Friday, February 21, 2014

Heart Healthy Eating

February has been designated as American Heart Month but realistically every month should be heart month. Keeping our hearts in the best condition possible is essential to living.

This week I led a Healthy Hearts food demo at Piedmont Fayette Hospital's Cancer Wellness Center. Each of the recipes used had the hallmarks of a Mediterranean diet, one with fruits and vegetables and grains and low on fats.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating primarily a plant based diet, replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil, using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods, limiting red meat to no more than couple of times a week and eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.  Nuts are also a part of the Mediterranean diet. While nuts are high in fat, most of the fat is healthy.  As they are high in calories, they should not be eaten in large amounts - generally no more than a handful a day. And it is best to keep away from candied or honey-roasted and heavily salted nuts.

One of the recipes prepared was Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip. It was a refreshing and healthy change from the traditional recipe. We served it with yellow and red bell pepper strips and baked pita chips. It was an overwhelming hit!

Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip

8 ounces hummus
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
2 canned artichoke hearts, chopped
2 roasted red peppers (4 halves), diced
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbs minced flat-leaf parsley
Kalamata olives, chopped, for garnish

1. In an 8x8 square serving dish, spread the hummus evenly on the bottom. Layer the tomatoes and cucumber over top.
2. Dollop the yogurt over the vegetables, then gently spread. Sprinkle the yogurt with salt and paprika.
3. Top the yogurt with the artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and feta cheese. Sprinkle with parsley and garnish with olives.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Butternut Squash, Cranberry and Goat Cheese Crostini

I just love these! They are such a fun twist to the variety of ways to make a crostini. I have gotten a great deal of mileage out of this recipe this fall and winter. I know it is almost spring, but it's not too late to try this. It's a simple and easily prepared and I think you will like it too.

Butternut Squash, Cranberry and Goat Cheese Crostini

2 ½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (12”) sourdough baguette, thinly slice (1/4” pieces)
3 to 4 ounces goat cheese, softened
1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
 1 ½ cups peeled and diced butternut squash
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cups dried cranberries, roughly chopped
2 ½ tablespoons minced thyme
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375F.  Brush each side of sliced baguette with oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake for 5 minutes, flip each crostini, and continue to bake for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.
For topping: Pour oil into a heavy bottom skillet and place over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add squash and continue to sauté for 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and 2 tablespoons of thyme and stir together; season with salt and pepper. Cook mixture for 5 minutes, add cranberries. Continue to cook for 4 or 5 minutes for until squash is fork tender. Stir in remaining thyme and adjust seasonings.

To assemble: Spread a small amount of goat cheese onto each crostini and top with a spoonful or two of squash mixture. Serve.
NOTE: A couple of things I do - I cut the butternut squash into 1/4" dice. I also cover the skillet after I add the cranberries. I find it a better way to finish cooking the squash. I have substituted soften cream cheese for the goat cheese and it worked well.

*I honestly don't remember where I found this recipe so I cannot do due diligence other than to say someone "out there" gets the credit.*