Cook a Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day Dinner

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Instead of flowers and chocolates, why not make a heart-healthy meal for your significant other or family? The following recipes should give you some inspiration. This three-course meal is tasty, easy to make and is good for you too.

Here are some details about each course and you can find the recipes below!

First Course: Arugula Salad with Pears and Gorgonzola

Greens, pears and cranberries and cherries are filled with antioxidants and fiber. They’re also very low in calories. The olive oil and pecans have some heart-healthy fat, but we aren’t overdoing the dressing, pecans or the Gorgonzola cheese, just adding it for a little bit of flavor and texture to help marry the salad together. Beware of using too much cheese, which is high in fat and sodium.

Second Course: Chili-Garlic Glazed Salmon with Brown Rice

This is an easy recipe, and salmon is a great choice for a protein that provides heart-healthy fats. Be sure to keep your portion in control, so you don’t over-consume. I chose brown rice as a side, but you can really use any other whole grain – couscous or quinoa are two other very good options. I just prefer rice with fish. Choosing whole grains over highly-processed grains ensures you’ll consume more fiber, which has been shown to help with cholesterol levels. The average American only gets 5-10 grams of fiber daily, where the goal is to have 25-35 grams per day.

Third Course: Chocolate Zucchini and Banana Squares

I know what you are thinking. Zucchini in my dessert?! I promise you won’t be disappointed and your family won’t even know, unless you tell them. Anytime you can sneak in some healthier fruits and veggies into your dessert you are doing a good thing for your body. This dessert is actually giving you some good nutrition, instead of just “empty” calories. I am also using some whole wheat flour and flax seed for fiber. The best thing about the ground flax seed is that it will add some heart-healthy fat too. Yummy!

What are your Valentine’s Day plans? What are some of your favorite heart-healthy recipes? Here’s to taking care of our loved ones and ourselves. Happy Heart Day!

Recipes adapted from: The Food Network, Cooking Light and Heart Healthy Online.

Need more Valentine’s Day inspiration? We’ve got you covered:

Photo credit: Nebojsa93

Ingredients

  • 1 15-ounce can pear halves, drained and sliced, reserve 2 tablespoons juice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil and vinegar dressing
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 2 Tbsp. Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp.  dried cranberries or dried cherries
  • 4 Tbsp. glazed pecans
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Arugula Salad with Pears and Gorgonzola

Instructions
In a large bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons reserved pear juice and the olive oil-and-vinegar dressing. Season to taste with pepper. Add arugula and toss to coat (or don't, if you'd rather serve the dressing on the side).

Divide dressed (or undressed) arugula among two small salad plates. Top each salad with four pear slices, Gorgonzola, dried cranberries or dried cherries and pecans. Serve immediately.

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Ingredients

Salmon:

  • 3 Tbsp. chili sauce with garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. minced green onions (about three green onions)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. low-sugar orange marmalade
  • ¾ tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 4- to 6-ounce salmon fillets
  • Cooking spray

Brown Rice:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 ½ cups cold water

Chili-Garlic Glazed Salmon with Brown Rice

Instructions
Salmon:
Preheat broiler. Meanwhile, combine first four ingredients in a small bowl and brush half of chili sauce mixture over salmon fillets.

Place fillets, skin side down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray first. Broil fish for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with remaining chili sauce mixture, and broil 2 more minutes until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until cooked to your liking. Serve while hot and enjoy!

Brown rice:
Start by bringing the water to a boil. Add the rice and bring it back to a boil. Give it one stir.

Cover the pot, lower the heat to a simmer and set a timer. It can take 45-55 minutes to cook brown rice until the water is completely absorbed.

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Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed, or 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup applesauce or Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup non-fat milk
  • 1 cup peeled and shredded zucchini
  • 1 medium-size ripe banana, mashed (½ cup)

Chocolate Zucchini and Banana Squares

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, flaxseeds or wheat germ, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, canola oil, and milk until well mixed. Stir in zucchini and banana.

Add zucchini mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly.

Bake about 25 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into squares and serve with your favorite frozen yogurt flavor.


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