One of the best ways to blaze a trail to good health is to cook from scratch. By doing so, you avoid lots of added salt, which is bad for everyone’s blood pressure, heart and kidneys.
One of my favorite pioneer cooking techniques is to use a Dutch oven. These sturdy cast iron pots with tight-fitting lids traveled across the prairies with pioneers in covered wagons. Gold prospectors used them to bake sourdough bread. Dutch ovens are so versatile that they still are used on river rafting and kayaking trips—not to mention in city kitchens.
A fancy, brightly colored enameled Dutch oven can sell for hundreds of dollars, but I am very happy with my low-budget Lodge brand Dutch oven, which I use in my electric oven at home, or with charcoal when camping.
What I love about Dutch oven baking is that I can use my favorite low-sodium baking powder, and turn out great tasting meals. (Energy Foods here in Seattle makes great low-sodium baking powder.)
For your first Dutch oven dish, I suggest chicken and dumplings from a recipe by Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie. It will take you back to our pioneer past.
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Dutch Oven Chicken and Dumplings
1 large chicken, or 3 pounds cut-up parts
2 cups water or low-sodium chicken broth
1 stalk celery with leaves, cut thin
2-3 carrots, sliced
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon mace or nutmeg
¼ cup flour
⅔ cup milk
3 teaspoons baking powder (low-sodium)
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
Put chicken, vegetables, spices and water in Dutch oven. Add more water, enough to cover chicken parts by about 1 inch. Put in oven at 350 degrees. Let simmer at least an hour and a half, two hours is better. Remove the bones if you want; the meat may just fall off. Add a little of the broth to the ¼ cup flour and make a thin paste, then add to broth. Cover and return to oven. Make the dumpling batter. Cut the butter into the flour with two knives, a pastry cutter or food processor. Blend in the wet ingredients to create a stiff dough and drop by spoonfuls into the boiling broth. Put lid back on Dutch oven. Cook for 15 minutes more without removing the lid.
Nutrition Facts: For 1-cup serving plus one dumpling
Calories: 430, Carbohydrates: 30 g, Protein: 22 g, Fat: 22 g, Sodium: 60 mg with low-sodium baking powder, 260 mg with regular baking powder
The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.
Contributor Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. A recipient of the Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award from the National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition, she has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at www.nwkidney.org.