Today's cooking blog is a lesson in cooking without a recipe. Once you know which ingredients pair well together, how big a serving size is, you can start to combine them to suit your needs. We're starting with a dish that anyone, regardless of their cooking skills can make: pasta salad.
Pasta salad is an easy, go-to meal when the weather is warm, but most of the recipes we know and love are mayo-based, which means they're not so great for us. The easiest swap is to use lowfat plain yogurt instead of mayo.
But what about when you're tired of your same-old pasta salad? Here's an easy way to turn one box of pasta into dinner for four or a side dish for your next neighborhood gathering.
You don't even need a recipe. Adjust the portions as needed, and learn to cook "without a net." This is a great chance to experiment in the kitchen without taking a big risk.
To one box of pasta (preferably whole wheat), add little of this, a little of that, and--voila!--an instant meal or side dish that's ready in no time.
- "Cook" this dish the night before. The flavors taste even better the next day.
- Undercook your pasta slightly--it should be al dente. Drain and rinse your pasta with cool water, then immediately combine with the other ingredients. Overcooked pasta yields a gummy glob of pasta salad.
- You'll also want to use a bite-size pasta in this dish.
- For vegetables, figure on 1/2 cup of each per person.
- For protein, you'll want 12 ounces cooked for four people.
- For the extras like nuts, bacon, or cheese, keep portions small: 1/2 ounce per person.
Cook your protein ahead of time for an even faster meal!
| Cool Summer || Sliced grapes or cherries || Diced celery and cucumbers || Cubed poached or grilled chicken || Toasted walnuts or pecans || Cucumber-yogurt dressing |
| All American BLT || Chopped Romaine || Chopped green onions || Sliced grape or cherry tomatoes || Chopped turkey bacon, cooked || Tomato-yogurt dressing* swap 1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes for fresh |
| Grilled || Grilled Romaine || Grilled eggplant || Grilled summer squash and zucchini || Parmesan cheese || No dressing--just drizzle your veggies with balsamic, pepper and olive oil |
| Asian || Snow peas || Bean sprouts || Shredded carrots || Grilled or poached chicken || Sesame ginger dressing |
| Italian || Chopped tomatoes--fresh or roasted || Thinly sliced red onions || Chopped parsley and basil || Feta cheese || Your favorite vinaigrette |
| My Favorite! || Wilted spinach or arugula || Artichoke hearts (packed in water and drained) || White beans (drained and rinsed) || Steamed asparagus || Basil vinaigrette or pesto (homemade or jarred) |
| Southwest || Grilled shrimp with a spice rub || Roasted corn || Black beans (drained and rinsed) || Chopped tomatoes || Cubed Monterey or pepper Jack cheese (no dressing needed) |
What is your favorite pasta salad recipe?