Classic Italian Pasta Fagioli

Classic Italian Pasta Fagioli

I could never pronounce it but always loved pasta fagioli (pronounced fah jol), Fagioli in Italian means beans, in case you didn’t know. I just started learning Italian on Duo Lingo and am really enjoying my grandparents’ native language. I wish I could say this was their recipe but I never met them.

But, on to the soup! My mother used to make this on cold winter days in Youngstown, Ohio. What I love about this dish is that I always have the ingredients on hand. Wintertime means comfort food- AKA soup. I’m usually stocked up on celery, onions, carrots and of course, canned beans this time of year. You can use cannellini, Great Northern or Navy beans for the soup.

In addition to the veggies, pasta fagioli also has tomato sauce and a generous helping of paprika, which gives it that savory taste and beautiful color. If you’ve got any kale or spinach in your fridge, feel free to chop it up and add it to the soup! This adds more vitamin C, beta-carotene and potassium to the recipe.

From a nutritional standpoint, you can’t beat this recipe! It boasts 10 grams of protein and 9 grams of dietary fiber per serving with under 250 calories. The soup is also a good source of potassium. It’s filling but doesn’t leave you feeling “heavy” as the fat in the recipe is from olive oil and a smattering of cheese if you add some. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 carrots, diced

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 white or yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. paprika

1 Tbsp. dried oregano

2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce

1 (15 ounce) can low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 (15 ounce) can Great Northern or Navy beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup whole wheat ditalini or elbow pasta

Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the carrots, celery, onions and garlic and sautee for 5 minutes until the onions are translucent.
  2. Add the paprika and oregano and toss to coat the vegetables.
  3. Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth and beans and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the pasta to the pot and cook on low-medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked.
  5. Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

Makes 6 servings. Nutrition information per serving: 237 calories, 6 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 10 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 832 mg sodium


Cream Cheese Stuffed “Cannoli” Dates

Cream Cheese Stuffed “Cannoli” Dates

Do you have “olfactory flashbacks”? It’s a term I use to describe food or aromas that bring me back to a previous time in my life. I have very fond memories of my dad giving us dates rolled in coconut and almonds at Christmas each year. I loved the chewy, sweet texture then and still enjoy dates today.

Olfactory flashbacks inspire me to make new recipes of old favorites. As an ambassador for Natural Delights, I received free samples to make this date recipe. Medjool dates are naturally sweet and a good source of fiber and potassium. They’re versatile and require no refrigeration. Just open the box and eat them!

Cannoli are a popular Italian dessert, though my family never made them. We’d buy them occasionally at little bakeries in Youngstown and I will still seek them out at Ferrari’s Little Italy and other Cincinnati bakeshops. I had the pleasure of making this recipe on WCPO Cincy Lifestyles this morning.

This recipe will take much less ‘thyme’ than traditional cannoli AND it has much lower fat, sugar and calories. There are less than 100 calories per date. I used whipped cream cheese for the filling instead of ricotta or mascarpone which is typically used. They can be made ahead to serve at your favorite party or bring them to your next holiday event.


1 box pitted Medjool dates

1 (8 oz) container whipped cream cheese

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp. powdered sugar

2 Tbsp. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips



  1. Split the dates down the middle but do not cut in half.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, cinnamon and powdered sugar.
  3. Add 1 tsp. cream cheese mixture to eat date.
  4. Add 4-5 mini chocolate chips on top of the cream cheese.
  5. Decorate with colored sprinkles as desired.

Makes 20 stuffed dates. Nutrition information per serving: 98 calories, 2.2 grams fat, 1.3 grams saturated fat, 6.5 mg cholesterol, 20 grams carbohydrate, 1.7 grams fiber, 1.4 grams protein, 57 grams sodium

#samples #ambassador #notpaid


Kale Quinoa Salad with Citrus Ginger Dressing

Kale Quinoa Salad with Citrus Ginger Dressing

This seasonal salad will become a favorite among your guests. I’ll be honest. I was not a huge fan of kale initially. We didn’t eat it when I was growing up and I honestly saw it as a garnish on the salad bar. Who is with me here?

Be Kaleful!

Kale is definitely worth your thyme! It comes from the mighty cruciferous (AKA cabbage) vegetable family and is chock full of phytochemicals that help reduce the risk of cancer. In addition, kale is great for bone health as it’s a source of vitamin K as well as calcium. Finally, kale is beneficial for your blood pressure as it’s a good source of potassium to boot.

To improve the texture of kale, place it in a Ziplock bag after cleaning and chopping. Massage the kale for 3 to 5 minutes until it starts to turn a bit shiny.  This helps wilt and sweeten the rough green.  Honey crisp apples pair nicely with any winter greens but Granny Smith or other crisp apples will do.

Why Quinoa?

Quinoa is technically a “seed” but health experts put it in the grain group. It’s considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids your body can’t produce. I like it because it’s versatile, cooks quickly and is a good source of fiber and protein. It’s also gluten-free for those that follow a gluten-free diet. I often find it at Aldi and it’s less expensive than other grocers.

I like to use walnuts in this salad, but pecans, slivered almonds or other nuts could be used, too.  For cooking demos, I typically use sunflower or pumpkin seeds given the risk of nut allergy. Feta cheese or blue cheese are optional but add a savory taste to the salad. Leave them out to make the salad vegan.


6 cups fresh kale, chopped, rinsed and massaged

1/2 cup dry quinoa, rinsed

1 Honey Crisp or Granny Smith apple

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup feta cheese


1/4 cup fresh orange juice (juice of 1/2 an orange)

1/4 cup canola oil

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. ginger paste or freshly grated ginger


  1. Place quinoa and 1 cup of water in a medium pan. Boil the quinoa for 1 minute stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook quinoa for another 12 to 13 minutes until all the water is soaked up. Allow the quinoa to cool.
  2. Wash and rip the kale. Place in a zip lock bag and massage kale until it’s shiny.  Place kale in a large salad bowl.
  3. Slice the apples into chunks and add to the kale.
  4. Fluff up the cooked quinoa with a fork once it’s cooled.
  5. Add chopped walnuts, cooked quinoa and feta cheese to the kale and apples.
  6. Whisk together orange juice, canola oil, balsamic vinegar, and ginger paste.
  7. Dress salad prior to serving.

Makes 6 servings.  Nutrition facts per serving:  212 calories, 16 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated fat), 9 mg cholesterol, 13.7 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 4.3 grams protein, 127 mg sodium.

What’s best to eat when you have diabetes?

What’s best to eat when you have diabetes?

November is National Diabetes Month. I had the chance to discuss diabetes prevention today on channel 9 (WCPO) news. I feel like I bring a lot of pantry and fridge samples to segments but want to give people an idea of what to eat!

Diabetes runs in my family and I myself, have pre-diabetes. My diet is not perfect, but I do try to do the right thing like walking most days of the week and limiting sweets. I try not to eat after dinner and play pickleball for stress relief!

If you have type 2 diabetes, you may hear conflicting information on what to eat, especially after your diagnosis. All too often, people with diabetes think they need to avoid carbohydrates and other favorite foods in their diet. In reality, when you have diabetes, you should be able to eat anything you’d like, but in smaller amounts.

The quantity and frequency of your foods, even healthy foods, matters. This review aims to give you specific, realistic tips on what foods to include when you have diabetes to help you create an eating plan that’s right for you.

Can I eat breads or cereals when I have diabetes?

You can still manage your blood sugar effectively if you’re eating bread, toast, a bun, or a wrap. There are several varieties of nutritious bread for individuals with diabetes. Go for those labeled 100% whole grain (or whole wheat), sprouted grain, high in fiber, or sourdough. If bread is labeled “multi-grain,” read the ingredients for whole grains used and check the fiber content (look for a few grams of fiber per slice.)

Several bread brands are available on the market that are lower in calories and carbs. Some varieties like cloud bread or cauliflower-based bread are examples. In addition, you can find “thin” or “skinny” bagels, bread, or sandwich thins, which also tend to have fewer calories and carbs. Look for whole-grain bread, wraps, and buns that contain at least two grams of fiber or more per serving. The amount of fiber is listed in the “Nutrition Facts” section of the food label.

Cereals such as rolled oats, shredded wheat, bran flakes and other high-fiber, low-sugar cereals are encouraged, in moderate amounts. Add ground flaxseed, chia seeds, chopped nuts or even protein powder. This helps manage blood sugar and appetite. You can add a few raisins or dried cranberries but keep the serving small as dried fruit is higher in sugar than fresh. A teaspoon will do it.

Am I supposed to avoid fruit when I have diabetes?

No! One other myth that individuals with diabetes may hear is that fruit is off-limits and bad for your blood sugar. Not true! Fruit provides vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients beneficial for blood sugar management and overall health. Fruit juice, fruit cocktail, and canned or frozen fruit packed in syrup or sugar may raise blood sugar.

Choose whole fruit in place of juice for more fiber and phytochemicals (plant chemicals that aid in disease prevention). Choose fresh or frozen fruit packed without added sugar. Include lots of colorful vegetables when possible. These are low in calories and carbohydrates but a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fresh or frozen are welcome!

Of all the fruits, berries, including blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, have the lowest sugar content. Kiwi, citrus fruit, melon, apples, bananas, pears, peaches, plums, grapes, and nectarines can also be included in your diet, though serving sizes may vary depending on the type of fruit consumed. Dried fruit such as apricots, dates, mangoes, raisins, or prunes have more concentrated sugar, so serving sizes are smaller. Think of these like candy instead of fruit.

What kind of snacks can I eat when I have diabetes?

When deciding what kinds of snacks to eat when you have diabetes, consider your food preferences and what you enjoy eating. Eating foods that contain fiber and protein may help keep blood sugar levels in check. For example, pair an apple with string cheese or whole-grain crackers with peanut butter or a hard-boiled egg.

Including snacks that are lower in carbs between meals is best to help prevent elevated blood sugar levels before meals. Items such as veggies with hummus or yogurt-based dip, low-fat string cheese, nuts or seeds, or turkey jerky are lower in carbs to help manage blood sugar spikes.

Other snacks could include sugar snap peas or pepper strips with avocado or yogurt dip, grape tomatoes, light cheese chunks, or almonds with a high fiber, low sugar cold cereal (such as shredded wheat or bran Chex). Edamame (green soybeans), nuts, pumpkin, or sunflower seeds are other tasty snacks for individuals with diabetes that have fewer carbs, fat, and sodium than chips.

What are some healthy meal choices for diabetes?

When it comes to managing your blood sugar, health is in your hands! Making meals at home allows you to take control of the ingredients to manage your blood sugar better. Unwanted ingredients such as added sugar, salt, or excess fat can be limited when creating meals at home. Eating at home helps with portion control and food costs, too.

Be sure to include fresh foods in their whole form to obtain adequate fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in your diet that are necessary for the best health. Use whole-grain bread and other grains, including brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa, farro, and other high fiber grains. Make homemade chicken nuggets instead of processed ones to limit the fat and sodium in your meals. Have baked or mashed potatoes in place of French fries.

Limit red meat and especially processed meats (bacon, hot dogs, sausage, etc.). Both have been linked with higher rates of diabetes. Protein sources such as fish, poultry, eggs, tofu, plain yogurt, and low-fat cheese are welcome. Baking, broiling, or grilling are healthier cooking methods than deep frying. Keep in mind that breading will add unnecessary carbohydrates to your meals! Beans, peas, and lentils provide protein, carbs, and fiber in your diet. Because they’re a carbohydrate source, treat them as a “grain” in your diet when meal planning. Typically, a half cup of cooked beans or lentils is a serving.

What types of fat should I eat?

There’s nothing wrong with fat. It’s tasty and helps you feel satisfied! However, large portions can make managing blood sugars and weight challenging. Try smaller amounts when eating or cooking with fats (one tablespoon is a service).

In general, choosing plant-based liquid fats like natural peanut butter, nuts, seeds, olive, canola, and avocado oil is beneficial for cholesterol management over animal fats like lard and butter. Choose mustard, hummus, or guacamole for condiments and vinegar-based dressings for salads to help keep your fat portions and calories in check.

The Plate method is a simple, effective way to plan meals. Make half of your plate vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, or leafy greens, one quarter of it a starchy food like potatoes, rice, pasta, and one quarter of it lean protein like chicken, fish or lean pork, or beef. The Plate Method ensures a balance of nutrients in your diet to help manage blood sugar.

To wrap it up:

  • Eat foods you enjoy in moderation.
  • Choose whole-grain bread, cereals, and other grains when possible.
  • Include lots of vegetables and lower-sugar fruit in your diet.
  • Snack on foods low in calories and carbohydrates but provide fiber and protein.
  • Make meals at home to control ingredients and portion sizes.
  • Pick lean, plant-based proteins when possible.
  • Choose low-fat cooking methods when preparing meals.
  • Use the plate method to plan balanced meals.

For more information on diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment of diabetes, go to the American Diabetes Association website: American Diabetes Association | Research, Education, Advocacy


Chipotle Lentil Chili with Pumpkin

Chipotle Lentil Chili with Pumpkin

Although Halloween is behind us and pumpkin spice latte might be seen as a bit played right now, pumpkin itself is still quite popular, especially with Thanksgiving on the horizon.

If you think pumpkin puree is just for pie, think again! Personally, I’m not a fan of pumpkin pie (it’s likely a texture thing), but I do enjoy using pumpkin in other dishes. Have you ever used it in chili or stew?

Why Pumpkin?

Pumpkin has got a lot of nutrition prowess. It’s a great source of the antioxidant beta-carotene in addition to being a source of potassium vitamin C and fiber. Canned pumpkin is versatile, accessible, and affordable for most. I’ve never cooked a pumpkin to make pumpkin puree and honestly, don’t see this in my future. If that’s your jam, more power to you! Canned pumpkin is packed in BPA-free cans, so no need to worry about that.

Lentils offer up plenty of fiber, protein, and iron- the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide. When lentils are paired with a food high in vitamin C (such as peppers, tomatoes, or hey- pumpkin), your body absorbs more iron. Bonus! They also cook up much faster than other dried beans or legumes.

I made this simple pumpkin chili in my instant pot the other night, but it could also be prepared on the stove. With a handful of ingredients, I had dinner done in roughly 20 minutes! I used chipotle chili powder which gave the chili a smoky taste. Traditional chili powder or extra cumin could be used if chipotle’s not your thing.

If you want to keep the recipe vegan, use vegetable broth. Low-sodium broth would reduce the sodium content of the soup. This is a perfect dish for a tailgate party, book club, or simple dinner with friends or family.  If it’s too spicy, add a dash of plain Greek or plant-based yogurt to cool it off. I hope you like it!


1 Tbsp. canola or corn oil

½ white or yellow onion, diced

1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. chipotle pepper

½ tsp. cumin

½ tsp. paprika

3 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup red lentils

1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin puree

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)


  1. Set the Instant pot to sautee and add the oil. Allow to heat for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the onions, peppers and garlic and sautee for 3 to 4 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the chipotle pepper, cumin and paprika and stir to coat the vegetables.
  4. Add the broth, lentils, and pumpkin puree. Stir to combine.
  5. Close the lid of the Instant pot and reset the pot to “soup or stew”.
  6. All the lentils to cook for 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Serve with plain Greek yogurt and chopped cilantro (optional)

On a stovetop:

  1. Heat the oil in a medium soup pot.
  2. Sautee the onions, peppers and garlic until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Add the chipotle pepper, cumin, and paprika and stir to coat the vegetables.
  4. Add the broth, lentils, and pumpkin puree. Stir to combine
  5. Allow the stew to simmer on low for about 30 minutes until the lentils are soft.

Makes 6 servings.  Per serving: 190 calories, 2.1 gm fat, 9.5 gm protein, 29 gm carb, 5.6 gm fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 550 gm sodium

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