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My trip to Panera Bread and the Inevitable Salad Craving that Followed

Over the next few months I’ll be working on a project with Panera Bread (ok twist my arm, I LOVE Panera).  The first part of said project entailed heading over to my local sandwich shop and indulging in a fresh, healthy and downright delicious lunch.  And of course, lunch is always better with company, so I called up my friend Kim and invited her to join me.

I don’t know about you, but just the mere act of walking into Panera  makes me instantly hungry.  Delicious breads and pastries of all shapes and flavors line the counter.  It’s as though they are calling out my name as I stand there in line…. “Julie, eat me.  Please eat me.  You know how tasty I am.”  Yep, I definitely know how tasty you are and yes, some of you may just come home with me before everything is said and done.


While we were standing in line, my friend Kim told me a story about how when she first got her braces on a few months back, the only thing she was craving was a hot bowl of Panera’s Broccoli Cheese Soup.  I can completely see why.  When I saw it arrive at the table, I had the urge to sneak a bite when she wasn’t looking.  I mean seriously.  If that doesn’t get your tastebuds singing, nothing will.

Then they set my Thai Chopped Chicken Salad down in front of me and I instantly knew I made the right decision for my appetite that day.

The salad came topped with chicken, cashews, roasted edamame, peppers and carrots.  In addition it was sporting some of the cutest and most delicious looking little puffed up wonton pieces this side of the Mississippi.  To tie it all together, they had married the two flavors of Thai vinaigrette with a few splashes of peanut sauce for good measure.  Let’s just say I was one happy lunch lovin’ mommy.  If you don’t believe me take a look at the after shot.  It wasn’t pretty.

As luck would have it, I came home from lunch and haven’t stopped thinking about that salad since.  I decided that I absolutely had to see if I could recreate the culinary delight that I had experienced that day at Panera.  Here’s my attempt at greatness.

Ingredients needed for the salad:

1 head of Romaine Lettuce (I threw a little spinach in as well)
1 Pkg of Cooked up, Sliced up Chicken
1 cup of Edamame, Cooked and Cooled
1 Red Pepper, Chopped
1 Lg. Carrot, Chopped
1 Cup of Thai Spiced Cashews
12-15 Wonton Wrappers
2 Tbsp of Oil

To cook up the wonton croutons, all I did was to cut my wonton wrappers into thirds, wet the strips down, fold them in half, and seal.  Then I heated up my oil in a small frying pan and popped the wontons in to cook up.  They cook up quick so stay alert; about 5-10 seconds on each side is all you need.

Here are my finished wonton croutons.  I sprinkled them with a little garlic salt as well.  Just because.

Now we’ll move on to the dressings.  There are two of them for this salad and trust me, you want to make both.  Alone they are tasty but together, the flavors marry in such a beautiful way as to make you want lick your bowl clean once you’re finished.

For the sweet Thai Vinaigrette, I decided to surf around and see what recipes I could find.  What I came up with was THIS recipe from  Life’s Ambrosia.  Delicious, simple, make it now.  The only thing I adapted was to double the recipe and add a small squeeze of lime into it.

For the peanut dressing I have to say I winged it a bit using a “peanut dressing look alike” that I had posted a while back.  While originally intended as a chicken marinade, a few adjustments made it into a delicious dressing.  Let me say that by winging, I mean I tweeked a bit here and there until I got the flavor I liked.  So consider this recipe a skeleton and feel free to do the same.

2 tbsp of Plain Yogurt
2 tbsp of Peanut Butter
1/4 tsp of Garlic Powder
2 Tbsp of Soy Sauce
1/4 tsp of Curry Powder
1 tsp of Ginger
1 Tbsp of Fresh Cilantro, Chopped
1 tsp of Lime  Juice
1/4 tsp of Sesame Oil
1 tsp of Water

Mix all the ingredients up and you’re ready to go.  To compile your salad, drop in your romaine/spinach and then add in your toppings; the chicken, cashews, pepper, edamame, carrot, and wontons.  Pour a little of each of the dressings over the top and prepare to discover your very own Panera Craving.

What do you say, you and me at Panera for lunch next week?

Panera's Thai Chopped Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

For the salad:

1 head of Romaine Lettuce (I threw a little spinach in as well)
1 Pkg of Cooked up, Sliced up Chicken
1 cup of Edamame, Cooked and Cooled
1 Red Pepper, Chopped
1 Lg. Carrot, Chopped
1 Cup of Thai Spiced Cashews
12-15 Wonton Wrappers
2 Tbsp of Oil

For the Peanut Dressing

2 tbsp of Plain Yogurt
2 tbsp of Peanut Butter
1/4 tsp of Garlic Powder
2 Tbsp of Soy Sauce
1/4 tsp of Curry Powder
1 tsp of Ginger
1 Tbsp of Fresh Cilantro, Chopped
1 tsp of Lime Juice
1/4 tsp of Sesame Oil
1 tsp of Water

Directions:

To cook up the wonton croutons, all I did was to cut my wonton wrappers into thirds, wet the strips down, fold them in half, and seal. Then I heated up my oil in a small frying pan and popped the wontons in to cook up. They cook up quick so stay alert; about 5-10 seconds on each side is all you need.

Sprinkle them with a little garlic salt once their cooked for an added flavor boost.

For the dressing, mix all the ingredients up and you're ready to go.

To compile your salad, drop in your romaine/spinach and then add in your toppings; the chicken, cashews, pepper, edamame, carrot, and wontons. Pour a little of each of the dressings over the top and prepare to discover your very own Panera Craving.

*Recipe for sweet chili dressing found at Life's Ambrosia

Note:  I am currently working on an ongoing project with Panera Bread.  As a result, I have been compensated for my time and expenses, however my thoughts and opinions are completely my own.