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Work It Out

Exercise. Love it or loathe it, it’s one of the number one ways of keeping our hearts healthy.  At age 16, I suffered a massive heart attack from a blood clot, but the fact that I was co-captain of my school tennis team and in good physical shape is one of the reasons I was able to survive such a major event. While I waited 9 months for my heart transplant, doctors emphasized how much exercise would help for a successful operation. Now that I’ve had my heart almost 14 years, I realize how fortunate I am to have received it, and I try to stay active to ensure it keeps ticking.
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  • The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise (30 minutes, 5 days a week), or 75 minutes of rigorous exercise (25 minutes, 3 days per week).
But let’s face it: it’s not always easy. For those of us who are “allergic” to the monotony of treadmills, many gyms offer classes ranging from disco spin cycling to hip hop and break-dancing. But gyms can also be expensive, and sometimes it’s hard to carve out time in our otherwise busy lives. Despite these barriers, there are fun, creative ways to help exercise seem less like a chore.
  • Break it down: 150 minutes a week sounds pretty daunting. Even 30 minutes seems like a lot of time to spare most of the week. But breaking that time into shorter intervals: 15 minutes in the morning, 15 in the evening, makes it more digestible.
  • Make it less deliberate: I find that exercise feels less like an obligation and more “unintentional” when I build it into my everyday routine. Since I live in NYC, this might mean getting off the subway a few stops earlier on my morning commute, but it could also mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator in your office building or parking further away. Every little bit counts.
  • Make it an excuse to socialize: I’ve always enjoyed taking long walks. Not only is it a great way to take in fresh air and scenery, it gives me span of time to catch up with family or friends. Back in the days when I was still rebuilding my strength, my parents would bring along a wheelchair in case I needed to rest midway. Now when my parents visit, we always make time to wander through the park, stroll by the waterfront, or meander through a new neighborhood. Having set plans with an exercise buddy also makes both of you accountable to each other in achieving your goals.
  • Make it rewarding: Whether it’s swimming at your local pool, organizing a dance party, or co-opting your kids’ video game system for Wii fitness or Dance Dance Revolution, there’s no reason “exercise” has to be traditional. Running or walking in support of charities like Harboring Hearts can also motivate you when every extra mile means helping others.
No matter how you choose to stay active, it’s important to always consult with your doctor if you’ve been dealing with health challenges. But with a little creativity, you may find yourself enjoying exercise in spite of yourself. Your heart will thank you for it.
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Twitter: @jessicamelore

Heart Healthy and Delicious Fall Recipe!

“Oil-Optional” Vegetable Chili with Hemp Seeds

by Rebecca Johnson, Certified Plant-Based Nutrition & Wellness Expert, The Plant Rich Life

 

There’s nothing like a great chili to kick-off the Fall season as the temperatures begin to cool. Although beans grow best in the winter, easily storing them for later in the year is one of their great appeals for meal budgeting and planning. Beans are a filling, comforting option for a heart healthy meal. This recipe includes the nuttiness of hemp seeds, which lower “bad” cholesterol and provide more Omega 6. Hemp seeds can be eaten as a snack, and they make a great topping for salads and stir frys.

1 quart low sodium vegetable broth

½ cup onions, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbls tomato paste

1 cup tomato sauce

3 tbls agave nectar

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp smoked paprika powder

1 tbls oregano, fresh and dried

1tbls thyme, fresh or dried

½ tsp Himalayan sea salt

½ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp black pepper

1 small celery stalk, chopped fine

7 sun dried tomato halves, chopped fine (optional)

¼ cup bell pepper, red or green

2 cups red beans

½ tsp jalapeno pepper, minced

Additional Vegetable Broth as needed

1 tsp coconut oil (optional) can be added to onion, garlic mixture if no health concerns exist.

Soak beans overnight. Rinse beans and boil in low sodium vegetable broth. Sautee onions and garlic in ½ cup vegetable broth. After five minutes, sprinkle with a dash of salt. Cook for another five minutes. Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, agave and spices, stir well. Add vegetables, then beans and simmer for 45 minutes. Add vegetable broth as needed.

After your meal masterpiece is complete, scoop the warm chili into your favorite bowl served over brown rice, quinoa or millet.  You can also add chopped Swiss Chard or any dark green to balance the look and flavor. (Did you know you can roast the ribs and add them too?)  Yum!

Nutrition Facts

 Beans have B-complex vitamins niacin and folate, magnesium, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber and help to decrease inflammation.

 Hemp seeds contain all 10 essential amino acids and 3 tablespoons have 11 grams of protein! Plus they have a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (healthy) fat. In addition, hemp seeds contain GLA (gamma linolenic acid), an especially beneficial type of omega-6 fat that helps lower LDL cholesterol and improve cholesterol ratio.

Ingredients like hemp seeds are becoming much more available in neighborhood markets. Otherwise, they can be found at any health food store and most specialty food markets.

 About Rebecca Johnson

Rebecca started cooking with her chef Dad when she was 6 years old. But it wasn’t until he fell at 63 to a heart attack and she was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous condition that she discovered the connection between nutrition and health. After decades in restaurants, catering and health-related roles, she received a Certification in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell University and became a Certified Health Minister at Hallelujah Acres.

Now, Rebecca teaches nutrition education and culinary classes in NYC public and charter schools through Plant Rich Life and plans healthy cooking classes and cooking demonstrations for Fortune 500 clients and non-profits through the event company, Celebrevents, LLC.

Plant Rich Life provides creative wellness solutions to help people transition from a low-nutrient Sad American Diet (SAD) rich in fat, sugar and animal protein to a nutrient-dense, low fat, plant protein HAPPY diet that restores and maintains health. Find recipes, nutrition information and more on Rebecca’s blog at www.phytalitycoach.com, on the Web at www.plantrichlife.com and on Facebook at The Plant Rich Life.

Striped Sea Bass Stuffed with Lemons, Bay Leaves, and Thyme

*Fast, Healthy and Divine.*

It is not easy to find a meal that is fast to make, healthy, and tastes absolutely divine. Given my passion for food and cooking, as well as, my background in medicine, and nutrition, part of my mission is to ‘dazzle’ the simple foods, in a subtle, savory, and yet healthy way.

Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which clinical studies, have
proven to decrease cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, and triglycerides (lowering LDL, the ‘bad cholesterol’, and increasing HDL, the ‘good cholesterol’) . The lemons, herbs, tomatoes, and arugula salad also contain many vitamins, and minerals, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and numerous ‘healthy heart’ benefits. For example, potassium, found in these foods, is a mineral which plays a large role in treating high blood pressure. The health advantages are tremendous, and the fresh, light, heavenly flavor will transport you to that long sought-after seacoast; even if just for a bite or two 😉

This dish requires only a few key ingredients, and may easily be served within 25 minutes.

2 Servings:

2 1-pound sea bass (scaled and gutted)
2 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 lemons, thinly sliced
2 tbs olive oil

*Directions*:

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2) Season the fish with a sprinkle of *salt and pepper.
3) Insert a thyme spring; and a bay leaf.
4) Coat sea bass with olive oil, and *salt and pepper
5) Place fish on aluminum foil, and fold up all sides.
6) Transfer to oven and steam for approximately 20 minutes.

** Use of salt is optional; lemon is a good substitute. This is a low-fat, low-sodium meal. Adjust servings as necessary.

-Courtesy of Food & Wine.

-Please see below for more information on fish, and omega-3.

Spring Gala – May 22, 2012

We hope you will join us at the 2012 Harboring Hearts Spring Gala to be held on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City.

This year, Harboring Hearts is thrilled to honor Dr. Yoshifumi Naka, Cardiothoracic Surgeon at New York Presbyterian and Associate Professor at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, and Dr. Donna Mancini, Medical Director, Professor of Medicine and Sudhir Choudhrie Professor of Cardiology at the Center for Advanced Cardiac Care at Columbia University Medical Center.  Dr. Naka and Dr. Mancini, along with the entire cardiac team at New York Presbyterian, work tirelessly to provide the best care for their patients.  It is because of these efforts that peers recognize them as leaders in their fields.

 

With special performances by American Idol alum Clay Aiken, The New York Pops, DJs Nick Cohen and Alexandra Richards, this event promises to be an exciting and memorable evening for all!  So come and support Harboring Hearts and our honorees and enjoy cocktails, food, entertainment, and dancing.

 

You can purchase an advance ticket online.

 

We hope to see you on May 22nd!

 

Harboring Hearts RSVP

 

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Magic in the Kitchen

Forward by Yuki Kotani

We are very excited to introduce Shayla Frandsen, our event intern at Harboring Hearts.  She comes to us from Seattle and is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University.  She is currently studying at CUNY for a Masters in English Literature. 

Shayla plays a crucial role in our upcoming May 22nd Gala by assisting Michelle Javian and the event team in any way possible.  In addition, she has worn many different hats within the organization and she has been an invaluable part of Harboring Hearts.  We appreciate Shayla for sharing her story with us today.

I hope you enjoy her story and heart-healthy recipe!

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Have you ever been to a magic show? The only time I’ve ever been to an actual sit-down magic show in all its glory was when I was about eight or nine years old. It was held in the gym of an elementary school, and (if I remember correctly) I went with my friend and her family.

At one point during the show I was chosen to be a helper in the next trick. I walked up on stage, faced the audience, the magician had me wear a pair of yellow, oversized sunglasses—and that’s the end of what I remember. I can’t remember what trick the magician than did or what happened afterwards—you know how childhood memories go sometimes. Oh well.

In a way, cooking is a lot like magic. The stage is set: in a mixing bowl, pop in a dash of this, a teaspoon of that, close it up in the oven for a few minutes, wave your wand and voila! Chocolate cake. Voila! Warm banana bread. Voila! Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (a personal favorite of mine).

In her book A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove, Laura Schenone writes, “Women wield almost mystical strength in their kitchens . . . I have days in my very own kitchen when I am a high priestess of life. Steam rises up from my bubbling pots. Spices dance in their jars like spirits yearning to be set free . . . Outside my kitchen door people clamor with hunger, and I am the only one who can make things right” (page xv). Doesn’t that make cooking sound so…exciting? So magical? Yet sometimes I am so overwhelmed at the idea of cooking a delicious & heart-healthy meal for my husband & I that “magical” is the exact opposite way I am feeling.

It is no secret that cooking & eating heart-healthy food can require lots of time, money, and preparation. If you’re like me, it takes Internet research, advice from friends, and even Yelp to find those heart-healthy recipes or restaurants. Finding the time in your busy schedule to shop for and then cook these recipes is a magic trick unto itself. If you’re also like me, however, you’ve realized that it’s worth it. So take that extra bit of time to figure out how you can be the healthiest you can be, and then work up some magic in your kitchen!

Here is a recipe for grilled ginger salmon (I’m originally from Seattle, so what can I say? Salmon has an extra-special place in my heart!). This cold-water fish is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, meaning it is at the very top of the list of foods that are healthiest for your heart.

Grilled Ginger Salmon

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Serves 4.

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup orange juice

¼ cup honey

1 green onion, chopped

1 ½ lbs salmon fillets

Directions

1. In bowl, mix the first five ingredients.

2. Place onions in small bowl and chill until ready to use.

3. Gill salmon over medium coals for 10 minutes, turn and grill the other side for 10 minutes.

4. Brush with ginger sauce throughout grilling.

5. Place salmon on platter and sprinkle with onions.

 

 

 

Heart-Healthy Expo

You are invited to our fabulous Heart-Healthy Expo on Tuesday, February 21st from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Lolë (24 Hubert Street)!

Please join us for some red wine, dark chocolate, and other heart-healthy treats, as well as a cardio fitness demo by Rogue Female Fitness. You will also get a chance to shop Lolë’s collection (20% of your purchase will benefit HH!). See the flier for all details, and register here: http://www.roguefemalefitness.com/programs/giving-back.

Thanks to Rogue Female Fitness and Lolë for partnering with us for this exciting event.

We hope to see you there! ♥

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Photo credit: Sunny Norton

http://www.flickr.com/photos/63317659@N03/sets/72157629112056640/show/

 

 

My first “Meatless Monday” experience

Have you heard of “Meatless Monday”?

Meatless Monday is a NPO in association with John Hopkin’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Their mission is, “to help [us] reduce [our] meat consumption by 15% in order to improve [our] personal health and the health of the planet”.  They accomplish this initiative by encouraging others to remove meat from their diet for just one day a week.

Our intern, Pareesha, brought “Meatless Monday” to my attention last week and asked if I would go meatless for one day.  The answer was immediately, “Yes”.  As a co-founder of a heart organization and an avid heart health advocate on behalf of my organization and the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women, I believe that I should practice what I advocate.

Well, yesterday was Monday, January 23, 2012 and I went meatless.

Before I get into my meatless experience, let me tell you a little about myself and my eating habits.  I am an omnivore, but I eat fairly healthy and I am very aware of the foods that I put in my body.  I continually educate myself on how to eat healthy and I am always on the hunt for healthy alternatives.

However, going meatless for a day was harder than I imagined. Maybe it was because I did not prepare my food before work and I had to find meatless yet filling dishes at restaurants.  I say filling because finding meatless options was not the challenge.  The challenge was finding food options that would keep my energy level up until the next meal.

I started the day with 2 rice cakes with peanut butter.  By 10:30am, I was starving!  I ate the baby carrots I packed for my mid-afternoon snack. By noon, I was starving again.  Trying to think on an empty stomach proved to be difficult but I was determined to find a meatless option that was not a salad.  I ended up ordering a delicious Mediterranean Shakshuka (a tomato, onion, pepper stew) at a nearby restaurant.  Yay, success!  By 3:00pm, I was starving…again!  I cursed myself for not ordering a side of rice with my lunch.  Well, next time I’ll do better.  I scrounged around my bag and found a KIND bar (a fruit and nut bar) and I devoured it. I then ran downstairs to a health food store and ordered a raw veggie juice to increase my vegetable intake for the day.

I thought dinner was going to be a challenge because I had made plans to grab dinner with friends I have not seen in awhile.  Luckily, the menu was diverse and I ate a boston bibb salad and a butternut squash pasta dish.

So, my first attempt at “Meatless Monday” was quite an adventure and a learning experience.  I know I will need to educate myself on meatless options for next week but I think it was a successful day.  I was able to engage in dialogue with my friends about what going meatless meant to me and I was able to sign up a few more people to join the movement!

So what does going meatless mean for me?

Going meatless, even just once a week, can reduce my risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.  By not eating meat, I increased my fiber and vegetable intake in just one day.

What I learned through my experience is that reducing my risk of life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease just requires small and minor adjustments to my lifestyle.

Replace chicken with tofu.  Replace red meat with beans.  My fellow Go Red For Women sister, Gail Mates says it perfectly. “It’s about small simple changes that can save your life”.

The health benefits to reducing your meat intake are the most obvious reasons to participate in “Meatless Monday” but were you aware of the benefits to the environment?  Well, I was not aware that by cutting out meat, we can reduce our carbon footprint, minimize water usage and even reduce fossil fuel dependence.

I recognize that just one person reducing their meat intake will not affect our environment, but imagine if every single one of us cut out meat for just one day.  How would that affect your body?  How would that affect Earth?  How would that affect future generations?

I hope you would consider joining me and participate in “Meatless Monday”.  Tell me about your experiences!

Food Blog – Giving Thanks

As we approach Thanksgiving, there is much that Harboring Hearts and I are thankful for. Most importantly, our community of supporters and beneficiaries that constantly remind us of the strength of the human spirit and its ability to be compassionate towards others.  Thank you for being part of our heart community.

The start of the holiday season always reminds me of family and traditions.  Growing up in rural America and raised by Japanese parents led to some interesting traditions for our family.  For quite some time, Thanksgiving at the Kotani residence meant an elaborate sushi dinner.  After repeated requests from my siblings and I to have an American Thanksgiving, my parents gave into our wishes and baked a turkey with sides of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, sushi, and azuki soup.  Well, it was not the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving that we had in mind but it was our family’s version of Thanksgiving – a Japanese-American dinner.

Most nights, like our Thanksgiving dinners, dinner was usually a fusion of Japanese and other worldly cuisines.  It is interesting looking back at my childhood because many of the current nutritional studies in the US are on the benefits of Japanese produce and cooking.  I cannot remember a time when I did not eat tofu (great source of protein and low in calories), drink green tea (antioxidants and heart health benefits), eat wakame (for healthy hair and skin), and eat rice (cholesterol free, low in calorie and gluten-free).

 

Spring 1988

 

Food has always been an important part of my upbringing and my mom was very conscientious about our family eating all the necessary nutrients to be healthy.  Unintentionally (or maybe it was intentional), she taught us what foods were high in nutritional value while low in calories and trained us to eat in moderation from nourishing foods to sweets.

One piece of advice from my mom that always surfaces when I cook is to make my plate colorful.  To make a plate colorful, you will always need to include vegetables and fruits.

As I shopped at the grocery store last night after work, I could hear her voice in my head.  For dinner that night, I started off with a small spinach salad with tomatoes and homemade lemon vinaigrette dressing (green and red).  Then I baked salmon (warm orange) with a wedge of lemon (yellow), sautéed some asparagus (green), and cooked some brown rice (tan).  To finish off the meal, I indulged in two pieces of raspberry dark chocolate.

While I did not take to everything my mother taught me in my youth, I am fortunate to have been given a head start in heart healthy eating thanks to the good habits she instilled in me through her choices of what to serve at our table.  After my father was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and ultimately received a heart transplant, I became ever more attentive to what I put in my body.  I firmly believe in the importance of eating properly for the sake of my body, my heart and even for my family and friends.

 

My brother’s college graduation, Summer 2009

 

Luckily, I enjoy cooking and I like to think that I am a competent chef but most importantly, I appreciate having the responsibility involved with cooking healthy foods for loved ones.  In keeping with the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my mother for instilling in me the joy of cooking healthy foods for my family and friends because it can impact their personal eating habits and heart health in the future.

What I decide to put on my table for Thanksgiving this year affects not only me, but my loved ones as well.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Please consider contributing here to continue to show support for Harboring Hearts this holiday season.  Thank you in advance for supporting our cause and helping heart patients and families in need.

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Here are two Japanese inspired side dishes to try during this holiday season!

Sesame-Soy Green Beans

Serves 4

  • 1 lb of green beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tamari sauce (gluten-free) or you can use regular soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Cut the green beans in half to get 2-3 inch pieces. Place the green beans in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain beans. In a skillet, heat olive oil, add the beans and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the tamari/soy sauce and sesame oil and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve. (Inspired by Rachel Ray’s recipe)

Asian Sweet Potato Salad with Cucumber, Dates and Arugula

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt

Carrot Ginger Dressing

  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Japanese rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mirin rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari sauce (gluten-free)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (Regular sesame oil will work)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (For a lighter alternative, use Japanese style mayonnaise with rice vinegar – Kewpie Mayonnaise)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Begin by peeling and dicing sweet potatoes. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes, reduce heat and cook until just tender but still have a little bite. Drain and place in a bowl to cool.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Once potatoes are cool toss with dressing and set aside on salad platter.

Salad

  • 4 cups lightly packed arugula
  • Cucumber, finely sliced
  • 1 cup dates, pitted and cut in 1/2
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Olive Oil
  • Splash soy/tamari sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl and dress with lemon juice, olive oil, to taste, a splash of soy sauce, and a little salt and pepper. Toss well and place on top of the sweet potatoes to serve as a complete salad. (Inspired by Tyler Florence’s recipe)