Kale and Melted Cheese Panini

Kale and Melted Cheese Panini

Kale and Melted Cheese Panini

Farmer’s Markets are starting to open or move outdoors now that the weather has warmed up.  I’m tired of making do with supermarket produce, even if some of it is locally grown.  I love going to the open market and seeing first-hand the stalls and rows of fresh vegetables. So on most Thursdays I’ll be part of the crowd strolling in the sunlight from stall to stall, with my bags and basket in hand.  I’ve gotten to know a few of the vendors, so we chat and they keep me informed as to what’s in season right now, right here.  Local to me means having been grown in a 25 mile radius of where I live.

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Dinner inspiration waits at every turn.   A bunch of dark green kale and a juicy early tomato go into my bag.  These will be layered with melty cheese in a savory, cheesy panini.  (today’s post)  I have plans for using the rest of the kale in a  meatless meal that will soon be appearing on these pages also.    Rhubarb goes into my bag next,  ooooh, so many things to make with rhubarb.  What shall be first?   Asparagus, standing in tall bunches, just waiting for me.   Again, I have so many ideas of what to do with them.  Oh, I’m happy.  I’m doing the happy dance!!   1-2-3-cha,cha, cha.

For this vegetarian panini sandwich, layers of sautéed kale, garden-fresh tomatoes and a fine melting cheese get toasted to ultra-deliciousness.  Gruyère or fontina have complex flavors and melt beautifully, but any cheese you have on hand will do.  I particularly like muenster cheese as it too melts nicely, and has a mild nutty flavor that blends with the other flavors of this sandwich.  For anyone who absolutely must have some meat in their sandwich, well, a little bacon never hurt anything, and  it makes a great addition.  As you can see by the photos, I did just that!

KALE AND MELTED CHEESE PANINI

Yield:   makes 4 servingsIMG_7461

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 cups chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 slices country bread (1/4 inch thick), preferably whole wheat
  • cooking spray
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyère or fontina cheese ( or any other cheese of choice)
  • 1 medium tomato, cut into 8 thin slices
  • 2 slices precooked bacon/sandwich (optional)

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Directions:

1.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 5 – 7 minutes.  Add vinegar and cook until almost evaporated, about 1 minute.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Onion and garlic sautéed with balsamic vinegar.

Onion and garlic sautéed with balsamic vinegar.

Add kale, water and salt  (the pan will be full).  Stir, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is wilted and the water has evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Add the kale and cook until it is wilted.

Add the kale and cook until it is wilted.

2.  To prepare the panini:  Preheat panini maker to high.  Coat one side of each slice of bread with cooking spray. With sprayed side down, spread the kale mixture on 4 slices of bread ( about 1/2 cup per sandwich).  Top each with 1/4 cup cheese and 2 slices tomato.

All layered up, ready for the bun top.

All layered up, ready for the bun top.

Top with the remaining bread, sprayed-side up.  Press in the panini maker until crispy,  3 to 5 minutes.

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This is unbelievably good!

This is unbelievably good!

 

SOURCE:   Eating Well Magazine

 

 

 

 

Banana Upside-Down Cake

Banana Upside-Down Cake

Banana Upside-Down Cake

Upside-down cakes were something that we had often when I was growing up.  A one layer cake that had its own topping, therefore there was no need for frosting.  The only kind my mom made was with pineapple;  I never considered that there was any other kind.  That may be true for many of you too, because it is only recently that I’ve been seeing recipes that use other kinds of fruits for the topping.

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When my Spring edition of the Baking Sheet arrived last week it contained this recipe for Banana Upside-down Cake.  And what a happy coincidence,  I had two bananas just at that ready to use stage of ripeness.  In addition to the bananas the topping also includes raisins or cranberries, and chopped nuts.  Playing on the banana/tropical theme some spiced rum is included in the topping and in the cake.  There is no alcohol content left after baking, but the rum does lend its flavor to the cake in a subtle way.

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It’s absolutely best to serve this cake while it is still warm, with a whipped cream topping or ice cream on the side if you’re feeling indulgent.  This was a nice change from the usual pineapple upside-down cake, and we enjoyed it very much.

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BANANA UPSIDE-DOWN  CAKE

Topping ingredients

Topping ingredients

 

Yield:    8 servings

Ingredients:

 Topping:

  • 1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon spiced rum
  • 2 medium ripe bananas, sliced about 1/2″ thick
  • 1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

 Cake:

  • 1  1/2 cups Unbleached Cake Flour

    Cake ingredients

    Cake ingredients

  • 1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons spiced rum

Directions:

1.    Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Lightly grease an 8″ round cake pan that is at least 2″ deep.  If you don’t have one, use a 9″ pan.

2.  For the topping:  Melt the butter.  Add brown sugar, corn syrup, and rum and stir until well combined.  Pour into the bottom of the pan and pat even.  Arrange bananas, raisins (or cranberries) and nuts over this and pat down gently.

Arrange bananas and remaining ingredients in bottom of cake pan.

Arrange bananas and remaining ingredients in bottom of cake pan.

3.  For the cake:  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Cream butter, oil and sugar thoroughly.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.

Add the flour mixture alternately with milk and rum to the creamed mixture, stirring and blending after each addition.  Gently pour the batter over the banana topping.

4.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until the cake just begins to pull from the side of the pan.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning upside down on a serving plate.

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Turn out onto serving plate.

Turn out onto serving plate.

 

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Serve warm and enjoy.  YUM!

Serve warm and enjoy. YUM!

 

SOURCE:   The Baking Sheet,  King Arthur Flour

Braised Chicken with Honey Lemon Leeks

Chicken Thighs with Honey Lemon Leeks

Chicken Thighs with Honey Lemon Leeks

Some of the earliest vegetables to be harvested from the garden are those from the onion family.  Known as alliums, there’s more to these beauties than just the round white onions that we all know.  If you peel back the layers you’ll discover the delicate flavor of leeks, chives and young green onions.  Even the flowers taste good, and they make a lovely garnish on a platter when onions are in a starring role.

 

Leeks were in abundance at the farmer’s market this week;  big, fat ones with long white stalks.

Big fat leeks, honey and lemon.

Big fat leeks, honey and lemon.

If they have been growing in particularly wet, muddy soil, they can be somewhat of a challenge to clean, requiring much rinsing to remove the grit.  However these were exceptionally clean, and I couldn’t wait to cook something with them.  Mr. D’s most favorite soup is potato-leek soup, and that is what I usually make (I probably will still make some), but I decided to give this recipe a trial run because it incorporates honey to help caramelize the leeks.

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Using chicken thighs with bone, allows you to cook this dish slowly so all the flavors blend.  Lemon partners well with the leeks, which cook twice.  They are first sautéed, then roasted to meld with the honey and lemon.  This is a dish that takes you by surprise at how “stinking” good it is;  nicely browned chicken, and tender roasted leeks nestled together.  Serve with a salad and some garlic bread, or rice and a green vegetable.  I think you will love this chicken dish.

BRAISED CHICKEN WITH HONEY-LEMON LEEKS

Yield:    serves 4

Ingredients:IMG_7318

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 8  bone-in skinless chicken thighs
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 4 cups thinly sliced leek (about 3 large)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or chives (optional)

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 400*F.

2.  Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Add 2 teaspoons oil; swirl to coat.  Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.  Massage lemon rind into chicken.

3.  Place chicken in pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned.  Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.

Browning the chicken.

Browning the chicken.

4.  Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pan swirl to coat.  Add leek and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 15 minutes or until leek begins too brown, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.  Remove pan from heat; stir in lemon juice and honey.

Sautéing the leeks.

Sautéing the leeks.

5.  Return chicken to pan.  Mound leeks on top of chicken thighs.  Bake at 400*F. for 20 – 25 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165*, and juices run clear.   Garnish with fresh parsley or chives, if desired.

 

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SOURCE:    Cooking Light

Check out these other recipes that also incorporate leeks:

Pappardelle with Salmon and Leeks

Brown Rice Pilaf

Mushroom, Leek and Cheese Frittata

Whole Grain Blueberry Spice Muffins

Whole-Grain Blueberry Spice Muffins

Whole-Grain Blueberry Spice Muffins

Muffins are the ultimate quick breakfast or snack, and the healthier they are, the better for you.  I’ve been experimenting with converting some of my older muffin recipes into ones that have healthier ingredients in them.  These are not the kind of muffins that could be a dessert or sweet snack.  These are great for breakfast because they will provide the energy you need to get going and will keep you satisfied until lunchtime.

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For this recipe I used half whole wheat flour along with regular all-purpose flour, and added whole-grain oats.  Quick oats could be used, but I like the rough texture and fiber that whole oats provide.  I also took out granulated sugar, and substituted brown sugar instead, making the muffins less sweet, but just sweet enough.  There is very little fat in this recipe since I used fat-free milk, and left in only 3 tablespoons of butter.  Add in some spices that can be apple pie spice, or pumpkin pie spice, or just plain cinnamon and nutmeg to make these muffins your own.  I like a little something  on my muffin tops (not the ones at my waist 🙂 ) so I sprinkled a little sugar on them before baking, giving the tops a little sparkle and crunch.

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These muffins bake up nice and high, and they are easy, nutritious and delicious.  They freeze very well so one or two will be readily available to defrost and reheat in the microwave whenever you want one.   To freeze muffins, let cool completely, then place desired quantity on a baking sheet and freeze individually before transferring to a zip-lock freezer bag.

 

WHOLE  GRAIN BLUEBERRY SPICE MUFFINS

Yield:   Makes 16 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour  (I used 1cup all-purpose, and 1 cup whole wheat.)IMG_7284
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice (or pumpkin pie spice)
  • 1 cup fat free milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1  1/2 cups frozen blueberries (keep frozen until ready to use)
  • cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

1.   Preheat the oven to 400*F.   Grease or paper-line 16 muffin cups.

2.  In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients.  ( flour through pie spice)

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.

3.  In a separate smaller bowl or measuring cup, whisk together wet ingredients. (  milk through egg)

4.  Combine wet ingredients with dry,  stirring only enough to incorporate.  Fold in the blueberries.

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5.  Divide batter evenly between 16 muffin cups.   Sprinkle tops of batter with granulated sugar.

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6.  Bake at 400*F.  for 16 – 18 minutes, till tops spring back when touched.   Cool on a wire rack.

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SOURCE:   Carolyn’s Originals

Broccoli Calzones

Broccoli Calzones

Broccoli Calzones

Oh. My. Gosh.   These are soooo good,  I did not want to stop eating them.  Do I have any regrets?   Yes, I wish I had made more to freeze.

Some calzones can be rather heavy because they are so loaded with filling that includes meat and cheeses, that after eating one, you’re done.  These, however, are lighter than that. The filling consists of chopped broccoli, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and mozzarella used in moderation.  A pizza dough makes the outside, holding all that great filling.  Served with warm tomato sauce, i.e., spaghetti or pizza sauce, and a side salad,  this is a delicious and satisfying meatless meal.

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This recipe makes eight calzones that can be frozen before baking, so when you’re in the mood for one–or two–, just remove the quantity you want, and bake them frozen.  I made only half the recipe for a quantity of four calzones, and I’m regretting that I didn’t make the whole recipe.  It doesn’t take much extra time or effort to make more to freeze, and you’ll be so glad you did.  One of these would be great with a bowl of soup, or with a salad for a light meal.

Note:  the following recipe calls for frozen, chopped broccoli, but fresh broccoli may also be used.  Cut the broccoli into small florets and steam until tender before proceeding with the recipe.  The convenience of frozen store-bought pizza dough helps to speed up and simplify making this recipe, as does jarred tomato sauce.

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BROCCOLI CALZONES

Yield:   8 calzonesIMG_7356

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 packages (10 oz.) chopped broccoli, thawed
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 2 ( 1 pound) packages frozen pizza dough, thawed
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese ( can use small curd cottage cheese instead)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, or pizza blend cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • tomato sauce

Directions:

1.   Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook till soft ( 4-5 minutes).  Add broccoli, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Cook 5-7 minutes till any liquid has evaporated and mixture is hot.  Set aside to cool.

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2.  Preheat the oven to 400*F.  Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

3.  Divide each ball of dough into four ( 4) pieces.  On a lightly floured surface stretch each piece out.  First to a 3 x 4″ oval, then stretch again to 6 x 8″ oval.  Let dough rest as needed to relax before continuing to stretch it. Don’t worry if the ovals are not perfect, they almost never are.

Stretch dough pieces out into oval shapes.

Stretch dough pieces out into oval shapes.

4.  Stir cheeses into cooled broccoli mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.

Add cheeses to broccoli mixture.

Add cheeses to broccoli mixture.

5.  To assemble:  Spread about 1/2 cup broccoli mixture onto half of each dough piece.  Leave 1/2-inch border all around.  Fold over to form a semi-circle/ half moon.  Press edges to seal.  Cut two slits in the top of each one.

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Fold dough over filing the press edges to seal.

Fold dough over filling then press edges to seal.

 

6.  Using a wide spatula or bench knife, transfer the calzones to the baking sheets.  Reshape as needed.

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7.  Bake at 400*F for about 25 minutes, till golden brown.   Serve with warm sauce.

 

Serve with warm sauce.

Serve with warm sauce.

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To freeze for later use:  Proceed through step #5 above, then tightly wrap each calzone in plastic wrap, freeze until firm.  Transfer to zip-lock bags; label and date.  Freeze up to 2 months.  To cook and serve, unwrap and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake without thawing until golden, 35 – 40 minutes.

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SOURCE:   MarthaStewart.com