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.

IMG_5383
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

Ridiculously Easy Veggie Spread

IMG_5253I always have a hard time coming up with lunch ideas. Really, as a meal, it’s pretty inconveniently timed – right in the middle of work, school, and baby naps and feedings. Usually what happens is that I end up not having time to stop and even think about lunch until about 1 pm, by which point I’m starving and will eat just about anything and everything I can find.

Meal prep has helped me so much with getting healthier lunches faster. I love easy grab and go items like pitas, or quick salads which can be put together in minutes if veggies are pre-washed and chopped. However, both of those items can get a bit bland and boring without some sort of spread to liven them up.

IMG_5254The problem with most veggie spread recipes out there is that they call for cream cheese, which is delicious, but not the most nutritious. I much prefer to sub protein-rich greek yogurt, but those recipes tend to rely on pre-mixed dressing packages which often contain ingredients that are neither clean nor pronounceable. Is this really what you want to put in your body when you could eat REAL food instead?

This spread goes together quickly with a food processor, and you can store it in the fridge to use throughout the week. It is loaded with vegetables, and is perfect for spreading on sandwiches, topping grilled chicken or fish, or drizzling over salad (thin it out with milk if you want a more traditional salad dressing consistency). You can also customize it with any vegetables or seasonings you like – these are some of my favorite suggestions, but I often vary it with whatever is in the fridge!

Ridiculously Easy Veggie Spread

Makes approximately 4 cups of spread

IMG_5259Ingredients

1/2 c. each of red onion, celery, red pepper, and cauliflower (or sub veggies of your choice)

2 c. fresh spinach

2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 c. plain greek yogurt

1/2 t. thyme

1 t. dill

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Roughly chop large vegetables and add to food processor, along with spinach and garlic. Process until finely ground, then add greek yogurt and spices. Process until well mixed (or stir by hand). Feel free to adjust measurements on ingredients if you would like your spread to be thicker/thinner.

Today, I was able to put together lunch in less than five minutes by smearing this veggie spread inside a whole-wheat pita pocket, adding additional spinach and chopped chicken that I grilled last night, and then reheating leftover spaghetti squash on the side! Hubby and I also picked up some great strawberries yesterday, so I put those on my plate as well (I shared with him – not all those are mine!).

Veggie SpreadEnjoy!

Do you have a go-to lunch recipe?

Ridiculously Easy Veggie Spread