Cooking Up Romance

Hand dipping fresh strawberry in melted chocolate

When Valentine's Day comes around, many people head for the candy store, florist or a fancy restaurant to say "I love you." For a fraction of the cost, you can make a wonderful sit-down meal. When you give the gift of a personally prepared meal, the recipient also gets the care and attention you put into it. That is one of the great gifts of cooking.

The recipes below were developed by Chef Reggie, a patient at Northwest Kidney Centers. Try this romantic menu for a low-salt meal sure to please your sweetheart and your heart.

Chicken Milanese

½ cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
¾ cup panko crumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and lightly pounded to quarter-inch thickness (check the label at the store and avoid buying meat with added salt water)
Olive oil for frying

Set up a standard breading procedure with three wide, deep plates. Fill one with flour, one with beaten eggs and one with the panko and Parmesan cheese mixed together. Lay chicken in the flour mixture, turn it over, then move it to the egg mixture, then through the bread crumbs. Place on a flat plate and refrigerate one hour.

Pour a quarter-inch of olive oil into a large frying pan. Bring to medium-high heat. Be sure oil is hot before cooking the chicken on both sides until golden brown and crispy, about 4–5 minutes. Do not crowd the pan or the chicken will become greasy and soggy. Remove breasts and lay on paper towels to drain off excess oil. Chicken can be kept warm in a low-heat oven. Serve with white wine sauce (recipe below). Makes 2 servings.

Nutritional information (per serving): Calories: 546, Carbohydrates: 47 grams, Protein: 37 grams, Sodium: 344 milligrams

White Wine Sauce

¼ cup white wine
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted

In the pan you used for the chicken, drain out the remaining olive oil, then add the wine and stir over medium heat until pan bottom is clear. Whisk in flour until you have a smooth paste. Slowly add chicken broth, whisking constantly until you have sauce consistency. Remove from heat, add butter and parsley. Serve over chicken. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional information (per serving): Calories: 40, Carbohydrates: 2 grams, Protein: 1 gram, Sodium: 132 milligrams, Potassium; 54 milligrams

Winter Vegetable Medley

Half bunch broccoli, cut into florets
Half head cauliflower, cut into florets
Garlic powder to taste
Zest and juice of one lemon

In a large pot fitted with a steamer basket, bring water to a boil and add broccoli and cauliflower. Cook for about 6-8 minutes until tender. Transfer vegetables to a serving bowl. Toss with garlic powder, lemon zest and lemon juice. Serves two.

Nutritional information (per serving): Calories: 56, Carbohydrates: 3 grams, Protein: 1 gram, Sodium: 39 milligrams

Strawberries Dipped in Ganache

1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 pint strawberries

Bring cream to a boil. Put chocolate in a bowl and whisk in the cream. Let mixture cool a little. Dip strawberries in the mixture and lay them on wax paper to set. Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional information (per serving): Calories: 174, Carbohydrates: 32 grams, Protein: 4 grams, Sodium: 13 milligrams    

Note: The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.

Contributor Katy G. Wilkens, a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers, is the 2013 recipient of National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition’s Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award. She has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at www.nwkidney.org.