By Debra Robbins, Special to the SouthownStar

We’ve all heard the saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

Here’s a new twist: a delicious, nutritious, home-cooked meal for the woman in your life this Valentine’s Day!

“If you’re looking for a romantic Valentine’s Day gift that’s truly from the heart, why not give your wife, girlfriend, or significant other the best gift of all … a mouth-watering, heart-healthy meal made especially for her – by you,” explains Kim Kramer, registered dietitian with the Ingalls Wellness Center in Homewood.

If you need a little inspiration in the kitchen, Kramer has cooked up a fun, romantic five-course menu for two that’s sure to please. Best of all, it’s loaded with nutritious ingredients that will help keep your special valentine “young at heart.”

“Each course is simple enough so you can make an impressive meal without spending hours in the kitchen,” Kramer explains. “What a wonderful way to say, ‘I love you.'”

Beverage: Red wine.

“There is an antioxidant in red wine called resveratrol that comes from the skin of the red grape and contains many heart-healthy benefits,” Kramer said. Researchers have found that certain wines have a higher concentration of these antioxidants such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Syrah, and Pinot Noir. However, if you do not currently consume alcohol, you can get some of the similar benefits from grape juice.

Appetizer: Slice of whole-grain baguette with olive oil to dip

Olive oil is a good choice to use for dipping since it contains a significant amount of monounsaturated fats, which help increase HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) in the body. However, the calories in oil can really add up (120 calories per 1 tablespoon) so make sure to watch portions, especially when there are many other courses of the meal involved.

Soup: Roasted Red Pepper Soup.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 baking potato, chopped
2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 jar of roasted red peppers (8 ounces)
Dash of salt and pepper

Sautee garlic, onion, and potato in olive oil for about 10 minutes.

Add broth and cook for 30 minutes longer or until potato is tender. Add roasted red peppers and puree mix in blender (keep part of the lid open for steam to escape). Once pureed, simmer over heat for 5-7 minutes and serve.

Salad: Gorgonzola and Walnut Salad with Lime Vinaigrette.

Walnuts have many heart-healthy benefits including Omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower total cholesterol. Red onions and mandarin oranges are a great combination to add in the salad as well, but sprinkle the Gorgonzola cheese sparingly – just to add taste, not fat. Spinach leaves can be used instead of iceberg lettuce for added nutrients. Newman’s Own makes a great light lime vinaigrette dressing that is the perfect match for this salad.

Entree: Baked Salmon with Spinach and Crab topping.

Baked Salmon with Spinach and Crab Topping

Two 6-ounce salmon fillets
1/2 package of frozen spinach (5 ounces) cooked and drained
1/4 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1/4 cup light Cheese Whiz
1/2 can crabmeat (3 ounces), drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix spinach, breadcrumbs, crabmeat, and Cheese Whiz together. Spray bottom of lipped baking sheet with cooking spray and bake salmon for 10 minutes. Take salmon out of oven and spread spinach topping over each piece of salmon. Bake for an additional six to eight minutes.

Side dish: French-cut Green Beans with Slivered Almonds.

“Almonds contain the same ‘good’ fats as olive oil. Just a few slivered almonds on top of a dish can really jazz it up a bit, and the French-style beans make it look a lot fancier,” she added. Make sure to use fresh or frozen green beans to avoid added salt and steam them to conserve the greatest amount of nutrients.

Dessert: Heart-shaped Black Bean Brownies.

Put one can of black beans (with water from can) in a blender and puree. Then, take any prepackaged brownie mix and stir together with black bean puree. Bake at the same temperature for the same amount of time as instructed on the box. When cool, make a heart shaped brownie with a cookie cutter. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or a spoonful of light whipped topping and enjoy! Believe it or not, these brownies are heavenly. They’re moist and taste just as good as regular brownies (without any hint of bean taste), but are lower in fat and calories.