Summer Days “Mexican” Salad (incl. toddler-friendly version)

It’s hot and yucky here in Indiana.  Food not only needs to be light and refreshing to be enjoyed, but it needs to be prepared with little fuss and heat.  Thank goodness we have a grill!  Cooking in my kitchen right now turns it into the hottest circle of Hell.  I try to avoid using my stovetop for most of July and August.

Light and Refreshing

Pretty and Colorful "Mexican" Salad

Pretty and Colorful “Mexican” Salad

I love a good salad, one with lots of colors, textures, and flavors.  I particularly like little add-ins that offer bursts of flavor or juice, like raisins or corn.  I also love Mexican food.  During my pregnancies, that has been my biggest craving.  Or if I feel like nothing at all, I will still eat Mexican.  Let’s combine the two, shall we?

A little bed of lettuce, some broccoli and grape tomatoes, a handful of black beans and corn, finely chopped onion and shredded cheddar… hmmm, what else… some lean protein.  Ok, here goes!

Preparing the Chicken

I was short on time so grabbed the only unfrozen meat we had in the house:  boneless, skinless chicken breasts from the local meat market off of an Amish farm that treats its fowl humanely.

I then sent a text to my brother, a guy known for his skills on the grill (and his knowledge of meat… heh heh heh).  He called and gave me an under-two-minute lesson on how to best cook chicken breasts.

He says use bone-in, skin-on breasts and lots of time or cut the boneless, skinless breasts into evenly thick strips.  He recommends marinating them in a vinegar and oil mix (he suggested Kroger’s roasted red pepper vinaigrette) for a good half hour before putting them on the grill on high heat.  He says to sear/burn them on all sides (so you gotta be over the grill for a bit) then turn the heat on low or off, move the chicken to the sides, and close the lid.  Let the boobs cook in their own juices and residual heat to keep them moist and tasty*.

I didn’t follow directions; I never do.  Check out some of my other recipes (like my potato soup) to see what I mean.  I put the three breasts on the grill on high heat, flipped them when they started to get a little past brown, fired some cooking spray at them, and added garlic and cumin.  Then when that side was almost past brown, I turned the heat down to low, moved the breasts to the side, closed the lid, and went to prep the rest of the salads.

Preparing the Rest of the Meal

Rinse and cut all your goodies.  Again, I used green leaf lettuce, broccoli, black beans, corn, and grape tomatoes.  The corn had been frozen but I put it in a bowl with cold tap water.  The black beans were originally dry and bought in bulk, but I soak a ton at a time then freeze what I don’t use on cookie sheets.  I then break it up and bag it, so all I had to do was grab a few chunks and toss them in a bowl with warm water.

Shred your cheese.  I love Cabot’s white cheddar, bought in the 2-lb blocks at Walmart.  If you would rather a hard-boiled egg as your protein (instead of the chicken or cheese), have at it; I like them but not enough to boil water in my kitchen right now.

I got a little carried away with how I placed everything in the bowls.  The BHE had Angel Baby occupied in a game outside so I had a little time (and a great audiobook).  I made dinner pretty!

I love Xochitl chips, so crispy and light, paired with Aldi's-brand organic mild salsa.

I love Xochitl chips, so crispy and light, paired with Aldi’s-brand organic mild salsa.

Also, as we’re going for a Mexi-theme meal here, I had tortilla chips and salsa as a side.  I need a real carb with every meal or I’m STARVING within an hour**  .

Toddler-friendly

I don't like making a whole different meal for our toddler, so I choose versatile foods and introduce her to everything we eat.

I don’t like making a whole different meal for our toddler, so I choose versatile foods and introduce her to everything we eat.

Angel Baby, who is now 2, ate what we did but minus the lettuce***.  She’s tried it and not cared for it, and I don’t consider lettuce a toddler-friendly food anyway.  I did add raisins to her meal as I was afraid she wouldn’t care for the chicken.

She ended up loving the chicken, after I liberally applied Stubb’s Sticky Sweet BBQ Sauce.  In fact, now that I think of it, that’s what it took for the BHE to love the chicken…

The chips, the salsa, the salads, the toddler version... Ready to eat!

The chips, the salsa, the salads, the toddler version… Ready to eat!

*Did that catch anyone else off-guard as being a bit raunchy?

**The BHE insists he needs “real meat” at each meal or is STARVING within an hour.  We define food much differently.

***The photo doesn’t show the broccoli I later put on her plate.

Let me know how you like this idea for a quick weeknight dinner.  Personally, I wish I had lime to squeeze over this or fresh bell peppers I could’ve tossed on the grill and chopped over the salad.

Also, don’t be shy about any other feedback you want to throw my way regarding this Thoughtfully Sought blog.

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