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Rainbow Pasta Salad
Ellie Krieger's delicious Rainbow Pasta Salad / Renee Comet / USA WEEKEND

At the start of this school year, as you map out your busy agenda — juggling soccer schedules, carpools and piano lessons — don’t forget to include one of the most valuable activities: family meals.

The benefits of sitting down to dinner together are remarkable. Children who take part in family dinners tend to eat healthier, do better in school and have fewer behavioral problems. And if you get your kids involved in the kitchen, the advantages multiply. Cooking teaches children valuable life skills that prevent their reliance on processed, packaged food when they are adults, and research shows it’s one of the surest ways to get them to taste and enjoy vegetables.

I’ve had my daughter Isabella cooking next to me since she was about 3, tearing lettuce for salad or tossing Brussels sprouts with olive oil for roasting. Back then, she may have made more of a mess than actually helped, but now, at 10, she knows how to use a knife (with supervision) and can proudly prepare a salad and a few other dishes on her own. In fact, she can practically make this simple yet tasty pasta dish all by herself. It has always been one of her favorites because it contains all the colors of the rainbow (except blue). It is perfect for dinner as a main course or as a side with some grilled chicken, and she always enjoys the leftovers in her lunchbox — with some blueberries for dessert to complete the spectrum.

Rainbow Pasta Salad

• 12 ounces (¾ box) bow tie pasta, preferably whole-grain
• ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
• ¾ tsp. salt, plus more to taste
• 1 cup cooked, cooled corn kernels
• 1 large carrot, shredded
• 1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
• 1 cup cooked, cooled chopped broccoli
• 8 ounces part skim mozzarella cheese, diced (about 1 cups)
• 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste, optional

Cook pasta according to directions on the package. Drain, then transfer to a large bowl and allow it to cool completely. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and salt.

Add the corn, carrot, tomatoes, broccoli, mozzarella, basil and the lemon-oil dressing to the pasta and toss to combine. Season with black pepper and additional salt, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings

Per serving (1½ cups): 360 calories, 44g carbohydrates, 15g protein, 14g fat (4g saturated), 7g fiber, 15mg cholesterol, 390mg sodium

Join Ellie for a Twitter chat about cooking with kids Sept. 10 at noon ET. Use hashtag #USAWEllie

Contributing editor and registered dietitian Ellie Krieger is best known as the host of Food Network’s Healthy Appetite. Her most recent cookbook is Comfort Food Fix: Feel Good Favorites Made Healthy.

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Ellie Krieger is host of the The Food Network’s hit show “Healthy Appetite,” which airs on The Cooking Channel. The author of three cookbooks, her latest is Comfort Food Fix: Feel Good Favorites Made Healthy. A registered dietitian, Ellie has helped out with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and has teamed up with New York City SchoolFood initiative, where she created healthy, delicious menu items for students citywide.