I was given a challenge… A Sandwich a Day wanted us to showcase our favorite sandwiches.
I’ve told you before how I could live on sandwiches alone possibly and how one of my most addictive sandwiches is my Avocado Tomato Sandwich. Sometimes I fail to come up with new ideas for sandwiches because I am so enthralled with this one still. I even dream about eating it sometimes.
But recently I have come to learn to love another sandwich… maybe not as fresh-tasting as the one above, but certainly very seasonal. Mixing apples, onions, thyme, almonds and blue cheese in between 2 pieces of bread might not seem very appealing, but oh, oh boy, how delicious it is. This has nothing to do with my Latin roots, but everything that I have learned to appreciate from my travels in the Northeastern part of the US.
Inspired by these crostini from Giada Di Laurentiis, this panino hits the spot on a cold winter night. I might even argue it works great for a nice cozy date in front of the fire. I think your date would be greatly impressed.
APPLE ONION RELISH PANINI WITH GORGONZOLA
2 slices of 100% whole grain bread
Gorgonzola Cheese crumbles
Toasted Sliced Almonds
¼ cup of Apple Onion Relish
Butter – for the outside of the bread/sandwich
- Pre-heat your Panini maker, or in my case, my George Foreman Grill.
- Spread cream cheese on the inside of both bread slices. This will be part of the glue that makes the sandwich stay together.
- On one slice, add the apple onion relish. Try to keep it as dry as possible so the moisture won’t seep out of the sandwich. Layer the toasted almonds and finish with the blue cheese crumbles.
- Close the sandwich with the other slice of bread, cream cheese on top of the almonds/blue cheese.
- Butter the outside of the slices with some softened butter.
- Place on the Panini maker and press lightly without forcing it too much. The sandwich will flatten as it toasts in the Panini maker.
- After a few minutes, the cheeses will be melted and the bread toasted on the outside. Carefully, remove the sandwich from the panini grill and allow it to cool slightly. This will allow you to cut into the sandwich without the breads sliding all over the place.
Enjoy with you favorite sparkling cider or tea.
I firmly believe that God or the Universe, however you prefer to say it, puts the right people in our path for us to learn and grow… And Annie Mariel has been a real blessing in my life. It’s as if God, in his all-knowingness, understands and knows exactly the type of person you need in your life at a certain time in your life.
We got along almost immediately since we met each other about 5 yrs ago in a conversational French class. We have lots of things in common – we’re both consultants, we both enjoy anything French, we both enjoy to travel, we follow yoga and spiritual practices, we are both vegetarians… bueno, almost vegetarians because Annie Mariel still eats seafood and shellfish on occasion. But she gets my idiosyncrasies of being vegetarian. She has passed on to me her love of running and we even applied to run the Amazing Race together… (oh boy!!!)
Annie Mariel is a great supporter and fan of KarmaFree Cooking… and for my last supper of 2012 she wanted to contribute by bringing a salad. She knew I was going to cook pasta. She asked me to make it as light as possible, so I pleased her by making the sauce all tomato, instead of mixing it with some cream or half and half, like I like to do on other recipes. She told me she would surprise me with the salad… and that she did.
This salad had a little bit of everything… and it was delicious! I asked Annie Mariel if I could feature her salad in KarmaFree Cooking and she agreed. I hope I make her proud. Try it for yourself…
ANNIE MARIEL’S COMPOSED SALAD
Sliced Red Onions
Crumbled Blue Cheese
Toasted Almond Slices
Crispy Fried Onions
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
- In a large bowl add all the ingredients. Toss lightly to combine
- Dress the salad with vinaigrette.
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Sal and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Place all the ingredients in a empty glass or mason jar. Shake well to combine. Let rest for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to combine well.
- Serve on top of your favorite salad.
Some of us love and enjoy cooking… Some of us just like to eat and would very willingly skip the cooking part because they find no joy in it at all. Or they just believe they do not have the skills necessary to cook delicious and healthy meals.
Such is the case of my friend Alison, the executive director of KarmaNYC’s Karma Life & Style Magazine. Alison loves to eat and she actually wants to follow a more healthful diet but feels her skills in the kitchen are an obstacle to her goal. She does not feel comfortable in the kitchen, AT ALL… not even her own kitchen. She doesn’t even know what kitchen appliances she owns!!!
She came to me for help… “Madelyn… I can’t cook to save my life!!! Where do I start??” Alison is not alone… I get this same question all the time from friends, family, even people I meet randomly. And what I suggest all of them do is start SMALL.
I now love cooking… but this wasn’t always that way. I remember there was a time when all I knew was to make things in the microwave. But it’s all a matter of exposure… exposure to flavors and techniques and ingredients that make your life easy and delicious.
I went to Alison’s home recently and created a whole dinner party menu ANYONE can put together, even kitchen-challenged Alison!!!! This menu is all about ASSEMBLY – mixing, layering, pureeing, tossing together ingredients which in the end all look and taste delicious. And on the best thing… it’s all good for you. Look at the directions of each of these recipes… lots of assembly, very little tending over a stove.
Here was our menu:
Baked Goat Cheese in Tomato Sauce
Mesclun Greens, Figs and Blue Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
I hope Alison and some of you “eaters-not-cookers” find the confidence to make at least one of these recipes at home. You don’t have to make them all for a dinner party… start small. Pick one and start building your self-confidence. You’ll see that in very little time you’ll slowly start enjoying cooking, or at least “assembling” a whole lot more.
Stay positive… I am rooting for all of you. Right, Alison???
This is my current favorite salad… hands down, I have been making it for 2-3 weeks straight almost every time I cook for myself at home.
Chame is my friend for 15+ years now. And she has been inspired by our little blog here to follow a healthier lifestyle. By reducing the animal products she and her family eat, they have been able to lose many pounds. She tells me she feels with more energy, her cholesterol numbers are lower, she is trying new recipes each week … basically, she is in love with their new lifestyle. The message here is that shifting your habits and lifestyle overall, does lead to improvements in weight and self-esteem.
When I was in Miami recently she invited me over to dinner. She wanted to “brag” about the changes they’ve made in their diet and lifestyle and wanted to showcase one of their favorite meals – A mini pizza with a spinach salad with blue cheese and figs. After my experience at Cocina Abierta recently, I am certainly a believer of figs in a salad.
Inspiration goes both ways… I am grateful to Chame for inspiring me to create this salad. This is as easy as any salad is, and impressive enough to make for company.
CHAME’S SPINACH, FIGS AND BLUE CHEESE SALAD
Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, sliced or diced
Dried Mission Figs, diced
Crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Assemble all salad ingredients in a salad bowl – from the spinach up to the cheese.
- In a measuring cup or bowl mix together 2 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar with a dash of salt and pepper to season. Mix well and drizzle over salad. Toss to coat.
Stuffed peppers are definitely one of my favorite clean-the-fridge meals. I tend to make these recipes a little bit different each time because I work with all the little bits and pieces I have in my fridge. I use mostly left-over rice as a filling, but orzo pasta, quinoa or even couscous work deliciously here. I have even used left-over butternut squash risotto from a large party, added a few extra veggies and made stuffed bell peppers for a crowd after my sister’s baby shower once.
However, the other day I purposely made a conscious effort to think of what I would put in. I am in a blue-cheese kick lately ,so I wondered how would my beloved stuffed bell peppers would taste using gorgonzola as the main cheese. I know I already loved them filled with goat cheese… so this would be a nice twist if successful. And successful it was.
BLUE CHEESE STUFFED BELL PEPPERS
1 large bell pepper – I prefer yellow, orange or red for this… but a green one will do also
1 cup cooked brown rice
½ medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped finely
1 small carrot, chopped small
1 small tomato, chopped
3-4 white button mushrooms, chopped
3 large handfuls of baby spinach or any other hearty green lettuce
2 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup gorgonzola crumbles
½ cup walnut pieces or almond slivers
¼ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded for topping
Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, onions, garlic and carrots. Season with salt and pepper lightly and sauté for a few minutes for the onions and carrots to soften.
- While this cooks, cut the bell pepper in half and clean the insides of all ribs and seeds. Set aside.
- Add the mushroom pieces and cook for a few minutes. Add tomato pieces and cook for them to release their juices.
- Add the spinach and mix together so it wilts. Season with salt and pepper to help the spinach release its juices.
- Remove from heat. Add the cooked rice and mix well. Add the cream cheese and gorgonzola. If you feel the mixture is a bit stiff, add a drizzle of olive oil to soften it.
- Add the walnuts or other nut you might have handy.
- Fill generously each bell pepper half with rice/cheese mixture. Top with some shredded cheese to make a nice cheesy crust on top.
- Place the pepper halves in a baking dish and cook in a 425F oven for about 25-30 minutes. The filling is already cooked but this will cook and soften the pepper outside.
Serve alongside a crisp green salad and dinner is served!!!