Eat heart healthy during heart month

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 18, 2020

By Deirdre Parker Smith


While we’re thinking about hearts — having just celebrated Valentine’s Day — let’s talk about heart healthy, because February is American Heart month, along with everything else.

Holidays are over, New Year’s resolutions are a failure, what can we do to make it through the rest of the winter and come out smiling in the spring?

Your resolution to eat better was probably too vague, or you went overboard with bland rice cakes and water.

Let’s try some sensible eating that does no harm.

First, let’s take a look at what’s in your pantry, fridge and freezer, and how you can improve on that. These are suggestions from the American Heart Association’s web site:

Keep these items in your cabinets

• Dried beans, like black beans, chickpeas, pintos and red beans;

• Canned dinner builder items, canned beans, chicken, tuna or salmon;

• Canned and dried fruits — applesauce, dates, oranges, peaches, pineapple and raisins. (Look for the no-sugar added ones);

• Canned veggies for adding to soup, rice, pasta and sauces. This time, look for no salt or reduced sodium carrots, corn, green beans, peas, pumpkin and tomatoes;

• Whole grain pasta, such as brown rice or whole wheat, as well as couscous and quinoa (which is really a grain);

• Old-fashioned rolled oats or quick cooking for breakfast;

• Nuts and seeds, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, as well as nut butters, and seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, flax and chia;

• Healthy cooking oils — canola, corn or olive, and non-stick vegetable oil cooking spray;

• Balsamic vinegar and low sodium soy sauce add a bright pop of flavor;

• Low sodium, reduced sugar jarred pasta sauces;

• Low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth;

• Dried herbs and spices and pepper that can be freshly ground.

For your refrigerator and freezer:

• Frozen veggies without sauces, like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and mixed vegetables;

• Frozen fruits without added sugar;

• Low-fat dairy, such as yogurt, milk and cheese;

• Frozen meats, such as fish filets and skinless chicken breasts;

• Soft margarine, with no trans fat — read the label carefully.

This basic recipe for whole wheat muffins can be changed by adding different ingredients.

Whole Wheat Muffins

1  1/2 cups whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup white or brown sugar

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

3/4 cup nonfat milk

1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray 12 muffin cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together applesauce, milk and oil. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined.

Fold in add-ins of your choice, being careful not to over-mix the batter. Divide evenly between muffin tins. Bake 25-30 minutes.

Add ins:

• 2 cups shredded carrots, folded into the batter, plus 1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds sprinkled on top before baking;

• 1 cup dried cranberries plus 1/2 cup chopped pecans;

• 2 cups fresh blueberries;

• 1 cup mashed banana, instead of applesauce, plus 1 cup chopped walnuts.

Or let your imagination come up with other combos, like dried apricots and slivered almonds.

You can splurge and still be kind to your heart, with a Cuban recipe using traditional ingredients cooked with less fat.

Grilled Cuban Mojo Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Fried Plantains

8 cloves garlic, peeled

2 green onions, roughly chopped

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1/2 cup orange juice from 1 orange

1/4 cup lemon juice (1-2 lemons)

1/4 cup lime juice (2-3 limes)

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. dried organo

1 1/4 pound lean pork tenderloin

2 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1/2 tsp. salt, divided

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, divided

In the bowl of a food processor, add peeled garlic, chopped scallions, cilantro, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, cumin and oregano. Process until all the ingredients are puréed, about 1 minute. Add pork tenderloin into a shallow dish along with marinade. Marinate anywhere from 2 to 24 hours.

To cook, preheat the oven to 450 degrees for the plantains and prepare the grill to medium-high heat for the pork tenderloin.

Trim the ends off each plantain; cut a slit down the middle of each peel and use your hands to remove the peel. Cut the plantains into 1/2-inch thick diagonal slices. Add plantain slices into a bowl with 1 1/2 Tbsp. oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Stir to combine.

Cover 1 large baking sheet or 2 smaller ones with foil and coat with cooking spray. Add plantain slices into one even layer. Bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the baking sheet and use a spatula to flip each plantain over.

Cook another 10 to 15 minutes later until plantains are crisp and caramelized on the outer edges; keep an eye on the plantains as they cook to prevent from burning.

Meanwhile, remove the pork tenderloin from the marinade, discarding the marinade and wiping the majority of it off the pork. Season with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Brush remaining 1 1/2 tsp. oil onto the pork and place on the grill. Cook 15 to 20 minutes, turning every few minutes, until the thickest part of the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Transfer to a plate and let rest at least 5 minutes. Slice and serve with the plantains.

The dish can be cooked in the oven. After wiping marinade off the meat, heat 2 tsp. canola oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add pork and cook on each side until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pork to a baking sheet and place in a 450-degree oven with the plains. Cook until a meat thermometer reads 145 degrees, 15-20 minutes.

Zucchini Noodle Greek Salad

5 cups grated zucchini (about 2 large zucchini)

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and chopped

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup pitted black olives (like Kalamata) chopped

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. canola or safflower oil

2 Tbsp. reduced fat feta cheese crumbles.

Place a box grater into a large bowl and grate enough zucchini for 5 cups.

Prepare the remaining vegetables: Peel the cucumbers and chop into bite-size pieces; add to the bowl. Chop the tomatoes into bite-size pieces, slice the red onion, and finely chop the olives. Add everything into the bowl.

In a small bowl, add the dressing ingredients: dried oregano, black pepper, vinegar, and oil. Whisk together with a fork. Pour dressing onto the salad and use a spatula or tongs to toss to combine together.

Serve and sprinkle feta cheese on top of each salad portion.

One Dish Beefy Rice Casserole

6 cups shredded cabbage


14-oz. packaged cole slaw mix

1 cup brown rice (uncooked)

1 pound extra lean ground sirloin

10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chilies

14-oz. can low-sodium beef broth

15 oz. can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large, oven-proof pot, layer the cabbage, rice, meat, tomatoes and green chilies and beef broth.

Cook, covered with foil or lid 1 hour and 40 minutes, stirring after 40 minutes, and continue cooking, covered, until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Stir in the black-eyed peas and season to taste.

Apple Berry Cobbler

1 cup fresh raspberries

1 cup fresh blueberries

2 cups chopped apples

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. lemon zest

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch

For the topping:

1 large egg white

1/4 cup soy milk

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat 6 individual ovenproof ramekins with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, add the raspberries, blueberries, apples, sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir to mix evenly, then add cornstarch and stir until cornstarch dissolves. Set aside

In a separate bowl, add the egg white and whisk until lightly beaten. Add the soy milk, salt, vanilla, sugar and pastry flour. Stir to mix well.

Divide the berry mixture evenly among the prepared dishes. Pour the topping over each. Arrange the ramekins on a large baking pan and place in oven.

Bake until the berries are tender and the topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.