Thursday, May 24, 2018

Memorial Day Picnic Potluck: Mandarin Pasta Spinach Salad

Gate at Iuka Cemetery (Pratt County)
Memorial Day weekend just isn't the same as it was back when I was a kid. Yes, we still do the annual cemetery tour with my parents, putting flowers on loved ones' graves.
Look closely to see the rainbow in the clouds over Randy's parents' graves at Stafford - 2016
But back when I was a little girl, we sometimes gathered at Lemon Park in Pratt for a picnic before our car caravan to the cemeteries. My Great Aunt Helen and Great Uncle Mike and their family would often meet us there. As a child, I loved getting together, eating homemade favorites and playing on the playground equipment until it was time to go and place flowers on graves of ancestors, some of whom I remembered and some who had died long before I was born.
Jill helping decorate graves in 1988 - Age 2 1/2
At the time, I was blissfully unaware that preparing a picnic meal while also getting flowers ready for Decoration Day was more work for Moms and Grandmas. These days, we usually let a local pizza parlor do the cooking for us. And that's OK, too. But, if you have a picnic or a potluck to attend this Memorial Day weekend, this Mandarin Pasta Salad could be a contender.
True confessions: I think I saw this recipe on Facebook and printed it out a year ago. Sometimes I've wanted to make it, and I didn't have cilantro ... or spinach ... or some other vital ingredient. But this time the stars (and the pantry and fridge) aligned, and it was go-time.

It won't be the last time. Both Randy and I gave it good reviews. I served it as a side dish with grilled steak, but it would be tasty with grilled chicken, shrimp or salmon, too.

If you wanted to use fresh strawberries, blueberries and/or grapes instead of (or in combination with) mandarin oranges for even more spring-like freshness, I'm sure it would be yummy. The dressing could be used on a variety of salad greens.
Whether you're having a picnic at a park, camping out this Memorial Day weekend or are heating up the grill at home, this recipe would add a tasty side dish to your celebration ... or just an everyday meal. It may also make an appearance during harvest this year at our house.

If you try it, let me know what you think!
Mandarin Pasta Spinach Salad
with Teriyaki Dressing

12 oz. box bowtie pasta
4 cups spinach leaves (or spring mix)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup cashews
1 11-oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
1/3 cup rice wine or apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup oil

Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. While pasta is cooking, combine dressing ingredients in a jar. Shake well to combine.

In a large serving bowl, combine cooked pasta, the chopped cilantro and the dressing. Just before serving, add all other ingredients. Toss and serve.

  • Use a thicker teriyaki sauce. Kikkoman's Teriyaki Sauce and Glaze works well, as does Panda Express's Orange Sauce. I've tried and liked them both with this recipe.
  • A 50-50 green mix was on sale at my local grocery store. It included baby spinach, baby lettuce, baby greens and radicchio. It worked well in this recipe. 
  • I served the salad with grilled steak, but it would also be good with grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp. 
  • We had leftovers. Even though the nuts and the greens weren't as crisp after sitting in the dressing, it was still tasty. You could add more nuts and greens for a little more crunch before serving the "re-runs!"


  1. I'm coming...what time is the picnic! :) That looks delicious!

    1. You are always welcome, but I think you would have quite a commute!