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Three recipes to power up your heart

February 13, 2020 | Heather Shannon
vegetarian quinoa stuffed chili relleno poblano peppers

It’s a fact: A healthy diet is critical to the health of your heart. A poor diet can lead directly to heart disease.

According to Katie Rankell, a registered dietitian and program manager of the UCI Health Weight Management Program, the main components of a heart-healthy diet are:

  • High fiber
  • Antioxidant rich
  • Vitamin and mineral rich
  • High in monounsaturated fats
  • Low in saturated fats

These recipes, created by Chef Jessica Van Roo, assistant director of Culinary Recreation & Experiential Programs at UC Irvine, not only meet the mark for heart health, they are delicious, easy to prepare and budget-friendly.

vegetarian quinoa stuffed chili relleno poblano peppers

Quinoa-stuffed chili relleno with creamy avocado sauce

Serves 4 (Total cost of recipe: $16.35/$4.08 per serving)

Quinoa is a superfood. It has all nine essential amino acids, and it’s an excellent whole-grain source of fiber, says Rankell. Fiber helps lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” type) and systolic blood pressure, reducing the overall risk of heart disease.

Avocados are loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. They’re also rich in potassium, a mineral that is essential for healthy blood vessels.


For the filling:

  • 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed
  • 3 cups of prepared quinoa (1 cup raw)
  • 1 ½ cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 ½ cups canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the chili relleno:

  • 4 poblano or bell peppers, halved, deseeded and deveined
  • 1 ½ cups shredded skim mozzarella cheese
  • Cilantro and lime to garnish

For the creamy avocado sauce:

  • 2 small ripe avocados
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup packed fresh cilantro
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup water, or more as needed to thin out
  • Salt to taste


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare an oven-safe baking dish by lining it with parchment paper or foil.

Combine the filling ingredients. Taste and season.

Fill peppers evenly with the filling and lay on the baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese, cover with foil and place in oven.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until filling is heated through.

Turn on your broiler and remove foil from the dish. Broil until cheese melts, about 1-2 minutes.

Combine all ingredients for the avocado sauce in a blender or food processor. Mix well and add more water as needed. Season to taste with salt.

Drizzle sauce over the chilis and serve.

quinoa salmon cakes

Sweet Potato Salmon Quinoa Cakes

Serves 4 (Total cost of recipe: $6.18/$1.55 a serving)

Salmon is the ultimate heart-healthy fish, thanks to its high omega 3 fat content. These fats are known to decrease the risk factors for heart disease because they:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lower triglycerides

Garlic adds flavor a number of medicinal benefits. It has been shown to reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure and inhibit the formation of blood clots, which reduces the risk of stroke.


  • 2 5-ounce cans of wild salmon (skinless and boneless, if possible), drained
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (1/3 cup raw)
  • 1 cup cooked and? mashed sweet potato
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 4 green onions, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ cup oat flour, or more as needed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Cornmeal (optional)


Place salmon in a mixing bowl and flake gently with a fork.

Add cooked quinoa, sweet potato, egg, green onions, garlic, turmeric, oat flour, salt and pepper.

Mix gently until evenly combined, being careful not to overmix. Shape the salmon mixture into patties.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add just enough oil to coat. If you don’t want to use too much, use an oil mister or put oil on a paper towel and coat the pan.

If you want a crisp crust, dredge the salmon cakes in cornmeal before cooking.

Cook for 3-5 minutes per side, or until lightly browned and heated through.

vegan vegetarian heart healthy roasted cauliflower black bean tacos

Black Bean and Roasted Cauliflower Tacos

This recipe combines two heart-healthy meat alternatives: black beans and cauliflower.

Roasted cauliflower is loaded with anti-inflammatory properties and is high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, according to Rankell.

Black beans also help reduce inflammation. They, too, are low in fat while being high in fiber and flavor.


Serves 6-8 (Total cost of recipe: $9.53/$1.19 a serving)

For roasted cauliflower:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 pounds)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 16 corn tortillas

For quick black beans:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Water as needed

For yogurt sauce:

  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • ¾ cups Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin

Optional toppings:

  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Lime wedges
  • Toasted pepitas
  • Diced onions
  • Shredded lettuce


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Toss cauliflower with garlic, olive oil, cumin, salt, paprika, pepper and turmeric until combined. Roast on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, tossing halfway through.

To make the beans, heat oil in a small pot. Add onions and sauté until onions turn translucent (about 5 minutes). Add beans, chili powder, cumin and, if needed, water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Season to taste.

For the yogurt sauce, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.

To assemble the tacos, fill a tortilla with cauliflower, black beans and desired toppings. Drizzle with yogurt sauce and serve.

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