Most people enjoy Italian food, so it’s a grea fit for planning your Valentine’s Day menu. Thank goodness for low fat and whole grain products — calories can be lowered in these tasty and healthy dishes.

Green Bean Salad with Salami

280 calories per serving. Serves 4-6

1 ¼ pounds Roma flat beans or green beans, trimmed

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 lemon

2 tablespoons EVOO, olive oil

Pinch of salt and ground black pepper, to taste

4 ounces Genoa Salami or Sopressate, cut into ½ inch strips

2 ounces pepperoni, cut into ½ inch strips

2 5-ounce bags of arugula, tough stems trimmed

1 2-ounce wedge of Romano cheese

If beans are long, cut crosswise into 2 ½-inch pieces. In a large skillet heat 1-inch water to boiling over high heat. Add beans and garlic, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low, simmer 6 to 8 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender. Drain beans and rinse with cold running water, to stop cooking; drain again.

Grate ½ teaspoon peel from lemon and squeeze 2- tablespoons lemon juice. In a serving bowl with a whisk stir together lemon peel, juice, oil, salt, and pepper.

Add cooked and drained beans. Toss together Sopressata, pepperoni, and arugula to coat in with beans. To serve place salad on a platter and with a vegetable peeler, shave thin strips from wedge of Romano cheese to top salad.

Penne with Vegetables

Serves 4. 500 calories per serving.

2 medium zucchini, cut into ½ inch chunks

1 red bell pepper, cut into ½ inch chunks

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into ½ inch chunks

1 medium sweet onion, cut into ½ inch chunks

3 cups fresh broccoli florets

3 cloves garlic, minced then smashed

1 tablespoon EVOO, olive oil

Pinch of Kosher salt

12 ounces whole-grain penne

1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 ounces grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, about ¾ cup

¼ cup fresh sweet basil leaves cut into small pieces

1 cup low-fat mozzarella shredded cheese

Cook penne according to package directions; drain and reserve 1-cup cooking liquid.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl toss together, zucchini, peppers, broccoli, onion, garlic, and olive oil. Divide among two 18 x 12-inch baking pans. Sprinkle with a little salt. Roast 15 to 20 minutes or until browned and tender, stirring once.

While vegetables cook. Cook penne, drain and return to pot. To this add tomatoes, cheese, basil, roasted vegetable mixture, and pinch of salt, to taste. Toss to combine, adding cooking water if necessary. Add mozzarella cheese, stir to distribute evenly, so cheese will melt. Cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately. Sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Italian Bread with Mozzarella Cheese

1 loaf fresh Italian bread, sliced in half lengthwise

1 8-ounce package shredded low fat mozzarella cheese

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

EVOO, olive oil

Garlic powder

Dried parsley flakes, Optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a large sheet of foil place the 2 halves of Italian bread, place on a baking sheet pan. Brush cut sides of bread with olive oil, go to edges. Sprinkle with desired amount of garlic powder and parsley, if desired; sprinkle bottom side of bread with mozzarella cheese, go to edges, then top with Parmesan cheese. Place top half of bread on top, wrap loaf with foil, tenting the top edge. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until heated through and cheese is melted. For the last 5-minutes open foil and let bread toast. Remove from oven and let sit for 8-10 minutes, then slice crosswise in 2-inch slices on a diagonal. Serve hot.

Italian Sausage Meatballs

1 tablespoon EVOO, olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped

Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1/3 cup dried parsley flakes

8 ounces button or portabella mushrooms, sliced then finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped, then smashed

1/3 cup flavored bread crumbs

1 large egg, room temperature and beaten with 1- tablespoon water

½ teaspoon dried ground thyme

1 ¼ pounds ground Italian sweet sausage

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

3 cups low-sodium marinara sauce

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons sweet crushed dried basil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, salt and pepper, to taste, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender about 6 to 8 minutes, stir in parsley flakes.

Add mushrooms and garlic, cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender and their liquid is nearly evaporated about 5-6 minutes.

In a large bowl mix together ground sausage, bread crumbs, thyme, and Parmesan cheese, mix to combine well. Mix in beaten egg, mix well to combine.

Fold in the mushroom mixture and mix to evenly distribute. Form the mixture into 24- balls and place on a foil-lined and vegetable sprayed baking sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes, stir once about halfway.

Warm the marinara sauce, vinegar, and sugar in a large skillet, adding parsley flakes, sweet dried crushed basil, and garlic powder, stir together and heat through. Toss the turkey balls into the sauce to coat, cook heating through.

Serve with whole grain cooked pasta or on whole grain bread or with a salad.

Light-style Tiramisu

Serves 8. 200 calories.

2/3 cup hot water

1/4 cup Kahlua, coffee liqueur or brandy

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

5 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 8-ounce package low-fat cream cheese, softened

¼ cup low-fat (1%) milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

30 soft or 4-ounces sponge-type ladyfingers

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

Shaved dark chocolate curls (Optional)

In a small bowl combine water, Kahlua, espresso powder, and 1-tablespoon sugar, stir until sugar dissolves.

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream until soft peaks form when beaters are lifted.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium high speed beat cream cheese and remaining ¼ cup sugar until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Continue beating, add milk and vanilla in a slow steady stream. Beat until well mixed and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

With a spatula, gently fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture.

In an 8 x 8-inch baking dish, arrange half of the ladyfingers, flat sides up, in a single layer. Pour half of the Kahlua mixture evenly over ladyfingers, let stand until absorbed.

Spread half of cream cheese mixture evenly over ladyfingers. Top with remaining ladyfingers, flat sides up. Brush remaining Kahlua mixture over ladyfingers, allowing liquid to be absorbed before each addition. Spread evenly with remaining cream cheese mixture.

Sift cocoa evenly over top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Garnish with chocolate curls, if desired.

Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival — winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012; placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing and winning second place for her Sweet Blueberry Pepper Jelly in 2015; and winning first in 2016 for her spoon blueberry muffins with apricot sauce and second for her blueberry crisp squares — and has won various other contest awards — including three blue ribbons at the 2016 Cape Fear County Fair — for her blueberry cheesecake, muffins, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.