When we think of Valentine’s Day, we often imagine a romantic candlelit dinner for two in a fine dining restaurant. Unfortunately this year will look a bit different, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose the luster. Immunity is more important than ever during COVID. We are all experiencing pandemic fatigue, but we’ve found a way to celebrate at home in a healthy way.
“This is really an elegant menu perfect for Valentine’s Day. Everything in here says healthy, but would be served in a 5 star restaurant.” Paulette Lambert, R.D., CDE. “Too much inflammation limits your body’s ability to fight invaders like the coronavirus. These foods will help boost your T-cells and overall immune system.”
Don’t stress! This romantic antioxidant-filled Valentine’s menu is totally doable, even for the novice chef. “You don’t want to feel like you had to slave away in the kitchen for hours to create something amazing and special” states Lambert.
Starter – Carrot & Beet Soup
Main Course – Pan Seared Scallops w/ Cauliflower Mash and Tangerine Reduction
Dessert – Red Wine Chocolate Cake
(Full recipes attached below)
Fish oil has strong anti-inflammatory effects due to the omega-3 fatty acids. They can reduce the production of molecules and substances such as eicosanoids and cytokines (the same invaders that cause a Cytokine storm in severe COVID).
Cauliflower boosts immunity as it contains the antioxidants carotenoids and flavonoids, which reduce the risk of illness such as heart disease and COVID-19. It is also high in vitamin C providing your body with that extra layer of protection.
BEETS / CARROTS
“Carrots have 5 times more antioxidant availability when cooked down, as it increases their level of beta-carotene,” says Lambert. “Beets are particularly rich in a group of antioxidants called betalains which also give them their deep reddish color and contain compounds that protect your vascular health which is really important in fighting COVID.”
CHOCOLATE / WINE
Flavanols found in dark chocolate and cocoa, improve vascular health and lower inflammation increasing overall immunity. Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in red wine, helps with cardiovascular health by protecting the lining of the heart’s blood vessels.
Some other tips from Lambert include, “Eating 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Be sure to aim for vibrant color, as those have more antioxidants, such as bright strawberries, yellow bell peppers, red cabbage and green spinach.”
A healthy diet is one way to fight COVID, but not the only way. Chronic stress, smoking, high alcohol consumption, excess weight, and the bacteria in our gut, can activate inflammation. Leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle is the key.
So grab your partner and loved ones this holiday, and get cooking! Create a new Valentine’s Day tradition without sparing any expense. You’ll be boosting your immunity against COVID while protecting your family at the same time.
Caramelized Beet & Carrot Soup
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 large shallots, sliced
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- Pinch of dried red pepper flakes
- 3 lbs. carrots, peeled, sliced
- 1 lb. trimmed red beets, peeled, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 2 tsp. ground coriander
- 2 qts. reduced sodium, fat-free, organic, chicken broth
- 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
- Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add sliced shallots, thyme leaves, bay leaves and red pepper flakes. Cook until shallots become soft and transparent, about 3 minutes.
- Add carrots, beets and coriander. Sauté until golden and lightly browned.
- Add broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender.
- Discard the bay leaves.
- Purée soup in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to soup pot.
- Stir in the vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Garnish with a dollop of yogurt and pine nuts.
Seared Scallops with Cauliflower Puree and Tangerine Reduction
- 1 cup tangerine or orange juice
- 1 large head of cauliflower
- 1 Tbsp. no trans fat margarine
- ¼ cup fat-free half and half
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. canola oil
- 1½ lbs. jumbo scallops, rinse and pat dry
- 2 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, finely chopped
- Pour tangerine juice in small sauce pan and place over medium heat, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Continue to reduce and simmer until juice is thick and syrupy. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, steam cauliflower, covered, in steamer over medium heat for 6-8 minutes until fork tender. Drain well. Add cauliflower, margarine, half and half to food processor, process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, cover to keep warm and set aside.
- Place large sauté pan over medium-high heat and heat until very hot. Add canola oil and coat pan with oil. Season scallops with salt and pepper. Place in sauté pan and sear for 2-3 minutes on each side. (Do not move scallops around in pan or they will not sear).
- To plate, heat cauliflower puree until hot. Spoon ¼ of puree on bottom of each serving plate, top with scallops, and drizzle with 1 Tbsp. tangerine reduction and sprinkle with chopped tarragon.
Red Wine Chocolate Cake
- ½ cup fruity olive oil
- 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon, at room temperature
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 Tbsp. fat free ½ and ½
- 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp. Cabernet Sauvignon warmed
- Flaky sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper.
- Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together granulated sugar, egg and olive oil in a large bowl until pale; whisk in 1 cup wine and vanilla. Add flour mixture, and whisk to combine. Scrape batter into prepared pan, and smooth top.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cake cool completely.
- Place chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high in 20-second intervals until melted, stirring between intervals. Whisk in ½ & ½, powdered sugar and wine. Let stand at room temperature until slightly thickened.
- Invert cake onto a plate, and invert again onto a platter. Spread ganache on top, letting it drip down sides. Sprinkle flakey sea salt, and let stand until ganache sets, about 30 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.