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Philadelphia Personality Janet Zappala finds success with her new cookbook "My Italian Kitchen"

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When we last saw Janet Zappala, she was educating us about the dangers of trans fats and protecting our consumerJanet Zappala: My Italian Kitchen- Home-Style Recipies Made Lighter & Healthier. interests on CN8's Art Fennell Reports. When Zappala's long and illustrious television career came to a halt last year, she did what many in the working world today can't quite bring themselves to do: change their career path. The result of her new profession is her first cookbook: My Italian Kitchen -- Home-Style Recipes Made Lighter & Healthier, which was released on April 2nd to rave reviews.

Philly2Philly caught up with Zappala, who candidly discussed her departure from CN8, the inspiration for her new book, and what the future holds for the Six-Time Emmy Award Winning Journalist.

"In Jan. 2009, about 330 people were layed off. There were rumblings for quite some time so it didn’t come as a big surprise," Zappala says in reference to her final days at CN8. "I had a great experience with the team at Art Fennell Reports. I was able to do the reports and stories that I wanted to do as a consumer reporter. That allowed me to really provide our viewers with good, useful information. In three years, I won three emmys and was nominated for six, so I really feel that I did some of my best work during that time."

"That said, I was ready for a change and somewhat relieved when the announcement was made. It gave me the time and opportunity to pursue other things, namely writing my first cookbook. I’m a Certified Nutritional Coach, which means I’m pretty well versed on good nutrition, and a healthful lifestyle. It took one year to complete the 500 hour program and everyday is a learning day for me as I continue my education on nutrition. I study up and have mounds of health magazines and newsletters that I subscribe to."

The main inspiration for "My Italian Kitchen" comes from Zappala's mother Mary, who passed away several years ago.

"I began cooking with my mother as a child, doing little things for her in the kitchen," recalls Zappala. Janet Zappala. Photo: George Feder of Top Guns Photography"She was a truly exceptional cook and had such a passion for it. By observing her for many years cooking became second nature to me."

Although the end result was rewarding, Zappala insists that the steps necessary to complete her first published work were anything but relaxing.

"The process of creating a book is long and at times arduous," Zappala explains. "Just finding a publisher is a daunting experience. It took many proposals and phone calls, late nights, and unending optimism. I finally found one who believed in me and my concept and it turned out to be a winning team.

My publisher was with me every step of the way. An author himself, he guided me when I needed it and was always there for moral support. I created new recipes, and used many of my mother's and grandmother's recipes. I just cleaned them up to make them lighter and healthier without compromising the taste. It was a 24/7 type of job, all-consuming. When I wasn’t in the kitchen creating and testing recipes, I was at the computer writing. Every recipe has a story and a nutritional note. There is a Healthier Alternatives section in the book, and Kitchen Keepers. I believe it’s a book that people can use easily and grab a few helpful tips along the way."

When asked about her favorite recipe in her book, it was tough for Zappala to pin down just one.

"It’s difficult to choose just one favorite recipe in the book," explains Zappala. "They all have their special qualities. But if I had to choose one it would probably be Mom’s Memorable Meatballs (with the sauce that goes with them of course). Believe me, they didn’t get that title for nothing!"

Despite her newfound success in her second career and her ever busy schedule, Zappala would not rule out a return to television.

"I would love to go back. It’s been part of me for practically my entire adult life. I have some great ideas for a show and am currently in talks for my own show, possibly by next year. Keep your fingers and everything else crossed for me!  I envision a show that not only involves cooking, but shares with people a healthier way to cook. Not to mention an easy, quick way to make some of your favorite meals. My recipes prove to people that 'fast food' can be healthy!"

For those trying to start a new career like Zappala, she offers these words of encouragement.

"There’s always a bit of trepidation when you forge a new path. The fear of the unknown, the fear of failure, but I couldn’t let those things prevent me from trying something new. When you love something and you really have a passion for it, a fire in the belly sort of thing, there’s not a lot that can stop you. My advice to anyone who wants to reinvent themselves is don’t cave into the fear. Dare to dream who and what you can become, and then take steps to make it happen. Focus, polish up your act, be prepared and then do it."

My Italian Kitchen -- Home-Style Recipes Made Lighter & Healthier  is now available on amazon.com

There is also information about Janet's upcoming book signings and events, as well as health and wellness information on her website at www.janetzappala.com  You can also sign up for her newsletter on the website.

You can also check out Janet's Italian Kitchen Facebook Page.

Photo Courtesy of George Feder: Top Guns Photography

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com