Pantry Paninis

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Yesterday was a beautiful bright day….the sun was out here in the Pacific Northwest for the first time in a while.  Temperatures rose to 65 and we all basked in the glorious sun like so many lizards on a rock.  When I picked the gkids up from school we decided to stay outside, take advantage of the sunshine, and work in my garden awhile.  As you can see, it has been neglected a bit over the winter.  With visions of carrots and green onions fresh from the soil, and future tomato sandwiches, we weeded a bit, checked to see if the volunteer 20130308_111614_resizedcarrot seeds had sprouted, picked out the dead herbs caught in the recent frost, raked a bit, and generally enjoyed being outside.  The garden is looking pretty good, but we were not fooled by this early rare Northwest sunshine, we ignored our urge to start planting….I know we have some cold, wet weather ahead. But it was pretty tempting!

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With the sage, rosemary, chives, and thyme looking pretty good, it was with some reluctance we came in, a bit muddy and hoping the sunny days would last a few more before the rain returned.

So cooking…hmm…what to fix in a hurry? After their garden exploits, the gkids were starving, so we began to rummage around in the pantry.   My answer for a quick meal is always sammies (sandwiches) as the kids call them.  But since the kids were there and available for a cooking lesson, I didn’t want to fall back on PB&Js or grilled cheese.   So we settled on making Paninis.  What are those?  Italian style sandwiches!  It so simple:  Stuff slices of mozzarella, tomatoes, prosciutto, fresh basil, roasted red peppers, and whatever else makes you happy between two slices of good Italian foccacia or ciabatta, brush with extra Virgin olive oil, and press between the hot plates of a panini grill.  Delicioso!

A look through the pantry told me I had none of the above! But if living in Italy taught me anything, it taught me to be inventive!  So, what was on hand?  I had  raisin nut bread, a few cold cuts, and left over Mascarpone cream (although cream cheese works great too!).  And no white potatoes, but I had just two big sweet potatoes left in the pantry. A banana, some blue berries and yogurt.  We were off to a good start!

20130308_111402_resizedI also owed my son-in-law a batch of his favorite peanut butter cookies for fixing the latch on my warped front door.  With all the rainy weather, my door had warped just enough to make the latch stick and not lock properly…it was Randy to the rescue, so I had promised him some cookies for his kindness.

OK…a menu!  Turkey and Roast Beef Mascarpone Panini with sweet potato fries, and fruit parfait with peanut butter cookies for dessert!  Not bad for a pantry raid on a late afternoon spent outside!

First the cookies.  Peanut Butter Cookies are not only Randy’s favorites…but my gkids also love them.  I always have the ingredients in the pantry, and they are really quick to stir up

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Making the criss-crosses with forks seem to be the most fun (next to eating them).  There were plenty for us for supper and plenty to take home to dad.

Next, since the oven was hot, we cut up the sweet potato fries, skins and all, sprinkled them with olive oil and salt, tossing them with our clean hands,  and put them in a hot oven – 450 degrees for about 20 minutes until they were tender crisp.

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Next, while those were cooking we built our Fruit parfait with chopped fruit, vanilla yogurt and the last few strawberries I had for the top.  These go great with cookies!

Then came assembling the paninis…raisin/walnut bread spread with Mascarpone (or cream cheese) and piled high with cold cuts from the deli.  In our case we had a combo of smoked, sliced turkey, and slivers of roast beef.  A bit of butter on the outside of the sammy and into the press!  These really take such a short amount of time, we waited til the potatoes were done before we started them.  Using unexpected ingredients in our paninis is what make them fun.  Cooper added some sliced apple to his, and Olivia opted for a slice of jicama!  Fun!  You can make panninis without a press by using a grill pan and weighting each sandwich with a dry skillet or heavy pot while they are cooking, Flip and do the same…just as good!  The kids like the panini press, it’s pretty inexpensive and I recommend one.  They also work great for quick grilling almost anything…including veggies!

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And finally, our plate looks pretty good for a quick “what’s in the pantry” meal!

20130307_183109_resized Such an enjoyable day with my gkids.  I am so lucky to live nearby, to get to spend time with them, watch them grow and join in the fun!  Take some time to enjoy your day too!

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