Monday, February 13, 2012

Love a Heart with (Healthy) Food

Heart Healthy Foods 
(from MedHelp)

Whole Grains


Olive oil


Tea (3-6 cups of black/green)
Coffee (2-4 cups)
Red Wine (1-2 glasses)

One can hate it, or embrace it, but it is near impossible to simply ignore Valentine's day.

Living abroad, I find myself having to defend Valentine's day year after year. Not that I want to, or even that I feel as a good American expatriate that I necessarily have to. It just ends up that way.

Comments on the holiday from my past Czech students were overwhelming focused on the forced emotional element. We'll see about the reactions tomorrow among my new Italian students. Differences?

A large part of the negative image I believe stems from all the usual side effects of an exported holiday. Other cultures see the overpriced junk in the shops, and the nauseatingly clichéd displays of overdone emotion on the sitcoms. They are missing the perspective of holiday nostalgia, meaning, the image of a holiday we have as experienced as a child, and formulated though the lens of nostalgia.

I always attempt to explain that it's not just forced emotion between two young lovers. In fact, I remember it best as a family holiday. The ones with the kids get all the fun with it. Heart-shaped anything sweet is enjoyed immensely. Wearing red, pink, and white to school was something silly my sister and I looked forward to (as well as sporting our new hearted V-day socks and toting an array of garishly designed sparkly pencils to school.)

Valentine's day, to me, is simply a day to think about anyone in your heart. Near or far. And when someone is in your heart, you want to take care of them. Whether that means baking yummy confections with sprinkles, or looking after their health. This week, in honour of Valentines day, I've dug up one of those lists of heart-healthy foods and created a full days menu using every single food on that list. As a foodie afar, it's  the best I can do to love the heart of someone dear - my dad. Like many American seniors (note: he does not object to this title, rather loves it for the prime parking spots it acquires) he has been told to stick to a heart-healthy diet by his doctor. Growing up at the table of his mom n pop's greasy spoon diner, he has somehow not yet satisfied his desire for hamburgers and all things that would make a modern nutritionist shudder.

This menu is for my dad. I think he would like it. It's not too exotic, and its a full day using every food he is supposed to be eating. It's from one heart to another. Happy Birthday dad!

The heart-loving menu:
Lunch: Black Bean Chili with Swiss Chard 

More heart-loving menu recipes in the coming days. 

Black Bean Chili with Swiss Chard
Serves 4
Time 50 minutes (plus bean soaking time)
Eat with Rioja

250g dried black beans (1 1/2 cups) (or 2-3 cans worth)
olive oil
2 shallots
2 cloves garlic
2 - 3 large red bell peppers
2 Tb chili powder
1 Tb cumin
1 Tb smoked Spanish paprika
1 can stewed tomatoes
2 1/4 cups (500ml) vegetable broth
1 tsp salt (optional)
1 medium bunch (3 packed cups, chopped) Swiss chard - leaves only

garnish: chopped avocado and/or Manchego (or other sheep's milk cheese, like Pecorino)

1) Soak the beans either overnight, or quickly (cover well with water, bring to boil, turn off heat and let soak for an hour...more or less depending on the size of your beans.)

2) In a large pot, heat the olive oil on low and gently cook the chopped shallots. After 5 minutes, add in the garlic and cook on low for another 2 minutes. 

3) Chop the bell pepper into bite-sized bits, add into the pot and stir the chili powder, cumin, and paprika into the mix. After a minute, when the spices are fragrant, add in the pre-soaked beans (but without their soaking water of course), tomatoes, vegetable broth, and optional salt. Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer and leave it there with a lid on for about 20 minutes.

4) Add in the chopped chard leaves and cook another 5-10 minutes, until they are softened considerably. 

Serve with cheese or avocado atop.

- Jo


  1. Josie, I am going to make the chilli! looks delicious! I made a spinach soup (out of whole spinach leaves) yesterday and thought you might like it ;)

  2. Oooh, I adore spinach soup in the winter with lentils and curry. Wonder how you do it up. Hope you like the chili!

  3. This for making us aware, healthy food is good for the heart. It is necessary for a person to have a healthy food which is effective and beneficial. Try to avoid oily and junk food as it is not at all good of for the heart.
    sevgiliye hediye

    1. Thanks for commenting prixander..I agree, a big focus on healthy eating is how it effects the OUTSIDE of a body..until it's a problem, we forget about the heart, such an important part!


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