Upgrade my bean bowl and noodle soup! (No sugar and salt edition)
January 5, 2016 1:16 PM   Subscribe

I've been trying a no sugar/complex carbohydrates diet by dumping vegetables and canned salmon together with beans in a bowl, or dumping vegetables and canned salmon together with shirataki noodles in a bowl and then pouring in hot water. This gets old, fast. What are some ways to simply upgrade the taste of my meals, without added sugar, simple carbohydrates, or too much added salt?

Ever since I've tried to limit my intake of sugar and simple carbohydrates, I've increased my intake of salt drastically. I don't know how to make tasty, simple, everyday meals without sugar-enhanced ingredients or dousing everything in soy sauce. I like my method of creating a meal by putting vegetables in a bowl, or putting vegetables and shirataki noodles in a bowl and then pouring hot water on them. I was wondering, if am beholden to this method, what are some easy ways to kick up the taste of my meals?

I am interested in ingredients/spices/processed goods and simple and quick cooking methods. In terms of the noodle soups, I am also very interested in making stocks/broths that I can refrigerate and then consume throughout the week. I can put food in the microwave, boil, cut things, and stir-fry.

I always have ground pepper, extra-virgin olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, and canned salmon in my pantry.

I eat my noodle soups in an insulated Zojirushi food jar - I can wait a few hours for food to stew in there if it helps with a recipe. I used to make my noodle soups with Better Than Bouillon, but I'm not relying on it anymore as it has added sugar, and it has far too much sodium to be eating everyday.

Some delectable solutions I've come up with recently that have fit my requirements:
* I put in stir-fried onions, or I stir-fry my bean bowl with onions
* I put in hot-water softened kombu/seaweed in my noodle soups
* I recently found pasta sauce without added sugar in my nearby natural food store, which I've been dolloping onto my bean bowls and then sticking in the microwave (shirataki noodles are, unfortunately, the worst kind of noodles to be eating pasta sauce with)

Thank you!
posted by facehugger to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I put in stir-fried onions, or I stir-fry my bean bowl with onions

Allow me to introduce you to fried onions' best friend, fried mushrooms. Get a whole bunch of them nice and brown in some butter, refrigerate or freeze in little baggies, add them to whatever.

Also good and even easier: dried shiitake mushrooms, which reconstitute quickly in water and get the water all nice and mushroomy-tasting.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:25 PM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Building up a few more spices/flavorings could go a long way. Balsamic vinegar, ginger, citrus juices, thyme and red pepper flakes are a few things that come to mind as easy ways to add some different/richer flavors to what you are eating.
posted by goggie at 1:28 PM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

How do you feel about mushrooms? They can be a way to replace the unami of soy sauce without adding salt. Powdered ones can really add a lot of flavor to broth.
posted by Candleman at 1:28 PM on January 5, 2016

Best answer: If you're cutting out sugars and simple carbs you need fat. Fat will give you the mouth feel, flavor, and satiety you need. Guacamole, creamy salad dressing, sour cream, etc go very well on bowls of veg+protein.
posted by joan_holloway at 1:29 PM on January 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Magic Mushroom Powder!

Just don't add the salt. Also, if you pm me your address I will mail you my favorite local spicy oil ever. Also, baby sardines/anchovies thrown into your broth make it more rich.
posted by Marinara at 1:34 PM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I can't personally vouch for it, but some people in your position enjoy liquid aminos.
posted by mkultra at 1:36 PM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Smoked. Paprika.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:38 PM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You need some ginger, garlic and low sodium broth in your life. I am a big fan of Trader Joe's chicken stock pouches, each one makes 1 cup of stock and is a great way to add flavor to anything. Savory Choice makes cicken and vegetable flavors of these stock packets, available on Amazon. You can also pick up some Dorot frozen garlic, ginger or basil etc cubes at Joe's or other grocery stores that will add tons of flavor to your concoctions.
posted by Requiax at 1:42 PM on January 5, 2016

How about celery in with your onions? It's relatively high in sodium for a vegetable, but low compared to bouillon, and you get the added vegetable benefit. Gives a vegetabley-salty taste.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:45 PM on January 5, 2016

Acids from vinegars and citrus juices will give contrast and interest to your flavors. Usually these are balanced with a little salty and sweet too, and that's what makes things really delicious, but depending on the sweetness of your vegetables and the saltiness of your proteins you might get a lot of well-rounded flavors with a light hand on the acidic condiments. Don't forget bitter as well, which you can include through fresh herbs, certain spices, and leafy greens.
posted by Mizu at 1:50 PM on January 5, 2016

Fellow shirataki eater here. Mushrooms (especially sauteed and then dump some of the liquid in the noodles) are excellent in it. Any salad dressing that otherwise meets your requirements will probably work well. I'd add plain Greek yogurt to joan_holloway's list. I have a Penzey's Spices nearby and use a number of blends from there. They make it fairly easy to find salt-free ones.

Also: Low carbohydrate noodles that do work fairly well with pasta sauce.
posted by gnomeloaf at 2:01 PM on January 5, 2016

So the palm oil may defeat the purposes of eating for health, but the fried onions and garlic available at asian grocers (usually manufactured in/for Vietnam) are an addictively delicious way to add some ooph.

We, too, are going very low/no carb thing and im watching this thread with interest. Coconut milk, even in small amounts, provides added richness and mouth feel (i sous vide'd some chuck roast in a mix of vadouvan and coconut milk for dinner last night and it was great).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 2:01 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, thank you for the crazy quick responses!

One thing: I abhor ginger.

Re: vinegars, citrus juices, herbs, smoked paprika, thyme - what do I do with them? Do I just sprinkle some before/after I put the bowl in the microwave? Will they still have the same flavor after I put hot water on them?
posted by facehugger at 2:03 PM on January 5, 2016

Best answer: Don't forget heat, with fresh and dried chilis, or the fruity flavor of mild chilis. I would also look to miso, anchovy paste, tomato paste (both of those pastes in tubes), and sardines instead of salmon for a variety of safety, health, sustainability, and ethical reasons.

Liquid aminos, coconut aminos, sesame oil all bring big umami. Coconut milk (either the canned stuff or the powdered that you can find at most Asian groceries) gives rich mouthfeel.

Most of your flavor sources are fine added either before or after cooking. Citrus juices and tender green herbs are best left until after but the rest don't really matter. Dried spices generally benefit from some time to steep.

Chicken Stock - Serious Eats. Daniel and Kenji found that wings make the best value-for-flavor stock. You can cook per their instructions on the stovetop 1.5 hours, 5 hours in a slow cooker, or 25 (stove) to 35 (electric/instant pot) minutes pressure cooker plus natural release.

See also Kenji's Instant Noodle Jars for inspiration.

Instead of hunting down sugar free pasta sauce, you could just use canned tomato and your own seasonings.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:10 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, one more link to Kenji Lopez-Alt for inspiration: How to cook with shirataki noodles.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:14 PM on January 5, 2016

Squeeze some lemon on it.

Works for a lot of different dishes.
posted by amtho at 4:16 PM on January 5, 2016

I really like Goya Sazon for flavoring beans. Add a pinch to your onions when you fry them. It's basically msg, so not very healthy. But a little bit goes a very long way.

Another thing you could try with noodles, salmon, and veggies is green tea instead of plain hot water, like the Japanese do.
posted by lunasol at 6:11 PM on January 5, 2016

Best answer: I put in hot-water softened kombu/seaweed in my noodle soups

Try soaking the (not rinsed!) kombu in cold water overnight. Try other seaweeds if you can like wakame, or nori. The former can be tossed in a simmering pot a few minutes before eating, it doesn't take long to soften. The latter can be cut into slivers, or ground up in a blender, and it's sprinkled on top right before eating. It's often used as part of a spice blend called furikake. Another option is seaweed snacks. If you like wasabi there is a brand called "Kimmy" that requires a warning label (it's really sinus clearing hot).

Another, if you like dried shitake mushrooms, is to save the liquid they've been soaked in and add some of it to the pot. Or try adding katsuobushi (bonito flake) which is smoked skipjack tuna that is dried and then sliced tissue thin. In Japan, basic soup stock (dashi) is made by soaking kombu overnight, then simmering katsuobushi in the liquid for awhile before it is strained. No reason why you couldn't leave it in the pot.

A few other suggestions; sun dried tomatoes packed in oil have a really nice intense tomato flavour, fish sauce and if you don't mind MSG, Aji No-Moto, really helps with umami.
posted by squeak at 7:17 PM on January 5, 2016

Know that some dashi products can have lots of MSG in them, in case that matters to you.

Look for different furikake blends at local asian grocery stores (Japanese section) or order online.

Do you like spicy? Cayenne, sriracha, etc.

A couple cloves of roasted garlic mashed in the bowl before adding other ingredients adds loads of healthy compounds as well as flavor.
posted by dancing leaves at 3:23 AM on January 6, 2016

Someone posted an awesome AskMe the other day about flavour profiles. Could you use those?

For instance - make your bean bowl a burrito bowl. Add mexican spices of your choice to the beans, use peppers and onions as your veg, chili up your salmon, top with sour cream or grated cheese.

Or go asian with your bowl. Garlic and a little rice wine with your beans, pak choi/bok choi and mushrooms as your veg, soy sauce with your salmon.

Etc etc.
posted by greenish at 9:59 AM on January 6, 2016

Know that some dashi products can have lots of MSG in them, in case that matters to you.

I should hope so! Considering glutamic acid (MSG) was originally discovered on kombu which is an essential ingredient to dashi stock. Fears of its harmfulness are overrated (migraine sufferers, of which I'm one, notwithstanding) it's an essential amino acid necessary to live, and is found in many of the other foods suggested in this very thread.
posted by squeak at 6:49 AM on January 7, 2016

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