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February is Healthy Heart Month

Feb 12, 2018 01:54PM ● By Lesley Stiles

Reinvigorate Your Willpower

By Lesley Stiles
Healthy Heart Month for 2018 has vastly varied meanings that are open to interpretation. As we enter February, the second month of our renewed vow to live a better life, we look hard at how it is going so far. Renewed vigor is stealthily, impudently creeping into our psyches, reinvigorating our willpower centers as January wanes and slips lackadaisically into the month of amethysts. It is my, and many family members,’ birth month and has always been a special month for holidays as well as my kin. Hearts come in many shapes and sizes, allowing many days and ways to continue the celebrations, ranging from no holds barred Mardi Gras to sexy St. Valentines Day, along with Chinese New Year, Ground Hog Day, Presidents Day, and Susan B. Anthony Day, to name a few.

Healthy Hearts require schooled criteria to maintain us along a safe and happy road, and a wee smidge is directly correlated to our consumption of pure foods. Love plays a part, and exercising our large muscle groups aerobically in the chilly hills of our home has a place as well in maintaining the holy trinity of body, mind, and heart. Arguably, it revolves back to food sources as well as food preparation. How we eat dictates how we play, right?

One of My Good Gals, Gigi Walker, of Walkers Auto Body, creatively suggested kaleidoscopically beautiful hearts in the foods we eat such as celery hearts, hearts of palm, hearts of romaine, artichoke hearts, carrot hearts, cabbage hearts, and the list goes on. How magical is it to peel and trim stems of broccoli down to chartreuse green, playing heart peek-a-boo. No cooking is even needed except for a little steam maybe and some butter and salt. Sounds good to me.
We certainly have just as many types of chocolate and candy hearts as we do days in the month and reserve the right to indulge in as many as we want come mid-February, but what if your birthday comes two days later? Then does one still have the right to wildly indulge after St. Valentine’s Day departs? What if, just theoretically, you are turning the big 60 on that day? I plead my case that one is welcome, nay, vigorously encouraged, to indulge in and consume whatever calms the thought of more than half your life span being gone. Oops, a little morbid. Back to the veggies!! And fruits!! Strawberries have a heart, even if half the heart is hiding under a silky robe of chocolate. Figs, sexiest and most adored of all, are entirely made of luscious, reverently juicy, floral pink hearts. Plums and peaches have stubborn hearts that cling sweetly to their stone, possibly commitment phobic in their ability to hold on to their centers, avoiding happily waiting mouths.

Seductively chartreuse with a black seeded smiley heart, tropical tasting kiwis are in the farmers’ market until late February. Kiwi fruits, aka Chinese gooseberry, are a fuzzy little brown fruit about the size of a hen’s egg that originated in China and migrated to New Zealand. Early varieties were described as about the size of small walnuts -- gooseberry size. As it was exported on a small scale, it became known as the Chinese gooseberry. The late ‘60s and ‘70s became the era of the kiwi as New Zealand producers, who were frustrated with low sales, adopted the kiwi name as a marketing ploy to increase distribution. It worked, and a few years later, root- stock was imported to California and central coast regions began growing them, along with some inland valleys.

Cutting a kiwi in half and scooping out sweet, slippery pulp is one of life’s great pleasures, simple as it is. This time of year, kiwis add a special crunch with their seeds to fruit salad, along with apples and blood oranges. Substituting kiwi pulp for mashed banana in a bread recipe rewards with a remarkably moist loaf, and a few diced into pancake batter can transform your Sunday morning favorite breakfast. A few crushed kiwis added to a shaker along with ice, mint, lime juice, and a bit of sugar and rum may be the next mojito. Once tasted, sliced kiwi and sliced winter avocado tossed with lemon oil, cilantro, and lemon juice, lovingly placed atop arugula, ensures constant companionship at dinner or lunch soirees.

Stay strong with your resolutions regarding a healthy heart this month and always. After all, it is a way of life, not a passing fancy, to be vigorous sharing life and energy with all encounters, whether it’s hiking or biking on your favorite trail or going to the local farmers’ market.

Fresh Kale Salad with Pomegranate Arils
A lovely salad that can easily be “beefed” up with grilled prawns or sliced grilled chicken. Arils are now available in many stores, prepped and ready to go.
1 large bunch kale of any kind, sliced and washed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 to 2 lemons
½ cup arils
2 Satsuma mandarins, sectioned
½ cup crumbled feta
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Toss kale, arils, mandarins, and feta in a large salad bowl. Drizzle on lemon juice, zest, and olive oil and toss well. Season with salt and pepper. To gently “cook” the kale, let sit for few minutes or up to an hour before serving.