While the rest of the world celebrates Valentines Day as the day for lovers often represented with a heart. For me, it is not as much about intoxicating romance, as it is a very sober day of gratitude about my heart.
A healthy, functioning heart. Just over a year ago I underwent open heart surgery to correct a sub aortic stenosis – a rare birth defect that was beginning to damage my aortic valve. I’m so grateful to my doctor, who is one of the rare few that still takes the time to really listen to their patients. He didn’t dismiss my complaints of fatigue, and caught a heart murmur he didn’t like the sound of during a routine check-up. He most likely saved my life.
I don’t talk about the surgery much, because people jump to conclusions. I get tired of that condescending look when I mention it, insinuating I haven’t taken care of myself since I needed OHS at such an early age. Not all heart disease is lifestyle related – mine was hereditary, but that wouldn’t make me any less dead if my doctor hadn’t caught it. An angiogram is routine procedure before they open you up, because they will want to clear any blockages while they are in there, and my surgeon proudly presented me with a Hershey’s kiss to let me know my arteries were clear and to celebrate my not having to be on a special diet or medication.
Still, I let the first anniversary (January 27th) pass quietly, choosing to isolate myself with work in an attempt to brush it off as if it were no big deal. Then Barbara Walters did a special about her own heart surgery and interviewed others about their experience. It is a big deal – even though the fatality rate is only two percent, as David Letterman explained – it’s still the “Mac Daddy of surgeries.” Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone. It helps to hear others who have been through it tell their stories. It also saves lives, so that is why I’m sharing it with you again now.
The majority of you that read this blog are women, and society thinks heart disease is a man’s disease. Heart disease is the number one killer in America, and over half of those deaths are women. Unlike men, most women have different symptoms which are all too often misdiagnosed I actually flew to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion because I felt perfectly healthy other than a little more fatigue than usual. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the symptoms on their website, and why women are actually at higher risk than men here. It could save your life too.
Most of us have routine mammograms after forty, because we know to be cautious of breast cancer.Yet, more of us will die from heart disease than breast cancer, so wouldn’t it be wise to press your doctor for the tests to determine if your heart is healthy too? Especially if heart disease runs in your family history, or you experience any symptoms.
According to the Urban Dictionary, “‘I heart you‘ means that you actually love the person but do not yet feel comfortable saying those famous three little words.” I hope this post adds a new definition of the phrase, and Valentines Day will become a reminder to think about your heart, not just those you choose to share it with.
Now from my gratefully beating heart to yours…
Ruby Beet Risotto
In my opinion beets are a highly misunderstood, underused ingredient. This unusual risotto makes such a striking first course, or a satisfying main course coupled with a salad tossed in Balsamic Fig Vinaigrette – making it a perfect choice for Valentines Day. The natural red color makes you think romance, and did you know figs have long been considered an aphrodisiac?
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound beets, peeled and coarsely shredded
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
8 ounces Pecorino cheese, divided
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
salt and pepper to taste
1). In a medium saucepan, bring chicken stock to a simmer. Meanwhile, thinly shave two ounces of the cheese for garnish, set aside. Grate remaining 6 ounces of cheese, set aside.
2). Melt butter with olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic, sauté until softened and beginning to brown. Add the shredded beets and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place half the cooked beets in a bowl; set aside. Add Arborio rice to the remaining beets and shallots, and stir well, for two minutes.
3). Add wine and cook over medium heat until liquid is almost completely absorbed. Add hot chicken broth, one cup at a time, stirring frequently until nearly absorbed, repeating the process until risotto is al dente in a thick sauce, about 20 minutes.
4). Stir in the grated cheese and caraway seeds and season to taste. Serve hot topped with Pecorino shavings.
Serving Suggestions: Serve as a first course, or with Arugula tossed in a Balsamic-Fig Dressing as a main course.