Hellooooooo Summer! You have arrived! Long, lazy days at the beach. Outdoor picnics. Barbecues – with plenty of beer and wine…..and VACATION! I know. I’m a little too giddy about summer’s arrival. But hey! It was a grueling winter, and spring was no walk in the park. So yes, I am thrilled to be able to wear shorts and sundresses once again.

Yes, picnic season is in full bloom, which is why I have to share this Strawberry Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad recipe I concocted while attempting to explore San Francisco’s food scene. It’s the perfect summer picnic dish. True story: while trying to find my way into San Francisco, I got sooo very lost. After making a wrong turn, I ran smack dab into the Fruitvale Farmers Market.

I couldn’t resist all the delicious ripe fruits and veggies displayed on the farmers’ stands. Luscious, ripe, red Roma tomatoes and strawberries. Plump, dark, juicy blueberries. Beautiful, bright green spinach and cucumbers. I was in foodie heaven. Naturally, I bought a little of everything. I know. I’m a sucker for summer fruits and veggies.

As I made my way back from the city, I started thinking about what to do with my newly acquired bounty. Considering I spent the past two weeks eating everything unhealthy under the sun, I decided to celebrate summer with a healthy pasta salad.

Directions

Rinse and pat dry chicken breasts. Add salt, pepper and seasonings to taste on both sides of the chicken breasts.

Heat cast iron skillet on the stove. When skillet is very hot, add two tablespoons of olive oil and place chicken breasts in skillet. Thoroughly cook chicken until it is no longer pink. When chicken is finished cooking, shred or cube to your preference and set aside to cool.

Boil pasta according to box instructions. I prefer my pasta al dente, so I let it boil for the maximum amount of time.

In a medium bowl, combine strawberries, Roma tomatoes, avocados, and cucumbers. Toss to mix without smooshing avocados (Yes, I said smooshing). Add salt and pepper to taste.

While pasta is boiling, rinse spinach and pat dry. Place spinach in a large bowl.

Once pasta is finished boiling, strain and discard water and add pasta to bowl of spinach. Add two tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette and toss to keep pasta from sticking.

Add chicken and strawberry and vegetable mix to pasta and toss. Toss with additional balsamic vinaigrette, according to preference. Sprinkle crumbled goat cheese on top and serve.

Bon Appétit!

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