Ditch the processed food and whip up a salad

I went to the grocery store with half a list, half a menu plan, half my usual energy, and halfway through I got really hungry. Not the best scenario for food shopping. The little voice in my brain started nagging at me to go over to the deli counter and pick out something to eat and it made some pretty compelling arguments. If I grabbed a prepared food, my lunch would be ready to eat as soon as I arrived home. In fact, if I grabbed a plastic spoon I could begin my lunch in the parking lot and enjoy the feeling of relief that accompanies instant gratification. It would be so easy!

But then I felt the pangs of guilt that would follow my instant lunch. I have been very focused on cooking and eating at home. It would be such a shame to give up my resolve with the end of the month just a few days away. I looked into my cart full of ingredients to make delicious food in my own kitchen and started to plan. While I was planning I continued wrestling the little nagging voice and a few extra things did slip into my basket – popsicles anyone? For the most part I made it out of the store with my dignity intact, then ate a banana before pulling out of the parking lot.

This salad is the product of my planning. I knew I had some cooked brown rice, a can of black beans, and assorted other bits at home. My cart held a container of grape tomatoes, some limes, and a few avocados (they are a great buy right now). I set The Little Helping up with reheated pasta and fruit while I prepared my own lunch. It was so much better than what I would have picked up pre-made at the grocery store. I knew every ingredient that went into my salad and the fresh zesty flavors really hit the spot when I finally sat down to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of my planning.

Black Bean &Rice Salad

Did you know that May has been designated National Salad Month? This hearty salad would be a great way to kick off your 31 days of celebrating. The combination of acid and heat in the dressing balances the creamy starchy textures of the avocado, beans, and rice. If possible make it a day or two in advance of a summer event to give the flavors a chance to get really friendly with each other. Serve it as a side dish or over a big pile of leafy greens. (Greens pictured are chard, baby arugula, and fennel fronds).

Prep time: 15 minutes; Cook time: n/a; Yield 8 servings approximately 1 cup each

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice, cooked and cooled
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 small to medium avocado, peeled and diced (approximately 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 cup (3 – 4 oz) grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 cups English cucumber, diced

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice (approximately 1 large lime)
  • 1 tablespoon grape seed oil (or other neutral flavored oil)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika (not hot)

Method

1. Combine the salad ingredients in a medium bowl.

2. Whisk together the dressing in a small bowl and pour over the salad, mix gently to combine all the ingredients.

3. If possible cover the salad and refrigerate for several hours – up to over night. Serve cold as is or over a bed of mixed leafy greens.

Approximate nutrition per serving: 145 calories, 6 g fat, 20 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 4 g protein, PP = 4

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