Southwest Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken

2 cups fusilli, rotelle or other salad pasta
½ lb. skinless boneless chicken breasts or chicken tenders with tendons removed and lightly seasoned with oregano, garlic powder and lemon pepper or salt and pepper and grilled or baked
½ cup ripe olives, thinly sliced
½ medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced or chopped
½ medium orange, yellow or green bell pepper, thinly sliced or chopped
½ cup shredded jicama
½ cup shredded carrot
2/3 cup chopped tomatoes
2/3 cup fresh or frozen and thawed yellow or white corn
2/3 cup cooked or canned firm black beans rinsed and drained
½ small red or white onion thinly sliced in rings and quartered
¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro (½ cup leaves)
1½ cups Lime Chili Cheese Ranch Dressing (see next item)
Ingredients for Lime Chili Cheese Ranch Dressing:
½ cup low fat mayonnaise Best Foods Just 2 Good (2 grams fat per tablespoon)
½ cup fat free sour cream
1 green jalapeño pepper, minced
1 red chili pepper, minced (these are the same size as jalapeños except red)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2-oz. low fat feta cheese or 1-oz. fat free feta mixed with 1-oz. regular feta cheese
up to ¼ cup low fat buttermilk or skim milk depending on desired consistency
salt and white pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions without salt and oil. Do not overcook, pasta should be al dente. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water. If you don’t plan on assembling the salad until later, lightly spray pasta with cooking spray, tossing gently to mix. This will prevent pasta from sticking together.

Mix all spices together and season both sides of chicken. Place chicken on a baking sheet covered with foil or parchment paper and bake in a 350F oven for 20 to 25 minutes until juices run clear; or wrap seasoned chicken in a tight foil package and cook on grill for 15 to 20 minutes. (Note; the amount of time needed to bake or grill tenders is about half that of a breast.) Allow chicken to cool then shred or cut chicken into small pieces; cover and chill.

In a blender, food processor or in a small bowl using a wire whisk, combine mayonnaise together with sour cream, peppers, garlic, lime juice, rice vinegar and feta cheese. Thin to desired consistency with buttermilk or skim milk and season to taste with salt and white pepper. Cover and set aside.

In a large bowl, add cooled pasta together with chicken, olives, peppers, jicama, carrot, tomatoes, corn, beans, onion and fresh cilantro. Gently toss 3/4 of dressing with pasta mixture. Refrigerate salad and remaining dressing until chilled, 2 to 3 hours. Just before serving, toss salad with remaining dressing and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Yield: 10 1-cup servings at approximately 214 calories; 1.6 grams total fat; 0.2 grams saturated fat; 17 milligrams cholesterol; 25 grams carbohydrate; 2.3 grams dietary fiber; 16 grams protein;322 milligrams sodium.

Dressing: Yield 2 cups dressing or 8 ¼ cup servings each at approximately 68 calories; 1.8 grams total fat; 0.5 gram saturated fat; 3 milligrams cholesterol; 9.7 grams total carbohydrate; 0.3 gram dietary fiber; 2.8 grams protein; 366 milligrams sodium

Compare at 200 calories and 24 grams total fat vs. 68 calories and 1.8 grams total fat per 1-oz. serving.

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