Cardio Health = Egg Whites + Greens

Frittata Brand

With leftover eggs whites from making flourless chocolate cake earlier in the week, and CSA produce filling all the drawers and shelves in the fridge, the comforting solution to use these nutritious ingredients came to me: frittata! I had to purchase leeks, but they are usually available at any grocery store year-around. The egg whites last in the fridge for even more than a week, so when the night came for a fast, one-dish meal—or actually a great main plate with a seasonal side soup (Roasted Carrot and Tahini Soup with Spicy Chickpeas) in my case so I could indulge in even more homecooked masterpieces—this frittata was perfect for using my fresh produce and leftovers!

I always receive at least three bundles or bags of leafy greens in my CSA share, from bok choy to Russian kale. I also receive the whole beet and turnip plants, so I experiment cooking with these colorful and soft greens. I eat as much as possible, especially since leafy greens are an especially good source of magnesium. This mineral helps lower our risk of sudden heart failures and helps our heart maintain regular heart rhythm. At sufficient levels, blood vessel muscles relax, reducing risks of blood pressure build up. Magnesium also helps to prevent calcification in your arteries in case your intake of calcium is too high. Egg whites also help your cardio system by having zero cholesterol. So leafy greens, meet egg whites! The egg mixture for this frittata is a healthier alternative, lowering the fat content and cholesterol levels to zero.

Very Veggie Frittata

modified from: Carroll, John Phillip. “Summer savory spinach frittata.” The Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma CookbookMenlo Park: Oxmoor House, 2002.

  • 7 egg whites and 2 eggs from large organic eggs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, summer savory, or chives
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 ounces fresh greens, such as beet greens, turnip greens, collards, or spinach
  • 2 leeks, white parts thinly sliced (see picture below)
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 grated cheese, such as Swiss, Gruyère, or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup bell pepper, any color
  1. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, fresh herbs, and water.
  2. In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the greens, leeks, peas, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Pat down vegetables into an even layer. Pour in the egg mixture. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally to keep the frittata from sticking. Running a rubber scrapper around the edges of the pan will help release the frittata from the pan as well. Cook for about one minutes, then cover. Turn down heat to low and cook for about another two minutes, or until the eggs are set around the edges but soft and runny in the center.
  4. Uncover and sprinkle with the cheese and bell pepper. Cover and cook until the eggs are completely set and the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes longer.
  5. To serve, cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Leeks Bowls Stirfry

Wine advice for a recipe is always a bonus, right? For this frittata, as it’s quite light and savory, I recommend Spanish Verdejo or White Bourdeaux for whites, or  Chilean Carmenere or Italian Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. So go to the wine shelf and uncork (or twist off) a bottle, to make a whole cardio package. Whole-wheat pita is another good heart healthy companion (and if you’re like me, bread is a non-negotiable with dinner). If you can’t finish the frittata during the first sitting, heat it up from breakfast the next day for a great start! Bon ap, to cardio health!

Cardio Health = Granola + Oranges

Ester's Granola

I’m on a quest to ease my breathing; I’ve noticed I can breathe heavily after walking up a few flights of stairs, once I get off the treadmill, or jumping back on the bench after a shift on the ice. I know that more exercise will help, strengthening my cardiovascular system and muscular system. The solution is never a single shot, though. I know my nutrition has to help, too. Will this sitch be a tough nut to crack?

Nope! The second prong to my solution ended up greeting me at the Gaithersburg Farmers’ Market, held every Thursday afternoon. This visit wasn’t my first to this location, but I was delighted to finally see a vendor who was selling something different than just farm produce. Rather, she had 14 oz. containers, 2 oz. packets, and variety packs of homemade granola! She even had muffins and cookies using her granola for sale. I tried the Tropical Rum variety, crunching into the whole grain rolled oats, saturated with potent aromas and simple flavors. Ester, the founder of the company Ester’s Granola LLC, based in Silver Spring, MD, kindly told me about all of the advantages of her granola over commercial varieties, which I had steered away from due to their high caloric and sugar content.

In a nut shell, why should you buy Ester’s granola:

  • Founder Ester Nae focuses on nutrition and taste in her creations
  • No added sugar (organic honey is used as a sweetener) → less calories than other granolas
  • No preservatives
  • No trans fat
  • No cholesterol
  • Whole grain
  • Five varieties (with fruit and nuts; peanut butter; maple pecans; citrus almond; tropical rum) and one gluten-free variety (with fruit and nuts) → look for other varieties to come out to highlight seasonal ingredients!

Visit her website (and blog!) for more information and to find locations, such as Rodman’s and Dawson’s Market, where you can buy her products: estersgranola.com

Before leaving, I purchased two packets, and now I am absolutely nuts for Ester’s Citrus Almond Granola. I eat some daily for the cardio benefits. Oats contain avenanthramides, antioxidant compounds that actively function in many ways to improve your cardiovascular system. Let’s pair these oats with a friend to really get your body digesting a bundle of antioxidants! So oats, meet oranges. This fruit has the antioxidant hesperidin, which improves blood vessel function and reduce problems for cardiovascular disease. The oats and orange duo should help me conquer my quest for better cardio health.

Here’s a recipe Ester provided us from her creative repertoire of recipes for the O&O combo!

Ester’s Citrus Almonds Granola Salad

  • 8 ounces spring mixed greens
  • 2 oranges
  • 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 cup Ester’s Citrus Almond Granola
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Orange Segments

  1. Cut away the peels from oranges, leaving no white pith. Segment the oranges. See picture above. Cut around the skins of the orange segments, leaving them attached to the orange core, and taking away only triangles of fruit.
  2. In a large bowl combine the spring mixed greens, orange segments, Gorgonzola cheese, and Ester’s Citrus Almond Granola.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, zest, orange juice, honey, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.
  4. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss, and serve immediately.

Oats

I’m looking forward to better control of my breathing as I incorporate these ingredients in my diet. Watch out stairs and gym! Bon ap, to cardio health!

Photo courtesy of Flickr member drinkerthinker; “segmenting an orange”

Photo courtesy of Flickr member Amy McRae; “sea oats”

Cholesterol-Lowering = Lemon + Tahini

Final Hummus

Hummus is the perfect crowd-pleaser, any time of year. Whether you’re going to a picnic or potluck, hosting a baby shower or fantasy football draft party, or you just want to use up those lemons before they turn to mush, hummus is the answer! My guests have to try it: no exceptions. Vegans, vegetarians, carnivores, locavores, paleos, kiddos, grandpas, business students, hockey players—everyone digs in, everyone is pleasantly surprised. “This hummus is really good!” You’ll hear it over and over again, so make sure you stash some aside for yourself before serving!

There are times when you need to spoil yourself, right? Not everything has to be shared, especially when you are watching your cholesterol levels. So I say, hog the tahini! Tahini is an ingredient crossing all borders; homes all over the world serve dishes with tahini in bowls, leaves, bread shreds, and roasted meats with neighbors, coworkers, royalty, family members, friends, etc. In fact, you might have been eating tahini without knowing it! This sesame paste is sometimes found in the Szechuan dish dan dan noodles and middle eastern baba ganoush. I especially like tahini sauce with grilled chicken—the sharp flavors are just so invigorating. For today, let’s introduce tahini to a partner that helps with lowering cholesterol. So tahini, meet lemon. Lemons have a lot of compounds called limonoids, and a particular limonoid called limonin, gives lemons their cholesterol-lowering effects (say that five-times fast!). Sesame seeds that make up tahini do not have limonin, but since they have fats that are plant-based (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), tahini has absolutely no cholesterol! We have to get these two together… now!

Lemony Hummus

  • 29 ounces (about) canned chickpeas
  • 4-5 tablespoons tahini (depending on your taste), stir well before adding
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced (local if possible)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • paprika
  • olive oil
  1. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the liquid from the canned chickpeas. Drain chickpeas. Set a handful of chickpeas aside.
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon, lemon zest, and salt. Puree until smooth. The mixture should look like a lighter peanut butter, as the mixture should move around the machine slowly, but easily. Little chunks still in the mixture is fine. Add some of the reserved chickpea liquid as needed to achieve the right texture. Taste to add any more salt or tahini, as desired.
  3. Scrap hummus into bowl (and save some separately for you!). Sprinkle with the handful of chickpeas that you kept aside. Sprinkle generously with paprika, and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil.

Hummus Ingredients

Serve the lemony hummus with whatever is in season (carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, etc.), dipping vegetables (celery, lettuce leaves, cherry tomatoes), pita bread, or thin crackers. I’ve recently visited Costco to get the perfect ingredients: the biggest can of chickpeas you’ve ever seen (for only $3 here… unbelievable, I know) and za’atar crackers from Firehook Bakery. What finds! Spread hummus on sammies, add to chili, or thin with water and drizzle over roasted vegetables if you are running out of ideas for leftovers.

Bon ap, to lower cholesterol!