Changing for the better, one bite and (deep) breath at a time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pesto Bites

My family members love hosting cocktail hour before we go out to celebratory dinners. It's an opportunity to spend time in each other's homes, enjoy some snacks, and toast to health and happiness with some good quality wine. Before our Father's Day dinner at the newly opened Renegade Canteen in Scottsdale, my sister and parents came over to our house to finish watching the US Open and share some refreshments. I served Pesto Bites, below, and carrots and pita chips with hummus. The Pesto Bites can be made quickly with store bought pesto, but I made pesto from scratch this time. After all, it was Father's Day, and my dad is a pretty special guy.

This snack is pretty rich and very tasty. Eat it slowly, paying attention to the intense flavors and wonderful texture. Most importantly, enjoy it with those you love!

Here's the basic "recipe" for the Pesto Bites:
Freshly baked French, sour dough, or Italian bread
Olive oil-based pesto (see recipe below)
Organic mozzarella and Italian cheeses, shredded

Preheat oven to broil. Slice the bread in half length-wise on a cutting board. Spread a thin layer of pesto on each piece of bread. (If you run out of pesto, sprinkle olive oil in places where pesto is spread very thinly.) Sprinkle with mozzarella and/or Italian cheeses. Broil directly on the oven rack for 3-4 minutes or until cheese is browning and bubbly. Make sure to set a timer, since the bread will burn if left in to long.

And now, for the delicious pesto from Simply Recipes:

Makes 1 cup prepared pesto
*Note: in the photos below, I doubled the recipe.

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano or Romano cheese (organic and raw if possible)
1/2 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts (or walnuts if desired)
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine basil with pine nuts; pulse a few times in the food processor.

Here's the basil measured out:

Here's the basil processed with the pine nuts:

Add the garlic and pulse a few times more. I always love to use my garlic press to create fresh minced garlic with ease:

Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on.

Stop to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse until blended. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste. The final product:

Now prepare the bread:

Spread the pesto on the bread:

Sprinkle the cheese on top:

(This group likes it extra cheesy!):

Now broil for 3-4 minutes or until the cheese turns a gorgeous, bubbling brown:

Once it has cooled a minute or two, cut it into pieces and serve on a platter:

Here's our Father's Day happy hour spread:

And my new Fourth of July inspired candles, sitting on top of a table that's just waiting to be used:

Happy Father's Day to the most amazing dad I've ever met! We love you!

(That's my sis on the left and myself with our dad in Laguna in April)


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Healthy Fudge

For those of you who know me well, this is one of my all-time favorite dessert recipes...and it's super healthy! I love having this frozen fudge in my freezer as a great alternative to ice cream or packaged desserts, and even my discerning husband is a fan. I got the recipe from Dr. Ben Kim's website, which I'm a huge fan of, and I've tested it with clients and seminar participants with great success. It's high in healthy fats and uses natural sweeteners instead of high fructose corn syrup, like what can be found in many packaged desserts. Don't be afraid to use a little unrefined coconut oil; studies show that it's actually heart healthy and really great for your skin.

You can get really creative with this recipe. I added shredded coconut, almonds, and walnuts, but you can do dried fruits, other types of nuts (like macadamias), or even pretzels (Greg's idea). The resultant fudge is very dense and delicious. It only takes a small piece (try 1/4 - 1/2 of a "muffin" if made in a muffin tin) to satisfy a sweet tooth. Feel good that you're eating something that's both delicious AND healthy!

Healthy Raw Fudge


2 cups raw almond butter (only $4.99 at Trader Joe's)
1/4 cup raw cocoa powder, sifted to remove lumps (I didn't have raw powder when I made it this time, but I did have cocoa/maca powder and it works well)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons liquid honey (I used honey and agave syrup because I ran out of honey)
1 heaping tablespoons unrefined, raw coconut oil, melted (optional)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Shredded unsweetened coconut
Dried fruit
Pretzel pieces (try spelt or whole wheat)


Here are (most of) the ingredients, all lined up:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir until smooth. Here are some of the steps, broken down a little bit. First, the almond butter (2 cups is basically the whole jar):

Next, the cocoa:

And the vanilla (I hardly have to measure for this recipe anymore, but you might want to grab a measuring spoon):

Here is what it looks like all stirred up:

You can stop here, or if you're like me, you like to add extra goodies. Here's the shredded unsweetened coconut:

Almonds and walnuts (basically leftovers I had in my cupboard that add texture):

Here it is, all stirred together:

Now, spoon the batter into square or circular muffin tins and pop the tin in the freezer. You can also put it in a glass or metal casserole dish, but I like the tins because it makes it easier to pop out fudge pieces and serve.

Make sure to keep this fudge frozen, or it will revert back to its more liquid, batter-like state. Use a sharp knife to cut the frozen pieces, and you have an instant healthy, delicious dessert that serves 24-48 (depending on the size of the pieces) for about $12 in supplies. That's $0.25- $0.50 per serving...far cheaper than Cold Stone! Enjoy slowly and mindfully, paying close attention to each bite.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Peanut Noodles with Shredded Chicken

Arizona summers demand easy, cold dishes that are still satisfying after a long day of work. In comes this delicious noodle dish, which I found in the May 2009 issue of Good Housekeeping. I don't consider myself a GH woman (yet?), but I received a subscription as part of a bridal shower gift from a wonderful bridesmaid, and I have really enjoyed its practical cleaning tips and creative recipes. (I even enjoy the articles about crafting!)

This dish is in regular rotation at the McNamee house, and it holds well in the refrigerator for a few days so it makes a great leftover lunch.

Peanut Noodles with Shredded Chicken

Time: 30 minutes
Makes 6 main-dish servings

12 oz thick spaghetti or linguini (I used spaghetti brown rice pasta from Trader Joe's)
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
4 medium skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (organic!)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce (I used organic Nama Shoyu, a fermented soy sauce you can find at Whole Foods)
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
2 teaspoon grated peeled ginger
1 small kirby cucumber (4-6 oz), thinly sliced
1 bag (8-10 oz) shredded carrots
1 medium red pepper, thinly sliced (organic! peppers are on the "Dirty Dozen" list)
Cilantro sprigs for garnish

**NOTE: I see recipes as "suggestions," so I often cook to taste. We really like extra sauce, so I usually add more vinegar, Nama Shoyu, and ginger to taste. Additionally, feel free to add more veggies as I do, especially if you make more sauce.

I love Trader Joe's brown rice spaghetti pasta. Gluten free and a whole grain with only one ingredient (brown rice!), it tastes delicious.

Here are my main sauce ingredients (minus the ginger):

As you can see, I sometimes use crunchy peanut butter because I think it adds some nice texture...and it was in my cupboard.

1. Heat a large covered sauce pot of salted water to boiling on high. Add pasta and cook as label directs. Drain pasta. Rinse again under cold water; drain again. **If using brown rice pasta, be sure to follow the label and not overcook.

(I just have to cute is this colander? If you can't tell, the holes for water draining are shaped like strawberries! Thanks to my wonderful mother-in-law!)

2. Meanwhile, in a covered 12-inch skillet, heat garlic and 1 inch of water to boiling on high. Add chicken; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 13-14 minutes or until chicken loses its pink color throughout. With slotted spoon or tongs, remove chicken from skillet and place in large bowl of ice water; chill 5 minutes. Discard poaching liquid. Drain chicken; with hands, shred chicken. **I used frozen organic chicken so I steamed the chicken in a steamer basket over boiling water, and it worked beautifully.

3. While pasta and chicken cook, in a large bowl, whisk vinegar, soy sauce, peanut butter, water, and ginger until smooth.

4. To bowl with peanut sauce, add drained pasta, shredded chicken, cucumber, carrots, and pepper; toss to coat. To serve, garnish with cilantro.

It's truly delicious, and I've served it to a few foodies who really enjoy it as well!


Cell Phones and Radiation

San Francisco lawmakers are about to vote on a rule that requires cell phone retailers to display radiation emitted for phones sold starting in February 2011. This policy would be the first of its kind in a US city, and lawmakers expect that other cities will follow suit. Check out this video from Good Morning America to learn more about it.

There has been considerable controversy over cell phone usage and possible risk of brain cancer. I work for a radiation physicist, and she is very concerned about the long-term use of cell phones to our general health, especially regarding tumor growth and Alzheimer's disease. As was the case with tobacco, we don't yet know the full risk of using cell phones for many decades, and shorter-term study results have been mixed. Furthermore, we are now using blue tooth wireless headsets and other electrical devices near our heads for many of our waking hours.

I admit, I'm a BlackBerry addict, and no one can take my phone away from me. It's important for both my business and personal life, and it allows me to be connected at all times. To play it safe, I use a wired headset as often as possible when talking on the phone, and I switch to speaker phone when that's not feasible. I also try to use a landline (with a wire, not cordless) when I can. Additionally, my husband and I put our cell phones (and other electrical devices) in an adjoining room instead of keeping them by our heads when we sleep. Most importantly, it's absolutely crucial that children avoid cell phone use for as long as they can, since their brains are rapidly developing and are at an increased risk.

We cannot completely avoid all electromagnetic radiation from cell phones and other devices, but it's wise to do everything we can to reduce our exposure whenever possible.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Memorial Day BBQ

We had some really good friends over for a BBQ on Memorial Day weekend. As expected, my husband bought different kinds of high quality meat (I urged for organic when possible), organic corn, and a variety of tasty veggies, but my favorite part was the peanut coleslaw. I often shy away from regular cole slaw because it tends to have more mayonnaise than veggies, but this slaw is made with oil and vinegar instead of mayo and also contains heart-healthy nuts. I adapted the recipe from this website, which I found when I Googled "Wood Ranch peanut cole slaw recipe." For those of you who live in the Los Angeles area, Wood Ranch is perhaps one of the best BBQ restaurants around, known as much for its peanut slaw as it is for its ribs. I wanted to bring a bit of "home" to Arizona for my LA-native husband. My Google searching did not yield a Wood Ranch-sponsored recipe, but this knock-off tastes pretty darn close!

Of course, I made a few substitutions: cold pressed extra virgin olive oil for vegetable oil and stevia instead of sugar. It was a hit at the BBQ, and my husband and I polished it off the next day.

Here's the recipe, along with a few pictures of our BBQ. Hopefully you will enjoy many fun evenings with friends and family this summer, even if you reside in the (freakishly) hot Arizona desert like we do.

Peanut Cole Slaw
**Use organic vegetables whenever possible

1 16-oz package shredded cabbage and carrots
1 1/2 cups shredded red cabbage
3/4 cup finely sliced celery
1/3 cup finely chopped green onions
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon sugar (or stevia to taste)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
Garlic pepper or black pepper to taste
1 cup dry roasted peanuts

In a large mixing bowl, combine all vegetables. Combine remaining ingredients (except peanuts) in a small bowl. Pour dressing over the vegetables and mix. Stir in peanuts.

This recipe tastes best if you refrigerate for a few hours before serving, as it lets the flavors set in. Don't worry about being really strict with the serving sizes of vegetables. I wanted to use up both packages of cabbage, so I added more vinegar, water, and olive oil. Also, don't be afraid to taste as you go! If you think it should be sweeter have more garlic, cook with your taste buds.

Here are a few shots of our BBQ. First, the delicious cole slaw:

Our marinating shrimp (pre-grilling):

Stunning summer veggies, including super creamy and perfectly ripe avocados:

The spread! Notice the organic sauerkraut, my new favorite topping, and a slew of sauces. My only requirement was that none of them had high fructose corn syrup if possible. Such a buzz kill!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Pudding

I was having a monster chocolate craving, which seems to come around every once, and I came across this recipe for vegan chocolate pudding on the Whole Living blog. I love the Whole Living magazine (a Martha Stewart publication), and I always enjoy reading their Facebook page and newsletters. It's a little unusual because it involves avocados for fat/texture, but it's really great! My only change was to add a bit of stevia to sweeten it up even more. I feel great after eating it, not heavy and sluggish like I would do post-Jello pudding.

Note: I doubled this recipe.

Avocado Chocolate Pudding (a.k.a. Chocomole!)

1 ripe avocado
6-10 dates (pitted), soaked if very hard
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder or 2 tablespoons carob powder
1/2 cup water

Here are the ingredients, added in order (avocado, then dates, then vanilla and cocoa):

While the motor is running, drizzle the water in, stopping to scrape sides of bowl if need be, until the mixture resembles a thick, chocolate pudding. Let it continue mixing until smooth and creamy. Here's what it looks like in the end:

Yum, huh? I know what you're thinking: avocados? What? The cocoa and dates completely mask the avocado flavor, and they give it a great creamy texture with a healthy spin. I'm going to try freezing the pudding to see how it turns out.

This recipe is full of healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, potassium, and a host of phytochemicals from the cocoa, avocado, and dates that are so important for disease prevention. Give it a might be surprised at how much you enjoy it! I know I do, and it completely hit the spot for a rich, chocolate taste.