February full of super foods you can enjoy to be healthy

February is about matters of the heart with American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day.

Wear Red Friday, which is part of The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, is this week. It’s all about raising awareness that for women, as well as men, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in this country.

St. Mary’s Cardiac and Vascular Services’ 4th annual Go Red for Women Luncheon with great speakers, education, screenings and fun will be Feb. 13–14th. Details can be found at stmarygj.org or 970-298-2769. Here’s to heart health, and remember guys, real men wear red.

Now let’s move on to February food. Have you noticed that the national food days of February tie in with eating heart healthy and a delicious Valentine’s Day dinner?

February is National Cherry Month, and I cannot tell a lie. With cherry harvest months away, it’s an odd time for cherry month.

Or maybe not, as we think of a young man, who according to legend, displayed integrity and bravery by confessing to his father that it was he, George Washington, who cut down the family cherry tree. (President’s Day and our first president’s birthday are in February, hence, the cherry connection.)

Cherries are a “super food” and are loaded with powerful antioxidants, phytonutrients and more, helping to fight heart disease and other health conditions. Tart cherries take the lead in health benefits but sweet cherries have a lot to offer as well. Read more at choosecherries.com and check out the site’s Warm Salmon, Cherry and Arugula Salad recipe. It will delight your valentine. (Dixie recipe note: Tweak recipe to fit your preference. Add whole grains such as quinoa in place of salmon or add jicama and/or toasted almonds for more crunch.)

We keep frozen tart and sweet cherries in the freezer for smoothies, sauces, main dishes, cereals and more. Frozen sweet cherries with no sugar added and right out of the bag are a treat.

February also is National Sweet Potato Month. Sweet potatoes are another “super food” that is good for your heart, rich in Vitamin A, with lots of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants. It has complex carbs and a medium-size sweet potato has only 100 calories.

You might not think this is the month for sweet potatoes, but that’s old hat. Sweet potatoes are now even in fast food places! My favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes are baked, grilled, diced and roasted, shredded raw in salads or as baked fries. Check out all the recipes and complete nutrition at ncsweetpotatoes.com.

This recipe is definitely a winner and fit for your valentine.

Roasted Sweet Potato 
and Poblano Salad

Courtesy of ncsweetpotatoes.com and winner in the 2011 Sweet n’ Healthy Blogger Recipe Contest, Budget Bytes

2 large poblano peppers

2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed/ rained

1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

1/4 cup diced red onion

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Preheat broiler to high. Spray peppers with non-stick spray; place on foiled lined baking sheet 4 inches below broiler. Roast until skins are blistered and black, 15 minute one side, 5 minutes, other side. Place peppers in bowl; cover with plastic wrap; set aside to cool.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine sweet potatoes, olive oil, cumin, salt and half of the cilantro. Mix well. Spread sweet potatoes onto baking sheet; roast in oven until tender, about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Meanwhile, peel peppers, cut off stems, remove seeds. Cut flesh into 1/2–inch squares.

Remove sweet potatoes from oven, set aside, cool about 10 minutes.

Combine sweet potatoes, peppers, beans, corn, onion, lime juice and remaining cilantro; toss gently. Serve warm or cold.


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