As summer kicks into full swing with sunny days and long, balmy evenings, my family is in the process of packing up our house to relocate from Southern California to The Florida Keys in 2 weeks. It’s part of military life, and I’ll be happy with the change of scenery once we get there and get settled in, but right now life is chaotic and disorganized. To say that this part is not my favorite would probably be the understatement of the year – in fact, it’s about to drive me nuts.
Since we are so busy with the mundane details of packing, planning meals tends to get pushed to the back burner. That’s why this recipe is one of my favorites right now. It’s quick, easy, refreshing after a long, hot day of working, and everyone in my house loves it so there’s no argument when I serve it. It helps me out a lot to cook a batch of pasta in the morning and then use some of it to make this.* With the pasta already chilled, it takes just a few minutes to dice the cheese and peppers and throw the salad together, and then I can just let it chill for about 20 minutes before we’re going to eat. (My husband doesn’t like Italian dressing, though, so I set a portion of salad aside before adding the dressing. I stir a 50/50 mix of plain nonfat yogurt and ranch dressing into his portion, then stir the Italian dressing mixture into the rest). Served with grilled chicken or fish and sliced watermelon, this is the perfect summer dinner, and leftover diced chicken mixed with the salad is an easy, delicious take-along lunch for work or school.
For now, I’m content that this makes a hectic situation a litte bit easier to deal with, but I’m really looking forward to getting past the stress and back to summer, when we can sit back and enjoy this salad during a relaxing dinner after a day at the beach or pool!
UPDATE APRIL 2018: After perfecting my batch prep methods over the years to make a variety of healthy meals in minutes, I am now sharing my exact simple process in my online Masterclass, “Batch Prep Bliss: Save Time. Eat Well. FEEL GOOD!”
Get details here!)
YIELD| Approximately 10-12 adult side dish servings
PREP| 12-15 minutes (faster with pre-made pasta)
CHILL| 2 hours
1 medium yellow pepper, seeded and diced into 1/4” pieces
1 medium red pepper, seeded and diced into 1/4” pieces
2 c. frozen petite peas, thawed and drained
8 oz. part-skim mozzarella cheese, cubed
1 c. plain nonfat yogurt
1/2 c. low-fat Italian/vinaigrette dressing (I like Newman’s Own Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette)
3-1/2 c. rainbow rotini or whole wheat spiral pasta, uncooked (5-1/2 c. cooked)
2 fresh basil leaves, chopped, as garnish (optional)
1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water. Shake out excess water, and place in large bowl. Stir in about a tablespoon of Italian dressing to keep pasta from clumping.
2. Add peppers, peas, and cheese cubes.
3. In a small bowl, combine yogurt and Italian dressing. Add to pasta mixture and gently stir to combine, coating all ingredients with the dressing. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.
Caprese-Style Pasta Salad
Omit peppers and peas.
Add: 20 grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 c. baby spinach leaves, chopped
2 extra basil leaves, chopped
This variation can be served to babies 12 months and older, with plain whole milk yogurt stirred into individual servings for babies 12-24 months of age and tomatoes cut smaller to avoid choking.
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Additional Serving Suggestions for Baby
|8-9 months||Set aside some of the cooked pasta and peas; mash and serve with or without plain whole milk yogurt stirred in|
|10-14 months||Set aside cooked pasta (cut into small pieces), diced mozzarella, and mashed or whole peas; serve with or w/out plain whole milk yogurt stirred in|
|15-24 months||Serve as directed, making sure to dice peppers and cheese small enough to avoid choking; stir some plain whole milk yogurt into baby’s serving|