Tag Archives: low fat

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Summer Pasta Salad

For me, pasta salad is a comfort food. Everyone’s mom has a family recipe, probably because cold pasta salads are a tasty way of cleaning out the fridge. Cook whatever pasta you have in the back of the cupboard, throw in some cooked meats and veggies, add a random assortment of herbs, some sort of dressing, and BAM! A quick lunch or pretty contribution to your next potluck.

The recipe below is pretty vague… that’s kind of the point. Pasta salads are very forgiving, and you can use pretty much anything.

I made one this morning with my favorite stinky foods. Stinky is a harsh word… let’s call them “pungent.” I mixed some penne noodles with tuna, feta cheese, tomato, celery, dill, and a big splash of caesar dressing. Very tasty, but keep some mints on hand!

So, here’s a basic guideline for creating your own salad.

You Need:

8 oz (half of an average-sized box) small pasta (think rotini, penne, macaroni, farfalle, wagon wheels…)

1/2 to 1 cup chopped protein (I used one can of tuna, drained. Try leftover chicken, cubed tofu, cooked shrimp, canned beans, whatever.)

something sweet or salty (Here’s where you can go nuts. Cold pasta salads are a fast way to experiment with different flavors. Throw in a bit of crumbled feta or blue cheese, a can of mandarin orange slices or water chestnuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, baby corn, frozen edamame, leftover cooked veggies, whatever you have kicking around in your fridge or cupboard.)

2 celery ribs, minced OR one cucumber, diced

1 fresh tomato, diced

optional: spices. Curry, garlic, or onion powder, fresh basil, Italian seasoning, soy sauce, etc.

dressing: For a homestyle classic, use mayonnaise. For the health conscious, try a high quality olive oil. My personal favorite is bottled salad dressing. I think it’s a happy medium.

Cook pasta in boiling water until tender. Rinse under cold running water to remove excess starch and cut down on chilling time. Fun Fact: You should NEVER rinse pasta being served with a hot sauce. The leftover starch from cooking helps sauces and cheese stick. Pour rinsed pasta into a mixing bowl, or throw it right into some Tupperware.

Add in your meat, cheese, fruits, veggies, and spices. Give it a good toss. Now, stir in dressing to your taste: a spoonful of mayonnaise, a splash of salad dressing, or a drizzle of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. If using bottled dressing and/or salty cheeses, you won’t need much salt. If using mayonnaise, you can afford to go a little heavier with your spices. Mayo and curry play surprisingly well together!

Chill. Give it another good toss immediately before serving.

Some Combos to Try:

Leftover chicken with mandarin oranges and a dash of curry powder

Canned tuna with feta cheese and a generous sprinkle of dill (pictured!)

Canned black beans, rinsed and drained, with lots of fresh basil

Sliced peperoni/sausage with fresh mozzarella and oregano (I don’t eat pork, but this one’s a crowd pleaser.)

Have fun experimenting!


Not-Quite-White Chicken Chili

The charming mountain oasis where I now live has turned into a frigid bitch this winter. And nothing makes me feel better when I get home from a long walk (slide) in the snow than a warm meal. Chili tops my list of best winter meals, but I’m a little tired of my standard tomato-and-bean. Green tomatillo salsa is one of my absolute FAVORITE things of all time, so I decided to try and capture that in a hearty winter recipe. I like to think this dish is just as comforting but a little more interesting than a standard white chili.

chicken green chili

Bonus: this feels  exotic but can be made on the cheap with ingredients from any ol’ grocery store. Hooray!

Also, leaving out the chicken breast makes this dish completely vegan and vegetarian. If you’re veg, feel free to replace the bird with some crumbled tofu. A can of drained chickpeas would also be delicious and keep up the protein.

AND ONE MORE THING I’m sure this would be more authentic with shredded chicken, but I am lazy. My way makes the whole thing in one pot. If you’re feeling fancy (masochistic), boil the chicken first until barely cooked, then shred with a fork and add with the beans.


You Need:

1 large or 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium/large yellow onion, diced

2-4 cloves of garlic, depending on your taste, crushed

8-10 fresh tomatillos, peeled, rinsed, and diced

1 sweet or hot pepper, seeded and minced

1 4 oz can chopped green chiles (I used the fire roasted kind)

3/4 cup dry green lentils

1 can sweet white corn, drained

1 can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed

juice of 2 limes

1 bunch of cilantro, chopped

salt and red or white pepper, to taste

optional but delicious: a sprinkle of chili powder and 1/4 teaspoon of cumin

Cut the chicken into small pieces. In a large non-stick pot, heat up the olive oil. Add the chicken and season with a big pinch of salt. Sauté for 1 or 2 minutes, then add the onion. Sauté another minute or two, then add the garlic. Sauté another minute or two, then add all of the chopped tomatillos. These should cook down and give you plenty of liquid. If the mixture is sticking, add a spoonful of water or broth. Next, add in the lime juice and canned chiles with their liquid. Reduce heat to a simmer.

You should now have a juicy, fragrant, flavor base. Time to add in the beans. Add the corn, Great Northerns, and the green lentils PLUS 3/4 cup of water. Add a big handful of cilantro, more if you love it. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are soft.

Serve with sour cream or grated cheese and tortilla chips.

This is crazy good and super healthy. Low fat, high fiber, loads of protein, and tons of vitamins. But fear not, it’s game-day tasty and my carnivorous boyfriend loved it.