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Pasta Salad
This pasta salad tastes so good, you'll forget it's good for you. / Renee Comet / USA WEEKEND. Food Styling: Lisa Cher

There are plenty of compelling reasons to eat more whole grains: They are packed with fiber, essential vitamins and minerals and protective antioxidants . They also are digested more slowly, which helps keep blood sugar in check and makes you feel fuller on fewer calories. Even more inspiring than the health benefits are recipes like this pasta salad that taste so good they make you want to eat more whole grains. Whole-grain pasta takes about the same time to cook as regular, so it’s quick and easy. And the high-impact ingredients — feta, walnuts, onion, spinach and a touch of garlic — all highlight the pasta’s earthy, nutty flavor. The result is a dish, both hearty and elegant, that is a perfect side for grilled poultry or meat but also holds its own as a vegetarian meal.

Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad with Walnuts and Feta Cheese

• ˝ pound whole-wheat fusilli or other spiral-shaped pasta
• ˝ cup walnut pieces
• ˝ cup crumbled feta cheese
• ˝ cup diced red onion
• 1˝ cups chopped baby spinach leaves
• 2 Tbs. walnut or olive oil
• 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
• 1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 tsp.)
• ˝ tsp. Dijon mustard
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, rinse under cold running water, and put it in the fridge to chill.

In a small dry skillet, toast the walnuts over medium-high heat stirring frequently until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool, then chop coarsely.

In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, walnuts, feta, onion, and spinach. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, garlic, and mustard. Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. This salad will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about a day.

Yield: 4 servings

Per serving: 420 calories, 49g carbohydrates, 13.5g protein, 21.5g fat (4.5g saturated), 9g fiber, 16.5mg cholesterol, 245mg sodium

Recipe reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Taunton Press Inc., from The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life, by Ellie Krieger. Copyright by Ellie Krieger.

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Ellie Krieger is host of the The Food Network’s hit show “Healthy Appetite,” which airs on The Cooking Channel. The author of three cookbooks, her latest is Comfort Food Fix: Feel Good Favorites Made Healthy. A registered dietitian, Ellie has helped out with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and has teamed up with New York City SchoolFood initiative, where she created healthy, delicious menu items for students citywide.