February is the short-lived month for flowers, the enviable box of chocolates and romantic candlelit dinners. It is a month to celebrate the love beating in your heart...and a month to simply celebrate your heart beating. In addition to being the month of Valentines, February is American Heart Month.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States and causes a third of deaths globally. Fortunately, heart disease can be thwarted with simple changes in lifestyle, from regular physical activity to healthier diet choices. Even love itself and welcome physical affection are beneficial for the heart. Valentine's Day gives you the opportunity to eat well and cuddle up.
The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish, particularly fatty fish, per week. Fatty fish, such as salmon, are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered heart-healthy. Research has shown that omega-3's decrease risk of arrhythmias, decrease triglyceride levels, decrease the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, and lower blood pressure.
Talk of heart disease over a romantic meal is not exactly sexy conversation. Instead of belaboring it, simply make a pact to get more exercise, hug often, and eat fish twice a week. The following two recipes are delicious, nutritious, and good for your heart. Including salmon in your Valentine's Day plans will not only whet your appetite for love, it can feed your health-driven desire for life.
Pecan-Cranberry Crusted Salmon with Wild Rice
1/2 cup wild rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces sliced white or brown button mushrooms
Salt and black pepper
2 (5-ounces each) boneless salmon fillets
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup unseasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs
3/4 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until mushrooms are browned. Add to wild rice, stirring to combine.
While the rice is cooking, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and coat the bottom of a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place salmon in baking dish and season with salt and pepper. In a food processor, grind breadcrumbs, pecans, cranberries, and brown sugar until combined. Using your fingers, evenly coat the top of the salmon fillets with pecan mixture. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until salmon is cooked through, flakes easily when pressed with the back of a fork, and pecan crust is lightly browned.
To serve, mound wild rice on two serving plates, top each mound of rice with a salmon fillet, and sprinkle with parsley. For added heart-health, enjoy with a glass of your favorite red or white wine.
Salmon in Fruit Sauce with Coconut Rice
1/2 cup jasmine rice
1 cup lite coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup orange juice
1 banana, diced
1/2 cup rum
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
2 (5-ounces each) boneless, skinless salmon fillets
In a medium-sized saucepan, combine rice, coconut milk, water, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, combine pineapple, orange juice, banana, and rum in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens, 6 to 8 minutes. Set salmon fillets in the skillet and cover with sauce. Increase heat to medium, cover the skillet, and cook until salmon turns light pink and flakes easily when pressed firmly with the back of a fork. To serve, mound rice on two serving plates, use a spatula to transfer salmon onto rice, and top with fruit sauce. Garnish with minced cilantro.
For more information on heart disease
American Heart Association www.americanheart.org
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/hearttruth
The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease www.womenheart.org
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