Monday, July 20, 2015

Allergy-Free Pasta Salad Recipe Round-Up

By Kelley Lindberg

Last week, we looked at potato salad recipes that are free from the Top 8 allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish). This week, I stalked the web for the best-looking pasta salads I could find. To make my list, recipes have to eliminate the most common allergens, but definitely keep the flavor! As always, I look for recipes that taste great, look wonderful, and won’t have a single person at your barbecue or potluck party even noticing milk and egg aren’t part of your creation!

Note: If you must avoid wheat or gluten, you’ll want to use gluten-free pasta for these recipes, of course.

Let’s get started.

First, I have to share a Ranch Dressing tip or two. Ranch dressing mix is a tasty addition to pasta salads, but finding a milk-free version is tricky. My local Smith’s grocery store (which is part of the Kroger brand of grocery stores) carries an envelope of mix called “Kroger Party Dip – Ranch,” which is milk-free. I have used it to make ranch dip by mixing it with Tofutti “BetterThan Sour Cream” soy-based non-dairy sour cream—a huge hit at parties. I also mixed it with Vegenaise (egg-free mayonnaise substitute) to make a sauce for a pasta salad the other day. My son declared it was “the best pasta salad you’ve ever made, Mom!” So if you live near a Kroger store (such as Smith’s, King Soopers, or Fred Meyer), check to see if they carry the “Kroger Party Dip-Ranch” mix. (Don’t confuse it with the Kroger Salad Magic Ranch Dressing mix, which contains milk. Sheesh. Don’t these people know they’re just making our lives complicated with all these different versions?)

If you can’t find the Kroger mix in your local store, you’re still in luck. I found a recipe online to make your own Homemade Ranch Seasoning & Dressing Mix, and it’s super easy! (I’m serious. Throw some spices in a blender or spice grinder. Voila! You’re done!) We have Megan, over at her “These Things I Love” blog, to thank for this recipe.

Now, on to some great-looking pasta salad recipes that will perk up that potluck table like nobody’s business:

Italian Pasta Salad: In its simplest form, a good pasta salad consists of 3 things: cooked pasta, some veggies, and a dressing. This recipe from gives you the step-by-steps. It uses a cup of your favorite safe bottled Italian salad dressing, or you can substitute a favorite safe vinaigrette (like balsamic! Yum!).

Easy Vegan Artichoke Pasta Salad: This recipe from is even easier, because you use the oil from a jar of marinated artichoke hearts instead of the salad dressing! Plus I think artichoke hearts always add a little extra class to anything they’re in, don’t you?

Vegan Pasta Salad with Pickles,Vinegar, and Olive Oil: Love that hint of pickle/vinegar flavor? Then you’ll love cooling off with this pasta salad from that uses a dressing of vinegar, olive oil, and Dijon mustard (and some diced dill pickles for a little extra kick).

Southwestern Pasta Salad
Photo credit: CookinBug at
Southwestern Pasta Salad: I’m a fan of all things Southwestern flavored, so this recipe from is right up my alley. Its dressing consists of vegetable oil, fresh lime juice, and spices, and it will definitely spice up your picnic! You could also turn this into a main dish by adding some diced grilled chicken or taco chicken (shredded chicken cooked with taco seasoning).

Greek Goddess Pasta Salad: This recipe from calls for a bottle of pre-made Greek vinaigrette, and it includes sun-dried tomatoes, avocados, Kalamata olives, a jar of roasted peppers, and other tasty tidbits.  If you can’t find a safe Greek vinaigrette dressing, try this recipe to whip up your own: Absolutely Fabulous Greek/House Dressing

Kelley’s Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad: Okay, since my son loved this one so much, I figured I’d better post it.
Kelley's Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

  • 1 box of pasta, any shape (I used 2 different shapes, to mix things up)
  • 2 c. total veggies, such as halved cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes (drained), or lightly steamed veggies such as broccoli, spinach, kale, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, snowpeas, cauliflower, red and yellow peppers, or edamame
  • 6 strips bacon
  • Ranch dip/dressing mix (1 envelope’s worth, or about 3 T)
  • 1 c. safe mayo, such as Vegenaise (there is a soy-free version, if that’s one of your allergens)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 c. rice or soy milk (or other safe milk)

Cook pasta according to directions. If using veggies that you prefer to be lightly steamed, go ahead and steam them. Dice bacon into small pieces and fry. When the bacon is almost done, add the steamed veggies to the bacon so that the veggies take on that bacon flavor, and continue to cook until bacon is crispy enough for your taste. In a small bowl, mix the Ranch dressing mix, safe mayo or Vegenaise, garlic powder, and rice milk. When the pasta is done, drain it and run some cold water over it to stop it from continuing to cook. Then put the pasta in a large serving bowl with the veggies and bacon. Gently stir in the ranch dressing. Serve and enjoy!

My son, who is now an always-on-the-go 16-year-old with a hollow leg, is primarily a carnivore. He thinks vegetables are a conspiracy by mothers world-wide to punish their children for trumped-up grievances. Oh well. There are only a handful of veggies he will willingly eat: artichoke leaves (not the hearts), fried okra (he had to learn to like fried okra or he wasn’t allowed to continue living under my roof), and edamame. I don’t know why edamame made the list, because he refuses to touch any other legume, but I don’t question small victories. So when I made this salad, the only veggie I added was shelled, steamed edamame. That and the bacon made a great combination, and he was happy. So were the other party-goers, so I call that a win.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Allergy-Free Potato Salad Recipe Round-Up

By Kelley Lindberg

It’s summertime, which means picnics and barbecues are in full swing. While the focus is usually on whatever’s on the grill, everyone knows the perfect side dish can make it all that much better! But the problem, of course, is that many of those picnic go-to recipes are loaded with dairy and egg ingredients. If your allergies include those, the ever-popular pasta and potato salads become landmines on the table.
This German Potato Salad is free from the Top 8 allergens,
and it's vegan, too! Recipe and photo credit:

That’s why I took to the web to find some allergy-friendly pasta salads and potato salads that will be welcome additions to the picnic table. (And no one will notice they’re free from milk, egg, and nuts!) This week I’ll spotlight some potato salad recipes. Come back next week for some tasty pasta salads that will brighten your potluck gathering!

German Potato Salad: Great news! German potato salad is ALREADY free from the Top 8 allergens. Throw together some potatoes, bacon, and onions, then dress it with some vinegar, sugar, mustard, and salt, and garnish with a little fresh parsley or chives. Ta-da! Here is a traditional recipe for the Food Network's German Potato Salad, but if you want a vegan version without the bacon, try this super-delicious German Potato Salad recipe from Grace over at her blog.

Roasted Potato Salad with Mustardy Old Bay Dressing + Chive Blossoms: This recipe from the “With Food + Love” website suggests roasting the potatoes (yum!), but boiling them would work just fine for a more traditional potato salad texture.
Roasted sweet potatoes and avocado take
potato salad to a whole new level. Recipe
and photo credit:

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad: Holy cow, this recipe from Brittany and her blog looks amazing. This will take that old potato salad idea and knock it clear out of the park. Roasted sweet potatoes, spinach, avocado, red onion and dried cranberries are all dressed simply with a little apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. What’s not to love?
Potato Salad with Avocado and Dill: Over at “Forks Over Knives,” I found this creamy potato salad recipe that gets its “creaminess” from mashed avocado. Even traditional potato salad lovers will love this combination. What a great idea!
Classic Potato Salad with Dijon and Vegetarian Bacon Bits: Of course, the easiest way to make an allergy-friendly traditional creamy potato salad is as simple as swapping out the regular mayo for an egg-free mayo, like Vegenaise. While the original Vegenaise flavor contains soy, they also make a soy-free version! This recipe from adds balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing for an extra kick that should add just enough flavor interest to disguise the fact that you used Vegenaise instead of regular mayo!
Light and Fresh Potato Salad: If a traditional potato salad seems a little blah to you, check out this version from, which adds a rainbow of garden veggies and a light vinaigrette dressing instead of mayonnaise. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My Vacation in Sicily, or “Almonds Gone Wild”

By Kelley Lindberg

Ah, Sicily. Land of mythology, history, Godfather t-shirts, pasta, lemons, pistachios, and almonds.

Lots and lots of almonds.
Almond and pistachio cookies greeted us
in our hotel room in Sicily.

If you’re not allergic to almonds, pistachios, or lemons, you’ll love Sicily. If you’re allergic to almonds, pistachios, or lemons, you might want to plan on doing a lot of your own cooking if you go there.

Almonds, lemons, and pistachios are some of Sicily’s biggest crops, but stranglehold trade restrictions from Sicily’s parent country, Italy, make it difficult (if not impossible) for Sicilian farmers to sell them off-island. When you have a lot of something and you can’t sell it, you use it in everything.

My mother and I enjoy a day visiting
Greek Temples in Italy.
In May, my mother and I traveled to Sicily for a badly needed vacation. Truly, it’s a breathtaking place. We were on the eastern coast of the island, in the town of Taormina. From our beach-side hotel, we took day-trips to see the ancient and storied town of Syracuse, the Straits of Messina (where Odysseus and his crew met with scary monsters), the active volcano Mt Etna (which graciously did not erupt until hours after we’d left its hillsides), an ancient Roman villa with magnificently preserved mosaic floors, ancient Greek temples, and other Sicilian marvels. Throughout history, the island, which is strategically located off the “toe” of Italy, has been over-run by a steady parade of better-armed empires, like Greece, the Byzantines, the Romans, the Spanish, the Arabs, the French, and of course both sides of WWII. All that history and all those conquering cultures have combined in Sicily to produce a land and a people who seem to accept that “stuff happens” and you just have to roll with it.

That extends to their cooking. With a plethora of almonds on the island, they’ve learned how to incorporate them into almost every meal. I had almond cookies, almond gelato, almonds sprinkled on my pasta, and fish breaded with crushed almonds. When almonds were missing, pistachios took up the slack.

Because of the constant presence of those tree nuts, I was often glad my son wasn’t with me on this trip. Sure, it would have been possible to talk to chefs and waiters and request special handling to make sure he was being served almond-free foods, but the constant vigilance would have made this vacation more stressful than most we’ve taken. Since my mother and I are not allergic to tree nuts, we were able to enjoy the food without worrying. (Although I must admit, I felt a pang of guilt every time another dish arrived in front of me with almonds sprinkled liberally over it.) (And I guess I should also admit that those almond cookies were DIVINE. Don’t hate me.)
I'm telling ya, lemon granita is a highly civilized way
to end a breakfast. I could get used to this!

On the other hand, if my son HAD been with me, he would have loved the lemons. There were jars of lemon marmalade, lemon syrup, limoncello (a lemon-flavored liqueur—okay, that would not have been for him, but definitely for me!), a lemon-cream pasta sauce that was out of this world, and scoop after scoop after heavenly scoop of lemon granita (Italian ice). Lemon granita was even served in the breakfast buffet every morning at our hotel, which my mother and I agreed was a very civilized way to face the day.

All of which just goes to show… when life hands you almonds, make lemon ice!
An iconic Sicilian view: the active volcano Mt. Etna
(notice the plume of smoke coming out of its vents),
seen from a path through a lemon orchard.