Apple Cheese Sandwich

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Let’s face it – for most of us, sandwiches are a part of life. However much we may dream about sitting down every day to a delicious, beautiful, and decadent yet healthy meal prepared by our own personal chef, chances are it’s not in the cards.

Now that I’ve gotten the bad news out of the way, let’s move on to the good news. Sandwiches don’t have to be boring! It’s time to break out of that deli-turkey-and-swiss rut and embrace the joys of creative sandwiching. As a child, the definitive sandwich was probably peanut butter and jelly on Bunny Bread; maybe you got crafty like Mr. Rogers taught you and made faces out of banana slices and raisins on peanut butter. Maybe that doesn’t sound so great now, but the key is to channel that same sandwich excitement that you had then and bring it to the lunch table now.

For this sandwich, I started off with the old staple (for me, at least) of a cheese sandwich. This has sort of become my new PB&J recently: fast, easy, and tasty with some good potato chips. I decided it could use a little something different, though. My solution not only lightens it up a little, but updates the humble cheese sandwich for fall.

I started off my new sandwich adventure with some great, flavorful bread. The cranberry walnut wheat bread that I used gave a nice blend of sweet and tart and some good nutty depth. I got my bread at Earth Fare, but whatever bakery or grocery store with a bakery that is near you should have options that will work. I switched out the usual mayonnaise and mustard for some honey mustard sauce, which is nothing but a mixture of mayonnaise, mustard, and honey.

The extra sharp cheddar that is the basis of the sandwich stays the same, but I added slices of apple to it. It gives it a satisfying crunch, refreshing juiciness, and a nice blend of sweet and tart. I used honeycrisp apples for mine, but you can substitute any you would like. I suggest a variety that has plenty of flavor somewhere between sweet and tart, but if you are a devotee of the golden delicious or granny smith apple, go ahead and give it a shot!

So there you have it: an absolutely delicious sandwich that is no trouble at all to make, but will liven up your lunch in no time! If you want a little more to eat, pair this sandwich with some butternut squash soup for a rich autumn feast.

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Peach and Blue Cheese Salad

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The best salad in the world? Well, it’s up there.

This salad features grilled (yes, grilled!) peaches from the farmers’ market on a bed of lettuce fresh from the garden. The peaches are peeled, cut in half and pitted, with a little olive oil drizzled on them. When they are almost done, add blue cheese to the hollows for the last couple of minutes so that it will melt. Put them on top of a simple salad of lettuce and a little vinegar, then add pecans and chives, and drizzle honey over everything.

It’s a very unique side that set off our steak quite fabulously. Very fresh and summery tasting!

Speaking of summer, today was the first day of fresh corn of the year! It came from the farmers’ market, since ours is far from ready. Cut it off the cob and cook it in a non-stick skillet with a little butter for a simple but delicious side.

ImageWhen corn is fresh it really makes all the difference! Of course this is true for any produce – thank goodness for gardens and farmers’ markets! Check for local markets in your area. You won’t be sorry!

Pizza Night!

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When pizza is homemade, it isn’t even unhealthy!

Think about how thirsty you get when you have a delicious greasy take-out pizza- that’s from the mountains of salt they use. Not a problem with this pizza! The high-quality ingredients have plenty of flavor and therefore don’t need all that extra salt.

The great thing about homemade pizza is that you can throw anything you’ve got on it, and it will probably be delicious. This is my favorite.

Make up a pizza crust (or two, or more) and bake it for a few minutes, then bring it back out to put on the toppings. This helps to keep the crust from getting soggy. You will still have a delicious pizza without this step, but it will be messy!

I bake my crust on a pizza stone in the oven. The traditional way of getting the crust off of the paddle and into the oven and back is to put corn meal on the paddle before you put the crust down. Maybe there is a secret that I have not discovered, but I find this to be difficult and messy. I put a piece of parchment paper under the crust, and pull paper, crust and all onto the pizza stone and then back onto the paddle. You can just bake the pizza on top of the parchment paper. This is very easy, no mess, and helps keep the crust from getting stretched when you put it in. It will also keep any runover from the pizza sauce out of your oven. I’m always looking for a way to make less of a mess.

If you have fresh tomatoes to use in the sauce, that is ideal, but this time of year I can’t imagine who would have them, so get canned ones. Our home canned tomatoes are running low, so we bought some. You can get canned Pompeii tomatoes, which are better for sauces than regular ones.

For my toppings, I put caramelized onions, which make anything better, basil, roasted red peppers, and mushrooms. Then on top add your sliced fresh mozzarella and bake it! When you bring it out grate on some parmigiano reggiano. It is expensive, but so worth it!

Chances are, you will have more pizza sauce and mozzarella than you will need if you are only making one pizza. Put the sauce in a plastic container and put it with the mozzarella in a freezer bag. You can store it in the refrigerator or even in the freezer, and pull them out another time, giving you a good head start on a meal. If you are planning on having your next pizza in the next day or two, you can even make up enough dough for two crusts and put one in the refrigerator. You will just have to assemble your pizza when you get ready to eat.

Always look for the little shortcuts that make life easier. A little preparation ahead of time saves a lot later!

A Day in Provence

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In Europe, lunch frequently means a simple meal of bread and cheese, especially when you are on the go or don’t have a lot of time for lunch. I recently decided to try this out again, spurred by the discovery of Laura Calder’s Miracle Boule – the closest thing you can get to European bread in North America.

I had honestly forgotten how much I really love bread. This recipe is really quite easy. You just have to have a Le Creuset (or equivalent) pot, and you have to remember that you have to mix it up well in advance of when you want to bake it. I typically mix it up the night before. Also be aware that this bread doesn’t really keep very well. In my house this isn’t a problem, because it is typically devoured within two days (or sometimes the same day I bake it). The Miracle Boule is delicious with just some butter on it, or with butter and jam for breakfast in the mornings. You can do anything with it – including playing French Vacation with this delightful mini-meal.

All you have to do is spread it with some dijon mustard, then some camembert cheese on top of that. It doesn’t get much better than this. The bite from the dijon gives a burst of flavor and leaves a wonderful tingle in your nose, and the soft, creamy camembert (brie’s more interesting cousin) is a longtime favorite of mine.

Though in Europe people typically get their bread from a bakery rather than baking it themselves, meaning that it is cold when they get around to eating it, today I put the mustard and cheese on while the bread was still warm, which made it a really delightful gooey treat. It was kind of a struggle to keep from eating the whole thing in one sitting! But alas, there has to be some bread for tomorrow!