food-blog/herb-crusted-top-sirloin-roast-with-ratatouille/

10 Cinco de Mayo Recipes by Bloggers We Love

Cinco de Mayo Menu

 

Cinco de Mayo is coming up rapido, and we’re ready to put on our sombreros and get our fiesta on!

Americans have warmly embraced this Mexican celebration, which celebrates the defeat of the French army in Puebla on May 5th of 1862. We’re all about fighting oppression, of course, but above all, we’re all about two things: delicious foods and copious amounts of tequila and cerveza. 

To celebrate this Cinco de Mayo, we’ve brought together some of the most incredible food ideas from  our favorite food bloggers. We have 10 amazing Cinco de Mayo recipes to share with you, so grab your amigos, a bottle of tequila, your most colorful serve-ware, and viva Mexico!

- – -

It’s all about fresh ingredients, lots of cheese, and a good amount of spice for this Cinco de Mayo menu. We chose two different types of tacos  – classic Tacos Al Pastor recipe and a healthier Fish Tacos option.  For sides, we went with fresh Cilantro Lime Rice and some mouthwatering Beer Battered Bean and Cheese Stuffed Poblano Chiles. 

You’ll need some traditional salsas, like a classic Pico de Gallo and Salsa Verde, and it wouldn’t be a true fiesta without nachos and guac, so we found you an amazing Sriracha Guacamole recipe and Pulled Pork Nachos that will leave you thanking Dios.  Melted cheese with tequila? Si, por favor! This Queso Fundido With Poblano Chorizo and Tequila recipe has it all.  Finally, a great Margarita recipe to wash it all down! Happy Cinco!

 SRIRACHA GUACAMOLE

Sriracha Guacamole by Damn Delicious.

Sriracha Guacamole by Damn Delicious.

PULLED PORK NACHOS

Pulled Pork Nachos by Simply Gloria.

Pulled Pork Nachos by Simply Gloria.

 BEER-BATTERED BEAN AND CHEESE STUFFED POBLANO PEPPERS

Beer-battered Bean and Cheese Stuffed Poblano Chiles by Girl Versus Dough

Beer-battered Bean and Cheese Stuffed Poblano Chiles by Girl Versus Dough

 TACOS AL PASTOR

Tacos Al Pastor by Spicie Foodie

Tacos Al Pastor by Spicie Foodie.

 GRILLED FISH TACOS

Fish Tacos by Aggie's Kitchen

Grilled Green Fish Tacos by Aggie’s Kitchen

 CILANTRO LIME RICE

Cilantro Lime Rice by Big Flavors From A Tiny Kitchen

Cilantro Lime Rice by Big Flavors From A Tiny Kitchen

 PICO DE GALLO

Pico de Gallo by The Wicked Noodle

Pico de Gallo by The Wicked Noodle

 SALSA VERDE

Salsa Verde by Eat.Drink.Love

Salsa Verde by Eat.Drink.Love

 QUESO FUNDIDO WITH POBLANO CHORIZO AND TEQUILA

Classic Queso Fundido with Poblano, Chorizo and Tequila by Cooking For Keeps

Classic Queso Fundido with Poblano, Chorizo and Tequila by Cooking For Keeps

 GREEN MARGARITA

Green Margarita by Gimme Some Oven

Easy Green Margarita by Gimme Some Oven

 

Love the Cinco de Mayo recipes? Shop for the ingredients here!

Top row, left to right: Mexican Chorizo, Dried Chipotle Chiles, Arbol Chiles, Sriracha Sauce, Ancho Chile.
Bottom row, left to right: Cumin Seeds, Ground Cilantro, Jalapeño Powder, Red Pepper Flakes, Ground Cumin.

usefulitems

Spring Entertaining: Warm Goat Cheese & Honey Crostini Salad

Warm Goat Cheese Crostini

Warm Goat Cheese Crostini

Easy but sophisticated, this delicious goat cheese crostini is ready in 15 minutes.  Serve it over a bed of greens with sweet dried fruit, crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds, and drizzled with an accompanying vinaigrette for a light, delicious lunch.  It’s also equally great by itself as an easy appetizer for when friends drop by. Pair it with a chilled grass of Sancerre (or your favorite white wine), and enjoy all season long.

Spring Entertaining: Warm Goat Cheese & Honey Crostini Salad

Spring Entertaining: Warm Goat Cheese &   Honey Crostini Salad

Ingredients

  • For Crostini
  • 4 slices whole-grain bread
  • 4 slices fresh goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup caramelized walnuts (for garnish)
  • Honey (for garnish)
  • For Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tsp. whole grain mustard
  • For Salad
  • 2 cups mixed baby greens
  • 1/4 cup yellow raisins
  • 1/8 cup dried apricots
  • 1/8 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup oven-roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup carrots, shredded

Instructions

  1. 1. In a large bowl, mix in cranberries, apricots, raisins, pumpkin seeds, greens and shredded lettuce. Set aside.
  2. 2. For the dressing, mix the vinegar, olive oil, mustard and honey in a small bowl, and whisk until the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is smooth. This can be made in advance and refrigerated until use.
  3. 3. In a large baking sheet, arrange the bread slices, and top with a 1/2-inch slice of goat cheese. Bake for about 5 minutes, until the cheese starts to bubble and just starts to brown.
  4. 4. While it bakes, mix the salad greens with the dressing. Serve the goat cheese crostini right warm, drizzled with honey and garnished with a couple of caramelized walnuts, over the bed of dressed greens.
http://www.gourmetfoodworld.com/gourmet-food-blog/spring-entertaining-warm-goat-cheese-honey-crostini-salad/

A Festive Side Dish! Bacon Wrapped Green Beans

20 days till Christmas! Around here, our holiday preparations include going down the Pinterest rabbit hole while looking for pretty crafts, listening to All I Want For Christmas on a loop, and searching for fab outfits to wear throughout the party season. But, most importantly, Christmas is all about FOOD for us. Great dishes, gourmet ingredients, and impeccable presentation, perfectly exemplified in our featured recipe today, Bacon Wrapped Green Beans by Ashley of The Pike Place Kitchen.

 Bacon Wrapped Green Beans Recipe

A mouthwatering Christmas side dish! Bacon Wrapped Green Beans. Ph: Samantha at The Pike Place Kitchen.

If the picture above didn’t get your mouth watering, you’re stronger than we are. We weren’t able to resist the perfect combination of ingredients: tender and nutritious green beans, wrapped in BACON -crispy, buttery, mouthwatering bacon. We’re pretty much obsessed with bacon around here (so is Samantha, her hysterically funny blog post reads like an ode to the crispy ham). It was unanimous around our office: Bacon Wrapped Green Beans are the perfect side for a Christmas dinner.

The presentation is genius, much more modern and elegant than, say, a green bean casserole. The crispy green beans are offset by the silkiness of the bacon oils. Size-wise, it gives you a taste without overwhelming the plate or the palate, or the main dish. Plus, can we talk about how pretty it looks? The festive green beans are perfectly bundled up with the deep rose bacon. It just add such a lovely note to a dish, without trying to hard to be “Christmas-y”.

Bacon Wrapped Green Beans Recipe

Pretty in (bacon) pink: green beans bundled up in crispy bacon. Ph: Samantha at The Pike Place Kitchen.

If you want to up the ante (and you know you do!), you can use Pancetta or Tamworth CuredBacon. The latter is cured with sea salt, Rosemary and black pepper.  Samantha chose garlic salt to season them, but we think a great sea salt would give it a glamorous touch (try Maldon Sea Salt from England, included in the New York Times 2013 Holiday Gift Guide).

GREEN BEAN TIPS

Green beans are available year-round, but sometimes can be hard to find fresh. If you’re using fresh green beans, don’t buy the whole package, buy them loose so you can make sure to pick out good ones – firm, crisp, and bright green. Avoid anything that looks droopy or brownish.

Bacon Wrapped Green Beans Recipe

Festive greens: It all starts with perfectly crisp, bright green beans. Ph: Samantha at The Pike Place Kitchen.

Now let’s get cooking! Samantha was super generous to share her recipe with us. For more great recipes and laugh-out-loud ramblings, make sure to visit her blog at The Pike Place Kitchen.

Bacon Wrapped Green Beans

 Bacon Wrapped Green   Beans

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb Green Beans
  • Cracked Black Pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Salt
  • 1 tsp Minced Onion Pieces
  • 3 Slices of Bacon (cut in half)
  • Olive Oil Spray

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray olive oil onto a baking sheet.
  2. Trim the green beans and blanch for three minutes. After blanching, dry the beans on a paper towel. (To blanch: submerge the green beans in boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove from boiling water, and submerge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.)
  3. Divide the green beans into 6 even piles. Wrap each pile in a half-slice of bacon.
  4. Place each bundle, seam side down, on the baking sheet and lightly spray tops with olive oil. Season the tops with garlic salt, minced onion pieces, and cracked black pepper.
  5. Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes, and serve.
http://www.gourmetfoodworld.com/gourmet-food-blog/a-festive-side-dish-bacon-wrapped-green-beans/

Thanksgiving Dessert: Easy As Pecan Pie Recipe

Pie Perfect: Pecan Pie For Thanksgiving Dessert

Pie Perfect: Pecan Pie For Thanksgiving Dessert. Photos (left to right): Angela at Unexpected Elegance, Gourmet Food World.

When you talk about Thanksgiving dessert, the first thing that comes to mind is pie. Pumpkin pie, of course, and apple pie, sure. We’re a bit pumpkin-ed out after Halloween, and apple pie seems a bit, well, boring! But a crunchy, sweet and meaty pecan pie recipe, now that’s something that gets our culinary gears churning. This Southern classic is always delicious, but we were astounded to find out that pecans are also really nutritious! Read on!

Delicious anyway you slice it! Pecan Pie.

Delicious anyway you slice it! Pecan Pie by Angela . Photo by: Angela at Unexpected Elegance

Pecans are yummy, yes, but they’re also heart healthy, rich in Omega 6 fatty acids and a good source of protein and unsaturated fats. Studies even show that eating pecans may delay age-related muscle degeneration. So this Thanksgiving you can have your pecan pie and eat it.  Your heart will also be thankful.

Pecan Pie Recipe Tips & Trips

  • For choosing pecans with shells: look for clean shells with no blemishes or cracks
  • If you shake it and it rattles, then roll. It shouldn’t rattle!
  • Pecans have more moisture and spoil more easily, so double-bag any leftover and store in the fridge (3 months) or freezer (6 months)
  • For toasted pecans, bake in the oven at 350F for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Make ahead: bake your pecan pie fully and freeze, up to a week. Then thaw at room temperature when you’re ready to serve
  • Pretty as pecan pie: decorate the crust by marking the edge with a fork using a crosshatch pattern

Want to give pecan pie a try? To help you out, we’re sharing a delicious (and easy!) Pecan Pie recipe by Angela of Unexpected Elegance. For this Texas native, raised amongst pecan trees, Pecan Pie is as American (if not more!) than apple pie. Her recipe (below), is delicious and easy to follow, which leaves you with more time to spend with your family. Visit Angela’s blog for her full Pecan Pie post, plus more recipes, fun diy home projects and crafty lifestyle tricks. Thanks Angela!

Easy as pecan pie recipe

A generous amount of meaty chopped pecans is the secret to equally delicious slices. Photo by: Angela at Unexpected Elegance.

Thanksgiving Dessert: Easy As Pecan Pie Recipe

Thanksgiving Dessert: Easy As Pecan Pie   Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2/3 Cup of Sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 Cup Light Karo
  • Chopped Pecans
  • pie crust (pre-made works just fine) or try Martha Stewart's Basic Pie Dough Recipe

Instructions

  1. Form the crust into the pie dish
  2. Fill the bottom with chopped pecans. You can have as much or as little as you would like.
  3. Melt butter and whisk in the remaining ingredients: sugar, vanilla, Light Karo, eggs.
  4. Pour the liquid over the pecans, and the pecans will slowly rise to the surface.
  5. Use some foil or crust cover around the edges of the crust during most of the baking so the crust doesn’t get too brown.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for around 45 minutes.
  7. Notes
  8. A lot of pecan pie recipes call for the dark syrup, but make sure to get the light for this one!!
http://www.gourmetfoodworld.com/gourmet-food-blog/thanksgiving-dessert-easy-as-pecan-pie-recipe/

Ode To Truffle Oil: 5 Reasons We Love It, Plus A Fabulous Recipe

Every May, the rain stops, the flowers bloom, and, around the country, moms gets ready to relax.  This is the one day of the year where the mop and dust pans are left in the closet and the alarm is shut off … Yes, this Sunday the 13th of May is Mother’s Day!

Time to tie on that apron, and get the eggs cracking, because this year we’re making Mom gourmet French Toast for a delicious breakfast in bed. Breakfast is probably the most rushed, hectic moment of the day for mom; she runs around making sure everyone is up and dressed, the coffee brewed, the toast/cereal/pancakes served, lunches packed… exhausting! This Mother’s Day, SHE rests, and YOU get to work. We searched high and low to bring you the best, most delicious French Toast recipes to make Mom for Mother’s Day 2013!

We selected two mouth-watering options to choose from: first, a perfect traditional French Toast with a twist for homey moms, and second, a more intricate recipe for more adventurous foodie moms. Either way, she’s guarantee to love it (especially since she didn’t have to make it)!

For… the traditional gourmet mom

Overnight French Toast Casserole Topped with Bananas Fosters by Gina’s Skinny Recipes

This recipe won us over from the word “bananas”, but there were several other reasons why it was a winner. One very practical one? You can make this ahead, and the casserole format suits a larger family. Gina soaks the bread for eight hours in a mixture of eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, sugar and rum (yum!), then bakes it to puffed golden, spongy perfection and tops it with bananas that she expertly caramelizes in light butter, rum, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. If you’re afraid of packing on the pounds, don’t! The clincher is that that Gina’s recipes are all Weight-Watchers © friendly, so she lists all the calories and points information, so mom (and you) can enjoy it guilt-free.

View Full Recipe here

French Toast Casserole Topped with Bananas Fosters

Bananas Fosters Topped Overnight French Toast by Skinnytaste.com

Want to try this recipe? We can help with your shopping!

Vanilla Beans and Extract > Cinnamon (ground) > White Sugar > Gourmet Salt > Brown sugar >

For…the adventurous foodie mom

Pound Cake French Toast Stacks with Sweet Goat Cheese Mousse and Warm Balsamic Roasted Strawberries by Lorie’s Mississippi Kitchen

We just about died when we found this recipe by the Mississippi Kitchen blog run by the extraordinary Lorie Roach. This is no regular French toast, no sir! It pretty much combines just about everything we love so much about a dish: an unfussy dish made with top of the line gourmet ingredients and tons of culinary creativity.  The “toast” is actually pound cake dipped in the traditional French toast “batter” of eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, and milk, then heated until golden brown. She then proceeds to continue blowing our minds by whipping a delicious goat cheese mousse, where the tangy flavors and creamy texture pair perfectly with the sweet balsamic strawberries topping she roasts in a sauce of aged aceto balsamico and sugar. Extra serving idea by Lorie: put the ingredients in a mason jar for an alternate cute presentation.

View Full Recipe here

Pound Cake French Toast Stacks with Sweet Goat Cheese Mousse and Warm Balsamic Roasted Strawberries

Pound Cake French Toast Stacks with Sweet Goat Cheese Mousse and Warm Balsamic Roasted Strawberries by Lorie’s Mississippi Kitchen

Want to try this recipe? We can help with your shopping!

Vanilla Beans and Extract > Cinnamon (ground) >Powdered Sugar > Fresh Goat Cheese Log > Aged Balsamic Vinegar >

All that’s left is a wonderful flower bouquet, a heart-felt card, and lots of hugs and kisses for Mom!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Hypertension – Reducing Your Risk For High Blood Pressure

Intro: April 7th is international World Health Day and we’re talking high blood pressure.

World Health Day is celebrated internationally on April 7th, and each year, the organization picks a theme that “highlights a priority area of public health concern in the world”. For 2013, the issue of concern is high blood pressure. One in three adults around the world suffer from high blood pressure, so chances are high that you, or someone in your family, has it or is at risk of having it. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure can cause increase the risk of serious health conditions, like stroke, heart attacks and heart failure. If you have diabetes, then those risks are even higher.  Plus, for older women at risk of Osteoporosis, excessive sodium might cause the body to excrete calcium.

High blood pressure is most commonly associated with a high-salt, high sodium diet. The recommended intake of sodium is below 2,300 mg per day and if you think of it terms of quantity, consider this: just one teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium and a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup a whopping 890mg.  Odds are, you’re getting more sodium than is healthy.  As a matter of fact, most Americans get DOUBLE the recommended amount.

So, should you never look at a saltshaker or can of soup again? That’s not realistic, nor necessary, since you shouldn’t cut out sodium entirely from your diet. Sodium is essential to your body, helping it maintain the right balance of fluids. The key is to make sure you keep the quantity you consume low, and that means making a few chances in your diet.

Cut Back on Processed Foods


The main culprit for the rise of high blood pressure in the US is the massive consumption of processed and packaged foods. These foods are PACKED in salt, to preserve them and to enhance the flavor. Avoid especially anything that comes in a can or frozen (like packaged pizzas or frozen portioned meals). Of course, your busy modern lifestyle might not allow you to make homemade dishes for every meal, so if you eat a prepared frozen meal, like Lean Cuisine, make sure you choose one that has under 600mg of sodium, and watch your salt intake the rest of the day.

Binge on Veggies


Fruits, too.  Most non-processed foods like fresh vegetables and fresh fruits have negligible amounts of sodium. They’re full of vitamins, minerals, and are just overall the best types of foods you can eat.  There are certain vegetables that even help lower your high blood pressure, thanks to some key vitamins and minerals, especially potassium and magnesium. What veggies to buy in bulk? Anything rich in potassium and magnesium, both great allies for lowering blood pressure. For example: spinach, beans (black, white, navy, pinto, lima and kidney), potatoes, and bananas (high in potassium).

Be A Dairy Queen (or King)


Fruits and vegetables are not the only foods that help lower blood pressure. Skim milk and other low-fat milk-derived products like yogurt and cottage cheese can reduce the risk of hypertension. These foods contain Vitamin D and calcium, two powerhouses that work together reduce blood pressure, sometimes by as much as 10%.  Replace or supplement your usual breakfast with a bowl of cottage cheese with some mixed berries (also delicious for a dessert!).

One Square a Day Keeps the Doctor Away


Another great, unexpected and delicious heart-helping, high-blood-pressure-busting food? Dark chocolate! Just one little square of dark chocolate can help to lower your blood pressure in just 18 weeks, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. The trick is to choose chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa powder, and to keep it to one piece a day, since chocolate is high in calories.

Love the Labels

The best and easiest way to control your salt and sodium intake is to read labels. Nutrition labels must state you how much sodium is in one serving of any given food. Note: keep an eye too on how many servings you’re consuming.  The renowned Mayo Clinic in Minnesota recommends that you keep to under 200mg per serving. A slice of whole wheat bread, for example, has about 132mg of sodium, so that’s a good breakfast choice.  Want to know the sodium content of most foods? Check out the super useful USDA National Nutrient Database sodium reference chart, here.

Masters in Marketing

Beware of gimmicky marketing claims that some food companies like to use, with words like “reduced” or “light” in sodium. Yes, a food might be reduced in sodium, but how much sodium did it have to begin with? 25% less sodium out of 1000mg is still 750mg of sodium, a pretty high amount. Go instead for “Sodium Free” (less than 5mg), Very Low Sodium (less than 35mg) and Low Sodium (less than 140mg).

trader_joes_ingredients

Photo credits: The Allergista

Move That Body

It’s not just what you eat; lowering your high blood pressure also means living a healthy lifestyle, which goes beyond diet. Exercise is an integral part of maintaining a healthy body weight, so make sure you get the recommended 30 minutes daily.

No Smoking Allowed

If you’re looking for another reason to quit, consider this: every cigarette you smoke temporarily increases your blood pressure while you’re smoking it and for several minutes afterwards. So if you have high blood pressure or at risk, quit. If you’re not at risk, quit anyway!

Leading a healthy, active lifestyle and following a low sodium diet is the best, proven way to reduce not only your high blood pressure, but also your risk of many diseases.  So on April 7th, go your neighborhood pharmacy, have your blood pressure checked, and see what chances you need to make to your life to be as healthy as you can possibly be.  Happy Health Day 2013!