Healthy Devils: Get your greens with pesto

Pesto adheres to the heart-healthy and cancer-preventative Mediterranean diet.
ASU Study Abroad offerings include Italy trip exploring the Mediterranean diet.
February 15, 2018

Now that Mardi Gras has passed and the last of the Valentine’s Day chocolates have been polished off, it’s time to get back on the wagon with those New Year’s resolutions. But eating healthier doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a life devoid of taste, said ASU Clinical Professor of nutrition Christina Shepard.

One of her favorite ways to ensure she’s getting enough leafy greens in her diet is by making pesto. You can use anything from arugula to spinach to the tops of carrots as the base of pesto — the garlic and olive oil go a long way in making up for any acidity or lack of flavor in the greens.

“So you’re still getting the health benefits of these nutritious but sometimes bitter greens, with great flavor,” Shepard said.

This spring, she’s heading to Italy as part of ASU’s Global Intensive Experience (GIE) program, where she’ll be teaching 18 students about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet through cooking classes and tours of produce markets and food production facilities.

Research has shown the Mediterranean diet is both heart-healthy and beneficial for cancer prevention, Shepard said. It’s high in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood and healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts and legumes — meaning pesto is A-OK if you’re adhering to it.

And pesto is both a universal and forgiving dish. Shepard has used it as a topper for chicken and salmon, and as a sauce for pizza and pasta. You can also add or eliminate ingredients to suit your taste, and it can be frozen to make it last longer.

“It’s hard to go wrong with pesto,” she said.

Shepard took some time to demonstrate for ASU Now just how easy it is to make.

Traditional Basil Pesto Sauce

Yield: makes 1 heaping cup


2 cups packed fresh basil, stems removed

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)

1/3 cup packed fresh chopped parsley

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste


Combine everything but the oil in a blender or food processor. Start slowly and raise the speed until it becomes a smooth paste, slowly drizzling in the oil throughout. You can make large quantities and freeze in small portions. To defrost: set out to thaw or microwave briefly.

Arugula Pesto Sauce

Yield: makes 1 heaping cup


1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

2 cups packed arugula leaves, stems removed

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste


Toast the walnuts in a pan over medium heat until lightly brown, or heat in a microwave on high heat for a minute or two until you get a roasted flavor. Combine the walnuts, arugula, garlic and salt into a food processor. Pulse while drizzling in the olive oil. Remove the mixture from the processor and put it into a bowl. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Serve on bread, crackers, as a topping for pizza or as a sauce for chicken or fish.

To learn more about the 250-plus study abroad programs in more than 65 different countries offered at ASU, see the Study Abroad Office websiteTop video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

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ASU communications lab helps students grow as speakers

Communication is about much more than enunciating well in front of a crowd.
February 15, 2018

CALL at ASU's West campus is one of 15 nationally certified peer-mentoring communications training programs

Justiana Carabajal neatly stacks the pages in front of her, then takes a deep breath as Arizona State University communications sophomore Miranda Alexander presses record on a video camera.

“Go ahead,” Alexander tells the 18-year-old, and hits start on a small, hand-held timer. Carabajal launches effortlessly into her speech, recounting her life story, the good along with the bad. From time to time, she looks up and smiles, and it’s infectious.

That’s a positive, Alexander tells her. Carabajal is great at connecting emotionally with the audience. However, she could work on the swaying. It can be distracting.

Carabajal takes the note graciously, mentally filing it away for the day, only about two weeks away now, when she will deliver that same speech in front of a crowd of friends, family and strangers at Phoenix College’s Bulpitt Auditorium. A member of the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Phoenix, she has been chosen to represent her branch and compete in the club’s annual Youth of the Year competition.

For the past few weeks, Carabajal and 12 other Boys & Girls Club youths have been visiting the Communication Assessment and Learning Lab (CALL) at ASU’s West campus to work on their speeches under the guidance of the lab’s experienced mentors, who — like Alexander — are students at ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

CALL is one of 15 nationally certified peer-mentoring communications training programs — the largest west of the Mississippi — and the only such program in Arizona.

Communications senior lecturer Bonnie Wentzel became the director of CALL after leaving a career in human resources to return to college.

“I grew tired of being on the side of the desk where people were losing their jobs or not getting promotions because of poor communication,” she said.

So Wentzel came to ASU, where she received a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree in communication. When the opportunity to stay on at the university as director of CALL came up, she jumped at the chance. The philosophy of the New American University had grown on her, and she wanted to do her part to continue fostering it.

“I take our charter very seriously,” Wentzel said. “We have the New American University poster outside of our offices. So I really just looked at that and thought, 'OK, in this new job I have, how can I contribute?' And social embeddedness really spoke to me.”

The opportunity CALL provides for student growth through community engagement is at the heart of its mission, she said. Along with the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Phoenix, the lab has also provided services to Girl Scouts of the USA and a handful of Fortune 500 companies in the Valley.

CALL mentors — both graduate and undergraduate students — do everything from assist with speech writing to taping and critiquing speakers’ delivery. Those services are also available to ASU faculty, staff and students enrolled in public speaking courses, both in-person and through ASU Online.

“Communication is one of the most needed skills, yet it’s not as easy to grasp as we think it is,” said Ken Kunkel, communications instructor and CALL assistant director. “People think, 'Oh, it’s just talking.' Well no, it’s also understanding your audience, considering the message you’re developing and how you’re saying it.

“I like to think of something Maya AngelouMaya Angelou has been quoted as saying, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” said, about how it’s not what you say, it’s how you leave people and how they feel.”

Kunkel started out at CALL as an undergraduate mentor. He said the lab helped him get out of his comfort zone and learn real-world skills in a less intimidating way.

“Anywhere else you go, if you mess up, you’re fired,” he said. “But here, you’re given that opportunity to take on a lot of professional responsibilities. It’s a great way to start to shape and put into practice all of those concepts you’re learning in school.”

Top photo: Communications and Spanish sophomore Miranda Alexander starts the video and stopwatch for 18-year-old Justiana Carbajal's three-minute speech practice session in the ASU Communication Assessment and Learning Lab on the West campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now