February is American Heart Month - an entire month dedicated to increasing awareness about heart disease, the number one killer of women. While you may think that because you're active and healthy, you're in the clear, it's important to remember that even active women can experience heart attack, stroke and risk factors for disease like high blood pressure and cholesterol. Unfortunately, not every risk factor is completely avoidable (some things boil down to genetics), but you can take strides to reduce your risk by subscribing to a healthy eating plan.
Not sure where to start? Check out these fantastic dinner recipes by Claire Thomas, the host of ABC's Food for Thought and the creator of popular food blog, The KitchyKitchen. Also, be sure to go grocery shopping with Web MD's rundown of the 25 Top Heart Healthy Foods in hand. With tasty options like blueberries, red wine, black beans, dark chocolate, papaya, oranges and walnuts on the list, you'll wonder why you haven't been eating heart-healthy for years!
Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Sauteed Kale and Walnut Pesto
Don't settle for basic pasta with marinara sauce! Give your family a heart-healthy and flavorful meal with Thomas' "Kitchen Sink Pasta." Why's it called her Kitchen Sink Pasta? We'll let her explain: "I say 'kitchen sink' because I put the entire contents of the fridge in this pasta. Chopped butternut squash? Sure! Leeks? Why not? Kale? OK! It's kind of ridiculous. But the lovely thing about this pasta is that it all works together. Winter vegetables are just meant to be roasted and combined. Kale adds a bit of crisp texture and sunchokes bring some earthiness to the party. In the spring asparagus and pea tendrils could make an appearance and in the summer fresh corn and artichoke hearts with a basil pesto would be delicious. The idea is to just put them all together, and let them do their thing.”
Yields 1 1/2 cups pesto, or more if thinned out
- 1 1/2 cups raw walnuts
- 3/4 cups cubed whole wheat bread
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
- 1/2 cup skim milk, or however much you need to cover the bread
Soak the bread in enough milk to cover the cubes, and soak the walnuts in enough hot water to cover them for 15 minutes. The bread should be soft and the walnuts should have turned the water a brownish hue. In a food processor, add the walnuts, drained with the liquid reserved, the bread and milk, and the other ingredients. Pulse to combine. Add a 1/4 cup of the walnut water and pulse until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper. If you want a thinner, sauce-ier pesto, add more of the walnut liquid.
“You also might have noticed that the pesto isn't...pesto-y. It's not even green! This is because it's about the walnuts. Combined with the garlic, nutmeg, and milk, this sauce takes on an alfredo quality but without the heft. It's just really awesome." - Claire Thomas
- 2 cups butternut squash, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 cups sunchoke (aka Jerusalem Artichokes), chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 1 bunch kale, vein removed and roughly chopped
- 1 leek, cleaned and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Pinch of chili flake
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- olive oil
- 1 lb whole wheat pasta, such as penne
- 3/4 cup walnut pesto, more if you like more
- Toasted breadcrumbs, optional
- Preheat oven to 425 F
- On a baking sheet, drizzle the butternut squash, sunchoke, and fennel with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the fennel for about 15 minutes, or until the edges turn brown, and remove from oven. Continue to roast the sunchoke and butternut squash for another 20 minutes, flipping once. You want them to be really caramelized so if they need to get a little browner, leave them in for another 5 minutes.
- In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and then the leeks. Season the leeks with salt and pepper, and after 5 minutes add the garlic. Cook for another 5 minutes until wilted and browning and add the kale. Stir in the kale so that it's coated, add more olive oil if necessary. Add the chili flake and lemon juice and cook until the kale is just wilted.
- Meanwhile, heat up a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta. In a small saucepan heat up the walnut pesto over medium low heat.
- Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the sauté pan with the kale, add the roasted vegetables, and add the walnut pesto. Stir to combine and coat. Garnish with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!
Garden Fresh Lasagna
Who doesn't love a hearty Italian lasagna dish? Unfortunately, traditional lasagna is laden with meats and cheeses that don't exactly help out your heart. For a lighter twist on lasagna, try Thomas' zesty, garden-fresh variety.
"Salad can get pretty boring pretty quickly, so I decided to mix it up with a twist on vegetable lasagna. This fresh lasagna with zucchini "pasta", roasted and raw cherry tomatoes, and a thick, savory pesto somehow manages to be hearty without weighing you down. This bright and delicious dish is perfect for a simple dinner." - Claire Thomas
- 1 large zucchini, thinly sliced in 9 slices (about the thickness of lasagna noodles)
- 2 large tomatoes, sliced about a 1/4 inch thick and cut in half
- 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup sliced basil
- Olive oil
- 1 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 2 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 F.
- Halve the cherry tomatoes and place them face up on a baking sheet lined with a silicone pad.
- Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast for 20 minutes until the tomatoes are juicy and slightly caramelized. Set aside.
- In a food processor, combine the pine nuts, garlic, and parm until pasty. Add the basil and big pinches of salt and pepper, and while the food processor goes, drizzle in the olive oil.
- Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
- On a large plate, line three pieces of zucchini slightly overlapping. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of the pesto (enough to coat the zucchini) and cover with tomato halves.
- Add another layer of zucchini. Sprinkle the cherry tomatoes and top with 2 tablespoons of the basil.
- Top with another layer of zucchini, add the tomato slices, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and the remaining basil.
- Finish with a drizzle of olive oil
Other options: adding cheese, prosciutto, salami, using some of your other favorite vegetables and left overs (chicken breast, sauteed spinach, caramelized onion, roasted butternut squash, whatever suits your fancy).