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Hellooooooo Summer! You have arrived! Long, lazy days spent 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 want to share this Strawberry Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad recipe I concocted while trying to explore San Francisco’s food scene. It’s the perfect summer picnic dish. True story. I was staying at an Airbnb in Oakland, and while trying to find my way into San Francisco, I got sooo very lost. But lo and behold, I ended up at the Fruitvale Farmers Market.

I couldn’t resist all the delicious ripe fruits displayed on the farmers’ stands. Luscious, ripe, red Roma tomatoes and strawberries. Plump, 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 was making my way back to my Airbnb, I started thinking about what I would do with my newly acquired bounty. Considering I had spent the past two weeks eating everything unhealthy under the sun, I decided to celebrate summer with a healthy pasta salad.

Directions

Cook Penne Pasta according to boxed instructions. I prefer my pasta cooked al dente, so I will cook it until the maximum amount of time.

While pasta is boiling, clean and dry spinach and place in a large bowl.

Once pasta is finished cooking, strain water and add pasta to bowl of spinach. Mix in balsamic vinaigrette to keep pasta from sticking.

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 and add to spinach and pasta mix.

Bright green spinach. Red Roma tomatoes. Ripe cucumbers, avocados, and juicy strawberries all mixed together.

Once greens and pasta are thoroughly combined, add chicken and toss with additional balsamic vinaigrette and sprinkle crumbled cheese on top.