Southwest Salad with Avocado-Cilantro Ranch Dressing

The super easy fried chicken salad I made recently seemed to be pretty popular, so I’m going to beef up my salad menu! I have quite a few I’ll share with all of you!

How about a Southwest salad? Since I always have cilantro and the like in my fridge. (no, really I do!)

You can find the tortilla strips right next to the croutons in your grocery store. They add both color and flavor!

And it sounds super fancy to make your own dressing, but here’s what I do: buy the base pre-made (your favorite ranch dressing) and add ingredients to make it your own. Awesome, right?

Totally. I’m here to help you look as fancy as possible.

By the way, since football season has now started, try dipping your wings in this dressing. Or put it on these tacos. Oh, yes.

Southwest Salad with Avocado-Cilantro Ranch Dressing

  • 1 pound fresh chicken tenderloins or strips (6-8 count)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper

for assembly:

  • 1 cup cooked corn kernels
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • lettuce of your choice (I used a bag of the pre-cut butter lettuce, used a little more than half the bag for 2 salads)
  • 1 avocado, halved
  • 1/2-3/4 cup shredded Monterey jack or 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • crispy tortilla strips (next to the croutons in your grocery store)

for the dressing:

  • 2/3 cup of your favorite ranch dressing
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro (just throw the stems and everything in)
  • juice of 1/2 lime

Make the dressing ahead of time and refrigerate to chill it down. It’ll last a week or so. This recipe makes way too much for two salads, but unless you have one of those mini food processors, this is the only way to get it to blend right! Use it as a dip for wings or a topping for tacos.

Add all ingredients for the dressing to a food processor or blender. Blend continuously until creamy, about a minute. Move to an airtight container and refrigerate.

Heat the butter in a large pan over high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. When the pan’s hot, throw it in. Turn the heat down to medium after 30 seconds, and let cook for 5 minutes per side.

While the chicken cooks, assemble the salad. On 2 large plates, divide enough lettuce to cover the plate. Add the black beans and corn evenly between the two, then place half an avocado on each salad. Sprinkle cheese and tortilla strips.

Add the hot chicken to the salad. Sprinkle with cilantro and dressing. Enjoy!


Fresh Pico de Gallo

Pico de gallo is such a great, fresh topping for so many dishes.  I like to use it where the taste of salsa is wanted, but without all the liquid and with more texture.

It is so simple and despite what you might read about pico only lasting the day it’s made, mine usually lasts through the next day as well.

Roma, or plum, tomatoes work best here, because they’re less watery.  But any tomato you have will work.

Top any Spanish/Mexican/whatever dish with this.  Eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Just kidding.

But really – top burritos, quesadillas, pork roasts, tacos.  Add it to wraps with turkey, veggies, and queso blanco.  Then make more so you can keep eating it!


Fresh Pico de Gallo

Yield 2 cups.

  • 3 Roma (plum) tomatoes
  • 1 cup packed fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno
  • 1/4 bell pepper (any color)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1-2 limes
  • dash of cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Dice first 6 ingredients and add to a bowl.  Top with cumin, salt and pepper, and squeeze the juice of the limes over the top.  Stir gently to incorporate.

Serve with a variety of dishes, including tacos, quesadillas, roasted pork, or add to wraps.  Eat it on tortilla chips too!  Tightly covered, the pico will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days.  If you have leftover pico the next day, make it into salsa by pulsing in a food processor or blender to give it new life.  Enjoy!