Chicken Bacon Ranch Grilled Cheese

I had a day off during the week.

Glorious.  Delicious.  Relaxing.  Exciting….kind of like skipping class, but without the consequences.

No alarm clock mid – week…whatttt?  Yeah, kind of awesome.  Lazy mornings that leak into mid-afternoon…my sweatpants are quite versatile, they can take me from pre-dawn to late afternoon…it is all in the accessories.  Trade off those slippers with socks and you are golden.

My mid-week day off was in exchange for weekend work.  I get two of these days once a month…which means I have to work one weekend a month.  In the world of pharmacy…this is a pretty good gig.  People still get sick after 5pm on Fridays… Weekends happen.  But days off during the week are a great exchange if you ask me…Now if you had this whole being an adult thing down, you would schedule eye/dental/doctor/hair/etc  appointments or do whatever it is adults do on their days off…clean?   Organize closets?  Prep a whole week worths of dinner?  Fold laundry?  I don’t know…but I don’t do those things until I have to….

No, I do zero of those above mentioned things… I lounge in sweatpants, watch endless amounts of Netflix and Hulu, drink coffee until late afternoon, catch up on my Google Reader, and spend the entire morning thinking of what to make for lunch.  I have time to make a kick ass lunch…a lunch not found in a brown paper sack or in my case, my purse…I just toss things in as I am walking out the door every morning…apple, yogurt, a box of soup from Trader Joe’s that will last me all week…all fits in my purse, no paper sack needed.   Saving the earth, one lunch at at time.

I had cheese on the brain this go around.  And bacon.  And was craving a favorite pizza combo.  I had hearty crusty bread.  Ranch, check.  Leftover roasted chicken, always.  It was destiny.

Let’s make a day off grilled cheese.  The best kind.

Ingredient round-up.

Buttered crusty bread.  Ranch.  Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese.  Chicken.  Bacon.

Done. Done. Done. Done. And. Done.

Step 1:  Slather the non-buttered side of bread with ranch.

Step 2:  Cheese.

And A LOT of it.

Step 3:  Leftover Roast Chicken

Step 4:  BACON!!!

Step 5: Even more cheese.

Step 6: Ranch slathered bread.

People, this is a masterpiece.

Step 7:  Grill it.  Or panini press it.

Step 8:  Admire the masterpiece.

A tad cocky, perhaps.  But this sandwich was AAAHHHMAAZZZING.

Step 9:  Sit back, put your slipper/sock clad feet up, flip on some Friday Night Lights, and enjoy your mid-week kick ass lunch.

You earned it.

That morning was rough.

 

 

Chicken Bacon Ranch Grilled Cheese
 
Makes 1 Sandwich
Ingredients
  • 2 Slices thick cut crusty bread.
  • 3 Slices Bacon, cut in half so you have 6 pieces of bacon
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Ranch Dressing
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 3-4oz. Leftover Roasted Chicken, thinly sliced
  • 1-2oz. Extra Sharp Cheddar, thinly sliced
  • Extra Ranch Dressing for dipping – if you are like me and LOVE ranch.
Instructions
  1. Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crispy. Transfer bacon to a papertowel lined plate (to drain excess grease) and drain off grease. If you do not have a panini press (join the club!), use this skillet to make the grilled cheese.
  2. Butter one side of each slice of bread.
  3. Take one slice of bread, butter side down and slather the other side of the bread with 1 tablespoon of ranch dressing (or a tad bit more if you like). Place half of the cheese on top of the ranch. Layer on chicken and bacon. Top with remaining cheddar cheese.
  4. Slather remaining slice of bread with remaining ranch dressing and place atop the cheese, ranch side down, butter side up.
  5. Place sandwich on panini press and cook until bread is golden brown and cheese is melty. If you do not have a panini press, do not fret. Place non-stick skillet over medium heat. Transfer sandwich to skillet and cook until bread becomes golden brown and the cheese begins to melt. Carefully flip sandwich and cook the other side of the sandwich until golden brown.  You may need to place a heavy pan atop the sandwich when you are grilling it, to smash it down a bit – helps stick it all together.  I used a square pyrex dish.
  6. Remove from skillet, slice in half, and enjoy immediately.

 

Bacon Jam

I made bacon jam.

I am also watching golf…on TV.

Today is weird.

I don’t even know me right now.

I enjoy bacon.  I am a fan of jam.  I figured I would love bacon jam.  I was right.

But golf?

I can’t play golf.  I have never played one hole let alone a front nine or back nine or a full eighteen, which honestly is a little overkill.  I can count the number of times I have played putt putt on my left hand (or right for that matter).  My only attempt at golf was as a kid, we hit golf balls in my grandparent’s orchard…I spent more time searching for my golf balls in the bean/corn fields that flanked the sides of the orchard.  A result of hooks and slices.  I never grasped the ability to hit is straight.  And those miniature golf pencils used for keeping score …we used those to keep score of the never-ending gin rummy game.  That has to count for something. No?

… 

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Apple Turkey Melt

I had a goal this weekend of finishing my Christmas shopping, but instead I spent it with friends…which was way way way better.  I probably would have taken any invitation to do or go anywhere…anything to keep me away from the mall and the horrid Christmas crowds.

Saturday I went to an old factory in Lakewood …Today it is referred to as The Screw Factory but its original purpose was to house the production of automobiles and did so from 1918 to 1924.  It is one of those 3 or 4 story brick buildings with a million glass windows…a nearly century old brick building that looks worn out form time and abandoned by life.  The floors are wooden and scarred and bruised.  I noticed the floors and fell in love with them….just plain ole worn out, it just gets me.  And the windows….so much glass, covered with dust and time.  Windows that allow fantastic filtered natural light to stream into each art studio…which is what the old factory now contains.  Individual art studios fill the empty space, giving it a new purpose.  Breathing life into old.

It is also a space to hold a one day only event where local craftsmen/women are able to come and present and sell their goods/art/jewelry/jam….

Last Minute Market.  Have you ever shopped on Etsy?  I am sure you have…Last Minute Market was like a pop-up Etsy shop.  It was awesome, seeing how I spend a lot of my time searching the pages of Etsy for unique jewelry, handbags, and art…this was just the place for me.  While I didn’t buy anything, mainly because I couldn’t decide on which copper/turquoise necklace I wanted, it was awesome to see all the talent that is in and around Cleveland.

And did I mention the old wood floors?  I think I might have.  I want old floors.  So much cozier and warm and inviting than shiny freshly polished wood floors.  I like old things.  Things that are slightly tarnished with time and experience.  Scratches and dents that tell a story.

OK, enough about old buildings and floors.  And enough about Christmas shopping, or the lack there of.  How about dinner?

A quick dinner is needed this time of year.  A hot, grilled sandwich has been on my menu these past few weeks.  Between work, Christmas parties, cookie swaps, and late night shopping…who has time to cook?

But I bet you have an apple, sliced turkey, a bit of cheese, grainy mustard, and some crusty bread.  Staple items that, when thrown together, makes for a quick dinner on the go.  One that is filling and feels a tad bit luxurious.  Way better than any take-out or hot sandwich from Panera.

In a hot cast iron skillet (or any skillet, really, but read how I like old things…cast iron skillets totally fall into that category…even though I bought mine from Target…it feels old, and that is what counts)….in this skillet, layer bread, buttered side down, mustard, cheese, apple, turkey, apple, cheese….that simple.

Top it with another slice of buttered bread.   Don’t get skimpy on the butter…it is winter, we are wearing sweaters.  More butter is allowed.

Flip it when it is toasty and brown and the cheesy starts to melt.  This sandwich is no joke.

Slice in half … even if you have no intention of sharing, which I don’t recommend.  Who shares cheesy melty toasted grilled sandwiches?  No matter how much I say I like you or even love you…you will never get half of my sandwich.   I will show you to the kitchen…I might even make you your own, but sharing mine?  Not gonna happen.

Apple Turkey Melt
 
Makes 1 Sandwich
Ingredients
  • 2 Slices of thick cut crusty bread ( sourdough is great)
  • 1 Tablespoon Grainy Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Teaspoons Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Ounces Gouda Cheese, thinly sliced
  • ½ Apple, cored and thinly sliced (granny smith)
  • 3 to 4 Slices Turkey (deli or roasted)
Instructions
  1. Heat skillet over medium-low heat.
  2. Spread half of the butter on one side of each slice of bread. Place one slice of bread in heated skillet, buttered side down. Spread half of dijon mustard on the side of bread that is facing up.
  3. Layer half of the cheese and sliced apples onto the dijon mustard followed by the turkey slices. Then layer the remaining apple and cheese on top of the sliced turkey.
  4. Spread the remaining dijon mustard on the second slice of bread and place bread, mustard side down, onto the sandwich. Buttered side will be facing up.
  5. Cook sandwich on medium low heat until bread becomes lightly toasted and golden brown and the cheese begins to melt. About 5 to 8 minutes per side. If the bread begins to brown too fast, reduce temperature.

 

Summer Squash Stuffed Boats

I was standing in the middle of a parking lot, shoulder to shoulder with strangers on one side and gossiping/people watching with Mel on the other, just rows from the stage,  preparing for what would be one of the best concerts I have ever been to, when my mind wandered to my hydrator and its contents within.  And what would be added to it come Wednesday, when yet another load of CSA goodies would be picked up.  Ideas have a tendency to pop into my head at the most random times.  Moments away from Mumford and Sons walking onto the stage and I am thinking about summer squash and typing a few quick notes into my Droid.

 Stuffed summer squash with sausage and cheese and oh, mushrooms.  Totally mushrooms.  Chicken, pork, or turkey sausage?  I wonder what is in the freezer?  Oh, that needs cleaned out….before September, make that a goal in life.  There is a loaf of frozen soda bread that needs to become baked french toast or bread pudding…write that down and don’t throw the bread away.  I could add tomatoes to the stuffed squash…I think I remember zucchini boats with tomato sauce somewhere at some point in time.  The boats could kinda float.  Man those nachos earlier were scrumptious and I can’t believe parking was only 5 bucks…unheard of!  I really hope when Mumford and Sons come out that the crowd doesn’t lunge forward…I would hate to be trampled.  Mozzarella cheese on the boats…and a lot of it.   I love the twinkle lights strung across the stage…twinkle lights make the world better.  I need twinkle lights on my patio.  Next summer.  I should write that down too.  And on it went…

And this was my train of thought.  Somewhere in there, I started a recipe or at least the beginning of one.  And this is how ideas pop into my head.  They’re generally among other arbitrary thoughts and if I am listening, I can pluck them out and if I am being diligent, I will jot a quick note down.  Between my phone, a small notebook, scrap paper, and the back of random receipts…I am able to keep track of ideas.  Is it organized in any way?  No.  However, I wouldn’t exactly consider myself an organized person.  I mean, I have a months worth of mail sitting on my deep freezer in the garage.  And while I try to keep cooking utensils in one drawer and baking materials in another, at a glance you would think there was no rhyme or reason.  I am not one to situate my closet according to season.  It is just not in my design to be organized…so why would note taking be any different?

5.0 from 1 reviews

Stuffed Summer Squash
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Medium Summer Squash
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • ½ Yellow Onion, small dice
  • 1 Cubanelle Pepper, halved and sliced into rounds
  • 1 Cup Sliced Mushrooms ( I used Baby Portabella)
  • 4 to 6 ounces Sausage ( I used precooked Jalapeño Chicken Sausages)
  • 1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
  • 1 + ½ to 2 Cups Marinara Sauce
  • ½ Teaspoon Dry Oregano
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 2 Cups Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, mushrooms, and cubanelle pepper and cook until they are softened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add sausage and cook until sausage is cooked through ( if using precooked sausage, then just cook until heated through).
  4. Stir in cherry tomatoes, dried oregano, and ½ cup of marinara sauce and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and prepare squashes.
  5. Cut squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out seeds leaving about inch border around the edges.
  6. Pour remaining amount of marinara sauce ( about 1 cup) into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan. Place squash halves in pan and generously fill each squash half with prepared filling. Top with shredded cheese and place in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes until cheese is bubbly and squash is fork tender.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

 

 

BLT Salad with Avocado Vinaigrette

I hated BLT night growing up.

I also hated beets.  Brussel sprouts.  Dried beef gravy (is this made only my family?).  Tunafish or egg salad lunches.  Pot roast.  Hamburgers.  Pickled eggs.  Breakfast in general.  Steak.

But BLT night was my nemesis.  I just wasn’t a fan of bacon.  WHHAATT???  True.  My breakfast meat of choice was sausage.  Had they been SLT sandwiches, I would have been all over those like white on rice.  But bacon?  Ugh.  What a chore.  And then there was the whole toast situation…kids don’t like toast.  Or crust, which is what bread becomes when it is toasted.  One big piece of crust, which was only edible when well coated with butter, cinnamon, and sugar.  Or grape jelly, spread lovingly by your mother – because, seriously, even at 29…a piece of toast, buttered and jellied by mom tastes better than if the Julia Child had done it.  Am I right, or am I right?  How to properly spread jam and butter on toast is taught in child birthing class….this I am sure of.

Thankfully, I grew out of this (and the rest of my dislikes).  And it has turned into one of my most comforting meals during the summer.  My absolute adoration of bacon helped turn the tables.  I can not be trusted with bacon.  I can only prepare what I plan on using.  There is no, making the whole one pound and storing the leftovers in the fridge and tossing a bit in my eggs for breakfast or crumbling a slice or two in my salad for lunch or mixing it in soup for dinner.  No.  I will just snack on the bacon, all day long.  Instead of a granola bar…2 slices of bacon.  How about carrot sticks and hummus?  Ha, good one.  2 more slices of bacon.  Apple?  Hehe, you are funny.  Bacon.  It is like I am making up for lost time.  Trust me friends, I am not joking.  I will actually snack on bacon.  Do not do this.

How do you like your BLT?  All-American soft white bread or thick and crusty sourdough?  Toasted?  And do you slather mayo all over that bad boy?  I’ll take my BLT with real mayo, iceberg lettuce (no fancy stuff here), and sourdough (or anything thick and crusty) toasted.  And, well, with avocado.  I know, I know, I know.  BLT sacrilege, right?  Lets call it a California BLT and be done with it.  The smoothness and creaminess of the avocado adds such a great texture contrast to the crispy and crunchy bacon, lettuce, and toast.  How come mid-westerners call anything with an avocado, Californian?  Suppose Californians order Ohio BLTs or Iowa chicken club sandwiches when they don’t want avocados?

But hey we aren’t eating a sandwich today.  Nah, I figured I would deconstruct the sandwich and toss together a salad.  So this really isn’t a recipe, because who needs a recipe for a salad?  It is more like a plan…a little bit of this, a touch of that, and adjust to taste.  Salads are super simple and great for the summer, or at least what we have left of summer.  This would be great as the main dish or perfect along side a juicy hamburger.

And I am off to eat the rest of that bacon…

BLT Salad with Avocado Vinaigrette
 
The quantities given are for two salads as the main dish. The vinaigrette makes about 1-1.5 cups of vinaigrette, which can be stored in an air-tight container and stored in the fridge. It should remain good for about 1-2 weeks.
Ingredients
  • ½ Loaf of day old French, Italian, or Sourdough bread ( I used Italian)
  • 4-6 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, peeled and crushed (not chopped)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Ripe Avocado, pitt removed and scooped out of shell
  • 1 Large Handful Fresh Cilantro (about ½-3/4 Cup)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, peeled
  • ½ Cup Olive Oil
  • ¼ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 6-8 slices of Bacon, cooked and roughly chopped.
  • Tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • About 6-8 Cups of Lettuce – a good mix of arugula and romaine
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Make the croutons first. Preheat oven to 200F.
  2. Cut stale bread into 1 inch by 1 inch cubes ( no need to measure, just guess) and spread them out evenly, in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine olive oil and crushed garlic. Saute garlic for about 3 minutes ( you do not want the garlic to brown). Remove from heat and discard garlic.
  4. Pour olive oil over bread cubes and toss to coat. Place in oven and bake for about 40-60 minutes, depending on how crunchy you like them. I prefer mine to be a bit chewy in the center, so I removed mine after 45 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool.
  6. While the croutons are baking, prepare the salad dressing. In a food processor, combine the avocado, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your liking.
  7. Construction
  8. Toss together bacon, lettuce, tomato, and croutons. Drizzle with salad dressing. Enjoy!
Notes
A quick note note on the bacon. Feel free to use thick cut or regular. And cook it to your liking. Chewy and meaty or extra crispy. There is no wrong or right here. I prefer baking bacon…line a baking sheet with tinfoil and place a cooling rack onto the baking sheet. Evenly spread bacon out on rack without overlap and back in a 350F preheated oven until desired doneness is reached. Otherwise, just fry it up on the stove top!