Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. What I love most about this holiday is the opportunity to share and celebrate all things love, whether that means celebrating alone (we adore self-love and self-care), with family and platonic friends, or with romantic partners. Whatever your situation, make sure you find a way to celebrate love on this very special day!
One of the most popular ways to celebrate anything is with food and Valentine’s Day is no exception; after all, what’s more loving that preparing a home-cooked meal for the one(s) you adore?
Many Valentine treats err on the side of being highly processed, overly sweet, or filled with sketchy ingredients. But it doesn’t have to be this way! This Valentine’s Day, I’ve put together a relatively easy-to-make meal that’s delicious and heart healthy. Preparing the following meal can be a thoughtful way show your loved one(s) you care by creating a meal that is not only made from the heart, but is also nutritious, delicious, and heart-healthy at the same time! Also a home-cooked meal can be way more affordable and more intimate than dining out.
Salad: Blue Cheese & Spinach Salad Main Course: Sautéed Chicken Breast with Creamy Chive Sauce Side: Garlic Roasted Potatoes Dessert: Strawberry Sundae Bites Jump to the Recipes
Spinach, chicken breast, garlic, and dark chocolate have all been linked to heart-protective benefits by lowering blood pressure. Here’s why:
Spinach is a leafy-green vegetable that is a rich source of naturally occurring compounds that can lower blood pressure by improving blood flow known as nitrates. According to research, spinach increases the production, action, and functionality of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide (NO) plays a vital role in heart health by lowering blood pressure. When NO is released, it sends signals to the arteries to relax, which in turn results in arterial dilation. When arteries are dilated, it lowers the resistance of blood flow against arterial walls; thus, reducing blood pressure.
Chicken makes a fantastic substitution for red meat, which can be higher in saturated fat. Chicken breast is a great source of lean protein that can provide 25-30 grams of protein with only 3g of saturated fat per serving, which is 30% of your daily needs and 1.4% saturated fat (based on a 2,000-calorie diet). (That 1.4% saturated fat satisfies the dietary recommendations of <10% of daily calories from saturated fat, too.)
The garlic in the potatoes is also highly recommended for improving heart health. Garlic is an ingredient that has been found to have a positive impact on arteries and blood pressure via its production of hydrogen sulfide gas, which also acts as an arterial relaxer by expanding the blood vessels.
Flavonoids in dark chocolate operate similarly to the compounds in spinach that lower blood pressure. Additionally, flavanols in dark chocolate such as catechin are believed to reduce blood pressure via its production of NO.
If You’re Dining Out
If your schedule and/or kitchen are too cramped for home cooking, the following pointers are for you.
Order wisely. Read food descriptions carefully, get sauces on the side, pay attention to portion size, and eat at a reasonable pace. Enjoy conversation at the dining table and be sure to savor your bites.
Opt for options like salmon which is high in lean protein and essential fatty acids like omega-3s which are anti-inflammatory and heart protective. If fish isn’t your thing or you’re simply craving a piece of meat, select a loin beef cut option as these cuts are naturally lower in saturated fat compared to other cuts. If you choose to drink, pair the dish with a glass of red wine which is also high in heart-protective flavonoids.
When ordering appetizers, go for a mixed garden salad or vegetable-containing soup.
Note: each recipe serves two.
Spinach Blue Cheese Salad
140 calories per serving
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cups baby spinach
¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
½ cup dried cranberries, optional
Add all dressing ingredients to mason (or any lidded) jar. Shake vigorously until smooth.
Toss salad ingredients together, and add dressing just before serving.
Chicken Breast with Creamy Chive Sauce
257 calories per serving
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (about ½ pound)
½ teaspoon kosher salt (divided)
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons olive oil (divided)
1 large shallot, finely chopped
¼ cup apple juice (for a sweeter taste), apple cider vinegar (more tart), or ginger ale (balance of both)
7 oz. reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 tbsp reduced-fat sour cream
½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
¼ cup chopped chives
Place chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or heavy skillet until flattened to an even thickness, about ½ inch. Season both sides of the chicken with salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and oregano.
Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, cover and keep warm.
Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour; stir to coat. Add apple juice, broth, and salt to taste; bring to a boil, stirring often.
Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the meat is heated through and no longer pink in the center; it should take about 6 minutes. Stir in sour cream and mustard until smooth; turn the chicken to coat with the sauce. Stir in chives and serve immediately.
Garlic Roasted Potatoes
168 calories per serving
1 pound small red potatoes, halved
1 head garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Arrange potatoes and garlic cloves on a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake in the preheated oven until potatoes are tender and garlic cloves are soft, approximately 30 – 40 minutes.
Remove potatoes and garlic from the oven. Cool slightly, until it’s safe to pick up the garlic cloves with your hands.
Put the potatoes in a mixing bowl. Squeeze garlic cloves to release roasted garlic onto the potatoes; discard garlic skins. Mix potatoes and garlic together.
Strawberry Sundae Bites
171 calories per serving
1 cup strawberries, fresh
4 tablespoons regular whipped cream
2 teaspoons sprinkles
1 tablespoon dark Chocolate chips
Take two small bowls and add 2 tablespoons of whipped cream to each.
Divide the strawberries, sprinkles, and dark chocolate evenly, and use them to top the whipped cream.