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.

 

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.

 

Spinach and Feta Quesadillas

Don’t you love being pleasantly surprised?

Not shocked.  No surprise party heart attack.  No racing heart or sweaty palms.  Just pleasantly surprised.

Monday was a day chock full of pleasant surprises.

First off, it was Monday.  Sometimes Mondays are rough.  Sometimes Mondays are straight out ugly…from the sound of the alarm at way-too-early o’clock to the climbing back into bed some 16 hours later, exhausted and spent.  However, Monday, January 23rd … started off with me getting out of bed before my alarm, awake and rested.  Mark this day in history.

Second, I awoke to thundering.  Thunder in January?!?  Yep.  Sometimes we get thunder snow and so when I realized it was raining and 50 degrees at 7am…to say the least, I was pleasantly surprised.

Third, I spent my whole day in orientation.  A day that I was not exactly looking forward to, to say the least.  Sitting for 8 plus hours, in a small auditorium, among strangers, listening to monotone HR peeps talk about mission statements….not my idea of a good time.  However, it turned into one of the best orientations I have ever sat through.  I left there knowing that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  No doubt about it.  Plus, it is the friendliest place, full of the nicest people.  EVERYONE says hello  and people actually smile.  Kinda sorta awesome.  Again, pleasantly surprised.

Fourth, I remembered my grocery list.  And I went to the grocery.  On a Monday evening.  And I didn’t have to wait in the check-out lane for 30 minutes.  I was in and out and didn’t forget a darn thing.  That doesn’t happen, ever.

Fifth, I had a good run.  After a weekend of lounging, sugar, and a whole day of sitting…I wasn’t expecting much.  But once again, I was pleasantly surprised when my legs took me six miles without issue.

I don’t know what came over Monday, but it was quite cooperative.  I think it was because it marked the 4 month count down to my birthday…

So, for my 28 + 2/3rd birthday dinner, I made quesadillas.  If there is something I love more than going out to dinner, it is ordering appetizers while out.  And if I can make an appetizer a meal, I do.  Not at the restaurant of course…I always get a meal too, let’s be real.  But at home, when I am not over indulging…I’ll make just an appetizer.  Monday, it was quesadillas.  Not your run of the mill chicken and cheddar cheese in a flour tortilla with sourcream and salsa…nah, I fancied it up a bit.  We are talking spinach, feta cheese, black olives, roasted red peppers….A bit Greek if you ask me.  They too were a pleasant surprise.

 

Spinach and Feta Quesadillas

flexible

Ingredients

  • Whole Wheat Tortillas
  • Roasted Red Peppers, drained and thinly sliced
  • Red Onion, thinly sliced
  • Feta Cheese (about 3 Tablespoons per quesadilla)
  • Mozzarella Cheese ( about 1/4 Cup per quesadilla)
  • Baby Spinach ( small handful per quesadilla)
  • Black Olives, thinly sliced
  • Butter, 1 Teaspoon per quesadilla

Thinly slice red onions, roasted red peppers, and black olives.  Tear baby spinach into chunks.

Heat a non-stick skillet or cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Spread 1/2 teaspoon of butter onto one side of both tortillas.  Lay butter side of one tortilla down onto a plate.  Evenly spread the mozzarella cheese, roasted red peppers, red onions, feta cheese, black olives, and baby spinach onto tortilla.  (careful not to overfill!)  Top with second tortilla, butter side up.  Carefully place quesadilla into pre-heated skillet.  Cook on each side for 3 to 5 minutes until golden brown and crisp.

Transfer quesadilla from skillet to cutting board and with a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut each quesadilla into quarters.

I topped mine with a Greek yogurt and ate it along side a spinach salad.

I hope you enjoy!

 

Spicy Cranberry Jelly Relish

The Thanksgiving meal, what do you bring to the table?  Do you bring the green bean casserole?  The brussel sprouts?  The pumpkin pie?  Dinner rolls?  The funny story?  Good conversation?  Or the wine?  Everyone brings something, eatable or not.

In my family, Aunt Sue brings the rolls, green bean casserole, and maybe if we are lucky, pumpkin squares.  My sister-in-law, Andrea, brings dirty snowballs – think Oreo truffles, hell’s bells they are good.  My mom makes the stuffing, which is actually my dad’s recipe, and he guides her through the creation of it from the kitchen table as he is drinking his coffee (with Bailey’s I might add!) and rummaging through the black Friday ads.  Megan, sister-in-law 2.0, she brings the stories, the laughs, and all the good gossip.  She brings the fashion too – she can wear scarfs.  I love how she can pull off a scarf and big earrings.  I envy her style.  Peter brings the drinky drink.  Evan brings stories, good stories, funny stories.  We all bring our appetites.

I normally bring some new dessert.  Full of chocolate.  We all love chocolate.  As of yet, I have not found/settled on my dessert for this year.  I am going back and forth between a chocolate tart, bread-pudding, or maybe a cheesecake…  But I do know what I am bringing to the table for the leftover dinner.  The dinner of leftovers.  Can we just state a fact…leftover dinner is always way better than the formal Thanksgiving meal.  Always.  Better.  I am not sure why.  Maybe it is because the anxiety of providing a topnotch meal is over, football is the main concern, food comas have come and gone and come again, and well, the wine and Christmas Ale is doing what wine and Christmas Ale do. So, at the unofficial official best meal of the day – I will be slathering spicy cranberry relish on my toasted turkey sandwich, with a touch of mayo and maybe some stuffing.  Why not right?

It adds a new flavor to that turkey sandwich.  Sweet and then spicy.  Or spicy and then sweet.  And I am not sure if its a jelly or a relish…its a little bit of both.  All I know is that you will love it.  Guaranteed.  It belongs on turkey sandwiches.  Right above turkey and right below the bread.  Kind of sandwiched in there.  I am not one to tell you how to make a sandwich, but this spicy cranberry relish belongs on this year’s turkeywich.  Just sayin’…I sometimes know what I am talking about.  It is also rather tastey on cheese and crackers…

Make this next week for turkey day or the day after turkey day.

 

Spicy Cranberry Relish

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

  • 3 Red Peppers, seeded and finely  diced
  • 1 Jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 Cubanelle Pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Liquid Pectin
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 3 Cups Fresh Cranberries

Directions

In a large pot, combine the finely diced red peppers, jalapeno, cubanelle pepper, crushed red pepper, salt, and sugar.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook for about 5 to 10 minutes.  The sugar will melt and the peppers will release quite a bit of liquid.

Add liquid pectin and lemon juice and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Add cranberries, cook for another 10-15 minutes.  The cranberries will begin to pop open and it will begin to thicken.  Stir occasionally and smash a portion of the cranberries against the side of the pan, squishing them.

Remove from heat and transfer to glass jars with lids.  Let cool and then place in refrigerator.  Good for up to 3 weeks when stored in the refrigerator.

Garlic Knots…

Um…it’s Monday again.  How did this happen?

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know…the sun rose and set 7 times.  The earth rotated or is it revolved?? Anywho it swirled around on it’s axis seven times.  (Rotated…just looked it up, sigh)  The second, minutes, hours, and days ticked on by….that is how we got to Monday.  But seriously, why did it have to happen so fast?

I am not complaining about it being Monday.  Nah…I don’t mind the start of a new work week.  I mean work provides for me what I need and then some.  I am able to provide for myself, have a roof over my head, many many many shoes in my closet, and a stomach full each and every day.  It also provides a structure, a plan, a schedule.  I like schedules, I like plans, I like structure.  I do.  It makes me feel sane and in control, so I plan, I schedule, I structure…No, I am not complaining about another work week.

But I am complaining that time keeps going by faster and faster.  Remember when you were maybe 15 years old and you rolled your eyes at your mother when she mentioned that time was just flying by.  That she blinked and her kids were no longer babies but teenagers.  That she just couldn’t believe that it was such and such holiday again already.  Where did this year go?  Remember those motherly mutterings?  Remember thinking that she was a tad bit loony?  That how could she possibly think that time was going by fast…to a mere 15 year old it was crawling by.  Remember telling yourself that you would never utter the words … ‘each year just seems to go by faster and faster…’?  And now, do you remember when you said exactly, exactly what you promised yourself that you would never utter?  I don’t remember the day or the conversation, but I have definitely muttered those words.  Many a times over.  And then I said ‘ man, I sound like my mother’, smiled, and continued on.  It happens.

So, here I am about to say it again.  Where is the time going?  Seriously?  It is Thanksgiving in 10 days!  Was it not just July 4th 2009?  And it’s Thanksgiving 2011 already?  WHAT?!?  You can say I am having a small moment.  So, I am making an early (or really late, depending on how you look at it) New Year’s Resolution.  I would like to be more present.  Less time thinking about what I want to do/accomplish/cook/see/read/etc…and more time actually doing what I want to do.  Maybe, just maybe doing this … time won’t feel like it is just flying by.   Well, maybe it’ll still fly, but at least I’ll have a seat on the plane.

I wanted to make bread.  So guess what?  I made Garlic knots.  I am so rocking out this resolution.

Make these for this Thanksgiving dinner.  Or tomorrow for dinner.  Or next week for Sunday night dinner.  Just promise me that you will make them.  They are good.  They are simple.  Just please make sure that if you make these, you must share them.  Make sure everyone at your dinner table eats at least one.  Because when you are serving garlicky foods…its a rule, everyone must eat the garlic.  Therefore, the horrible garlic breath isn’t noticed because, well…everyone smells.  Fact.

 

Garlic Knots

Makes a Baker’s Dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 + 7/8 tsp Instant Dry Yeast (or 1 package Active Dry Yeast, I had only instant)
  • 1 Cup Warm Water (straight from the tap should be warm enough, about 115°F)
  • 2 +1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 tsp Sugar

Topping

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Melted Butter
  • 5 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • Handful of fresh Parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions

In a small bowl/mixing cup, combine warm water, yeast, olive oil, sugar, and salt and stir to dissolve yeast.

In a larger bowl, measure out the flour and then pour yeasty mixture into the flour and with a fork stir until it comes together (it should be lightly sticky, but not gooey.  If it is too sticky, then add a bit more flour)  Empty contents of bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead dough for about 3 minutes or until the dough forms a  smooth round ball (when it is lightly poked, the dough should rebound).  Coat the mixing bowl with a bit of oil and place dough into bowl, lightly coating the dough with the oil from the bowl.

Cover bowl with a dishtowel and place in a warm, draft free place for an hour or up to 3, or until the dough doubles in size.  (The perfect warm draft free place in my house is the oven with just the oven light on, works like a charm).

When the dough has risen to twice it’s size, empty out onto a lightly floured surface and with a rolling pin, roll dough out into a rectangle of sorts, measuring about 12 x 10 or so.  With a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut dough into 1 inch wide strips.  Take each strip and tie into a knot and then fold/wrap in the ends.  This does not need to be perfect, just make sure no ends are hanging out.  Place knot onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and continue making knots.

When all the dough has been tied, cover with dishtowel, and place back into warm, draft free place for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Bake knots for 15 to 18 minutes.  Or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, while the knots are baking, prepare the topping.  In a large bowl, combine the oil, melted butter, garlic, and parsley.  Stir to combine.  When the knots are done baking and still steaming hot, either brush the topping onto each knot or toss the knots in the mixture.  Either way…get the topping onto the knots as soon as they come out of the oven.  Sprinkle with parmasean cheese, and enjoy immediately.

Store in air tight container and when reheating, wrap knot in aluminum foil and bake in 350ºF for 5 to 10 minutes.