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?

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Tropical Spinach and Black Bean Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Turkey-Veggie Meatballs

IMG_5329Confession time: I don’t really like ground turkey very much. Most of my experiences with it have been dry, bland, and I find it very disappointing as a substitute for ground beef in things like chili or spaghetti sauce. But, in terms of a protein option, it’s lean, relatively inexpensive and very versatile – so I’m working on turkey recipes that will change my mind about it.

This one was a definite success! Not only do the vegetables significantly improve the nutritional value of these quick and easy meatballs, but they also lend moisture and flavor to the otherwise bland poultry. Instead of a traditional filler, I added flaxseed meal to bump up the fiber and omega-3 values, and I like the little bit of nuttiness it adds. Flaxseed meal is relatively easy to find, but if you don’t have it or don’t want to spend the money on it, then feel free to sub ground oats or whole wheat breadcrumbs! You can add up to a 1/2 cup of filler if you want sturdier meatball. Another bonus with this recipe is that the measurements here do NOT have to be exact! I gave you approximate measurement sizes, but if you have a little less/more of something, they will still turn out great.

I’m obsessed with my food processor, IMG_5333so it was an easy choice when it came to making these. I just roughly chop all my veggies (I had baby carrots today, so no need to chop those!) and give them a whirl until they are finely ground. I prefer to mix the veggie mixture and meat by hand, however, because I don’t like the texture if the meat is “extra” ground in the food processor. If you want to toss it in there and just mix everything in the food processor, it won’t hurt, but your final product will turn out differently.

Now these are not the most beautiful meatballs, so if you’re planning to enter some sort of food photography competition, choose a cake or something instead. Without much filler, they don’t roll smoothly and will flatten some in the oven, and the addition of the spinach turns them slightly green. However, if you’re looking for an easy, versatile staple that you can prep quickly and then keep in your freezer for later meals, they will do the trick. Plus, once doused in a yummy, rich tomato sauce, you can’t even tell what they look like!

Turkey-Veggie Meatballs

Makes approximately 2 dozen medium-sized meatballs

Ingredients

IMG_53311.25 pounds lean ground turkey (the leaner the better)

1/2 c. onion, roughly chopped (any color)

1/2 c. carrot, roughly chopped

1/2 c. celery, roughly chopped

1 c. spinach

2 cloves of garlic, peeled.

1/4 c. flaxseed meal

1 egg

2 T. seasoning of your choice (I love this mix from The Gracious Pantry, but you can use whatever you have on hand – Italian seasonings are also great in these)

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or grease lightly with cooking spray or olive oil.

Throw vegetables into the food processor, and process until finely ground (if you are using oats for filler, process them as well until they are a similar size). In a large bowl, mix all remaining ingredients using your hands – dig in and get everything well incorporated into the meat! Scoop out the meat into generous 2 tablespoon portions, and roll into balls. Bake at 375 for approximately 30 minutes, or until internal temperature of meatballs reaches at least 165 degrees.

Use immediately out of the oven, or cool and then place in a plastic bag, label and store in the freezer until needed.

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Cooling and ready to freeze!

 

Enjoy!

What are your feelings on ground turkey – delicious, or disgusting?

Turkey-Veggie Meatballs