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Vital Choice at Home: A Heart-Healthy Valentine's Dinner for Two


Welcome to Vital Choice at Home!
 
This series features me, Michelle, a writer and soccer mom from the Rocky Mountains, my husband and two kids, some beautiful Vital Choice seafood and lots of regular home cooking.
 
(Click here to learn more about me, below.)
 
I want to feature the products and preparations you're curious about.
 
Have a suggestion? Question? Recipe you want me to test? Email me and help to shape this series.
 

 
Vital Choice at Home: A Heart-Healthy Dinner for Two
Treat your heart (and sweetheart) to a simple Valentine's Day feast
by Michelle Lee
 
For some, Valentine's Day is the perfect occasion to make reservations, dress up and enjoy a five-course, prix fixe dinner on the town.
 
I am not that person. To me, Valentine's Day is the best of excuses to stay in and enjoy a beautiful, homemade meal.
 
The inspiration
A very good friend recently experienced a very scary cardiac episode. He's absolutely fine after great medical care, but it really got me thinking about our “special” homemade meals … are we overindulging in the name of a holiday treat?
 
So this year, I challenged myself to create a delicious, colorful and heart-healthy Valentine's Day menu. Everything about this meal is not only flavorful and colorful, but also jam-packed with heart-healthy nutrition.
 
The heart-healthy and delicious ingredients
To start meal planning, I perused a number of lists of the top heart-healthy foods, including this great top 25 list from WebMD.
 
Below is a quick list of the ingredients I decided on to inspire the menu: Vital Choice wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, olive oil, wild organic blueberries, quinoa, fresh herbs, carrots, red wine, and of course, extra dark organic chocolate.
 
Before I get to recipes, a quick note on each heart-friendly superfood:
  • Salmon: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help control inflammation, including in blood vessels, and can lower blood pressure and triglycerides.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Rich in unique and potent antioxidants shown to enhance artery health. High in healthful monounsaturated fatty acids; low in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats (unlike corn and soy oils).
  • Blueberries: Full of powerful, heart-healthy antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C.
  • Red Quinoa: Protein-rich, gluten-free whole grain that's a great source of potassium and antioxidants.
  • Fresh Herbs: Super-rich in heart- and artery-healthy antioxidants and they add deep flavor to foods without calories or sodium.
  • Carrots: A great source of fiber and heart-protective carotenoids.
  • Red Wine: Flavonoids in red wine can raise levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
  • Extra Dark Chocolate (65% cocoa solids or more): Help enhance artery function and lower blood pressure.
The Best Part: The Menu!
Sometimes there's nothing more relaxing than opening a bottle of red wine, grabbing a kitchen helper and spending some time chatting and cooking.
 
This menu was very fun and simple to prepare – it took about an hour from gathering ingredients to sitting down at the table. The pace was relaxed and the prep was very easy.
 
Here's the menu I cobbled together from my favorite cooking websites – see cooking notes below:
A few notes on the recipes and my process:
 
Grilled Wild Alaskan Salmon with Quick Blueberry Pan Sauce
When I previously experimented with grilling the boneless, skin-on sockeye salmon, I estimated that 7 minutes would be perfect timing. This was absolutely true.
 
After 7 minutes, the salmon, which was brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh thyme, was grilled to flaky, moist perfection. It slid off the skin easily and was absolutely delicious.
 
While recipe calls for fresh blueberries, I happened to have frozen available, and they worked perfectly. We were surprised that the sauce wasn't sweet, but had a delightful savory quality from the shallots, thyme and allspice. We skipped the mint – I don't think it was missed!
 
Verdict: I would absolutely make this again, although my kids skipped the sauce and thought the salmon was delicious without it.
 
Herbed Red Quinoa
This was amazing! I have recently started experimenting with quinoa – I love that it's high-protein, gluten-free and much healthier than other starchy side dishes.
 
While the recipe calls for white quinoa, I happened to have red quinoa on hand, and thought the color would be lovely. Red quinoa needs to cook a little longer, but has a delightful, slightly firm texture.
 
This dish will absolutely go into regular rotation! It had a fresh, lemony flavor, and the brightness of the herbs was the perfect complement to the nuttiness of the quinoa. Delish!
 
Caramelized Cumin-Roasted Carrots
This is an old stand-by – you won't believe how the sweetness of the roasted carrots is balanced by the peppery-goodness of the cumin seeds. The carrots shrink quite a bit during roasting, so definitely make 10-12.
 
A Prep Guide
Here's the order we followed – I hope it works for you as well!:
  1. Preheat the oven, prep the carrots and start the roasting (they take 35-40 minutes).
  2. Start the quinoa and prepare the simple pan sauce (it can sit for 20-30 minutes until it's time to top the salmon).
  3. Chop herbs for the quinoa and start the grill.
  4. Grill the salmon and toss the quinoa with the herb dressing.

Plate and enjoy!

I can't wait to hear how you enjoy this simple, heart-healthy meal ... email me or share your experience and thoughts with the Vital Choice community on Facebook!
 
 

A Note from Michelle
Like you, I have a passion for beautiful-yet-healthy food that's easy to prepare.
 
While I do love making the occasional “fancy” dinner, most of the time I'm short on time and have a house full of hungry people who want to eat NOW.

I'm not a professional chef – I'm just a busy mom who loves to cook and who's focused on that intersection of healthy and delicious.

I want this series to feature the products and preparations you're curious about.
 
Have a suggestion? Question? Recipe you want me to test?
 
Email me and help to shape this series.
 
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