Trying to eat healthy is hard. It wasn’t always hard for me, though. In fact, I spent most of my 20’s and 30’s living super healthy and only allowing treats in moderation. I have never had much of a sweet tooth – it’s the salty, crunchy snacks that make me weak. For many years, I followed a pretty disciplined diet 6 days a week that consisted of lean proteins and vegetables – no dairy, no sugar, no grains. The seventh day was my cheat day – a complete and total balls-out food fest with no limits or restrictions. I would make myself sick enough that I couldn’t wait to get back on the wagon on Monday! Nowadays I’m not as strict, and weeknight meals consist of a good balance of healthfulness and flavor. Meals like this Layered Southwestern Salad with Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing fit easily and deliciously into a healthy lifestyle.
Making Healthy Easy
And it doesn’t have to be complex or time-consuming to eat healthy. I think a lot of people use time and expense as excuses to not make healthy meals. It’s much easier to grab whatever is convenient. It’s true that making healthy choices may mean taking a little more time about it, but you can put this beautiful salad together with minimal effort. One of my favorite healthy shortcuts is rotisserie chicken. Costco sells meaty, juicy and fully cooked rotisserie chickens for five bucks a piece. I buy them all the time and use them in so many different recipes. Using a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken in this Layered Southwestern Salad with Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing cuts the prep time by 80% and means you can have a healthy meal on the table in under 30 minutes.
This salad is sort of like those yummy 7-layer Mexican dips that are always a fan favorite for football Sundays and potlucks. It’s got colorful layers of crisp, fresh veggies, some lean chicken breast for protein and lots of avocado for a dose of healthy fats. You can play around with the mix of ingredients and how you layer them all together to make it look really pretty. I love bringing this Layered Southwestern Salad with Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing to parties because it always gets lots of oohs and ahhs. If you don’t have a trifle dish like the one pictured here, you can use whatever glass serving dish you have. Don’t worry, all of those beautiful colors will look great in whatever vessel you choose.
The Dressing Makes the Salad
I’ll be honest, though, the dressing was a challenge. When I first made this salad, I whipped up a citrus vinaigrette with lime juice, jalapeños and honey. It sounded so good on paper, but when we drizzled it onto our salads it fell flat. We all agreed that this salad needed something a little more satisfying than a vinaigrette. The Prince suggested an avocado lime ranch concoction and, since I’ve never been one to say no to ranch, I thought it was a great idea. So it turned out that the dressing became the best part of this salad! It’s so creamy and zesty and has the coolest shade of green. Make extra and use it as a dip for raw veggies or chicken wings.
Be sure to drizzle the dressing onto this Layered Southwestern Salad with Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing after you’ve divided it among separate serving plates. A dressed salad won’t keep, but if you cover whatever is left of this salad with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge, it will last another day or two. Here’s to healthy eating – until cheat day, of course! Enjoy!
- 4 ears of corn (or 1 can), grilled and shaved off the cob
- 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 bunch scallions, diced
- 2 cups diced chicken breast
- 3 avocados, diced
- 2 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
- 2 Tbsp. lime juice + zest of 1 lime
- 1 Tbsp. diced jalapeños
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 cup sour cream
- zest and juice of 1 lime
- 1 avocado
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. dried minced onion
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
In a small bowl, combine the corn, lime juice, lime zest, jalapeños and cumin. Season with salt and pepper.
Layer the salad: shredded lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, black beans, corn mixture, chicken and scallions.
Combine all the dressing ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.