Health & Fitness

By Lili Eros-Sarnyai

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Apart from the requisite overabundance of all things pink, red and frilly, Valentine’s Day is also associated with some of the least heart-friendly ‘treats’ imaginable – oh the irony! The American Heart Association has declared February “National Heart Month” specifically to raise awareness about the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. You owe it to yourself and to your loved ones to think seriously about your heart’s health, making any necessary lifestyle changes before it is too late.

This year, why not make that Valentine’s moment a little healthier and therefore sweeter with some more responsible gourmand choices. All that is needed is a little inspired revision of some basic sweetheart recipes. Rather than opting for sugar- and fat-laden creations, try one of the ideas below, as recommended by the American Heart Association.

This Angel Food Cake promises protein to help you get those perky muscles, not to mention slice after slice of airy light indulgence.

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ANGEL FOOD CAKE

serves 12
1 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups (10 to 12) egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In 2 medium bowls, sift flour and = cup sugar together 3 times.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar, vanilla and almond
extract. Continue beating until soft, moist, glossy peaks form.

Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar and continue beating at high speed until volume increases and stiff peaks form.

By hand, gently fold in sifted flour-sugar mixture only until all flour is moistened.
Pour into 9-inch tube pan. Cut through batter carefully with a thin spatula to break up large air pockets. Bake 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and invert pan for 1= hours or until cold. Remove cake from pan before storing.

Serving Suggestion: Fresh strawberries make a great topping for this cake, while adding fiber and antioxidants to the decadence.

Calories: 119 kcal
Protein: 3 gm
Carbohydrates: 27 gm
Total Fat: 0 gm
Saturated Fat: 0 gm
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0 gm
Monounsaturated Fat: 0 gm
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 56 mg
Potassium: 52 mg
Calcium: 4 mg

With its medley of fruits, the Bananas Foster Plus is as beneficial as any fruit salad, with essential vitamins and minerals to keep you looking and feeling romance-ready.

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BANANAS FOSTER PLUS

Serves 4
2 tablespoons light margarine (1/8 cup)
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 medium bananas, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 medium peach or nectarine, pitted and sliced 1/2 inch thick, or 1/2 cup canned juice-pack sliced peaches (about 4 ounces), drained
1 tablespoon dark rum or 1/4 teaspoon rum extract
2 cups nonfat or low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt or ice milk (1 pint)

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt margarine. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cook and stir for 3 to 5 minutes, or until sugar melts. Add bananas, kiwifruit, and peach. Cook, stirring gently, for about 1 minute or until heated through. Stir in rum. Cook, stirring gently, for one minute.

Serve warm with frozen yogurt.

Calories: 257
Protein: 4 g
Carbohydrates: 55 g
Total Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 1 mg
Sodium: 126 mg

Cherries Jubilee is the perfect excuse for giving in to those sweet reveries, as the rich reds and fruity goodness of these desserts not only prove irresistible, but also have highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants compared to other fruits.

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CHERRIES JUBILEE

Serves 8
2 cups pitted Bing cherries, canned in natural juices – no sugar added, with juice
1/2 cup currant jelly
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
2 tablespoons heated brandy

Drain juice from cherries, reserving both cherries and juice. In a saucepan, combine cherry juice, currant jelly, cornstarch and orange rind. Cook over low heat until jelly melts. Add cherries and stir to coat well. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Remove to a heat-proof serving dish.
At the table, pour warm brandy over cherries and light. Serve while cherries are still flaming. You may also spoon flaming cherries over ice milk.

Calories: 96
Protein: 1 g
Carbohydrates: 22 g
Total Fat: 0 g
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 3 mg

Of course, we couldn’t end our recipe round-up without at least one chocolate recipe. For a veritable love potion, the Fudge Brownie Sundaes never disappoint. As you slip into chocolate induced calm and contentment, courtesy of the chocolate’s ability to release endorphins, revel in the fact that for once, you can enjoy it without any guilt whatsoever: this creation contains only essential, “good” fats and strengthening calcium.

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FUDGE BROWNIE SUNDAES

Serves 15
Vegetable oil spray
1 20 1/2-ounce package light fudge brownie mix (See Note)
2/3 cup water
2 pints nonfat or low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt, or a flavor of your choice
1 cup chocolate-flavored syrup
Maraschino cherries, drained (optional)

Preheat oven to 350: F. Spray a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil.

In a medium bowl, combine brownie mix and water. Stir with a spoon just until moistened, or mix according to package directions. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 25 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack, about 30 minutes, or use warm.
To make sundaes, cut brownies into 15 pieces and set aside. Place about 1/4 cup frozen yogurt in each bowl and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup. Place brownie in bowl, next to frozen yogurt.

Garnish with a cherry if desired.

*If you are using a light brownie mix with different amounts, ingredients and/or directions, follow the package directions.

Calories: 240 kcal
Protein: 4 g
Carbohydrates: 55 g
Total Fat: 2 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 1 mg
Sodium: 183 mg

Originally published February 2008
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