Copycat Panera Fruit Salad (but better!)

My dad likes to come visit me every Thursday since he works close to where I live. It’s kind of nice: we eat lunch (sometimes, aka when his blood sugar’s okay); we talk about my future and how my little brother is doing; if I’m lucky, we’ll even take a short walk around wherever we go to eat.

Unfortunately, his schedule (and my sparse knowledge of restaurants), usually means we end up going somewhere either really expensive (i.e. Panera) or somewhere really unhealthy/bad (i.e. this World Buffet place we found while driving around looking for Ponderosa).

On this particular day, we chose Panera, mostly because it was conveniently located. My dad got a sandwich and I, who really wasn’t in the mood for my usual “Vegetarian Vegetable [sodium loaded] Soup,” jumped when I saw the big sign that said It’s Back! Try our Strawberry Poppyseed Salad!
“Well, what do you want Mehak?” I could tell my dad was getting annoyed holding up the line at Panera Bread.
“Ummmmm,” I looked at the price. My god, $6.95! For a HALF salad?!! “Is the new strawberry salad good?” I asked the lady at the counter, hoping to buy myself some time.
“It has romaine lettuce, strawberries, blueberries, mandarin oranges, pineapple, pecans and our special recipe strawberry poppyseed dressing, made from real poppyseeds.” I could tell she’d been taught that line and the monotone didn’t help either.
I looked at my dad. He looked increasingly pissed. “Okay, fine,” I blurted, “I guess I’ll just have that. Can I have the pecans and the dressing on the side?”

When I finally received my order, what I got was a) about a half serving of lettuce artfully arranged on a plate, b) a handful of canned pineapple and mandarin oranges, c) five blueberries, and d) 6 perfectly cut strawberry halves. My dad was not impressed. And, quite frankly, neither was I.
“That’s pretty expensive,” he said while looking at the receipt and my salad.
I stuffed a bite into my mouth. “At least it’s good.” It wasn’t.
“You know,” my dad stared at it again, “you could make that at home”.

And so, I did. Only better.

Now that's a fruit salad!

Now that's a fruit salad!

Fruit Salad (with actual fruit)

  • Lettuce of choice (I used Dole’s Italian Blend)
  • Chopped strawberries (I used 5-7)
  • Blueberries (just go crazy, it’ll still be cheaper than Panera)
  • Canned pineapple (or fresh–even better!)
  • Chopped kiwi
  • Raspberries and/or blackberries (if you have them, which I didn’t)
  • Any other fruit you desire!
  • Dressing of choice (I settled on my calorie-free Walden Farms Raspberry Vinaigrette)
  • Morningstar Veggie Chick’n Strips (or real chicken if you must; beans would work too, and be better than real chicken at least)

→Mix it all together or, if you’re OCD like me, mix the fruit separately, add it into the salad blend and mix those two together, pour the dressing on top, keep this whole thing chilled while you meticulously prepare the protein of choice, take the chilled salad out of the fridge and put the protein on top and then eat it before the salad gets warm and the fake chicken gets cold.
Really, mixing it all together in the first place would just be simpler.

This one goes out to my good friends at Rec(ession)ipes!

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