GENEVA – Last summer, Geneva resident Jeff Martin, 52, finished his regular exercise routine and was getting ready for work when something didn’t feel right. He woke up his son, who fortunately was home from college, and that’s the last thing he remembers. Martin collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. Under the guidance of a 911 operator, Martin’s son performed life-saving CPR.

Martin was rushed to Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva, where cardiologists discovered a blockage in a major artery. To reduce damage to the brain, Martin’s body temperature was lowered using therapeutic hypothermia until an angioplasty and stent placement could fully restore blood flow to his heart. A week later, he was cautiously back on his feet in cardiac rehabilitation and determined to make a full recovery.

The heart attack was a shock for Martin, who has no family history of heart disease and is otherwise very healthy. Several years ago, Martin and his wife, Julie, made a conscious effort to eat healthier and work out. However, a meeting with a dietitian following his heart attack opened his eyes to some additional dietary changes he needed to make.

“There are so many diet fads out there, it’s hard to know what to eat,” Jeff Martin said. “Just one session with the dietitian was overwhelming, and I knew I needed more information.”

Jeff and Julie Martin enrolled in a new “Heart Healthy Cooking” program at the Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital Community Kitchen. The six-week course is led by Dr. Nauman Mushtaq, an interventional cardiologist with the Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, and Audra Wilson, a registered dietitian with the Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Center at Delnor Hospital.

Each session includes education, hands-on cooking demonstrations and tastings for a truly interactive experience.

“Diet has a profound impact on health,” Mushtaq said. “Lifestyle changes, including healthy eating and exercise, are vital to preventing cardiovascular disease and sustaining a healthy heart after a medical intervention.”

The course covers nutrition basics such as label reading and portion sizes, as well as incorporating healthy fats, cooking with less sodium, healthy substitutions and cooking meals that fit into the Mediterranean diet, as well as the DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet.

“The Mediterranean diet especially focuses on the enjoyment of food. The goal of our program is to show our participants how to enjoy and prepare foods that are heart-healthy as well as delicious,” Wilson said. “For example, it can take taste buds several weeks to adjust to lower sodium, so we focus quite a bit on adding fresh herbs and spices to make healthy dishes more flavorful without adding salt.”

For Jeff and Julie Martin, the hands-on component and the camaraderie with other class members made every class fun, while also helping them develop new healthy habits.

“By preparing the meals ourselves, it’s easier to understand how to adjust our everyday cooking to stay focused on heart health,” Julie Martin said. “And the food is really good.”

Jeff Martin plans to reclaim his spot operating the barbecue, but now fish and vegetables will replace the red meat. And for dessert, grilled stone fruit with whipped ricotta.

The Delnor Community Kitchen offers over 130 cooking classes per year for adults, children and children with disabilities. These hands-on classes are led by registered dietitians. For information or to register for an upcoming course, call 630-933-4234.

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• Sharing this column for American Heart Month in February is Kim Waterman, media relations manager for marketing, communications and media relations with Northwestern Medicine.

Salmon Skillet Supper

• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
• 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
• 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, quarters (about 1 1/2 cups)
• 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
• 1 tablespoon water
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
• 1 pound salmon fillets, skin removed, cut into 8 pieces
• 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 medium lemon)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and smoked paprika and cook for 1 minute, stirring often. Add the tomatoes, roasted peppers, water, black pepper, and salt. Turn up the heat to medium-high, bring to a simmer, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally and smashing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon toward the end of the cooking time.

Add the salmon to the skillet, and spoon some of the sauce over the top. Cover and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through (145 degrees F using a meat thermometer) and just starts to flake.

Remove the skillet from heat and drizzle lemon juice over the top of the fish. Stir the sauce, then break up the salmon into chunks with a fork. You can serve it straight from the skillet.

Calories: 289 | Total Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 68mg | Sodium: 393mg | Carbohydrates: 10g | Dietary Fiber: 2g | Protein: 31g

Easy Pasta Fagioli Soup

• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1/4 onion)
• 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
• 4 cups low-sodium or no-salt-added vegetable broth
• 2 (15.5-ounce) cans cannellini, great northern or light kidney beans, undrained
• 1 (28-ounce) can low-sodium or no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 8 ounces uncooked short pasta, such as ditalini, tubetti or elbows
• 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, rosemary and crushed red pepper. Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add the broth, canned beans with their liquid, tomatoes and tomato paste. Simmer for 5 minutes.

To thicken the soup, carefully transfer 2 cups to a blender. Purée, then stir it back into the pot.

Bring the soup to a boil over high heat. Mix in the pasta and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the pasta for the amount of time recommended on the box, stirring every few minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking to the pot. Taste the pasta to make sure it is cooked through. (It could take a few more minutes than the recommended cooking time, as it is cooking with other ingredients.)

Ladle the soup into bowls, top each with 1 tablespoon of grated cheese and serve.

Calories: 382 | Total Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 620mg | Carbohydrates: 56g | Dietary Fiber: 9g | Protein: 15g