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Southwestern Pasta Salad

August 15, 2018 by Nicole Collins

We're halfway through week 1 in our challenge! It's Day 4!

Just like with any change to your eating plan (or anything really), the first week is always the hardest.

But, if you're still with me, then you've over the hump after today. So really, that sounds like smooth sailing to me from here on out!

I've been able to keep my head in the game this week (for the most part), and I think it's truly because I know you guys are here with me. Whether you're following along on the plan or not, it's just nice to know I've got you guys in my corner.

So, thank you!!!

I think diets fail for so many people because they feel like they're limiting themselves from what they can eat. Most people hear the word diet, and they cringe. But, I truly feel like the 21 Day plan is a lifestyle change. I've never once actually defined it as a diet.

When I decided I wanted to do this challenge with you guys, I really made sure that I put a lot of thought into giving you lots of different flavor profiles throughout the week. I don't want you guys to even recognize that you're eating healthy. And, the word bored won't even cross your mind.

Well, it will now because I just said it; but no more after this moment.

We've been all over the world already this week. First Italian. Then Caribbean. Later in the week, we're going to visit California and the Mediterranean. But today, we're going to the Southwest!

Today, we're having Southwestern Pasta Salad!

There is soooooooo much going on in this pasta salad. But, let's talk about the pasta first.

On the 21 Day plan, we have to use whole wheat pasta. I personally can't taste the difference between whole wheat and regular pasta by the time you coat it in sauce, so this change is 100% seamless for me. Some people can taste the extra nuttiness, but there's so much flavor happening in this salad, you'll never know the difference.

To the cooked pasta, we're going to add one of everything. Ok, maybe not...but close. We've got some southwest seasoned chicken tenders, peppers, jalapeno, black beans, corn, avocado, red onion, and tomatoes that all get tossed in a southwestern seasoned dressing. So, close enough to one of everything.

Corn is one of those items that makes me mad on the 21 Day plan. It's a yellow! It seems so unfair for a vegetable to be a yellow. But, it is what it is. So, this is the carbiest thing that we're going to make all week.

And it is 100% worth it.

This salad is a little sweet thanks to the peppers and corn with just a touch of heat and spice thanks to the jalapenos and southwest seasoning. It's crunchy, and soft, and it's just everything. And using premade southwest seasoning makes it super easy to get tons of flavor with not a ton of effort.

Pasta salad is usually a side dish, but adding chicken and portioning it out correctly makes it the perfect candidate for a meal. But, you could absolutely double the ingredients to serve this at a party with your loved ones. Stick with the whole wheat pasta to help them live a little healthier without them even knowing it!

Here's what's on the agenda for the rest of your meal plan today:

Breakfast: PB&J Chia Smoothie - 2 purple, 3 tsp

Snack: 2 hard boiled eggs with a pinch of black pepper - 1 red

Lunch: Southwestern Pasta Salad - 2 yellow, 1 red, 1 blue, 2 tsp, 1 green

Snack: 1 cup popped popcorn, lightly seasoned - 1 yellow

Dinner: Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Eggplant Pizza - 2 green, 1 red, 1 tsp, 1 blue

Alright guys, pack your bags; because we're off to the Mediterranean tomorrow! But for now, enjoy. And, let's eat!


Southwestern Pasta Salad

Serves: 6 Print


For the Pasta Salad:

  • 2 cups dry whole wheat pasta (I used rotini)

  • 1 red pepper, diced

  • ½ jalapeno, minced

  • ¼ cup red onion, minced

  • ½ cup black beans, drained and rinsed

  • ½ cup corn, thawed if frozen

  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

  • 1 avocado, diced

  • 2 oz feta, crumbled

  • 1 lb chicken tenders

  • 2 tsp southwest seasoning

  • salt, to taste

  • olive oil cooking spray

For the Southwestern Dressing:

  • ¼ cup olive oil

  • juice of 2 limes

  • 1 ½ tsp + 2 tsp southwest seasoning, divided

  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

  • 1 tsp agave syrup

  • ¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, and set aside in a large bowl.

  2. Roast the chicken: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil, and spray with olive oil cooking spray. Lay the tenders on the prepared pan, and spritz the top side of the chicken with olive oil cooking spray. Season both sides with 2 tsp southwest seasoning and salt, to taste. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, flip the tenders, and put them back in the oven for another 8 minutes. When cool enough to handle, dice the chicken.

  3. Make the dressing: Add olive oil, lime juice, 1 ½ tsp southwest seasoning, dijon, agave, and ¼ tsp salt to a bowl. Whisk until combined. Set aside.

  4. Assemble the pasta salad: Add peppers, onion, beans, corn, tomatoes, avocado, feta, and chicken to the bowl with pasta. Add dressing, and stir well to combine. Finish with a generous pinch of salt and an additional 2 tsp southwest seasoning. Toss to combine and coat the pasta. Place in the fridge to cool for at least 4 hours. Serve!

Recipe notes:

*I use McCormick's brand of southwest seasoning, but I also like Mrs. Dash's version of southwest seasoning, too.

*Don't forget to salt your water when you cook your pasta! Pasta needs seasoning too!

*This recipe can be easily cut in half to make less servings or it can be easily doubled to accommodate a party!

*Per serving, this recipe is 2 yellow, 1 red, 1 blue, 2 tsp, 1 green

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