Heart Healthy Doesn't Have to Suck

April Peveteaux

heart healthy recipeI thought going vegetarian was going to be my biggest food challenge this month (so far, so good!). Giving up meat hasn't hurt so bad with a spinach and cheese pizza keeping me company at night. And then we got some crappy news: My husband has high cholesterol -- and he's a lean, pro-exercise 35-year-old. It's most likely genetic, which means a lifetime of health changes, not solved by one month of vegetarianism.

Going veg is now going low- to no-fat and giving up all of those comfort foods that were going to see us through November 1st. Neither of us are happy about it, but since we know too well that heart attacks don't just happen to overweight, smoking, 65-year-old men -- we're taking this very seriously.

We love, love, love food and as my husband says, "I really don't want to live like an old man," so I searched out what sound like incredibly flavorful recipes to keep even the most indulgent foodie happy and healthy.


Salmon Kebobs with Quinoa and Grapefruit Salad

Doesn't that sound like an amazing combo of flavors in your mouth? Fish is breaking our veg rule, but in the quest for delicious low fat recipes, a fish or two will have to be sacrificed.

What you'll need:


1 medium grapefruit
8 thin slices fresh ginger
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cups quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 small serrano or jalapeno chile, minced (with seeds for maximum heat)
2 scallions (both white and green parts), minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Freshly ground black pepper


1 1/2 pound skinless, center-cut salmon, cut into 2-inch cubes
Wooden skewers, soaked

Get directions here, and throw a party to show off your new crowd-pleasing recipe

Frankie's Marinara & Whole Wheat Pasta

Luckily I've mastered the Italian Grandmother sauce I've written about before. Even luckier, it has olive oil, which is one of the few oils allowed on the no fat diet my husband is now on. While you need to limit your bread allowance, choosing a whole grain pasta is your best bet to accompany the marinara. It will taste like a 5 star restaurant without clogging those arteries.

Here's the recipe again:

Use good Italian canned tomatoes and high quality olive oil when making this sauce, and take your time-there's no rushing it. When you're cooking the garlic, you want to very, very slowly convert the starches in it to sugars and then to caramelize those sugars. Slow and steady. Then get the tomatoes in and let them simmer. Not a ton happens over the four hours-no epic deepening of color or furious reduction-but it cooks as much water out of the tomatoes as possible without turning them into tomato paste.

Makes about 3 quarts

1 cup olive oil

13 cloves garlic

One 96-ounce can (or, if you can find it, 1-kg) or four 28-ounce cans Italian tomatoes

Large pinch of red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

1. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a large deep saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring or swirling occasionally, until the garlic is deeply colored-striations of deep brown running through golden cloves-and fragrant. If the garlic starts to smell acrid or sharp or is taking on color quickly, pull the pan off the stove and reduce the heat.

2. While the garlic is getting golden, deal with the tomatoes: Pour them into a bowl and crush them with your hands. We like to pull out the firmer stem end from each of the tomatoes as we crush them and discard those along with the basil leaves that are packed into the can.

3. When the garlic is just about done, add the red pepper flakes to the oil and cook them for 30 seconds or a minute, to infuse their flavor and spice into the oil. Dump in the tomatoes, add the salt, and stir well. Turn the heat up to medium, get the sauce simmering at a gentle pace, not aggressively, and simmer for 4 hours. Stir it from time to time. Mother it a little bit.

4. Check the sauce for salt at the end. The sauce can be cooked with meat at this point, or stored, covered, in the fridge for at least 4 days or frozen for up to a few months.

Taco Dip

It especially makes me sad that we have to give up the Mexican food that isn't a grilled fish recipe. But I stumbled upon this low-fat taco dip response to a daughter whose dad had to have bypass surgery, but needed some hockey playoff food. Yes!

I like to make really healthy taco dip. Take (two cans) fat free re-fried beans and mix with some (2 TB each) fat free cream cheese and fat free sour cream, bake in the oven or heat in the microwave. Then spread fat free sour cream on top, sprinkle with onions, tomato, jalapeno, cilantro and lettuce and serve with either cut up veggies or baked rice chips (found at whole foods or trader joe’s). I find that this feels and tastes like junk food, but is way, way healthier. High in fiber and fat free.

Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt

My husband is most upset about doing without ice cream, but since we have our own ice cream maker, I can make this rich, seasonal treat without using whole milk or lots of sugar.

What you'll need:

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
After you mix all of these ingredients, they need to chill for awhile in your fridge. Once the mixture is chilled, break out your ice cream maker and follow the instructions.
Image via foodnetwork
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