by Chrysa Smith

Berries are in season. They’re cheap. They’re plentiful. They’re in every market. So let’s take advantage of all of those blueberries and strawberries bursting with color and flavor and juice and healthy anti-oxidants and nutritional value—-and make something for dinner.

I must confess, I am a summer fruit gal. But I’ve never been fond of blueberries. So, after hearing how wonderful they are for you, I looked and looked for a way to incorporate them into my diet, in a way I could enjoy.

So, enter Panera Bread. It’s a favorite place to grab a salad, soup or sandwich. One of my favorite summer dishes is their Strawberry Poppyseed Chicken Salad (perhaps something less awkward than that). It’s quite tasty. It satisfies crunch, sweet and crisp taste requirements and contains a sprinkling of protein. All that for under 300 calories. Such a deal! If it only cost about $3 less, I’d have it more often and spend the extra time in the sun. But hey, I’m practical.

So, when I went to the farm market, and saw the farm’s own organic blueberries, I couldn’t resist.
I got me a pint of blueberries, a quart of strawberries and my mind went to work.

OK. If I combine 3/4 cup blueberries, 1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries, 3/4 cup whole pecans, 1/2 cup diced pineapple (the Panera version uses mandarin oranges, but I didn’t have any, so I tried this), that should be good for the topping—–as well as some grilled chicken, which would be basted with a little olive oil and lemon juice–and cooked just before dinner time.

I went out to the garden to pick some Butter Lettuce, which to my surprise, looked like a Brussel Sprout tree.(So, remember, I am a city girl. Someone might write and tell me what I’m doing wrong besides not picking the leaves often enough) The leaves were huge and perfect, so I plucked some, washed, dried and chilled those for later use.

Next is the dressing. I suppose you could use a store-bought poppyseed (preferably, something without preservatives), or you could be a glutton for punishment and make your own—like me.(adapted from a recipe on to make only 1/2 quart, with ingredients that you’d have in the pantry.)

3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tbsp. poppy seeds

Combine all ingredients but oil; then slowly add the oil in while stirring with a fork.

When there’s only two of us having salad, I’ll mix up this amount, siphon a bit off for tonight’s salad, then save the rest in an air-tight container in the bottom of the fridge. If I can keep it for close to a week, I will try and use it again on another dish—now, to find something else that goes with poppyseed dressing. And so it goes.