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!

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If you like what you see here at The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen, please subscribe to my blog from the home page, become a fan on Facebook, follow me on Twittercheck out my food porn on Pinterest, watch my cooking videos on YouTube, and peruse my recipe page for soups, salads, seafood, sweets, and more.

PK NewbyDr. P. K. Newby is a nutrition scientist and educator with expertise in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases through diet and the relations between agriculture, food production, and public health. She is currently training for the Boston Marathon, her third (more here, and here). She brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability through her writing and videos to help people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. 

Copyright © 2015 P.K. Newby. The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Like this? Then you’ll want to check out my other cauliflower-based soups like broccoli-caulflower, artichoke and leek, Mexican cauliflower, and pesto parmigiana. Just like today’s recipe, I simply get inspired by the season, weather, and whatever I’ve got on hand to create a fun new twist. I’m glad to welcome this soup to the family.

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If you like what you see here at The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen, please subscribe to my blog from the home page, become a fan on Facebook, follow me on Twittercheck out my food porn on Pinterest, watch my cooking videos on YouTube, and peruse my recipe page for soups, salads, seafood, sweets, and more.

PK NewbyDr. P. K. Newby is a nutrition scientist and educator with expertise in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases through diet and the relations between agriculture, food production, and public health. She is currently training for the Boston Marathon, her third (more here, and here). She brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability through her writing and videos to help people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. 

Copyright © 2015 P.K. Newby. The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen. All Rights Reserved.

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.

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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!

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If you like what you see, please subscribe to my blog from the home page, become a fan on Facebook, follow me on Twittercheck out my food porn on Pinterest, watch my cooking videos on YouTube, and peruse my recipe page for soups, salads, seafood, sweets, and more.

PK NewbyDr. P. K. Newby is a nutrition scientist and educator with expertise in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases through diet and the relations between agriculture, food production, and public healthShe brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability through her writing and videos to help people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. 

Copyright © 2015 P. K. Newby. The Nutrition Doctor. All Rights Reserved.

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.

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If you like what you see here at The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen, please subscribe to my blog from the home page, become a fan on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, check out my food porn on Pinterest, watch my videos on YouTube, and peruse my recipe page for soups, salads, seafood, sweets, and more.

PK NewbyDr. P. K. Newby is a nutrition scientist and educator with expertise in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases through diet and the relations between agriculture, food production, and public health. She brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability through her writing and videos to help people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time.

Copyright © 2015 P. K. Newby. The Nutrition Doctor. All Rights Reserved.

 

Salmon Green Curry with Sweet Potatoes: For Lent, or Anytime

Thai Salmon with Green Curry | PK NewbyIn some Christian traditions, many people consume fish on Fridays during the Lenten season.

Other people eat seafood just because it’s delicious.

Whatever the day, whatever the season, today’s recipe brings together perfectly cooked fish in a spicy-sweet green curry sauce with chunks of tender sweet potato and crunchy peppers for a meal that’s special enough for a dinner party but quick enough for a weeknight. If you love the flavors of Southeast Asia, this dish is definitely for you. I created it a few months back and it’s one of my favorites. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of the best dishes I’ve ever made. (!!!)

And if you are one of those people who consume seafood on Fridays during the lent, why not try this recipe to spice things up a bit?

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Ingredients

  • 2 pieces salmon, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 large sweet potato, diced (keep skin on)
  • 2 cups of water + 1 teaspoon salt (to boil potatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil, separated
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (or black)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon lemongrass, minced
  • 1/3 cup green curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons beer (or rice wine)
  • 1 15 ounce can coconut milk (approximately 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet potato “stock” (or whatever you need to complete the sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coconut palm sugar
  • Juice from 1/2-1 fresh lime
  • Lime zest, for garnish

Directions

Cut sweet potato into bite-sized chunks, add to salted water, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer about 7 minutes, until soft and cooked but not mushy.

Sear salmon in 2 tablespoons peanut oil at high heat, about 1-2 minutes each side, until deeply colored and skin is crispy. (More on methods for cooking fish is here.) Remove fish to plate and set aside. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil to the pan, heat to medium, then sauté the onions and peppers with salt and pepper until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and lemongrass and stir until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Stir in green curry paste and cooked sweet potatoes (not stock) until coated, about 1 minute. Raise heat to high and add beer or rice wine to deglaze pan. (Do note that you can find plenty of high quality curry pastes from the supermarket, but making your own is easy and it’s freezes well—I’ve been using the same batch in my past three curries, and counting…)

Gently stir coconut milk, fish sauce, palm sugar, and lime juice into spiced vegetable mixture, then add the sweet potato “stock” a little at a time to get the taste and viscosity you want. (I usually end up using all of it.) Bring mixture up to boil, then simmer 5 minutes until flavors come together. Taste, and reseason the sauce with salt and white pepper as desired.

Add the salmon back to the mixture, skin side faced up. Continue cooking gently over medium-low heat until fish is medium rare, about 5 minutes.

Serve fish atop the curry mixture, zest with lime if desired, and serve with an additional wedge of lime.

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Salmon Science: Notes on Health and Sustainabiity

Salmon has its own unique flavor, which is why a lot of people love it. I sure do. On the nutrition front, it’s loaded in super-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, like other fatty fish. It’s also a protein powerhouse, particularly high in the amino acid tryptophan, and a great source of vitamins D, B12, and B3 and minerals phosphorous and selenium. And despite what you’ve heard about potential contaminants in seafood (which can be an issue), rest assured that the majority of scientists agree that the benefits to health—and in the case of pregnant women, the developing baby—outweigh potential risks. In fact, most people do not consume nearly the amount of seafood recommended for optimal health and disease prevention. (An excellent review of the topic by experts at Harvard School of Public Health is here.)

Yet there are complex issues surrounding how salmon gets to our table that vary by the what (the species), where (the geography), and how (the process). Some Atlantic salmon farmed in circulating systems are okay, for example, while those raised in closed pens are concerning due to the use of chemicals and risk of escape. Both wild caught and farm-raised King Alaskan salmon are currently rated as “best choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, and many other Pacific species (like pink salmon) are also good choices. Note that changes in regulation, production practices, and natural life cycles impact fish stocks and sustainability, so it’s important to refer to a science-based seafood guide like this one to keep informed.

Salmon Green Curry | #pkway

And remember that, as luscious as salmon is—and there are planet-friendly choices available—choosing seafood that is even lower on the food chain is a fantastic idea. This dish would be particularly fabulous with mussels, which is what I plan to make next time. It’s also terrific with a mix of vegetables and rice noodles, a common preparation in our household.

The salmon is sensational in this dish, after all, but the green curry really is the star, if you ask me.

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If you like what you see here at The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen, please subscribe to my blog from the home page, become a fan on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, check out my food porn on Pinterest, watch my videos on YouTube, and peruse my recipe page for soups, salads, seafood, sweets, and more.

PK NewbyDr. P. K. Newby is a nutrition scientist and educator with expertise in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases through diet and the relations between agriculture, food production, and public health. She brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability through her writing and videos to help people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time.

Copyright © 2015 P. K. Newby. The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen. All Rights Reserved.

Diet and Weight: A Matter of Health, Not Looks

I Hate Talking About Weight!

Honestly, I don’t really enjoy talking and thinking about weight, mine or anybody else’s. Who does?

It’s a bit ironic given the majority of my research is on diet and obesity. Many of my studies look at how what we eat and drink impacts weight gain and its risk to diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

PK Newby | #pkwayThis article needs to be on my blog, however, since we live in a world with a pandemic obesity crisis. In the United States alone, approximately two-thirds of adults and one-third of kids are overweight or obese. (Many people who are overweight or obese do not recognize it; I encourage you to calculate your body mass index and discuss your weight with your physician if you are uncertain.) As Westernized lifestyles, behaviors, and food gets exported around the globe, so, too, do our obesity rates: According to the International Obesity Task Force, more than 1 billion adults and 200 million children worldwide are currently overweight while an additional 600 million adults and 40-50 million children are obese.

The reason I don’t enjoy talking about weight is because I actually began my research career thinking about how pervasive and destructive the Westernized perception of beauty is in the US (and some other countries, too). We are bombarded with images of women of unrealistic body sizes and shapes with virtually unattainable weights barring chronic food deprivation. It bothers me greatly that we have such a narrow perception of beauty here in the US, and the last thing I want is for my own research—or this blog!—to fuel this grotesque fire.

That’s why I subtitle many of the lectures I give on this topic “A Matter of Health,” just as I’ve named this blog piece. Because my wish is not that overweight individuals hate their body: the current stigma of fat shaming and weight bias is obscene. Yet, the simple medical fact is that excess body fat carries health risks that are essentially avoidable. Still today, it seems many people do not fully recognize the degree to which extra weight impacts their health. For example, type 2 diabetes is essentially a preventable disease for most people and in some cases can be reversed with weight loss. Many cancers have also been associated with obesity. Yet obesity impacts almost all body organs and systems.

And note that the graphic does not adequately capture the psychological pain and suffering that many overweight individuals face due to diminished self-esteem and prejudice in our body-conscious culture. Especially troubling is the social difficulties and bullying some adults and children face due to weight discrimination.

Environment Matters: Individual Food Choices in Context

In my worldview, which is rooted in public health, an individual does not bear complete personal responsibility for his or her health, weight included. We are a product of genetics and our environment, not just our lifestyle. Most of us live in a society that encourages food consumption at every turn, in every place—and much of it unhealthy, I hasten to add. Food cost and accessibility are additional barriers to eating healthfully for some people as well. Individuals are thus part of a larger system that includes family, community, local, state, national, and global factors that impact our health and weight. (This is known as the social-ecological model of public health, in case you were wondering.) Food policies and production practices also influence what reaches individual plates, and these factors must be considered when working to stem the obesity epidemic on a population basis and help individuals manage their own weight at a personal level. (These topics are the subjects of many of my classes and research projects.)

PK Newby | #pkwayEven so, when all is said and done the decision of what you choose to put in your mouth must ultimately be made by you. My mission is to help you apply the science to your plate delectably, and that includes cooking and eating in a way that promotes healthy weight. And guess what? Those same meals and habits that will keep you free from excess weight are the same ones that will keep you enjoying good health and living longer, too.

For the Record: My Own Weight

My regular readers know that I’m not just your average nutrition scientist given my life-long love affair with food. And a love of food isn’t always conductive to a healthy waistline.

As a teenager I put on more pounds than was healthy for my size. Like all daughters, I blame my mother. (Just kidding. Kind of.) In other words, the culture of sweets and constant desserts around our house when I was growing up certainly didn’t help matters. But I also began working in restaurants when I was fifteen, and every Saturday night in high school I worked from 5pm to 3am, sometimes 4am. Let’s just say snacking on burgers and fries and fried mozzarella weren’t the best choices. I continued working in restaurants for a decade, so was always surrounded by scrumptious food. Sure, I eventually took off that extra adolescent weight, but I, like many of you, gain weight just by looking at chocolate cake. I practice the strategies I preach to you—like keeping your house free of snacks and sweets and practicing healthy holiday eating tips—because they are based on science, and they work. I’ve altered my behavior and lifestyle and my weight has followed suit.

So can you, and the recipes and science-based tips you find here on my blog are here to help.

And, just for the record, I have just as much trouble turning down that fourth second whoopie pie as you.

Seriously.

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New to my blog and just getting started? Here’s a piece to introduce you to some of the basics of healthy eating, and you can use the search feature to find more like it.

If you like what you see here at The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen, please subscribe to my blog from the home page, become a fan on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, check out my food porn on Pinterest, watch my videos on YouTube, and peruse my recipe page for soups, salads, seafood, sweets, and more.

PK NewbyDr. P. K. Newby is a nutrition scientist and educator with expertise in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases through diet and the relations between agriculture, food production, and public health. She brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability through her writing and videos to help people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time.

Copyright © 2015 P. K. Newby. The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen. All Rights Reserved.

Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup: Another Variation on a Favorite

Parsnip and Cauliflower Soup | #pkwayMy love of cauliflower is news to no one who reads my blog. And it works out well, because it’s a favorite vegetable of so many people I know, too. Its mild, sweet flavor and crunchy bite is almost universally appealing and can be used in tons of ways. It occurs to me that I should do a cauliflower recipe round-up one of these days, since I probably have at least fifteen recipes dedicated to this delightful white crucifer.

An easy favorite is my roasted cauliflower soup, and I’ve made variations like broccoli-cauli comboartichoke and leek and pesto parmigiana. Today’s recipe adds parsnips to the mix for a fun change, creating a sightly different flavor profile that brings out the best of both vegetables. I don’t use Pastinaca sativa too often—though they did make a wonderful parsnip purée as a bed for slow-roasted salmon and lemony asparagus, a great meal for early spring.

I’m glad to feature this root today in this creamy white soup in my latest version of cauliflower soup that’s sure to please.

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Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower, with core and leaves, chopped
  • 2 large parsnips, peels on, rough chop
  • 3 cloves garlic, skins removed and smashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (or black)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • Several sprigs fresh thyme, tied
  • 1-2 dried bay leaves
  • 4-6 cups low-sodium vegetable stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/4-1 cup cream (approximate), optional
  • Fresh nutmeg, grated (~1/4 teaspoon)

Please note that the above quantities do not need to be exact. Like any soup, you’ll futz with the ingredients and spices, tasting as you go to create a soup that tastes wonderful to you. For just a hint of parsnip, use less. For more parsnippityness, include more. Then you’ll add however much stock you need to accommodate the amount of vegetables you used, to however thick you like your soup. After you purée, taste: I often find myself adding more spices: it’s always better to start with less, bring the soup together, and adjust at the end, because you can never go back.

Instructions

This recipe builds on the basic instructions for my roasted cauliflower soup, including about 2 cups of chopped parsnips to the roasting mix.The basic sequence looks like this:

1. Roast the cauliflower, parsnips, and garlic for about 20 minutes. (No need to peel the parsnips, and use the leaves and core of the cauliflower too.)

Roasted cauliflower and parsnips | #pkway2. Sauté onions in olive oil with salt and pepper over medium heat about 6 minutes then add the roasted veggies and remaining spices, mixing to combine.

Cauliflower soup base | #pkway

3. Add about 4 cups stock along with fresh thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Cauliflower soup and stock | #pkway

4. Remove the bay leaf and thyme and puree the soup. (A hand blender makes it easy.) Stir in cream to desired consistency, grate in fresh nutmeg, and reseason soup to taste. (Add more stock as needed to thin.)

Cauliflower and parsnip soup | PK Newby

5. Garnish as desired. (Shown here with whole grain garlic and parsley bread crumbs and a drizzle of olive oil.)

 

Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup | #pkway

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The parsnip is less popular than its orange cousin Daucus carotayet it has a sweet flavor and some good nutrition that makes it worthy of attention. While it doesn’t have the carotenoids of a carrot (as you could glean from its ivory color), it has only about 75 calories for a medium root (100 grams) and is rich in fiber, vitamin C, folate, copper, and phosphorous, and has its own unique antioxidants like falcarinol and its derivatives, all beneficial to your health. More importantly, it’s a tantalizing addition to today’s tasty recipe.

What’s your favorite way to eat parsnips? Let me know in the comments below!

And stay in touch to see what happens in the next iteration of this soup…

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If you like what you see here at The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen, please subscribe to my blog from the home page, become a fan on Facebook, follow me on Twittercheck out my food porn on Pinterest, watch my cooking videos on YouTube, and peruse my gallery for soups, salads, seafood, sweets, and more.

PK NewbyDr. P. K. Newby is a nutrition scientist and educator with expertise in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases through diet and the relations between agriculture, food production, and public health. She is currently training for the Boston Marathon, her third (more here, and here). She brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability through her writing and videos to help people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. 

Copyright © 2015 P.K. Newby. The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen. All Rights Reserved.

Holi Saag Paneer: A Celebration of Love

Saag Paneer | #pkwayThe Hindu festival of Holi is a celebration of colors, and of love. So it’s a great time to get back to some of the Indian dishes I have in my backlog for you, my dear readers. And what better way to begin with than with one of my own love’s favorites from a cuisine we both adore?

My husband always wants to order saag paneer, that Indian restaurant favorite featuring spiced spinach and cheese. If you’ve never tried it, think good, old-fashioned American creamed spinach. Then add bold Indian flavors and cubes of Indian cheese (a mild and firm white cheese found in most supermarkets and Indian stores). Saag paneer is savory deliciousness, if done right, achieving that amazing blend of flavors in the way that only great Indian food does. But most versions this side of the world are inadequately spiced, drowned in cream, and studded with flavorless cheese.

It was time to take matters into my own kitchen.

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Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons safflower or other vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces paneer, cut into cubes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño chile, finely minced
  • Salt and pepper, to season
  • 1 16-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 16-ounce package frozen chopped mixed greens (kale, collard, and mustard
  • 2/3 cup water, split
  • 4 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 3/4 cup water (if using frozen greens, use the water from defrosting)
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ~1/4 cup cream (optional)

Directions

Prepare paneer. Whisk together the spices, salt, and oil to combine. Cut the paneer into bite-sized cubes and toss in the spice mixture to coat. Set the cubes to marinate while you get the rest of your ingredients together and prepped.

In the meantime… Chop the onions, grate the ginger, and mince the garlic and jalapeño. Get your spices out and measured. (This set-up and prep is called “mise en place,” in case you’re wondering, and it’s good practice to keep things organized when you’re cooking.) Thaw the chopped greens in a microwave-safe dish, about 7-8 minutes.

Brown paneer. Heat a large pan to medium and pour in the paneer, creating one layer. Toss the cubes every couple of minutes to brown the cheese on all sides. They should be fried and crispy on the edges but still soft in the middle. Remove the cheese from the pan and set aside.

Fried Paneer | #pkway

Sauté veggies until caramelized. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil to the same pan; it will still have some of the marinade in it, which is fine. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they pop, then add the onions, ginger, garlic and chile pepper; season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and caramelized, about 25 minutes. After about 15 minutes, add about 1/3 cup of water so the mixture doesn’t dry out.

Stir in spices, greens, and yogurt. Increase the heat to medium then add garam masala, coriander, cumin, and 1/3 cup water, stirring about 3-5 minutes to combine. Mix in greens and about 3/4 cup water, simmering for about 5 minutes. Stir in yogurt, paneer, and lemon juice, mixing to combine. Taste, preseason, and add a little cream if desired.

Saag Paneer Stovetop

Cooking notes. My summer version of this dish includes a mix of whatever greens inspire at the farmers’ market, but frozen works beautifully and is much quicker. I often add a cup or two or garbanzo beans (chick peas) for a nutrient and texture boost. And you could swap tofu for paneer for the same reason, or just because tofu is delicious. Or use a combination of both tofu and paneer. (Try your hand at making your own paneer if you like, as shown here.) Finally, watch the cayenne and jalapeño if you don’t like spicy food; just cut back or omit. Make it yours, and do what you love!

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Indian-spiced spinach | #pkwayMost Indian dishes are quite labor intensive. Many different spices and, often, a lot of time, are required. (Case in point: Navratan Korma. But it’s also one of the tastiest and most rewarding dishes I’ve ever made.) This recipe has many fewer steps and ingredients so it’s a fabulous introduction to Indian cooking for those that want to break into this ravishing cuisine with its unique flavor combinations. (More on the chemistry of all that is here.)

I have a lot of Indian cookbooks and influences that inform my recipes, my husband’s late grandmother among them as well as a recent trip to India. This dish draws upon many of these to create an authentic dish, but the fried paneer (!?) comes courtesy of Aarti Sequeira: those spicy little cubes are a friggin’ revelation, quite possibly the ultimate Asian-inspired bar snack.

Whether you’re Hindu or not, the festival of colors and love celebrating the beginning of spring is certainly something everyone can get behind, and this beautiful green dish is a perfect choice for the holiday.

And I have one very happy husband.

PS. It’s okay if you also read the title as “Holy Saag Paneer!” It is awesome, after all.

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If you like what you see here at The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen, please subscribe to my blog from the home page, become a fan on Facebook, follow me on Twittercheck out my food porn on Pinterest, watch my cooking videos on YouTube, and peruse my recipe page for soups, salads, seafood, sweets, and more.

Dr. P. K. NPK Newbyewby is a nutrition scientist and educator with expertise in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases through diet and the relations between agriculture, food production, and public health. She brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability through writing and videos to help people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Her first book Foods for Health is onsale at local bookstores and here.

Copyright © 2015 P.K. Newby. The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen. All Rights Reserved.

Seared Tuna Crostini with Summer Herbs and Tomatoes

Tuna Crostini with Green Goddess | #pkwayThe snow and cold just keep on coming here in Boston, which means it’s time to bring a little summer into your life. Sure, I adore my winter farmers’ market—local food high five!—but woman can not live on root vegetables alone.

And who doesn’t love crostini? Sure, there’s the typical variant with tomatoes, mozzarella, and pesto Genovese, a summer favorite. I also adore French radish sandwich-style, with its herb butter and crisp radishes as colorful as they are delicious. And let’s not forget about avocado with parsley-pistachio pesto and arugula. Whether toasted or not, a crusty baguette really is the perfect foil for all kinds of divine toppings that can be adjusted to suit season and taste.

Today’s recipe was inspired by a warm summer’s day when I was headed to the Berkshires with my husband to hear the Boston Sympony Orchestra present Beethoven’s glorious Ninth Symphony at Tanglewood. It was the perfect opportunity to have a picnic worthy of the music, setting, and company.*

I had a batch of freshly made green goddess dressing in the refrigerator, so little else was required to prepare this dish. I toasted thinly sliced French bread seasoned with olive oil and black pepper as shown here and quickly seared salt and pepper-ed tuna to rare. (Here’s more on how to sear fish alongside some farm to fork food facts about tuna.) I prepared a simple topping of sliced cherry tomatoes, parsley, scallion, and Kalamata olives tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and S & P, a burst of acidity and color to complete the dish.

I packed up everything to go, along with the ingredients for my cucumber basil sparkler, and we were off! When we had settled into our spot on the lawn, I poured our drinks and assembled the crostini with a slather of Green Goddess, leaf of arugula, slice of tuna, and spoonful of tomato-olive garnish.

Seared Tuna Crostini | #pkwayOf course this dish is best when sweet summer tomatoes and herbs are in season, but it works just as well whenever you just need a little sunshine on your plate.

And sometimes that’s in the middle of winter.

* Beethoven not required.

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If you like what you see here at The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen, please subscribe to my blog from the home page, become a fan on Facebook, follow me on Twittercheck out my food porn on Pinterest, watch my cooking videos on YouTube, and peruse my recipe page for soups, salads, seafood, sweets, and more.

Dr. P. K. NPK Newbyewby is a nutrition scientist and educator with expertise in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases through diet and the relations between agriculture, food production, and public health. She brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability through writing and videos to help people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Her first book Foods for Health is onsale at local bookstores and here.

Copyright © 2015 P.K. Newby. The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen. All Rights Reserved.

Green Goddess (The Dressing, Not Me)

Dreaming of a summer day? Let your inner goddess out to play!

Creamy Herb and Avocado Dressing | PK WayThe alluring sounding “Green Goddess” is so called due to its pretty hue, as you might have guessed. Though actually the name came before the color, as the recipe was created based on a 1920s Broadway play of the same title. (Who knew?) And the dressing’s origins go back even further, to the times of Louis XIII with its sauce au vert.

Trivia aside, this herbaceous treat remains a popular salad accoutrement here in the US. I love making it in the summer, when it features fresh herbs from the local farmers market. But let’s face it: this dressing is just too darn good to eat only in August, and its other main ingredients—avocado, lemon, olive oil—aren’t local, anyway. So taste wins out with today’s post, a promise of warmer days to come.

If you’ve never made Green Goddess at home, you may be surprised to see anchovies in the recipe. As with Caesar dressing, the flavor is not really noticeable unless you choose to add more or layer some on top of the salad. But anchovies are absolutely the je ne sais quoi in the dressing, adding complexity and depth to what is otherwise a simple creamy herb and avocado dressing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, though, so if you’re sure you don’t want anchovies, or simply prefer a vegetarian version, just leave them out.

But if you are feeling adventurous, and want to give the dressing a fabulous umami flavor boost (not to mention a nice dose of omega-3 fatty acids), keep in those little fishies and give this dreaming-of-summer recipe a try.

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Ingredients & Instructions

  • 1 large, ripe avocado
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup scallions, rough chop, both white and green parts
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, loosely packed
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/8 cup chives, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, smashed and quartered
  • Juice from 1 lemon (about 1-2 tablespoons)
  • 2-3 oil-packed anchovy fillets
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy oil (optional—and only if you love anchovies)
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Blend everything but the dairy together in a food processor until homogeneous and smooth. Pulse in the sour cream and mayonnaise until combined. Taste, season with salt and pepper, and adjust ingredients as desired. (I often add more lemon juice and/or olive oil.)

Note. If you’d like to lighten the calorie load a bit, you can sub in low-fat mayo and/or sour cream, or even nonfat yogurt. Even so, there are about 350 calories in one large avocado—albeit loaded in heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, fiber, and minerals. For these reasons, Green Goddess dressing is obviously a lot more energy dense than basic oil and vinegar, which is my everyday salad accompaniment. So whatever dairy you include in your version, definitely file this recipe under “moderation,” just as you would with other indulgent dressings (like, say, blue cheese).

Green Goddess Dressing | PK Way

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Wow, is this dressing ever good! Crazy good!

And calling it a “dressing” really sells it short, since it makes a sensational dip for fresh veggies or whole wheat pita chips or a ravishing spread for all kinds of mouth-watering dishes. Just you wait.

So won’t you join me in celebrating your inner goddess?

Every once in a while she definitely deserves a chance to come out and play.

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If you like what you see here at The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen, please subscribe to my blog from the home page, become a fan on Facebook, follow me on Twittercheck out my food porn on Pinterest, watch my cooking videos on YouTube, and peruse my recipe page for soups, salads, seafood, sweets, and more.

Dr. P. K. NPK Newbyewby is a nutrition scientist and educator with expertise in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases through diet and the relations between agriculture, food production, and public health. She brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability through writing and videos to help people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Her first book Foods for Health is onsale at local bookstores and here.

Copyright © 2015 P.K. Newby. The Nutrition Doctor is In the Kitchen. All Rights Reserved.