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

Friday, March 30, 2012

Freebie Friday - Stevia

Today's Freebie Friday is one container of powdered stevia extract! To be eligible to win, leave a comment below this post and tell me how you like to use any of these natural sweeteners - stevia, honey, maple syrup, or sugar in the raw!

I love using stevia to sweeten iced tea, Teeccino, and baked goods or frozen desserts. It's not an artificial sweetener - it comes from the naturally sweet stevia leaf - but it's also sugar and calorie free. This means it does not cause your blood sugar and subsequent insulin levels to rise. High insulin levels over time may increase our risk for chronic disease, including heart disease and diabetes, so it's important to keep them as steady as we can. Using stevia helps me avoid a sugar spike while getting a small amount of sweetness.ase over time.
Hey stevia plant! Don't you look gawwwgeous!

I also use small amounts of honey, real maple syrup, and sugar in the raw as sweeteners. I avoid artificial sweeteners like saccharin (Sweet N Low), aspartame (Nutrasweet), acesulfame K (Sweet One), and sucralose (Splenda) because not only am I cautious of the risks, but because I feel terrible after consuming them. I can tell instantly if I accidentally ingest artificial sweeteners - a headache and stomachache usually ensue. Don't get me wrong; I used to love my Diet Dr. Pepper, but when I had my last diet soda five years ago, I didn't realize how much better I would feel without it.

Even if you don't drink diet soda, you might be getting artificial sweeteners in your gum, candy, or even dietary supplements (like Airborne! Bummer!). Check the label, and remember that many companies use the generic term (acesulfame K or acesulfame potassium are popular in gum) on the ingredient list.

You can purchase stevia at most grocery stores under the name Truvia, but I prefer to get it at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods because I get the extract without fillers or additives (like Truvia uses) and can use much less of it. It's also cropping up at barista stands, where you would also find sugar packets. Stevia is available in powdered and liquid forms, and many of the liquid varieties are flavored. Vanilla sweetness in your coffee? Mmm.



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dairy-free Chocolate Cashew Butter Cups

I love having frozen chocolatey desserts on hand when a sweet craving strikes, and my usual go to is healthy fudge. In efforts to mix up my routine, I tried cashew butter cups from Dr. Ben Kim's website - and they are divine. I had made them before, but this time around I added the optional cocoa nibs to the filling, and their crunch and texture made this recipe one I will make time and time again. My husband, an ice cream fanatic, satisfies his sweet tooth with half of one of these dense, flavorful treats and doesn't need to head to Cold Stone.

If you have never used cocoa nibs, I urge you to give them a try. You will find them at Whole Foods or other health food stores. I especially enjoy Navitas Naturals brand. Cocoa nibs are made from the cocoa bean; they're pieces of dried, fermented and crushed bean that have a strong cocoa flavor and are chock full of flavonoids, antioxidants, and blood pressure-reducing power. Read more about cocoa nibs and how to use them here. I personally love to put them in my flourless banana bread (coming to the blog soon!), smoothies, and other healthy desserts.

These chocolate cashew butter cups are great because they're made with the nutrient powerhouses listed below:

Cashew butter - rich in healthy fats, iron, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and zinc
Coconut oil - high in heart-protective medium chain triglycerides and has antiseptic qualities
Cocoa nibs/cocoa powder - heart healthy chocolate without added sugar or soy lecithin
Honey - a natural sugar that also contains minerals and fights germs

Note: I doubled this recipe to make 12 large cups, which I cut in 1/4 or 1/2 for each serving.


Chocolate ingredients
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup honey (you can sub some liquid stevia here if desired)
1/4 cup coconut oil

Filling ingredients
1/2 cup cashew butter
1 T cocoa nibs (optional - I'd recommend more, perhaps 2 T)
1/2 T honey (I used stevia)


Mix the ingredients for the chocolate together. Make sure to mix well.

Use a spoon to spread this mixture on the bottom and up the inside of each cupcake liner (note: I was out of liners so just placed these directly in the pan; not as clean but works just fine). It helps to spoon a large glob of the mixture into the liner and then spread it in a thick layer.

Put these prepared liners in the muffin pan (to help each cup maintain its shape) and place in the freezer.

Set aside the chocolate mixture that's left over; you'll use it in a few minutes.

While the cups are resting in the freezer, mix the filling ingredients together. Make sure to mix well.

Once your filling is ready, take the muffin pan out of the freezer and fill each cup with the cashew filling. Make sure you leave enough room at the top of each cup for a final layer of chocolate.

Place the cups back in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Once the 10 minutes are up, bring the muffin pan out and top off each cup with the rest of the chocolate mixture. Place the muffin pan back in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to let the cups harden. Then peel the cupcake liners off and enjoy!

Here's my iPhone camera attempt to show you the cocoa nibs in the center:

Please note: These chocolate cashew butter cups get harder and more enjoyable with each passing day, so consider saving a few to enjoy as an after-dinner dessert a day or two after making them.

Make sure to keep these puppies frozen; otherwise, they get messy as they melt!

Tell me, what's your favorite dessert ("healthy" or "play")?



Friday, March 23, 2012

Freebie Friday - The Health Foodie Kale Chips from North Scottsdale Farmers' Market

To enter to win this week's Freebie Friday - a container of spicy kale chips from The Health Foodie as sponsored by the North Scottsdale Farmers Market - leave a comment below telling me how you like to incorporate leafy greens into your diet! You must comment by 11:59 PM Pacific time on Friday, March 23rd to be eligible.

The North Scottsdale Farmers Market, my favorite spot for local, fresh produce, meats, eggs, and other goodies, has been so kind to sponsor one Freebie Friday per month! The market opened during the summer of 2010 and has been a go-to spot for me and many of my clients since then. Below are some images straight from the market. Don't these tomatoes look rockin'?

The North Scottsdale Farmers Market is a year round Saturday farmers market located at the Shops at 94 Hundred located at 9343 E Shea Boulevard, Scottsdale, AZ 85260 - just one mile east of the 101 on the south side of Shea Boulevard. Check their website for hours.

Local honey may help desensitize you to the pollen in your area if you start incorporating it into your diet!

Not only is this produce delicious and locally grown, it's grown without pesticides and is a great deal!

I take advantage of their awesome delivery service (only $3 delivery fee within a 10 mile radius!) when I can't make it to the market. The girl who delivers it comes into my house (if I'm there) and helps me put everything away! Plus, she often brings recipes based on what I purchased. Now that's full service. For delivery, simply go to their order form on their website and place your order before 1 pm on Fridays. Your order will be delivered to your front doorstep on Saturday. If you are not home for your pick up, they ask that you leave ice on your doorstep. Safety first!

Kale Chips

This first Freebie Friday from the NSFM is a container of spicy kale chips from the Health Foodie! You know how much I love kale - and I have even tried my hand at my own kale chips
. Kale is packed with nutrients like vitamins K, A, C and fiber, and kale chips provide a nice balance of fat and protein to round out your snack. However, sometimes it's much easier to buy them then make them yourself, and I love to buy them from a local company who is really concerned about quality and ingredients.

Here's some more information, straight from their owner, Zack Funke:

"We are a local Phoenix based company that started in November 2009. We produce the greenest product on the planet, kale chips! We use hand selected kale from local farmers and batter the leaves in our proprietary blend of cashews and spices, then dehydrate these coated leaves to a crisp perfection. Our signature line consists of four flavors: Most Original, Extra Cheesy, Mucho Spicy, and Garlic Goody.

We package the chips in recyclable and reusable plastic containers that can be conveniently returned at farmers market for a credit. We distribute the chips at every major farmers market throughout the valley. These select local retailers also stock the chips: Luci's Healthy Marketplace, Tempe Farmers Market Store, Phoenix Public Market, Healthy Habit, and Tom's Thumb Market. Soon they will be available for purchase by April 1st at our website!

The owner, Zack Funke, is a beekeeper that maintains hives in South Phoenix at the Garden of Tomorrowland, at which community residents aid in growing veggies and fruits without the use of pesticides. He expects his first yield of honey this spring. Zack is connected to a network of beekeepers in Arizona and in surrounding states that work bees in the traditional way, without the use of treatments, fumigants, or other contaminants. The honeys are hand selected and judged on the basis of purity. All are raw and unfiltered to ensure the flavor profile and nutritional value of the honey is maintained."

By the way, they also have GRASS-FED BEEF JERKY! How cool is that?!?!



Sunday, March 18, 2012

Homemade Heallthy Olive/Flaxseed Oil Mayo

I'm not a fan of commercially purchased mayonnaise because it usually either contains soy or canola oil, which are both usually genetically modified unless you purchase organic varieties. Soy oil can be highly inflammatory due to its high omega-6 content and may have deleterious effects on the thyroid. Canola oil, on the other hand, is higher in monounsaturated fats (the kinds that make olive oil healthy), but is actually genetically engineered from the rape plant, as a "canola" plant doesn't exist.

Furthermore, so many commercially produced mayo products have a lot of strange additives. Don't be fooled by Hellmann's mayo commercials in which they talk about how their mayo is "real" - in my opinion, highly processed, pesticide-laden genetically modified soy oil (a.k.a. "vegetable" oil on the label) is not my idea of "real." However, it's still better than an ingredient list 20+ long.

I personally prefer using olive oil, coconut oil, and flaxseed or walnut oil more than all others because of their protective and anti-inflammatory properties. Monounsaturated fats (olive oil), omega-3 fats (walnut/flaxseed oil), and lauric acid (coconut oil) are cardio-protective compared to pro-inflammatory omega-6 oils like corn, soy, and peanut. (By the way, the other "fat" I use is pasture butter, but I don't think you'd want melted butter in your salad dressing or mayo!)

By the way, if I do purchase mayo from the store, I usually get safflower mayo at Whole Foods or Sprouts. Safflower is still high in omega-6, but I prefer it over canola or soy oil.

In efforts to avoid canola or soy in commercial mayo, I decided to try my hand at homemade mayonnaise made with olive and flaxseed oils. With a stand mixer it was especially easy. It has a stronger flavor, but used in the
Whole Foods inspired Curry Chicken Salad recipe, it had a wonderful taste and texture.

I adapted this recipe from Nourishing Days, a food blog devoted to traditional foods. I tripled the recipe to have extra to store, and I used a blend of olive and flaxseed oils instead of just olive oil.


1 egg yolk
1 T lemon juice
6 T olive oil
2 T flaxseed oil
Pinch of celtic sea salt and pepper
Pinch of mustard powder


Assemble ingredients:

Warm the bowl by filling a small metal or glass bowl with warm water. Let sit for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of our ingredients. After a few minutes dump out warm water and dry bowl thoroughly. I just heated some water in my tea pot and let the hot water sit in the bowl to warm it.

Combine egg yolk and lemon juice in bowl and whisk thoroughly.

Place olive oil in a measuring cup with a spout. You are now going to drizzle the olive oil in one drop at a time while whisking (or blending using your stand mixer). It sounds tedious, but it doesn’t take long. Just go very slowly so that the egg yolk can emulsify the lemon juice and oil. I added a small amount at a time and let the blender keep mixing on its own.

Once you are about halfway through your oil you can start drizzling a little faster. Just keep whisking/mixing to ensure that the olive and flaxseed oil emulsify (or blend).

Once all of the oil is incorporated you should have a thick, creamy texture. Whisk in the salt and mustard powder. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. It thickens more once refrigerated.

Refrigerate immediately if not using; it keeps for a few days.

Here's that yummy chicken salad with my homemade mayo! I'm also planning to use it for egg salad as well. Yum!



Friday, March 16, 2012

Freebie Friday - Whole Foods Gift Card

I love Whole Foods. My best friend made fun of me last time we went there together, joking that I was in my happy place. They have so many fun and interesting products...but it can be pricey.

For that reason (and because I love all of you), today's Freebie Friday is a $20 gift card to Whole Foods! All you have to do is leave a comment below, telling me your favorite thing to buy at Whole Foods, and you will be entered in a drawing for the gift card. Nope, this is not sponsored by them...I just like to get new ideas :)

Happy Friday!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Is Hummus Healthy?

Hummus is one of my favorite foods. The smooth, creamy texture pairs well with everything - cucumber slices, pita chips, shredded chicken, even salad. I've actually eaten it with a veggie omelette - no joke. Hummus can be a super healthy source of nourishing fat, protein, and long as it is made with the right ingredients.

Hummus, a Middle Eastern dip, is traditionally made with chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini (sesame seed paste), olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. Of course, different flavors will have additional ingredients, such as bell pepper or artichokes. Hummus can be found at many restaurants and most grocery stores and farmers' markets. While it is thought to be a really healthful treat, modern food manufacturing and the desire to increase shelf life has created hummus copycats that aren't so healthy after all.

Full disclosure: I read ingredient lists for 99% of the foods I eat. I know that big brand hummus is mass manufactured and made with highly processed (and inflammatory and genetically modified) oils like soy ("vegetable") or canola. But the 1% of the time I didn't check the label, I ended up purchasing a hummus that not only had strange oils, but it also had sodium benzoate, a preservative that is being investigated for potential carcinogenic properties. Great.

Oh, the brand? Athenos. Yeah, the one you'll find in most grocery stores. Bummer, dude.

So I'm going on one of my soapbox rants. I feel that all foods fit, but it angers me when we think we're getting whole, healthy ingredients while we're really getting duped. If I want a cookie, I'm going to eat a cookie. I know what I'm getting. But if I'm looking for a healthful, nourishing snack in which to dunk sliced carrots or cucumbers and I end up getting a highly processed, cheap product, I get a little peeved. OK, a lot.

Here's what you need to look out for when buying REAL hummus.

1. Make sure the only oil in your hummus is olive oil. Not vegetable, canola, soy, or sunflower oil. Olive oil. That's it. Why settle for the fake stuff when you can get real hummus just by knowing what to look for? Or, better yet, make it on your own! Check out this basic recipe from the Food Network or this awesome looking sweet potato hummus variation from Whole Living.

Olive oil doesn't have as long as a shelf life and is more expensive, which is why a lot of food manufacturers don't use it. However, it has the best fatty acid profile and is anti-inflammatory - something soy and canola cannot claim. Thus, you might need to pay closer attention to expiration dates when buying real hummus. Remember, the longer the shelf life, the shorter yours.

2. Watch out for additives, especially sodium benzoate and high fructose corn syrup. Sodium benzoate can combine with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to create small amounts of benzene, which is a known carcinogen. You will also find benzene in cigarette smoke and some colas; you really don't need it in your hummus too. For more information on ingredients in popular hummus brands, check out Label Watch.

So, which hummus brands fit the bill - olive oil and no strange additives? Dr. Hummus, an Arizona-based company that sells at Whole Foods, AJs, and many farmers' markets, is by far my favorite. They have tons of different flavors and even have some tahini-free options for those who like a lower-fat variety.

You can also usually find olive-oil based hummus at health food stores like Sprouts, Sunflower Market, Whole Foods, and New Frontier - you just have to check the label! Beware of Trader Joes, however; while their hummus is delicious, it doesn't stand up to the "real hummus" test.

Surprisingly, you can also find real hummus at Costco! Baba Foods brand carries an awesome Fresh Cilantro and Jalapeno flavor that comes in a huge tub and is under $7. Plus, it's delicious and goes with everything!

Check it out! Real, whole food ingredients and no strange additives:

Mmmmmm...hummus on a salad with shredded chicken, tons of veggies, and avocado:

Do you have a favorite real hummus brand? Please share your thoughts below! And buyer beware - unless you know what to watch for, you may get duped into buying not-so-healthful hummus, as I did!


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What's in my fridge {crazy busy edition}

I snapped a few pics before I headed off to Mammoth on a whirlwind weekend trip with my best friend. Before I left, I made sure to stock my fridge with a few simple things so that I'd be prepared for the next week without having to make a Monday trip to the grocery store.

I usually bring my lunch to work, so I needed to have some staples for the upcoming week, plus plenty of fruits and veggies for breakfast and snacks. I also had a jam packed week of events and Karve training, so I was only planning to make dinner at home only one night this week. So, these shots show a pretty "bare" fridge for me - but it might help you in knowing what to keep on hand so you can throw some healthy meals together.

We eat a lot of eggs at my house. Whether hard boiled, poached, or sometimes scrambled, we're big fans. I especially love the organic soy-free eggs from Whole Foods or eggs from my local farmer at the North Scottsdale Farmers Market. I like to keep chia seeds around for various recipes and to sprinkle on my meals for an extra dose of omega-3 fats and fiber. You can also see my beloved organic pasture butter below.

I left my husband with a treat before I left - Whole Foods curry chicken salad (which I recreated at home here).

I keep certain supplements (probiotics, fish oil, and multi greens) refrigerated. Cold temps are necessary for the probiotics to stay alive; I just like keeping fish oil in the fridge so the gel caps don't stick together and they have less chance of becoming rancid.

Fruit drawer - I normally also keep bananas on the counter and frozen berries in the freezer.

Oh yeah, there are different types of apples, pears, avocado, lemons, limes, and tangerines in here, plus a tomato (technically it's a fruit, right?). The variety changes weekly.

My veggie drawer was pretty bare this week, but I did have huge containers of organic spinach and organic mesclun greens that didn't fit in the drawer.

I also keep plenty of kombucha, hummus, nut butters, Fig brand bean soups, almond milk, Ezekiel bread/English muffins, organic meats, goat cheese, raw organic cheese, and condiments such as salsa, Cholula, mustard, and various sauces on hand.

So what did all this food translate into this week?

For breakfast, I usually have a raw organic whey protein or rice protein shake with hempseed powder, frozen fruit or banana, almond milk, stevia, and almond butter. I try to mix up the fruit, nut butter, and protein type. I also love salads for breakfast (weird, I know), veggie scrambles, and brown rice cakes topped with almond butter, sliced banana, and chia seeds.

(My husband likes Cheerios and organic milk with a banana or an Ezekiel English muffin with peanut butter and jelly and a hard boiled egg - just in case you were wondering. And yes, he takes probiotics and fish oil daily.)

Lunches are always a salad of some kind with either an entree or topped with protein. I have been chipping away at a big bowl of great northern bean soup I made last week and froze for this week, topping it with chia seeds or avocado slices. I try to get as much variety as possible with my veggies, mixing in kale, tomato, cucumber, carrot, mushroom, squash, onion, and broccoli (among others).

Snacks include sliced cucumbers or baby carrots and hummus, organic hard boiled eggs, Lara bars, pears or apples with nut butters, or raw fudge (in my freezer).

Dinner two nights a week when I do Karve is an Organic Raw Revolution bar. I usually don't like replacing meals with bars, but these are whole food based and perfect for the 5 minutes I have between 1 hour of Karve class and 2 hours of Karve teacher training. Plus, it doesn't sit too heavily on my stomach while I am working out or demonstrating during the training.

Tonight's dinner will be an awesome spiced apple chicken recipe from Eating Well and a Clean Program recipe called Wilted Winter Greens. I'm looking to having my one night this week in the kitchen. I truly miss cooking during these busy teacher training months, but we're already in the home stretch!

What's in YOUR fridge?