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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Celebrating Healthy Heart Month

By Sherrie Norris

February is a month known for matters of the heart. Beyond Valentine’s Day, “Heart Month” goes way beyond the flowers, candy and an evening out on the town.

The American Heart Association has designated this as National Heart Month in an effort to increase awareness regarding life-sustaining matters, including healthier eating habits, increased exercise and other preventative measures.

A healthy balanced diet means choosing foods from all food groups of the Daily Food Guide Pyramid; a good variety will provide an enjoyable, satisfying diet that could evolve into a long-term, healthy lifestyle — if we stick to it.

We have been taught that each of the foods within a particular group provides some, but not all, of the nutrients we need and it’s “heart-smart,” we are told, to follow the pyramid for the healthiest of all diets.

Those of us who try one fad diet after another can attest to the fact that it’s really easy to get burned out quickly from eating the same things for an extended period of time. And, even with today’s popular high-fat diets that result in quick weight loss for many, we know they don’t or shouldn’t last forever.

Since we’re still in “heart month, let’s review a few simple healthy-eating tips, and, hopefully together, strive to make better health-conscious choices:


  • Eat five fruits and vegetables daily: When planning meals, take meat off center stage. Think of meat, poultry and seafood as complements to fruits, vegetables and grains.
  • Broil, bake, grill or steam food, rather than fry it.
  • Sauté food in a nonstick skillet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  • De-fat dairy foods: While they provide essential calcium and protein, they can also be high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Instead of regular dairy products, buy skim or 1- percent fat milk; nonfat or low-fat yogurt; low-fat or fat-free ice cream or frozen yogurt, reduced-fat, fat-free, or part-skim milk cheeses, low-fat or fat-free sour cream and cream cheese.
  • Re-stock your pantry: In addition to limiting fat, avoiding excess sodium is a heart-healthy step. Too much sodium may contribute to high blood pressure and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Reduce dependence on fat and sodium to enhance flavor. Have a ready supply of onions, fresh garlic, ginger root, Dijon mustard, fresh lemons and limes, flavored vinegars, sherry or other cooking wines, evaporated skim milk, cornstarch, vegetable cooking spray and plenty of herbs and spices.
  • Snack smart: When you reach for a snack, it’s often a food’s characteristic — crunchy, creamy or cold — that appeals to you, rather than the food itself. Once you’ve identified what you’re looking for, choose a heart-healthy food that can satisfy your craving. Examples are: crunchy: reduced-fat or fat-free crackers, chips, air-popped popcorn, raw vegetables, rice cakes, frozen grapes. Creamy or cold: nonfat frozen yogurt, fat-free ice cream, sorbet, juice bars or fruit spritzers.


Bran Muffin Breakfast Trifle

3 cups coarsely crumbled low-fat bran muffins, (about 3 medium muffins)

4 cups assorted fresh fruit chunks

2 cups nonfat or low-fat vanilla, or fruit flavored yogurt

Place half the muffin crumbs in a 2½ quart glass bowl or airtight container. Arrange all the fruit on top. Cover with remaining muffin crumbs. Spoon yogurt evenly over the top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.


Hawaiian Chicken Salad Pitas

2 cooked chicken breasts, diced

1 (8oz.) can pineapple tidbits in unsweetened juice, drained

½ cup chopped celery

¼ cup fat-free mayonnaise or salad dressing

1 Tbsp. honey mustard

3 (6-inch) pocket pitas, halved

6 lettuce leaves

In medium bowl, combine all ingredients except pitas and lettuce; mix well. Line each pocket with lettuce leaf; fill with scant 1/3-cup chicken mixture.


Dijon Pork and Potatoes

8 small red potatoes cut into ½ -inch wedges

4 med. carrots, quartered lengthwise, then cut into 2-inch-long pieces

2 small onions, cut into eighths

1 med. green bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 med. red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

2 med. garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 lb. pork tenderloin, all visible fat discarded

1½ Tbsp. Dijon mustard

½ tsp. cracked black pepper

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place potatoes, carrots, onions, bell peppers, and garlic on the baking sheet. Toss with 1 Tbsp. oil. Arrange in a single layer, leaving enough room in the center for the pork.

Spoon mustard over the pork; spread evenly over top and sides. Sprinkle with black pepper. Place pork on baking sheet. Tuck thin end of the pork under for even cooking.

Bake for 10 minutes. Stir vegetables. Bake for 25 minutes, or until pork is no longer pink in center. Turn off oven. Transfer pork to a cutting board. Let stand for 3 minutes for easier slicing.

Meanwhile, drizzle remaining 2 tsp. oil over vegetables. Stir gently to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Stir gently. Leave vegetables in oven to keep warm while you slice the pork.

Serves 4: 3 ounces pork plus 1 ½ cups vegetables per serving

Calories: 341, Protein: 29 g, Carbohydrates: 37 g, Total fat: 10.0 g, Saturated: 2.0 g,


Fresh Fruit Tart

½ cup nonfat or low-fat sour cream

2 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp. chopped fresh mint or 1/4 tsp. dried mint, crushed

4 oz. pkg. (6) single-serve graham cracker crusts

1 cup assorted cut-up fresh fruit

1/3 cup nonfat or low-fat lemon yogurt

In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, confectioners’ sugar and mint. Spoon into graham cracker crusts. Arrange fruit over sour cream mixture. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until serving time.
Just before serving, stir yogurt and drizzle over fruit

Calories: 139 Calories. Protein: 3 g Carbohydrates: 19 g Total Fat: 6 g Saturated Fat: 3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g Monounsaturated Fat: 3 g Cholesterol: 4 mg Sodium: 82 mg


Turkey Sausage Patties

1 lb. lean ground turkey meat

½ tsp. ground cumin

½ to ¾ tsp. cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp. Italian herb seasoning

½ tsp. garlic powder

1¼ tsp. coriander

¼ tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. paprika

¼ tsp. salt

4 Tbsp. plain, fine bread crumbs

½ cup homemade chicken broth or low-sodium chicken broth

Vegetable oil spray (optional

In a medium bowl, combine turkey, seasonings and bread crumbs. Stir to mix well. Add chicken broth and stir again. Let stand 15 minutes. Spray skillet with vegetable oil spray, or use a nonstick skillet.
Shape intop patties and place in skillet over medium heat. Cook 7 to 8 minutes on each side, or until done. Serve hot. Form into to 8 patties, about 3/4-inch thick. Serves 8; 1 patty per serving

Calories: 94, Protein: 13 g Carbohydrates: 3 g, Total Fat: 3 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g, Cholesterol: 35 mg, Sodium: 127 mg