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Have you ever had a junk food hangover? I have noticed in the last seven months that now that I stay away from things like fried food, gluten and sugar most of the time, when I really overindulge, I wake up the next morning feeling like I’ve gone on a bender. And I guess maybe I have. Sugar and carbs are major components of alcohol and junk food.

So, as the weekend before Halloween, I sort of expected that it would not exactly be diet-friendly. But then last night, I made the critical error of skipping dinner before I went out and of course the party we went to had an immaculate spread of all the best party foods. And, of course, a few hours and a couple of bars later, I was starving again, because brownies and spinach dip are not exactly power foods. That meant when I got home late night I wanted to eat some more, and I wasn’t really in the mood for fruit salad…In other words, it was not a health-friendly eating night. Oh, and I forgot to mention that earlier that day I’d gone out for lunch and had both white bread and French fries. Oops.

Now, I have always maintained that days like this are important to avoid going totally crazy and/or giving up, and also because it is nice to give your metabolism a little jolt so it doesn’t get too comfortable. But there are cheat days and then there are CHEAT DAYS. When I woke up this morning feeling groggy, sluggish and a little bit congested, I knew immediately that yesterday might have been full of deliciousness, but it was not full of good choices.

On mornings like this, part of me wants to keep up the junk food momentum. There was a pretty big lobe in my brain suggesting I go grab some Mexican takeout and watch football all day. But the rest of me rejected that idea. Even more than I wanted comfort food, I really wanted to feel healthy instead of disgusting. The best option then seemed like I should eat things that would counteract all the damage I did the day before. Kind of like a mini-cleanse to recover from the weekend.

Clean Southwest Salad with Spicy Balsamic Vinaigrette

Of course, feeling sluggish and generally gross, I didn’t want to put in a whole lot of effort, so I just looked around the kitchen for something that would be quick but still healthy. What I came up with ended up being a huge success. I am super excited about the dressing, in particular. I will definitely keep this in mind for future weekends like this one. We still have several more holidays to go this season!

Clean Southwest Salad

Serves: 2

  • 1 Cup Garlic Quinoa
  • 1/2 Cup Black Beans (Canned, Organic is fine)
  • 1 Cup Fresh Organic Spinach
  • 3 Campari Tomatoes, Diced
  • 1 Small Avocado, Diced
  • Sea Salt & Ground Black Peppercorns to taste
  • 1 TBL Spicy Vinaigrette (see below)

Mix together the garlic quinoa and black beans. If the quinoa is already hot, it might be enough to warm the beans. Otherwise, microwave for 30 seconds, or until it is desired temperature. Top with spinach, tomatoes and avocado. Add salt & pepper. Drizzle with the spicy vinaigrette. Eat. Cleanse!

Spicy Balsamic Vinaigrette

Serves: 2

  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Cold-Pressed if possible)
  • 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Sriracha (or to taste)
  • 1 Teaspoon Lime Juice (or juice from 1/2 a lime)
  • 1 Teaspoon 0% Fat Free Greek Yogurt
  • Salt to taste

Add everything to a small bowl, mix well. That’s it.

Spicy Balsamic Vinaigrette

I really enjoyed this salad. It was both light and filling, and it was flavorful enough that it wasn’t too shocking after a day of eating whatever I wanted. In particular, sriracha and balsamic vinegar may not seem like the best match on paper, but seriously, I love this dressing. It’s spicy and robust, but a little sweet too, so no single flavor is overwhelming. The addition of the teaspoon of Greek Yogurt gave it a nice creaminess, and gathered everything else together. The salad itself is nothing particularly innovative, especially since I have written about pretty similar things before. But, the sriracha is just what this combo has been missing, so I am very excited that I’ve evolved the ingredients I’ve always worked with so that now I’m actually looking forward to eating this salad again.

I definitely recommend this for a nice clean lunch either as a recoup or just because it is healthy and delicious. It helped reenergize me and break me out of my junkfood hangover, but I think it will serve just as well to energize me halfway through a particularly dull workday, or basically any time.

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