The Monroe County Health Department threw out a challenge to local restaurants, hospitals, schools, and retirement homes: Modify your recipes to reduce the use of salt.

Because high levels of sodium are linked to high blood pressure, which in turn is linked to heart disease, “We wanted to do something that would impact the community,” says Health Educator Kathy Hewett.

Participants in the Sodium Reduction Taste Challenge attended a workshop on ways to reduce salt without losing flavor. Then they chose an item from their menus and submitted before-and-after recipes that showed the reduction in sodium. The winners: IU Health Bloomington Hospital and Meadowood Retirement Community.

Ziti with Roasted Vegetables was already a popular choice at the hospital cafeteria when Christine Carver, chief clinical dietitian, and Andrea Armstrong, food and nutrition supervisor, chose to modify it for the competition.

“First we took out all direct use of salt,” says Carver. Then out went the canned tomatoes, and in came fresh tomatoes. To retain flavor, the duo increased the garlic, fennel, parsley, basil, and other herb content. Armstrong adds, “We added low-sodium, canned kidney beans to bring up the protein content.” The hospital won the overall taste challenge.

At Meadowood, Executive Chef Alan Booze already knew that his Grilled Romaine with Smoked Duck was a hit with residents. “It’s not what you might expect at a retirement home,” he says. The competition gave him a chance “to show what we do here that’s out of the box.” The challenge was “to keep the heart of the dish and reduce the sodium.”

That meant replacing high-sodium capers with lemon zest and switching from blue cheese (with 13 percent of the recommended daily allowance of sodium) to parmesan cheese (only 5 percent). For the duck rub, Booze cut the amount of salt in half and upped the number of herbs. The revised dish—judged on flavor, presentation, and amount of sodium reduction—won the recipe makeover award.

Ziti with Roasted Vegetables (IU Health Bloomington Hospital)

Serves 12

1 lb eggplant cutlet, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 small red Bermuda onion, sliced
1 small yellow pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil

Tomato sauce:
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
1 Tbsp garlic, diced
3/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 3/4 lbs fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp parsley flakes
1 1/4 tsp sweet basil leaf
2 1/2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp oregano
1 1/2 cups canned, salt-free tomato sauce

Other ingredients:
13-14 oz package of whole-wheat ziti, cooked per package directions
2 cans low-sodium white kidney beans
10 oz frozen spinach, chopped
8 oz low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

Heat oven to 450°F.

1) Toss eggplant, onion, pepper, and olive oil in a pan and roast for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until vegetables begin to brown. 2) Heat olive oil for sauce in a saucepan. 3) Add onions and cook covered over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. 4) Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, and fennel seed and cook for 30 seconds. 5) Add remaining sauce ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. 6) Remove bay leaves. 7) Reduce oven to 400°F. 8) Toss cooked ziti with drained kidney beans, roasted vegetables, sauce, and defrosted spinach. 9) Spread in shallow baking pan and sprinkle mozzarella on top. 10) Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly.


Grilled Romaine with Smoked Duck (Meadowood Retirement Community)


Grilled Romaine with Smoked Duck. Courtesy photo

Serves 2

1 head baby romaine lettuce
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp Citrus Caesar Dressing (see recipe below)
1/4 cup toasted almonds
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, combined
2 Tbsp lemon zest
2 duck breasts, smoked (see recipe below)

1) Slice lettuce in half lengthwise. Brush with olive oil and lemon juice.  2) Place on grill, cut side down, and grill until brown, about 5 minutes. 3) Place lettuce on plate and drizzle Citrus Caesar Dressing over lettuce. 4) Garnish with almonds, cheese, berries, and lemon zest. 5) Slice smoked duck breasts and place next to lettuce.

Smoked Duck:
2 duck breasts
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp paprika

1) Mix seasonings and rub duck. 2) Smoke over hickory for about 15 minutes (preferable) or grill until medium rare.

Citrus Caesar Dressing:
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp whole-grain mustard
1/8 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp Mrs. Dash Italian Medley Seasoning Blend
1/8 cup parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups olive oil

2) Combine first 6 ingredients in blender. 2) Drizzle oil while blending until emulsified.

(Makes 1 quart. Store unused dressing in refrigerator.)