Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and whether you’re single or taken, it is an excellent opportunity to think about hearts, not just the candy kind. Since 1964, the president has annually declared February American Heart Month as a reminder to get families, friends, and communities involved in reinforcing the importance of heart health.
The good news is that heart disease is preventable or manageable in most cases with intentional choices. The Mississippi Department of Health reports cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, as the leading cause of death in Mississippi. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that having cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), might increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
You have heard these heart-healthy tips before — engage in regular exercise, adopt a diet lower in salt, limit saturated fats found in red meat and dairy, and avoid trans fat used in margarine and self-stable baked and snack foods. Focus on eating fats found in olive oils, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish that protect the heart — often substitute meat with Mississippi farm-raised catfish or Mississippi Seafood. Eat various vegetables, especially those rich in color — dark-green, red, and orange. Frozen fruits and vegetables canned in water or reduced sodium are also nutritious options. Don’t be overwhelmed by achieving a certain number of veggie servings. Set a goal of eating fruit, vegetable, or both at every meal and snack.
There is still room for sweet treats while caring for your precious heart. At least 70 percent of dark cocoa chocolate is high in flavonoids and is associated with a lower heart disease risk. You can enjoy 1 to 2 ounces daily to reap the benefits of heart. Keep dark chocolate nibs in your pantry to add to oatmeal, yogurt, muffins, pancakes, or trail mixes. With any dessert, portion control matters more than trying to substitute all the calories away. Bake treats using whole fruits, and limit the slice to the size of a deck of cards. Use dark chocolate to dunk fruit in, like strawberries, raspberries, or even bananas. Create a cake in a mug for a perfectly portioned, quick-to-make, sweet treat. When you have leftover cake or more time in the kitchen, give cake pops a try for a twist to single-serve indulgences.
February may be the shortest month, but it’s enough time to improve your heart health significantly. Today is the perfect time to jump-start or rekindle a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Strawberry Upside Down Cake
For the topping
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup fresh ripe sliced strawberries
For the batter
- 1 box strawberry cake mix
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated white sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 ⅓ cup water
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extra
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 large egg whites
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- You will need a bundt pan or a 9-inch round baking pan. Give the desired cake pan a good coat of nonstick spray.
- In a small pot (or in the microwave), melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the brown sugar to the butter and mix the two. Spread the topping you made evenly over the bottom of your cake pan and place your sliced strawberries on top of the topping.
- Whisk together cake mix, flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and beat with a hand mixer until well blended.
- Pour the cake batter carefully into the pan without moving the fruit on the bottom. Fill the cake pan ¾ way full. If you use a 9-inch round pan – There is a chance you’ll have leftover batter. Enjoy cupcakes or make an additional smaller cake, double the topping steps.
- Place the cake into a 350-degree preheated oven and bake for 30 – 35 minutes. Check the cake with a toothpick inserted in the center to see if it comes out clean to make sure the cake is baked through.
- Remove the cake from the oven to a wire rack to cool for five or ten minutes. When it’s cooled for 5 or 10 minutes, place a serving plate over the top of the pan. Flip the cake over onto the plate and remove the pan. Let the cake cool down completely before cutting and serving it.
Microwave Mug Cake
- 2 tbsp. self-rising flour
- 1 1/2 tbsp. no-calorie sweetener (or table sugar)
- 2 tsp. cocoa powder
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp. milk
- 1 tsp. oil
- 1 drop of vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp dark chocolate nibs
- Combine the flour, sweetener, cocoa powder, and salt in the mug. Whisk gently until no lumps remain. *If you don’t have self-rising flour, use all-purpose flour + ⅛ baking powder.
- Stir in the milk, olive oil, and vanilla until smooth.
- Pop in the microwave on high for 30-35 seconds. Don’t overcook! The cake will continue to cook as it sets and cools.
- Cool 3-5 minutes.
Make it your own and serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, topped with berries, or go wild and add a drizzle of chocolate sauce!