Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Alvin Baron, left, Paul and Sarah Sanada, Ginny Yungbluth and Thelma Sakane watch as dietitian Moana Bachiller prepares a pan of Spiced Chicken Thighs during a salt-free cooking class at the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific.

Look, ma ....  no salt!

Lessons in good health

Upcoming classes at the Rehabilitation Center of the Pacific, 226 N. Kuakini St. Classes are limited to 20 participants. Fee is $30, due in class. Call 566-3780.

Low-Sodium Cooking with Flair: 5:30 to 7 p.m. next Wednesday, Aug. 25, Sept. 30 and Oct. 21.

Leaner Cuisine: Dietitian Nancy Chang leads a class on low-cholesterol/low-fat cooking, 5:50 to 7 p.m. Sept. 13.

A sodium-restricted diet is not a life-time sentence to bland eating. The bold and creative use of herbs and spices -- plus an inexpensive coffee grinder -- make it possible to dine well on dishes packed with flavor.

Dietitian Moana Bachiller teaches techniques to "kinda distract your tongue away from not having any salt" in monthly classes at the Rehabilitation Center of the Pacific. Key points: Stock up on whole spices, get a spare coffee grinder so you can grind them fresh, and toast spices just before using to maximize flavor (it takes a few minutes in a skillet over medium heat, shaking the skillet until spices are fragrant).

Another tip: Get friendly with different types of vinegar. Tanginess can be a good substitute for saltiness.

A few of Bachiller's spice combinations are found on this page. Store them in airtight containers and you'll always have a quick flavor boost on hand.

This dish is a good example of how an artful combination of spices can be used to create a dish that's packed with flavor -- but almost no sodium. The flavor is Indian and the crucial ingredient is garam masala, a mix of spices that varies greatly by region and individual cook.

Prepared commercial versions are available. The brand used in this recipe is from McCormick -- made with coriander, pepper, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon.

Spiced Chicken Thighs

3 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
8 chicken thighs
1 cup sliced onion
3/4 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Combine garam masala and curry powder; sprinkle over chicken.

Sauté onion in oil. Remove from pan or push to the sides. Add chicken to pan and brown. Remove chicken.

Add wine, vinegar and broth. Return onions to pan. Scrape to loosen brown bits at bottom of pan. Return chicken to pan. Simmer 20 minutes, covered, or until chicken is cooked through. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 210 calories, 7 g. total fat, 1.5 g. saturated fat, 110 mg. cholesterol, 260 mg sodium, 4.5 g. carbohydrate, 29 g. protein

Various easy-to-find herbs and spices are good low-sodium replacements for salt.

Spice mixes

These combinations of spices add flavor without adding salt:

Taco Seasoning

2 teaspoons no-salt chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Dash cayenne pepper

To use: Toast spices, then sauté with chopped onions and ground beef. Makes enough for 2 pounds of meat.

Turkey Rub

1-1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole allspice
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
3 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Toast coriander, cumin and allspice, then cool and grind to a fine powder. Mix in remaining spices.

To use: Rub under skin of turkey, inside cavity and all over outside before roasting. Also may be used with chicken.

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