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.

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!

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.


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.

Goat Cheese Cream (Dessert Topping) | What I Made on The Taste

Goat Cheese Cream | PK WayPoached fruit is one of my favorite desserts. Elegant and flavorful, beautiful and delicious. Easy on the waistline, too. Of course, the calories creep up once you start spooning on this dreamy topping. An intriguing alternative to whipped cream, this recipe mixes chèvre (goat’s cheese), mascarpone, and crème fraîche together to create the perfect complement to poached pears and other desserts. And it’s still a much lighter choice compared to, say, cheesecake.

So dollop away, and then see how I used this lusciousness in the dish I made on The Taste.

* * * * *



Beat the chèvre for 5 or 6 minutes, until creamy. (Using a hand mixer is fine, but whatever). Mix in the crème fraîche and mascarpone until fully blended. Stir in honey, taste, and adjust ingredients as desired.

* * * * *

Clearly, this recipe could not be simpler given its got just four ingredients. And by all means don’t take the measurements too seriously. Use whatever proportions you please. The variant I made on The Taste stars chèvre to create an alternative dessert / mid-course / cheese course. I also thought that Chef Ludo Lefebvre would appreciate the goat cheese in particular—and I was right judging from the smile that crept across his face when he tasted my spoon. And you don’t necessarily need the creme fraiche, though I personally like the tang it brings to the mix to complement the sweet fruit. I’ve also made it before using mostly mascarpone, and there may have been rum or brandy involved in that version.

Goat Cheese Dessert Topping | PK Way

Oh, who are we kidding. I always spike this cream with something or other to flavor the cream (and teetotalers could just use vanilla extract).

So why not this time, you ask? Well, let’s just say sixty minutes is a lot shorter than it looks running around a television set under pressure.

Yet the proof’s in the pudding that it worked out even so.

Enjoy, and click on the photo below to go to the recipe for the rest of the dish.

Poached Pears and Goat Cheese Cream | PK Way

Sweet and Spicy Candied Pistachios | What I Made on The Taste

Candied Pistachios | The TasteSweet. Spicy. Salty. Down-right addictive. Candied nuts are the perfect cocktail nibble or crunchy garnish and often appear in some form on my holiday menu. I generally use pecans and have a bowl out on the bar for people to munch while mixing a cocktail. (And usually add bourbon to the recipe, if we’re being honest.) Yet pistachios are smaller and, for this reason, the better complement to the dish I was preparing on the holiday challenge for The Taste, which was red wine poached pears with goat cheese cream.

In the meantime, whatever nut you choose, I hope this treat becomes your next holiday favorite.

* * * * *


  • 2 cups pistachios, shelled, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey


Toast pistachios at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes, until deepened in color and fragrant. (Alternatively, begin with unsalted and toasted pistachio nutmeats.) Mix together all spices in a small bowl. Taste. It should have a pleasant flavor (as good as dried spices can taste, that is). Adjust accordingly, keeping in mind that the spices will become diluted once they’re cooked. But also note that I love spicy food, and it definitely comes through in this recipe. If you don’t like heat, use less white pepper or omit it completely—and certainly don’t add cayenne. Toss the pistachios with the spices; some will end up pooled at the bottom of the bowl, which is fine.

Melt butter in a frying pan over medium heat, then whisk in honey. It will become bubbly and thick. Mix in spiced pistachios until fully coated and cook a few minutes. Grease a cookie pan lightly with cooking spray and spread the nut mixture into an even layer. Cook for about 5 minutes then remove from the oven. Some of the mixture will have melted off the nuts a bit; just retoss, it’s no big deal.) Let sit until fully cooled and set. Alternatively, if you’re in a rush (kind of like I was), then place the pan into the refrigerator for 10 minutes or the freezer, even, to allow the nuts to fully set. Use your fingers to break the pieces into individual nuts or small nut clusters; use a paper towel to blot them If they’re a bit greasy.

* * * * *

Candied Nuts | The TasteNuts still suffer from a bad reputation in some circles given they are what we nutrition people refer to as “energy dense.” In other words, they’re high in calories for the amount you’re eating. In about a 1/4 cup serving you’re going to get around 170 calories. That said, they’re very small, and if you take the time to shell them yourself you’ll feel more satiated since it gives your body a chance to say “Hey! I’m full!” (This is an important part of weight management, but I’ll not digress.) And pistachios are filled with heart-healthy unsaturated fats and minerals like copper, manganese, and phosphorous. They make a terrific afternoon snack, perfect with a piece of fruit.

Of course, there are even more delicious calories in candied nuts since they’ve got the added butter and sugar. Which is why I only make them for special occasions or cocktail parties and consume small portions—while enjoying, mindfully, every single last bite.

And I’m going to go ahead and say that you should, too.

PS. This is what these little babies look like atop red wine poached pears (click on the pic for the recipe).

Poached Pears and Goat Cheese Cream | PK Way

The Gift of Biscotti: Pretty, Mini, and Tied in Crimson

Dark chocolate biscotti is one of my favorite Christmas cookies. Click on the pic for the recipe.

When it comes to the holidays, I’m like anyone else, loving my annual cookie baking and eggnog making. Think: butter cookies in two flavors (cranberry pistachio and almond apricot), triple chocolate biscotti, and spicy-sweet gingersnaps. (These are just a small sampling of what’s here on my blog, with many more dishes to inspire here.)

Where I am perhaps a little different from others, however, is how I integrate seasonal treats into my diet. My Top Ten Healthy Holiday Eating Tips are here for you to consider, if you’re not familiar. One of my main strategies for managing calories when it comes to baking is “make it mini,” as I do with these biscotti. (The recipe and how-to are here.)

Another pointer, the subject of today’s post, is to enjoy the process but don’t keep the product—dozens and dozens of baked goods—hanging around your house for days on end. This will avoid unnecessary temptation, hence excess calories. (More on this subject here.) Thus, I, no doubt like many of you, love to share cookies with friends, family, and colleagues. Whether it’s bringing over a platter of assorted goodies to holiday gatherings or creating cute gift bags, giving is the way to go. It’s always fun to make presents in your own kitchen, and I especially enjoy introducing people to the wonder of baking with white whole wheat flour, like in this recipe. This game-changing ingredient is much more nutritious than refined flour and works especially well with big flavors like chocolate; you’ll never guess it’s there. (Read more here on “The Whole Grain Truth”.)

Hey, who ate the fourth biscotti?

With all that in mind, I decided to bake mini biscotti for my teaching staff and co-director for this year’s “Farm to Fork: Why What You Eat Matters” class at Harvard as a token of my gratitude. I made several bags with five small cookies, each tied with crimson ribbon. (Crimson for Christmas, not for Harvard, though it works for both.) Do note the number of cookies: with opportunities for indulgence at every turn, you don’t want to contribute to someone else’s weight gain in lieu of your own. And even if weight is not an issue, most people consume way too much sugar in their diet. As in all things food and life, go with quality, not quantity.

(Christmas tree not included.)

Now if only I could get the gift of biscotti out to each of you who took time out of your busy schedule to view this post…

Thank you for reading, today and always, and Happy Holidays!

Summertime Hydration, the P.K. Way

Everyone enjoys a cold drink on a hot summer’s day, whether to remain hydrated or just because it tastes good. However, when beverages come laden with sugar, either naturally occurring (as in 100% fruit juice) or added (like sports and fruit drinks, soda, teas, ades, and the like), our drinks become a source of extra calories that most of us don’t need.

And our bodies generally don’t want.

So I was all set to write a post about my favorite summertime beverage—which also happens to be sugar- and calorie-free—when I recalled I had already done so last year.

To learn what it is and read the story, click here.

Hint: I made it every day while on vacation last week.

And everyone always loves it, kids included.

Check it out.

Asparagus for Breakfast? Yes, Please

You may recall that last week I wrote about lovely lemon-scented roasted asparagus, which I then paired with a piece of herb-roasted salmon and parship purée for dinner. I’m going to keep to my asparagus theme for a few more articles before turning to something new. This spring favorite only recently reached Boston, after all, so it deserves a bit more attention.

Today’s post features one of my favorite seasonal breakfasts and also serves as a reminder that these stately spears aren’t just for supper.

Indeed, most of us don’t consume nearly enough produce, and including vegetables in your breakfast is a super way to give your diet a boost of vitamins, minerals, and valuable phytonutrients (plant chemicals) your body needs for optimum health and disease prevention. Asparagus is particularly high in vitamin K and also contains vitamins B1and C and minerals such as iron and copper. Its key phytonutrients are saponins, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. It’s also ridiculously low in energy with just 26 calories in one cup of raw stalks. Finally, most veggies tend to be high in water and fiber (asparagus in particular includes inulin) that help us feel full—something we want in our first meal of the day to keep us satiated throughout the morning.

There are certainly many ways to enjoy asparagus at breakfast. It can be a simple side dish, for starters, or can be included in egg dishes like benedicts, omelets, or frittatas. In fact, after posting a photo of this meal on Facebook last week a friend commented she had recently enjoyed a lobster, goat cheese, and asparagus omelet while dining out, which sounds heavenly. My dish is much simpler than that. Probably less tasty, too, but, hey, it was a Tuesday.

Simply roast some asparagus (or reheat leftovers from a previous evening’s dinner), fry an egg, season with salt and pepper, and you’re done. Fresh herbs or microgreens always add color, nutrients, and flavor: I used pretty micro peppercress—one of my local farmers grows it— but you can substitute chopped parsley or another plant of your choosing.

Eggs are a fantastic source of protein, which contributes to its satiety thus helps you eat less food and manage your weight. Its yolk in particular has lots of harder-to-come by nutrients like choline. We now know that moderate egg consumption doesn’t have a deleterious effect on blood cholesterol—many things are much worse, like trans fats—or increase risk of heart disease for most people, so enjoying eggs can be part of a healthful diet if you choose to consume them. (More here and here.) If you are able, selecting organic eggs that come from farmers who employ sustainable practices and treat their chickens humanely is a terrific way to support local businesses, the environment, and animal welfare.

You might be surprised at how filling this dish is and, while it may not be an everyday breakfast, it’s a great one to include in your “first meal of the day” repertoire when asparagus is in season. If you desire a few more calories or bite, or just feel like mixing it up a bit, throw the whole thing on a piece of whole grain toast for an open-faced egg sandwich; a touch of grated parmigiana and drizzle of olive oil adds even more flavor.

And, just for the record, this meal makes a great lunch, too.

Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Cherries and Walnuts

Thanks for indulging me these past few days with my cauliflower soup trifecta, including the basic (yet still fabulous) roasted and wonderful combinations including broccoli and artichokes. I actually have one more cauliflower-based soup to share, but I’ll hold off on that on for a few months.

Today, “c” stands not for cauliflower but for cookie. Here, we take everyone’s favorite, chocolate chip, and give it a nutrition boost by subbing in white whole wheat flour for white flour to retain the healthfulness of whole grains and using dark chocolate rather than milk or semi-sweet, which has less sugar and more of the bioactive components and antioxidants that are found in dark. That’s my normal recipe, by the way, when I just want a basic chocolate chip cookie. And by “my” recipe, I mean the famous Nestlé toll house recipe. I’ve made many other recipes over the years, of course, but I really do find this a solid chocolate chip cookie that never fails and is always delicious. I always add walnuts to my cookies, which are important not only for crunch but also texture, not to mention a few good omega-3 fatty acids; do what makes you happy. By the way, you’ll think I’m lying, but one day I made them with white flour—I had a craving but was out of whole wheat—and I truly did not like them nearly as much. The white whole wheat adds a texture and flavor that I really missed. I hope you’ll come to love it as much as I do.

When I want my cookie to be a little more classy, or just fee like mixing things up a bit, I add dried cherries and sub in pecans for the walnuts. (Note: while the nuts do not need to be toasted prior, I’ve found it brings in a bit more deliciousness if you do.)

My last few baking notes for you today? First, make it mini, of course, like all of my sweet treats. Also, don’t make a whole slew that you then have hanging around your house for days on end: at least for me, that kind of temptation leads to weight gain. It’s best to keep your house generally clean of energy-dense foods that pack on calories; eat cookies only as an occasional treat. (More on that subject at “To Clean Up Your Diet, Clean Out Your House.”) I only ever mix half a batch (for our household of two) and then keep extra balls of frozen dough in the freezer. That way, you have warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies when you want them.

Just, you know, not every day.

So this Broccoli Walks Into a Cauliflower…

Roasted Cauliflower Soup: It’s Just the Beginning

Broccoli Soup | #pkwayTo share my love of cauliflower in all its forms, I promised there would be several variations of cauliflower soup. Today’s recipe is the first example, and it’s dedicated to all of you out there who prefer the green crucifer to the white. This soup is just as delicious as basic cauliflower, but including broccoli in the mix is a little twist that adds style and lends a pretty green hue. Both flavors come together beautifully in a creamy, heart-warming soup that’s perfect for cool spring days.

The steps are pretty much the same as described yesterday, so today I’m posting just a few brief notes and cooking photos.

1. Roast the cauliflower and broccoli (or follow the traditional boiling method), using whatever proportion makes your happy; the more broccoli you add, the greener your soup will be (obviously). Remember to use all the parts of the vegetables in your soup, including the leaves and core of both crucifers: it tastes exactly the same, stretches your food dollar, and reduces your food waste.

2. Sauté the onions, celery, and add seasonings as described here then add in your stock and veggies and simmer away.

3. Purée and add cream if desired. Taste and season. And don’t forget the dry mustard; it makes all the difference in the world. (And, no, the soup doesn’t then taste like mustard. Just: deliciousness.)

4. Garnish, perhaps simply with whole grain croutons and a scatter of microgreens, as shown here. (Or however you like!)

Broccoli Soup | PK Newby

Mmmm mmmm good.

Way better than Campbell’s.