Panera-Style Asian Sesame Chicken Salad

I think it’s the summer heat, but I’m loving big dinner salads lately. This is one of my most recent favorites. It’s based on one of my favorite Panera salads and while I don’t think it’s dead-on, it’s a really great at-home option.

Warm, grilled chicken along with cold mandarin oranges and a great dressing – this salad is a winner.


Panera-Style Asian Sesame Chicken Salad
(from Iowa Girl Eats)
Serves 2

Romaine lettuce
2 medium chicken breasts
6 oz. can mandarin oranges, rinsed and drained
2 oz. slivered almonds
Wonton strips

For the chicken marinade:
3 T. soy sauce
2 t. brown sugar
1 t. sesame oil
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. garlic powder

For the dressing:
1/2 c. rice vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. canola oil
1 1/2 t. sesame oil
1/2 t. salt
Pepper, to taste
1/2 t. sesame seeds, toasted


In a small bowl, whisk together the chicken marinade ingredients.  Add the chicken breasts and marinade for 15 minutes. Grill over medium-high heat for about ten minutes, until cooked through and let the chicken rest for 5 minutes. Cut into slices.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Bring the vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat, then add in the sugar and stir until dissolved. Once it’s cool, combine the vinegar and sugar mixture with the rest of the dressing ingredients in a jar, and shake to combine.

Toss the lettuce with a few tablespoons of dressing and divide between two plates. Top with sliced chicken, mandarin oranges, almonds and wonton strips.


Mediterranean Chicken Kebab Salad

We’ve been using the nice weather to our advantage and grilling regularly. I really can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciate that it’s still light out after 7 pm. It puts me in such a good mood.

Another good-mood inducer? A big, filling salad for dinner. Especially one that’s reminiscent of a Greek salad and topped with warm grilled chicken.  I served this along with parmesan flatbread – it was a perfect spring dinner.

Mediterranean Chicken Kebab Salad
(from Skinny Taste)
Serves 4

1 lb. boneless, skinnless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 T. lemon juice
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. garlic, crushed
Kosher salt  and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/4 c. cucumber, peeled
1 1/4 c. diced tomato
1/4 c. diced bell pepper
2 T. red onion, diced
1/4 c. black olives
1 1/2 t. vinegar
1 1/2 t. lemon juice
2 t. olive oil
1 t. fresh dill
1 t. fresh parsley
1/8 t. dried oregano
8 c. shredded lettuce
1/2 c. feta cheese

Combine the lemon juice, oregano, garlic and salt and pepper in a bowl. Add chicken pieces and toss to coat. Marinate for 2-3 hours.

In another bowl, combine cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, red onion, black olives, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, dill parsley and oregano. Refrigerate until needed.

Thread chicken on skewers and cook on a grill over high heat for 10-12 minutes, until cooked through.

Top lettuce with cucumber mixture, feta cheese and a kabob.

Parmesan Garlic Chicken

I love this recipe simply because it’s so easy. With five minutes prep time and twenty-five to bake, it’s ready in less time than it would take you to get a pizza delivered. And, it’s super flavorful. You can’t beat it.

It’s also diet-friendly – each serving clocks in at only 230 calories.

Parmesan Garlic Chicken
(from Kraft)
Serves 6

1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 env.  Italian dressing mix
1/2 t. garlic powder
6 small  boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 lbs.)

Heat oven to 400°F.

Mix cheese, dressing mix and garlic powder.

Moisten chicken with water; coat with cheese mixture. Place in single layer in shallow baking dish.

Bake 20 to 25 min. or until chicken is done.

Mini Broccoli Bacon Quiches

I have a love/hate relationship with eggs. I love how full they keep me (less snacking!) but I generally don’t like how they taste. If you’re handing me a scrambled egg, it has to be smothered in A LOT of cheese or I’ll be gagging it down.

This recipe is awesome because it’s got enough “stuff” with the eggs that I really enjoy them but they’re not drowning in cheese.  They make a great weekend breakfast but they can also be made ahead and heating up on busier mornings. A minute and a half in the microwave heated these up perfectly – it tasted fresh from the oven again.

Mini Broccoli Bacon Quiches
(from Cooking for Two, Summer 2007)
Makes 2

1/2 c. fresh broccoli florets
1/2 c. shredded Swiss cheese
1 bacon strip, cooked and crumbled
2 eggs
1/2 c. half-and-half cream
1/8 t. salt
Dash garlic powder
Dash lemon-pepper seasoning

Divide the broccoli, cheese and bacon between two 5-in. pie plates coated with cooking spray. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, salt, garlic powder and lemon-pepper. Pour over bacon.

Bake, uncovered, at 350F degrees for 15-20 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Pasta and Bean Soup

This was an excellent pot of soup for an excellent cause. Branny Boils Over is hosting a Charity Souper Bowl event to raise money for the ASPCA. So, this little post is going to be helping out some animals that really need it. How could I pass up that opportunity?

I couldn’t – especially with this one in my life:

That’s Kali – one of our two cats. (She likes hanging out with her fellow tuxedo buddy.) Mark and I are both strong believers in animal adoption; we got Kali last January and bringing her into the family was one of the best decisions we ever made. She’s such a little love. And, she helped with this pot of soup by batting dropping carrot pieces around the kitchen. Stuff like that is par for the course around here.

The soup itself is wonderful – packed with veggies and perfect for lunch on a cold day. It comes together quickly enough for a weeknight dinner too. It’s also quite figure-friendly – the original recipe (linked below) clocks in at 218 calories per each 1 1/2 c. serving. I made a few small adjustments to the original recipe but the number of calories in this version should be close.

Pasta and Bean Soup
(from Light & Tasty, February/March 2006)
Serves 5

1 c. uncooked small pasta
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 T. olive oil
1 1/2 c. water
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (14 1/2 oz. cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1 t. dried basil
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1 can (15 ounces) white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups shredded fresh spinach

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick saucepan, saute the celery, carrots, onion and garlic in oil for 5 minutes. Stir in the water, tomatoes, broth, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Drain pasta; stir into vegetable mixture. Add the beans; heat through. Stir in spinach; cook until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.

Chicken Saltimbocca

One of the biggest challenges to eating better, for me, is not making my husband feel like “we’re on a diet”.  This is another recipe from and another smashing success. Since this recipe falls into the category of stuffed meat, I knew Mark would like it but I was still expecting something more diet-like.

Instead, this was full of flavor and really felt like something you’d indulge in at a restaurant – not something you’d whip up in a few minutes at home.

Chicken Saltimbocca
(adapted from

1 large chicken breast, cut in half  ( you essentially want to butterfly it, but cut it all the way through to make two, thin breasts) 
2 slices paper thin prosciutto
2 sage leaves
1/4 c. flour
olive oil spray
1 T. butter
salt and fresh pepper
3/4 c. fat free chicken broth
1/4 c. white wine

Pound each piece of chicken to about 1/4″.

Season chicken with pepper. Lay a sage leaf on top, then a  slice of prosciutto, fold over and lightly pound ends of chicken to seal.

Place flour in a shallow bowl and lightly dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess.

Heat a nonstick frying pan. When hot, spray olive oil. Saute chicken 1 minute on each side.

Remove chicken from pan and deglaze the pan with wine, scraping up any brown bits. Add chicken broth, butter and return chicken to the sauce. Finish cooking on low, 5 minutes.

Asian Glazed Chicken

Now that the holidays are over, Mark and I are making and effort to eat better. (There were a lot of cookies in our house the last few weeks. A lot.)

One of my favorite places to find lighter recipes is I’m not a Weight Watchers person but I love the way Gina breaks down the nutrition info so you know exactly what you’re eating.

I adapted this recipe slightly to fit what we already had in the house and it came out fantastic. The sauce was really good with just a touch of heat and the chicken was super tender. We served it with brown rice and broccoli for a nice, well-rounded meal.

Asian Glazed Chicken
(adapted from

1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into nugget-sized pieces
1 c. water
1 T. chili garlic sauce
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. soy sauce
4 t. agave nectar
1 clove garlic 
1 tsp. ginger, grated
2 T. chives or scallions, chopped
1 t. sesame seeds

In a heavy large saucepan, brown chicken on high for 3-4 minutes with a little spray oil.

Add water, balsamic, soy sauce, agave, garlic, ginger, hot sauce and cook on high until liquid comes to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for about 20 minutes. Remove cover and bring heat to high, allowing sauce to reduce down, about 8 minutes until it becomes a thick glaze, turning chicken occasionally. (Keep an eye on glaze, you don’t want it to burn when it starts becoming thick.)

Transfer chicken to a platter and pour glaze on top. Top with chives and sesame seeds and serve.

Chocolate Fruit Dip

If there’s one thing I’m making a lot of this holiday season (other than cookies, of course), it’s dip. Both families do their holidays pot-luck style and dips are a great thing for the buffet table.

This dip I brought to my family Christmas party last weekend as a lighter dessert option. We served it with apple slices, melon, banana and strawberries.  It went over really well – some people even ate it without the fruit!

You could easily lighten up this dip by using fat free cream cheese and fat free cool whip and make it quite diet-friendly. It’s also a great option if you want (or need) to make something gluten free.

Chocolate Fruit Dip
(from Taste of Home)

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. baking cocoa
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. whipped topping
Assorted fruit for dipping

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in cocoa and vanilla. Beat in whipped topping until smooth. Serve with fruit.

Pan-Grilled Pork Chops with Pineapple Salsa

 This got put on last week’s menu because we needed something fast – and this certainly delivered. It was on the table in less than 20 minutes and I loved that none of it relied on pre-packaged ingredients.

It’s also diet-friendly – the nutrition facts published with the recipe in Cooking Light say it’s only 215 calories per serving.

Pan-Grilled Pork Chops with Pineapple Salsa
(from Cooking Light, March 2010)

2 boneless pork chops
1 T. + 1 t. lime juice, divided
2 slices of pineapple
1/2 onion, cut into 1/2 in. thick slices
2 t. minced jalapeno pepper
1/4 t. salt
Pinch of pepper

Combine pork and 1 T. lime juice; let stand 10 minutes.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pineapple and onion; cook 4 minutes on each side or until onion is tender. Coarsely chop pineapple and onion; combine in a medium bowl with remaining lime juice, jalapeno, salt and pepper.

Re-spray grill pan with cooking spray. Add pork. Cook 4 minutes on each side or until done.