Leonardi: Feel free to substitute healthier ingredients into recipes

I often say I love tasting new products or new recipes made from products being sold in a store. The day before Thanksgiving, I was in BJ’s and sampled an item that I thought I would never buy but was curious as to how bad it was, so I gave it a try. It was pretty darn good, actually. The reason I would not normally purchase it is because we try to stay away from prepared foods that are full of unhealthy additives, preservatives and lots of extra sodium. But it was so good that I might actually buy some of the items and try to adapt it to our criteria by using fresh veggies instead of canned, and other ways to make it healthier.


The older I get, the more aware I have become of prepackaged food and how unhealthy they are. We have been trying to do whatever we can to keep my wife and me hale and hearty, as well as to cultivate good decisions in our son, who is already pretty savvy when it comes to food and his life choices at his young age. A lot of it comes from his coach, who is one of the top coaches in the state for track. I like the fact that he not only trains them physically, but he also teaches them about fitness and nutrition. Not one single member of his team has any interest in drugs or alcohol, while already being pretty careful about keeping their bodies strong by taking good care of themselves.

The recipe calls for two canned items and one prepackaged dried item. I am going to experiment with substituting fresh string beans for the canned ones and maybe caramelized onions instead of the French’s Crispy Fried Onions the recipe calls for, to see how it turns out. I am offering the instructions just as they appear on the recipe card they handed out at the tasting station, but it’s up to you to do as you please: prepare it as it is written, or make any substitutions you wish to make it suitable for your taste and guidelines you use in your cooking choices. The important thing is to let you know that you can keep your family happy trying new things according to your own taste and preferences. What is right for one person or family may be totally different for another, but those are decisions everyone has the option of making. Because of my passion for food, I just keep experimenting because that suits me and my family while mixing things up so we don’t get burned out by having the same dishes too often.

I just realized that last month I said I was going to give you a second chicken salad recipe this month if it turned out well and it did, so I will give you the second one for my next column (since I just finished this article), because I actually like it better than the first one I wrote about last month. In the meantime, we hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are looking forward with joy to the Christmas season that is already here! Salute and buon appetito!

Bacon and cheddar green bean casserole

• 2 cans Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup


• 1 cup milk 1 cup

• 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

• 6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped

• 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

• 2 2/3 cups French’s Crispy Fried Onions

• 4 cans Del Monte French Style Green Beans, drained

Stir soup, milk, half the cheese, 3/4 of the bacon, black pepper, beans and 1 1/3 cups onions in a 3-quart baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir bean mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, onions and bacon. Bake for another five minutes or golden brown. Enjoy!

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