By Emily Earhart
17 Jul

Food From and For the Heart: Introducing ACHA’s New Recipe Blog

Friday, July 17, 2020

In response to the success of my Midweek Motivation cooking and baking sessions, ACHA and I are excited to introduce a series of food blog posts featuring heart-healthy recipes to help you stay strong and thrive.

I'm Emily Earhart, ACHA’s California Regional Development Leader, a former chef and food educator, as well as a CHD patient. I have a diploma from Le Cordon Bleu and a Master’s in Food Anthropology from the University of London. I worked for several years in the hospitality industry, including opening a successful restaurant and teaching hands-on farm-to-plate cooking classes to both kids and adults for many years. After a recent period of declining health and two open-heart surgeries as an adult, I was reminded of the critical role food plays in our healing, health and well-being. I'm excited to share some of my favorite recipes and tips for mindful, healthy eating.

In this inaugural post, I will share with you a few of my go-to recipes for making quick and healthy lunches at home, which is especially relevant in the current climate of stay-at-home policies.


Tomato Cucumber Salad
Serves 2-4


¾ lb. cucumber (preferably Persian cucumbers)

1 lb. tomatoes (preferably cherry tomatoes)

½ red onion

1 tsp. dried mint

¼ c. fresh lime or lemon juice

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste


-Dice cucumbers and red onion. Halve or quarter the tomatoes.

-Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir together.

-Keeps in refrigerator up to 2 days.

Optional: You can add or replace ingredients with whatever you prefer or what you have on hand. Consider using bell peppers or other crunchy peppers, fresh herbs, vinegar instead of citrus, and adding some protein such as feta cheese. Serve alongside a grain or salad.


Use-What-You-Got Grain Salad
Serves 2-4


1 c. quinoa (or other grain: whole wheat couscous, bulger wheat, faro, spelt, etc.)

2/3 c. chopped dried fruit (apricots, raisins, cranberries, figs)

¼ c. chopped cilantro

¼ c. chopped mint

½ c. chopped parsley

¼ c. toasted nuts (pistachios, almonds, etc.)

2 tsp. lemon zest

Salt and pepper to taste


¼ c. fresh lemon juice

1 small garlic clove, minced

¼ tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. pomegranate molasses or honey

1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil 


-Cook quinoa or other grain according to packaging instructions. Set aside in a bowl to cool.

-Chop dried fruit, fresh herbs and nuts, and toss to combine with grains.

-In a smaller bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until thoroughly combined. Pour dressing over grain mixture. Add lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until everything is evenly coated.

-Enjoy this as a side dish to a protein or on a bed of lettuce for a salad. I love eating this alongside some hummus, olives and pita bread!


Emily’s Homemade Hummus
Yields 2 cups


½ c. tahini

2 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Ice Cold Water, as needed

1 can drained garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

Salt, to taste


-In a food processor or blender, combine garlic and tahini and blend until smooth.

-Add lemon juice and 1 Tbsp. of ice-cold water and blend. Add garbanzo beans and blend for 5 minutes, adding water as needed to get a smooth consistency. Add salt to taste.

-Store in the refrigerator overnight to get best flavor. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika before serving. Keeps in fridge for 1 week.


Heart Healthy Takeaways

Olive Oil is a fabulous heart-healthy fat: rich in antioxidants, vitamin E and monosaturated fats, it helps protect against LDL (bad) cholesterol oxidation. Consider using olive oil in place of vegetable oil or butter in baking and use to drizzle on salads instead of fatty, creamy dressings. When using olive oil for drizzling, it’s worth getting cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, which is less processed, less refined, more pure and more delicious!

A diet full of whole grains can help reduce cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and improve cardiovascular disease outcomes. Many whole grains such as quinoa, spelt, kamut, teff and oatmeal are also exceptionally high in protein content, which is a great alternative protein source to fatty meats and high cholesterol dairy products.

Beans and legumes are other great sources of protein that are low in fat. Garbanzo beans or chickpeas are high in magnesium and potassium which boosts heart health, while also providing lots of protein and fiber. Creamy, nutty and versatile, they can be used in salads, stews, side dishes or even in baking!

It’s a no brainer that eating lots of fresh veggies, fruits and herbs is good for your health because of all the fiber, essential nutrients and vitamins they provide. But did you know that spices and fresh herbs can be heart healthy too? Regular consumption of cinnamon has been shown to decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol; cardamom has been shown to lower blood pressure and fresh garlic and ginger have shown to have positive effects on heart health. So add some extra garlic in that hummus and spice up your meals in the name of heart health!


Add yours below.


The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.