Simple can still be effective

February is heart month, and having a healthy heart has two components: the physical and the mental.

The mental experience has to do with our feelings and how our surroundings affect our lives. This includes how we interact with others and our self confidence.

Many of us are guilty during the Valentine’s season of needing gifts to be fulfilled. Unfortunately, material possessions are not ultimately what makes people happy.

We all know people who have it all and are never satisfied with anything in their lives. Simple things like sitting down and sharing a simple meal together, a coffee date, a home baked sweet, a visit, a phone call or even a smile to a stranger can mean more than a commercial Valentine’s Day gift.

Simple acts of kindness are what really touches hearts. We all just want to feel that others appreciate and are thinking of us.

Doing nice unexpected things for others can do so much for our physical health. We feel good, therefore our system is less stressed, our blood pressure is normal and our sleep is better. Let’s just say we get happy hormones.

We can also use heart month to eat good things so that our bodies can reach their optimal state.

Sizzling Skillet Veggie Fry

Heating up the skillet is a quick way to sizzle up some colourful vegetables. Combine that with the spices and seasoning and you have a delicious and healthy dish.
The skillet is a great way to use the vegetables that you have on hand. It’s also a less risky way to try some new choices, such as fresh kale and chard. These antioxidant rich greens are great addition to winter diets.

  • 2 tbsp. oil 30 mL
  • 4 c. fresh, chopped/frozen vegetable mixture 1 L
  • 1/2 c. ready to use 
vegetable broth 125 mL
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce 15 mL
  • 4 c. hot cooked brown 
rice, optional 1 L
  • Dash of seasoning 
salt and pepper, to taste

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Heat a large skillet, lightly coated with oil. Add the vegetables and seasonings, stir and pan fry for three to five minutes or until tender. Add the broth and soy sauce to the skillet. Heat until bubbling, stirring often. Then turn heat to low. Simmer on low until heated through. Serves four to six. Goes nicely with rice, preferably brown.
I like using peppers, onions, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, green beans, mushrooms, zucchini, squash and even Brussels sprouts for an interesting new flavour combination. The flavour is more intense because you are searing it in rather than cooking in water or steam.

Kale Saute

Try a skillet full of kale and kale mixes as a side dish to your main course.

  • 4 c. Fresh kale or green 
mixture, including chard 1 L
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil or your 
choice of cooking oil 15 mL
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 c. onions, minced 60 mL
  • 1 c. prepared broth, 
vegetable, 250 mL
  • Salt, pepper and 
seasoning salt, to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic and onion and cook until soft. Stir in the chosen greens and saute until they start to wilt. Add the broth, cover and cook on low until kale and greens are tender. Season and serve as a side dish.
Add a handful of fresh chopped kale to your staple soup recipes for addition flavour and nutrients.

Mushroom Chicken Skillet

This can accompany the vegetables to make an easy chicken entree.

  • 3-4 tbsp. olive oil 45-60 mL
  • 1 lb. fresh mushrooms, 
washed and sliced 500 g
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c. white wine 125 mL
  • 4-6 chicken breasts
  • 1/ 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese 125 mL
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh 
parley or dill 15 mL
  • Montreal steak spice, 
salt, pepper and seasoning salt, to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms and onions and cook for approximately seven minutes. Then add the garlic and seasonings, stir to combine and heat for two minutes. Transfer to a bowl with a lid to keep warm.
Add chicken and wine to the skillet and cook on each side for approximately five minutes or until cooked through.
Then add the mushroom mixture on top of the chicken in the skillet. Stir and then top with cheese and parsley or dill.
Cover and cook for two to four minutes or until cheese is melted. Serves four to six.
Are you out of time and want to use a store bought sauce for your skillet dishes? After many taste tests, Lifehouse Stir Fry Saute Classic won out. It’s so easy to use, and the taste is excellent.

Sweet and Spicy 
Slow Cooker Chicken

Perhaps you want to enjoy a day with friends and family with no time spent in the kitchen. There is nothing like the convenience of a slow cooker, which allows you to prepare your menu ahead of time early in the day and be done.
Serve with a greens fresh or warmed, such as the above kale saute.

Sauce ingredients:

  • 1 c. ketchup 250 mL
  • 4 tbsp. soy sauce 60 mL
  • 1/2 c. water 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar 125 mL
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. mustard 30 mL
  • 1 medium chopped onion
  • 1 c. finely chopped 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped 
peppers 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. white wine, 
optional 60 mL

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Prepare rice and chicken:

  • 1 1/2 c. brown rice 375 mL
  • 3 tbsp. butter/margarine 45 mL
  • 2 c. water 500 mL
  • 6 chicken breasts

Prepare the sauce ingredients and set aside.
Combine rice and butter in the crock pot and turn on heat. Stir when butter is melted and then add the water. Arrange chicken over the rice. Pour the prepared sauce over the chicken.
Cover and cook on low for seven to nine hours or high for four to five hours. Serves four to six.
Note: The dish can also be prepared in the oven. Bake at 350 F (180 C) for 1 1/2 to two hours.

Crock Pot Apple Crisp

You can also use your slow cooker to prepare heart warming desserts. Choosing a sweet ending that includes cinnamon helps lower blood sugar and avoids the effects of a sugar rush. Adding as little as 1/2 tsp. a day to food will provide health benefits. And the aroma while cooking is amazing.

  • 5 c. apples, sliced 1.25 L
  • 1 c. oats, not quick 250 mL
  • 1 c. flour, whole wheat 
or regular 250 mL
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar 250 mL
  • 3 tsp. cinnamon 45 mL
  • 3/4 c. butter 175 mL

Prepare the crock pot by greasing and flouring. Add apples. Melt butter and mix with all remaining ingredients. Pour mixture over apples. Cook on high for three hours or low for four to six hours. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream if desired. Adapted from www.stockpilingmoms.com.

Chocolate Drop 
Cookies with a Pulse

This no cook treat satisfies those who crave rich chocolate flavour, while the addition of lentils is a healthy pulse addition. It’s a great way to add protein, fibre and iron to your indulgences. Serve with fresh berries.

  • 3 c. rolled oats 750 mL
  • 1 /2 c. lentils, prepared* 125 mL
  • 2 c. sugar 500 mL
  • 1/2 c. milk 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. butter/margarine 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. cocoa 125 mL
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
  • 1 dash of salt

Prepare a large baking sheet by placing wax paper over the top.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats and lentils. Set aside.
In a saucepan, combine the sugar, milk, butter, cocoa and salt. Heat to a boil, stirring frequently so the mixture does not stick to the pot and burn. Once boiling, cook for five minutes more, stirring constantly.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Pour the hot ingredients into the large mixing bowl with the oats and lentils. Stir quickly. Drop by spoonfuls onto the wax paper. Let cool. Makes 25 to 30 cookies, depending on what size you prefer.
* You can reduce the amount of lentils used to a minimum of 1/4 c. (60 mL) in the oat mixture if you want to start with a lesser amount.
Using pulses in cooking is a taste that must be developed slowly, but is well worth it.

* Pulse prep

  • 1 c. lentils 250 mL
  • 2 1/2 c. water 625 mL

Wash dry pulses, place in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 40 to 50 minutes. Drain well, but reserve the stock. Blend pulses, adding only enough stock to make a puree similar to canned pumpkin. Makes 1 1/2 (375 mL) to two cups (500 mL).
Freezes well. You can also use the cooked lentils whole in this recipe if desired. The chocolate sauce hides them nicely. Skip the blending after they are just tender from cooking. Instead, just rinse and drain well. Store in the refrigerator to use in recipes.

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Jodie Mirosovsky is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.