Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Conundrum of Special Diets plus #recipe @LucyBurdette

LUCY BURDETTE: If you've followed this blog for a while, you may remember that I was diagnosed with Meniere's disease about 15 months ago. It's a disorder of the inner ear involving too much fluid--the symptoms are tinnitus, terrible vertigo, and ensuing nausea. Not fun and not curable, though it is treatable in many cases with diuretics, a low-sodium diet, or both. 

I felt bad enough that I was willing to adjust my diet (and cooking), though giving up my favorite foods nearly killed me (and poor John too.) I've gotten better at low-sodium cooking and recognizing how prepared foods slip sodium into everything, and much more sympathetic to other people's eating problems. I even wrote to the advice columnist at the Sunday New York Times about how to handle invitations to dinner parties. His advice? Let the hostess or host know, and if their menu is set and doesn't accommodate your needs, either offer to bring something or suck it up and eat before you go. (Yeah, don't write to him looking for coddling LOL.)

Two nights ago we had a group dinner with friends where three people needed low sodium food, one couldn't have sugar, one wouldn't eat onions, and one couldn't have uncooked vegetables. How's that for a puzzle?? We ended up managing to satisfy most everyone, but it's not easy. With the holidays coming up, I'm wondering, how do you handle guests with special dietary needs? Do you always ask ahead of time for restrictions or preferences? And if you have an allergy or strong preference, how do you take this out into the world?

After you've answered those questions, please feel free to try my cole slaw recipe with peanut sauce--adapted for low sodium eaters, but still delicious!

Lucy's Cole Slaw with Peanut Sauce

This is a version of a recipe I found in 
Mindfull: Over 100 Delicious Recipes for Better Brain Health, adapted for low-sodium eaters. I wondered if I might have enjoyed cilantro more than the mint that was suggested in the cookbook, so you can take your pick. We also had a small bag of key limes, given to us by our Key West neighbors, so I used those instead of regular limes. Either would work. You can also choose what kind of sprouts to use--I found some beautiful radish sprouts at the farmer's market that added an extra zip.

Ingredients for the sauce:

2 tablespoons canola oil
3 to 4 green onions, washed and sliced
2 to 3 cloves garlic
1 inch fresh ginger, chopped
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons ketchup (no salt if needed)
3 tablespoons unsalted peanut butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot chili sauce

For the slaw:

One half head cabbage, finely sliced
Two grated carrots
2 to 3 chopped scallions
two key limes or one regular, juiced
1/2 red pepper, julienned
1 cup radish sprouts
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves or cilantro

Prepare all the vegetables and mix them in a large bowl.

Meanwhile sauté the green onions, garlic and ginger in the oil for 2 to 3 minutes until soft. Add the other ingredients and simmer another few minutes. Let this cool. The sauce will be quite thick.

Before serving add to several tablespoons of sauce to the vegetable slaw and mix thoroughly. Or serve it on the side and let diners add.
Low-sodium adjustments: use no-salt ketchup and unsalted peanut butter. 

And PS, I made this with the recipe on an iPad--the thing kept disappearing--annoying!


  1. It's annoying to have to keep refreshing the tablet to see the recipe, but it's very handy to access the Web for recipes.

    This sounds really good, but is there cabbage involved? It looks as though there is, but did I miss it in the ingredients?

    I made a version of this, using either horseradish sauce or, even better, wasabi. Having a little extra punch of heat, especially combined with cilantro and a sweet element, like the red pepper, takes cole slaw into another realm, I think.

  2. I love cole slaw... yes, cilantro would be much better. And maybe some thin shredded jicama with the cabbage & carrots. I need tips on how to get cabbage sliced so nice and thin.

  3. Yummy!I l love slaw! It's somehow chic again, so funny how food cycles go.

    I keep thinking about brussels sprouts slaw..every time I see those shredded sprouts in whole foods. Would it work the same way?

  4. Cabbage can be made super thin with a SHARP chefs knife and a little practice. I love the sound of this recipe I can almost taste it.

  5. Hank, I recently had a salad that included kale and shredded Brussels sprouts, along with dried cranberries and pine nuts. It was delicious. I'd never have thought to use raw sprouts.

  6. Lucy, this looks delicious! A different take on coleslaw is always welcome! But not sure I'd want either mint or cilantro--I'm not fond of cilantro. Any suggestions for a substitution? Thanks!

  7. Sounds yummy, Roberta! Karen, half a head of cabbage is the first slaw ingredient. It's off to the right of the picture so maybe you missed it.

    I'm also on a low-sodium diet. Made some corn muffins the other day and simply omitted the salt. They weren't very good! Sigh.

  8. This sounds delicious, Lucy . . . thanks for the recipe.

  9. Edith, baked goods are the hardest. My experience has been that sweet things turn out better than savory. the problem is--salt makes things taste good!! Good luck--I've posted lots of recipes at Mystery Lovers Kitchen in case you need ideas....

  10. Flora, if you don't like mint or cilantro, you could use parsley, or simply leave that ingredient out...

  11. Sounds yummy, although I admit, I opt for slaw mix or slaw broccoli mix. Color me lazy.

    I do ask my guests if they have any allergies or preferences. There have been times when I have had to prepare two entries (guest had severe pancreatitis if she ate anything with fat) and made sure there were multiple sides for all sensitivities. We're salt-free (husband had high blood pressure) at our house and low fat (a preference, not a requirement), but we do occasionally indulge in both in moderation or when we are guests.

  12. It's not just that salt makes things taste good, it's that the right amount of SALT makes things TASTE. My husband claims he never eats salt... but he doesn't realize I salt to taste while I'm cooking.

    I always ask people's food issues when I ask them to dinner. Lucy (no salt) came for dinner on a night with another friend who ate no meat, no fish, and no dairy. All we needed was someone who didn't eat gluten. Then there are the ones who don't eat white (no rice, no potatoes, no sugar...basically no carbs.)

    In case anyone wants to know, I eat EVERYTHING except mussels... I'm allergic to them. Otherwise, bring it on!

  13. The problem with omitting salt from baked goods is the salt does more than simply flavor - it works with the other ingredients in so many ways (including rising, for example salt is what works with yeast in bread to keep the yeast in check). And as Hallie said, salt makes most foods TASTE. I'm working with my kids to teach them to use salt wisely. It's a work in progress.

    I generally ask for food preferences. Fortunately, I've yet to have a group of friends over with wild needs. My son seems to have developed a shellfish allergy/sensitivity. We discovered this last fall when he ate an entire ring of shrimp; the hives were insane. He just doesn't eat it. The school called to say they cook the fries in the same oil as the breaded shrimp, but it hasn't affected him.

    Oh, I also eat almost anything. No allergies that I know of, but overly mushy textures aren't preferred. =)

  14. We usually have a family BQQ each summer and making a menu is always interesting. One person can't have gluten, another has a severe nut allergy and one person is allergic to sulfites and can't have very much dairy. I make everything nut and gluten free to avoid any chance of cross contamination and make pretty much everything from scratch. The person who can't have gluten always brings a dessert she can have and My boyfriend bakes a nut free vegan apple cake for everyone else.

    I cook mostly low sodium, low fat meals for us out of choice but I can eat pretty much everything. My boyfriend can't have sulfites or very much dairy but we make sure to tell people that before we go for a meal. All of our family are accommodating and make sure ther's something he can eat.

    1. Sounds like you and your crowd are very accommodating of different needs--good for you!

  15. So that's where this post went! And apparently, the secret to answering before Joan is to do so two weeks before the post goes live. LOL Just kidding, Joan. And was the cabbage there all along?

    My book club has three vegetarians, one member who can't eat onions, and for a while two of us who were avoiding gluten. One guy had a heart attack, and later on, the husband of one of the women, did, so heart-healthy recipes started showing up, too.

    Luckily, no one has any serious allergies, but we have a friend who could not eat this recipe because of the peanuts; she is allergic to all tree nuts, peanuts, and any shellfish. It's a challenge to feed her, as well as the friend with diverticulitis. She can't have nuts or seeds of any kind, so I try to be super careful when cooking for her.

    For me, it's no different than trying to accommodate the dietary needs and preferences of a family. At one time one of my children refused to eat any kind of chicken, another wouldn't eat nuts, and another refused to eat cabbage. The last one found out she's allergic to pineapple and kiwi, of all things, by the burning inside her mouth when she ate them.

    Lucy/Roberta, do you find that lemon juice helps with adding a bit of a salty taste?

    1. Lemon juice does help a little! I've also found some wonderful mustard (Kozlik's) and pickles (Ricks Picks) so it's all a work in progress.

  16. It seems like diets have gotten more complicated, don't you think? And some of the no-no's are passing fads. And others, like your mussels Hallie, or Kait's friend's pancreatitis, or Mary's son's shrimp, or people with serious gluten allergies, are really dangerous.

    Before I had my disease managed, a friend who hardly ever ever cooks made us an Italian dinner. I had a terrible vertigo attack right in the middle of it and that traumatized her! I doubt she'll ever serve a meal from her kitchen again...

    Now my approach to entertaining will be to take every request seriously and with as much grace as I can manage.

  17. Generally, I am not a coleslaw fan. In fact, I usually refer to it as "Summer Gone Bad." However, a few years ago, I found a recipe for a peanut flavored slaw in "Cooking Light," which I love. Yours is slightly different, Lucy, but looks equally delicious. I definitely will give it a try!

    I became an aunt in the age of epi-pens (2 of my 14 nieces and nephews carry them) so food allergies are on my radar screen. Peanuts and soy are the big ones in our family--I don't feed them the peanut slaw!--and we're all trained to ask about preparation when eating out and also carefully reading labels.

  18. Lucy, I have the same thing (as you know) and have found that I can use a little salt in cooking and in my very occasional baking, as long as I stay away from processed foods. When you don't eat much salt, the amount of salt in prepared foods is shocking!

    My hubby is allergic to bell peppers so I've done lots of recipe adapting over the years. Now I find that I can't eat cooked bell peppers, either. He's also allergic to avocados, which is a shame because he loves them.

    Love the slaw recipe. Love any fresh cole slaw, as long as it's not sweet! Last night we had a very late emergency dinner (plumbing issues) and I threw together a slaw with olive oil, lots of fresh lemon juice, fresh ground pepper, and a little fresh grated Romano cheese. I think I could eat that every meal.

    We will have at least one vegetarian guest at Christmas. We're planning Mexican food, so it ought to be easy enough to include some meat-free dishes.

    Which reminds me, better buy the avocados for the guacamole...

  19. Yes Karen, I think I have had that brussels sprout slaw with pine nuts and cranberries! Yum Yum Yum. I also make one with Parmesan cheese and pinenuts. Also Yum! And Craisins.

    However! I would rather have guacamole than coleslaw.

  20. Me too on the guacamole over coleslaw Hank! We'll eat Rick's part of the avocados...

    Debs, allergic to avocado and peppers is a big gyp...my father was allergic to nuts and eggs that weren't hard-boiled his whole life. He made many trips to the ER before epipens. We always knew to use a different knife for the jelly and PB.

  21. There are allergies in my family too. None for me, my daughters have food sensitivities. We try to avoid packaged goods, part of our recycling plan. We have reduced the sodium in most of our baking by about 50%. This allows for the chemical reactions, the other spices help the taste.

    Very glad your Menier's disease is being controlled Roberta. This is not quite an 'orphan' disability but close. Perhaps as the population ages, more research will happen. I am hopeful a better tx plan is in the future. Was your letter in Social Q's? I am a faithful reader of that guy.

    If anyone is looking for veggie burger recipes, I have 2 now available. We 'burger' a lot on Nome Street.

    1. Thanks Coralee, I hope so too. I mean what are the chance of two Reds turning up with Ménière's? And yes, it was Social Q. I think he's gotten snippy in the last year though?

  22. Oh Mary, you don't really need the salt in baking. The products don't rise quite as high, but they do rise and they are good. You can also buy salt-free baking powder, I've been using it for years, again, products do not rise as high, but they do rise. Salt is hidden in most everything and in the oddest places. When my husband was first diagnosed, even a tiny bit of salt sent us to the emergency room. Now he is controlled (his is a genetic problem, his body simply stopped producing an enzyme)and we have learned balance so we can be a bit more liberal, but in the beginning - frightening!

    1. That sounds terrifying Kait! I forgot to say I found the no sodium baking powder and soda too. Some things taste better than others!

  23. I grew up with a younger brother who was allergic to a long list of things (eggs, chocolate, nuts . . .) so I learned to use separate utensils and be very careful in the kitchen. Which was good training for raising four girls who went through various food-related "things." And I married a man who has a long list of dislikes. I'm pretty much an omnivore, but I don't mind making modifications for other people.
    This week I am trying out a gluten-free sugar cookie mix.
    I think people should tell you up-front about food issues if they are coming to eat at your house. No fun to have a meal prepared and THEN learn about vegetarian guests!
    I usually try to have a variety if there is a big group.
    And I also have the attitude that people can stop at a deli on the way home if they were not satisfied with my food!!!