Monday, March 7, 2016

Sesame Pasta Chicken Salad

Spring is in the air and I am absolutely loving it!
You know it's funny, you get so excited about summer break when you're a kid.  Warm school-free days, swimming pools, friends...then you grow up.

Once you're in the work force summer break loses some of it's luster- regardless of the changing weather the work week is pretty much business as usual.  Those beautiful sunny days have you working for the weekend but that's about it.

I'd really forgotten about the joy of summer break until I had my second child and we decided that it made sense for me to stay home.

I'm so blessed.  Seriously.  I count my lucky stars every day that we are in a position where I can be home with these kids.  Anyway, I quickly re-discovered the joys of warm weather and school breaks when I quit my job to be a stay at home mom.  Don't get me wrong, I stay plenty busy with popcorn but overall I have a lot more time for sleeping a little later, playing a little harder, and adventuring a little further with the kids over their breaks and I find myself looking forward to their time off just as much as they do.

Once the weather starts to turn warm the excitement around the house is practically palpable.  I want to throw myself full-force into the embrace of spring and leave roasts, soups, stews, and chilis behind me.  One of my favorite ways to embrace the warmer weather is to start grilling out a lot more.

Ok, time out: let me correct myself there and give credit where credit is due- I don't grill.
I season meat pretty well, but my husband is the absolute Grill Master.  That man knows what he's doing.  I can't take any credit whatsoever for the deliciously smoked foods- tri-tip, ribs, pork loin, veggies- that parade through our kitchen.

Nope, that's all him.

Sides are more my thing.  I'm always on the lookout for refreshing sides to pair with whatever my husband happens to be grilling and I came across this recipe the other day that pairs two of my favorite things: pasta salad and asian flavors.

This turned out SO perfectly.  I used a bag of mixed pasta shapes I grabbed at the store that included rotini, shells, and penne but you can use whatever shape you prefer.  I'm a bit of a rotini girl myself when it comes to pasta salads but I loved how the variety of shapes really mixed things up a little bite to bite.

I did make a couple of teensy changes to the original recipe- I thought the flavor was quite nice as-written but I wanted to bump it up a little so I added some sriracha and just a tiny bit of peanut butter.  I know that sounds weird, but you find peanuts and peanut butter in Thai recipes all the time so it's not really all that odd and I thought it provided a nice depth of flavor in this dish.  I think adding shredded carrot next time would also be great!

This is definitely a recipe I'll be repeating often as the weather continues to warm since it paired perfectly with the assortment of meats my handsome husband smoked yesterday!

1/4 C sesame seeds
1 (16 oz) package bow tie pasta
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/3 C light soy sauce
1/3 C rice vinegar
3 Tbsp white sugar
1 Tbsp sriracha
1 tsp peanut butter
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3 C shredded, cooked chicken breast meat
1/2 C chopped green onion
1/3 C chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame seeds, and cook stirring frequently until lightly toasted. Remove from heat, and set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain pasta, and rinse under cold water until cool. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. In a small bowl whisk together vegetable oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sriracha, peanut butter, sesame oil, brown sugar, ginger, pepper, and sesame seeds.

4. Pour sesame dressing over pasta, and toss to coat evenly. Gently mix in chicken, cilantro, and green onions.

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