Friday, June 26, 2015

Turkey Club Panini

Yesterday was one of those days!  I felt like I ran a marathon all before noon. It started out on a high note when I finished my early morning workout.  It quickly went down hill when I tried to start my car. Turned the key.  Nothing. Turned the key again.  Still nothing.  My first thought was a wash-your-mouth-out worthy obscenity not fit to be written in a family-friendly blog. My second thought was "It's gotta be the battery."  But there was no one around to help me jump it.  As luck would have it, the men in my life are out of town camping.  So I was on my own and in a bit of a pickle...

With my husband's truck at home, I wasn't completely stranded but I did have to get home...somehow.  After having already exercised for an hour, I walked the quarter mile back home with the muggy temp hovering near 90 degrees.  By this time, I'm really pooped!  

My sister offered to help me "jump" the battery but we felt rather skittish about the whole process. First if all, it's not a task we do each day (or ever).  Second, I'm not sure the application of basic auto mechanic skills is in our female DNA.  We are very capable, modern-day women but definitely lean more to the girly-girl versus grease monkey side of the spectrum. I'm not too proud to admit when I need help.  I just didn't want to blow up the whole battery!  I'm embarrassed to say that we had to consult my car manual just to find the lever to pop the hood.  After looking at my battery, we discovered it was completely corroded around one of the terminals.  Not good.  I decided it was high time to call in the cavalry - well, not really - I called a local mehanic who came to the rescue. The team at Cinco Auto were the heros of my day. I was back in the saddle again in no time.
What does this story have to do with Turkey Club Paninis? Not a darn thing!  But I needed to vent and wanted to share a super easy recipe I prepared for dinner last night after my fiasco of a morning. When you have a day like I had, this can be your go-to recipe.

My Breville Panini Press from Williams-Sonoma

 In my opinion, there are two critical elements required for making an excellent panini sandwich - a panini press grill and an artisan style bread.  The picture above shows my actual panini grill which is made by Breville.  It was given to me as a gift a few years ago and I love it!  Not only is it great for making panini sandwiches, it works great for grilling meats and veggies too. I often grill chicken breasts and salmon fillets on my panini. Invest in a good quality grill because you will end up using it often.  

I discovered this asiago artisan style bread in the bakery at my local HEB grocery store.  It is to die for delicious!  Look in the bakery section of your local store or somewhere like Panera Bread.  I make croutons out of the small end pieces which aren't big enough for sandwiches.  These croutons are especially yummy as a topping on tomato-basil soup (La Madeleine Country French Cafe sells their tomato-basil soup in jars at our local HEB grocery).  Once you eat it, you will never go back to the condensed tomato soup in the can that you mix with water.  

So here are a couple of options for panini press grills - a stove top version and the electronic version like mine.  Staub and Le Creuset both make high quality stovetop panini pans.  The picture below shows the newest version of Breville's panini for the home cook.  Remember, you get what you pay for in terms of quality. Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, Crate & Barrel, and even Amazon have this brand in stock.  Macy's current everyday value price on the Breville is $69.98.

So this recipe is more about "assembly" versus actual cooking.  The panini grill does all the work.


  • Artisan bread
  • Spreadable light butter (such as Challenge Butter)
  • Deli turkey (such as Boar's Head Mesquite Smoked Turkey)
  • Sliced cheese (colby-jack and baby swiss or other preferred cheese)
  • Bacon, crisped in microwave, 2 slices per sandwich 
  • Veggies (optional)


Cook bacon in microwave.  Turn on panini griddle to heat up.  I set between 350-375 degrees. 

Butter one side of each slice of bread.

Prep other ingredients including turkey and cheese.  I cut large slices of turkey into 3 smaller pieces so they fit on bread.  I cut cheese slices in half.

Place buttered side of bread onto panini press.  Add slice of cheese, 2 small turkey pieces, 2 pieces of bacon, another piece of cheese, 2 more pieces of turkey, and another piece of cheese.  

Top with other bread slice then pull down panini press to grill.

  Cook until golden brown and cheese is melted.

Ready to enjoy all the yummy goodness!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Barbecue Chicken Wraps

Have you heard of Red Robin?  Although this restaurant is known for it's hamburgers, my younger son loves the Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Wrap.  It's so delicious!  We generally share it versus a hamburger because it tastes great and seems healthier.  Since it's not practical or affordable to eat out all the time, I decided to recreate this winning recipe at home since it's a hit with the whole family.  I mean, come on.  How often does that happen?                                           

1-2 lbs of Chicken Breasts (about 4) - 4-5oz cooked, sliced chicken for each wrap
Barbecue Sauce (I used Kraft Hickory Smoke)
Mission Wraps (Garden Spinach Herb)
Ranch Dressing  
Colby-Jack Sprinkle Cheese
Tortilla Strips
Leafy Green (such as baby spinach or spinach-arugula blend)
Red Bell Pepper, sliced (optional)


SEASON & BROWN:  Lightly season chicken breasts with salt and pepper or your favorite seasoning.  I gave my chicken breasts a light sprinkling of Adams All Purpose seasoning.  I sprayed my pan with olive oil then placed breasts in heated nonstick skillet to lightly brown outside.  After browning each side, place chicken in crockpot. 

COOK chicken.  Set crockpot setting to medium-low.  Cover chicken breasts generously with barbecue sauce.  I used half to three quarters of the bottled barbecue sauce.  Cook chicken for 3-4 hours.  It will be incredibly tender and flavorful.  Yum!

ASSEMBLE the wraps:
  • Remove chicken breasts from crockpot and cut into thin slices.  Using a small scale, measure out 4-5 oz of chicken for each wrap you are making.
  • Place empty wrap on flat surface (counter or clean cutting board), place sliced barbecue chicken in line down center of wrap leaving a little space on ends to fold wrap over later. Cover with a few teaspoons of warm barbecue sauce from crockpot.  
  • Add ranch dressing, tortilla strips, and sprinkle cheese.  I use Hidden Valley Light Ranch in the squeeze bottle which makes it easy to add a squiggle or two of the dressing on the chicken. I don't measure the tortilla strips or cheese.  I just add a little along top of chicken.
  • Top with lettuce or veggie of choice - spinach-arugula blend and sliced red bell pepper are my favorite. 

  • Fold short sides of wrap to cover each end of filling mixture.
  • Roll one end of the long, open side of wrap to fold over filling.  Hold it tight and begin rolling to close wrap
  • Cut wrap in half and serve with a side of ranch dressing for dipping and your favorite crunchy side such as cucumber slices or carrot sticks.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Artist Printer's Tray Earring Organizer

So my jewelry area - especially earrings - has become a jumbled mess.  Honestly, I probably only wear half of the earrings I own.  I have a monogrammed pendant and a favorite pair of silver loop earrings that I wear the majority of the time.  But there are certain outfits that deserve something more.  Kind of like icing on a cake.   


I decided to sift through my collection of earrings - donating what I no longer wear and organizing what I do wear.  I needed a better way to organize them so I can see my collection at a glance.  For a whopping $5, I came up with a solution in the form of an Artist Printer's Tray while perusing the clearance area at Michael's.

Although the sectioned tray is generally found in the scrapbooking area and used to hold small mementos, photos, and embellishments, I repurposed the tray to hold 2-4 earrings per section (depending on style).  Earrings that dangle may need a single section.  One tray could hold up to 20 pairs of earrings (maybe more).   

I started this project by choosing 3 coordinating 12x12 scrapbook papers.

(1) Botanical Collection "My Darling" (Prima Marketing, Inc.)
(2) Righteous Dots (My Mind's Eye)
(3) Wood Plank    

Each section measure approximately 2.75 x 3.75.  I cut 3 pieces each of wood plank paper and dot paper.  I cut the remaining 6 pieces out of the light blue word paper (same paper I used for my kitchen menu board).  Using Mod Podge and a small foam brush, I applied a thin layer of adhesive directly to bottom of each section before placing in paper.  Press paper gently into each section to smooth.   

Here's how the artist printer's tray looks when filled in with the variety of scrapbook papers.

In addition to corks, I chose a variety of unconventional but creative "holders" to organize my earrings - small metal handles, tiny metal knobs (technically called "screw fasteners"), and small metal buckles.  I wanted to be able to get the earrings on and off very easily.  I found these in the scrapbook section at my local Hobby Lobby at 50% off (sweet!).  The handles and knobs are part of the Spare-Parts colletion by The Paper Studio. The metal buckles are by Jim Holtz Ideology.  The corks are from our personal collection but you can also find bags of craft corks.

The picture above shows the unique holders at a glance before adding the earrings.  

This is how it looks after adding a few of my earrings.  I love that the corks hold the stud earrings without having to take the backs off.

I added a personalized detail to give the project a unique twist.  

For the buckle, I used a small bit to drill a hole through printer's tray.  Each buckle came with a brad style fastener which went through hole to hold buckle in place.  

The handles are attached with tiny screws not brads.  I made a little boo-boo on my first attempt to attach handle by drilling holes through back of tray before noticing the screws.  Grrr!  Hence, I covered my mistake with the blue strip of paper.  I then screwed the handle onto printer's tray. Important FYI - the screws are a little longer the depth of the tray and I may have screwed the whole thing to my table.  Second oops!  Good thing my table is already a little distressed.  Learn from my mistakes!  :) 

The corks attach easily with a little hot glue.  Stud style earrings fit snuggle into crevice between corks.  

Ta-dah!  Here's my finished earring organizer.  It turned out even better than I imagined.  Check out your local craft store for a printer's tray, scrapbook papers, and interesting holders to make your own unique earring organzier.  Have fun crafting! 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes and Feta

Looking for a quick summer meal that's simple and fresh? Look no further!  This easy recipe requires six ingredients (seven if you add a grilled protein) and takes less than 20 minutes to prepare. Another plus - each 2oz serving of protein pasta has 10g of protein.      

- Barilla Protein Plus Penne Pasta (4 servings)
- 6 T, Classico Traditional Basil Pesto (or other prepared pesto)
- 1 pint container grape (or other bite-sized) tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 small container (~5oz) reduced fat feta cheese
- 1/4 cup, toasted pine nuts
- fresh basil, 8 leaves cut into slivers

Cook pasta according to package directions.  While pasta cooks, slice tomatoes in half, set aside. Toast pine nuts and cut basil leaves.

Drain penne.  Pour into large pasta bowl.  Stir in pesto.  Add tomatoes and feta.  Gently stir to combine.  Top pasta mixture with pine nuts and basil slivers.  Add grilled shrimp, chicken, or salmon for a heartier meal.  It's delicious both ways.  Makes four servings -  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Seaside Summer Tablescape

School is officially out for summer.  It's hard for me to believe that I will have one child in high school and another in junior high school next year. High school!  It just doesn't seem possible.  To get my mind off the fact that my kids are growing up way too fast, I decided to restyle my dining room table for summer.                            

First things first, I cleared out the antique dough riser except for filler (pinto beans) to create a clean slate.  This is the same base I use for my other seasonal tablescapes.  

I purchased a few items from Michael's - 2 twine wrapped bottles,  2 glass containers with rope handles, 2 bags of decorative sand -  to add to my collection of seashells and candles.

I was on the look out for two unique items for the center sections  that would provide the tallest vertical element.  I popped into World Market yesterday and found a pair of wood carved sea gulls on sale.  I like how one of the gulls is slightly shorter and smaller than the other.  They were the perfect finishing touch to the display.  

Here's how I placed the variety of items in the 8 sections:
- large white candles in the end sections
- twine wrapped bottles next to candles
- larger rope handled glass containers (filled with sand and small candle 
- two wood carved sea gulls in the two center sections (World Market)

I filled in around the candles, bottles, and glass containers with seashells.  Another nice option would be seaglass or driftwood  pieces.  I like the texture of the shells against the wooden base.

You could easily modify this design for a wooden tray or basket.  Chose 3-7 items depending on size of tray/basket to create your own unique table top design.  It looks best (don't ask my why) to keep your design elements in an odd number.  You may already have a few summery items tucked away that would work perfectly for this project.  

Happy Summer!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Well the heat is already on down here in Texas and it's only gonna get hotter.  I'm always thinking about light, easy and healthy summertime meals.  Why?  Because it feels like summer here about nine months out of the year.  Not complaining.  I can tolerate the heat and humidity over the cold and endless snow.  Although I do miss the four seasons.  Let me tell you, autumn in North Carolina is gorgeous!  I digress...

So back to the business of making lettuce wraps.  Since I had a variety of veggies on hand - red bell pepper, English cucumber, green onion, carrot - I decided to create my version of lettuce wraps using honey battered chicken.    

I happened to have a bag of frozen honey battered chicken breast tenders which my older son loves.  Using the frozen chicken was very convenient but in the future I'd like to make my own honey battered chicken tenders using fresh chicken.

To assemble:  I added two pieces of honey chicken on top of a single lettuce leaf then added a small amount of each veggie plus a little sweet chili sauce.  


Wrap it up and enjoy!  It's messy so have a napkin handy.