Fresh & Frugal

How to cook fantastic, fresh food on a tight budget

Month: February, 2011

Panera Chicken Panini

Thank Hungry Girl — no, not me — for this delicious recipe! Panera is one of those 50-buhzillion calorie treats in which mom and I partake when christmas shopping or running a lot of errands when I’m home. Other than then, I really don’t get the chance to eat there. I must confess, however, that I am loyal to their tuna salad sandwich, and will be to the grave, despite the fact that they changed their bread from delicious and crusty to freakin’ white fluffy junk. It’s something about the dijon mustard and the onion…

But we’re not here to talk about tuna sandwiches. I’m here for the chipotle chicken sandwich. Though I’ve never had the “real thing,” this substitute must be at least as good if not better, and it’s super low on the calorie scale (a measly 256 calories!). You got your protein, your (few) carbs, and even a smattering of veggies. What’s not to love? And the best part is, that short of the grilling step, everything can be prepared the night before, and thrown together in the morning for a delicious brown bag lunch.

Panera Chicken Panini

1 1/2 tsp fat free mayo

1/2 tsp chipotle sauce (either the sauce from canned chipotles or from a bottle of the hot sauce, which is easier to find)

2 dashes onion powder

2 dashes garlic powder

1 skim milk cheese stick (Sliced or pulled into pieces)

3 oz boneless skinless chicken breast (I like it pulled into pieces)

1 100-cal flat sandwich bun

2 slices plum tomato

2 thin slices of red onion

1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh basil


Cook the chicken well, and prep the other ingredients while you wait: Slice the tomato and onion, pull apart the cheese, chop the basil (or leave it whole, like I did), and mix the sauce.

For the sauce, mix the mayonnaise, chipotle sauce, and onion and garlic powder.

Spread half of the sauce on one open bun face, and save the rest for the chicken.

When the chicken is finished cooking, chop or shred it (or leave it whole, if you like!), and cover it with sauce. Mix it well if you’ve picked apart your chicken.

Pile everything onto your sandwich and plop it onto your panini press thingie, mini george foreman, or your little skillet. If you’re heating it on both sides at once, leave ‘er on there for 3 minutes or so. If you’re not, use a spatula to press down on it for 2 minutes or so, then flip and repeat.


Snowpocalypse Oatmeal

Things have been more and less stressful than usual, probably not in the way you’re thinking. While resuming classes and working two jobs has somehow proven less stressful than anticipated, it’s the weather that’s making life a little difficult. Thank goodness mom wiggled a strong snow shovel into my car before I started the long haul back to the East coast, because it’s gotten quite a lot of use. For instance, a snowpocalypse struck a couple of weeks ago, icing Philadelphia in 11 inches of snow overnight.

Needless to say, classes were cancelled the night before, and I was left to dig myself out of both the apartment (no thanks to the wretched people living downstairs and a landlord who lives in Florida) and my parking space. Not that I had anywhere to go, but there’s no better time to dig yourself out than just after a fresh dusting. Anyway, I met all sorts of people: two willing to lease me apartments within a block, and one block manager. He’s an older man, very sweet and roughy-hardy, with hands that have seen plenty of work. Before I knew it, two hours of digging myself out turned into a morning of digging him out, and clearing the sidewalks on both sides of the block. By the time I got back inside, the coffee pot had switched off and the coffee itself had gone stone-cold.

So it was time to take matters into my own hands — after pulling on a dry pair of sweat pants and big, chunky sweater, of course. Oatmeal it is! It’s one of those foods that wouldn’t get me too excited as a kid, but is now a rare treat saved for those mornings when there’s enough time to slow down and take some time to make good, homey food. Mom used to glaze the mealy mixture with brown sugar, stud it with raisins, and pour just enough milk over the top to create a floating oatmeal island in the middle of the bowl. With a couple of itty-bitty tweaks, I made sure oatmeal was on the breakfast table that day, and for the rest of the week.

Snowpocalypse Oatmeal

1 c steel-cut oats

1 1/2 c water

Optional: brown sugar, walnut pieces, raisins, dried cranberries, milk

Put the water on to boil. When it’s reached a rolling boil, add the oats and boil uncovered for 5 minutes. Cover and allow to simmer for another 30 minutes.

Spoon into dishes and top with anything you like. Brown sugar and dried fruit are the best, I think. Add milk if you want to, and enjoy it!

Tip: I divvied up the remaining oatmeal into small containers and stuck them in the fridge, so I would have enough to get me through the rest of the week’s breakfasts. put just the oatmeal in the fridge. Stick it in the microwave for 1 or 2 minutes, and then add toppings when you pull it out.