Foodie Penpal: Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I did a neat thing in June. I signed up for this cute little Foodie Penpal project by the lovely Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean. Over the course of a mere few months, Lindsay has managed to connect hundreds of food bloggers like myself in an awesome exchange program. This month, as a virgin participant, I got a sweet package from Sarah of Seattle, Washington, who sent me a box of local delights.

You can’t imagine my glee when the pudgy little brown box showed up on my doorstep (um, hello, who doesn’t love getting goodies in the mail?) and my squees of delight when I unearthed the sweet, bubble-wrapped treats.

Duh, I popped all of the bubble wrap. What do you take me for, an adult?

In her letter, Sarah suggested to slather some of the pickled peppers on a grilled cheese sandwich – and slather them I did. I haven’t yet dived into the salted caramel because, like a doofus, I forgot to get a vat of vanilla ice cream during this past week’s grocery shop.

So, Sarah, in honor of your perfect idea, I made a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches with the help of Mama Lil.

These are the makings of a spectacular summertime sandwich. Vine-ripened tomatoes, spinach, whole wheat bread and Vermont cheddar cheese. Of course, the sandwich packs some extra flavor punch thanks to Sarah’s super gift.

I’m a professional sandwich stuffer. Do not attempt unless trained by a professional.

I added a handful of sautéed onions to make the sandwich sing.

Word to the wise: get some pickled goodies to enhance any mundane morsel, from paninis and grilled cheese to salads and stir-fries.

Spice it up.

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Breakfast Panini

I’m excited.

I’m excited for picnics, avocado salads,  raised beds and the excuse to wear SPF 30 on my face. I’m excited to be outrageously sweaty the moment I wake up. Most of all, I’m excited to refill ice trays thrice a day and have endless sweet tea.

Breakfast paninis on the porch are another excuse to get some healthy Vitamin D in my sun-craved body.

All this excitement might inspire me to get a piercing. Or a hot-dang tattoo. Maybe.

German rye from my favoritest bakery is the foundation of this super duper breakfast meal.

Some sharp cheddar cheese and thinly sliced zucchini provide heartiness while the arugula gives it a flavorful punch.

Every so often I’m in a square mood. Today’s one of those days. Nerding out with computer shopping and home decorating ideas.

The eggy ingredients are cooked into a burrito-like omelette, which fits evenly onto the bread.

Butter can be replaced with olive oil to help the panini maker crisp up the bread.

Don’t have a panini maker? You can just fry this on a skillet and press it firmly with a spatula. Flip and repeat!

Zero recipe. Get creative with your panini.

Get excited for the sun.

Curried Tempeh Sandwich

I’m a big girl now.

Sure, I still tape unframed photos to the wall and go out into the cold with wet hair (I don’t have a blow-dryer, what). I still peruse Craigslist for free furniture and refuse to pay more than $600 in rent. Pizza is my go-to. So is PBR.

But soon, I will have enough money to finally get a new computer. A Kitchen Aid mixer. Shoes.

And I won’t feel guilty for going to shmancy restaurants with crudité and dessert wine cocktails.

I’ll still make the best gin and tonics, though. And I’ll still construct better sandwiches than the co-op that charges $8 for a bunch of vegetables on a slab of rye bread. What’s up with that?

Whenever I cook tempeh, I always have to mutter something about how weird and awesome it is. It’s really weird. And fantastically fibrous and high in protein. Slab o’ goodness. It’s the SPAM of vegetarians.

And I love cooking it up with weird things like coconut milk and green curry paste. It soaks up flavors like a thirsty bumble bee.

These get pan-fried in more coconut oil and de-greased on paper towels.

Oh man. I’m going to get a Kitchen Aid mixer. Stiff peaks, here I come!

Check out that spread. Mozzarella. Summer squash. Dijon mustard. Crusty bread.

It just got real.

Indoor picnics are necessary when it’s 30 degrees out. At least we had some sweet mango-and-mint tea. And small conversations.

Curried Tempeh Sandwich.

For the tempeh:
8oz (1 package) tempeh, thinly sliced
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon green curry paste (or any color)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon coconut oil

For the sandwich:
Anything and everything you love putting on a sandwich. Cheese, veggies, spreads, you name it.

Bring the water, coconut milk, curry paste and salt to a light simmer. Add the tempeh and cook until all of the liquid is absorbed.

Heat the coconut oil on a medium skillet. Fry the tempeh on one side until golden brown (3-4 minutes) before flipping. Let slightly cool on paper towels before making sandwich.

Makes about 12 slices for 4-6 sandwiches.

Peanut Butter, Banana and Honey Sandwich

My hair is greying.

Not just a few. It’s got highlights. White highlights. Highlights that I wish would just clump together so I could call them a skunk stripe and be both Rogue and Mrs. Robinson at once. Any maybe fly and have super strength. While seducing adolescent men? Maybe I’ve gone too far.

When someone caught me drinking three cups of instant coffee, watching Top Chef while painting my nails and heating up more waffle fries for dinner, I had to make a self-intervention.

I went to bed early. I woke up 30 minutes early and made tea. And home lunch, the way Mom used to pack it.

Although I grew up jealous of my friends’ cool Lunchables with their mini sandwich meats and bite-sized cookies, or even the SPAM musubis, my white-hair-clad, nine to five aging body is grateful for the comforts of home. This time, the kids were jealous of my lunch.

No recipe required.

This is fancy bread. It’s got rye. And cranberries and pecans.

Creamy? Chunky? Bananas? Apples? Jam? Honey?

Everything but the brown paper bag.