As the weather turns warmer, our tastes in food modify. Most of you are familiar with pasta salad. You see it in your deli’s offerings, in tubs at the supermarket, in boxes with packets for a dressing that you make at home. When I was a child, my family didn’t have much money for extras. So, when my mom discovered the boxed pasta salad, she tried to figure out a way to stretch it to feed our hungry mouths.
What she did was add quite a bit of regular salad items, like lettuce, tomato, and black olives to the box mix. With the Italian dressing, it was fantastic. That was during my pre-celiac days.
When I found out I had celiac disease, while pregnant with child #2, I craved this salad creation that my mom had discovered. So I went about recreating it. First, I found that my favorite brand of brown rice pasta worked really well. Second, I added salad fixings and Italian dressing. This worked well until my children decided they didn’t like Italian, but preferred ranch. Yikes. These days we eat it with whatever dressing we have on hand, but the current favorite is creamy ceasar. Here’s the recipe:
3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast*, chopped into 1″ chunks and fried with
2 Tbsp. safflower oil and
Salt & pepper to taste
Cook over medium heat until fully cooked
1/2 pound of your favorite small gluten-free pasta noodles cooked to package directions, rinsed and cooled
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
3 cups fresh spinach
1/2 large cucumber cut in 1/4’s and chopped
1/2 can large olives, sliced
1/4 cup pepperoncini slices, chopped
1/3 cup pickled pepper slices, chopped
1/2 dill pickle, sliced into 4 spears and chopped
1/4 cup pickled jalepeno slices chopped, optional (child #2 is the only one who uses these! Hot!)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese*
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes – wait to add these
Mix all your ingredients together in a large bowl. Use a circular blade cutter to chop your salad further. If you don’t have one, you can just chop up your ingredients on your cutting board before adding them to the large salad bowl. When everything is chopped to your satisfaction, add the cheese and the tomatoes. Add the chicken and rinsed and cooled pasta and toss well. Serve onto plates and top with your favorite dressing. Yum!!!
*NOTE: For our vegan and vegetarian friends, this salad can be made without the chicken and cheese. Black beans would be a great replacement for the chicken. Modify away and enjoy!