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Dinner party recipes that are also heart healthy

A good friend has recently been put on an extremely restricted diet due to some pretty serious heart problems. It's all a bit depressing, and I want to cheer her up by cooking her a special dinner, which is also good for her! So I need some help, people, because I'm not used to considering these things when I cook for company!

She's not allowed:

dairy products (this is the worst thing for her - no cheese!)
red meat
coconut milk
brazil nuts
and a heap of other things - basically, no saturated fat.

Chicken and fish are the way to go, I guess. Mediterranean style. But what about dessert? Any ideas gratefully received.

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  1. Here's a menu idea:

    -homemade roasted almonds or walnuts, using this recipe: http://www.chow.com/recipes/14260-roa...
    -crudite with bagna cauda (sans butter) or one of these dips: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/342475
    -chicken breast or fish fillets marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, and parsley and grilled
    -whole wheat pasta with homemade pesto, sans cheese
    -roasted haricot verts, Brussel sprouts, or asparagus tossed with garlic and olive oil
    -summer berries/strawberries macerated in Cointreau or other orange liqueur, or sliced strawberries sprinkled with balsamic. Serve with heart-healthy "butter"-style cookies or biscotti and coffee.

    It's really thoughtful you're doing this for your friend.

    1. Angel Food cake with a berry sauce is a heart-healthy dessert since there are no yolks in the cake (the cholesterol is in the yolks, not egg whites).

      1. I made tilapia over roasted fennel with black olive and cherry tomato salsa. Everyone loved it and it was simeple to prepare. You can serve that with a nice salad roasted potatoes.

        Are egg whites ok? If they are, you can do a meringue nest filled with berries for dessert.

        3 Replies
        1. re: cheesecake17

          Usually egg whites are okay. Can we put some brandied peaches in them? Or sprinkle a little Grand Marnier on the berries.

          1. re: cheesecake17

            I can't imagine meringues without whipped cream - would it be OK with just the berries?

            1. re: greedygirl

              My grandma used to serve meringues with berries macerated in a little sugar and lemon zest. It was a special treat... I always liked it.

              I've never had meringues with peaches... but why not?

          2. This is what I would make for her:
            --a Mediterranean fish stew like cioppino, using only different types of fish and maybe some clam juice to give it some shellfish flavor without the cholesterol
            --garlic bread made with good EVOO (I actually prefer this to butter on garlic bread)
            --a beautiful big salad or some sauteed greens

            --and for dessert, fruit cobbler. Apple, rhubarb, cherry, peach -- whatever fruit you like best. Delicious and easy. Instead of butter for the batter use oil, and instead of milk use Saco dried buttermilk, which contains only 4mg cholesterol for a cup's worth. If even this is verboten you could substitute soy milk, but the dried buttermilk is much better.

            1. Are you trying to follow the doctor's orders or actually make something that is healthy? Most of the "heart health" advice given by doctors is oversimplified, and in many cases it is incorrect. It has the benefit of being mostly correct and easy to follow.

              For example, there is nothing special about red meat. Grilled top round is better for her than grilled chicken thighs or wings.

              A fruit tart that substitutes oil for butter is still bad. Watching total fat intake is just as important as watching saturated fat intake.

              Most of the suggestions you have gotten are good. However, it is important to remember that following the doctor's blacklist does not equate to a healthy meal.

              7 Replies
              1. re: jeremyn

                One advantage of cobbler is that it doesn't use much fat. Much less than pie or tart, for example. I can make a cobbler for four or five people with only 2-3 T of oil. Though I do prefer to use butter, I have successfully substituted olive oil (not EV, of course). One trick is simply to use more fruit and less topping.

                1. re: jeremyn

                  And then again... there are studies that say fat, sat or not, is not the enemy. Carbs are. Carbs raise your triglycerides.

                  So may divergent opinions and studies out there. It a wonder anyone of us lives through the week.

                  1. re: Jennalynn

                    Fat is certainly not the only enemy. Americans grossly overeat. Yes, eating a pound of pasta for dinner should be avoided. My point is simply that most doctors are clueless when it comes to nutrition, and the advice they give you is often either:
                    1) wrong
                    2) oversimplified to make it easy to follow

                  2. re: jeremyn

                    I'm going by what her doctor has told her. I'm sure over time it will evolve, but at the moment she has to get her blood pressure and cholestorol under control quickly.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      ok, but keep in mind that the average doctor takes zero to one nutrition class in med school.

                    2. re: jeremyn

                      An excellent point because often the patient needs to lose weight. Reducing overall calories is ultimately going to be more important than avoiding specific taboo foods!

                      That said, I would definitely make her some wild salmon, brussels sprouts, a beautiful fruit salad with lots of blueberries and a northern bean humus with vegetables as an hors d'oeuvres. Focus on soluble fiber, omega 3 and calorie reduction.

                    3. I might do a fish veracruz...this recipe looks mighty tasty:


                      Following along these lines, you could serve with a lovely quinoa pilaf flavored with onions, garlic, toasted cumin and fresh cilantro. As a vegetable, maybe a green salad with avocado and citrus? Or roasted broccoli, one of my perennial new favorites?

                      For dessert, I'd keep things simple: fresh fruit salad with mint and lime, maybe a touch of cayenne pepper if she can handle it. :) Or any kind of sorbet, like mango, raspberry....

                      Excellent ideas here, and glad your friend is being hosted by someone so thoughtful. :)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: 4Snisl

                        On the lines of being skeptical about the advice-- haven't studies found that shrimp don't raise bad cholesterol?

                        But anyway, working within the framework the doc suggested, I would like boneless, skinless breast slow cooked in sauce-- it feels luxurious to me in spite of being low fat. I'm a fan of Marsala and mushrooms, which I think would have a strong enough flavor to stand up to a whole grain carb product. Dessert, I like this chocolate sherbet: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives... and am excited to try this 5 minute lava cake recipe: http://www.recipezaar.com/recipe/5-Mi... (haven't personally tested it, but it does have reviews). I'd serve a small portion of either with a bunch of berries or something-- I think refined sugar is a big problem in heart disease.

                        And what a thoughtful thing to do. I think it will make your friend feel much better.

                        1. re: 4Snisl

                          I second the veracruz idea. This recipe is similar to the one that 4Snisl posted. I have made it using boneless, skinless chicken breast and it works well too.


                        2. I made a heart health dinner and used a recipe for Fruit with Lemon Cassis Sauce from Epicurious. I was amazed at how easy and how good it was. I have now made it with a purchased lemon curd and with my own homemade lemon curd. Both were fine. Here is the link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                          1. Lots of good ideas here, but let me put in my pitch for doing the protein of your choice en papillote. You get the fish or chicken steamed with the vegetables of your choice, creating a bit of sauce that goes well with, say, whole-wheat couscous or brown rice you serve alongside it. And it has the added benefit of having a nice "fancy" factor for a dinner party.

                            1. Tilapia in tomatillo--what I like about this recipe is that you can play with any aspects of it and it still turns out well. It's fresh and light for the season:


                              Or, you could go heartier with a Mediterranean chick pea stew. You can also play with this recipe, add vegetables that look good. If you want to add meat, it's good w/ chicken breast, too.


                              For dessert, along the lines of a meringue, what about a pavlova, hold the cream:


                              1. Thanks for all the great ideas, folks. Keep 'em coming.

                                I was wondering about a classic chocolate mousse - made using good quality dark chocolate, egg whites and a small amount of sugar. Indulgent but within the guidelines, or a bad idea?

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  Never heard of a classic chocolate mousse made without heavy cream.

                                  But there are some wonderful Chocolate pudding recipes made with silken tofu. You'd be hard pressed to know there was tofu in there.

                                  This one is amazing! (Omit the chili powder if you're not into that).

                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                    No mousse without cream that I know of. But what about melting some good dark chocolate and coating fruit and nuts with it?

                                    1. re: visciole

                                      Classic chocolate mousse actually does not have cream. Egg yolks and butter, but no cream.

                                      Maybe try a chocolate pavlova? Nigella has a good recipe...

                                      1. re: rafjel

                                        I just saw Raymond Blanc make one on his TV programme (which is great) using only egg whites to lighten the chocolate and a small amount of sugar. It's his mother's recipe and Maman Blanc is not to be messed with!


                                        Elizabeth David's (which I've made) uses only chocolate and whole eggs.

                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                          I wasn't able to load the Guardian page for some reason, but I assume the recipe is similar to this one: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                          I have made that one and also one along the same lines by Alice Medrich. Of course, they are not as rich as mousse made with egg yolks or with cream, but they are very good and chocolaty. If you use a high-cocoa-percentage chocolate, say 65-70%, I think that recipe would fit the ticket, assuming you serve reasonably small portions; extra-bitterweet chocolate is considered heart healthy in small doses. You could augment it with fresh berries or orange supremes dressed with a bit of orange liqueur, depending on what good fruit is available.

                                          For a main, I like dmd_kc's suggestion of fish or chicken breasts and veg en papillote as something that feels festive and dinner party-worthy.