Amazing Pasta Salad Featuring Grilled Vegetables

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I’ve missed communicating with you but I’m currently updating my website and blog. Please poke around the site to learn more about me and what I do, and check out my new food and drink gallery for culinary inspiration.

And make sure to check out this recipe on the home blog page, then make a bookmark and subscribe to my new blog while I continue to migrate everything over to! Thanks!

PastaSalad_Full | PK Way

Cucumber Lime Spritzer: Your Go-To Summer Drink, Any Time of Day

Cucumber Lime Sprtizer | #pkwayI love creating luscious cocktails, most of which star fruits, vegetables, and herbs. (Here’s a slideshow of my favorites.) But cocktails aren’t for all the time, or for everyone. And we all need things to sip when we just want to stay hydrated—without all the added sugar and calories that come from many of the beverages out there.

Enter today’s “recipe,” a fun way to add sparkle and zest to hydration, and elegant enough to act as a refreshing mocktail.

Simply start with a base of soda or tonic water, whichever you prefer, and add discs of sliced cucumber and a lime wedge; ice is up to you. Easy as can be. You can do the same with regular tap water, if you prefer still to sparkling, or you can start with a non-sugar added flavored seltzer of your choice. It’s a fun way to keep you hydrated when you want something more than water, or an option for non-alcoholic drinks.

In a similar version of this drink, I purée cucumbers and create basil simple syrup for a true mocktail. It’s delicious, and highly recommended, but this one’s obviously much less work, still pretty, and is a better option for anytime drinking since it doesn’t include sugar.

You can add herbs if you want, as I do in my cucumber mint water, or swap lemon for lime. Or go in a completely direction with stone fruit and berries. There are tons of tasty combinations to dress up your water and help you keep calories in balance. (Alcohol, after all, provides a lot of calories if left unchecked; more here.) Make it your own, do what makes you happy, and know that you’re making a healthier choice for your body.

Cucumber Lime Sprtizer | PK Newby

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Better-for-You Rice and Beans

Rice and Beans |#pkwayThis is the third of my black bean-inspired posts, and it feels great to give beans some love! The American Heart Association recommends people consume three to five servings of beans and nuts each week because of their nutrients like fiber, iron, and zinc. (One serving is about one-quarter cup cooked beans.) And because they’re so high in protein, beans can be swapped for meat or poultry for a tasty and planet-friendlier choice. Harvard’s Healthy Plate shows that protein-rich foods like beans should comprise about one-quarter of your dinner plate. Yet most people don’t eat nearly enough for optimal health.

Rice and beans is a classic dish in many parts of the world, each with their own flavors. Here I’m sticking with the version common in Mexico, which builds off my recent Cinco de Mayo posts and is familiar to most Americans. It’s got big flavors that everyone likes, which makes it easier than ever to get more beans into your diet. And if you make up a big batch of fifteen-minute black beans this meal will just keep giving and giving—and you can store additional beans in the freezer for another time to boot.

All you need to do is whip up a batch of black beans and get some brown rice on the stove. Serve the beans atop the rice, or mix the two to bring the flavors together. If you are new to brown rice or trying to get yourself to choose more whole grain foods (or your kid, or your spouse…), I recommend tossing them together: the sauce from the beans will hide the color of the rice and my guess is no one will notice. And if you don’t at first succeed, try and try again: taste buds are elastic and adapt to new flavors with repeated exposure. In no time at all, you’ll make the switch to brown rice for good. (Read more here about the superior nutritional content of whole grain foods and why they’re important for your health.)

Brown Rice and Black Beans | #pkway

This dish is wonderful unadorned, all on its own, but feel free to garnish it however you’d like. I added chopped avocado, cilantro, and a bit of pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa) and it was fantastic!

Mexican Rice and Beans | #pkway

Like this? Then you’ll also love when I toss these same black beans and brown rice into a fabulous Mexican salad (rice and bean bowl with cilantro-lime vinaigrette. And don’t forget to check out my recipe page for additional dishes to get more yummy beans into your diet!

Mexican Rice and Bean Bowl with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

Mexican Rice and Bean Bowl | #pkwayCinco de Mayo may only be one day, but I have more Mexican deliciousness up my sleeve to share. Today’s recipe features black beans, then adds brown rice and kale in whatever portions you like and tops the whole thing with creamy avocado, crisp corn, and pretty scallions. There’s a lot of nutrition in this bowl—and it will tantalize your taste buds as much as it nourishes your body.

All you need to do is prepare a batch of Mexcian-style black beans—why not add in a chopped chipotle in adobo to spice things up?—and then serve warm or cold atop a bed of greens tossed with brown rice. Scatter on your favorite toppings and you’ve got on fabulous meal. Red peppers? Olives? Tomatoes? Cheddar? Cilantro? Make it your own!

Cilantro Lime VinaigretteSimple olive oil and vinegar with a squeeze of fresh-squeezed lime are just lovely with this salad, but zingy cilantro vinaigrette takes it over the top. (And it’s one of my most popular recipes.) Plus, if you start from leftover fifteen-minute-only black beans and brown rice from a previous night’s dinner this meal comes together incredibly quickly. Another simple weeknight dinner starring leftovers: done.

This salad is perfect when you want some bold Mexican flavors as part of a light and flavorful supper, which is an especially great choice in the warmer months.

Mexican Salad | #pkway

Olé indeed.

Like this recipe? Then be sure to check out my gallery of Mexican dishes and salsas, especially this unbelievable taco salad.

Black Beans: Quick, Easy, Delicious

Black Beans | #pkwayHappy Cinco de Mayo! I began my own party with a round-up of salsas last week and a full menu of tasty Mexican recipes, which has since been updated with scrumptious things like Mexican cauliflower. (That was one of my most popular 2014 recipes, by the way.) Between that and margaritas, watermelon to pomegranate to classic strawberry, I’ve got you covered.

Today I’m featuring a staple of South-of-the-Border cuisine popular in Mexico, Cuba, Brazil, and beyond. There are tons of variations, of course. Mexican black beans include spices like cumin and chili powder and perhaps cayenne and jalapeños (and tomatoes, if you’re so inclined). Most Cuban recipes are tomato-less and feature only oregano.

This dish is stove to table in just fifteen minutes—yes, really!—and has only five key ingredients: oil, onion, beans, green pepper, oregano. The remaining spices and veggies are simply to your preference, and the final seasonings (lime juice, sugar, and cilantro are all optional for flavor and balance. Yes, I recommend adding all of these things, but do what makes you happy. The key, as always, is to suit your taste, in whatever time you feel like spending in the kitchen.

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  • 2 tablespoons safflower oil (or any vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2  poblano pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • Pinch or two of cayenne, to taste
  • 2 15-ounce no-salt added black beans with their liquid (or 4 cups beans from dried plus 1 cup water)
  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock or 1 15-ounce can stewed or chopped tomatoes
  • Juice from 1 lime, freshly squeezed
  • 1 heaping teaspoon brown sugar or 1 teaspoon agave nectar, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro with additional for garnish (optional)


Heat oil over medium heat until shimmering, then add in chopped onions and pepper(s). Season with salt and pepper and sauté until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and oregano (and other spices, if using) and stir until fragrant. Add beans and liquids (and/or tomatoes), bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for five minutes. Taste, and reseason with salt, pepper, and seasonings as needed. Taste again and finish the dish with fresh lime juice for acidity and sugar for sweetness, if desired, and/or cilantro.

Makes about 6 cups. Recipe can be doubled and freezes beautifully.

Cuban Black Means | #pkway

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Black beans are packed with protein and fiber (about 15 grams of each in one cup); are a good source of iron; provide many powerful phytonutrients (plant chemicals beneficial to health); and have been associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They’re a more sustainable choice for our planet compared to animal protein, too. As important, they’re absolutely delicious on their own and can also be featured in a number of different recipes that I’ll share with you this week. Stay tuned, and happy Cinco de Mayo!

Five Salsas for Cinco de Mayo (May Include Guacamole)

Salsa Fresca| PKWayCinco de Mayo is around the corner, which means it’s time to grab some salsa and margaritas—do you prefer watermelon or strawberry?—and have some delicious fun. There’s an amazing array of fruits and vegetables that can be used to make salsa, from traditional tomato-only to completely tomato-less. That means there’s a salsa to suit every palate and every occasion, any time of year. Below are five of my go-to salsas: salsa fresca with sungold cherry tomatoes, peach salsa (video), salsa verde, roasted tomato and tomatillo salsa, and mango salsa. And I’ve included the classic tomato version (Pico de Gallo, aka “rooster’s beak”) too to get the salsa party started. Whichever is your favorite, all of them are super easy to make, not to mention colorful, tasty, and nutritious.

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Oh, and you saw that I also included guacamole, which obviously isn’t salsa but because, well, guacamole. You should definitely try your hand at making guac, if nothing else, which takes only five minutes and my easy cooking video shows you how.

Wondering what to do with all these glorious salsas? Thanks for asking! Check out this round-up of my favorite Mexican dishes, including tacos of all kinds, salads, and many other dishes to take your fiesta to a whole new level.


Fitness Inspiration (or, Balance What You Eat with Physical Activity)

Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.

Plato’s words, not mine, and I’m not going to try and improve upon his prose—especially given I agree with the sentiment. I can’t compete with some of the greatest thinkers of the Western world, after all.

But Marathon Monday, an actual holiday here in Boston when tens of thousands of runners participate in the Boston Marathon, is a great day to take a moment to reflect upon the importance of fitness for overall health and wellness.

Boston Marathon 2010 | #pkwayWhile this blog is dedicated to food, cooking, nutrition, and green eating, the subject of physical fitness comes up now and again. The fact is, you really can’t be as serious as I am about health and wellness if you aren’t in to staying fit. So I’ll come right out and admit it: I am a certifiied gym rat and enjoy all kinds of physical activity, including walking, running, strength training, spinning, swimming, step aerobics, Pilates, and yoga—among others. I was a certified fitness instructor for several years during graduate school and began running marathons in 2010. (Search this blog for “marathon” if you’re into that kind of thing.) Running a marathon is an incredible challenge, and if you’re so inclined, go for it! But you don’t need to run 26.2 miles, or even be a runner at all, to find the physical activity that works for you.

And the benefits come to mind as well as body.

The Mind & Body Benefits of Exercise

The truth is that I’ve always been active and exercise plays a major role in keeping me sane—note the italics here, for emphasis—as well as in shape. I also walk pretty much everywhere as a form of transportation to the extent possible, which is fairly easy to do in Boston. Walking greatly reduces your carbon footprint compared to driving a car, as you know, so this is one small way I exert my personal choice in influencing the sustainability of the planet. Of course, physical activity is the other key part of the energy balance equation alongside diet, so it’s clearly very important when it comes to weight management and obesity prevention, my research area of expertise.

Now, please remember that weight is a matter of health, not looks. While regular physical activity will help you manage your weight and improve your body composition and tone, it will also provide a host of other amazing benefits. Lowered risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and overall mortality are wonderful long-term effects yet the mental health impacts are enjoyed immediately. Endorphins are neurotransmitters released by the brain during a host of circumstances where your heart rate is elevated, such as physical activity. These powerful chemicals are no joke, leading to an improvement in mood and reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression. I’ve found running to work in the morning a great way to begin the day—when I do it, that is, as I’m not really a morning person. The point is that whatever I do, whenever I do it, my mood is always better after the fact.

Remember my use of the word “sane”?

Boston Marathon 2010 | PK NewbyAnd do remember that it’s never too late to start getting in shape, no matter your current level of fitness, weight, or age. I ran along side an 80 year man named Harvey during my first marathon. (See the photo?)

Need even more inspiration? Then check out this story about a 100 year old man completing the Toronto Marathon in October 2011, setting the Guinness World Record. Wow!

All of this reminds me of a quote by Ellen Degeneres: “You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 today and we don’t know where the hell she is.”

No matter what age you are, or where you are in your own journey, here’s to your health!

Spring Green Soup Starring Cauliflower and Peas

Cauliflower Parsnip Soup | #pkwayWith spring comes not only warmer weather but an exciting array of vegetables that mark the beginning of local produce. Strawberries, fava beans, asparagus, and rhubarb all get the spotlight while winter root vegetables slowly leave the stage. Sure, I’ve written about these spring delights time and again, and will do so when the season truly arrives in these parts. That should be sometime in May. (Or June.) In the meantime, cooking in April for me usually means bringing in a few of these spring treats to brighten up menus while still relying on winter staples like parsnips

Today’s soup is a perfect example, providing comfort and warmth for a chilly day and a pretty green hue to remind us that it is, in fact, spring. All you do is make up a big batch of cauliflower and parsnip soup—or basic roasted cauliflower, if you prefer—and add green peas to the mix. If you’re lucky enough to be seeing local green peas at your market (or fava beans, for that matter) then go ahead and use those. But if you don’t, or aren’t up for shelling, then defrosted frozen peas work just fine. That’s what I used here, about 2 cups puréed into the mix. Add as many as you like until the color and taste says “Spring!”

Cauliflower and Pea Soup | #pkway

Isn’t that beautiful?

It just might be the perfect spring soup.

At least, here in New England.

Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon and Lemony Hollandaise

Eggs Benedict is a classic, and the classics never go out of style. But a contemporary twist on the traditional works, too, which is what I’m doing today with my take on one of my favorite brunch items.

Eggs Benedict A few things happen to land this dish here on Cooking & Eating the PK Way, which focuses on making good-for-you foods delicious while allowing for a goodly dose of indulgence now and again. Most importantly there’s nothing that’s not pleasurable about luscious hollandaise sauce, the key to eggs Benedict. Little more than egg yolks and butter, there’s a reason this dish should be consumed only in moderation given it’s high calorie and saturated fat content. Hollandaise sauce is what we in nutrition call “energy dense,” meaning it packs a lot of calories into a small serving to the tune of about 70 calories per tablespoon. Eggs Benedict is thus definitely what I would call indulgent, which is why I’m blogging about it a few days before Easter when people have brunch and, well, eggs on their mind. (My recipe for deviled eggs has been wildly popular this week, for example.) So if you’re making Eggs Benedict the PK Way, you can bet there’s hollandaise sauce involved, and I’ll get to the recipe in just a moment.

I do make a few tweaks to the dish to bring in some better-for-you-but-delectable-too components. First, you’ll see that there’s a piece of smoked salmon on the plate that supplants the traditional ham. You’re gaining valuable heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids with this swap, reducing your carbon footprint, and absolute yumminess; there’s a reason this variation is commonly found on restaurant menus. (You can read more about health and environmental issues regarding salmon here.) Second, I used a whole grain English muffin rather than refined white, which the body quickly breaks down into sugar and is less salubrious than breads that retain their fiber and nutrients. (Click here to learn the whole grain truth.) Third, I serve this dish with lemon-scented roasted asparagus, which brings some pretty green color and nutritious veggies onto the plate. Finally, I serve this dish with a smaller portion than you usually see. Eggs Benedict is quite rich and filling, and when served with asparagus and/or a few roasted potatoes on the side most people really don’t need two. I might use two eggs if I were eating this for dinner; anticipated consuming a very light supper following a big brunch; or had a long workout planned. It’s all about energy balance. Not to mention that learning to eat less, something the Japanese call Hara Hachi Bu and discussed in the context of my salad-eating ways here, is something that may prolong your life, a major research area in nutrition science. (Too early to have these answers but human trials are currently underway; a nice summary of the science is here.) Even if you’re not up for “eating until 80% full,” the fact is that most of us eat too much, in too large portions, so boosting a meal with the healthy stuff that helps you feel full, like the asparagus we do here, is a great way to reduce your calorie consumption.

Now, finally, the recipe.

* * * * *

Hollandaise Sauce

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cold, diced (or melted butter)
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (approximate)
  • Pinch or two of sea salt
  • Dash cayenne or Tabasco
  • Dash white pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons very hot water (optional)

Whisk yolks and water together for 1-2 minutes, until lighter in color. In a double boiler (or in a bowl atop a pot of simmering water where the bottom does not touch the water), continue whisking the egg yolk mixture several minutes, moving on and off the heat every 20 seconds or so to avoid cooking the eggs, 2-3 minutes total. Remove from the heat and add the butter, a few pieces at a time, whisking after each addition until incorporated. If you follow the melted butter option, stream the butter in very slowly to ensure a homogeneous mixture. Next whisk in the olive oil to combine and squeeze in the fresh lemon juice, adding more or less to taste. Mix in salt and peppers. Taste and reseason as desired. For a thinner sauce, add very hot water 1/2 teaspoon at a time until you reach the desired viscosity. This is also a good way to reheat the sauce right before serving; I found the addition of the water had very little effect on taste. Makes enough for 2-3 servings (one egg each), depending on how saucy you like it…

Cooking notes. Hollandaise is not difficult to make, but you do need to be careful you don’t scramble your eggs. It’s easier to avoid doing that if you whisk constantly and if you double this recipe, say, if you were making this for four people. More egg yolks means the heat is further dissipated throughout the mixture, reducing the possibility of making an all-yolk omelet. Oh, and poaching eggs is easy, too: heat about 2 inches of water in a sauce pan to a simmer with around 1 teaspoon of white vinegar; break each egg into a small soufffe cup or ramekin first then pour slowly into the simmering water; cook for about 6 minutes, until whites come together and yolks are still runny. There are other methods to poach eggs, too, described here. You will see some solidification at the edges where the yolks have firmed but they do need to be runny to achieve the desired “Ooooh!” factor when taking your first bite, per below.

Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon

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This is one delicious dish, so next time you’re up for treating yourself or others, check out this recipe. And just for the record, I absolutely wanted a second portion, just like any other person eating something delicious. But it wasn’t because I was hungry, or at all needed it. So I was glad to have made only enough hollandaise for two servings (me and my husband), plated just as you see it. I enjoyed every last bite of this fabulous dish, in moderation, without the guilt or weight gain that can happen from over-eating.

Don’t forget that lemon-roasted asparagus is the perfect accompaniment and, if you’re really hungry or preparing this for a crowd, take it to the next level—calories be damned!—with sweet potato hash. And, of course a spicy Bloody Mary. After all, this is special-occasion fare. And it’s definitely what I’ll be eating and drinking tomorrow.

Happy Easter!

Foods to Make Healthy Living Easier

Sure, we all know the things we should be doing to promote health, prevent disease, and protect our planet. (If not, read this article on how to create a healthy plate.) It’s not always easy, but thanks to businesses like Whole Foods there are always new products coming to market making it simpler than ever for you to eat nutritiously and live sustainably. And you can now put good food to work in other areas of your life, too. Check out these six ground-breaking ideas that will change the way you eat, drink—and even breathe.

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Thank you, Whole Foods Market! What would we do without you?

Kudos to the writers who provided welcomed laughs on today’s April Fools’ Day. To read their stories, click here (Organi-matic), here (flavored oxygen), here (Leap Year eggs), here (grass-fed wheatgrass), here (underplants), and here (whole ink tats). Picture captions on this blog are my own, and I received no financial compensation for my shout-outs to Whole Foods but would be happy to.