Cooks Exchange

Lighten up your New Year’s Day menu with pasta salads, chicken tacos

A colorful pasta salad with shrimp is a delicious lighter dish that is a switch from some heavy holiday meals.
A colorful pasta salad with shrimp is a delicious lighter dish that is a switch from some heavy holiday meals. Getty Images

Cooking for the holidays can be a tough job, especially if feeding a crowd.

By New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, home cooks want to kick back and relax and perhaps lighten up from those heavy dinners. This is where salads and lighter entrees come into play.

The football game meals that normally call for chili or chips and dips or even grilled brisket can be switched to a colorful pasta salad that makes use of the Coast’s tasty shrimp. Lime rubbed chicken tacos gets a bit healthier with a corn guacamole.

Although our Christmas was about as untraditional as possible, I want lighter foods with good flavor. I like a little kick in my food. Food must have flavor, or I don’t want it.

Moving to a new house right before Christmas was a crazy idea. I was making scalloped potatoes for our church’s Christmas feast and couldn’t find my measuring spoons. I spent 30 minutes looking for them, only to guess at the amount. I found the spoons a half hour later. I still feel like I am camping out, so I want things light and easy to start the new year, especially since I have an icky cold. Like I said, a nontraditional Christmas.

Since New Year’s calls for black-eyed peas, give this Southwestern noodle salad a try. You get the traditional black-eyed peas but with a different twist.

For snacking, hot and spicy pecans are full of protein and no sugar.


1 package (16 ounces) linguine

1 cup chopped sweet red pepper

1 cup chopped green pepper

1/3 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

2 pounds peeled and deveined cooked shrimp (61-70 per pound)

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook linguine according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, sauté the peppers, onion, garlic and seasonings in oil until vegetables are tender. Add the shrimp; cook and stir 2-3 minutes longer or until heated through. Drain linguine; toss with shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with cheese.

Nutrition facts for 1 1/3-cup serving: 418 calories, 11 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat), 176 milligrams cholesterol, 331 milligrams sodium, 46 grams carbohydrate (3 grams sugars, 3 grams fiber), 33 grams protein. Diabetic exchanges: 3 starch, 3 lean meat, 1 1/2 fat.

– From Taste of Home


1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice, divided

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 large avocados, halved, peeled, seeded and diced

2 cloves garlic, charred or roasted in the skins, peeled and minced

1 jalapeno, charred or roasted; stemmed, chopped and seeded

3/4 cup corn kernels, fresh or thawed from frozen

3/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved

10-12 corn tortillas

In small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons lime juice, olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, pepper and rosemary. Rinse chicken breasts, pat dry and place in bowl. Add lime mixture and rub all over chicken; refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.

In medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add chicken breasts, cook until browned and cook through, about 4 minutes per side. Remove to cutting board and slice into 1/2-inch slices.

To prepare guacamole: In bowl, combine avocados, garlic and jalapeno; toss gently. Add corn, tomatoes and remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice; season with salt; mix gently.

In skillet, heat tortillas until warm, about 1 minute on each side; place warmed tortillas in a clean towel. To serve, assemble tacos with chicken and avocado-corn guacamole at the table.

– From Avocados from Mexico


1 pound medium to small shell macaroni, cooked al dente, through drained

2/3 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup minced celery, about 2 stalks

1/2 cup chopped green pepper (about ½ pepper)

6 green onions minced

1 (2-ounce) jar chopped pimiento, drained

3 generous dashes Worcestershire sauce

3 dashes hot pepper sauce

1 tablespoon minced, roasted green chili pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 (15-ounce) can blacked-eyed peas, drained

1 (12-ounce) can corn, drained

1/2 cup pitted black olives, drained and chopped (I use small cans of sliced black olives)

1 (2-ounce) jar green olives with pimiento, drained and chopped

1/3 cup mayonnaise

Place macaroni in large bowl. Pour vinegar over and let stand while preparing other ingredients. Add all other ingredients to macaroni and mix well. Cover and refrigerate 2-3 days. Taste for seasoning before serving.

There should be a suggestion of chili and a tart tang from the vinegar.


2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups pecan halves

1 tablespoon chili powder

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In medium bowl, mix butter, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper, salt and garlic powder. Stir in the pecans and gently toss with chili powder to coat.

Spread coated pecans on a medium baking sheet, and cook 30 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring approximate every 10 minutes.

– From

Andrea Yeager can be reached at and Cooks Exchange, 205 DeBuys Road, Gulfport, MS 39507.