Summer Pasta Salad

I like to keep my options open.

Example: I am a chronic overpacker. Who cares if I stuff so many clothes, shoes, and accessories into my trusty carry-on bag that I am unable to lift it into the overhead bin without the assistance of a kind stranger? At least I rest assured that while traveling, I will never be caught in a storm without an umbrella or have to turn down an invitation to a fancy dinner with the Duchess of Cambridge because I simply do not have anything proper to wear.

Okay, slight exaggeration. But the point about my Mary Poppins-style of packing is that I like to have options: a jacket in the event of an unanticipated cold front, an extra pair of heels for an unexpected night out, a swimsuit just in case…

You get the drift. Options.

I feel the same way about my recipes.

When I first started cooking, I was a strict recipe follower. Always adhering to the prescribed list of ingredients, measuring exactly, and never adjusting the cooking time, I played by the rules. Over time, I learned that the beauty of cooking lies in the ability to adapt traditional recipes and make them your own. Adding a little cinnamon to boost flavor, substituting the butter to cut back on fat, finding a way to incorporate more protein, throwing in some peanut butter or hot sauce because they make everything taste better — these are the tweaks that transform cooking from a science to an art.

This is why I absolutely adore this Summer Pasta Salad.

Summer Pasta Salad

First of all, the recipe is completely customizable. Going meatless? Forget the chicken. In the mood for Mediterranean? Add feta and crushed pita chips on top. Not a fan of balsamic? Switch up the dressing. Options abound!

After a summer of traveling (blog hiatus explained) including indulgent eats and a few extra glasses of wine, my body is craving only healthy and nutritious foods. This salad is a great way to get back on track while filling up on all the goodies: lean protein, fresh veggies, fiber-rich whole wheat pasta, and everyone’s favorite superfood: avocado!

If your style of cooking is anything like my style of packing, you will want to squeeze as much as possible into this salad to give you options with every bite. Try the recipe, enjoy the sweet freedom that having options brings, and let me know your personal twist on Summer Pasta Salad!

Summer Pasta Salad

Yields: 8 servings

INGREDIENTS
3 cups whole wheat pasta, any shape (I used fusilli)
12 ounces cooked chicken, cubed
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 small cucumbers, sliced
1 cup black olives, sliced
1 large avocado, diced
1 cup fat-free balsamic vinaigrette (I love Cindy’s Kitchen, which you can find at Whole Foods.)
salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS
Prepare pasta according to package directions. Rinse under cold water until cool, and transfer to large serving dish. Stir in chicken, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and avocado. Pour dressing over the salad, add salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Cover and chill before serving.

NUTRITION
Servings: 8
Serving Size: 1 heaping cup
Calories: 255
Fat: 7.8g
Saturated Fat: 0.9g
Carbs: 30.3g
Sugar: 5.8g
Fiber: 4.6g
Protein: 15.5g

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