Friday, March 28, 2014


Nuthatch eating suet upside down and piece in his mouth.
 Red-bellied woodpecker eating some suet and caught him in great light.
 $2 sign we had to buy at Old Time Pottery a few weeks ago !
 Goldfinch below on cold day in a sunbeam on feeder near the window.
Some pictures of the day, taken over the last few weeks :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Dog on Treadmill

Rocky! I was dog sitting and told this dog will use the treadmill at 2 mph for a few was snowy in the yard so I asked him to get on it and he did and look at that face! He is such a happy spirit...I would've let him walk longer but it was MY turn...this is at his home..

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Low Sodium Marinara/spaghetti Sauce Recipe

My Low Sodium Marinara - Spaghetti Sauce

 28 ounce can of No Salt, crushed tomatoes. I use Dei Fratelli Brand Unseasoned.
 ½ of a 6 ounce can  tomato paste** (usually  no salt added, but read label)

(Apparently, true Marinara is made with fresh vegetables so since this is from canned tomatoes and dried herbs in midwinter, i should call it sauce, marinara is thinner, too.)

1 tablespoon dried parsley*
1/4 tsp garlic powder but I sometimes omit this
1 teaspoon dried oregano*
1 teaspoon dried basil*

2 - 4 tablespoons olive oil
(if following a no fat diet, omit the oil and use water to saute`)
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup white wine or water (I usually use water or splash of wine and water)
1 large bay leaf or two small ones
Optional = 1/8 teaspoon natural salt (Used to omit, now I use this amount)
1 to 2 Tablespoons natural or white sugar, depending on acidity of tomatoes used, as to the amount needed.

* I often use a Tablespoon of Italian blend seasoning instead, for the dried herbs, depending on my mood.  I love the touch of marjoram in the blend and you can get a giant jar at Big Lots for a dollar and it's good!

**Put leftover in small tiny jar or air tight container in fridge. In glass it will keep 1 or 2 wks this way. Or freeze.)

I rarely use an exact recipe for cooking since unlike baking, it is not an exact science needed to get things to turn out. This is a base idea of what I use. Sometimes I use less oil and may toast a bit of fresh garlic when heating up some for a dinner to add more garlic, but I have low blood pressure and garlic lowers it too much so I avoid.  For you? Maybe use more.  This is just a good low sodium base marinara I divide and store in one cup Mason jars (or other glass containers) or put in containers and freeze if you aren't going to be using it up in 2 wks. Feel free to tweak to add whatever meat you want or throw in some fresh parmesan.

I dice the onion and cook in oil until transparent but NOT browned. Then add herbs and wine or water, bring to boil then simmer 5 minutes and add tomatoes, bay leaf and sugar.  Cook on lowest heat for 30 - 60 minutes, covered, stirring occassionally. Or to reduce quicker, cook uncovered. You want it to be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Cool and divide up for later use. Makes for easy quick meals with pasta or use shredded zucchini for a low carb meal on a hot day. No boiling of pasta. Goes great with my meatball recipe.

This makes about four cups of sauce.

Once served, I salt mine a little --with natural salt --at the table with this recipe. That way if your housemate/family/dinner guest is on low salt diet, they can partake of your Italian meal. Salt can ALWAYS be added but not removed.  Leave a comment! ~Soph

Monday, March 10, 2014

My Meatball Recipe

Sophia's Modern Twist on Meatballs

Can make 12 meatballs which is 4 servings, but we often get 18... or 24... depending on how big/small we make them. Bake and then freeze  in air tight container for a quick meal. They age well, as many Italian foods do.

To bake put oven 350 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray Takes about 15 - 20 minutes to prep and 20 - 25 minutes to bake. Use an oven thermometer if you are not sure about your oven accuracy as mileage may vary.

 1 pound extra lean ground beef ( I use Laura's Beef )
 1/8 teaspoon salt  ( I Originally omitted the salt)
 ¼ cup finely diced onion

 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (Omit if you don't like garlic)

 1 Tablespoon of  Italian seasoning   (yes, I said TBSP)        
 ½  teaspoon  dried oregano
 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes to add a small kick
 1  teaspoon Worcestershire sauce  (I've sometimes used 2  teasp adds more flavor)
 1/3 cup skim milk or water* (Sometimes I don't add this depending on size egg I use. It's not necessary to add more moisture..i just go by feel.)
 1 egg, beaten 
 1  cup Unseasoned low sodium bread crumbs ( I use unseasoned Panko, 40 mg sodium 1/2 cup) Never use the seasoned kind as they will ruin the flavor of these.

Most bread and bread crumbs are insanely high in sodium! If you should substitute oatmeal, the texture will be  different. A bit mushier. I like a firm meatball.

The reasons I add so many herbs is that we originally made this without any salt added, and only 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire though similar recipes may call for a Tablespoon of such a sauce.  I use a mortar pestle for my herbs to release more flavor but that is a personal thing. Be careful if grinding hot pepper flakes as to not inhale the dust (!) but it distributes the heat more evenly without over powering.

Put meat in mixing bowl and add all the ingredients in this order:

Dry, then wet and then egg.

Mix together by hand or if you have a stand mixer, use the flat beater on low speed to mix up. I like to let my mixture sit in the fridge for an hour or so to firm up if I have time, but you can certinaly make them right away if you don't like handling super cold things. Then make golf ball -sized meatballs and bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  If in doubt to doneness, check center of meatball to make sure it's not still pink.

Heat  meatballs in Marinara sauce for 30 minutes before serving or pop the cooled meatballs in freezer for later use with pasta or in a sandwich.

Next, will be my low sodium marinara sauce.