Copycat Panera Fuji Apple Chicken Salad

This post was originally published in June, 2009.  Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad I haven’t blogged in a few days because we went up to Lancaster, PA to visit with some family and have a short mini-vacation. Vacations are always fun, but, especially when it’s such a short vacation, it’s sometimes hard to get back home and go back to the daily grind. So I decided to bring some of my vacation home with me.

I decided to bring home with me some yummy food I ate while on vacation. Of course, I couldn’t actually bring back the food itself, since it would have gotten quite yucky waiting to be put in my fridge (ew!) so I just brought back the ideaof the food I enjoyed so I could recreate it at home.The first dish I enjoyed was the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad at Panera. What I like about their chicken salad is that the apples are dried, not fresh.  Not your leathery, smushy kind of dried, but more like an apple chip dried. The combination of the sweet crunchy apple blended so perfectly with the other flavors in the salad, that it was super delicious!Unfortunately, the only dried apples I had on hand at home were the leathery, smushy variety which simply would not do for my purposes. So I set out to make myself some apple chips.

Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad

First, I cored an apple and sliced off the ends. I could have peeled it as well, but I opted to leave the peel on for color. Besides, the peel was left on in the Panera salad, and since I was attempting to recreate my vacation, I had to follow it as closely as possible.

Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad
Then I sliced the apple into thin, even slices (unfortunately, some of them I sliced a little TOO thin) and soaked them in lemon water for a few minutes, to limit browning. This step is not necessary unless you want them to be as white as possible.

drying apple chips in ovenThen I lined a baking sheet with wax paper, greased the wax paper and laid the apple slices out in a single layer, with plenty of room between slices. I put this in my oven, on the lowest setting possible (which happens to be 200 on my cheap-o apartment oven) for about 45 minutes. It would have been better to use a lower setting for a longer period of time, but alas and alack, that was not possible for me!

And here are the apple chips, ready to be put into my Apple Chicken Salad.

 Copycat Panera Apple Chicken Salad

 

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Something From Nothing: Bread Crumbs from Stale Bread

Something from Nothing: bread crumbs from stale breadWait! Before you throw it away, think for a second. Can you use it for something else? Frugality is not only saving your money when purchasing, it is saving your money by getting everything out of what you have already purchased. I read somewhere that the frugal person’s motto was the same as the environmentalist’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. If we all followed that motto, we’d save a lot of resources, in our homes and around the world.

For starters, what about that stale bread? Or those end slices no one wants to eat? Whatever you do, don’t throw them away!

Here are just a few ideas of what you can do with stale bread:

  • -bread pudding
  • -croutons
  • -stuffing
  • -french toast
  • -grilled/toasted sandwiches
  • -and my personal favorite, bread crumbs

How to Make Bread Crumbs

Whenever I have stale bread, or leftover chunks or pieces, I never throw them away. Instead, I use it to make bread crumbs. If I don’t have time at the moment, I bag them and put them in the freezer until I do. Some people keep a bag in their freezer for just such a purpose; every time they have some extra bread, they throw it in there and make a big batch of bread crumbs when they’ve collected enough.

Bread crumbs can be used for a variety of purposes, the main one being to bread meat such as chicken or fish before baking it. This adds flavor and texture. Bread crumbs are also used in meat loaf, or as a topping for a casserole or cooked vegetables. They also add nice crunch and a pretty touch sprinkled on thick soups, such as potato or chowders.

There are about as many different ways and methods of making bread crumbs as there are uses for them, but this is what I do:

Easy Bread Crumbs
Rip the bread into chunks and place in a food processor. Process until fine. Add spices to your liking (I like to use Italian spices such as oregano, basil, parsley, etc.), even grated parmesan cheese or garlic or onion powder, and pulse once or twice in the processor to blend it together. Spread in a fine layer on a cookie sheet and leave in a warm oven until very dry. I like to leave it in there for quite some time – half an hour or so – just to be sure all the moisture is gone so I can store it longer. Cool the bread crumbs and store in a tightly covered container (I reuse an applesauce jar for this purpose) in the cupboard. Alternatively, you can store it in a plastic bag in the freezer.

For meat loaf and some other uses, you may want soft bread crumbs. In this case, all you need to do is pulse the bread chunks in the food processor a couple times until you have coarse crumbs. Keep those crumbs in the freezer until your next meat loaf!

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Spelt Vanilla Cake

A delicious vanilla cake made with spelt flour and unrefined sugar. #spelt #wholegrain #cake I always feel obligated to preface every cake post with a disclaimer that goes something like this: I stink at cake baking.

Soooo if you’re a cake-baking expert, this post is not for you. However, if you’re a cake-baking stinker like me, keep reading!

I think my biggest problem with cake-baking is that I attempt to make a delicious, light, fluffy, high-rising cake with ingredients like whole-grain flour and unrefined sugars. I always tell myself that if I were baking with white flour and white sugar that – Certainement! – my cakes would be absolute perfection.

Since I don’t bake with white flour and sugar, the world will never know. Probably best to leave it that way. 

A delicious but healthy indulgence - a vanilla cake made with spelt flour and unrefined sugar. #cake #wholegrain #speltI bumble along the best I can, though, with freshly grained spelt flour and coconut sugar, and I have to say that this most recent cake experiment was overall a success. The resulting cake seemed heavy but had a nice light crumb, a moist texture, and perfect vanilla flavor. I made two cakes – one topped with caramel frosting, and one filled with lemon curd and topped with lemon frosting. Everybody said they were good, but I wasn’t completely pleased with the frosting recipes, so I won’t be posting those.

However, the cake is definitely a recipe worth sharing, especially since whole-grain spelt cake recipes are currently a rare commodity in this world. I made it in my WonderMix with the cookie beaters on low (speed 1). Whipped it up in no time!

If you’re looking for a delicious but reasonably nutritious (wouldn’t exactly call it healthy, but it’s not that much of an indulgence, either) cake for your next celebration, this one’s it! It pairs nicely with just about any frosting – I like to pop the layers in the freezer before spreading the icing just to limit the crumbs getting involved.

a healthy indulgence - whole grain spelt cake with unrefined sugars. #spelt #wholegrain #cake Recipe: Spelt Vanilla Cake

Summary: a delicious vanilla layer cake made with spelt flour

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Lavender Syrup

Lavender Syrup  - 3 ingredients!  #yleo #essentialoilsI never ever would have considered lavender as a beverage flavoring were it not for a pleasant occasion a month ago or so when my sister and I went to a favorite coffee shop in Maryland, one we are rarely able to visit but enjoy very much. As we perused the lengthy menu board, the final item on the list caught my sister’s eye and she exclaimed that she *HAD* to try it. 

What was that concoction she had to try? Lavender Iced Coffee. 

Hmmm, I thought, unconvinced,but in the end, decided to follow my sister’s footsteps and give it a try. It sounded refreshing, and didn’t seem like it would be too horrible, plus I love to try new things.

A Refreshing New Twist

Word. It was amazing. Refreshing, yes! Also, quite delicious and crave-worthy. In a remarkable turn of events, however, I completely forgot about it once I got home and only remembered it when I was trying to brainstorm essential-oils-based refreshments for a class I was teaching.

In a flash of inspiration, I recalled the herbal goodness of the lavender iced coffee I had enjoyed, and realized it would be ridiculously easy to duplicate it by quickly boiling up a simple syrup and adding some lavender essential oil to it.

Easy peasy! And, of course, this versatile lavender syrup can be used for much more than coffee – splash it in lemonade, tea, punch, or anywhere else you’d like a dash of flavor.Lavender Syrup  - 3 ingredients!  #yleo #essentialoils

Recipe: Lavender Syrup

Summary: a refreshing flavored syrup you can add to hot and cold beverages

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar (I used coconut sugar)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3-4 drops lavender essential oil*

Instructions

  1. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Stir and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  3. Cool to room temperature and add lavender oil. Store bottled in the refrigerator.

*Most lavender oil available on the general market today is more than likely adulterated in one way or another. I only use Young Living lavender oil because I know that Young Living controls the process from planting the seed in the ground to putting the seal on the bottle, and I know there’s nothing in it but the best and finest lavender oil available!

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Kumquat Bars

2015's answer to Lemon Bars. Sweet and tart, creamy filling, crumbly crust. Lemon bars are SO last century. Join me in the twenty-first century (2015 people!) with a delicious twist on the old classic that takes it to new heights… a simple switch of key ingredients and you have an impressively exotic dessert that tastes just as good as (better?) than the original.

I’m talking kumquats. “Say wha?” I hear you mutter. Yep, kumquats! They look like baby oranges but taste like grumpy grandpa lemons. In other words, adorably cute but ferociously sour. Some people like to pop the little cuties right in their mouth, but I can’t personally even give a little lick without puckering up all over like I just drank lemon juice out of the bottle.

A delicious 21st-century version of the classic Lemon Bar.

However! Like their yellow and green counterparts, kumquats pair nicely with a bit of sweetener to create deliciously sweet-tart desserts, no pucker involved.

I whipped these bars up on a whim the other day, basically just switching out the lemon juice in a lemon bar recipe with kumquat puree, resulting in an orange-colored version of the favorite lemon bars. I was quite pleased to have my brand-new WonderMix at my disposal for the creation of the recipe, because its blender attachment made whipping up the puree and adding it to the filling mixture a total breeze. I love having appliances that do more than one job… and consequently take up less real estate on my countertop, which is quite valuable these days!

Blend and Mix with one machine!

Want to win one of these beauties? Check out our giveaway coming this Friday – May 8!

As a matter of fact, I have been experimenting quite a bit with this new mixer, and am looking forward to sharing more of my recipe creations with you in the very near future. This lovely little machine makes quick work of just about any dough or batter, giving me more time to try my favorite sort of experiment… the kitchen kind!

Wondermix

Enter to win your very own Wondermix this Friday, May 8!

Win your very own WonderMix! Enter the giveaway here!

Deliciously beautiful kumquat bars - a new take on the old-fashioned lemon bars.

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Oatmeal Crepes {Can be Gluten-Free!} #BakingMyHeritage

Oatmeal Crepes #bakingmyheritage #glutenfreeI continue to explore recipes from my little gem of a cookbook called The Finnish Cookbook, a nod to my heritage, and to a largely ignored but delicious cuisine. The more I cook from this cookbook the more convinced I am that people should explore Finnish cuisine for themselves! 

This particular recipe is one I have now made more times than I can count; it’s that good. Cuz trust me honey. I almost never make the same thing twice. And if I make it more than twice, you know it’s a good recipe.

So here we go: Oatmeal Crepes, using only oat for the flour, so they can easily be made gluten-free by using gluten-free oats.

Oatmeal Crepes #bakingmyheritage #glutenfree


Traditionally, these Finnish crepes are served together with a bowl of cream and a bowl of cinnamon sugar: you dip the crepe in the sugar and then in the cream. I haven’t actually tried that, although it sounds absolutely fabulous. No, I usually just drizzle mine with maple syrup, fruit sauce, or fresh fruit, and then top with yogurt or whipped cream. Pretty heavenly that way, too!

For more posts in this series, see:

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Cheese-Stuffed Meat Rolls #BakingMyHeritage

Stuffed Meat Rolls #bakingmyheritage #groundbeef #FinnishcuisineBack in January, I introduced my new obsession, to which I very appropriately ascribed a hashtag, namely, #bakingmyheritage. In case you’ve forgotten the details, my mom is of Finnish descent; and when I was visiting her over Christmas in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I happened upon The Finnish Cookbook in a consignment store there. I’ve been having tons of fun baking and cooking all sorts of recipes from this awesome treasure of a cookbook. (Oh, and PLUS! It’s a vintage cookbook! You know me and vintage cookbooks...)

Stuffed Meat Rolls #bakingmyheritage #groundbeef #FinnishcuisineMy first post about my Finnish baking adventures was this deliciously awesome (and very easy!) Spice Cake, which I actually plan to bake this weekend for our church’s annual International Banquet.  Today’s post goes in a decidedly different direction with a savory recipe (which I suppose would then be #cookingmyheritage. Nah. Doesn’t have the same ring to it.), known in Finnish as “lihamurekekaaryleet”. 

Stuffed Meat Rolls #bakingmyheritage #groundbeef #FinnishcuisineYeah, we’ll just call ‘em “Stuffed Meat Rolls”. (Although my DH calls them “the bomb”… or maybe it was me that was “the bomb” because I made them. Huh! Anyway, they have his stamp of approval!)

If you want to keep up with my Finnish baking adventures, follow me on Instagram!

Stuffed Meat Rolls #bakingmyheritage #groundbeef #Finnishcuisine


Notes:

I used 1 pound of ground beef because I didn’t feel like defrosting another package (ha!), and it turned out OK. I only got 12 rolls instead of 16, and the mixture was not quite as sturdy, but they were still very good.

I also used cheese sticks, which were very easy to use.

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French Toast Casserole with Streusel Topping

French Toast Casserole with Streusel Topping #breakfast #wholefoods #nutfree

Delicious Breakfast – French Toast Casserole with Streusel Topping

On holidays and weekends, one of my favorite things to do is fix my family a slightly more involved breakfast than usual (read: something besides toast and a smoothie). It’s a plus if said breakfast is deliciously decadent without really being decadent. And it’s a total plus if said deliciously decadent breakfast is made with the leftover bread that accumulates over time in my freezer.

This breakfast is all of these and more. My DH even called it “epic” and he’s not one to effuse over his food. I’m thinking the cinnamon syrup is what pushed him over the edge this time.

French Toast Casserole with Oatmeal Streusel #breakfast #nutfree #wholefoods

Delicious French Toast Casserole with Oatmeal Streusel Topping and Cinnamon Syrup

If you don’t keep your bread ends in your freezer… well, you should! You can make a lot of things with leftover bits and pieces of bread, and this recipe is one of them. Other recipes include:

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Bread Crumbs

Easy Peasy Cheese Ball

Chicken Zucchini Stuffing Casserole
French Toast Casserole with Oatmeal Streusel #breakfast #wholefoods #nutfree

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5 Super Bowl Party Must-Haves

5 super bowl menu ideasHere’s the funny thing: I hate football, and I haven’t been to a Super Bowl party in years. But I have a whole bunch of Super Bowl idea posts on my blog… wonder what a psychologist would make of that, hmmm?!

Now if someone were to invite me to a Super Bowl party, I would be happy to attend because a party means food, and when food is involved… count me in! Especially if your Super Bowl party features any of the following menu items:

Homemade Potato Chips

1. Homemade Chips & Dip

Uh huh. I’m serious! I know, it’s way easier to buy a bag of chips and a jar of dip. But making your own chips and dip is way cooler, plus also way healthier. Double win!

Parmesan Crisps

2. Parmesan Crisps

OK, so I admit that making your own chips and dip can be a little bit labor-intensive and time-consuming, but Parmesan Crisps are a different story altogether: super easy and pretty fast! Oh, and amazingly delicious. You won’t be able to eat just one, and I’m not kidding.

Football Cake3. Football Cake

This simply decorated football cake won’t take you anymore time than any other homemade dessert, but there’s no dessert more appropriate. Touchdown!

bbq chicken dip4. BBQ Chicken Dip

Think of the famous Buffalo Chicken Dip, minus the hot sauce, plus some BBQ sauce, and you have BBQ Chicken Dip. It’s total yum; ya gotta try it!

Toasted Chickpeas 5. Toasted Chickpeas

Chances are, if you’re having a party, you’re going to have some guests with food sensitivities. If anybody in your party is gluten-free or allergic to nuts, dairy, eggs, or wheat, then this is the perfect snack for them! None of the afore-mentioned ingredients, and it’s delicious to boot. Plus – bonus for you, the hostess and chef – it’s super easy to make. I bring you Toasted Chickpeas.

May the best team win!

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5 Creative Ideas for Leftover Meat

5 ideas for leftover meat Got some leftover meat and no idea what to do with it? I’ve got an idea for you! No more boring casseroles or lame pasta dishes: Here’s some creative fun you can have that will turn your hunk of “meh” into “YUM!”.

5 Creative Ideas for Leftover Meat

1. Spring Rolls

This is probably one of my favorite leftover options. Literally any kind of meat – and it doesn’t have to be Asian-flavored – can be rolled up in a rice paper wrapper, fried or baked, and served with a dip. Certainly you can make them Asian flavors if you want, but why not go with Mexican or BBQ, if that’s what you’ve got? Mexican spring rolls can be served with salsa, and BBQ spring rolls with (what else?) barbecue sauce.

If you’ve never played with spring roll wrappers before, here’s my super brief tutorial: 

  • They come fresh or dried. Many regular grocery stores carry both types, but I usually buy mine at the Asian store. The fresh ones are more expensive and can be found in the produce or freezer section, while the dried ones are usually somewhere near the rice noodles and that kind of thing.
  • The fresh ones (which I’ve never actually used) are pliable and ready to be used. Just place a couple tablespoons of the filling (whatever you want!) on to one side of the wrapper, and fold up the closest edge to cover the filling. Fold the sides up, then roll the whole thing all the way to the other edge. Dip your fingers in water to seal the edge.
  • Dried wrappers need to be briefly soaked in water before using. Once they’re pliable (but not too much so, or they’ll rip) fill them in the same way I described above. No need to seal with water, though.
  • Fry them up on the stove top (make sure your oil is hot enough or the seal won’t stick).
  • OR bake them in the oven following these directions.

I’m totally serious, by the way, that just about any thing can be wrapped up in a spring roll! Don’t feel like you need a special recipe or anything: if you’ve got shredded BBQ meat, for example, just plop some of it on the wrapper, top it with a sprinkle of cheese (or maybe some cole slaw?), wrap it up and cook it!

2. Stir Fry

Again with the Asian influence, but seriously. Stir fry is the way to go! Especially if you also have leftover veggies – even better!

Once again, you don’t have to worry about sticking to an Asian flavor of some kind, although practically any cooked meat can morph into Asian cuisine via stir fry. Just follow this great tutorial from AllRecipes.com , keeping in mind that pre-cooked meats and veggies will not need nearly as much time as is prescribed in the article.

A stir fry is also great because it can also utilize any leftover starch (noodles or rice, for example) that you may have. Get rid of those leftovers in one fell swoop!

flatbread sandwich thins3. Sandwiches

Now, I’m not talking about a boring ol’ meatloaf sandwich with a hunk of nasty cold meatloaf shoved between two slices of plain ol’ bread. No way. Not how I roll. 

What I’m talking about is creativity, and it starts with the bread. If you want your leftover sandwich to appeal to the masses (i.e.  your starving leftover-hating family), it’s going to have to have some charm to it. Thankfully, the possibilities are practically endless:

  • biscuits
  • English muffins
  • flatbread
  • muffins (why not?)
  • waffles (Yes! Truthfully my favorite sandwich bread.)
  • pita bread
  • croissant
  • bagel
  • etc.

You get the idea. Now top it with some fancy (or not so fancy) cheese, a little bit of sauce and maybe some crunchy shredded veggies for good measure, and you’ve got some gourmet leftovers goin’ on!

sausage zucchini pizza4. Pizza

Everybody knows that everybody hates leftovers, right? BUT! Everybody loves pizza, right? So there ya go. Turn the leftovers into pizza and everybody’s happy. 

And it’s so easy, too! Pizza crust is a yeast bread, but it doesn’t require all that bothersome kneading and rising stuff, so even a novice can manage it. I usually make either my Spelt Pizza Crust or my Honey Whole Wheat Pizza Crust, but you can make any kind of pizza crust you desire.

Then top it with a sauce of some kind, and it most certainly does not have to be pizza sauce. (I guess technically it doesn’t even need sauce… but it’s nice if you have it.) If you have a sauce that went with the meat when you first ate it, then that’s perfect! Whatever it is, it will work. If not, try Ranch dressing, or BBQ sauce, or a basic white sauce or cheese sauce.

Next, slice or shred the meat and sprinkle it over the sauce. Top with veggies and cheese like you would any pizza, and bake as usual. No complaints on leftover night!

ham fruit pasta salad5. Salad

Here you have two options. You can go with a green salad or a starch salad, and you can get as creative as you want with either one. 

Personally, a green salad seems kind of like a boring option, so since we’re looking at creative ideas here, let’s talk about the “starch salad”. I say “starch salad” because you can use just about any kind of starch as the main component: 

  • potato (and voila! you have potato salad!)
  • bread (panzanella anybody?)
  • pasta
  • whole grains such as rice, barley, and the like
  • quinoa

Cook the starch as you normally wood, then add your meat and whatever vegetables you like. To finish off your leftover magic, whip up a simple vinaigrette  to bring it all together. My “Not Your Grandma’s” Ham & Pasta Salad is a great example that can get you started.

There you go, friend! Five fun ideas for leftover meat that will please your palate and your hungry family. Here’s to NO WASTE!

 

 

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