My daughter bought me a panini pan for Christmas. She and I often have mum-daughter dates at Panera Bread and I always choose a half panini sandwich and bowl of soup. Jess knew that I would be cooking up a panini storm for lunch if I had my own pan. She was right! This slimmed down chicken cheese panini sandwich is my first attempt and it turned out great.
Panera has a whopping 370 calories in a half sandwich. My chicken cheese panini sandwich ends up being 296 for a whole sandwich and my husband and I really liked the taste. It’s amazing how a few simple omissions or substitutes can save you a ton of calories.
I was not going for a copycat version with my sandwich. I’ll save that for another day. I really just wanted to break in my Panini Pan to see how it worked. I ended up with a pretty great tasting panini sandwich and didn’t break my calorie bank.
I save about 375 calories by making a few substitutions and got a whole panini instead of just a half sandwich:
- 50% reduced fat cheese for normal cheese saved me about 50 calories
- A lower calorie bread -120 calories for two slices. Since it has a butter spread on the outside, it worked just fine and saved 40 calories.
- No inside sauce. The cheese, chives and fillings added plenty of flavor. This saved about 240 calories
- I can’t believe it’s not butter spread instead of butter saved 50 calories.
Here’s how to make the Chicken Cheese Panini (slimmed down version!)
I started by buttering the bread with I can’t believe it’s not butter, light, making sure that the whole of the bread was covered with the spread. Next, I added some roasted chicken (left over from a great Slow Cooker Chicken and Corn Soup that I recently made.) A couple of tomato slices and 1 ounce of cheese on each sandwich came next.
Fresh chives gave me an oniony taste for very few calories and I finished up with some baby spinach leaves.
I got my new Panini pan nice and hot and added my sandwiches into it and placed the press on top. 30 seconds on each side is all that it took to give me some great looking grill marks. The weight of the press makes the panini cook very quickly.
The sandwich has a great taste. It’s not as gooey as the Panera version, but to get a whole chicken cheese panini instead of a half made up for that. I love the combination of flavors.
I served my chicken cheese panini up with a small bowl of ground turkey chili. It made a very satisfying meal for around 550 calories. Compare that to over 1000 calories at Panera for a whole chicken panini and good sized bowl of chili. I’d say my version is the winner, and the taste really is very nice!
This yummy chicken panini teams up cheddar cheese, chives, and spinach for a great tasting sandwich. And don’t you just LOVE the look of those grill marks?
Here are the nutrition facts:
- 4 slices of white enriched bread (use a bread with no more than 120 calories for TWO slices
- 4 ounces of cooked skinless chicken breast
- 2 ounces of 50% low fat cheddar cheese
- 4 slices of tomatoes
- 1 tbsp of fresh chives, chopped
- 1 tbsp of I can't believe it's not butter, light
- Small bunch of baby spinach leaves
- Spread the butter spread on one side of the four slices of bread, taking care to make sure the the whole of the bread is evenly coated with the spread.
- Place 2 ounces of cooked chicken on each sandwich.
- Top with 1 ounces of cheese.
- Add ½ tbsp of fresh chives to each sandwich.
- Layer on the baby spinach leaves and place the other slice of bread on top, with the buttered side out.
- Heat the panini pan until it is very hot. Add the sandwich and place the press on top. Cook for 30 seconds, flip and cook another 30 seconds.
- Serve immediately.
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