Actually Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Wednesday was National Grilled Cheese Day.  I don’t really remember that day from past years, but thought I would celebrate this year with actually preparing grilled cheese sandwiches–Not just made indoors on a grill, but made outdoors on a charcoal grill.

The feat was totally easy since I have a new grilled cheese basket by The Charcoal Companion.  This non-stick basket is perfect for any type of grilled sandwich on an open grill.  The rosewood handle is especially nice and the basket clip keeps the tool together for easy turning.  I was able to fit three smaller sandwiches with plenty of cheddar cheese for each sandwich into the basket. The sandwiches are held together nicely without any worries of losing a sandwich into the charcoal.

It took only minutes before the cheese was melty, gooey and so delicious!  The actual outdoor charcoal flavor adds that extra special taste that cannot be achieved indoors. The basket is the perfect size and really could be used to grill flat vegetables as well.

I plan to be using my grills so much more this year as I have come to appreciate all types of outdoor grilling and various foods that can be easily made on the grill today with the proper tools. Grilled cheese is also perfect for tailgating season.  There is just something about cooking food outdoors that makes it taste extra special!

Baskets can be found at Wal-Mart, World Market, many specialty cooking stores and even online at The Home Depot or bbqguys.com.

Bacon, lettuce and tomato quesadilla

Here is a fun way to serve a classic sandwich with a new Tex-Mex twist.  I use sun-dried tomatoes, either quick microwave crispy bacon or traditional bacon, and shredded Fontina cheese.  I also like to use Romaine lettuce.

Gather the ingredients. Heat the tortilla shells in the oven for five minutes and then add the ingredients and return to the oven to bake on 350 degrees until the cheese is nicely melted.  That usually takes around 8 minutes.  Serve with sour cream and enjoy.

muffaletta sandwiches

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Mardi Gras came earlier than last year, and caught me almost off-guard.  I must admit I had to rush to take down the Valentine decorations and put up my Mardi Gras wreath all in the same week.  Nevertheless, we had a great dinner of classic muffaletta sandwiches.  I wanted to share this recipe on the blog, since I had not in earlier years.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I do use a prepared olive salad for my muffalettas.  I find the taste and texture perfect for a small bun or even to use later on other meats.  Muffalettas can be made open-faced or on a variety of round breads.  If a dense bread is used, the loaf is most often lightened by removing some of the soft bread inside to allow for the meats and cheeses.  The key to the sandwich is the olive salad. If you make your own, which is easy to do, it must marinate for 24 hours to enrich the flavor.

This year, I used small sections of French bread cut for my mini sandwiches.  I layered deli turkey, provolone, hard salami, and olive salad. Other options would include deli ham, Havarti cheese and pepperoncini peppers.  Covered with foil, I baked at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

These sandwiches originated at the Central Grocery in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  They are served today.  Every time we have visited the city, my husband must have one.  My sandwiches last month were so yummy, and the taste transports me back to the French Quarter every time.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Valentine’s Day Tea

How wonderful that Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday this year.  It was an all day celebration at my house with my sweetie.  It was a day filled with time spent together, which is better than anything else in this world.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

And for something totally different, we had an afternoon tea, complete with walnut and cheese tea sandwiches.  Now, you would think that my 6 foot 4 inch husband would not be the afternoon tea type, but he told me that it was one of the best days he had spent with me.  I think it was the attention and time I took to make the couple of hours special for us.  It was something very different and reminded him of afternoon teas we have had in years past.  We had a special tea at the Royal York hotel in Toronto many years ago, and of course at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island Michigan.

The Republic of Tea offers a wonderful selection of teas appropriate for Valentine’s Day.  I used their online website to choose individual tea bags.  It was easy to choose a selection of teas that sounded romantic for the day.

It does take a bit of time to drink a small pot of tea, and that is the idea.  Slow down, have a great conversation, look at each other and share a moment together.  The tea sandwiches were delicious too.

To make the walnut and cheese tea sandwiches:

Using 4 ounces of block cream cheese which was at room temperature, add 1/3 cup chopped walnuts.  Mix well.  Trim crusts from bread, and spread the mixture evenly.  Slice into halves diagonally.  Stand some of the sandwiches upright on the plate. These sandwiches could be prepared with pecans as an alternative.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

breakfast panini

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHoliday breakfast recipes usually feature eggs, casseroles, french toast, or waffles.  This breakfast recipe is one that can be made and even served in small slices along with some nice breakfast pastries or warmed fruit.

The recipe comes from CuisineAtHome.com. One of the most important steps to this recipe is the choice of bread used for the panini.  The bread needs to be a sturdy loaf that slices about 1/2 inch thick.

This recipe can be easily adapted to include a variety of cheeses or even meats.  This is how I made the breakfast panini.

Using 4 slices of sourdough bread, spread margarine one side of each slice.  Cook 2 eggs to form a flat omelet.  Place 2 slices of the margarine covered bread/margarine side down on a panini press. Then place the cheese and prosciutto on top.    Next place 1/2 of the cooked egg on each half. Top with the other bread slices, margarine side up.  Close the panini press and grill until cheese is melted through.  These breakfast sandwiches can be made 1/2 hour ahead and kept warm in the oven prior to serving with the warmed fruit or fruit platter.  This is great for a holiday breakfast sliced into sections.  Add a glass of champagne and suddenly you have a party!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

pressed Italian sandwich

Image

 

are you planning a picnic, going camping or just having an outdoor meal on the deck?  if so, this is an easy prepare ahead hearty sandwich that is pressed over a period of a few hours in the refrigerator.  really, anything goes with this sandwich.  choose your ingredients, and then wrap in foil and press.

Image

i used an oval cast iron lid over the foiled covered sandwich on a thin cutting board.  every hour or so, i opened the refrigerator and pressed down to compress the sandwich.  this technique worked very well.

to make the sandwich:  brush the inside of the ciabatta or french bread with olive oil, tapenade, or a combination of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  season with herbs, like parsley, thyme, and basil.  layer thinly sliced turkey, ham, or a combination of meats. choices could include Genoa salami or thinly sliced prosciutto.  add provolone cheese or Swiss cheese.  Add additional condiments as desired.  I added thinly sliced dill pickles, sliced red onion, and a mix of greens.  delicious and easy. serve with salad or cole slaw and fresh fruit.  pressing makes the sandwich soft and easy to eat.  the bread no longer feels dense. if desired, some of the inner lining of the bread could even be removed before the first step of preparation.

Image

easy crock pot macaroni and cheese

Image

 

making macaroni and cheese in a crock pot can be a bit tricky.  the challenge comes from using milk and cheese in a crock pot.  these ingredients tend to curdle when not treated properly. i have been researching recipes, as i have wanted to have a fool-proof way to make this dish without running into soggy noodles or poorly blended cheeses.  i found the technique and the perfect recipe.

the recipe comes from the six sisters cookbook.  actually, i own a couple of their books and really like their easy to make recipes.  if you haven’t checked them out, i would recommend trying a recipe or two from one of their books.

Image

 

the macaroni and cheese recipe comes from this book and worked perfectly in my crock pot. i followed their ingredients and suggestions exactly as written in the book.  this recipe could easily be doubled or tripled.  i used my smaller crock pot, and could have easily doubled the recipe for a larger crowd in this pot.  i would say that the recipe given makes six servings.  i had leftovers for another couple of days that i easily stored.  here is how to make the macaroni and cheese:

boil 2 cups of elbow macaroni only 6 minutes and drain. this shorter cooking time helps the noodles from becoming soggy in the slow cooker. in a medium sauce pot, melt 4 tablespoon butter or margarine and add 2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese to melt.  stir until soft and melted. watch this carefully and don’t walk away.  spray your slow cooker with cooking spray.  add the following ingredients and stir:  1/2 cup sour cream, 1 can cheddar cheese soup, 1 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, salt and black pepper to taste.  add the melted cheese and the drained noodles.  stir very well and cook on low heat.  this recipe will be perfect in 2 to 2/12 hours.

this is not an all day slow cooking recipe.  but, this recipe can be used when you don’t want to be baking a casserole of macaroni and cheese, but would like to serve on a buffet or for a sports party.  guys love this recipe and will enjoy having a scoop with just about any other sandwich or dish on a buffet.

Image