As I was walking into my local Whole Foods the other day I noticed a store next door called Hobby Lobby. I thought to myself “aww how nice, they are finally making stores for men” haha..WRONG! The temptation to a shop is EVERYWHERE! It’s no wonder why women are shopaholics, temptation looks us in the eyes every time we walk into a Tarjay. I guess some or even most women are just natural spenders. I, for one am not going to sugar coat it, I work to spend. I can’t even tell you how many promises I have made to myself to not shop and I just break them every time. I tried giving it up for Lent…yea, no success.
Last week a coworker of mine brought another coworker and I “pistachio” muffins from, well, from a place I would rather not disclose because it’s just not that big of deal and I love their muffins, in fact their entire menu but I feel somewhat cheated. I was so excited because pistachio is one of the nuts that I can actually have after somehow developing a tree nut and peanut allergy.😒
**Fun Fact: Did you know that peanuts are considered legumes, therefore, part of the peas and lentil family? I didn’t know either until I developed the allergy and had to watch everything I ate.**
I don’t know if y’all have been to Panera Bread to check out their summer menu yet but it’s pretty good and really refreshing. I love summer and nothing is more satisfying on a hot day than an ice cold beer but of course we can’t always have beer especially when are at work. I decided to make a copy cat of one of their salads, it doesn’t contain everything but you definitely can get playful with it, adding what you like and taking out what you don’t like.
I never tried fruit in salad and to be honest the thought of it just weirded me out for some reason that was until I walked into to Panera Bread and discovered that they were no longer going to carry my favorite salad, Asian Sesame Chicken Salad (tear). I was sad and kind of forced to try something new and that’s when Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad came into my life. IT WAS DELISH! I had to order it without the toasted pecans as I’ve developed nut allergies thru the years, which kind of sucks ’cause I’m sure the pecans give it that extra texture.
Anyway I went grocery shopping a few days after having that salad and it was on my mind, I had to replicate it if not at least something pretty close! So I bought the ingredients Panera Bread had listed on their website, I opted out on blueberries, pineapples and of course the pecans. The poppyseed dressing on the salad is amazing, light subtle and flavorful. I knew that I wanted to make a poppyseed dressing from scratch but tell me why it was impossible for me to find poppyseeds?! I may have to go to wholefoods or even order them online but I found out that Panera Bread started to sell their own dressing which is available at your local supermarket in the produce section and even at Target. Score!
When I got home, I lightly seasoned some chicken breasts and popped them in the oven and as soon as they cooled I put them in the refrigerator so that the next day they would be nice and chilled for the salad.
Lets get this salad assembled…what you need:
- Chicken Breast, cooked & diced
- Romaine lettuce
- Strawberries, sliced
- Mandarin Oranges, Del Monte
- Crispy wantons strips
- Poppyseed dressing
Add as little or as much as you want, ultimately you know what will satisfy you. I’m going to be honest, I NEVER measure anything when I cook or in this case assemble. I do measure when I bake and that’s really the only time. I guess I just learn and do taste tests as I go.
Let me know what you think and definitely try the salad, if not at home at least at Panera Bread!
**Panera Breads’ ingredients, per their website: Chicken raised without antibiotics and romaine tossed with fat-free poppyseed dressing and topped with fresh strawberries, blueberries and pineapple, mandarin oranges and toasted pecan pieces
Back in my younger days when I was working as a cashier at Winn-Dixie Grocery Stores you’d find me either eating or always wanting to eat. I went from being a carnivore to a vegetarian to a vegan and well, right back to a carnivorous creature. I never understood why I went through such phases but I did. Might I mention, you feel so clean and refreshed as a vegetarian but even more so as a vegan. It’s difficult being vegan though, reading labels, not knowing what are in other people’s recipes, it’s tough stuff but if you are dedicated and don’t crave the animal products you are good. Honestly, these days I couldn’t be vegan, the lack of protein from eggs and meats, I just can’t. I LOVE eggs, to the moon and back. Any style, any way, I love love love eggs. YUM.
Anyways, back to my story of when I worked at Winn-Dixie, I went through my vegetarian phase and I fell in love with Stouffer’s Vegetable Lasagna that is sold in the frozen section. When baked it’s absolute perfection! I just want to eat more and more and more until I explode. The breadcrumbs nice and crispy and the inside so cheesy and gooey, ugh, soooo delish!! If I hadn’t just eaten a serving of my own dish, which is equally good, if not better 😜 I think I would have put this post on pause and run to the grocery store to buy me some! I think I even licked the little package it came in one time, don’t judge me, it was just that good! At work however, I cooked it in the microwave and it was just as tasty doesn’t measure to being baked though.
So today, I was craving it, like BAD! I decided to try to replicate it and also add my own touch to it, chicken! Not even sure that I know which vegetables are in the Stouffer’s brand but I’m sure you could add just about anything and it would still taste yummy. I made my good ol’ fashion Alfredo sauce recipe that took me ages to perfect. Today it came out insanely good, I guess I had the right motivation.
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- dash of pepper
- 3 1/4 cups of Milk*
*I used lactose free milk, not that it made much difference considering how much cheese I used. Haha!
- 1/2 lb lasagna pasta, cooked
- 2 thin sliced chicken breast, cooked
- 1 tbsp chopped garlic
- 2-3 carrots, shredded
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 head broccoli, chopped
- 2 handfuls of spinach
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups Italian blend cheese, grated*
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup panko
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
*I used Mozzarella, Parmesan and Fontina.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Cook your pasta to al dente.
In a frying pan, spray coconut oil or your preferred spray oil to coat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook until done. Let cool and chop into small pieces, the smaller the better.
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter. While the butter is melting mix your dry ingredients. Once butter has melted add your flour mixture and with a whisk or spatula cook flour for a minute or so, this is creating a roux (link is to a YouTube video I found) which is the thickening agent for the sauce. Slowly add milk while stirring.
Switch to a wooden spatula, add cheese* and continue to stir until the cheese melts and is smooth. Your sauce will start to thicken. Turn your burner to a very low heat to keep warm and stir occasionally.
*Don’t add too much cheese because the grease will cause your sauce to separate.
In a bowl, mix all of your vegetables, 1/2 cup of cheese, egg and chicken.
In an oven safe baking baking dish (I used a Hefty 9×13 aluminum pan because I was lazy) pour just a little sauce to cover the bottom.
Now start layering! Starting with your noodles, veggie mixture, a little cheese and spoonfuls of sauce and continue the process until completed. Make sure to leave just a little sauce to top the last row of pasta, this is optional. I personally like the crispness of the top noodle with the breadcrumbs but if you don’t like crispy and want moisture, add sauce to the top and cover with breadcrumbs.
Bake for 50 minutes covered. 10 minutes uncovered or if your like me, I turn on the broiler for 1-2 minutes to give it the nice brown color.
Take out of oven let sit for 10 minutes, if you cut into it too soon it will go all over the place. Those 10 minutes make a difference and allow for the dish to set but me being me I couldn’t wait and dug right in, I like my food piping hot!
I’m not a professional at making my food look so fancy in photographs but this is what homemade really looks like! 😉
I love cooking but I also love baking and of all the things I have baked I never made muffins. I love muffins because I can have them for breakfast or afternoon snack, they aren’t like cupcakes which tend to be sweet and dressed in frosting and sprinkles. Yum!
Earlier last week I made a banana walnut muffins, they were amazing but I think I added too much sugar so I am going to attempt a second batch before posting the recipe.
So I ordered some lights and a lightbox for my food posts, I was so excited to have received them that I wanted to make something this weekend and use the new equipment. And so today, I made blueberry muffins, for one they are my absolute favorite and two that crumble on top is so delicious! Ever had the Starbucks blueberry muffin? If not, it’s heaven but you know who else makes good blueberry muffins, me! =P
What you will need:
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temp
- 1 cup fine granulated sugar
- 2 egg, large
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsps baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 cup cold butter
- 1 1/2 tsps cinnamon.
*This recipe makes 12 large size muffins or you can make them smaller, I suggest the max of 18. These muffins do rise nicely.
Heat oven to 375°.
In a mixer, I own a kitchenaide but you can use a handheld mixer as well, on a low setting mix butter until creamy (I used the dough attachment). Add sugar and beat until it become a pale yellow.
Add one egg at a time, make sure to beat after each.
Mix in vanilla, baking powder and salt.
With a spatula, fold in flour and milk. Do not pour all flour and milk in at once, I would suggest in small batches.
Gently fold in blueberries. Put to the side.
In a bowl, mix sugar, flour, and cinnamon. I like to let the butter sit for just a few minutes so butter is not too firm. Dice the butter into cubes and mix in with dry ingredients with a fork, forming a crumble.
Spoon batter into muffin cups and sprinkle the cinnamon topping on top of each muffin, I like to leave a few plain ones too.
Bake for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown and tooth pick is clean. And viola!