Taking care of your heart means paying special attention to your eating habits, there's no doubt about that. But that means more than shunning fried foods and choosing oatmeal instead of pancakes for breakfast.
To help you treat your heart right with your own cooking practices, we consulted three local food experts who know their way around a nutritious kitchen. They offer recipes with ingredients known to combat cholesterol and promote heart health. Best of all, these tried-and-true preparations pack plenty of flavor.
For more helpful information on the best diet choices for your heart, check out the American Heart Association's nutrition center at www.heart
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.org (click on "getting healthy," then on "nutrition center").
Deb Cantrell's grilled salmon
Deb Cantrell, a personal chef whose company is called Savory Culinary Services (www.thesavorchef.com), teaches healthy cooking at the Culinary Business Academy in Arlington. She frequently teaches healthy cooking classes at Market Street in Colleyville and gives the occasional healthy food tour at Whole Foods in Arlington, too.
Her heart-friendly dish includes salmon, rich in omega-3 fatty acids essential for a good heart, as well as almonds, olive oil and arugula, all especially nutritious, too.
"This sauce recipe works well for flank steak, served over chicken or served as a dip with vegetables," Cantrell says.
GRILLED SALMON WITH ROASTED RED BELL ALMOND SAUCE OVER ARUGULA
4 (8-ounce) salmon fillets
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons sliced almonds (see note)
1 (7.5-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained (or 3/4 cup)
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 medium cloves garlic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika or plain sweet paprika
2-3 cups fresh arugula leaves
1. Season the salmon with salt and pepper; set aside.
2. In a food processor, process the almonds until coarsely ground. Add the remaining ingredients except arugula and process until the mixture is fairly smooth, about 1 minute. Set aside.
3. To grill the salmon on your gas grill, preheat grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grates. Place the salmon, skin side up, on the grill and cook until marked, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn salmon and cook another 3 to 4 minutes, brushing with a little olive oil. Remove from heat. (If using a grill pan on your stove top, treat the pan with just a little olive oil. Follow the same instructions.)
4. While salmon cooks, arrange fresh arugula leaves on four plates. Place grilled salmon fillets atop arugula. Top with the sauce. If you like, you can drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on top. Serve warm.Note: If you’d like more flavor, toast the almonds in a 350-degree oven in an ungreased pan for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden.
Robin Plotkin's kale salad
Robin Plotkin, a registered dietitian in Dallas, taught herself to cook years ago and teaches clients how to cook healthy meals. She urges them to choose 100 percent pure juices, satisfy cravings for salt with heart-healthy nuts and fill up on fiber, like whole grains, beans and legumes.
One fiber-rich green she loves is kale, which, like so many dark-colored greens, has recently become exceedingly popular. Best of all, it's a super-food, packed with nutrients that researchers believe will stave off cancer and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Plotkin says her recipe "is a great way to get people over their fear of kale." You'll want to add the dressing to the salad about 15 to 20 minutes before eating to soften the naturally stiff kale leaves. (Keep up with her food and nutrition blogging at www.robinsbite.com.)
SIMPLE KALE SALAD
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
1. Place all dressing ingredients in a screw top jar and shake vigorously to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings.
1 small bunch kale, washed, trimmed and torn into small pieces
1 cup red, yellow and orange tomatoes, sliced into halves or quarters, depending on the size
1/4 cup pistachio nuts
2 tablespoons balsamic dressing
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1. Mound kale pieces in the center of a bowl or plate. Add chopped tomatoes and pistachios around the top of the mound. Add the dressing 15-20 minutes ahead of time to allow the kale to break down.
2. Add cheese and serve.
Janet Capua's vegetarian bellissima
Chef Janet Capua, whose family is Italian, learned to cook as a little girl for parents who loved to eat but weren't accomplished in the kitchen. Although she worked as a dental hygienist for 40 years, Janet made time to travel the world and take cooking classes from Napa Valley to Tuscany.
With son Carlo Capua, she opened the first Z's Cafe in 2009 at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, and the pair launched a second location in the medical district in January (www.zscafe.com). On top of building a reputation for excellent chicken salad, the two generate several dishes geared specifically for health benefits. Each week, the cafe prepares 140 meals for Cuisine for Healing, a Fort Worth-based nonprofit that provides nutritious meals for people undergoing specific medical treatments.
Here's a vegetarian option that Janet Capua calls bellissima, the Italian word for stupendous. It stars healthy goodies like mushroom, spinach, pumpkin seeds and garlic, along with the protein-rich grain quinoa. She uses feta cheese from Latte Da Dairy, a local producer.
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup quinoa
3/4 cup olive oil, divided use
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
8 green onions, chopped
5 cups baby spinach leaves
2 cups arugula leaves
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
8 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed and wiped clean.
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1. Bring stock to boil in a medium pan over medium heat. Cook quinoa in the boiling stock for about 15 minutes; you’ll know it’s done when the grains shoot out what look like tiny tails. Set aside to cool.
2. In a large pan, heat 1/2 cup virgin olive oil over medium-high heat and add garlic and green onions, stirring until softened a bit. Stir well and add spinach and arugula, dusting with garlic salt. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes until leaves are wilted.
3. Transfer to a large bowl and mix with the cooked quinoa, pumpkin seeds and cranberries. Set aside.
4. In the same large pan, heat the remaining olive oil and cook the portobello mushrooms, cap side down, for about 4 minutes. Turn over and cook another 4 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer caps to a paper towel to drain. Fill the cavity of each mushroom with the spinach-quinoa mixture and top with feta. Serve warm. (If you like, you can warm the caps in a 400-degree oven for 5 minutes to melt the cheese and soften the mushrooms more.)