Ah, Valentine’s Day. That joyous day of the year where people in relationships have to prove their love and single people feel dejected. What a great holiday… Ok, I’m not that cynical. I just don’t like Hallmark queuing me to express my love to my husband. I do however enjoy a nice meal prepared with a little love. And I don’t mind being the person who cooks it!
Instead of my regular Meatless Monday post, today I’d like to talk about heart healthy foods and help you put together a delicious, balanced meal with them. Below are recipes for Roasted Beets, Kale Crisps, Salmon, and Molten Chocolate Cake. They are all pretty simple items that need very little preparation. When you put them all together, you end up with a colorful and flavorful plate full of heart healthy food!
I personally love a simple dinner of roasted fish, brown rice, side of veggies, and a salad. It leaves me satisfied and feeling good about what I just put into my body. Basic vegetables are inexpensive, leaving you a little extra to spend on good quality fish.
Wild Alaskan Salmon is an excellent choice. Skip the farm raised salmon! I don’t care if big chain stores claim it is sustainable, most of it is not, and the taste doesn’t even compare. There is something about having to swim upstream that makes wild salmon better than its farmed kin.
A major environmental issue with farmed salmon is that their waste is often released directly into the ocean. Parasites and diseases from farmed salmon can spread to wild fish swimming near the farms, and escaping farmed salmon can harm wild populations. Yes, there are inland tank based farms that are more safe. If you have a fish monger or a place you trust, farmed salmon can be acceptable. Just be sure to do the research!
Wild salmon is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids which help boost the immune system, reduce blood clots, and protect against heart attacks. They also increase good HDL levels, lower triglyceride levels, protect arteries from plaque buildup, are anti-inflammatories, and lower blood pressure.
Choose a few heart healthy vegetables to go with your fish. Kale, broccoli and sweet potatoes are both full of beta carotene and Vitamins C and E. Asparagus and spinach are good sources for beta-carotene as well as lutein and b-complex vitamins. Beets are rich in antioxidants, magnesium, and potassium and also have excellent anti-inflammatory properties. All of these vegetables are high in fiber.
Beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene are carotenoids. Carotenoids are heart-protective antioxidants in many colorful fruits and veggies. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage. Magnesium, potassium, and calcium help lower blood pressure. Fiber-rich foods help lower cholesterol levels.
Round out your healthy meal with a glass of red wine and dark chocolate, chock full of catechins and reservatrol, which help improve your good HDL cholesterol. Happy Valentine’s Day, from my happy healthy heart to yours!
Recipe: Roasted Beets
1 Tbs olive oil (optional)
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar (optional)
1/4 cup shelled walnuts (optional)
1/4 crumbled goat cheese (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 400. Scrub beets and cut off root and greens. If beets are larger than baseball size, you can cut them in half again. Score them with a knife or fork, wrap in tin foil, place on a cookie sheet (to catch any beet juice that might otherwise leak out into your oven), and roast for 60-75 minutes. Let cool. Skins should easily peel off of fully cooked beets. Use a spoon if needed to help push back the peel. Yes, your hands are going to turn pink 🙂 Wash frequently to avoid staining. (side note: your hands aren’t the only thing that could become discolored when eating beets… )
Dice or slice beets, drizzle with oil and vinegar, crumble nuts and cheese over the top, season with salt and pepper, and enjoy! I think beets are delicious plain too. The above accoutrements are for your pallet’s extra pleasure.
Recipe: Kale Crisps
1-2 bunches of kale
1 tsp olive oil
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to season
Pre-heat oven to 400. Wash kale and remove stem (fold the leaf like a book with the stem as the book end and make one long cut to remove it). Chop into large bite size pieces (it will shrink as you roast it) and place on a cookie sheet or roasting pan, spread out evenly. Lightly toss in olive oil or spray with olive oil spray. Season and roast for 20-30 minutes, turning leaves/tossing on pan every 10 minutes until most of the kale is crisp and paper-like. Serve immediately.
Recipe: Easy Roasted Salmon for 2
1 pound Wild Alaskan Salmon
1 tsp olive oil
salt, pepper, seasoning, herbs per your preference (herbs de provence is nice on salmon or seasoned sea salt adds a nice flavor too)
Pre-heat an oven safe skillet (preferably cast iron) in the oven at 400 for 10 minutes. Rub oil on salmon and season. Wait to squeeze half the lemon juice onto the fish until just before cooking (as the acid will start to “cook” it). Reserve the remaining half of the lemon to squeeze on afterwards.
Put fish into hot pan, skin side down and roast for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness. Broil on high for an additional 2 minutes to crisp up the top. Remove from pan and serve. (The skin will most likely stick to the bottom of the pan, which is fine.)
Recipe: Molten Chocolate Cake
5 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (chocolate chips work just fine!)
10 Tbs unsalted butter
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup flour
Ice cream, to serve
Pre-heat oven to 450. Spray 6 4oz ramekins with non-stick spray (you could use a cup cake pan and reduce the cooking time to about 9 minutes and make smaller cakes or use disposible mini pie tins).
Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk until smooth. Set aside to slightly cool.
Beat eggs and egg yolks with sugar using an electric mixer. When the mixture thickens into “ribbons”, add the chocolate mixture and flour until just combined.
Pour batter into dishes, dividing equally. Bake cakes until sides are set but center remains soft and runny, about 11 minutes. Run a knife around the cakes to loosen them from their ramekins. Immediately turn cakes out of ramekins onto a plate or bowl, top with ice cream, and serve. Eat, enjoy, and revel in how easy that was to make something soooo delicious!