Updated: Jan 10
Sweet Natural Wonder
By: Pam Smith, RDN
Each February is American Heart Month, a month dedicated to maintaining or bettering one’s health through paying attention to the heart for protecting against America’s number one killer, heart disease. This month has always been about hearts, largely in a romantic connotation, but the American Heart Association is celebrating the 57th annual Heart Month. February was adorned with this honor in 1964 by Lyndon B. Johnson, nine years after his own heart attack.
As we celebrate all things nutritious and delicious for the Healthy Heart – strawberries, the most popular berry fruit in the world are a natural wonder. The heart-shape and color of the strawberry could be a clue that it’s good for the heart – and there’s plenty more to follow. These power berries contain especially high levels of phytochemicals known to protect your heart and body cells, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and lower your blood pressure. This is in large part considered to be due to the number of anthocyanins in strawberries, the antioxidant-like compound that gives strawberries their deep red color.
Strawberries are also packed to the brim with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, such as manganese (increased blood flow) and potassium (muscle health) – which both assist the muscle of the heart to beat in a steady, rhythmic beat without interruption. And, they are a great source of vitamin C – just 8 strawberries provide the vitamin C levels found in an orange!
So, grab some strawberries (or 8!) and let’s enjoy this natural wonder together!
Florida Strawberry and Sweet Chili Cocktail Meatballs
1 cup fresh Florida strawberries, hulled, rinsed and diced
3/4 cup Florida strawberry jam
1 pound Florida lean ground beef
1 cup Florida yellow squash, grated fine
1 cup Florida zucchini, grated fine
1 cup Florida mushroom, chopped fine
1 cup Florida carrot, shredded fine
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon all-purpose seasoning (your favorite)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2 cups sweet chili sauce
Vegetable oil for cooking
In a large mixing bowl, combine egg, milk, cheese, seasoning blend, and panko. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, stir mixture again. Add the ground beef and vegetables to the bread crumb mixture. Continue to stir mixture, until everything is uniformly incorporated.
Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Roll the beef mixture into bite sized balls. Working in batches and making sure not to overcrowd the pan, cook the meatballs in a small amount of vegetable oil. The meatballs need to reach an internal temperature of 165 to be completely done. Continue to cook meatballs in sauté pan until they are browned all over and are completely done. Drain any excess fat from the pan and turn the heat to medium low. Add the strawberry jam and sweet chili sauce to the cooked meatballs. Stir and simmer the meatballs and sauce until combined and heated throughout. Add the fresh strawberries to the meatballs and sauce. Gently stir in fresh strawberries and serve immediately. Garnish with fresh chopped chives if desired.
Florida Arugula, Berry, and Citrus Salad
16 ounces Florida arugula, rinsed and drained
1 dozen Florida strawberries, rinsed and sliced
1 cup Florida blueberries
2 Florida oranges, peeled and segmented
8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 lemon, juiced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
2 cups Florida pecans
3/4 cup Florida sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat a pan on medium heat. Add the pecans and toast until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Add butter, sugar, and salt; stir to coat. Remove from pan and allow to cool.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl add arugula, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper; toss to combine.
Plate the dressed arugula and evenly add the citrus and berries around the greens. Add the goat cheese and garnish each salad with candied pecans, serve chilled.
Pan Grilled Florida Red Snapper with Strawberry and Avocado Salsa
4 (6-ounce) Florida red snapper fillets
1 ripe Florida avocado, diced
2 cups Florida strawberries, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime zest
1/4 teaspoon Florida sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Stir jalapeño, avocado, strawberries, onion, cilantro, lime juice, sugar and sea salt together in a bowl. Cover and set aside. Salsa may be made several hours ahead and chilled. When making ahead, add the sugar, salt, and avocado when ready to serve.
Preheat stovetop grill pan over high heat. Pat fillets dry, then brush both sides with the oil; sprinkle with the lime zest, salt, and pepper. Lay fillets on grill pan skin side down and cook 4 to 5 minutes on each side, turning once, until cooked through.
Transfer fillets skin side up to individual serving plates. Carefully remove skin; top with avocado-strawberry salsa.