Rocklin woman wins cystic fibrosis recipe contest

Mandella diagnosed when she was a baby
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Danielle Mandella, a part-time Rocklin resident who lives with cystic fibrosis, was selected as one of three winners in the nationwide CFChef Recipe Challenge. Her Meat Roll-Ups are featured at

Mandella, 26, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was 3 months old. The chronic disease affects the lungs and digestive system, producing a thick mucus in organs throughout the body, most commonly the lungs and digestive system, including the pancreas, according to CFChef, an online nutrition resource for people living with CF.

That mucus can build up in the lungs, causing difficulty breathing, and could possibly lead to life-threatening infections. And, because it’s so thick, many people with CF are unable to properly digest food.

“Usually we don’t digest proteins and fats properly so a lot of what we eat just kind of goes to waste,” explained Mandella, who splits her time between Rocklin and Carmichael. “In order to keep up a normal weight, we have to eat about three times as much as most people. It’s hard to do, just to fit that many calories in a day, and also it’s expensive. It’s definitely a challenge. So any time we can pack as many calories as we can into one small thing, it’s that much easier.”

Mandella’s recipe was created when she was about 12 years old, she said. Constantly snacking throughout the day, she was going through a phase where she was looking for creative flavors combined with high calories.

“I think I combined chocolate milk with lemon juice at one point,” she laughed.

One of the flavor combinations that worked was wrapping salami around a carrot. She liked the taste so much that she asked to make them for a party, but realized she would need something to hold the wrap together. Peanut butter, a favorite calorie booster for many CF patients, did the trick.

“It’s kind of like a candy bar that combines the salt with the sweet and the peanut, kind of like a Snickers bar,” Mandella said. “But I would say even healthier, because there’s a vegetable in the middle. It’s a little bit like an unconventional candy bar taste.”

It’s also high in calories – six roll-ups contain 690 calories, according to Suzanne Michel, a registered dietitian with a CF center in Philadelphia. She evaluated each of the recipes for the Back-to-School contest, choosing the winners based on nutritional value, flavor, appeal creativity and the story behind the recipe, according to CFChef.

She found out about the recipe contest through a friend whose recipe was one of the winners last year, and decided to try her luck with the Meat Roll-Ups. The recipe won the snack category, and along with the honor of being featured on the CFChef website, Mandella received a top-of-the-line digital scale that will help her in making CF-friendly food.

Mandella, who works for Starbright World, an online community for chronically ill teens, said she’s pretty healthy because she had a lung transplant when she was 16. But that doesn’t mean she’s free from medicine – “My regimen is pretty much down to a handful of pills in the morning and a handful at night,” she said.

Before the transplant, Mandella described CF as a part- to full-time job of breathing exercises and procedures to clear out her lungs, leaving less time to do “all the normal kid and teen stuff.”



Meat Roll-Ups


6 slices Italian dry salami

6 baby carrots or carrot sticks

6 tablespoons peanut butter



Spread 1 tablespoon of peanut butter over 1 slice of salami. With the peanut butter on the inside to act as a bonding agent, roll up a baby carrot in the salami slice.