Those Who Cook Together Stay Together
Amore, je t'aime, or simply I love you. Once again it's that time of year when we are reminded by cards, commercials, and store displays to say "I love you" to the special people in our lives. Do we really need to wait for a Hallmark holiday to appreciate the people who give meaning to our existence? Of course we don't—but still, many of us are so busy just getting through the day or week that we forget to do one simple but critically important thing: communicate our true feelings to those we care about.
As we mature into our 40s and beyond, many of us recognize that our time is limited and precious, and is therefore best filled with meaningful relationships and activities that enhance our health and well-being. So this Valentine's Day, why not clear your schedule in the morning to host a brunch for your friends and family? It isn't often that Valentine's falls on a Saturday, so instead of waiting till that romantic evening to celebrate this day of love, you could gather your loved ones in your kitchen to prepare a beautiful meal instead. After all, food is a vehicle for love, and cooking together is proven to deepen our connections with others and increase our feelings of happiness.
Although your menu may be determined by the participants, here are some ideas to get you and your group a jumpstart on planning your Saturday morning brunch. We've selected these recipes in particular for their heart-healthy ingredients—after all, February is National Heart Month, and we have to show our own hearts some love as well!
Zucchini Fritters with Feta and Dill
2 medium zucchinis, ends removed
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 scallions, minced
2 tbsp fresh dill, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup crumbled sheep's milk feta cheese
3 tbsp organic all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
Black pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oils
Shred or grate the zucchini and toss with the salt. Place the salted zucchini in a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl. Weigh down the salted zucchini by placing a heavy bowl on top of it, and allow the water to drain out for 10 minutes.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the zucchini, dill, scallions, garlic, and feta. Season with black pepper to taste. Sprinkle the mixture with the flour and baking powder and combine gently.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. With a large spoon, scoop up two 2-tbsp portions of the fritter batter, place them in the oil, and flatten them with the back of the spoon. Fry gently till golden brown, about 2–3 minutes per side. Scoop out the cooked fritters and place them on a paper-towel-lined plate. Continue the process with the remaining oil and fritter batter till all fritters are prepared.
Serve warm with homemade tzatziki (see recipe below).
Poached Salmon with Homemade Tzatziki
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, chopped
2 unpeeled organic lemons, sliced
2 lbs salmon fillet (wild, Norwegian, Scottish, Alaskan, or Canadian) with skin on
Place all the ingredients except for the salmon in a large skillet and bring to a simmer.
Place the salmon skin-side down in the simmering liquid. Cover the skillet and simmer over low heat for about 8 minutes, or until the fish appears done.
Remove the poached salmon, allow to cool at room temperature, and then chill in the refrigerator for 2 ½–3 hours. Before serving, remove the skin and dress with tzatziki, parsley, and sliced lemon.
1 cup full-fat plain organic Greek yogurt
1 tsp olive oil
1 Burpless (English) cucumber, peeled, seed, finely grated, and drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
Salt and black pepper to taste
Parsley to garnish
Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl. Chill for 2 hours to develop the flavor. If you prefer a stronger lemon flavor, add more lemon juice and zest to taste.
White Bean & Artichoke Dip
1 can organic Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 bag frozen artichokes, defrosted
Juice of half a lemon (about 1 tbsp)
1–2 tsp grated lemon zest
Fresh basil to taste (if available)
Himalayan or other sea salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup organic cold-pressed olive oil
1 cup grated Pecorina Romano cheese (use grated Daiya or another vegan cheese as a vegan alternative)
In a food processor, add the beans, artichokes, lemon zest, lemon juice, and basil. Blend. Flavor with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle in the olive oil and blend gently for a few seconds. Add the cheese and again blend gently for a few seconds. Refrigerate and served chilled.
For a warm dip version:
Prepare the recipe according to the directions above, but use only 1/2 cup of cheese. Spread the mixture in a small ceramic baking dish, sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over the top, and bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees. Spoon dip into endive leaves and serve warm.
Spring Mix Greek Salad
Juice of 1 whole fresh-squeezed lemon
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6–8 cups baby spring greens mix
2 oranges, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
1/2 large Burpless (English) cucumber, peeled and cut into thin wedges
1 cup sheep's milk feta cheese, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper.
Place the mixed greens on a platter, and top with cucumber slices, orange slices, and pomegranate seeds. Garnish with feta cheese chunks and drizzle with dressing.
Almond and Coconut Macaroons Dipped in Dark Chocolate
2 cups organic unsweetened desiccated coconut
1 cup almond meal
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup organic coconut butter
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 275 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the desiccated coconut, almond meal, and sea salt in a bowl.
Gently melt the coconut butter over low heat in a saucepan. Add the honey and vanilla to the melted coconut butter and mix well. Pour mixture over the ingredients in the bowl and mix until incorporated. Form the mixture into round balls and place on parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Melt the chocolate chips in a double broiler. Dip the bottom part of each macaroon into the melted chocolate. Place on baking sheet to dry.
Love-ly Fruit Skewers
1 pineapple, peeled and cored
Slice the pineapple, watermelon, and cantaloupe into 3/4"-thick slices. Using a small heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut heart-shaped pieces out of each slice. Stack the hearts onto wooden skewers for a delightful and healthy alternative to Valentine's sweets.
Our nutrition expert Peta Cohen has been a clinical nutritionist and metabolic specialist since 1996. Peta specializes in addressing underlying metabolic changes that occur as a result of lifestyle choices and aging to prevent diseases, and deals with root causes of complex and chronic health issues. Her extensive clinical experience and research have led her to share her knowledge at seminars and conferences worldwide. In Peta's posts for the BoomSpot, she shows that great health starts with you and gives practical tips on how to improve it right now.