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Monday, September 9, 2013

My Big Fat Vegetarian, Carnivorous, Food Allergy/Cholesterol Free and Low Sodium Rosh Hashanah

The fact that Rosh Hashanah was so close to Labor day last week left me in a bit of a panic.  I'm not sure, but I think I heard my leather boots sniffling in the back of my closet, waiting to be called into high-holiday action. Yet, imagine their shock when I picked out something (gasp) sleeveless, not to mention that I went to high holiday services without... panty hose...(Please mom, don't judge me) still relying on my fading summer tan to complete my late summer/early fall ensemble.
 
Clearly, there was a majority of women who followed suit, though, I did spot one boot wearing maverick.  Sure, it was chilly at 6 a.m., but is that enough to justify wearing boots especially when she walked in the same time as me (albeit late at 10:30) and the thermomemter was registering at  least 80 degrees? No matter.
 
Holiday meals and guests at my house, are another thing that puts me in a tizzy. Due to food allergies, I make myself responsible for all the food, because it cuts down on anxiety with pot luck dinner as I know that every item on the table is safe. I usually make all the desserts, sides, veggies, etc... Though, being a former vegetarian, I do relegate the turkey to my girlfriend. I know nothing about cooking no turkeys. I stick to meatballs.  In fact, I stick to all meat without bones, skin, or goopy stuff. If it looks like an animal in its original form, I don't cook it. She brings the bird, it works well for us. Other than that, I ask people to bring wine, but no other food.

At my table, there are very different types of eaters. My daughter is vegetarian while my son doesn't eat meat unless it's a hot dog (which is questionable as meat anyway).  He  is also severely allergic to all things nuts and eggs.  One guest needs low-no cholesterol and recently my father in law who had open heart surgery now requires low sodium. Oy. I understand various eating concerns as we live with it on a regular basis and like me, I don't like to pester the host.  Because I understand the issue, I go out of my way to make my guests feel comfortable insuring that there will be food available and that they don't have to bring their own stash.

I pretty much have the veggie thing down as my daughter is thrilled with sides, grains and challah. The egg-free and the cholesterol thing work together simultaneously.  Sure, a stick of non-hydrogentated margarine may contain some cholesterol, but I didn't really use it that much.

So now we get to low sodium....HMMMPHH.  I have to admit, this posed a bit of a dilemma.  To say that I was uneducated on the matter was an understatement because I had no clue as to how much sodium some of the items at my dinner table  actually contained.  Let's take my signature side dish..carrot mousse.  This dish is soooo good. In fact, it was written up in the Washington Food Blog http://voices.washingtonpost.com/all-we-can-eat/recipes/lshana-tofu.html a few years back. 
 
Feeling rather smug that I could deliciously provide food for my father in law without sacrificing taste, I figured this dish was fine because it didnt require any additional table salt. However, somewhere during my clueless cooking and preparation, it dawned on my that while added salt wasn't an issue, sodium hidden in the individual ingredients might be. Uh oh...this was certainly a game changer. I pulled out my little calculator and began tallying up the points on the sodium scale. 
 
Turns out, one 8x8 pan of carrot mousse contains...drumroll please....965 milligrams of sodium!!! What? Seriously? When Lot's wife turned around and became a pillar of salt, I think it was 965 milligrams! Forget my trip to the Dead Sea, I can just pour 965 milligrams of salt into my tub and float in the privacy of my own home.  How did I not know this?
 
Then I started to investigate all the other dishes. Meatballs, roasted veggies, potatoes, bread pudding, mandelbread, honey cake, apple cake, carrot cake..salt, salt, salt. I'm thirsty just talking about it and the virtual blood pressure cuff is cutting off my supply.  Thankfully, the challah was the lowest salt content of all.
 
Slowly, meticulously I worked my way through each dish and found an alternative, though, I decided that the desserts needed the salt to truly balance out the dish. Even with the salt, and in limited quantity, it wouldn't tip the scale.
 
I switched the meatballs to turkey, and took out the salt replacing it with other spices. I  made a separate baking pan of roasted veggies and potatoes with Mrs. Dash and quite honestly, I could have made it that way for everyone as they tasted great. Mrs. Dash and I have become quite close these past few days.
 
Bread pudding... difficult. Whole wheat bread per slice has 180 mg.  A bread pudding requires a loaf...yikes.  I left it as something to eat in moderation. A scoop perhaps.
 
Mousse..the main offender. I removed the tofu (120 mg) and replaced it with Ener-G egg replacer. Took out the non-hydrogenated margarine (520 mg) and replaced it with 1/3 cup canola oil and 2 TBSP applesauce.  The carrots have natural sodium (325 mg) but it is called carrot mousse, so I didn't replace those. I brought the total count to roughly 325 mg. in an 8x8 pan give or take a few mg's.  Phew.

Holidays and food are supposed to be symbiotic, therefore I find it a mission and definitely a labor of love to be able to provide no matter the restriction. Kids and adults alike with food restrictions often feel like the awkward ones on the bleachers at the school dance, watching everyone else have a good time. 

Nevertheless, if a diet conscious, salt lovin', recovering bake-o-phobe like me can make it happen....anyone can.
 



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