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picnic pagoda salad

by Jackie Newgent  |  May 20, 2012  |  2 Comments

Makes 6 servings: about 1 cup each

Time for a backyard barbecue? Planning a picnic? You’ll definitely want to whip up a batch—or two or three—of this scrumptious soiree-friendly side. I’ve taken a creamy macaroni salad recipe like my mother used to make, then I went a bit mad with veggies. So now it’s full of interesting textures, vibrant colors, and memorable flavors … and you can absolutely feel good about eating it. I’ve made it with gluten-free pasta to please more palates. But please do make this recipe your own, if you choose; experiment with other pastas and veggies. Have a spectacular Memorial Day!

Calories Saved: 80

1 (8-ounce) package Ancient Harvest Quinoa Gluten Free Pagodas
–or 8 ounces dry whole grain pasta shape of choice
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt*
2 teaspoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup packed sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated (if necessary), thinly sliced (not oil-packed)
1 cup shelled edamame, steamed and chilled
1 red bell pepper, freshly roasted or grilled, chilled, and diced
2 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced on diagonal
2 tablespoons minced pickled green tomatoes or other pickled vegetable
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

  1. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan according to package directions**; drain. Return the pasta to the pan along with several ice cubes and toss until the ice melts and pasta is gently cooled; drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, mustard, and cayenne in a small bowl; chill.
  3. Combine the cooled pasta, sun-dried tomatoes, edamame, bell pepper, scallions, pickled green tomatoes, black pepper, and salt in a large serving bowl.
  4. Stir in the mayonnaise mixture just before serving. Adjust seasoning, and serve.

Per serving: 280 calories, 12g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 5mg cholesterol, 260mg sodium, 39g total carbohydrate, 5g dietary fiber, 3g sugars, 7g protein

*Free of synthetic growth hormones: No rBST-treated milk.

**Lid-cook the pasta! Instead of following package directions, prepare pasta using my “greener” cooking technique. It’s the way I always do it! Here’s how: Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat; stir in the pasta; bring back to a boil; put a lid on it and turn off the heat—or remove from heat if using electric. Then “lid-cook” (cook while covered without using energy) the exact amount of time suggested on the package. It comes out perfectly for me every time. Try it!


The “Before” Recipe

macaroni salad with ham and eggs

Makes 6 servings

8 ounces macaroni
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons cider vinegar, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground paprika
few drops of hot pepper sauce, or to taste
8 ounces diced Virginia baked ham
2 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1/2 of 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained, chopped
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain. Rinse with cold water to cool quickly; drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, paprika, and hot pepper sauce in a small bowl; set aside in the refrigerator to chill.
  3. Combine the cooled pasta, ham, eggs, red bell peppers, and relish in a large bowl.
  4. Stir in the mayonnaise mixture just before serving. Adjust seasonings with salt and white pepper.

Per serving: 360 calories, 19g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 85mg cholesterol, 700mg sodium, 33g total carbohydrate, 2g dietary fiber, 4g sugars, 13g protein


Tasteover Tips

  • Change up the usual shape of the pasta to provide more body and eye appeal—and if choosing a more colorful noodle, be sure the color is from natural vegetables (like organic spinach, beet and red bell pepper)
  • Make a jazzier dressing using a combination of real mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, and Dijon mustard instead of mainly mayo
  • When choosing ingredients (especially veggies!) to makeover a recipe, consider using those with various contrasting textures, colors, and flavors
  • Try sun-dried tomatoes in place of ham, when possible; it provides a salty essence
  • Up the freshness, like by adding scallions, and up the taste interest, such as by using freshly roasted red bell pepper instead of the jarred variety


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