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Kick Off 2018 on a Healthy Note

I’ve shared my fears about online shopping. My wish for 2018 is that our state’s local retailers stay viable. One area in particular that I pray never goes away is our supermarkets, both large and small. How anyone can purchase food for themselves and their families without first comparing similar items and reading the labels is beyond me. Let’s continue to support our food stores in 2018. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s fun to shop for food.

To help you eat healthier and, in some cases, save a little money along the way, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite new supermarket items. Some were added to supermarket shelves this year and others just recently landed on my food radar.

1. I should save the best for last, but I can’t wait to introduce this amazing product. I love bread – real bread – and never thought I’d find a decent substitute. Searching for a way to reduce carbs while still getting my bread and carb “fix,” I found Joseph’s Flax Oat Bran and Whole Wheat Lavash Bread. The name makes it sounds terrible, but trust me, it’s delicious. It’s a bit pricey; only four large square bread pieces come in a pack, but if you’re looking for a bread product to provide protein while lowering carbs and fats, this is it. I use it to make sandwiches, wraps and eat it plain when my energy is low. Find it in the bread aisle next to wraps, pita bread and other specialty items. If your supermarket doesn’t have it, ask for it. Trust me, you’ll thank me.

2. I never imagined compiling a list in which the words “Jimmy Dean” would be typed. It’s not something I’d recommend on a daily basis, but if you’re looking for a high-protein breakfast without a lot of fat, reach for Jimmy Dean Delights Turkey Sausage Breakfast Bowls in the freezer case. The bowl is filled with scrambled egg whites, diced potatoes, turkey sausage, and a little cheddar cheese. The best part? It contains a mere 8 grams of fat, 19 carbs, and only 240 calories, with protein accounting for 40 percent of the calories.

3. Amy’s Apple Toaster Pops – While you’re in the freezer case, reach for Amy’s organic version of old-school Pop-Tarts and toaster strudels, neither of which are known for their health benefits. These organic treats are filled with real apple slices and are sweetened with cane sugar and juice instead of unpronounceable ingredients. Kids will love it; so will you.

4. The last breakfast item on my list is Kashi Waffles. Known for its healthy cereal, Kashi has created a seven-grain frozen waffle that puts the soggy yellow ones to shame. Two waffles provide seven grams of fiber and four of protein. With only five grams of fat in the stack, it’s the breakfast of champions.

5. Everybody loves a burger, but you just can’t eat one every day or your cardiologist would not be pleased. For a healthier take, try a Seapak Wild Salmon Burger. After broiling in the oven or on the grill and placing it inside a toasted bun with your favorite burger toppings, it’s hard to tell you’ve made a healthier substitute. With a protein punch of 16 hearty grams and a low five grams of fat, you can afford to add a side of fries.

6. Speaking of fries, I never met one I didn’t like. What I don’t like so much are the pounds they add after being dipped in oil. I’ve been a fan or Ore Ida Steak Fries, which contain less than half the calories of fast-food fries as long as I bake, not fry them. Recently, I discovered organic line Cascadian Farms’ Shoestring Fries. They’re dipped in apple juice, which caramelizes into a golden, crispy crust.

7. Wish Bone Italian Salad Dressing has been around for decades. It’s a classic with little room for improvement. But I may pass it over in favor of a new item, Wish Bone Signature Blends. My favorite is Ristorante Italiano Garlic Parmesan Vinaigrette, which is even better than my favorite Italian dressing. Other flavors are EVOO Sun-Dried Tomato or Caesar Vinaigrette, Bacon Balsamic Vinaigrette Avocado Oil, and Creamy Peppercorn Caesar.

8. I’ve shared my love of Pepperidge Farm Cookies more than once. I’m happy to report there are two new, delicious flavors. You may already love chocolate Milano cookies, but they just got an upgrade. Pepperidge Farm’s Double Milk Chocolate Milano Cookies are filled with a thick layer of milk chocolate in between two delicious cookies. If you’re a chocolate chip fan, you’ll love Thin and Crispy Milk Chocolate Chip. Each crispy cookie is infused with the perfect amount of brown sugar, vanilla and of course, chocolate chips.

9. Doctors tell us to drink a lot of water, but it’s hard to drink the recommended amount. I found the perfect way to get my daily dose. Clear American Water, located in the beverage aisle, is available in a variety of delicious fruit flavors, including peach, cherry, white grape, watermelon and citrus. At a mere 50 cents for 34 ounces, it’s the bargain of the year.

10. Envious of those who blend their own fruit and vegetable smoothies to create a healthy breakfast or snack? Now you can enjoy your own without having to buy expensive fruits or use a noisy blender before you’ve had your coffee. Bolthouse Farms Fruit and Vegetable Smoothies are literally health in a bottle. Each 11-ounce bottle contains 2-3 servings of fruits and vegetables. My favorite, Berry Boost, contains nearly two apples, 44 berries and a quarter of a banana. At around $2, it’s less expensive than purchasing the fruit. At my supermarket, they’re located in the cooler near the produce.

To kick off the New Year, I decided to share a recipe that’s a compilation of one of my favorite Italian dishes prepared in my ideal way to celebrate winter – with a bowl of hot, comforting soup.

Here’s to a great year ahead as we uncover new food finds, share recipes and learn a few new things about food, eating and entertaining along the way.

Here’s to 2018 Lasagna Soup

10 lasagna noodles, broken into pieces

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 pound ground hot or sweet Italian sausage

1-1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus thinly sliced leaves for topping

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (plus more for sprinkling, optional)

1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half

Ricotta cheese, for topping

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook according to label directions. Drain and drizzle with olive oil and toss.

In another large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add sausage, garlic, and oregano and cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until darkened, about 2 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, tomatoes and cup of water. Cover and bring to a simmer. Uncover and cook until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Stir in the noodles, basil, Parmesan, and heavy cream; simmer two more minutes. Top each bowl of soup with ricotta, if desired.

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