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Food for the Heart

May 3, 2022   Return

Box of gourmet chocolates? Check. Bouquet of carnations? Check. Tickets to that romantic comedy currently playing in movie theatres? Check. Dinner reservations for two? Well… you might want to reconsider that one. Although dining out has become the norm for many couples when celebrating Valentine’s Day, why not try something different and opt for a home-cooked meal instead come this February 14th?

Now, before you protest in indignation (after all, Valentine’s Day is the time for romance and many people’s idea of romance does not involve slaving over a stove), hear me out. Although eating out has its perks, it does have its downsides – health issues being a major one.

Statistics show that Malaysia has emerged top in South-east Asia for the prevalence of both diabetes and obesity. Upon closer inspection, one of the causes for this worrying situation was found to be excessive calorie intake. According to 2005’s Recommended Nutrient Intakes (RNI) for Malaysia, men require only 1900- 2200 calories whereas women require only 1770- 2145 calories daily. However, Malaysian cuisine is so rich in sugar and fat that a plate of nasi lemak accompanied with a fried egg and fried chicken contains as many as 934 calories!

These are all alarming figures but it is never too late to change. Modifying your dietary choices can be the first step. The American Heart Association recommends swapping unhealthy ingredients for healthier ones when cooking to cut down on unnecessary fats. For instance, replacing butter and shortening with cooking spray and low-sodium broth or swapping mayonnaise with low-fat yogurt.

But as great as these food swaps are, cooking can still be quite a drag, right? Not necessarily. With the right cooking methods and equipment, meal preparations can be straight-forward, convenient and even, fun. Take the airfryer, for example. A good airfryer takes only a matter of minutes to pre-heat while ensuring the perfect browning of fried food (crispy on the surface and oh-so-tender on the inside!). Also, airfryers can be used not only for frying but also for roasting, baking and grilling. Talk about multipurpose!

So, what’s a more refreshing way to spice things up this Valentine’s Day than impressing your loved one with a delectable homemade meal? Even better, get him or her involved in the cooking! Preparing a meal together is a great opportunity for some bonding time.

Here are several scrumptious, healthy recipes from Heart-y Meals: Smart Guide To Guilt-Free Cooking to help you get started. Happy cooking!

Herbs Crusted Fish with Spaghetti

Contributed by Azwan Ibrahim & Nur Laili Dasril (Diabetes Education Clinic)

For 1 pax 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

130g            Seabass, bones removed or use fillet only

¾ tsp           Salt

1tsp             Black pepper

10g              Bread crumbs

20g              Oats

10g              White sesame seeds

10g              Black sesame seeds

40g              Spaghetti (uncooked)

1 tbsp          Olive oil

10g              Garlic

30g              Spinach, blended

30ml            Low fat milk

10ml            Lemon juice

20g              Parsley, roughly chopped

20g              Capsicum

5g               Dried chili flakes

  1. Marinate fish with ¼ tsp salt, black pepper, bread crumbs, oats, white and black sesame for 15 minutes.
  2. Place the fish into the Philips Airfryer at 180C for 15 minutes until it is cooked. Leave aside.
  3. Boil spaghetti in boiling water until al dente.
  4. Sauté half of the garlic in olive oil. Add blended spinach, low fat milk, lemon juice and ¼ tsp salt and stir until it is thick. Blend the mixture.
  5. Sauté the rest of the garlic, chopped parsley, capsicum, dried chili flakes and ¼ tsp salt until fragrant. Then, add spaghetti and mix well. Set aside.
  6. Pour the spinach sauce in a plate. Roll up the spaghetti and top it with fish slices.

Chicken Roll with Garlic Cream Sauce

Contributed by Azwan Ibrahim & Nur Laili Dasril (Diabetes Education Clinic)

For 1 pax

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

150g            Chicken breast, skin & fats removed

½ tsp           Salt

5g               Black pepper

5g               Cajun powder

5g               Paprika powder

1 medium    Onion, 50% cut in rings, 50% finely chopped

60g              Asparagus, cut into 2 inches in length

3 no             Cherry tomatoes, cut into halves

1 no             Egg, beaten

10g              Flour

10g              Bread crumbs

1 tsp            Vegetable oil

3 cloves       Garlic

15 ml           Low fat milk

30 ml           Water

  1. Marinate chicken breast with ¼ tsp salt, paprika and Cajun powder.
  2. Lay half the amount of onion, asparagus and cherry tomatoes on the chicken breast.
  3. Brush the egg on the chicken breast and dip in the flour and bread crumbs.
  4. Airfry at 180C for 15 minutes. Remove from the airfryer and cut into an inch in thickness.
  5. Sauté garlic and chopped onion in vegetable oil until fragrant. Add low fat milk and ¼ tsp salt. Stir until it thickens. Turn off heat.
  6. Pour the gravy over the air fried chicken rolls.

Cherry Shortbread

Contributed by Mary Easaw (Dietetics & Food Services)

For 10 slices

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

80g              Soft margarine

25g              Castor sugar

49g              Corn flour, sifted

80g              Plain flour

20g              Glazed red cherry, finely chopped

  1. Cream the margarine, castor sugar and corn flour until the colour becomes light and pale.
  2. Add cherries and plain flour. Knead to form a soft, smooth dough. Chill the dough for half an hour.
  3. Place the dough into a rectangle baking tray and press until the thickness is about 1 cm.
  4. Prick the surface using a fork all over the top of the dough.
  5. Pre-heat the airfryer for 6 minutes at 160C. Place the baking tray in and bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from the airfryer and cut into thick slices to serve.

For more yummy, heart-y recipes, grab a copy of Heart-y Meals: Smart Guide To Guilt-Free Cooking from IJN Diet Consultant Clinic (Ground Floor Block A & Block B, (03) 2600 6596/6942) or FATCHECK Secretariat (, (03) 7961 1868).  

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