Friday, May 18, 2012

Pass the Salt. No, Really.

I've been in a state of transition over the past few weeks what with moving back to the beach and all. And with the upheaval, I'm finding that I have to eat out more than I like too (for those who are new…I'm not a big fan of dining out. See blog post But it's not always the wait staff that frustrates me. It's the incredible amount of salt that many restaurants hide in their dishes.

Somewhere, somehow, in our drive to eat healthier: low fat, low carb, slow food, etc. we've seemed to have lost our way regarding salt. It appears that restaurants are placating our desire to eat low fat/low carb foods with items that deliver.

But with a price.

And that price is sodium.

That's why I title this post "Pass the Salt". Because that's what I want you to do. Pass it. Right by me. I won't be needing to add any to many of the offerings I find in my local restaurants.

Let me explain.

Subway has ensconced itself in our psyche as being one of the places to pick up a quick and healthy meal. And to a good extent they've succeeded with several sandwiches and wraps. Now they offer breakfast. And since we're convinced through spokespeople like Jared and Apolo that their offerings are wholesome, why not skip Mickey D's and head over to Subway for their appetite-satisfying Foot Long Mega Omelet Sandwich. Sounds good, eh? But wait…

This particular b'fast sandwich packs 1,430 calories, 90 grams of fat, and 3,530 milligrams of salt. Well, we all know how those 1,430 calories fit into a 2,500 calorie diet. And we know how those 90 grams of fat fit into a diet that recommends 50 - 70 grams of fat: with a crowbar. But how much is 3,530 mgs of salt? Well…that's over 1-1/2 teaspoons.

When was the last time you poured 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt on anything, let alone a sandwich?

Okay. Forget breakfast. Let's grab some lunch.

Stir fry sound good? Oh yeah!

How about PF Chang's Beef and Broccoli? Think about it: thin strips of beef and broccoli stir-fried to perfection. Wait. Hold on. This dish packs 1,090 calories and 65 grams of fat. Okay, we might be aware that many restaurant food choices tip the scale in the calorie and fat department. Even if it's stir-fried. But this dish also contains 3,752 mg's of sodium - A tad more than the b'fast we just passed up!

So, forget lunch. How bout a salad for dinner? I hear Chili's has a Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad to die for. That would be better than a slab of ribs or a burger, eh?

Think again.

While this salad boasts chicken, it's far from healthy. Why? It packs 1,110 calories and 79 grams of fat. But here's the kicker: 4,150 mg's of sodium. That's nearly 2 teaspoons! Let me ask you, when you make a salad at home, do you even consider tossing 2 teaspoons of salt into each bowl?

I didn't think so.

But here's the surprising thing. None of these dishes taste really "salty". This is why folks smarter than me call it "hidden salt".

Oh…and you know that little packet of ketchup you get at McDonalds? The one that just may coat three or four fries? Well, that little baby packs nearly as much salt as the order of fries you just purchased. And who uses just one small packet of ketchup on their fries?

Now you know why I don't dine out often.

However, I love the spirit of community, the shared drinks, and the good conversation that a night out provides.

So now I go light on the food. And the most salt I get is from the rim of my margarita glass. And if I'm in an Irish pub I pass on the margarita and order a Guinness or Smithwicks. I still have a great night out and I don't return home resembling a salt lick.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cinco De Mayo But Hold The Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! While not the largest south-of-the border celebration - that would probably be Dieciséis de Septiembre (Mexico's Independence Day) - Cinco de Mayo sure is a lot easier to pronounce if you happen to be a non-Spanish speaker. Especially after a few margaritas.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of the outnumbered Mexican Militia over the French Army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Brave Mexican warriors entered the fray shouting their three-fold battle cry “Viva Mexico!” (translated: Long live Mexico) while the French, sensing impending defeat responded with a battle cry of their own, “Oh non pas encore!” (translated: Oh no, not again).

Interestingly enough, Cinco de Mayo is pretty much a regional holiday in Mexico and is primarily celebrated in the state of Puebla. In the United States, however, it has fast become a major holiday celebration throughout much of the country. Of course, Americans are always open to new ethnic expressions of celebration – especially if a lot of drinking is involved. Which is one reason why Congress just recently recognized Reddition Française (French Surrender Day), which may be celebrated any day when you have too much beer in the fridge.

But back to Cinco de Mayo. Festival Broadway is considered the primo Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world. This event, held in an eleven block area of downtown Los Angeles, welcomes over half a million people where shouts of “Viva Mexico! (Long live Mexico), “Dios bendice México” (God bless Mexico), and “Averigüe los nuevos rines en mi Cívico!” (Check out the new rims on my Civic) fill the air.

In Scottsdale, Arizona, the Rawhide Wild West Town has celebrated Cinco de Mayo with an annual running of the bulls. However, this may be a dying tradition. According to spokesperson Gimpy Delgado, the rates for Goring by Bull insurance have skyrocketed since the unfortunate death in Pamplona last year when a 30-year-old tourist was gored in the throat. Especially so since the man was taking a shower in his hotel room at the time.

Not to be outdone by the event in Scottsdale, the town of Chandler hosts the Running of the Chihuahuas. This cultural classic features over 150 pint-sized dogs racing for the ultimate canine prize: a tasty biscuit and a pat on the head. While not as dangerous as her sister event in Scottsdale, the Running of the Chihuahuas does produce a number of nipped ankles and more than a few humped legs.

And in San Diego, you can down your share of margaritas at the Cinco de Mayo Zonkey Fest where the Zonkey – a small pony that looks like a donkey and is painted with zebra stripes – holds court. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me the idea of painting zebra stripes on a pony could only have been hatched during a previous margarita-soaked Cinco de Mayo celebration.

So…how are you celebrating Cinco de Mayo? Me? With a cooler full of Dos Equis, a pitcher of margaritas, and a platter of homemade fish tacos. Hold the mayo.


PREP: 10 minutes                    COOK: 5 minutes


1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup beer
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 jalapeno pepper (or habernero for more heat), minced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch white pepper
1/2 pound tilapia, cut into ½-inch strips
4 corn tortillas
1/4 head read cabbage, finely shredded
1 – 2 cups canola oil (enough to cover your pan by 1-inch)


1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, beer and salt. Mix until smooth.

2. In another medium bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise and lime juice. Gradually stir in the peppers, oregano, cumin, dill, cayenne, and white pepper.

3. Add oil to medium skillet to a depth of 1-inch and heat over medium-high heat.

4. Dredge the fish pieces in the flour mixture and then into the batter. Add pieces to skillet a few at a time and fry until crisp and lightly brown, a couple of minutes per side. Remove and drain on paper towels.

5. Lightly fry the tortillas until just beginning to crisp. Remove to paper towel.

6. Slather sauce on each tortilla, add fish and top with shredded cabbage.