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Pasta With Beans, Corn Makes Healthy Meal

By Charlotte Balcomb Lane Knight-Ridder/Tribune

Spices, lemon zest and the spicy kick of green chili lend their vibrant flavors to this recipe for Warm Southwestern Pasta Salad.

The salad is low in fat because the creamy dressing is made with low-fat cream cheese and only 1 tablespoon of oil. Yet this dish is high in complex carbohydrates, protein and fiber from black beans, pasta and corn.

Warm Southwestern Pasta Salad is substantial enough to serve as a meatless main course but light enough to pose as a side dish with grilled fish, shrimp or chicken.

You can make the dressing quickly by using a microwave oven to melt the cream cheese. The remaining ingredients are simply combined in a bowl and tossed together for flavor.

Warm Southwestern Pasta Salad

Dressing:

3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

4 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons skim milk

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest (yellow part of the peel)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Salad:

2 cups uncooked bowtie, wagon wheel, penne or other pasta

1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium black beans, drained, rinsed and drained again

1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn

1 (4-ounce) can roasted, peeled and chopped green chili

1/4 cup chopped fresh tomato

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro, parsley or oregano

1 green onion, chopped

To make the dressing, combine the cream cheese, lemon juice, milk, olive oil, lemon peel, cumin, salt and garlic powder in a 2-cup microwave-safe measuring cup. Heat in the microwave on HIGH (100 percent) power for 1 minute or until the cream cheese is soft. Stir to blend ingredients. Add the water to thin, then add the Parmesan cheese and set aside. If the dressing seems too thick, add a tablespoon of water.

For the salad, cook the pasta according to package directions. When cooked, drain and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the dressing and toss gently. Add the black beans, corn, green chili, tomato, cilantro or other herbs and green onion. Toss again. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 (1-cup) servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 297 calories, 6.7 grams fat (20 percent fat calories), 12 grams protein, 52 grams carbohydrate, 7 milligrams cholesterol, 660 milligrams sodium.

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