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

Monday, April 25, 2011

McNamee Family Chocolate Easter Eggs

Greg invited me to his family's Easter celebration for the first time in 2004. We had been dating for two years, yet I hadn't met much of his extended family. I met a bunch of relatives, sang sorority songs with his sister and cousin (both Chi Omegas from different schools), and first experienced one of the McNamee family's most cherished traditions: Chocolate Easter Eggs. Seven years later, I finally had the honor of learning how to make these delicious treats on our recent trip back to Palm Springs. They're like gourmet Cadbury cream eggs...without the fake "yolk" and with a better consistency. Passed down from Grandma Benkert on Greg's dad's side, they are they highlight of McNamee Easters. Even though this is a prized family recipe, Chris assured me that Grandma Benkert would have liked others to experience these delicious treats!

Note to my loyal readers: this is certainly a "play" food and not a "vital" food, but we definitely need play in our lives, right? These eggs are dipped in chocolate and are traditionally made into five cream-filling flavors:

Vanilla with Nuts
Vanilla with Coconut
Chocolate with Nuts

I've made a recommendation for one change - swapping out the margarine for real butter. I doubt it would affect the flavor (it might make them even more delicious), and it would take out the trans fat! At the time this recipe was written down, there's a good chance that margarine was deemed healthier than butter. We know better now :)

Please note that the original recipe doesn't have instructions and is very hard to read, so some of these ingredients are estimates. We had to add some extra powdered sugar to make the eggs less "sticky."


Vanilla Cream Filling
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 lb. margarine (try butter)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 bags powdered sugar
Approximately 1/2 cup toasted almonds (for the Vanilla and Nuts flavor)
Shredded sweetened coconut (for the Vanilla and Coconut flavor)

Chocolate Cream Filling
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup margarine (try butter)
3 squares semi-sweet chocolate
2 bags powdered sugar
Approximately 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds (for the Chocolate and Nuts flavor)
2 tsp. vanilla

Outer Shell
Semi-sweet chocolate squares (2 packages)


Make the vanilla and the chocolate flavors separately.

Blend the cream cheese, margarine/butter, and vanilla in a food processor. If making chocolate, stir in the melted semi-sweet chocolate.

Separate the vanilla into 3 bowls. Add coconut to one bowl and almonds to another. The third bowl will remain plain vanilla.

Separate the chocolate flavor into 2 bowls.

Add almonds to one bowl. The second bowl will remain plain chocolate.

Refrigerate the bowls to set the cream fillings. When the cream filling is pliable but not too sticky, remove from refrigerator. Form about 6 "eggs" from each cream filling bowl. You might be able to make more or less, depending on how much cream filling you have. Set the eggs on cookie sheets (don't forget to label!) and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Meanwhile, melt the semi-sweet chocolate over low to medium heat or over a double boiler until smooth. Pour into a bowl.

Remove the eggs from the refrigerator. Dip one half of each egg in the chocolate and place on the cookie sheet. Repeat with all eggs of all flavors. (This is where it gets messy!)

Return the cookie sheets to the refrigerator and cool for 20 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and dip the other half of the egg in the chocolate.

Return to the refrigerator to cool.

When the chocolate shells have set, wrap each egg in tin foil, then wrap each foiled egg in color-coded cellophane, tying the opening with matching ribbon. Each flavor is associated with a different cellophane color:

Plain Vanilla - Blue
Vanilla with Nuts - Pink
Vanilla with Coconut - Yellow
Plain Chocolate - Purple
Chocolate with Nuts - Green

It is very important that you keep the flavors straight so that you use the correct cellophane wrapping colors. The presentation is as important, if not more, as what's inside!

The eggs are best if refrigerated until eaten, though they can also be frozen. They make wonderful gifts and brighten up any Easter!



Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chris McNamee's Avocado Salsa

My mother-in-law is a great cook. She makes this delicious avocado salsa from a recipe supplied by her friend Ede. Of course, she gives all the credit to Ede...but I say it's Chris' salsa because she's a pro at making it.

This recipe is really simple and absolutely to-die-for. I have never seen it sit untouched at a party; in fact, it's always the crowd favorite!

Avocado is chock-full of satisfying, heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, making this dip enough to eat as a meal (especially if topped with a protein source, such as chicken beans). Make sure to use organic corn, as conventional corn is likely to be genetically modified.

Avocado Salsa

16 oz frozen white corn - choose organic
2 small cans sliced olives
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small purple onion, chopped
5 gloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 T. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. dried oregano
3-4 diced avocados
Dash sea salt


Assemble ingredients:

Mix all ingredients except the avocados in a large bowl:

Red onions:


Red bell pepper:


Raw apple cider vinegar:

Olive Oil:

Oregano and sea salt:

Lemon juice:

Mix it all together:

Refrigerate for 2 hours or as long as overnight. I made this on Thursday night for a Friday night dinner party.

Dice the avocados and add just before serving.

Serve with Trader Joe's Veggie Flaxseed chips:



Monday, April 4, 2011

Sloppy Joes!

I wanted to make something fun and easy with the pound of grass-fed beef I had from Rockhouse Cattle Company (which I purchased from the North Scottsdale Farmers Market). Solution: sloppy joes! I went to my favorite cooking website,, to find this yummy recipe. I probably would have toned down the vinegar a bit, but these joes were pretty good (and full of veggies, too)!

Eating Well Sloppy Joes

8 servings, 1/2 cup each

12 ounces 90%-lean ground beef
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cups finely chopped cremini mushrooms, (about 4 ounces)
5 plum tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar (I would cut this in half)
1/4 cup chili sauce, such as Heinz
1/4 cup ketchup
8 whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted if desired


Assemble ingredients:

Crumble beef into a large nonstick skillet; cook over medium heat until it starts to sizzle, about 1 minute.

Add onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the vegetables are soft and the moisture has evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add tomatoes and flour; stir to combine:

Stir in water, vinegar, chili sauce and ketchup and bring to a simmer, stirring often.

Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and the onion is very tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm on buns (or over steamed veggies, a baked potato, or even with brown rice!).

As my dad would say.....schlooouuuuup!