Tropical Spinach and Black Bean Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

IMG_5381I’ve spent most of my life in Texas, where approximately 300 days of the year it is too hot to want to cook. We definitely do our share of grilling around here, but sometimes a cool, refreshing salad seems more appealing than anything else. However, my problem with salad is that it’s a little like eating air – I can finish it and still feel like I’ve eaten nothing. So there’s no way I can make a meal out of it without adding a LOT of protein!

Tonight was definitely a salad night, because I was short on time and it’s getting quite warm and sunny. I also found a nice bunch of fresh cilantro and a pretty mango at the store, and had a half avocado I needed to use up – so I based my meal around those three items. My resulting creation got two thumbs up from both me and my carnivorous hubby, which makes it a huge success in my book!

This salad is perfect for a meal, IMG_5386because it’s a great balance of protein and veggies, blending hearty black beans and fresh baby spinach with bright fruit juices and cilantro. Topped with a cool, creamy avocado-based dressing, you’re getting a super dose of vitamins, fiber and healthy fats. I strongly recommend mixing up the black beans and letting them marinate while you prep the rest of the salad! The longer than can sit, the better the flavors with meld and intensify. The jalapeño is definitely optional in here. There’s plenty of flavor without it, but I like the extra kick! Just be sure you taste your jalapeño and adjust the amount depending on the heat level.

And even though this salad already has plenty of protein, if you have a house full of carnivores, feel free to top this salad with the meat of your choice – or grilled fish would be especially delicious!

Tropical Spinach and Black Bean Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 c. cooked black beans* (or 1 can – though it will be slightly less), rinsed and drained
1 T. olive oil
Juice of 1/2 an orange (approx. 1/4 cup)
1/2 t. orange zest
1/4 c. red onion thinly sliced
1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
Optional – chopped jalapeño
4 c. baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 mango, diced

Dressing:
1 small or 1/2 large avocado (approx. 1 cup)
2 T. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 c. unsweetened cashew milk (or milk of your choice)
1 t. lime juice
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix black beans, olive oil, orange juice and zest, red onion, and cilantro (and jalapeño, if you’re using it!) and set aside to marinate. Combine dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth – add milk until you reach the desired consistency.

To serve, combine divide spinach among 4 bowls. Top with black bean mixture, then drizzle with dressing and sprinkle mango on top. Add a light sprinkle of salt and pepper, if desired.

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Enjoy!

*Black beans are one of my favorite meal prep items. I like to make mine in the slow cooker, then divide into one cup servings and freeze.

Do you have a favorite salad combination?

Tropical Spinach and Black Bean Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Quick Citrus Chicken

Citrus Chicken 1What do the above ingredients have in common? A quick, delicious dinner – of course!

It’s getting warmer here, which always gives me the urge to grill. Our grill has seen better days, so I am dreaming of the day we can replace it, but for now I’m making the best with what I’ve got!

Today I needed a quick dinner idea that met my clean eating challenge requirements, so I decided to take some chicken from the fridge and combine it with the multitude of oranges I have rolling around in the crisper drawer. I found a citrus marinade recipe online, but decided to make a few adjustments – both for taste, and because I didn’t have the right ingredients!

The result was fantastic! The acid from the citrus kept the chicken tender and juicy, while the natural sugars from the fruit provided the perfect amount of caramelization on the grill. Of course, if you don’t have a grill, you can certainly cook your chicken in the oven – but you may not get the same caramel effect. Pounding out the chicken is also an important step that will help speed up cooking and give you more reliable results. Plus it’s a great way to relieve any unrelinquished anger you might have! 🙂 And Rachael Ray has a great tip for freezing fresh ginger so that it doesn’t go to waste that is very useful here. The coconut oil in the recipe is also optional – I’ve found that I have better outcomes with chicken if I add a little fat, and the mild coconut flavor blends nicely with the bright citrus.

We paired our chicken with a simple saute of zuchinni and red bell pepper, which would have been equally good on the grill except that I decided to also grill some plain chicken for meal prep and ran out of room! This recipe is easily doubled or tripled if you need to feed a crowd, and can be frozen if you’re trying to do meal prep ahead of time – just don’t add in the green onions until everything is thawed.

A quick note: I know some clean eaters try to stay away from soy sauce. We are definitely still a soy sauce family, so I didn’t hesitate to put it in this recipe. However, if you would prefer to use coconut aminos to substitute, feel free. But you may want to add a little extra lemon juice to balance out the sweetness, and add additional salt.

Quick Citrus Chicken

Recipe adapted from Cooks.com Citrus Chicken Marinade

Serves 2

Citrus Chicken 4

Ingredients

1/2 c. fresh orange juice (approximately 1 medium orange)

1/4 c. fresh lemon juice (approximately 1/2 medium lemon)

Zest from both – 1 t. from each is adequate

2 t. low-sodium soy sauce

1 t. grated fresh ginger

1 t. coconut oil

2-3 green onion stalks, chopped into large pieces

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Mix juices, zest, soy sauce, ginger and coconut oil in a bowl or gallon bag. Pound chicken breasts to an even thickness, and then add to marinade along with green onions. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight. When ready to cook, preheat grill to medium-high heat and then cook chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees (cooking times will vary based on your grill temperature and the thickness of your chicken). Within the last few minutes of cooking, add green onions to grill and char, then serve over finished chicken breasts.

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Enjoy!

What’s your favorite food on the grill?

Quick Citrus Chicken