Heart-Healthy Mains, Sides & Desserts
Today marks the close of American Heart Month 2018. However, with heart disease still the leading cause of death for both men and women world-wide, and national trends showing death rates from heart disease are actually increasing in younger adults, age 35-64 years old, EVERY DAY is an opportunity to fight against this sobering statistic.
Planning meals that include plenty of heart-healthy ingredients can be EASY, DROOL-WORTHY, ECONOMICAL and FUN! I've put together a collection of dishes to inspire you. Some of these might be slightly different variations of dishes you already enjoy. Others might be completely new to you. Any foods for which I've already posted a recipe, I've included the link so you can easily check it out. Mix it up a bit and try something new!
BRING ON THE SALADS! ~
Salads are an excellent way to start a meal, eat alongside a meal, or can easily become the meal. This massaged kale salad contains smoky strips of tempeh, sage roasted butternut squash, grilled purple onions and figs and toasted walnuts. Roasting or grilling fruits and vegetables is a fabulous way to concentrate the natural sugars and heighten the flavors. Toasting nuts will also deepen the flavor and develop a lovely crunchiness. All these tastes combined in one bite is a PARTY IN YOUR MOUTH!
Try my Autumn Salad with Grilled Figs, Roasted Butternut Squash & Walnuts HERE.
Brussells sprouts are another fantastic heart-healthy member of the cruciferous family of vegetables (which includes broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, radishes, turnips, arugula, kohlrabi, bok choi, collard greens, horseradish, watercress and mustard greens). If you don't like roasted Brussels sprouts, try shaving them thinly and use them raw to make a fresh salad. The sweet tanginess of pomegranate arils and my Orange Ginger Dressing pair nicely in this vibrant salad.
Try my Shaved Brussels Sprout, Pear and Pomegranate Salad with Orange Ginger Dressing HERE.
Winter citrus makes a tasty addition to any salad, and is a great way to add extra Vitamin C, folate and fiber. Here I've paired slices of Cara Cara and Sugar Belles with shaved fennel bulb and smoky arugula. Top it with my Orange Ginger Dressing and this quick salad is a total winner!
Try my Shaved Fennel and Citrus Salad with Orange Ginger Dressing HERE.
Salads don't need to include leafy greens at all to be beneficial to your health (or taste buds)! ~nor do they need to be complicated. This 4-ingredient salad takes about five minutes to prepare but can be one of the most GORGEOUS salads you've ever made.
Summer tomatoes picked at peak ripeness are not only exquisite to taste, they add fiber and water - both of which are important for keeping the digestive tract functioning well. Fresh herbs, herb flowers and edible garden flowers can add vibrant colors, flavors and enticing aromas to any salad! Included in the recipe link below, is an extensive list of edible flowers and their respective flavors. Check it out!
Try my Cucumber and Tomato Salad HERE.
WHOLE GRAINS, VEGETABLES & LEGUMES ~
Undoubtedly, you've read or been told whole grains are better for you than their processed counterparts. This is because whole grains, as the name implies, includes the entire grain - bran (outer layer), endosperm (inner starchy kernel) and germ (the embryo of the grain containing Vitamin E and important B vitamins). During processing, the bran and germ are removed - along with the fiber and most of the protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.
Many processed grains (and the products made with them) will then be commercially fortified to replace some of the stripped vitamins and minerals. This doesn't, however, replace the fiber, protein or fat. Whole grains are often courser or chewier texture and a greater depth of color and flavor than processed or refined grains. The health benefits of dietary fiber have been well documented. Fiber in whole grains helps you feel fuller longer, can help control blood sugar, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, and reduce the risk of colon cancer.
If you and/or your family are new to eating whole grains, make gradual swaps until most (if not all) refined grains have been replaced with whole grain counterparts. In most baked goods, whole wheat pastry flour can be used to replace refined white flour with equally YUMMY results!
Pairing whole grains with lots of veg, some nuts or seeds, an additional protein source (legumes, tofu or tempeh, for instance) and a flavorful sauce is a TASTY way to ensure your body is getting all the nutrients required. Here (above) I've paired purple rice (also known as emperor's rice, forbidden rice or black rice) with grilled asparagus, toasted red walnuts, lacto-fermented red onions and my Lemony Garlic Dressing. When it comes to a heart-healthy, antioxidant-rich dishes, this one is topping the list!
Try my Lemony Garlic Dressing HERE.
Have you tried legume pastas yet?? You can now find quite an assortment of legume flour pastas, many of which do not contain any grains at all. They are prepared similar to grain-based pastas so I've included one here. Some contain as much as three times the amount of protein and fiber as refined pastas. Adding cooked legumes to the dish increases these amounts even more.
This one is a red lentil fusilli. I've paired it with garbanzo beans, tomatoes, carrot ribbons, green beans, onions, garlic, fresh ginger, coconut milk and spices for a delicious red lentil pasta curry. PERFECT!
Try my Coconut Curried Red Lentil Pasta HERE.
Another fantastic attribute of whole grains is their ability to be equally MOUTHWATERING whether served hot, cold or at room temperature. Above is grilled summer vegetables tossed with kamut and a lemony Dijon vinaigrette. Kamut is an ancient wheat grain with the nutty flavor. If you're not familiar with it yet, I encourage you to give it a taste.
Try my Grilled Summer Veg Kamut Salad HERE.
Freekeh is another type of wheat grain that is becoming more widely known. It is similar to wheat bulgur, but made from crushed immature (unripened) wheat. It contains more protein and fiber than quinoa and is milder in flavor. Here I paired it with cannellini beans, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chopped fresh spinach, and a sumac vinaigrette to make a lovely picnic-worthy salad.
Stone ground corn polenta is one of the ultimate comfort foods. If you can make cream-of-wheat, you can make polenta! I've served it under a quick, FLAVORFUL ratatouille for the perfect cold night meal. When you buy cornmeal, corn flour, grits or polenta, make sure the label reads "whole corn" or "whole grain corn" and not "degermed corn". Degermed corn does not include the nutritious germ and is not a whole grain. The germ is removed to increase the shelf life of the cornmeal.
Try my Ratatouille with Creamy Polenta HERE.
STUFF IT! ~
Don't be afraid to think outside the box. One CLEVER way to increase vegetable consumption is to choose a vegetable to act as an old-fashioned trencher and stuff it with more veggies, grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, etc. Below, I've loaded baked sweet potatoes with pan-crisped spicy garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and a scoop of my Ruby Red Cherry-Cranberry Salsa for a perfect dinner!
Try my Ruby Red Cherry-Cranberry Salsa HERE.
Stuffed zucchini is another option. This version doesn't contain any plants in the nightshade family, to which some people have a sensitivity. Instead, I added garbanzo beans to seasoned brown basmati rice, chopped Kalamata olives, a few toasted pinenuts and some fresh basil... THUMBS UP! Both the olives and the nuts are packed with flavor so a little goes a long way.
Try my Zucchini boats HERE.
MANY varieties of winter squash lend themselves well to being stuffed, particularly the miniature varieties. Winter squash can be a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber ~ and with some varieties, like these delicata, you can even eat the skin. These are stuffed with quinoa, golden apples, pomegranate arils and pistachios... YUM!
JUST THE VEG ~
Got a meal planned out, but need a veggie side? Here are a few excellent heart-healthy options.
Roasted purple cabbage steaks make a unique and scrumptious choice. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cabbage into 1/2" slabs. Either brush with your favorite marinade or drizzle lightly with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until center is fork tender and outer edges are crispy. I like to serve these with my Lemony Garlic Dressing (recipe link above) or any of these three sauces below:
~ Tangy Vegan Tartar Sauce, for recipe click HERE.
~ Creamy Lemon Basil Dressing, for recipe click HERE.
~ Almond Butter Lime Sauce, for recipe click HERE.
Asparagus is one of the first vegetables to emerge from the ground in the spring... and one of my FAVORITE things to eat! Keep it simple ~ grilled, salt & pepper and a squeeze of lemon. DELISH!
If you've never sautéed green beans picked fresh during the summer, give it a go... BEST EVER!
Try My Favorite Green Beans HERE.
Cabbage and broccoli also prefer cooler growing temperatures. Fresh varieties can be found both early and late throughout the growing season. Lightly steaming or roasting increases their digestibility. Here, I've paired them with a tangy Asian dressing and toasted sesame seeds... still slightly crunchy and highly CRAVEABLE!
Try The Marriage of Broccoli to Purple Cabbage HERE.
TOFU & TEMPEH ~
Organic tofu and tempeh offer loads of plant-based, heart-healthy nutrients. Here are a few DROOL-WORTHY ways to add them to your meals.
Hands down, this is the ULTIMATE tofu taco! Grilled summer veg, avocado slices, diced jalapenos, cubes of marinated tofu and garlicky lime sauce make one heck of a FLAVOR COMBO that will keep you and your guests clamoring for more! Another BONUS: the tofu requires no cooking and can be prepared several days in advance. For the tacos, I use my Latin American marinade.
Try my Marinated Tofu - Two Ways HERE.
Equally AWESOME are these flatbreads with grilled eggplant, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh herbs and cubes of pressed tofu "feta" soaked in my Mediterranean marinade [recipe is included in Marinated Tofu - Two Ways above].
Curious about tempeh? or wondering, what IS tempeh?? Tempeh is fermented whole soybeans, sometimes combined with grains, that's been pressed into rectangular blocks. Unlike tofu, tempeh requires cooking before eating. I've also learned, briefly steaming or simmering before marinating improves both the flavor and texture.
Try my Rice Noodle Bowls with Baked Tempeh HERE (pictured below).
Who says heart-healthy eating can't include DELICIOUS desserts? Not me! The line-up below is sure to satisfy.
If you aren't familiar with chia seeds, now might be a good time to scope them out. Ounce per ounce, chia seeds are a richer source of protein, vitamins, minerals and soluble fiber than oatmeal making them an excellent choice for breakfast, snack, or even dessert! Chia seeds require an overnight soak, but do not need to be cooked. Here (above), I've combined them with chocolate almond milk AND unsweetened cocoa powder for DOUBLE chocolatey goodness!
Try my Double Chocolate Chia Pudding HERE.
An old-fashioned favorite, tapioca pudding gets a heart-healthy make-over that I actually prefer over the dairy and egg-based original. Top it with whichever seasonal fruit you enjoy best!
Try my Vegan Strawberry Tapioca Pudding HERE.
Rice pudding is another old-time favorite! I've amped up the nutritional quality of this one by using whole grain Burgundy Red rice, cashew & coconut milks and maple syrup. It's topped with grilled fresh figs, toasted pistachios, lemon zest, fresh basil and mint for a Mediterranean flair ~ you can top it with whatever strikes your fancy!
Try my Mediterranean Burgundy Rice Pudding HERE.
There are certainly a number of other foods that contribute to maintaining a healthy heart and well-functioning cardiovascular system. These are just some ideas you might like to try.
What are some ways you are looking after your heart-health? Drop me a comment below, and be sure to let me know what you think if you try any of my recipes ~ I love getting your feedback!
your favorite plant-based chef & culinary nutritionist 💕