FoolKiller's Eating Low Sodium (Experience based tips and recipes)

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FoolKiller

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In my bionic health thread we got to talking about my diet. I had considered sharing before, and Danoff suggested it recently. I have been hesitant because low sodium eating, while healthy is not easy and requires a bit of transition. Hearing that something tastes bland or awful because someone has not adapted their taste buds isn't something I wish to deal with. But today I was making a couple of things for a family dinner tomorrow, and realized my choices were due to the fact that the rest of my family can eat these dishes without problem, so here goes.


First, a disclaimer: Low sodium is an acquired taste. You have spent your life eating foods designed to sit on shelves for months. Often this is possible due to salt. It took me months to adapt, and I could only do it because I had an infant daughter and it was life or death.

And a warning: I use potassium based salt substitutes. If you are on a heart healthy diet and taking things like diuretics, check with your doctor first before using these. A potassium imbalance can be dangerous.


Recipe List:

Pasta Salad
Dill Dip
Stir-Fry
Chili
Baked Pork Chops & Apples
Grilled Whole Chicken
Buffalo Chicken Soup
Ranch Pumpkin Seeds
Ranch Seasoning

Apple Cider
Barbecue Black Beans


Now, the quick explanation of how I got here. I was born with a severe heart defect. Due to medical science and a touch of stubborn will power I had gotten along with a mostly normal life. But when I was 31 my ability to do that came to an end when my heart finally reached a point where it was worn out. I am currently awaiting a heart transplant. While I can work, a flight of stairs is enough to wear me out. At that time I was told I had to go on a low sodium diet. I was given very doom and gloom scenarios. But I had a 6-month-old daughter, and I was not going to surrender a normal life for her or myself. I went home and tossed out everything I could not eat and restocked with a $500 grocery trip. I hunted online and found more options. I began paying attention to cooking shows, like Alton Brown, where the focus is on the science, the why we do certain things. Culinary science became my obsession, for I love food, and I would continue to have my favorites.

Now, many of my ingredients can be found in chain grocery stores these days, as sodium is slowly becoming the next target of the food police. What I can't find is either available on Amazon or Whole Foods type stores, and the final place I go to is http://healthyheartmarket.com/. I still buy microwave popcorn from them, as they are the only oil and salt free that I can find.



But the lifestyle:

A low sodium diet requires two things: 1) An ability and willingness to cook at home. And 2) A well stocked kitchen.

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Here is how I measure a well stocked kitchen:

Do you have multiple various forms of stove top and oven cooking pots, pans, etc?

Multiple wooden and plastic/silicone cooking spoons and spatulas?

A pepper grinder and at least black and white whole peppercorns (I also have red, green, and coriander)?

Most common herbs and spices?

Finally, do you have fresh, whole turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon on hand at all times, along with a microplane grater?

See, I have found most people don't even know what nutmeg is. They buy the stuff in the little tin can and call it a day. Pre-ground spices lose flavor fast. Now keeping fresh herbs on hand all the time requires a bit of gardening as well, so I don't get picky, especially since you can pick up a pack of fresh herbs in any grocery. But a whole nutmeg. That is a trick.

And no, nutmeg is not just for eggnog and pumpkin pie. I even use it on pork chops.




A couple of tricks for low sodium eating:

Acids trigger the same taste buds as salt. Vinegar and lemon juice are your friends. They have zero glycemic effect (won't affect blood sugar) and may even have positive health effects.

Butter and oils can help transfer flavors the way people often use salt.

And finally, never be afraid to up your seasonings to overcome blandness. I can now taste the hottest sauce in a hot sauce store with little more than a slight sweat.


A quick note on shopping:
  • Hint of salt/lightly salted: Less sodium than their regular, but could be anything.
  • Reduced or Lower sodium: 25% or more less sodium than the original. Not specifically low sodium.
  • Low sodium: 140mg or less per serving.
  • Very low sodium: 40mg or less per serving.




Now on to my first recipes. These are recipes I am giving to my family at dinner.

The first is a pasta salad. The dressing I use also tastes good on a salad as an Italian vinaigrette. This went over well at work last week and tonight my daughter kept stealing the noodles, saying she wanted more salad noodles. So, this is toddler approved. 👍

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The ingredients:

Box of rainbow pasta (it's made from vegetables). It adds color and when you have kids you learn to sneak veggies in wherever possible.

Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved. They absorb some dressing, exploding with flavor when you bite in.

Black olives. You can get them whole with reduced sodium. Today I was lazy and bought regular sliced cans. 95mg of sodium per serving.

Mushrooms. Typically buying fresh sliced is easy, but I got lazy and grabbed two cans of no salt added sliced that I had on hand. 55mg of sodium per serving.

Red onion. Red adds color. Had a fresh half leftover from making this for work.

Olive oil. One warning, this will congeal after about three days in the refrigerator. Don't make too far in advance. If you will have that much leftover, consider a smaller batch by cutting everything in half.

Red wine vinegar. Tastes great. You could also use apple cider vinegar, but it will be a bit sweeter.

Garlic powder. One of two things I do not say must be freshly ground. Garlic powder does not taste the same as garlic. Same for onion powder.

Dried basil. Without cooking dried will add more flavor than fresh immediately. Save the fresh for soups.

Dried oregano. Same goes for this as the basil.

Fresh ground pepper. Use prepackaged if you must. But there is a stronger (and better, in my opinion) flavor in fresh ground.

Splenda. Sugar works too. But it is pasta salad. Do we need more carbs? And I use Splenda as it is the easiest sugar substitute to adjust for. Any artificial sweetener will do. I prefer xylitol, but it is hard to find.

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Now, let's start making.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.

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Tips:
1) Heat the water to boiling on high, and then turn it down to the lowest you can and still boil. Water boils at only one temperature 212*F or 100*C. It cannot exceed that temperature. That is why it boils, the excess thermal energy is escaping. So, save your energy, and your pot, and turn down the burner.

2) Stir every few minutes. Don't be scraping off chunks of pasta that have cooked to the bottom of the pot. Turning down your burner also helps here.


Now, while your pasta is boiling use that time to cut up your vegetables. I set them aside in a bowl.

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Tip: It's cutting vegetables, what tips?

1). Use a sharp knife. Don't crush your stuff.

2). Buy a Kevlar glove. You're using a very sharp knife. Accidents happen. Don't ruin the holidays.

Also, if you use a Slap N Chop to cut the onion, we don't judge in my kitchen. Burning eyes and knives don't go well together.


Now, because we have fresh vegetables and oil I like to drain my pasta, rinse it with cold water and then let it sit while I make the dressing. If it is hot it could make your vegetables mushy or thin the oil, allowing the oil and vinegar to separate easily.

Now mix the oil, vinegar, and seasonings.

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Now, if you do not have a handy dandy dressing emulsifier, like mine there, use a whisk and a large bowl to avoid splattering. Whip it good. You want it to be frothy and well mixed up.

Now mix your vegetables and pasta in a very large bowl. Get them mixed together well. Then you pour your dressing over top. You may need to mix it again if your oil and vinegar began separating. Then pour it on and toss everything well.

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Optional: Some fresh grated Parmesan is good if you find one that isn't too salty. In my picture you will see I added some.

So, three cans of olives at 95mg of sodium per serving, 4 servings per can or 12 servings total. And two cans of mushrooms at 55mg per serving, 1.5 servings per can or 3 servings total.

95*12=1,140
55*3=168

168+1,140=1,305.

1,305mg of sodium in the entire dish. I am feeding 10 people with this. If there are no leftovers (and there will be, my serving size is guesstimated) then that 130.5mg per serving.

I didn't count in the Parmesan because I didn't measure it and just sprinkled some over top. It wasn't even the 4oz amount it measured as on the label as a single serving.



Next up: Dill dip.

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This is for a vegetable tray. Can be good with chips too.

Now, this has been requested of me for two years now at every family function. I am now the garnish tray guy. I also have a French onion dip recipe, but that is for later.

For my purposes, I am cutting this recipe in half.

The ingredients:

Miracle whip, or your store brand whipped dressing. Look for lower sodium. I didn't track this here since this is all using low sodium ingredients and expecting people to stick to just a two tablespoon serving is ridiculous. I also know some people prefer mayonnaise. Mayo is even lower sodium, but here whipped dressing is key in making the flavor. I tried mayo before. You have to add paprika, sugar, and salt to get close but something is still missing. Don't be that guy that says, "The recipe called for X, but I used..." No one likes that guy, or his food. Unless you have a culinary degree or are my grandmother, just stop.

Sour cream. Almost always very low in sodium. Get your favorite.

Dill weed. It's not an insult, I promise. Dried here is best for a tiny package, large flavor. Fresh dill goes on fish and pickles.

Parsley. Dried is honestly the only way to get flavor out of parsley.

Dried minced onion. Using dried adds a texture as well as a non-hot onion flavor.

Onion powder. May be optional, but I think it adds a little extra bite.

Paprika. Just adds a hint of something to offset the obvious whipped dressing and sour cream tastes.

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This is the hard part: Mix it all together in a bowl.

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Tip:

I did this after my picture above. Save half your sour cream until after you add your dry ingredients. This traps them in the creamy stuff and prevents things flying about when you start mixing.


And let sit for a couple of hours, minimum, before serving.

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Sitting is important. The dried onion needs to reconstitute and the flavors need to mingle. If you taste it immediately it won't taste right, and it will be crunchy.



So there we go. These were two simple recipes that were quick and easy and good enough to get requested repeated times. It is a great way to start in to low sodium foods.



Ask me questions. I'll give more tips and recipes as time goes on.
 
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I really like this and could do with a drop in salts in my diet, what with all the fast food and MSG laced Chinese food I eat. My only problem seems to be that I have neither the ability to cook and I don't know my way around a kitchen. My wife does most of the cooking,

Yesterday I made sandwiches for dinner with just some lean balony meat on whole grain bread, which I toasted. That is about as healthy as my meals get unfortunately.

Most of it is down to being at work and not able to get decent grub and also my lack of kitchen awareness.
 
Actually, a potassium imbalance is the most dangerous one to have.
 
Umm... no? There's no K in Coke. :)

Unless you drink a couple thousand cans of diet/zero with Ace-K in a 5 minute span or go injecting it into your bloodstream.
 
....or go injecting it into your bloodstream.

I have considered that delivery method, but concluded I would miss out on the bubbles and taste, which is why I buy the Coke, and not for the masses of sugar, and I'd miss the taste if I injected.

I don't do Zero/Diet, is there a big difference? I like my Coke...erm...Coke.
 
To my knowledge, Coke has sodium not potassium (see below). Diet/Zero/Diet w/ Splenda (DWS) will have potassium since they use Ace K as a sweetener. The only difference is the proportions of sweeteners used. Diet is usually just aspartame. Zero is AceK and aspartame. DWS is sucralose and AceK.

And here I just realized that potassium really is in all coke products. They use potassium benzoate as a preservative. No big deal though. Still wouldn't IV it. You'd probably die from the acid before you went hyperkalemic.
 
I'm sure all the McD's I eat doesn't help my sodium levels but I do it mainly for convenience.
 
Actually, a potassium imbalance is the most dangerous one to have.
Hence the warning. I'm always low, muscle aches, Charlie horses, etc.

Umm... no? There's no K in Coke. :)

Unless you drink a couple thousand cans of diet/zero with Ace-K in a 5 minute span or go injecting it into your bloodstream.
As you pointed out it is there now, making all Coca Cola products now low sodium. Most brands have gone this route. Some ginger ales still use sodium citrate though.

But there was a girl that drank roughly a gallon a day of Coke who died of heart complications. But I would guess the diuretic affect of caffeine had a bigger issue.

I'm sure all the McD's I eat doesn't help my sodium levels but I do it mainly for convenience.
From m experience, McDs is better than most fast food. Just avoid the cheese.
 
Yet, it's the only food item that tastes 'salty.' The reason is sugar. They LOAD their buns with it. It masks the salt.

The last study I heard was that Americans get most of their sodium from baked goods. Flip over your sandwich bread and give the nutritional info a look sometime.

Anyway, a general overlook of McDonald's:

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Of course, a single salt shaker happy fry jockey can throw those numbers off.

Side note: Wendy's sea salt fries are actually higher than their original fries were. To keep fries from turning brown as they fry they need to be blanched first. When Wendy's changed to sea salt they began blanching in salted water to boost some flavor.
 
I find that McD's fries are incredible salty, or at least, they taste that way. The Fried chicken I eat doesn't seem so bad and I rarely eat the burgers as my wife doesn't eat beef so I limit my own intake.

I think for me the larger problem might be sugar, rather than slat, but I consume too much of each anyhow.
 
Have you had tuscan bread? It doesn't have salt and it's disgusting. That's because salt is what makes bread delicious.
 
Good thread, this could help alot in a place like Gtplanet. (I'm not saying that we are all generally unhealthy lol.)

I can cook well and usually the kitchen is stocked with good healthy foods. I should try this out along with my weightloss/muscle gain plans and see how it works.
 
I find that McD's fries are incredible salty, or at least, they taste that way. The Fried chicken I eat doesn't seem so bad and I rarely eat the burgers as my wife doesn't eat beef so I limit my own intake.
As you are in a very different country I cannot assume any of it is the same. But here chicken is often made from pink slime like stuff and reconstituted into fun shapes and patties. That process adds a lot of salt. Even fresh chicken is often injected with brine. You have to be careful to read what you are buying.

I think for me the larger problem might be sugar, rather than slat, but I consume too much of each anyhow.
They can go hand in hand.

Have you had tuscan bread? It doesn't have salt and it's disgusting. That's because salt is what makes bread delicious.
The amounts used are ridiculous. And a live culture bread, like sourdough, can taste fine without salt, or just enough to prevent it from becoming a giant foaming monster of gas.

That pasta salad looks so cash.
I'm unfamiliar with this term. Is that the new fancy kid speak?

But I am taking home a clean bowl from the pasta salad and the only dip I have left is because we ran out of vegetables. Success again!
 
Good stuff on McDonald's. Interesting to know that the fries are significantly lower sodium because your taste buds beg to differ. Are there any fast food restaurants that go easier on the sodium for their burgers/sandwiches?
 
ROAD_DOGG33J
You would be surprised, though I've seen it used mostly as a joke.

I meant it jokingly, although i'm not joking about the pasta salad looking.delcious :P

As for low sodium, I do my best to stay away from absurdly salty things, but it is a bit tough to stay away from a lot of it at a school cafeteria. You can only eat carrots so many times.
 
Good stuff on McDonald's. Interesting to know that the fries are significantly lower sodium because your taste buds beg to differ.
Potatoes are bland? There isn't much flavor to mask the salt, and the majority is pure salt grains on the outside, connecting directly with your tongue.

Are there any fast food restaurants that go easier on the sodium for their burgers/sandwiches?
McDonalds is one of the better ones. Wendy's is similar. Take off the bun and avoid cheese and you are good. Anyone that mentions seasoned beef or chargrilled will be high. I've made a meal at Wendy's from the dollar menu doing a double stack and baked potato with sour cream & chives.

But, by far the best is, surprisingly, Steak N Shake. These numbers are with buns and all toppings. Notice the difference from a single to triple is very small. Their beef is just that, beef. That tells you how bad buns and toppings can be.

And the fries have just a sprinkle. Avoid the cheese sauce though.
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Also, Taco Bell's crunchy taco is not too bad. Those have cheese too. No soft tacos. Flour tortillas are generally loaded. Some can be found that are low, but not often.
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Keep in mind, a low sodium diet is 1800-2000mg a day, so you can average 650mg a meal. Not everything has to be low, so long as you keep track.
 
This is a nice little thread topic that we all seem to overlook! I had issues with too much salt in general last year but come to find out it was lack of water/liquids in general.

One thing I have noticed while racing or gaming is sometimes even if it's for hour or 2, I will be busy and not intact any fluids at all.
 
This is something I'll be interested to follow too. I've got a relatively minor blood pressure problem (only slightly high and only when at heavy load) but I've been encouraged to lower my sodium.
 
After having a little back and forth in the Premo section with Shem regarding making his own tortilla chips, which he can't get because he lives in China, I decided what my next recipe to share with you will be.

And no, it is not homemade tortilla chips. I'm out of corn flour at the moment.

No, this is a very Americanized Chinese dish: Stir Fry (Ever since we started talking about non-Chinese Chinese food in the US I was craving this. Thanks, Shem). But I call this one Stir Fry Cheat, for two reasons. 1) It is not really stir fry. Most ingredients are Pre-packaged, but it tastes close. And it is not technically low sodium. It is far, far lower than real Chinese food though.

What this recipe also allows me to do is to introduce a special ingredient most low sodium folks don't know exists.

So, here it is:

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See,it is simple. So simple, I took no pictures of the steps. This helps if you have a wok, but you can get buy with a sautée pan or multi-purpose pan (I will have one of these shortly to show off).


Now, the ingredients:

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Olive oil - Not extra virgin. That has a low smoke point and that can ruin your night if you lose track of your oil heat.

Thinly sliced beef - you can use pork, chicken, turkey, whatever. This recipe is even good if you have some leftover roast or something from another meal. I like beef.

Pack of frozen vegetables and noodles/rice - See, I'm cheating here. It's frozen with all the stuff in it. But if you make sure you don't buy the Pre-sauced kind it is only 20mg of sodium.

And you see I had noodles tonight. Do you prefer rice?

They make that too (and yes they make it with stir fry vegetables).
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Water - you know everything you need to know about this.

Liquid Aminos - my recipe above says amino acids. I keep calling it that. This is my secret. This is a fairly low sodium version of soy sauce. It isn't low sodium, but compared to soy sauce it is much lower. You can find it in the organic section of most chain groceries.

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Worcesthershire sauce - I'm cheating here again, but this is low sodium stuff, only 65mg per teaspoon.

Cornstarch - the universal thickener.


Now, getting to the method.

To start, put your oil in your wok, or pan, and turn your burner to a medium-high heat, more like halfway between medium-high and medium. The oil needs to be around 350 degrees. You will know it is ready when it gets a shimmer on top. If it starts to smoke, turn down your heat.

While the oil heats, prep your meat. Here are some tips on cutting meat:

First, slightly frozen meat cuts much easier when you are making thin cuts. It remains stiff instead of getting squishy.

Second, see it in the picture? The glove? That is a cheap Kevlar glove. Cheap, as in it cost less that $10 for a pair and cheap as in it will only stop slices, not stabs. So don't take it into a knife fight. Pricier gloves will stop stabs too.

Finally, as someone who takes blood thinner and has a young child I can not stress this enough; DO NOT LEAVE KNIVES LAYING AROUND. Dinner knives need to go straight into the dishwasher (point down) or on the back of the sink after eating. If your dishwasher has those little knife holder slots, use them. Dinner knives aren't sharp enough to be extremely dangerous by accident, but you should still use caution and not hide them under dishes or dishwater.
Now, I used a chef's knife that I store in a self-honing case. It is always very sharp. In fact all prep or carving knives should be sharp as they are less effective and more dangerous to use when not sharp. So, we are talking about things that are serial killer preferred. They are also big. They can easily be bumped or little hands can find them. So, when you finish with your super deadly tool you go straight to the sink, put a drop of soap on your sponge or washcloth, and wash it. Then you immediately rinse it. Next you get your dish towel and dry it off. Finally, you put it back in its case, holder, or block. Notice these all come with cases, holders, or blocks? This is why. During this process you are also being sure to do two things. First, it never leaves your hand until it is put up, and is held point down when you are walking. Second, if you have to turn around and walk you glance over your shoulder first and warn anyone who may be walking by.

OK, lecture over.

By this point your oil should be heated. Put your meat in and stir it around a bit, cooking it through. If the oil was ready before you could wash your knife, put the meat in then wash the knife.

While your meat is cooking you have some time to mix your sauce. Mix Liquid Aminos, Worcesthershire sauce, and cornstarch together in a bowl. I add the Worcestershire sauce because it creates a kind of teriyaki flavor. Whisk all of it together until the cornstarch is incorporated.
Important note: You must do this while it is cold. Cornstarch (and flour) incorporate well into cold liquids. But if it is hot then the gluten bursts out and catches the starches (thank you Alton Brown), creating little white lumps of starch.
Judging by her gravy this past weekend, this is a lesson my mother hasn't learned in 60 years. If you ever get a sauce with little white lumps now you know why. And now you can be the smart ass that explains what they did wrong in front of everyone. Remember, it isn't embarrassing them, it is educating them. :sly:

Ok, once your meat is thoroughly cooked, add in your vegetable pack and pour in the water. The water will steam the vegetables and noodles/rice, helping them become tender more quickly. Most of it will evaporate by the time we are done. Stir this together until they becomes nice and tender.

Once that is all done pour on your sauce and stir it all together. Reduce your heat to medium and stir it frequently for 5-10 minutes, or until your desired thickness.

At this point, if you want it Szechuan style, mix in some Sriracha sauce to your preferred taste/heat.

Serve it up.

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Now, the Liquid Aminos are 160mg per 1/2 tsp. we used 2 tablespoons.

Conversion time: 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon.
So we had 6 teaspoons, or 12 servings.
160*12=1,920

Worcestershire is 65mg per teaspoon. We used 1/2 a teaspoon.
65/2=33 (I rounded)

The vegetables had 20mg per serving, with 4 servings per bag.
20*4=80

1,920+33+80=2,033mg of sodium total.

This makes four servings. So if you eat a proper portion (serving size is a big part of sticking to a diet like this) you get:
2,033/4=508.25mg of sodium.

I said it is kind if cheating. But this should be most of your meal, if not all of it, which actually leaves you a bit of room for adding some extra Liquid Aminos or Sriracha (100mg of sodium per teaspoon), if desired.


Now, when I am making stir fry the proper way I use fresh vegetables and marinate the vegetables and meat in Mrs Dash sodium free spicy teriyaki sauce and marinade, then add it to the wok, instead of the homemade sauce, along with a teaspoon or two of Liquid Aminos. Just enough aminos to add flavor.

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So there you have it. Arguably some of the saltiest food an American can eat made low sodium.





But you are still hungry again in an hour.



Side note: All my recipe screenshots are from the My Recipes app on my iPad. It was a bare bones recipe book app that only had specific fields for the summary page, and had freeform freedom for ingredients and method, as well as Bluetooth syncing between devices, so I have all my recipes on both the iPhone and iPad. The iPhone version only let's you see one section of a recipe at a time, the iPad gives you what you seen in my screenshots. It has a free and paid version. The free version does not have anything but the recipe pages, the paid gives you conversion charts, timers, device syncing, etc.
 
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Omnonom!!! I'm going to print out some tips and pass them on to Her in Doors and see what she can rustle up.

:cheers:
 

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