Summer has ended. Our family is slowly making the transition into fall and winter. In addition to changes in activities, commitments, and weather, our eating habits shift this time of year.
Our summer menus are filled with grilled foods, lots of fresh produce, and salads. While we certainly could eat these things in the fall and winter (and sometimes we do), soups and casseroles seem to make more sense. They are comforting when it is cold outside.
One item from our summer menu sticks around most of the year, though: Chicken Pasta Salad. It is fast and easy to prepare. I can make it in a variety of ways. My children request it regularly. I have altered it slightly in the last few months to accommodate my dietary needs, but it is just as good as the original version.
A few notes about this salad:
First, it is completely dairy free, as the ranch sauce is made with mayo and a homemade seasoning recipe, rather than buttermilk and a prepackaged mix.
Second, by substituting gluten-free pasta (as I do), it is safe for those with a gluten allergy or intolerance. The bacon also gives lots of extra flavor, making this dish one of my favorite “safe” go-to meals.
Third, I almost always have pre-portioned bags of cooked meat in my freezer. I do this with ground beef, chicken breasts, and bacon. I cook the meat on the weekends, making weeknight dinners much faster. Then, I simply thaw what I will need overnight in the fridge (or immediately before supper in the microwave when I fail to plan ahead).
- 1 lb. dried pasta (any short variety, like macaroni or shells, will do)
- 1 lb. chicken breast meat, cooked & cubed
- 1/2 c. cooked bacon crumbles
- 1 c. fresh diced tomatoes
- 1/2 c. mayo or Miracle Whip
- 2 T. oil
- 2 T. lemon juice
- 1/2 t. ground black pepper
- 1/4 t. garlic powder
- 1/2 t. dried minced chives
- 1/2 t. salt
- Cook pasta according to directions on the box. Once done, drain and rinse in cool water until no longer hot.
- In a large bowl, combine everything except the pasta, chicken, bacon, and tomatoes. Mix well.
- Add the chicken, bacon, and tomatoes. Finally, add the pasta.
- Toss to coat. Refrigerate or serve immediately.
I can have this on the table in fifteen minutes or less. What are your favorite go-to weeknight meals?