Hearty and Healthy South of the Border Salad

For the average college student, planning a healthy meal isn’t usually an item high on the priority list. Come to think of it, most college students I know don’t actually ‘plan’ their meals. Most of them opt instead for take-out pizza and beer or microwavable ramen noodles (or just a large iced coffee. I’ve seen it happen before. And you know who you are. :P) As long as it’s cheap, fast and edible, it works.

This wasn’t always the case for me. You see, I am my mother’s child. I like to eat, I like to eat well, and I like to plan. This isn’t to say, however, that I spent all of my college days in the kitchen. With a part-time job, a TA gig, a double major and theatre rehearsal nearly six nights a week, I was often lucky to find time to eat at all. Or see my roommates. (The theatre department’s motto was: “I can’t, I have rehearsal.”)

On the blissful days when I had time to make myself a real meal, this was my go-to dish–and it still is. The premise is simple: cooked beans and taco meat  topped with corn and cheese and laid out over a bed of spinach. It’s delicious, healthy, and inexpensive, which is bound to please ANY college student (even if they swear by eating just pizza and beer alone.)

Hearty and Healthy South of the Border Salad

Ingredients:
1 can red or black beans, rinsed
1 small can corn kernels, drained
1 ¼  lbs ground meat (I prefer to use turkey or chicken)
4 tablespoons taco seasoning mix (super simple recipe here)
½ cup water
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 9oz. bag fresh spinach, washed and dried

Place the beans and corn in two individual microwave-safe dishes and heat (separately) in the microwave until warm. Do not overcook.

While the beans and corn are heating up, prepare the taco meat filling. Heat a large skillet with vegetable oil. When the pan is hot, add the ground meat. Break up the meat into small pieces and cook until brown. If necessary, drain extra fat from the pan. Spread the taco seasoning mix evenly over the meat and add the water. Stir and let cook for a few minutes. Finally, add the tomato sauce. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes. When the excess liquid has drained, add 3/4 cup shredded cheese to the meat filling and stir until melted and well combined. Turn off heat and let rest for a few minutes. Add 1/2 can of beans and stir.

Layer the bottom of a large serving bowl with the fresh spinach. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat mixture to the bowl, taking care to leave as much excess liquid in the skillet as possible. Top with remaining beans, then corn kernels and finally the rest of the shredded cheese. Serve immediately so the spinach stays intact (It might become a little wet, depending on how much liquid is transferred into the serving bowl.) Enjoy!

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