Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What did you have for dinner tonight? The pasta salad edition.

I love pasta salad.  Really I do.  It's not something that I eat with a lot of frequency, but I love it nonetheless.  And as the warm months approach and I search desperately for more "cold" meals to replace our soup staples, pasta salad tends to become a once a week thing for us in the summer.  I make sure that the pasta is always a whole wheat pasta or grain/legume pasta (never just white), and I try to put in as many veggies as possible.  Then the trick is finding a healthy sauce or dressing to go over the pasta that doesn't just slather on the calories and fat.  (And trust me that can be tricky.)  The pasta salad pictured is one of our new/changing favorites.  It's a little strange because while the dressing is one I've used twice now (and found over at http://www.vegancoach.com/) it tasted different the second time I made it even though I can't think for the life of me what might have changed between the first and second time.  It's bizarre.  But it's SO good.  So I'll give you the rough recipe of this pasta salad.

We'll call this Creamy Dijon Pasta Salad, since the dressing is Dijon-y.

Salad Part

1 - 14oz box of WW pasta or Barilla PLUS Multigrain pasta*
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 zucchini, finely chopped
1 cucumber, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
2 green onions (white and green parts), chopped
1/4c red onions, minced
(Any other veggies you might want to add - broccoli, cauliflower, yellow squash, colored peppers, etc)

Mix all ingredients in a LARGE bowl.  Set aside and make dressing.

Creamy Dijon Dressing  (recipe taken from vegancoach.com)

4 ounces silken tofu**
1/4 cup organic flax oil**
1 medium clove garlic, crushed
1 small tomato
2 teaspoons Bragg Liquid Aminos, or soy sauce
3 Tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 1/4 Tablespoons rice vinegar
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1-inch chunk onion
1 Tablespoon minced chives
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth and pour over pasta salad.  Mix well.

*Barilla PLUS is an interesting pasta I've found that, while it does unfortunately contain regular white semolina in it, also contains a flour blend of grains and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, flaxseed, barley, spelt, and oats) which I like.  It does contain egg whites, so it is not actually vegan.  But you can always find a strict vegan pasta if you prefer.  I'm not really sure whether this is better or worse for you than regular WW pasta, but it's fun to change things up, so that's why I've been trying it.

**I did not use the tofu or flax oil, but instead used a can of Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed, with maybe 1/3c of sunflower seeds.  I generally steer clear of soy where possible, and I opted for seeds/nuts instead of straight up oil as the fat to make it a bit creamy.  Worked liked a charm.

This salad really is SO tasty and you'd never miss the high-fat dressings that usually accompany pasta salads.  This salad has a much lighter feel since it's loaded with veggies and the sunflower seeds are the only significant source of fat.  Also, don't be put off by the long list of ingredients in the dressing.  With the exception of washing your tomato, and cutting a chunk of onion, most of the ingredients come out of a bottle, which means it's still a pretty quick deal.  No not as quick as pouring premade dressing from a bottle, but I can just about guarantee you that it will always be healthier.

If you try this one, let me know what you think.

Do you have a really great pasta salad you love?  I hunting for a couple more that I can rotate in for the summer, so send them my way! :)
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