Puttin' on The Mitts: Food fit for the heart

February is not just about chocolates and conversation hearts and Valentine's Day. More importantly, it's American Heart Month. According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women. Eating h...


February is not just about chocolates and conversation hearts and Valentine's Day. More importantly, it's American Heart Month.

According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women. Eating healthy is one way to make a big difference in the fight against heart disease. With that being said, Chelsey and I decided to offer our readers two heart-healthy recipes.

As most of you know by now, I like easy as it works best with my lifestyle. But easy isn't always healthy.

Before, I would have picked up a packet of taco seasoning at the store, added it to a pound of ground beef and went about my business making tacos. Simple, right? Sure. And what about healthy? Well, there's lettuce and tomatoes and maybe an onion and a pepper. Yes, the veggies are healthy. Tomatoes provide lycopene, vitamin C and alpha- and beta-carotene. Red peppers are full of carotenoids, fiber and vitamins as well.

But what about all of the sodium in a store-bought packet of taco seasoning? What about reducing the fat grams by using lean ground turkey instead of ground beef? Why not cut the carbs and more sodium intake by using romaine heart lettuce leaves instead of taco shells?


That's exactly what I did for this recipe. And believe it or not, I opened my cupboard, pulled out several seasonings I had and, voila, I created my own taco seasoning and it tasted great. Dare I say it was even better than a store-bought seasoning packet?

Read labels. Be more conscious of what you're putting into your body. It could make the world of difference for you and your family's heart health.


1 pound lean ground turkey, browned and drained

12 leaves of romaine hearts

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder


1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves

1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 tablespoon cumin

1/2 cup water


Diced tomato

Diced bell peppers (any color)


Light sour cream

Shredded cheese

Chopped onion, optional

Chopped avocado, optional

Salsa, optional

Brown and drain the ground turkey.

Tear off 12 leaves of romaine hearts, doubling the leaves to make six sturdy boats.

Add the spices and water to the ground turkey.


Heat on low and stir until well blended.

Spoon the meat mixture into the lettuce boats.

Top with your favorite toppings, keeping in mind the heart-healthy idea behind this recipe.

Serves 6.

-- DeLynn

Heart disease and stroke combined are the number one cause of death among women in the United States.

The good news is, these life-threatening illnesses are largely preventable through lifestyle changes, and a healthy diet is one of the weapons we can use. A presentation I covered earlier this month-Health is Your Best Accessory: Women's Wellness Experience, hosted by Cuyuna Regional Medical Center-focused on heart health and the ways we can promote it.

Don't get the idea this is just for women-heart disease and stroke affect men, too, in great numbers. Dietary changes have other positive effects as well, of course, such as weight loss or maintenance and mental health impacts.


Make this simple composed salad-for which the term Buddha Bowl is both trendy and common these days-for a heart health boost. It can quickly rack up your vegetable servings while offering lean protein from the black beans and healthy fats from the avocado and olive oil.

Try to skimp on the salt, too, and enjoy the natural flavors of this delicious rainbow. High levels of sodium lead to high blood pressure, which is not good for the heart. As CRMC exercise physiologist Amanda Weiss put it, you can exercise to burn fat, but you cannot burn sodium.

To make the cauliflower rice, cut it into florets and then pulse it in a food processor until roughly chopped. If larger pieces remain, remove those and add with the next batch. One head of cauliflower should result in about 4 cups of "rice," and it freezes nicely.

I wrote the recipe for one here, because it was easier to explain the proportions for one bowl. But this, of course, can be adjusted for however many bowls you're making. Substitute in other vegetables if you prefer, and leave out the jalapeno if you're not a spicy food lover like me.

Take a good long look before you eat, because this plate is a beauty.


Cooking spray

1 cup cauliflower "rice"


1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 cup salad greens of choice

1/4 cup cooked and rinsed black beans (heated if desired)

1/2 avocado, sliced

1/3 to 1/2 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, sliced

1/2 jalapeno, sliced

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 recipe lime-cumin vinaigrette

Salt to taste

Lime-cumin vinaigrette

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Juice from 1 lime, about 1-2 tablespoons

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

Pinch salt

Spray a small saute pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-low heat.

Add the number of servings of cauliflower rice (see description above for instructions) needed for the number of bowls being made.

Cook cauliflower for 3-4 minutes, just until cauliflower is crisp tender.

Stir cilantro into cauliflower and season with a light amount of salt.

Mix together all ingredients for dressing vigorously, to emulsify the oil. Increase ingredients by double or more if planning to make more than two bowls.

To assemble, place the salad greens in the bottom of a shallow bowl.

Top with cauliflower, black beans, avocado, bell peppers, jalapeno, cherry tomatoes and half of the dressing.

-- Chelsey

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