Chocolate cannoli, espresso shooters and limoncello gelato were just a few of the samplings on the dessert table as the Food Network's "Iron Chef America" judge Mario Rizzotti stopped in at Hartsfield Village, a Munster retirement community, last month to visit good friend chef Gabe Rosado and cook up authentic Italian desserts.

The Italian culinary expert says he wants Americans to become more familiar with the availability of rare Italian products. "I've spent my career educating food lovers about the importance of using authentic Italian products,” Rizzotti said. “I was happy to share some food preparation tips with residents, in particular, Mary DellaChiesa."

The 97 year-old has been a Hartsfield Village resident for the past 12 years. DellaChiesa was born in the northern province of Varese, Italy, about 8 kilometers from Milan. Growing up, she was an only child. Instead of learning to cook and clean like other girls her age, she said she was more interested in following in her father’s footsteps. He was the owner of the only hardware store in the area.

She came to America in 1950 when she married husband Patrick (Pasquale) and settled in East Chicago. For a wedding gift, a friend gave her an Italian cookbook.

This passion for using authentic Italian ingredients in their favorite recipes brought DellaChiesa together with Rizzotti for a culinary conversation at last month's "Taste of Italy" event at Hartsfield.

Bariatric Institute celebrates expansion

Patients embarking on their weight loss journey will find more comfortable surroundings after an expansion of the Franciscan Midwest Bariatric Institute that has doubled its size.

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The expansion was celebrated with a blessing and dedication June 7 at the facility at Franciscan Health hospital in Dyer. Dr. Keith Reich, executive director of the Franciscan Physician Network for northern Indiana, called it “a step toward the future for both our patients, as well as those providing the care”

The expansion features more exam rooms and a larger waiting room for patients. It also includes the addition of two bariatric exam tables that are more comfortable and safer for patients.

“Our patients are already voicing their appreciation of the expanded space and seating,” said clinical nurse manager Millie Sasaki. She points out a new classroom area as a key part of the comprehensive approach at Franciscan Midwest Bariatric Institute, which provides dietitians, psychologists and support groups that aid in the lifestyle change that comes along with weight-loss surgery.

Porter Regional earns recognition

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield has recognized Valparaiso's Porter Regional Hospital with a Blue Distinction Centers+ for Cardiac Care designation. Blue Distinction Centers are nationally designated providers that show expertise in delivering improved patient safety and better health outcomes, based on objective measures that were developed with input from the medical community and leading accreditation and quality organizations.

To receive a Blue Distinction Centers+ designation, hospitals must demonstrate expertise in delivering safe and effective cardiac care, focusing on cardiac valve surgery, coronary artery bypass graft, and percutaneous coronary interventions episodes of care. Hospitals receiving a Blue Distinction Centers+ designation must also demonstrate better cost-efficiency compared to their peers.

Hospitals recognized with this designation are assessed using a combination of quality information supplied by hospitals and third party data registries, and cost measures derived from Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies’ medical claims.