Love is a happy, healthy heart

Chicken breasts cooking on stove top grill pan.

I have no trepidation about Valentine’s Day.

While the arrow wielding, chubby little cherub has struck me with a few arrows that didn’t exactly stick, I am not jaded about love, nor do I have a myopic view of it either.

Love makes the heart happy

Me and my grandson. He makes my heart happy.

I have had the good fortune of experiencing deep, passionate love.

I’ve also been blessed with the honor and privilege of experiencing maternal love.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sisterly love that remains wrapped around my life like a snug cocoon.

Love, oh love

The range of love I’ve experienced has led me to believe this one thing: the reciprocity of love is the essence of what makes love that splendid thing I do not want to live without.

I no longer  think of Valentine’s Day in term of flowers, cards or candy.  But I won’t turn them down.

I think of Valentine’s Day in terms of recognizing the people who continue to surround me with pillars of love.

Gee, I’m getting a little misty eyed.

The cost of Love

Valentine’s Day is just one of countless moments in our lives we pause to celebrate or proclaim those we love, those who bring value and beauty our lives.

That calendar celebration and proclamation is far too often a pricey exploit.

According to the National Retail Federation,” U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average $143.56 on Valentine’s Day. Total spending is expected to reach $19.6 billion, up from $18.2 billion last year.”

That’s a lot of clams, lavish dinners, sparkling jewels and premium roses.

I say go for it. Participate. Partake. Celebrate – responsibly of course.

But after the flowers have wilted and died, the box of Godiva chocolates is empty, the lavish dinner is forgotten,  the heart stirring card is tucked into a cabinet or deposited in the round file, why not make a proclamation to give an enduring gift of love – the gift a healthy heart.

Healthy Heart Month

Valentine’s Day is just a day, albeit a somewhat significant one.  But the entire month of February is observed as American Heart Month which seems to get completely overshadowed.

Since 1964, a Presidential proclamation has been issued to commemorate American Heart Month. Why? Because cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of deaths in America.  The National Heart Association says that every 38 seconds a person dies of cardiovascular disease (stroke, coronary artery disease, heart attack). That’s about 2,300 people a day, and 2,300 families who lives have abruptly shifted and changed. My family experienced the untimely death of a beloved and cherished member due to heart disease.

There is good news Dear Heart

Knowing your family history and making lifestyle changes (managing stress, losing weight, getting physically active, making healthy choices in what you eat, and cutting back on alcoholic beverages) can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease significantly, as much as 80%.

Healthy heart recipe – start here

Pan Grilled Chicken Breast with Chick Pea Sauce

Your assignment during American Heart Month is to eat more heart healthy meals as a declaration of the love you have for yourself, and as a declaration of the love you have for those you cherish.

My Pan Grilled Chicken Breast with Chick Pea Sauce is a heart healthy gift I give to you. The chicken is moist, tender and flavorful. The Chick Pea Sauce, made with fresh thyme and lemon juice, is savory and soul satisfying.  An option is to finish the plating with pan grilled corn cut from the cob. This is a meal that will make your heart happy and your lips part with a smile.

I’d like to thanks the great folks at Goya Foods for providing some of the ingredients used in making this recipe.

Talk about it

Have a heart to heart chat with yourself Dear Heart. There is no time like the present, and no better time than during American Heart Month to give yourself and those you love the gift of a healthy heart.

Now that’s real love my foodie friends. Time for you to get cooking!

Pan Grilled Chicken Breast with Chick Pea Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

A delicious, hearty healthy meal


2 boneless chicken breasts (Simple Truth Organic Chicken Breast featured here)
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice for chicken marinade
½ teaspoon lemon juice for Chickpea Sauce
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1~ 15.5 ounce Goya Chick Peas, drained
2/3 cup chicken stock
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ear of corn, husk and silk removed


  1. Wash and pat dry chicken breasts. Place chicken breasts on a cutting board and slice each one in half to yield four pieces. Generously season chicken breast slice with salt and cracked pepper.
  2. To a small bowl add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon chopped thyme leaves, and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder. Mix well and pour into a plastic zipper storage bag.  Add seasoned chicken breast slices to marinade, seal the bag and marinade 15 minutes. Massage and turn the bag a few times.
  3. While chicken is marinating, to a skillet or stove top grill pan set at medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of Grapeseed or corn oil and pan grill the ear of corn. Rotate the corn in pan until it is lightly browned on all sides. Remove from heat, set aside and let cool.
  4. Remove chicken breast from marinade after 15 minutes and place them in the same skillet or grill pan. Cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes until medium brown in color.
  5. When done, remove chicken breast from skillet or grill pan and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Place in a 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes.
  6. While chicken is in the oven, to a blender add drained Chick Peas, ¼ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, cracked pepper, 2/3 cup of chicken stock.
  7. Use the liquidfy setting and blend until creamy.
  8. Pour sauce into a small sauce pan. Place sauce pan on stove top and bring to a gentle boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. When done, remove from heat, keep warm.
  9. Remove chicken from oven after 10 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes. While chicken is resting, cut the corn from the cob (video here).
  10. Place a chicken breast on a plate, spoon Chick Pea sauce over breast, top with grilled corn and fresh chopped thyme. (Note: as featured here, chicken breasts are sliced at a diagonal before plating. See “Happy New Year, happy new food,” for example.


Be a fearless Valentine

Love can be scary.croxetti-pasta-heart

Now that I have your attention, I’ll repeat it again – love can be scary.

It has frightened me many a time because it requires such vulnerability, compromise and dare I say surrender.

But to find love and experience love requires a bit of fearlessness not only in your pursuit of love but in your expression of love when you think you have found “the one.”

Why am I, a food blogger, talking about love?

Valentine’s Day has a way of making me think about the pursuit of love and more importantly, the preservation of love.

The way to the heart

We’ve all heard the adage that the way to the heart is through the stomach, right? Well actually you heard it this way; the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But I submit that this phase should be gender neutral because my heart has been enraptured a time or two by a gentleman whose  fearless culinary skills took my breath away with each bite of  a  wonderfully prepared meal he made for me.

Valentine’s Day is approaching and perhaps you had a fleeting thought of making a romantic meal then that thought vanished as quickly as it appeared. I say be a fearless Valentine and make that romantic meal.

My Roasted Yellow Bell Pepper Alfredo Pasta with Pan Grilled Shrimp is a fearless choice and Valentine’s Day worthy.

The pan roasted yellow bell peppers and the hint of nutmeg makes this creamy sauce warm and cozy. The grilled shrimp makes it decedent and satisfying. If you can find Croxetti pasta,  you will certainly elicit a “wow what an interesting pasta” response.  If you can’t get your hands on a bag of Croxetti, use Farfalle or Bow Tie pasta. Yes, this dish arouses the palate and the senses as well.

Here’s a suggested menu for your Valentine:


Salad featuring your favorite garden greens. Be adventurous and add some thinly sliced Asian pears or Honeycrisp apples brushed with a little lemon juice, walnuts, cranberries and a little roughly chopped fresh mint. Toss the salad with a delicate champagne vinaigrette you can purchase from most grocery stores or specialty markets.


Yellow Roasted Bell Pepper Alfredo Pasta with Pan Grill Shrimp – recipe below.


Pound cake (store bought or homemade) with vanilla ice cream drizzled with a Limoncello liquor and shaved white chocolate if you dare.

If you decide to pass on making this meal for Valentine’s Day, by all means plan some time to make it at a later date. The love shown in making a meal for someone who puts a sparkle in your eyes shouldn’t be limited to Valentine’s Day. Preparing a meal for that special  someone is definitely a way to their heart all year long.

Roasted Yellow Bell Pepper Alfredo Pasta with Pan Grilled Shrimp


1 large yellow bell pepper
1/3  cup chopped red onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 tablespoon butter
16 ounces half and half
3 cup Croxetti  or bow tie pasta (uncooked)
½ fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 pinch of nutmeg
½ – 1  teaspoon salt to taste
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
Oil (canola, corn, grapeseed)
3 tablespoon pine nuts
cracked pepper
parsley, roughly chopped

To a non-stick skillet set on medium heat, add pine nuts and stir until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside in a separate dish.

Rinse shelled and deveined shrimp and pat dry. Add a little cooking oil (about 1 tablespoon) to a non-stick skillet set on medium heat. Add half of the shrimp, lightly sprinkle with salt and cook until medium brown on both sides. (Remember over crowding the pan will cause the shrimp to steam instead of cook and get a nice, brown color.) This may take approximately 2-3 minutes for each side until they are done.

Remove shrimp from pan into another dish and keep warm. Add more oil if needed and repeat with the remainder of the shrimp. When done, remove and cover with foil to keep warm.

Cut bell pepper into strips. (Note: for best results, steam bell pepper strips 3-4 minutes in a steamer basket before browning in skillet.)

Lightly coat a non-stick skillet with cooking spray.  Heat pan on medium heat. Add bell pepper strips and brown on both sides. Color should be slightly charred. Remove from heat and cool.  Place bell pepper on a cutting board surface and chop into pieces. Set aside.

Begin cooking Croxetti or bow tie pasta accord to al dente directions.


In the same skillet used for the bell pepper, add butter. When melted, add chopped onion and sauté  on medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute.

Add half and half, a pinch of nutmeg, salt and Parmesan cheese to pan with the onion and garlic mixture.  Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently about 2-3 minutes until sauce is thickened.

Remove pan the from heat and carefully pour sauce into a blender. Add chopped bell pepper to the blender. Place a towel over the blender top and hold it down securely. Blend the mixture until smooth.

Pour mixture back into a skillet. Add a little cracked pepper.  Heat about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add cooked pasta and lightly toss pasta until it is completely covered with the sauce.  Add pan grilled shrimp to pan and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

Serve with fresh chopped parsley and addition grated Parmesan cheese if you like.

A story and a cupcake aiming straight at your heart

Valentines dayHe reached out his hand and slowly grasped the cup of iced Café Americano from her hand.

His strong fingers lightly caressed her delicate hand as she demurely released the cup from her grasp. He paused a minute. His eyes danced as he searched her effervescent face. She smiled coyly and said, “Thank you.” He winked at the charming young Barista, then gently pressed his business card into the palm of her hand, and left the coffee house with a swaggering gait and a heart filled with excitement about the possibilities. Continue reading

Sassy Mamas sizzles and cooks too

Vanessa Paul

Vanessa Paul

Vanessa Paul is one sassy mama.

She’s got true wit, beauty, intellect, passion – and she’s got a stage production opening in Los Angeles on February 13, 2015 called Sassy Mamas that is playful, brazen and oh so sassy!

So what makes this production sassy? In three words: unadulterated, female, fearlessness. Continue reading