my first “real kitchen” salad

Posted on January 6, 2012


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In the summer before my senior year of college, I lived in Nashville with two of my friends. We rented a nice little 3 bedroom apartment that had a “real kitchen.”

Did I say real kitchen? What I meant was a space with barely enough room for one person to make their lunch and the other to make coffee at the same time. Needless to say, it was a real kitchen. I wasn’t in a dorm, a sorority house, or a disturbingly unclean house with 8 other girls. I had a pantry, refrigerator, and freezer full of food that I didn’t have to worry about being stolen in the middle of the night by a random neighbor.

This was a very exciting time for me; it’s when I actually started cooking a lot. Even better was that it was the first time that I lived in a city with a Whole Foods. How did I ever live without?

Anywho, back to the me beginning to cook: I finally had my chance to play in the kitchen, and it was so much fun! Luckily, my roommates were great guinea pigs for my random creations/takes on the recipe that I had on my computer but then it died so I had to guess measurements, directions, etc. {Thanks again for eating my food, friends!}

Besides the random creations, there was one meal that really sticks out in my memory from the summer of 2008 – the Mexican Chicken Salad. One fateful night I made it, and we loved it. It was really good, and we then proceeded to make it one million times before the summer was over. Now, every time I make it and I taste the salsa + ranch dressing on my salad, it makes me happy even though the salad is a little different each time.

Like my lazy pantry dinner, this one is easily adaptable to whatever you have in your kitchen. No red bell peppers? Leave ’em out. Want to add some corn? By all means, go right ahead; it’s your salad.

Here is the basic recipe for one of my favorite salads. This one’s for you, Callie:

Mexican Chicken & Bean Salad

Serves 3-4

  • canola or olive oil spray
  • 3 corn tortillas
  • ¾ tsp Southwest spice blend, divided (I used The Delicious Dietitian Southwest Spice Blend)
  • ½ cup salsa
  • ¼ cup reduced-fat or yogurt based Ranch dressing
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • about 1 lb chicken breast tenders*
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 ½ cups bell pepper, chopped (I used red, green, and yellow)
  • ¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 (15 oz) can reduced-sodium black beans, drained and well-rinsed
  • 2 Romaine hearts, chopped
  • 1 avocado, diced

Other great toppings:

  • reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • fat-free plain yogurt (instead of sour cream)
  • corn

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the tortillas into small triangles. Spray both sides with oil and sprinkle ¼ tsp Southwest spice blend. Make sure every chip is well coated. Put chips on a baking sheet, and bake 7-10 minutes in the preheated oven until they are golden and pretty crispy. Allow chips to cool completely on baking sheet. They will get crispier.

In a small bowl, combine salsa and ranch dressing. Set aside.

Sprinkle ¼ tsp each of Southwest spice blend and kosher salt on chicken. Heat the tsp of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook for about 5 minutes per side. Remove chicken.

Add onion and bell peppers to skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add chicken broth & remaining ¼ tsp Southwest blend to the pan, and scrape any bits of chicken off the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Allow mixture to simmer for about 5-10 minutes until the broth has reduced by about half.

Add the black beans to the pan and stir well. Cook another 5 minutes. Return chicken to the pan. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Assemble salad: (I like mine more layered but feel free to toss everything together in a bowl.) Put an equal amount of lettuce on large plates or salad bowls {this salad gets big}. Top lettuce with chicken, onion, peppers, and black beans. Put equal amounts of salad dressing on each plate (for 4 plates you will use about 3 TBSP; for 3 plates you will use about 4 TBSP). Top with diced avocado and corn tortilla chips.


*For a vegetarian version, omit the chicken and use 2 (15 oz) cans black beans instead of one.

This meal has about 3 servings of veggies!

This recipe is linked to Eat at Home‘s Ingredient Spotlight: Beans

Next Tuesday, I’ll have Healthy Goal #2 for you. Be sure to keep trying to eat an extra vegetable and fruit daily.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Roll Tide,


Posted in: Recipes