Maybe it's because spring is in the air and the Buds know that bathing suit season is just around the corner.
Maybe it's because the Buds feel guilty about the insane amount of carbs they ingested during last week's adventure ...potato pizza... calzones... sweet potato fries. Yes, that may have been a little overindulgent - but totally tasty nevertheless!
For whatever reason, the Buds were really excited to order lunch this week from Panera's "Hidden Menu." Said menu - which you won't find on any banners or menu boards in the eatery - offers a handful of entrees that feature fresh ingredients that are rich with protein and contain only limited amounts of processed carbs.
Power Chicken?Hummus Bowl
Power Steak Lettuce Wraps
Never heard of it? Don't feel bad, neither did Bud Em and she eats at Panera quite often. All you have to do is to tell the associate taking your order that you'd like to order from the "Hidden Menu"and they will know what to do.
Since they're not on the menu board, you'll have to know what to ask for! Menu options include the Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl With Roasted Turkey made from all-natural, antibiotic-free turkey, egg whites, baby spinach, roasted peppers and basil pesto; the Power Breakfast Egg Bowl With Steak made from two eggs, seared top sirloin, sliced avocado and tomatoes; the Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad made with antibiotic-free chicken, baby spinach, romaine, tomatoes, apple-wood smoked bacon, diced eggs, fresh squeezed lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil; the Power Mediterranean Roasted Turkey Salad made with roasted turkey, baby spinach, romaine, tomatoes, red onions, kalamata olives, fresh squeezed lemon juice and EVOO; the Power Chicken Hummus Bowl made with chicken, cilantro-jalapeno hummus, baby spinach, cucumbers, diced tomatoes, red onions, lemon juice and fresh chopped cilantro; and finally the Power Steak Lettuce Wraps which include seared top sirloin, leaf lettuce, cucumbers, diced tomatoes and red onions, basil pesto and fresh lemon juice.
Bud Em opted to try the Power Chicken Hummus Bowl. The meal, which rang in a little over eight bucks, was served in a large bowl and was loaded with fresh ingredients that Bud Em could hardly wait to dig into. Said Bud found the meal to be light and refreshing as well as packed with flavor. The cilantro-jalapeno hummus has the bold taste of cilantro with a spicy kick. Yummy! All of the veggies were fresh and crisp dressed only with the chopped cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Bud Em felt zero guilt after she'd eaten every bite.
Bud Shaunna chose the Power Steak Lettuce Wraps for around eight bucks. She wasn't sure if she was supposed to make actual wraps with the ingredients, but there were no worries, because it all tasted just as good with a knife and fork! The sirloin had a nice flavor, especially with a mixture of the basil pesto and the fresh lemon Bud S squeezed on top. Just be aware, the sirloin is rare, so if you don't like it that way, then this probably isn't the best choice for you. (Luckily, Bud S prefers it that way!)
As an FYI, Bud Shaunna has also tried the Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl. She tried it - sans the basil pesto - while following some strict dietary guidelines. It was delicious. The only improvement Bud Shaunna would suggest is to include the option to add avocado slices to any of the hidden menu items, as a good source of healthy fat was the only thing missing from these healthy dishes.
Chances are you've been to Panera a few times, but it's worth stopping by and giving the hidden menu a try. And while you're there, pick up a bakery treat or Bud S's favorite, a cup of hazelnut coffee!
The Buds can be reached at tastebuds@ timesleaderonline.com