Thursday, July 2, 2015

Creamy Gluten-Free Sunflower Cranberry Pasta Salad

It's definitely summer weather around here, and that means picnics and potlucks, and outdoor parties. There are all the standard potluck salads -- most of them groan-worthy to the vegan. Potato salad (with bacon!). Jell-o salad. A promising pea and carrot salad... whoops... no. That's mayo (and bacon!). And, of course, there is pasta salad.

Pasta salad generally falls into one of two categories: drowning in Italian dressing, with bits of Parmesan, or covered in mayo. I like to think my vegan, gluten-free approach takes it all to the next level, with unexpected twists.

First, how about some dried cranberries? I love cranberries, by the way. I also adore The Cranberries. Especially this song:

Then, how about some raw sunflower seeds?

And a sassy dash of chipotle or ancho pepper powder is what we're going to use to finish it off.

Did you know... Chipotle peppers are dried, smoked jalapeñpeppers, and ancho peppers are actually dried Poblano peppers? It's true! Chipotle will give any dish a warm, smoky flavor and medium heat. The flavor of the ancho is slightly sweet, with a bit of a raisin-like flavor. Ancho will also provide medium heat.

Let's throw that salad together, hmmmm?

Creamy Gluten-Free Cranberry Pasta Salad

12 oz gluten-free pasta of choice
oil of choice (I use avocado oil)

1 c vegan mayonnaise (I use Vegenaise)
1 c vegan sour cream (I use Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream)
2 T agave syrup or other vegan sweetener
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t ground chipotle or ancho chile
2 T apple cider vinegar
3 T non-dairy milk (I use cashew milk)

2 c fresh or thawed frozen peas
1 1/2 c dried cranberries
1 c raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
small handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 - 15 oz can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 small crown of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets


1 c spinach, chopped
10 oz container of grape tomatoes, halved into teardrops

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse. Toss with a bit of oil to prevent drying as you assemble the rest of the salad.

In a blender, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, agave, garlic, pepper, chili powder, vinegar and milk. Blend until smooth.

In a large bowl, toss pasta with peas, cranberries, sunflower seeds, chopped basil, kidney beans, broccoli, and -- if desired -- spinach and tomatoes.

Pour mayonnaise mixture over pasta. Mix well, chill and serve.

Note: Depending on how "thirsty" your pasta is, if you are storing the pasta for more than a day, you may need to make and add a bit more dressing to keep it from drying out, as the pasta will continue to absorb moisture, even after cooked.


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