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On the Menu: February is Heart Health Month

February is the month for hearts -- and we don't just mean Valentine's Day!

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — During the month of February, many people try to spice up their romantic relationships. Mercy Health Registered Dietitian Amy Bragagnini adds onto that theme with recipes to help spice up our relationships with heart-healthy food.  

Many of us know the basics of a heart healthy diet (i.e. eat less saturated fat/more monounsaturated fat, eat more fruits and veggies and whole grains, etc.) However, today we take it a step further and explain how to add zest to a traditional heart healthy diet. We will put some zing in the traditional veggie burger by making it with edamame! The paprika and turmeric add a smoky depth of flavor to the dish. Next, literal heat is added to hummus with the addition of some spicy hot sauce. Great Northern Beans replace the common chickpea and will add a layer of creamy flavor to the appetizer. If you are a fan of muffins, then you will love the healthy zip that sweet potatoes bring to the traditional muffin recipe. Finally, we livened up a usually boring kale salad by using spicy Dijon mustard in the dressing. All of the recipes are rich with vitamins and minerals that can help strengthen your heart. They contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and are high in fiber. Heart health never tasted so good!  

Edamame Rice Burger                    


  • 14 ounces of edamame
  • 1 cup of rice plus two cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed plus 6 tablespoons of water – mix them together in a small bowl until the mixture becomes thick and sticky. Let sit for ten minutes.
  • 2 cups of chopped spinach
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 1/2 of a teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1/4 of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional, add only if you like spicy food)


  1. For the rice: Bring the water to a boil and add the rice. Stir well and reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Keep covered.
  2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the edamame. Boil for 5 minutes, drain the water, and rinse with cold water. When the edamame is cool enough to touch remove the beans from the pods and place them in a bowl.
  3. Add the edamame beans to a food processor and process until it looks like tiny pebbles. Add the spinach, rice, flax eggs, garlic, cumin, paprika, turmeric, oregano, cayenne pepper (only if you like hot food), sea salt and pepper to a food processor and process until the mixture starts to form a ball.
  4. Remove the blade from the processor and form the mixture into patties. Make them as large or as small as you would like.
  5. Heat a large skillet on medium heat and drizzle with a teaspoon of avocado oil (optional if you have a non-stick pan). When the oil is got add the edamame burger and cook for four to five minutes or until firm and browned. Flip and cook the other side for four to five minutes. You can also bake in a 375° oven for fifteen to twenty minutes or until they begin to brown on top.
  6. Serve on a bun with lettuce and tomato and your favorite condiments or serve the patty on a bed of spinach with a drizzle of sriracha or serve as a patty and dip in soy sauce. 


Sweet Potato Muffins


  • 3 cups of mashed sweet potato see below for instructions
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed meal optional


  1. To prep the sweet potatoes (this can be done a day or so ahead if you want to break up the muffin-making process): Pierce the potatoes with a fork and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 45 minutes, or until the inside is soft when poked with a fork. Remove and let cool. When the potatoes are cool, peel off the skin and mash the sweet potato filling with a fork or masher until any big lumps are gone. Measure out 3 cups worth of filling.
  2. To make the muffins: In a large bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and then add the sweet potato.
  3. Pour into muffin tins/cups. If using flaxseed, sprinkle on top of the muffins. Bake at 325 for approximately 30 minutes.


Spicy Buffalo White Bean Hummus


  • 1/2 cup (85g) chopped red bell pepper (about half of a large one)
  • 4 large (15g) garlic cloves, with skins still on
  • two 15 oz cans of great Northern beans, drained & rinsed (or cannellini or navy beans)
  • 2 tablespoons (34g) tahini
  • 4-5 tablespoons (60g) hot sauce 
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) hot water
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Optional garnish: green onion


  1. First you will roast your bell pepper and garlic. Preheat an oven to 425°F and line a sheet pan with foil. Place the chopped bell pepper and garlic (with skins still on) on the pan. Roast for about 12 minutes until the bell pepper edges are beginning to brown.
  2. Meanwhile, add all of the remaining ingredients to a food processor. Start with just 4 tablespoons of the hot sauce. 4 tablespoons will give that nice spicy buffalo flavor and kick. Wait until after you've added the peppers and garlic to decide to add more. Blend for a couple of minutes until smooth, scraping the sides as necessary.
  3. Add the cooked bell peppers and garlic (with skins removed and roughly chopped) to the hummus and blend again for several minutes. You really want to let this run until it gets super smooth and creamy. Taste and add more hot sauce if desired.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle more hot sauce on top and stir in, if desired. It will make it spicier, so only do this if you want it extra spicy. For garnish, I love to add freshly chopped green onions.


Apple Dijon Kale Salad


  • 1/3 cup olive oil 
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard 
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 10-15 cranks freshly cracked pepper 
  • 1/2 lb chopped kale (about one bunch) 
  • 1 medium granny smith apple 
  • 1/4 cup raisins 
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves 


  1. Rinse the kale well in a colander under cool running water. Allow the kale to drain as you prepare the rest of the salad.
  2. In a blender combine the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, clove of garlic, salt, and pepper. Blend until the garlic is minced and the dressing is smooth.
  3. Wash the apple and slice it into thin wedges or dice it into cubes. Roughly chop the walnut halves. Make sure the kale is as dry as possible and then add it to a large bowl along with the apples, walnuts, and raisins. Starting with just half, drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Add more dressing as desired (I used the whole batch).



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