Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer Salads

We love summer pasta salads as they are easy to make and take along. For picnics, concerts in the park and an easy meal, pasta salads can be made ahead and are great for "assemble your own salad".

For those following a gluten-free diet, substituting a gluten-free pasta product is great too!

Holden Arboretum has a Tuesday supper time concert series. I made this pasta salad to pack in our cooler, added some cherries for dessert and my husbands favorite picnic drink, orange lemonade, made with a ratio of 1:1 of orange juice and real lemonade.

Everyone including my 94 year young Mom enjoyed the orange, lemonade.

My sister brought some yummy Greek butter cookies to nibble on during the concert!

For a most generous serving of pasta salad for the four of us, I cooked about 1/2 pound pasta, gluten free pasta may be used, 3 small chicken tenders and a generous helping of peas. I chopped up our favorite fresh vegetables including a whole red pepper, sweet orange and yellow peppers, 1/2 of a medium sized cucumber (I remove the seeds), about two tablespoons of sweet onion and a garden fresh tomato.

Before placing the pasta with the cut up onion, tomato, cucumber and peppers in a quart container, I added Italian and Asian Toasted Light Sesame salad dressing, a bit more than one would normally put on a salad as the peas and other fresh vegetables are added later to each plate, according to each person's preferences. Any of your favorite salad dressing would work!

I kept the chicken cooled in a baggie, separate from the cooked pasta, peppers, cucumber and onion included in the quart container, thus making the meal appropriate for a vegan. For those that love vegetables, I included a baggy of sliced radishes and more sliced cucumbers in our little cooler. Olives, celery, carrots are also welcome additions to pasta salad. I include hard boiled eggs too for those like Mom that love an egg at a picnic.

To serve, I assemble each person's favorite veggies with the basic pasta and chopped vegetable dressed entree, adding the chicken, peas and radishes (if desired) on top of the salad. Serves 4-5.

The great thing about this meal is that the quart container fits easily in our middle-sized Playmate cooler and the other items in baggies fit nicely around the container. The entire meal, paper plates and utensils fit in the cooler, only the orange lemonade was not in the cooler.

A trick to making the orange lemonade is adding ice cubes instead of all the water required to make orange juice and lemonade from frozen concentrate. Adding a bit less water than needed and adding extra ice keeps the drink from thinning too much from the melted ice cubes. The ice cubes also keep the drink cold for the evening.

We had a great time with our family at the concert in the garden!