Summer Salad: Pasta, Baby Spinach and Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet; they provide energy and are necessary for proper organ function. There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex.

Simple carbohydrates are created when commercial processing removes the fiber-rich outer hull and bran in whole grains that result in products such as, white rice, white flour, white sugar, white bread, etc.

Simple carbohydrates are absorbed and digested very quickly and spike blood sugar causing a rush of energy followed soon after by a crash. This is an unhealthy outcome.

On the other hand, complex carbohydrates release energy slowly and are found in vegetables, nuts, legumes and grains, such as oatmeal and pasta. Unlike simple carbs, these foods are also high in vitamins and minerals.   

Pasta has been criticized in recent years as a leading culprit in the rise of obesity. The fact is that pasta is a healthy carbohydrate and a central component of the Mediterranean diet, widely recommended as an effective regimen for maintaining a healthy weight.

Unlike wheat used to make bread, pasta is made from durum, a hybrid of wild grasses and an entirely different species. Like Kamut, durum is much older than modern wheat and has not been as domesticated.

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how fast glucose, a sugar from carbohydrates is absorbed into the bloodstream. Pasta has a low glycemic index, between 25 to 45 GI, and that places it within the range of many fruits and vegetables.

Colorful and satisfying, cold pasta salads are a great addition to summer get-togethers, our Pasta Salad with Baby Spinach and Orange Poppy Seed Dressing is absolutely delicious!

Penne Pasta is the perfect size and shape mixed with tender baby spinach, sliced strawberries, tart cherries and crunchy walnuts. The extraordinary dressing is a zesty blend of dairy-free yogurt, fresh orange juice with a touch of Dijon mustard and of course poppy seeds. 

The distinctive tang comes from Marukan Lite Rice Vinegar Dressing. Low in sugar and sodium and perfect for low-calorie diets, this rice vinegar has a pleasant, mild flavor that enhances the natural flavor of vegetables.

Pasta Salad with Baby Spinach and Orange Poppy Seed Dressing ~ VIDEO
8 Servings

Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Marukan Lite Rice Vinegar Dressing
1 cup plain dairy-free yogurt
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons agave
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons orange zest
4 teaspoons poppy seeds

In a small bowl, whisk ingredients together in the order listed.

For the salad:

1 (16 oz. pkg) penne pasta (cooked and cooled)
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, packed
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup dried tart cherries or cranberries
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with just enough dressing to moisten. Serve immediately with extra dressing on the side.

Nutrition Analysis: 1 1/2 cups salad
Calories 280 Protein  9g, Carbohydrates  54g, Fiber 3g, Fat 5g, Cholesterol 0mg, Calcium 32mg, Sodium 22mg

Nutrition Analysis: Poppy Seed Dressing: 1/3 cup
Calories 161 Protein  2g, Carbohydrates  15g, Fiber 0g, Fat 10g, Cholesterol 0mg, Calcium 75 mg, Sodium 234 mg

Marie Oser is a best-selling author, writer/producer and host of VegTV. Her latest book is The Skinny on Soy.  Follow Marie on Facebook and Twitter