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?

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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.

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  • February 13, 2011
    4:32 pm

    Hi Jewels! I can't really say that I have anything to add here, other than I'm so glad your doctor took you seriously and that you're now healthy and doing well. This blog is such a postitive, happy spot in my day, and I thank you for providing that. As we say here in the South, "Bless your heart, sugar!" :)

  • February 13, 2011
    4:33 pm

    I'm sure I can say on behalf of all of us who enjoy your blog that we're so glad that your doctor took such good care of you and that as a result you're now healthier than you've ever been.It's rather a good idea for those of us who are allergic to valentines day to start remembering the day as a time to look after our hearts, so I shall pass the thought on. :) There's hereditary heart disease in my family that I seem to have thus far escaped, but I hear your message loud and clear.And I have to say that it's a much more positive thing to remember than my memories of valentines day as a receptionist and being overwhelmed by the epic amounts of soppy lacking-in-imagination gifts clogging up my desk all day awaiting overly emotional recipients. A have a low synthetic romance threshold. Unfortunately I used to combat it by pointing out inappropriate gifts (I'm into the language of flowers) which in hindsight may have been a little unkind, especially for those who received yellow roses. Ooops.

  • February 13, 2011
    5:44 pm

    Hi Jewels! I just wanted to say that a few years ago my father underwent major heart surgery,after a very sudden heart attack that could have instantaneously killed him. He is and was a very athletic and healthy man,which is part of the reason he survived,and this attack took us all by surprise. Even the doctors said that my fathers heart was in otherwise good condition,and that his cholesterol levels were low. After several days of a series of tests and ,the doctors finally concluded that he had a calcified aortic valve,which is hereditary. We didn't know that such a thing existed,and as to our knowledge nobody else in the family had ever been diagnosed as such. We suspect that my great uncle,who for no apparent reason collapsed and died suddenly many years ago,and at a fairly young age(40),may have also actually suffered from a calcified aortic valve. I'm sharing this to help let others know,that it is absolutely true,not everyone who has heart surgery ,had to do so because they didn't eat healthy foods,exercise,or take care of themselves,and to also make people aware that it is important for everyone to know of any hereditary heart "diseases or flaws" that may run in their families. Thanks for the time,Aimee..

  • February 13, 2011
    7:15 pm

    "I heart you"? What the hell is that? That is what you say about cities.That is way too cold for this Latin man. I love you, and I am glad that guy was your doctor.And just a side note here. You are an awesome woman, you exude more aliveness and passion for life than almost anyone I know. You are a lot more "intoxicating romance" than "sober days of gratitude". Don't give that up, in fact you probably can't even if you want to, because that is who you are. You just need to find a man that is not intimidated by the exquisiteness of your femininity, and let him be grateful for your life

  • February 13, 2011
    8:19 pm

    This is a great post. Women should be concerned about heart issues. I heart beets especially after this recipe. xo Happy Valentines Day :)

  • February 13, 2011
    11:51 pm

    So happy you had a wonderful weekend get away! The recipe looks wonderful and maybe something that I could make for a special dinner party coming up in about 2 months. More importantly, I am so happy that your surgery was successful and you're back up to full speed again. I lost my mother when she had heart surgery 48 years ago. Thank goodness for all the advances in medical technology, it kept you with us. Keep doing what you're doing, you don't know how many people you have helped with your blog.

  • February 14, 2011
    2:08 am

    how pretty!Lane Morris Buckman

  • February 14, 2011
    2:09 am

    Amazing blog Jewels,you're so right about having tests to take care our health;glad you're ok dear,and thanks for the yummy risotto!!!XXXMariFer Cruz Ortega

  • February 14, 2011
    2:20 am

    What a great Valentines Day treat to feel all that love from you all!Luis, I don't think you need to tell us you are latin – your every word reeks of passion and romance (I sure hope there is a very lucky and deserving woman who is benefitting from your immense tenderness and fire), and thank you for reminding me to find mine again.Just back from a weekend filled to the brim with love, but exhausted, so more later everyone.Hugs,Jewels xo

  • February 14, 2011
    3:51 am

    No lucky woman ;0) but I have a good excuse, I'm on my way to a Buddhist monastery for about a year. Sorry to put you on the spot in a public forum, but what is your excuse? ……..Other than men must be blind over there

  • February 14, 2011
    4:04 am

    I haven't given up Luis, I've actually made a conscious decision that I lack the time a relationship would demand right now, and have a history of letting career's fall by the wayside for love. I can't afford to make that mistake again – this is just too important to me right now. Men will still be on the planet when I'm ready to devote energy to that part of my life again, but thank you for the concern.Does that mean you will be incommunicado for a whole year???

  • February 14, 2011
    5:01 pm

    This is something that has been at the forefront after a recent doctor's visit – I had no idea that heart disease ran in my family until I finally broke down and asked. It really is important that we all take care of ourselves and recognize if something just doesn't feel right. Thank you for posting your story Jewels!

  • February 14, 2011
    5:28 pm

    Glad you had a good doctor!

  • February 14, 2011
    5:44 pm

    Very important post Julie Anne! As women we associate heart attacks with men but plenty of women are affected by heart disease. I can't believe people give condescending looks about your surgery, shocking! Even if it weren't genetic like anyone should judge!You're here and we are happy for it! Have a Happy Valentine's Day!Cupcakexo

  • February 14, 2011
    5:49 pm

    LOVLEY PHOTOXXAntoinette Alteresco

  • February 14, 2011
    5:49 pm

    Old Hello Magazine, but thanks!

  • February 14, 2011
    5:53 pm

    Stay well Lys, and thanks Wendy! Cupcake, they aren't so much condescending as it just bothers me that everyone automatically assumes, and worries me they think lifestyle is all they have to worry about.

  • February 14, 2011
    7:25 pm

    Happy Saint Valentine's day Jewels!!!XXXMariFer Cruz Ortega

  • February 14, 2011
    7:42 pm

    happy valentine´s day for you my dear…Steffken le Bon

  • February 14, 2011
    9:50 pm

    Lovely blog Jewels.Thank God for doctors. Especially those that care and take the time to really LISTEN.We can all be gratefull and thankfull for the amazing surgeons out there also. Here's to a happy heart and long life.Aussie Mum :)

  • February 15, 2011
    4:20 pm

    Jewels, I'm so glad you are okay. When I had my emergency surgery at Thanksgiving, originally I thought I was having a heart attack…thankfully it wasn't (gall bladder)..but it scared me enough to get a full work up on my heart, especially since I'm "obese"…I was happy I got the clean bill of health from my angiogram…but I feel even more mindful of the possibility of heart disease after that scary feeling! Just the 6 months I've spent doing Zumba and treadmill has improved my blood pressure dramatically. It's awesome how just a little bit can help our heart health. ~Mari

  • February 15, 2011
    5:03 pm

    HH DD JJ RULESSSSSSSSSS<<<<<<<<Bobby Butz

  • February 15, 2011
    5:35 pm

    Glad you're still around!! HUGSJustine Owls

  • February 15, 2011
    5:36 pm

    Me too! And touched by all the people who have said so – what a great Valentines Day gift.

  • February 15, 2011
    5:47 pm

    Well, sometimes we don't realize how far the ripples of our life extend.Justine Owls

  • February 15, 2011
    5:48 pm

    you're a surivor of the best kind :) and what a stunning picturePhoenix Lebon-Taylor

  • February 15, 2011
    5:49 pm

    That was BEAUTIFUL Justine! Thank you Pheonix – it's from Hello Magazine in 1993 (old). I forgot to label the pics on the blog.

  • February 15, 2011
    6:43 pm

    Also due to a genetic issue, I will someday have to have OHS and it scares the crap out of me. It's very helpful to hear stories like yours; takes a bit of the fear away. Thank you for sharing and all the best to your continued good health.Also, beets rule.-Amanda Pants

  • February 15, 2011
    7:50 pm

    you do have big ripples :) XOXO

  • February 15, 2011
    9:10 pm

    Moved into the new house, ordered take out of Lamb Shanks, Lobster Thermidor & Filet, CousCous, Pecan & Raspberry Vin Salad, Coconut Ice Cream, Candles, Wife & Not telling anymore.Joe DiMaggio Jr.

  • February 15, 2011
    9:11 pm

    LOL … I'm glad you liked that one, Julie Anne. Did you read the story I did for Amanda de Cadenet??Justine Owls

  • February 15, 2011
    9:12 pm

    ah you are STILL that glamorous I've seen the recent pics ;)Phoenix Lebon-Taylor

  • February 15, 2011
    9:13 pm

    Ooooooo, this is such a GORGEOUS picture of a GORGEOUS girl… xoJulia Negron

  • February 15, 2011
    9:13 pm

    you were so beautiful and still are – and you are a nice person too – which is rare having both!Rachel Day

  • February 15, 2011
    9:13 pm

    ooooooohhhhh u r sooooo beautiful…Steffken le Bon

  • February 15, 2011
    9:14 pm

    Nick should never have let you go girl, you are stunning, and talented!!!Laurie Snyder

  • February 15, 2011
    9:14 pm

    I'd kill to look like you for one damn day! :)Rhonda Griffith

  • February 15, 2011
    9:15 pm

    No Justine – I clicked on the link and it didn't take me anywhere – tweet me again.

  • February 15, 2011
    11:32 pm

    Most of us fail to realize that heart disease is the #1 killer among women… So glad you are healthy and sharing delicious recipes with us!

  • February 15, 2011
    11:40 pm

    Heart Shaped Rib Eye, Broccoli with Parmesan, and a romantic walk afterwards.Laura Dodd-Hodges

  • February 16, 2011
    12:34 am

    Jewels… I have been a fan of yours since I was a teen , saw you then, see you now , you are a stunning beauty on the outside but also on the inside…… then and NOW…. thank you so much for sharing alot of your life with us… truly appreciated…. and I promise i won't go killing anything! lolRhonda Griffith

  • February 16, 2011
    12:35 am

    ‎" I heart you too" xoxoxo Blessed be sweetie~Anitra DeLorenzo

  • February 16, 2011
    1:59 am

    I agree with Rhonda, I have been in awe of your beauty since you arrived on the scene in my Duran Duran world. I was in love with Nick, but was not jealous that you married him, I was jealous because I so wanted to look like you. I think your also a strong woman who we could all learn from. You have overcome alot in your life and yet your positive, and stylish.Laurie Snyder

  • February 16, 2011
    2:00 am

    Beautiful … as you are now.Madeleine Gallay

  • February 16, 2011
    6:31 am

    Well, I learned how to use Quicken – kinda. Not very sexy, but useful.

  • February 16, 2011
    7:01 am

    Here Julie Anne, this should take you directly to the group: http://amandadecadenetcommunity.com/forum/topics/a-mothers-love-by-justineJustin Owls

  • February 16, 2011
    7:01 am

    OMG, Justine – that was so beautifully written and hauntingly honest. As alone and desperate as you may feel at times – never, ever give up, and know that you are not alone.I come from at least 3 generations of ADD (that I know of). You could have been describing me when I was young in your description of Kirra – except I was an angel at school, then turned into a little monster that tormented my mother at home.If it is any consolation – I do adore my mother now, and have FINALLY given up the temper tantrums, so hang in there. I'm not a strong believer in labels, but I am in maternal instinct. Trust your gut, and you will know how to help her, even if the "experts" don't. Sounds to me like you already do.

  • February 16, 2011
    10:18 am

    HelloGood Day, Your idea is really great,I'll come back to see more of your work.-Kathywww.healthandwellnessconsultants.com

  • February 16, 2011
    4:30 pm

    Really important stuff. My son has a heart murmur and I'm always having to look out for his health. Thanks for sharing. I'm glad you're well. You look great!Heather Hartzell

  • February 16, 2011
    4:30 pm

    So very true. Stunning picture, you look beautiful.AnnaMaria Lisenby-Fann

  • February 16, 2011
    4:31 pm

    Thank you AnnaMaria, and wishing your son well Heather.

  • February 16, 2011
    5:02 pm

    ..thx for sharing with us..right now my heart is in the Hospital with my grandfather… you look beautiful as always!!! ♥China Barbara

  • February 16, 2011
    5:02 pm

    Wishing her well China!

  • February 16, 2011
    10:19 pm

    Thank you for those deep words….I'm trying to follow what you said: have a walk during lunch time at work…it helps a lot. Thank you for your help.Giuliana Iannotta

  • February 16, 2011
    10:19 pm

    ‎…Thx soooooo much Jewels, I hope so ♥China Barbara

  • February 16, 2011
    10:20 pm

    Glad that the doctor realised and that you are still here!Isabel Ortiz Bernad

  • February 16, 2011
    10:20 pm

    My Grandfather passed away from heart disease.My Mom and Uncles have undergone open heart surgery,it's a struggle for our family.Terri Berri

  • February 16, 2011
    10:20 pm

    Yeah I hear ya girlie. Glad your doing better, and yeah I have a daughter, who is 18, and has had some issues with her heart. I am getting my son checked out, as "heart" issues run rampant in both sides of their families.Laurie Snyder

  • February 16, 2011
    10:21 pm

    So beautiful!Rhonda Davis Crombie

  • February 16, 2011
    10:22 pm

    Well said chef and gad you're doing well…Rupert Henning Belfrage

  • February 16, 2011
    10:22 pm

    love you very muchAmanda Eliasch

  • February 16, 2011
    10:32 pm

    Thank you so much, Julie Anne. Coming from such a gifted writer as yourself, your words of encouragement mean more to me than you could know. Thank you again for taking the time from your busy schedule to read it.Justine Owls

  • February 16, 2011
    10:34 pm

    you are as beautiful as ever!Steven Elmets

  • February 18, 2011
    4:13 am

    Thank you, Julie…we can never have too many reminders, and it was so timely for me. My older sister died in her sleep at age 44, prompting me to have a complete physical at 37; a heart murmur (my sister also had one) led to an ultrasound to verify mitro-valve prolapse, which requires prescription antibiotics for all dental work to ensure no infection reaches the heart; without an autopsy, we can only assume that extensive dental work, followed by a prolonged flu-like illness with extreme exhaustion, led to her early death.22 YEARS LATER: On a stressful work day, I experienced "very unusual and indescribable" pressure-like pains from my neck and shoulder, along my left arm, elbow, and even to the thumb of that hand, accompanied by dizziness, loss of strength, and a "dark, tunnel-vision" feeling; an EKG on that day verified partial damage from lack of oxygen to the heart, and I was prescribed nitroglycerine tablets to carry at all times, in addition to the high blood pressure and cholesterol meds I was already on!PLEASE, IF ANY WOMAN HAS ANY SIMILAR PAINS OR EXPERIENCES, DO NOT THINK AS I DID, THAT I WAS ONLY "COMING DOWN WITH SOME VIRUS" OR THAT IT "COULDN'T BE A HEART ATTACK" BECAUSE I WAS ALREADY BEING MONITORED WITH MEDICATION!!!Let's all keep passing these messages on: sister to sister, mother to daughter, aunt to niece, cousin to cousin, friend to friend…

  • February 20, 2011
    7:33 pm

    I will be making this too. I so like your cake.Thank you for this lovely post.Anne