Two Favorite Main Dish Salads

Two Favorite Main Dish Salads

A landmark family birthday filled our house with kids and grandkids this last weekend.   I feel a bit challenged when it comes to feeding a crowd day in and day out.  There’s a desire to keep it easy but at the same time healthy and fresh, while spending minimal time and money.   To be honest I can’t say that I was successful this time. Our daughters were great at jumping in and making Oatmeal Pancakes (a family favorite) for breakfast, they made amazing Vegan Rice Crispy Treats too and I (thankfully) had lots of help with clean up!!

Here are standard yummy, healthy foods I have found helpful to have on hand:  green smoothie ingredients,  loaves of fresh whole wheat homemade bread, homemade granola, hummus and crackers, lots of fresh fruit, and some main dish salads all ready to dish up. Depending on the season, hearty soups made ahead, and stored in the freezer, can put a simple but elegant lunch or dinner on the table fast.

Soup and main dish salads allow you to make great food affordably. I appreciate Michael Pollan’s book “Food Rules”.  He suggests eating meat more as a condiment than as a main dish. This purse sized eating manual is full of good common sense and easy to follow “food rules”. Simple, short and articulate, he makes the 64 principles easy to digest.  It can easily replace all the diet books on your bookshelf. Anyhow, all that aside… enjoy these recipes suitable for a crowd, a simple dinner or your lunch box.

fresh picked

Our summer squash and green beans are just coming on not to mention red onions plus I had some colorful peppers on hand.  This salad improves with time and unlike so many pasta salads, you don’t have to re-dress it.  While the dressing has a small amount of oil, the lemon juice, dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar help infuse great flavor throughout.  With the addition of cooked, cubed chicken it can be a main dish or side dish.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad (serves 6-8)

1 ½ cups diced red onion

4 large cloves garlic

1 cup of mixed diced yellow, red and orange peppers

3 cups diced mixed yellow crookneck and zucchini squash

2 cups green beans trimmed and cut in 2-3 inch lengths

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, julienne

6 cups cooked spiral pasta

2 cups diced cooked chicken


¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 large garlic clove minced

diced zucchini

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place onions, peppers, green beans and squash in a large mixing bowl.  Whisk together 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and ½ teaspoon sea salt.  Toss together with vegetable mixture and add the 4 cloves minced garlic.  Stir to mix evenly.

diced and mixed

Place veggie mix in a shallow baking pan.  Spread vegetables evenly in one layer and roast in the oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Let cool.

roasted, smelling and looking delicious!

Whisk together all dressing ingredients.  In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta, diced chicken, roasted mixed vegetables and fresh basil.   Lightly dress to taste.  Flavor improves with time when allowed to
chill for a while before serving.

makes a perfect lunch with fresh fruit

The following salad is especially quick and easy. It’s a favorite year round-

Peanut Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables (serves 6-8)2 cups cooked shredded chicken (I use leftover roasted chicken that I have on hand)

½ cup smooth natural peanut butter

2 Tablespoon tamari soy sauce

2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 ½ teaspoons chile-garlic sauce, or to taste

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

juice from ½ lime

8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti

1 Tablespoon sea salt

1  10 oz. bag of frozen vegetable medley mix OR

2 cups mixed fresh vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, snow peas


Season a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon salt and put it on to boil, for cooking the pasta.

While the water is heating, mix together peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, chile-garlic sauce, fresh ginger and lime juice.

Cook pasta in the boiling water for one minute shorter than the directions suggest.  Add vegetables and cook for 1 more minute.  Drain , reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.  Stir the reserved cooking liquid into the peanut sauce; add the pasta, vegetables and chicken; toss well to coat.  Serve warm or chilled.  Garnish with chopped green onions.  Keeps for 5 days in the refrigerator…if it doesn’t get scarfed up before then!


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6 Comments on “Two Favorite Main Dish Salads”

  1. I made this salad 2 days ago and we are having some tonight along with burgers. One of our girls had some for lunch yesterday and said it was wonderful..she really liked all the vegetables! PS…I left out the chicken to make it a side dish!

  2. After a couple days of salivating, I finally went to the store to gather the missing couple ingredients to make the roasted vegetable salad and as it turned out, it was worth the wait! The recipe looks and probably tastes amazing with pasta, but I have discovered that pasta doesn’t agree with my body, so I substituted 2 cups of cooked pearl barley. It was delicious. I would imagine the flavors would also compliment quinoa or any other whole grains that someone would prefer. I served it as a side and then my daughter took it to another level. She put hers on a piece of whole wheat pita bread with hummus and folded the salad in the middle to eat it. It was tasty, so tasty in fact, she asked me to pack it in her school lunch tomorrow! That says a lot for an eight year old! Thank you for sharing this with my family.

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