One of my biggest pet peeves is buying loose leaf lettuce and by the middle of the week, it has become wilted and slimy. Rather than make another trip to the supermarket, I like to whip up this super easy and fast-to-make pasta salad, not to mention it is super healthy and deelish! All you need to do is look inside your crisper and see what veggies you have lying around….I always tend to have cucumber and tomatoes, so I use these two veggies often. You can add whatever your heart desires, its your salad. Another thing I love about this salad is that you can use it as a side dish, being that it has both a starch and veggies, or you can make it into one big meal and top it with some lean protein (chicken, fish, tuna, etc).
I recommend using whole wheat pasta. Before you start to move the mouse towards the little X on the upper right corner of the screen, let me try to sell you on it- and if you still refuse to use it, then go ahead and use the regular pasta. Whole wheat pasta is full of fiber and even protein, not to mention important vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, magnesium and selenium…this has HEART HEALTHY written all over it. Besides, whole grains and wheats are proven to aid in weight loss and maintenance in which they allow you to feel fuller longer. But what about the taste??? Okay, I’ll admit it- when I first cooked whole wheat pasta, I thought I was chewing on a piece of cardboard, but I did not give up! Use these tips when cooking with whole wheat pasta:
- Over cook the pasta. Now is not the time to be preparing al dente pasta. If the instructions tell you to cook it for 14 minutes, cook it for 17 minutes. Test a noodle every minute or two after the instructed cooking time and once you feel it has reached the desired texture, you can drain the batch and enjoy.
- Whole wheat pasta doesn’t like to be lonely- give it some friends! Add protein, veggies, beans, etc, to give the entire meal more texture. This will divert your taste buds from the starchy-ness of the pasta and enjoy all the flavors and textures of the entire dish.
- Throw in a pinch of salt to the water before boiling to give the pasta a little bit more flavor.
The key ingredients for this salad are:
1 cucumber, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
Cheese (I love to use feta cheese, but use whatever is lurking in your fridge, no need to run out of the house and buy stuff you already have in the fridge)
1 cup dried Whole Wheat pasta (spirals, penne, shells, or bow ties)
1/2 can chick peas
2 TBSP olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tsp dried Basil
salt and pepper to taste
Yields 4 as side dish, Yields 2 as main meal
- Pour 1/4 cup white vinegar in a bowl. Add salt, pepper and basil. Mix together.
- Add 2 TBSP olive oil and whisk together. Set aside.
- Boil water with a pinch of salt, add whole wheat pasta once water is boiling.
- While you are boiling the pasta, get chopping on the tomatoes and cucumber; add to large bowl.
- Take cheese and cut into small cubes to make about 1 cup. I used feta cheese and I found it easier to break it apart with my fingers…its a dirty job but some one has to do it! Add to large bowl.
- Take can of chick peas, drain and rinse under cold water to remove excess sodium. Add to large bowl.
(looking good so far…and so colorful!)
(who better to determine desired texture than our very own food critic, Dora! He gave it two talons up)
6. Add dressing to salad, gently toss it all together and enjoy!
Be adventurous and add ingredients to make this salad an experience!
Greek Salad– simply add some kalamta olives, lemon juice and crusty turkish bread, top with grilled chicken breast
Mexican Salad– use montery jack or cheddar cheese instead of feta, black beans instead of chick peas, add cilantro if available and top it with a grilled chicken breast or grilled shrimp (look through your pantry/fridge- corn, low fat sour cream, avocado, hot sauce, chiles, onions, etc…all of these could be great additions to this salad)
What will your Presto Salad be today?