Diet Detective’s Healthy Valentine’s Day Recipes

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Salmon & Escarole Packets with Lemon-Tarragon Butter

Healthy Recipe by Editors at EatingWell magazine and The EatingWell Test Kitchen

This company–worthy salmon is steamed on a bed of escarole and basted in a rich and tangy lemon–butter sauce. Fresh tarragon is delicious, or try other herbs, such as thyme or rosemary. Rainbow trout or arctic char are good substitutes for the salmon. Salmon is heart healthy, perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Makes 4 servings

Equipment: Parchment paper or foil 2 tablespoons butter
2 lemons
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chopped escarole, romaine lettuce or spinach
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
1–1 1/4 pounds skinned salmon fillet, preferably wild Pacific (see Note), cut into 4 portions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • To prepare packets, start with four 20– to 24–inch–long pieces of parchment paper or foil. Fold in half crosswise. With the parchment or foil folded, draw half a heart shape on one side as you would if you were making a Valentine. Use scissors to cut out the heart shape. Open up the heart.
  • Combine butter with the juice of 1 lemon in a small pan; melt over low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in tarragon and garlic. Reserve 2 tablespoons for the fish. Combine the rest of the sauce in a large bowl with escarole (or lettuce or spinach), scallions, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; toss to coat.
  • Place one–fourth of the greens mixture (about 1 1/4 cups) on one side of each open heart, fairly close to the crease and leaving at least a 1–inch border around the edges for folding. Place 1 piece of fish on top of each portion of greens. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Brush the reserved sauce on the fish. Slice the remaining lemon and top the fish with the lemon slices.
  • Close the packets to cover the ingredients. Starting at the top, seal the packets by folding the edges together in a series of small, tight folds. Twist the tip of the packets and tuck them underneath to help keep the packets closed. Place the packets on a large rimmed baking sheet (packets may overlap slightly). Bake until the fish is just cooked through and the greens are wilted, about 15 minutes. (Carefully open one package to check for doneness ­ be cautious of the steam.) Let the packets rest unopened for 5 minutes before serving.

Nutrition information (per serving): 215 calories; 10 g fat (5 g sat, 2 g mono); 68 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 512 mg sodium; 24 g protein.

Note: Wild–caught salmon from the Pacific (Alaska and Washington) are more sustainably fished and have a larger, more stable population. For more information, visit Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

Wild Mushroom & Barley Risotto

Healthy Recipe by Connie Guttersen, Ph.D., R.D., author of The New Sonoma Diet: Trimmer Waist, More Energy in Just 10 Days (Sterling, 2011).

Mushrooms are said to have an aphrodisiac effect.

Makes 5 servings

1 ½ ounces fresh chanterelle, stemmed oyster and/or stemmed shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 large shallot, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced (1/2 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon extra–virgin olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
3 ¾ cups chicken stock or reduced–sodium chicken broth
½ cup regular barley
Fresh flat–leaf parsley, chopped

  • In a large skillet, cook mushrooms, shallot and garlic in hot oil over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and lightly browned. Add wine. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 5 minutes or until liquid is nearly evaporated.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring chicken stock to a boil; reduce heat. Keep hot over very low heat.
  • Add barley to mushroom mixture; stir to coat. Add 1 cup of the hot stock to the barley mixture. Cook over medium heat until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. (This should take about 15 minutes. If the liquid absorbs too quickly, reduce the heat.) Repeat with 2 cups more of the hot stock, adding 1 cup at a time and cooking until all the liquid is absorbed before adding more, stirring occasionally. (This should take about 30 minutes.)
  • Stir in the remaining hot stock. Cook until the barley is slightly creamy and just tender. (This should take about 15 minutes. Increase the heat slightly if the mixture is too wet.) Sprinkle with parsley.

Nutrition information (per serving/ 1/2 cup): 145 calories; 3 g total fat (0 g sat); 23 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 0 mg cholesterol; 366 mg sodium; 5 g protein.

Oyster Artichoke Soup

Healthy Recipe by Holly Clegg, author of Holly Clegg’s trim&TERRIFIC Too Hot in the Kitchen.

Oysters are high in zinc content, a mineral that aids in the production of testosterone, and it was rumored that Casanova ate over 50 raw oysters a day to boost his libido. Even if you don’t like raw oysters, you are sure to love this oyster, artichoke pairing in this simple, seductive soup.

Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup 100% whole–wheat flour
1 1/2 cups fat–free chicken broth
1 pint oysters, reserving 1/2 cup oyster liquid
Dash cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
2 (14–ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 cup fat–free half–and–half
1/4 cup sherry

  • In a nonstick pot, heat olive oil and sauté green onions and garlic 5 minutes. Add flour and, stirring constantly, gradually add chicken broth and reserved oyster liquid. Add cayenne, thyme and bay leaf.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook about 15 minutes. Add oysters, artichokes and parsley, cooking until oysters curl around edges, 10 minutes.
  • Stir in half–and–half and sherry, cooking until thoroughly heated. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Nutrition information (per serving / 1 cup): 180 calories; 6 g total fat (1 g sat); 30 mg cholesterol; 501 mg sodium; 21 g carbohydrate; 3 g dietary fiber; 5 g sugars; 10 g protein.

Gluten–Free Chewy Chocolate Valentine’s Cookies

Healthy Recipe by: Ivy Larson, founder of Clean Cuisine and More and author of Whole Foods Diet Cookbook (Gibbs Smith, 2009).

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day are a natural couple.

Makes 14 cookies

Extra–virgin coconut oil, for greasing the baking sheet
2 tablespoons raw honey
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup walnuts
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup prunes
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (look for a high–quality one like Ghirardelli or Green & Black)

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet with the extra–virgin coconut oil. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, egg whites and salt.
  • Place the walnuts, pecans, prunes and cocoa powder in a food processor and process into fine crumbs. Transfer the “crumbs” to a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry; mix well. Using a tablespoon as a measuring device, form 14 small round cookies. Bake for 15–17 minutes, or until done but still chewy. Cool completely before serving.

Nutrition information (per serving /1 cookie): 144 calories; 11 g fat; 4 g protein; 9.5 g carbohydrate; 2 g dietary fiber; 51 mg sodium; 4 g protein.

Dr. Janet’s Steel–Cut Oats with Fresh Fruit and Walnuts

Healthy Recipe by: Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., co-author of Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease (Crown/Three Rivers, February 2011).

This oatmeal begs for improvisation. Be creative in substituting other fruits such as banana, chopped pear or even dried blueberries or raisins for the apple. Oats, fruit, walnuts — all heart healthy!

Makes 4 servings

1 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup plain soy milk
1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted if desired

  • In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil.
  • Stir in the oats and cinnamon.
  • Reduce the heat and cook for 25 minutes. Stir in the soy milk and flaxseeds and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Serve with the chopped apple and walnuts.

Nutrition information (per serving / 1 cup): 290 calories; 11 g fat (0 g EPA; 0 g DHA; 2 g ALA, 1 g sat); 0 g cholesterol; 26 mg sodium; 39 g carbohydrate; 9 g dietary fiber; 6 g sugars; 11 g protein.

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