I’ve often stated, whether directly or indirectly, that I am now grateful for the economic challenges we’ve experienced.  Although in the beginning, I certainly wanted to kick and scream and enjoy life as it once was - but now I can be thankful, because during the struggles is when Eric and I set out to re-create our restaurant-loving lifestyle at home.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post of the Spicy Beef Stir Fry, in order to make meals like this repeatedly - you must rely on the individual ingredients instead of purchasing store-bought products like a stir-fry sauce or a salad dressing.

Oh, I’ve been there - trust me - I used to have every flavor imaginable to create “quick great meals”.  But you know - when things changed - I realized I hadn’t a clue as how to really cook.  A lot of ingredients - I didn’t even know what they were.  It’s been a really fun journey.

Making the dressing for this pasta salad is simple as are most dressings and vinaigrettes.  If you haven’t tried the Thai Ginger Dressing - that would be a lovely one over pasta and leftover shrimp, chicken or beef!  Maybe salmon too!

The recipe calls for combining 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, 1/3 cup of light soy sauce (we used regular soy sauce), 1/3 cup rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, 3 tablespoons white sugar (you could use brown sugar), 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (we used chopped cashews and added towards the end), 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Shake that all together in a jar with a tight fitting lid.

For veggies - use what you have - I used carrots, green onions and some cilantro.

The chicken was already cooked from the night before, as was my pasta.  I like cooking once and eating twice, gives me more time to be creative on the second meal since most of the cooking is done - I just get to play with flavors & textures.

Eric isn’t a big sesame seed eater, so I used roasted cashews that I had on hand.  Peanuts would also work.  So would those crunchy chow mein noodles tossed at the end, so they don’t get soggy - or omit entirely.

Since everything that needs to be cooked already is - it’s just a matter of tossing it all together.

And when it comes to re-heating leftover pasta - if by chance your pasta formed into a large clump-like mass in the fridge overnight - just gently re-heat it with a little warm water or chicken broth - in the microwave on like 60% power and gently stir what you can every 30 seconds until it returns back to normal.  Sometimes I  run the leftover container under hot water (with lid on) and shake the container until the pasta releases.  You could use a pasta with a higher fiber/protein content if you like those varieties.

Once everything is incorporated - pour the dressing over the top and you’re ready to eat.  Or keep it in the fridge until lunchtime and it will even be better as the dressing will soak into the entire dish.