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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

October 9: Petrifying Pasta Salad

Last month I read this distressing article in Consumer Reports magazine about the dangers of deli meats. Now, don’t get me wrong, I knew deli meats weren’t good for us. However, I’d started buying the uncured, nitrate-free kind thinking I was doing something good for my family. Turns out, not so much. 

The timing of this article – right before school lunches started back up – had me in a bit of a tizzy. I mean, what was I going to give them now? Because of nut-free classroom concerns, I already have to be really careful sending the younger one with any kind of peanut product, so autopilot classics like a pb&j are off the table. Leftovers are all well and good in theory, except there’s nowhere to heat up the food. With “healthy” deli meats like turkey or smoked chicken off the table, and my kids not being huge fans of hard-boiled eggs, what protein-based foods are left?

Turns out, there are other options. I just had to broaden my scope. So far, some new favorites are dips (hummus, black bean dip, & layered taco dip) and dippers (veggies, crackers, & tortilla chips), cheese & crackers, and the pasta salad I’m sharing today. 

The first time I made it, I hadn’t intended on it being one of the October recipes since when I think of pasta salad, I think of summer cookouts (which, actually, is where my daughter discovered this and asked me if I could make some) but when I made it, I thought how Halloweeny it looked what with the tri-colored pasta and the big black spiders and all those hunks of witch skin and warts otherwise known as olives and cucumber and tomatoes. When I saw it, I realized it was destined to appear here.

Plus, I've made it pretty much weekly since the first time, so there's also that.  

I’d like to give a shout-out to Kathy for making the original and sharing her process with me. I adapted it slightly based on my daughter’s personal preferences, and that’s what I’ll be sharing here.

Petrifying Pasta Salad


12 oz box tri-colored vegetable rotini
½ English cucumber, diced
1 stalk celery, minced
¼ large red onion (about ¼ cup), minced
½ dry pint yellow cherry tomatoes, halved 
8 oz mozzarella cheese block, diced
15 oz can black olives, drained (after the first time, I substituted a 5.75oz jar of green olives with pimentos which my girls prefer)  
½ cup Robusto Italian dressing


1.     Cook pasta according to package directions. 

2.     Meanwhile, prepare vegetables and cheese. 

3.     When pasta is cooked through, drain and rinse with cold water. Pour into large bowl.

4.     Add veggies and cheese. Stir.

5.     Add dressing (I started with ¼ cup and stirred, then added the second ¼ cup and stirred again. That was enough for our tastes. If you require more, feel free to add it.)

6.     Add salt and pepper to taste.
7.     Refrigerate overnight to develop best flavor and mix well before enjoying. (We didn’t find it needed any more, but if you do, you can add more dressing.)

The great thing about this as a lunch option is that the tri-colored pasta offers 7g of protein per serving, plus there’s calcium (and more protein) in the cheese, and it’s packed with veggies. To up the Halloween factor even more, feel free to add a jack-o-lantern orange on the side like I did. (Use a sharpie to draw it on.) My daughters both love this, and I am relieved to have an easy, low-cost meat-free lunch option for my kids. 
Pasta salad, mandarin orange & raisins, terra chips

How about you, readers? What are your favorite non-lunchmeat protein-rich lunch favorites? Do share! 

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