published Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Side Orders: Healthy eating for Valentine's Day

Looking for a great gift for the one you love this Valentine's Day? Of course, there's always a box of chocolates. But why not turn a corner this year and celebrate your love with a healthful twist?

Here are some things to consider that may help you in your quest to better the health of your Valentine, as well as your own.

Dr. Eudene Harry, author of "Live Younger in 8 Simple Steps," says there are some big mistakes people make when perusing the aisles of the grocery story. Don't shop on the go. Plan your attack, she advises.

"When people shop on the go, they tend to gravitate toward old standbys," she says. And those, she adds, are not always the most nutritious choices.

Here are five food combos for shoppers with healthy eating on their minds. "The more you eat, the more you'll crave them," Harry says.

• Tomato, garlic, chicken and almonds: Tomatoes contain one of the world's most concentrated sources of cancer-fighting lycopene, which is best absorbed from tomatoes that are cooked. Garlic has been used for centuries for various health purposes and is a known free-radical destroyer. Nuts help to lose weight, maintain healthy blood pressure and support moods; almond crumbs are a great substitute for bread crumbs on chicken. Pair these goodies with whole wheat couscous for a full dinner.

• Not only does the Greek yogurt have a thicker texture and richer taste, it's also denser in lactobacilli, the healthy bacteria that may delay the onset of cancer. And yogurt is low in fat and high in protein, which is essential for many body functions, including building and repairing muscle tissue, organs, bones and connective tissue. Rather than add fatty, cholesterol-filled butter and sour cream to starchy potatoes that stick to your ribs, pair mashed cauliflower with Greek yogurt and fresh black pepper, the latter of which is a good anti-inflammatory agent.

• Sushi, made from wild salmon, minced cucumbers, shredded carrots, kelp, sesame seeds and rice is much more filling and satisfying than a non-sushi eater would think. Many grocery chains offer ready-made rolls, but they are also fairly easy to make. If you don't have a bamboo roller, invest in one. They're inexpensive and a must for making your own sushi. Place a sheet of kelp on the roller and add, lengthwise, the desired ingredients. Your first try doesn't have to be perfect, but the tasty and healthy ingredients will be there.

• Make a fruit salad for dessert with chopped apples, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon and pineapple with blueberries and grapes -- or whatever fruits are available -- for a sweet and juicy post-dinner palate-cleanser. Lemon juice prevents fruits from bruising. If that's not enough, combine the salad with Greek yogurt blended with vanilla or almond extract and fiber-filled granola for a parfait.


"Great flavor can support positive changes to the way we eat," said Mark Garcia, a chef for the McCormick kitchens, says in a press release pushing the company's Generation Fresh campaign, a move to use herbs and spices in healthful eating.

"By adding herbs and spices, it's easy to make healthy foods more flavorful and a smart way to freshen up your family's standby recipes while gradually reducing reliance on sugar, sodium (salt) or fat," Garcia said.

Lori Lange, of RecipeGirl.com, has joined the Generation Fresh movement, according to a news release. Here are some of her suggestions:

• For pasta night, load your sauce with veggies like zucchini, mushrooms and onions instead of meat. Build layers of flavor with garlic powder, black pepper and Italian seasoning.

• Replace the heavy breading on chicken tenders with a flour mixture spiced with paprika, black pepper and oregano. Adding a little cornstarch to the flour will help it adhere to the skinless chicken a little better. Bake it in the oven to reduce fat and calories.


Now, for a little indulgence. So you can't bypass chocolate on Valentine's Day? This recipe from a 1989 issue of Good Housekeeping, which I found in my mom's recipe file, rates a high 10 from me for its chocolate decadence as well as its ease in preparation. The hardest part of making it is waiting the six hours it takes for the mousse to chill completely. Take heed of the health advice earlier in this column, however. Even though chocolate -- the darker the better -- is now considered a health food due to its antioxidant properties, each slice of this dessert has 585 calories. Think moderation.

Double-Chocolate Mousse Cake

2 (8-ounce) packages semisweet chocolate squares (16 1-ounce squares)

2 cups (4 sticks) butter, no substitute

1 cup sugar

1 cup half-and-half

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 large eggs

Chocolate glaze

6 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons white corn syrup

Whipped cream:

1 cup heavy or whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch springform pan. In 3-quart saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate squares with butter, sugar, half-and-half, vanilla and salt, stirring constantly, until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.

In large bowl, beat eggs slightly. Beat chocolate mixture into eggs; pour into springform pan. Bake mousse cake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from edge comes out clean. Cool cake completely, remove side of pan, wrap cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours or until well-chilled.

Prepare the chocolate glaze by melting the chocolate with butter over low heat. When mixture is smooth, remove from heat and beat in milk and corn syrup. Spread warm glaze over top and down sides of cake.

Whip cream on medium speed of mixer with vanilla and sugar. Pipe whipped cream around edges of cake. Makes 16 servings, each with about 585 calories. Refrigerate cake if not serving right away.

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