Monday, June 3

Good Eating Monday: Chicken Pasta Salad with Pesto Seasoning

Welcome to June!
I've been busy most days over the past couple weeks carefully photographing my various day lilies as they open. I have a number of specialized colors including a creamy white, which just bloomed for the first time this year.
I use these photos for Calendar designs. I had an idea the other day to make a "Devotional Calendar" featuring a day lily with a scripture and a brief devotional---original, of course.
It would make a good writing challenge for me!

Today's Good Eating Recipe is Chicken Pasta Salad.
And the special seasoning ingredient is home-made Basil Pesto!

The actual salad I made
Pasta Salads are an easy make-ahead meal for any occasion!
I this one last night for the military singles who come to our house for Bible Study.
I served it with hot whole-grain garlic bread and lime-pear jello.
For this recipe I used a rotisserie chicken because it's easy and already seasoned.
Also on dressing options, I recommend you check the calorie count. I like Wishbone Bruschetta because it's only 60 calories per 2 Tbsp. Many dressings are 120 to 200 per 2 Tbsp!
This is a crowd-sized recipe suitable for 10 hungry 20 year old Airman, but you can downsize the meat and pasta quantity as needed.  

Chicken Pasta Salad 

1 whole, cooked Rotisserie Chicken, meat removed & diced.
1 package cheese-filled tortellini, cooked
2 12oz boxes other shaped pasta, cooked (I like spinach twists & tomato penne)
1 15oz can low-sodium or organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1 to 2 15oz cans Mandarin oranges, drained
1 fresh bell pepper, sliced and diced (any color)
1 zucchini, sliced and diced.
2 cups carrot matchsticks, 1 cup in each bowl
1/4 to 1/2 cup low-fat feta cheese
1 to 2 cups sliced grape tomatoes (cut lengthwise--looks prettier)
2 bottles Wishbone Bruschetta Dressing (or any oil-type you prefer)
Special Seasoning Addition: Home-made Basil Pesto (recipe below.)
Other Optional Veggie Additions: red onion, green onion, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, diced cucumber, etc

Directions for Salad:
This recipe makes 2 very large bowls, so get out 2. (makes it easier to toss.) Also, be sure to salt the water you cook your pasta in, then cool it in a colander under cold runny water, turning until it's not hot to touch. Divide pasta between your 2 large bowls.
Add diced chicken, veggies & cheese, splitting everything between two bowls, reserving mandarin oranges till last because they're fragile. If using it, split pesto between bowls. Add 1/2 of one bottle  dressing in first bowl and rest in second. Now toss until well mixed. Add mandarin oranges to both bowls, then lightly toss. Refrigerate 2 hours. Then, just before serving, squirt just a little bit of dressing from the 2nd bottle and toss to remoisten, since pasta has absorbed first application, just to give it a bit of juiciness.
**If you don't have pesto on hand or can't make it, substitute a good shake of dried Oregano & Basil or just stick with the dressing by itself.**

Home-made Basil Pesto:
You need a mini-chopper or a food-processor to make it, since this is small quantity. Traditional pesto uses Pine Nuts and Parmesan, but that's too high calorie & pricey, so I make a cheaper, low-cal version using onions & tomatoes. I usually just throw ingredients in and blend until it looks right, but here's the approximate quantities:
1-2 Tbsp onion
1-2 Tbsp tomato
1 clove garlic
Dash of salt
A good handful of fresh basil, rinsed and leaves snipped into your chopper or processor.
1/8 to 1/4 cup virgin olive oil (you need enough to make a smooth consistency, but not make it runny.)
Blend until it's pesto. Put in a container, refrigerate and use as desired or, as in this case, split between your 2 large bowls of pasta for seasoning.This makes maybe 3/4 of a cup of pesto.

To make a Mexican  Pasta Side:  I buy Lite Catalina dressing & taco seasoning, then pour dressing and taco seasoning into a saucepan and heat, stirring frequently. A bit of water needs to be added to thin it back to a pourable dressing consistency, since the taco seasoning thickens it up. Then toss with cooked pasta, beans, diced onions, sliced olives, shredded cheddar, diced bell peppers, sliced grape tomatoes & crushed taco chips.

For a Greek Flare Side: Buy Greek Dressing and toss into cooked pasta, lo-fat feta, sliced olives, sliced red onions, diced cucumber, diced peppercini's and a liberal shake of dried oregano!

Eat up, me hearties, yo-ho!

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