January 20, 2012

Lo-So January Week 3: Chelsea Improvises

I’ve dragged friends and loved ones to plenty of amateur sketch comedy hours to know that improv can be pretty painful.

But when it comes to cooking–especially low-sodium cooking–improve is essential. And totally delicious.

Take last night’s dinner, for example.

Forget about what happened when the chicken crossed the road. Let’s focus instead on what happened when the chicken and some chopped coleslaw cabbage met my crock pot.

BBQ chicken stew. That’s what happened.

Inside my bag of tricks were: three poultry thighs, garlic, red onion, crispy cabbage, Stonehouse 27 Tomato and Chilies sauce, and fresh squeezed orange juice. And with no particular plan of action, I simply threw them into the pot on medium high and let them do their thing. Because in improve, you just say yes to everything.

And like I said, the result was so good that it deserved an encore (i.e. leftovers). Which I am eating right now.

This past week, Chelsea also discovered the beauty of improvisation in a low-sodium lifestyle.

For a diet that seems so constrained, being open and ready for the unexpected is key. It allows more flexibility and excitement than you would have ever expected. And it means being able to not only think on the fly, but eat on the fly.

How about a round of applause for that?

So let’s hear from Chelsea, and as always, have a happy and healthy weekend.

Chow on…

If you’re just joining us, you can read all about Chelsea and her Low-Sodium January Adventure here. Spoiler alert: she has no reason to try this diet except for the goodness in her heart and the curiosity to experience the low-sodium challenges and successes that you and I enjoy every day. 

Week Three of Low-So Living has been a lesson in letting go. Not of my excitement, commitment, or creativity surrounding low-so food (because it’s delicious, thank you kindly). Not about throwing aside those Ugg boots that everyone including my puppy thinks are toxic. But of releasing myself from my love of playing by the rules and coloring within the lines.

I was an avid baker before I truly learned to cook, and as a result, I am very tied to measurements, times and yes, rules, in every recipe. As you well know, baking is a science and cooking is an art. Which means you can mess around when you’re making dinner; but the baker in me would rather measure everything. Twice. This week taught me that you can live a Low-So life to the fullest, but don’t have to cling to rules like you might to cashmere slacks at a sample sale.

My first experience breaking all the Low-So rules occurred at a restaurant when I realized I’d left my SBCs (Sodium Begone Cards) at home. At first, I panicked. I pictured a sodium-soaked entrée glistening in front of me and my having to eat twelve garden salads instead. And then, I remembered I had all the information I needed on my phone (I had just sent the SBC text to my friend Mrs. A, who is also going Low-So this month). And so, I wrote this on the back of a menu.

Lesson learned: When placed in a potentially not-so-low-so environment, improvise.

The next Low-So lesson was learned dining out sans SBC and without access to its text- the equivalent of riding a bike without training wheels. I decided to see how many of the “can haves” and “can’t haves” I could recite to Napoleon, my sodium-sensitive server at the Atlas Room. Turns out, by week three, you are actually intimately aware of the ins and outs of La Vida So-Low.

The result? My wildest Low-So dreams realized: an incredible entrée of lamb prepared two ways and a pumpkin dessert that is still blowing my mind days later.

Lesson learned: Be confident in your Low-So-ness and people will respond with kindness and deliciousness.

This week’s most important Low-So learning experience took place in my kitchen. A friend bravely volunteered to cook LowSo dinner–an extra generous offer, since I had just landed from a  five hour flight with a 16-month-old puppy.

But what what impressed me most about this meal (beyond the taste–this dish is bananas) was his ability to whip up this masterpiece without a cookbook, recipe or SBC in sight. Everything was Low-So and he didn’t even have to READ ALONGSIDE THE STOVE to do it. I know, I don’t get it, either. But what I promise to do is recreate it (or attempt to) and share the recipe with you in next week’s post.

Lesson learned: Making Low-So your own is really fun and tastes good too.

When I first started this culinary adventure, I was terrified of forgetting or breaking a rule. Some of the things to avoid are obvious, such as processed foods and anything with the word “salt” in it (you’d be surprised how prevalent this is until you’re looking). But others are a bit of a shock (why, for example, does a product whose name rhymes with Schmapochino have so much sodium?). I so wanted to stay true to Low-So living that I didn’t realize the most obvious lesson of all: LowSo living is not only delicious, but easy. You just have to break a rule or two and let go.


Terry January 21, 2012 at 11:49 am

OK, Chelsea is doing so great, and the food looks wonderful, BUT, where is the picture of the puppy? You cannot talk about the puppy and not show us a picture, and this is one of those rules that cannot be broken! Really!

Thanks in advance for the puppy picture.

Katie January 22, 2012 at 12:46 am

Hi Sodium Girl!

This is a letter of Thanks! I first read about your story and your blog on Christmas Day. You were the Lupus Foundation’s highlighted story and seriously the bext Christmas present I could have ever asked for. About a week prior to Christams I got the news that my Lupus Nephritis was in full effect again and my Rheumotologists plan was to once again try Cytoxin to get things back on track. I swore I would never do chemo again and here I was married for one month and telling my husband here we go again. He had been through this with me before a few years ago. But then … we found you and on December 26th we made a commitment to go low low sodium or bust. I convinced my doctor to allow me to pulse my steroids and go on this diet until my husband and I were able to freeze some embryos prior to beginning chemo again. She relunctantly agreed.

It has now been a mere 4 weeks and my protein level in my 24 hour urine collection has decreased a little over 1000mg! Of course I am on “meds a plenty” but I attribute this change to my diet! Thank you for being such an amazing inspiration. I am 28 years old and was diagnosed at age nine. Life with Lupus is a roller coaster ride for sure but this part is soooo exciting. When I called my husband from work to tell him the good news his exact words were “Babe! Sodium Girl! We are not stopping now.” I even hung up my lab results on our fridge! We love your blog and thank you for all you do.

Katie & Chris Kolstad

jessg23 January 26, 2012 at 8:00 am

Katie (and Chris) your story is just too familiar. Thank you for your amazing note and for sharing so much with me (and this cyber crew). In the roller coaster of Lupus and life, as you say, it is nice to have at least a sense of control and calm when it comes to your diet. And while I can’t promise any medical results (because I’m not a doctor, nor a dietitian, nor a magician), I can say it is the more holistic approaches, from low-sodium pizza to restorative yoga that keep me feeling healthy and grounded. I’m SO happy you are finding it helpful too. Sending many healing thoughts your way.

Kim January 24, 2012 at 7:34 am

OMG, I can’t believe that I never knew about Stonehouse 27…I may order their whole line right now!! 🙂

Chelseavm January 25, 2012 at 7:04 am

Terry, Week 4’s post will definitely feature a photo of my little terror! Thank you so much for supporting Sodium Girl.

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