Easy Toddler-Friendly Pasta Salad

I love to try to take an "adult" meal and make it something more suitable for those young, finicky people known as toddlers. Even Riley, who I'd consider a pretty good eater, has entered this stage of toddlerhood where she will only eat certain things that are her favorites and push away things she seemed to have enjoyed before. She isn't as keen on trying new things as much as she used to so I've been trying to slowly introduce new ingredients to her existing favorite meals, or change up how meals are served, just to give her some variety. I came up with this super simple pasta salad recipe because I needed a fun way to get her to eat more veggies. She loves pasta, but the meals I send to daycare need to be able to be served cold. This adorable and fun to eat pasta salad was the perfect solution. It holds up well in the fridge so you can make a batch on Sunday and use it in lunches or dinners throughout the week. No reheating necessary!

Toddler-friendly Pasta Salad with Veggies:

Prep time: 0 minutes 
Cook time: about 20 minutes
Difficulty level: Easy

What you'll need:
• 3 cups of uncooked pasta in a small shape (I used alphabet noodles, but you could go with anything from ditalini, to orzo, or tiny shells or stars)
• 2 cups of diced ham (you can usually find some already diced in the breakfast meat section of the grocery store)
• 2 cups of frozen mixed veggies (I used a mix of corn, green beans, carrots, peas, and Lima beans - since this is for a toddler, try to find veggies that are cut small)
• 1 cup of mayo (I like avocado oil mayo, as it contains healthier fat than traditional mayo)
• 1/2 tsp of onion powder
• 1/2 tsp salt

What to do:
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, until it's al-dente. Then drain and immediately rinse under cold water for about a minute. This step both removes any excess starch on the pasta so it doesn't stick and clump together, and it helps the pasta to cool down faster.

While the pasta is cooking, you can prepare the veggies. Most frozen vegetables have already been steamed, and because we're going to be using them in a cold dish, they don't really need to be cooked any further, but they do need to reach a safe eating temperature (about 165° F). In order to maintain the texture and color of the veggies, I put them into a microwave-safe, shallow bowl, added about 2 tbsp of the pasta water, covered, and microwaved on high for 2 minutes. There will be a tiny bit of liquid left over. Drain the veggies and leave them in the pasta colander. You can then drain and rinse the pasta along with the veggies.

Make sure to drain any excess water from the pasta and veggies before transferring to a medium sized mixing bowl. Add ham, mayo, onion powder, and salt. Stir until everything is evenly coated. You can serve this right away,  but I've found it tastes better after being chilled in the fridge overnight.

*Makes about 8 toddler servings or 4 grown up servings (who said you can't enjoy some of this yourself?)

If you don't like ham, you can leave it out completely to make this a vegetarian dish, or you can substitute diced roasted turkey breast.


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