Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mandarin Orange Chicken Pasta Salad

I absolutely LOVE this pasta salad. It is so colorful and flavorful and perfect for these dreary winter months. It adds a little life to these cold, dark days!:)
Mandarin Orange Chicken Pasta Salad

The ingredients:
3 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
8 oz. bowtie pasta (whole wheat is really good in this!)
1 cucumber, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small red onion or 1/2 large onion, chopped
1 package baby spinach
1 11 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup sliced almonds (optional)

Dressing:
1 teaspoon fresh ginger OR 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup orange juice
1/3 cup rice or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon seasame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 envelope onion soup mix

Cut chicken into bite size pieces and cook in a little bit of olive oil until browned. Let cool.
Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente pasta. While the pasta is cooking start chopping all the veggies.
The cucumber (this is Kyla cutting...I would never be caught dead with fingernail polish like that!! But young girls just don't seem to care:)) Put cut cucumbers in a large bowl.
Next chop the onion and add to bowl.
Then chop the red bell pepper and (again) add to bowl. (Isn't that beautiful?!!)
Then open the oranges and drain them and add to the bowl as well. (It just keeps getting prettier and prettier!)
Now you can add the almonds if you like, we didn't not becuase we don't like them but because I thought I had some and found out they were slivered and not sliced almonds and so we left them out (although slivered probably would have been just fine!)
When pasta is done cooking drain and rinse in a colander under cold water until pasta is cooled. Add pasta and cooled chicken to the bowl and stir to combine.
Let this sit while you make the dressing. Combine all ingredients and whisk together.
Right before serving add the spinach to the pasta and veggies and then pour the dressing overtop and mix together well.
This makes quite a bit of salad and if you let the spinach sit in the fridge with the dressing on it, the spinach will wilt and it doesn't look very appetizing. So what I do is split it in half. I will add the dressing to the half I am saving, but leave out the spinach and then the next day when I want some I'll add the spinach at that time. Works out really well, also it allows the dressing to mesh with all the other flavors and makes it really yummy!!
Also, I was concerned that none of my kids would eat this (it's got SPINACH in it...YUCK!!) But I was pleasantly surprised...only my 3 year old Rhett said it was gross, and Kyla and my 7 year old Eli had second helpings! Yeah...they like something healthy!!:)

Hope you enjoy this one!!
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