Sunday, May 2, 2010

DIY Pasta Salad

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day. Sunny, 80 degrees, a harbinger of summer to come, perhaps?!

I’ve been neglecting everything around the farm as we spent the entire month of April getting Jack’s mom moved and accustomed to her new apartment. Yes, I know that it sounds like an unusually long period of time to do those things, but she needed a lot of adjusting. Happily, all of our efforts have paid off and now our lives are going to return to a more normal schedule. I hope.


Yesterday I went outside and looked around, overwhelmed. But I am older (alas) and wiser and realized that I simply will not be able to jump right back into the outdoor chores (in addition to the indoor ones). So I spent a little over two hours weeding. That certainly was enough for the first day!


For lunch, I made my favorite “quick pasta salad”. No, there is not a recipe. I see what veggies I have, maybe add a little grilled chicken or other meat if I have it, and go from there.


This is also a favorite lunch when we go to hockey games (which we have been doing lately—go Pens!). Because we eat dinner at a restaurant before the game, I try to make a low-calorie, lowfat, veggie-heavy lunch to “make up” for what I have at dinner. Friends we sit with usually order a huge appetizer to share, and it’s comprised of fried things (onion rings, zucchini planks, mozzarella sticks… you get the idea) and, well, I’m not made of stone so I usually indulge a little. Then I order the “best” entrée that I can, but no matter what I choose, it isn’t as “healthy” as I would like.


The pasta salad. I cooked 5 ounces of spirals and, when there was 2 minutes left (according to the package cooking instructions), I tossed in a sliced carrot. After a minute, I added a half of a red bell pepper, cut into short strips, and boiled for one more minute. I placed a couple of handfuls of fresh baby spinach (chopped) into a strainer then drained the pasta and veggies over it. I waited for a half minute (enough for the hot mixture to wilt the spinach), poured ice water over it all, then turned this into a bigger strainer and tossed until the spinach was “unclumped”. Ten minutes later, I added some prepared Penzey’s Country French Vinaigrette dressing (made with a little less oil than called for on the package). The flavors melded for 15 minutes, then I added

sliced chicken sausage, minced onion, and some grated Locatelli romano cheese.



It was a great lunch. And quick.


I was using up some “veggie spirals” I found in my mother-in-law’s apartment while clearing out the cabinets, but I usually make wheat pasta (penne, spirals, whatever). Any vegetables on hand will do, just cook them enough to soften a bit, adding the “hardest” veggies first to the boiling water. This way, the asparagus and broccoli will be firm as well as the softer bell peppers and snow peas. Cooking less also means retaining more vitamins. And since spinach really only needs to be wilted a bit, all it needs is a splash of boiling water as the pasta is drained over it.


I sometimes like to add chickpeas, or black beans, to the pasta salad instead of chicken. And I vary the type of cheese as well- Parmesan, reduced-fat feta, lowfat cheddar, etc.


Even though Jack prefers hot meals (that spoiled man), I work this salad in to the menu one or two times a week for lunch in warmer weather. If I plan a “big” day outside, I will prep the pasta salad ahead of time and refrigerate it until lunchtime, because it holds well for several hours.


Although I would not have believed it would ever come three months ago, spring must be here because I’m making pasta salad again! :)

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foremylife said...
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