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Slim the Salt from Your Recipes

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"Eat Less Salt: An Easy Action Plan for Finding and Reducing the Sodium Hidden in Your Diet" by the American Heart Association (Clarkson Potter, $14.99).

When I first glanced at the cover of this American Heart Association book, I thought it read "Endless Salt." That, of course, could be the description of much of the packaged and restaurant food each of us is exposed to every day.

However, more apropos for the AHA healthy series, a closer look revealed the title to be "Eat Less Salt."

How? If any outlet is qualified to tell us, it's AHA — and fortunately, they make their lessons easy to swallow and implement. So much so in this easy-to-understand outing that this tasty volume is my favorite of all time, even though they have treaded in salt mine territory before. The early months of each year are typically when I turn back to it the most to get reminders of how to continue my ongoing salt resolutions.

An always-useful substitution list lets us know how we can bypass fast-food breakfast sandwiches, frozen processed chicken nuggets and canned tomato soup for their lively recipes instead. Ditto even for salty snacks.

Although the AHA has salt cookbooks, too, "Eat Less Salt," in addition to being a helpful toolkit (as a section of it is called), includes 60 of its own recipes. Some of those are my favorites from any AHA cookbook on any subject.

All of their books convincingly warn that too much salt in the diet can be related to high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks.

"Eat Less Salt" gives you a way to attack the enemy. Chapters reveal easy solutions to fight salt at home (Simply switching to low-sodium bouillon, as in the brown gravy recipe that follows, can save about 1,000 milligrams of sodium per cube.), at restaurants and through plan-ahead menus. Most importantly, the alternate spices and ingredients mean you may never notice the difference.

OPEN-FACE BREAKFAST SANDWICHES

1 teaspoon canola or corn oil

1 medium green bell pepper, chopped

4 large eggs

1 / 4 cup fat-free milk

1 / 2 teaspoon pepper

1 / 2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered

2 medium green onions, finely chopped

1 / 8 teaspoon salt

4 slices light whole-grain bread (lowest sodium available), lightly toasted

1 / 4 cup shredded low-fat sharp cheddar cheese

Yields 4 servings.

In a medium nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, swirling to coat the bottom.

Cook the bell pepper for 3 minutes, or until beginning to soften, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and pepper. Pour over the bell pepper. Reduce the heat to medium low. Cook for 1 1 / 2 minutes, or until mixture is almost set, stirring occasionally. Gently stir in the tomatoes and green onions. Remove the skillet from the heat. Sprinkle the salt over the egg mixture.

Put the toast slices on plates. Spoon the egg mixture onto the toast. Sprinkle with the cheddar. (296 milligrams sodium per serving.)

BROWN GRAVY

1 1 / 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1 / 2 tablespoons canola or corn oil

1 1 / 2 tablespoons light tub margarine

1 cup water

1 packet (1 teaspoon) salt-free instant beef bouillon

1 / 2 teaspoon instant coffee granules (preferably espresso)

1 / 2 to 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (lowest sodium available)

1 / 4 teaspoon salt

Yields 6 servings (2 tablespoons per serving).

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes, or until hot. Cook the flour for 3 minutes, or until beginning to lightly brown, stirring constantly.

Carefully whisk in the oil and margarine until the margarine is melted.

Gradually whisk in the water. Whisk in the remaining ingredients. Cook for 3 minutes, or until gravy is thickened, carefully whisking constantly. (122 milligrams sodium per serving.)

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." She also writes the Creators News Service "After-Work Gourmet" column. To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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