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Relearning to cook on reduced salt

By Staff | Jan 25, 2013

DONNA GOULD cuts some baked potatoes to make potato soup. She and her husband have made the choice to reduce salt in their diets as much as possible, and it has changed the way she cooks and the way she purchases groceries.



MILFORD – Donna Gould said she has a salt shaker in her kitchen now.

While that’s not an unusual item to find in a kitchen, hers didn’t feature one for quite some time. The no-salt-shaker-allowed mentality was fallout from the decision she made to change the way she cooks for her family.

“I used to cook the way everyone did on the farm – meat, potatoes and gravy, salads, bread, desserts,” she said. “Not so anymore.

DONNA GOULD said she has become a real label reader, saying that once she started doing that, she was amazed at how much salt her family had been eating without even knowing it. Here, she checks out the label of a container of oatmeal.

“Back then we had at least two or three men here for dinner everyday, and sometimes four or five. I cooked a lot.”

She still does a lot of cooking, but the way she cooks changed eight years ago after they discovered that her husband, Gary Gould, had an inner ear issue, which turned out to be the result of a sodium and potassium imbalance.

The condition could be taken care of with blood pressure pills or by taking salt out of his diet. After an unsuccessful try at the blood pressure medication option, the Goulds decided to cut the salt. All has been well since.

“I’m a label reader now,” she said. “You’d be surprised at how much salt you eat and don’t even realize it. We got to wondering why you would choose to take a medication for something that could be taken care of just by watching the salt in the diet.”

Gould said the family eats simply and more naturally now, keeping a keen eye on sodium content in the products she buys. She said processed foods are loaded with sodium, especially creamed soup, which she said they buy only during holidays when she makes a green bean casserole. She also said pre-packaged meats of any kind also have a high sodium content.

DONNA GOULD decides which recipes she wanted to share with “Farm News” readers. Above, she holds the recipe for her chocolate cake, which has been used time and time again, as the card shows. Her son has wanted to keep that recipe in the family.

“If you read the labels on any of those things it would scare you,” she said. “They are loaded with sodium.

“We try to eat no more than 1,000 miligrams of sodium a day Most people get around 4,000 mg, and they don’t even know it.”

Gould purchases all meat they consume from a fresh meat counter – none that have been pre-packaged – and buys only fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, because they’re “just better for you.”

She also uses unsalted butter, no margarine, and has given up her favorite bean soup recipe altogether because it contains too much salt from the ham.

She also prefers not to use salt substitutes and faux cheese products because she doesn’t care for the way they taste. They eat more sweet potatoes now than “regular potatoes,” and if they buy canned vegetables for any reason, they get the no-salt version.

NUTRITION LABELS are things that Donna Gould has learned to read readily. She tries to keep the salt intake in their diets at 1,000 mg or less, and said most people get 4,000 mg or more each day without even knowing it.

As for oatmeal? Only the old fashioned kind will do, because it has not been processed as much as the quick oats have.

“You can get things like tomatoes with no salt, or you can freeze your own, too,” she said.

They still like to eat beef, pork, chicken and fish, but she has found healthier ways to season and cook them. She described her “kitchen power tools” as lemon pepper and honey (to season meats), and non-stick foil to cook with, eliminating non-stick sprays.

“When I make meatloaf now, I still make the recipe I’ve always made, but we’ll just make a batch of it and freeze a lot of it right away, and eat smaller portions,” she said. “It’s a way we can still have a little salt, but we just eat less of the foods we have with salt in them.

“We still put bacon in our potato soup, and put cheese in things, too, but when we do that, there are no other salt products . You don’t have to load things down with salt.”

Donna Gould

Gould said it’s a simple and healthy way to take care of the sodium and potassium imbalance her husband had, with results that benefit everyone else as well.

“Our (grown) children are conscious of it now, too,” Gould said

Gould grew up in Spencer, living on the edge of Spencer for a short time before marrying 28 years ago and moving to the farm. She learned to cook from her father, who taught her to try new things and to not be afraid to fail with a recipe.

Gould has a large rack of cookbooks in her kitchen, but holds two of them in higher esteem – the Milford Centennial Cookbook, printed in 1992, and the Webb Centennial Cookbook, printed in 2000.

The Webb cookbook was given to her by an aunt who encouraged her love of cooking.

“I love cookbooks, and I give each of my kids a cookbook every year at Christmas,” Gould said.

Gould said their farm home has been remodeled on the “16- to 18-year plan,” and that most of the meals she has cooked in that house were done in a 12-by-12 kitchen, with hardly any room even to walk. Today it is much larger and modern-looking.

A sign above her refrigerator reads, “Mom’s Diner – Open 24 Hours.”

“Sometimes it really seems that way, especially when the kids are home,” she said with a laugh.

Gould works as the secretary to the guidance counselor at Okoboji High School. The Goulds have four grown children.

Aunt Mildred’s chocolate cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together 2 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons soda and 2/3 cup of cocoa.

In another bowl stir together 2 large eggs, 7/8 cup of salad oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 cup of buttermilk. Add to dry ingredients. Beat well.

Add 1 cup of hot coffee. Mix well, batter will be thin.

Pour into a greased and floured 13-by-9-inch pan. Bake for 45 minutes. This is a very moist chocolate cake.

Gould said she usually uses the following frosting: 1 stick of softened butter creamed with 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon almond. Add 4 cups powered sugar until crumbly then add milk, a little at a time to desired consistency.

Breakfast casserole

Grease a 13-by-9-inch pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cube 2/3 of a loaf of day-old bread, about 8 to 10 slices, either French or Italian.

Put half of the cubes into the greased pan. Add 1 pound of cooked sausage or ham or bacon.

Sprinkle with 1 cup of shredded cheese. You may add cooked mushrooms or peppers.

Top with the remaining bread and 2 more cups of shredded cheese. In a bowl beat 5 eggs with 3 cups of Half-n-Half or whole milk. Add 1 teaspoon dry mustard or a scant tablespoon real mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pour over the bread mix.

Drizzle 1 stick of melted butter over the top of this. If not baked right away, cover and refrigerate overnight, or it can be frozen at this time.

If frozen allow to thaw before baking.

If refrigerated let sit out for 20 minutes or so before going into the oven.

Bake for about 90 minutes. Casserole can be lightly covered at the end if it starts to get too brown.

Brown sugar bacon

Cover a large jellyroll pan with non-stick foil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lay out 1 pound of bacon on the foil and cover with brown sugar. Bake in the oven for at least 20 minutes, unless the bacon is extremely thin.

Cooking time may be longer depending on bacon’s thickness and desired crispness.

Watch it. This can get over done very quickly. “This is very good,” Gould said. “Next time you will be making 2 pounds.”

Cheesy potatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a large casserole dish or 13-by-9-inch pan. Add 2 bags of “Simply Potatoes” hash browns or thaw out a bag of frozen hash browns.

In a pan or the microwave melt 1 stick of unsalted butter with 2 1/2 cups of half-n-half and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of lemon pepper. (If adding ham to the potatoes, use the lesser amount).

Pour over the potatoes and bake for about 50 minutes. Take out and sprinkle with 2 cups of cheddar cheese. Put back in oven for 10 to 15 more minutes.


Put a 4- to 6-pound pork shoulder or butt roast in the crock pot on low. Sprinkle with lemon pepper.

Add three to four sliced sweet onions, according to taste. Cook for four to six or six to eight hours, depending on the size and if it’s fresh or frozen.

Take out the bone and fat and shred the meat in its own juices. Put on a bun and top with cole slaw.

Cole slaw

1 teaspoon salt, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 cup whipping cream, and 1/3 cup vinegar. Mix in order given 30 minutes before serving. Pour over a bag of pre-shredded cabbage or cole slaw mix.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2 pounds ground beef

1 pound ground pork or sausage

1 sweet onion chopped

1 large egg

3/4 cup oatmeal, cracker crumbs or bread crumbs

1/2 cup milk

1teaspoon lemon pepper

3/4 cup ketchup

1/3 cup barbecue sauce

Scant tablespoon of mustard

In a large bowl, pour milk over oatmeal, add egg, lemon pepper, ketchup, barbecue sauce, mustard and onion. Mix well.

Add the ground beef and pork. Mix well.

You can put this in 24 muffin tins and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or for 60 minutes in a 13-by-9-inch pan.

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