Category: Sandwiches


Ridiculously enough, the Super Target in Duluth (Minnesota, about 40 minutes North of us) has already cleared out their summer seasonal section and is in the process of building their back to school displays and stock. Last week’s ad already had back to college/school deals, even. It’s July for crying out loud! As cringe inducing as it may be, it’s almost time for a new school year to start. Not only does that mean buying school supplies and clothes but it also means, hopefully, coming up with ideas for lunches for your kids. With the new school lunch guidelines (unrealistic demands) firmly in place and making lunch miserable for the majority of schoolkids, it’s often better to feed kids a home lunch anyway. The school my kids go to is extremely small (only about 300 kids total and it’s PreK-12 in one building), so the lunch team makes a lot of their foods from scratch. Their hearts are certainly in the right place but, thanks to the aforementioned dictates, their food still isn’t my kids’ preference a lot of the time. To say the least, it’s a challenge to come up with interesting ideas sometimes; sending lunch 5 times a week can seem an impossible task. Thankfully, there are SO many easy, tasty ideas that can be packed into a lunchbox! One of the simplest lunchbox items out there are the infamous-yet-wildly-popular Uncrustables; the little round, crustless PB&J sandwiches that can be found lurking in the freezer section. These tiny sandwiches are chock full of unpronounceable ingredients- including high fructose corn syrup- and are insanely overpriced. With one simple gadget, your own ingredients, and about a minute and a half you can make your own homemade uncrustables! And they are every bit as tasty as the ones from the store- even more so because you can fill them with anything you want. PB&J or honey? Of course! But how about ham and cheese, turkey and guacamole, or even Nutella and strawberries? When you make your own you can get creative and end up with something WAY more interesting than what you can get pre-made and the price tag is far more manageable.

To get started, you’ll have to make a small investment: at least one pocket sandwich cutter (as opposed to cutters that just cut shapes). You’ve probably seen them at the store, jumping out at you from hangers in the condiment or bread aisles. Or perhaps you’ve seen them on bento or home chef sites. Here are the two I have:

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The metal cutter is a gift from my BFF and will run anywhere from $4.00 (on EBay) to about $20 (from Pampered Chef on Amazon). This has lasted me about 3 years so far and I expect to be using this for years to come. The plastic square cutter was $1.00 from Dollar Tree. It works well, but is starting to curl along the edges from being pushed down to cut the crusts off of sandwiches. I use fairly sturdy wheat bread instead of mostly air white bread, so the cutter has some work to do. It will probably only last another year or two. It’s up to you which you use, but I would recommend getting the best quality cutter you can manage.

Let’s make some sandwiches! Zachariah is still staunchly against cold meat sandwiches, so he gets PB&J or PB&H. **This is important: if you’re going to make a PB&J or PB&H sandwich that’s going to have to sit for more than about 20 minutes, you need to put a protective layer on both slices of bread or the jelly or honey will seep through. That’s terribly unappetizing! You can use either a thin layer of peanut butter on the top slice or, even tastier, a thin layer of softened butter. (Trust me on this: try the butter!)

The classic Uncrustable combination:

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Liliana & Gloriana love them some ham sammiches, but Liliana has to have cheese but no mayonnaise and Gloriana has to have hers with mayonnaise but no cheese. They’re twins but definitely their own people 🙂

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To make pocket sandwiches of any kind you’ll have to be careful that you put all of the ingredients within the shape that will be made after you’ve used the cutter. If it helps, you can press the cutter very lightly into the bottom slice of bread to get a faint outline to use as a guide. Also, make sure you don’t over fill the sandwich or the top slice of bread will burst open when you press down on the cutter. As you can see, these sandwiches didn’t turn out perfect like they usually do. I tried a different brand of bread and it obviously isn’t going to work for these because it isn’t quite as soft as it needs to be. But that’s ok; you live and learn. I’ll go back to the bread I was using 🙂 Once you’ve made a few pocket sandwiches you’ll have a feeling for where things need to be placed and in what amounts.

These are just the super basic models; use whatever your kids love or get creative and have some fun. And happy new school year, ready or not!

So after being informed by my BFF that the print feature I added awhile back actually prints the entire blog post instead of only the recipe like I wanted it to, I have (with a little help from a more experienced blogger) figured out how to make only the recipe in each post printable. Yay! So from now on you will be able to print only the best part of each post: the recipe! And when I get time here and there I will go back and add the feature to all of my other posts (which number 72 as of today, so it may take me a little while to get it done). Thank you all for sticking with me thus far! ❤

The last few days here in Northern Wisconsin have been just heavenly; highs in the low to mid 70’s, a cool breeze all day, and chilly nights to cool the house off to be ready for the next day (saving a ton on the AC bill). This is what I envisioned summers to be up here and I love it! It’s a very welcome break from the unusual heat that’s been hanging around and making a nuisance of itself. And it may return, so I’m going to make the most of these cooler days and get some things made to help when it’s too hot to do any real cooking. One of the items on that list is lemon garlic chicken breasts. There are 2 huge advantages to this chicken: 1) you can put it in a zip top bag with the marinade ingredients and put the whole thing in the freezer until you’re ready to use it and 2) it’s super versatile, which is always a plus! These chicken breasts can be served just as they are with some sides, they can be sliced and put over salad veggies, they can be made into a sandwich, or they can even be chopped up and made into a creamy, garlicky chicken salad with just a hint of zing from the lemon zest. They’re fantastic year round, but they definitely hold a special place in my summer line up!

To get started, here’s what you’ll need:

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Yes; that is honey mustard salad dressing- and it can be any brand. When toying with the marinade the first time I made this chicken I found something really lacking in the flavor. I stood at the fridge after dinner that night, searching for something to add and my eyes settled on a bottle of honey mustard and the light bulb went off. I added some the next time I made this dish and it solved the problem perfectly! So the salad dressing is optional; the flavor doesn’t stand out in the finished dish. But there is definitely a lack of *pop* in the dish when the honey mustard is left out.

There are 2 options for the chicken breasts; you can either buy chicken cutlets, which are chicken breasts that come packed in thin slices (horizontally), or you can buy regular boneless, skinless chicken breasts and slice them into cutlets at home. The latter option is SUPER easy and is what I do most of the time. Here’s how you go about such a thing…

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(**Note: The Humble Food Snob is still married! You can’t see it here, but the nail on my ring finger is very bad off. I had a wound on the side of my nail get severely infected over a month ago- I actually had to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night it was so bad. Thankfully I didn’t have my wedding rings on when it started swelling, so they are still intact. Now I’m STILL waiting for the swelling to go down completely so I can start wearing them again!**)

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See? Super easy! Don’t worry about making the two slices exactly even- you won’t be able to. What you’re going for is two cutlets of comparable thickness so they cook evenly. It’s not brain surgery, so don’t fret if things aren’t perfect.

So now that you have the hard part done, I’ll give an explanation of why I have lemon zest in that picture up there instead of the juice. Did you know that the acid in lemon juice actually cooks meat instead of marinating it? It’s true. If you look up the recipe for ceviche (a popular Latin American dish of raw shrimp or fish with herbs and spices) you’ll see that the dish isn’t cooked in any way except by the citrus juice it’s steeped in. That citrus juice does the same thing to any other meat you put it on. With chicken that results in tougher meat that needs more tenderizer (basically salt) in the marinade. The easy fix for that is to use the zest instead of the juice of whatever citrus fruit you’re wanting to use. And aside from not cooking the meat, I prefer the zest to the juice because of how much more flavor you get from the oil in the zest. But certainly don’t throw the juice away! Zest your fruit then juice it and pour that juice into an ice tray. I put one tablespoon of juice into each compartment of an ice tray and when I need “1 tablespoon of juice” here or “2 tablespoons of juice” there I have them ready and waiting in the freezer. Very handy!

Next you’re ready to put all of this together. Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together and make your decision: cook the chicken today or freeze it for another time? If you want to cook the chicken today, pour the marinade over the breast slices in a pan or large bowl, cover with plastic, and put it in the fridge for up to about 8 hours.

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If you want to put the chicken in the freezer for another day, put everything in a zip top bag, squeeze out as much air as you can, seal it, and into the freezer it goes! One bonus of freezing meat in marinade is that as it thaws the meat draws in more of the marinade and is more flavorful overall.

Let 6 hours or so pass…..

Now that your chicken has marinated properly, it’s time to cook it! We don’t have a grill just yet 😦 I’m bummed about that, but the fact that the other things we’ve had to spend our money on are for a house that we own makes up for it 🙂 So if you have a grill or a fire pit (you can read more about easily cooking over an open fire here) by all means, use it!! But if, like me, you have to pan fry your chicken that’s ok; it still turns out wonderful!

Put your pan over medium heat and add just enough oil to cover the bottom. Since the marinade already has a good amount of oil in it, you’re just taking out a little insurance that the chicken won’t stick to the pan. If you’re using a non-stick pan you can forgo the extra oil all together. Once the oil shimmers, remove your chicken from the marinade and put it in to cook for 4-5 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken over and cook 3-4 minutes on the other side. You want to make sure that the chicken is cooked through and also that it has a nice bit of browning on it.

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Once the chicken is done cooking, remove it to a platter and cover it with foil to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving to let the juices redistribute. If you couldn’t fit all of the chicken into the pan the first time around, go ahead and finish cooking the rest. Just make sure all of the meat has a chance to rest before serving.

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Hopefully the weather in your neck of the woods is fair and pleasant and you’re enjoying your summer (or winter, depending on which half of the globe you’re on!). And I hope that you enjoy this chicken as much as we do- and in as many ways 🙂

The Recipe:

2 Lbs. Chicken Breast Cutlets OR Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts sliced into cutlets

Zest of 3 Lemons

6-8 Cloves Garlic, Minced

2 t Italian Seasoning

1 t Kosher Salt

1/2 C Olive Oil

1/4 C Honey Mustard Dressing (optional, but recommended)

The Method:

*If needed, slice the chicken breasts into cutlets by running your knife horizontally through the chicken breasts lengthwise.

*In a bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and whisk well.

*Put the chicken in a bowl or baking dish large enough to hold everything. Alternatively, you could put the chicken and marinade in a zip top bag and seal it.

*If making this dish for a later date, squeeze as much air as possible out of the zip top bag, seal, label, and put in the freezer for up to 2 months.

*If you plan to serve the chicken the same day, simply put it in the refrigerator to marinate for up to 8 hours. I usually do about 6 hours and it turns out perfect. The full 8 hours gives a stronger flavor. Take care in going past that though; the flavor gets overpowering.

*When ready to cook the chicken, grilling is preferable however not always accessible. To pan fry, heat a large frying pan over medium heat, covering the bottom with oil.

*Once the oil shimmers, add a few pieces of the chicken to the pan. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan.

*Cook on the first side for 4-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken cutlets.

*Carefully turn the chicken over and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

*Remove the chicken to a foil covered platter and let rest while the next batch cooks.

*Make sure all of the cutlets get at least a few minutes to rest before serving.

Hot damn; I’m bloggin’ again! I can’t tell you how many times in the last 6 months I’ve said to myself “I really want to blog… but I’ve got nothing.” You may ask “Why nothing?” To which I answer “because of the kitchen from hell with which I was making do.” See; when we moved to South Dakota I was in Colorado with the kids and my husband was in the Dakotas/Minnesota area working and it was almost impossible, as the new guy, to get time off to go look at places to live. So we went down to the wire and found the mobile home that would be ours with only a couple of days left before he came back to Colorado to get us. The mobile home was AWFUL but it was what we could get. Unfortunately, the worst part was the kitchen. My stove couldn’t boil a pot of water reliably (I’m not joking), the oven turned out to be incredibly finicky, and I had almost zero counter space. I literally had about a 3 inch width of counter space to work with most of the time, otherwise known as “the counter in front of the sink”. I’m perfectly serious; that’s all I had to work with. The tiny amount of counter to the right of the sink was constantly full of drying dishes and counter top stuff that could go NOWHERE else, the stove had hot spots over the pilot lights for the burners; if you weren’t careful, just setting something on the stove would melt it and I burned myself  a few times by forgetting those hot spots were there. All this to say that as the days wore on and I tried to cook and bake I was met with failure after failure. I’ve cooked in inadequate kitchens before. I started this blog cooking in one, in fact. But the kitchen in that mobile home was totally and completely unusable for anything beyond frozen pizza and what could come out of the microwave. I went back to buying nearly everything premade. Our budget suffered because that stuff is way more expensive than homemade and our waistlines suffered because it’s also far less healthy than what I make from scratch. I haven’t blogged because there was not a single thing coming out of that kitchen that was blog worthy. It was awful. It was depressing. AND IT’S OVER!!!

If you’ll notice, I have been using the past tense in my explanation. We’ve moved! Yes; again. But not only that… We’ve bought a house! It’s in beautiful Northern Wisconsin and in desperate need of interior updating (meaning it’s a very sound house, but the previous owners seem to have not updated the inside since the late 70’s/early 80’s), but it’s ours and at a crazy low price! That means we can afford to make the aesthetic upgrades it needs.

Kitchen

Yeah. Definitely needs some upgrading. But it’s actually MINE! I’m not borrowing it from family or renting it from a landlord. And, get this, the kitchen has crazy amounts of storage space! It may not look like much, but there’s plenty of counter space and very nearly my whole kitchen has been unpacked into it and I have cabinets and drawers left empty! Seriously!! I have never had enough space in my kitchen so this is amazing!!

But, the kitchen not withstanding, I still have a lot of work to do unpacking the rest of our stuff. This being the case, I’m trying to make sure I cook easy meals with as little clean up as possible so I can do what I need to do in the rest of the house. I’ll have plenty of time for kicking around the kitchen after our stuff is unpacked. So this week I’m re-sharing my recipe for Crock Pot Caesar Chicken. It’s quite possibly THE easiest recipe I have in my entire repertoire. It truly is almost as easy as ordering takeout, it tastes fabulous, and there is a very small amount of cleanup. It’s also versatile: serve it as a sandwich, a wrap, on a salad, or even just on Triscuits or crackers!

I’m hoping to start blogging regularly once again. But if I can’t make it every week for awhile, please forgive me. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sticking with me thus far! ❤

Crockpot (Slow Cooker) Caesar Chicken

Crockpot Caesar Chicken

 

 

I’ve had some requests for a “print recipe” feature, so I looked around and found one of those! You can now find a new button on each post. It’s labeled “print and PDF” and it can be found at the very bottom of each post along with the sharing buttons. You’re welcome and thanks for your continued support! ❤

In my wanderings around town lately I’ve heard many people bemoaning the end of summer and the cooler weather that’s settling in. I smile and say nothing, knowing that my opinion is in the minority currently. But when someone comments on the “end of all the really good summer food” I can’t keep quiet. Just because it gets colder doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of your favorite summer foods! In my family we have ALWAYS grilled over the winter. We make sure we have a sheltered spot for the grill and go for it! Here in South Dakota that may have to change because the wind is so severe, but that’s ok. Sometimes instead of being the familiar, char-grilled food we’re accustomed to, our favorite summer foods must get a wardrobe change. Enter: Sticky Sausages. I found the original recipe on a blog from the UK and changed it to work for my family. The original called for English or Irish bangers- sadly thin on the ground here. Instead, I use bratwurst. They work perfectly! You can even play around with flavored brats if you want. Find your favorite and use it. You may have to buy some extras during the summer and freeze them though. I know in Colorado they really only sell brats at a good price during the summer. Here is South Dakota there are so many people of German and Polish decent it’s not a problem.

Let’s get started. Here’s what you’ll need:

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You could use pancake syrup instead of real maple syrup if that’s all you could get. It would certainly be cheaper. But it would add a little too much sweetness and it’s… well… fake. So if you can, use real maple syrup.

Start by dicing your bacon. Pictured is half a pound of bacon. I take that half pound and just start slicing- just the way it is. I get thin strips- like these:

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You don’t want the bacon really crispy for this. There are two reasons for that: 1) Crunchy bacon throws off the texture of the final dish and 2) The fonde on the bottom of the pan would burn by the end and no one wants burned-bacon-flavored brats. Yuck.

While the bacon is cooking, mix your sauce ingredients. If you heat the honey you’ll have an easier time of it- especially since the other ingredients are cold. You can do that in the measuring cup if you use a glass one or you can heat it in the bowl you’re making the sauce in. I use a metal bowl to mix the sauce, so I heated the honey in a glass measuring cup. Anyway, whisk the sauce together.

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The mustard won’t want to fully incorporate, and that’s ok. Once you heat the whole thing it will smooth out. Once the bacon is done, empty the pan. Personally, I remove the bacon and strain the drippings into a container that I keep in the fridge to use for cooking other things. Why waste what you’ve already paid for?? Once your pan is empty, bring some chicken broth, beer, or ale to a boil. I can’t tell you how much. You’ll want it to come up to almost the top of the brats, like so…

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I used about 2 cups of broth for 6 brats. Now put a lid on this and let the brats boil for about 5 minutes, then turn the brats, put the cover back on, and cook for another 5 minutes. Then you can drain off the liquid.

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Pitiful looking, I know. The brats will be pale and a bit sickly looking, but they will be at least mostly cooked through and that’s what’s important. And we’re about to fix the pale and sickly problem. Put a little of the bacon fat back into the pan (or oil if you’ve thrown that beautiful bacon grease out already) and put it over medium heat. Once hot, add the brats back in and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side (I do top and bottom rather than trying to hold the brats upright to get the backs). You’ll end up with this:

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Aren’t those handsome? Now we set those beauties aside and use the very same pan to boil the sauce. Pour the mixture into the pan and set over medium heat. Bring it to a boil and stir fairly regularly. You’re dealing with a sauce with a high sugar content, so it will burn if you put it over high heat or don’t give it a good stir pretty often.

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It will bubble up in the pan- don’t worry. You’re using a big pan so it won’t boil over. Cook this until it’s thickened. How long that takes depends on your stove and a lot of other things. So keep an eye on it when you stir it and when it’s a bit thicker than when you started, add the bacon and brats back in. Stir everything around so the brats are coated and heated through again and then take the pan off the heat and let the whole thing sit and cool. You’re dealing with a molten sugar mixture- IT WILL BURN YOU BADLY if you try to eat it right away. Let the pan sit for about 10 minutes before you even try to serve these. Even then it will be hot, so be careful.

Get yourself some good rolls and load them up…

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Caramelized onions are wonderful on these brats, but I prefer the sharp contrast of raw onion. Ron and the kids prefer theirs straight up. Feel free to play around and use what you like. I keep talking about the fact that you’re cooking a sugar mixture and, while it’s true that there are 2 super sweet substances in the sauce, these sticky sausages are NOT as sweet as you would think. The bacon, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard add a deep, beautiful savoriness that tames the sweetness. These really aren’t any sweeter than your average honey baked ham. And they are just perfect for an autumn get together of any kind. You can multiply this recipe as you need to and keep the whole thing warm in a foil covered pan in a low oven (about 180-200F) or on very low heat.

So just because summer is (finally) drawing to a close, it doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to fun foods! All you have to do is dress them differently. Kind of like putting away the sundresses and sandals and getting out the hoodies and boots 🙂

The Recipe:

6 Bratwurst or Similar Type Sausages

1/2 LB Bacon, diced

5 Oz Honey

1/4 C Real Maple Syrup

3 T Soy Sauce

1 T Dijon Mustard

6-8 Shakes Worcestershire Sauce

The Method:

*Fry bacon until just done. Drain (reserve the drippings to cook with later) and set aside.

* While bacon is cooking, mix the sauce ingredients together. Don’t worry if the mustard won’t whisk in.

*Add raw brats to pan over medium heat.

*Pour broth, beer, ale, or a mixture of those over the brats, coming just up to the top. You don’t have to cover the brats.

*Cover the pan and bring to a boil.

*Boil 5 minutes, turn, and boil another 5 minutes.

*Remove brats and drain the pan. Do not wash the pan.

*Add bacon fat to the pan, to coat the bottom in a thin layer over medium heat.

* Put the brats back in and cook about 3-4 minutes on each side, until they are a deep brown on both sides.

*Remove the brats to a plate and set aside.

*Into the same, unwashed pan, pour the sauce ingredients.

* Cook, stirring regularly, until the mixture thickens.

*Add the brats and the bacon back to the pan and stir to coat and heat the sausages through.

* Take the pan off the heat and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

It’s been hot again lately. Really hot. Because the air conditioner is no longer functioning. And it’s been in the high 90’s outside again, therefore it’s been in the mid-80’s to low 90’s inside. Sigh. Summer sucks. So I’ve been trying to keep meals on the cool side of the spectrum. But I also know perfectly well that “cold” meals all the time gets tiresome quickly. So there are times when I have to use the stove. One of the things I’ve taken to making in this situation is pressed sandwiches. They’re technically hot sandwiches, but making them doesn’t heat the house up too much. You don’t have to have a panini or sandwich press to do them either. I was recently given one by a dear friend but up until then I made do just fine without one. They are fun- and useful for several things besides pressed sandwiches- but in this post I will be showing you how to make a go of it without the actual press.

All you need is a skillet and a pot big enough to cover the sandwich you’re making, but small enough to fit inside the skillet. Assemble your sandwich(es) and heat the skillet on medium-low. While the skillet is over the fire, fill your pot with water. Not enough to slosh over the side, but enough to give it some heft. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Indeed; you’re going to use the pot to press the sandwich while it cooks on each side. So brush, spray, or otherwise add lubricant to the skillet. Add the sandwich, then put the pot of water on top of the sandwich and press down- thusly:

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Depending on the bread or roll you’ve used you may need to stand there and hold the pot of water on the sandwich. Even if you don’t have to hold the pot in place, don’t go anywhere. With the added weight the sandwich will cook faster than a non-pressed sandwich so you really have to keep an eye on it. Once it’s browned on one side, brush (or spray) butter or oil on the uncooked side and flip the sandwich over. Put the pot of water back on top and check the sandwich after 30 seconds to minute, depending on how dense the bread or roll is; this side will cook faster. Once the second side is browned, move the sandwich to a plate to cool for a minute and then enjoy! If you need to do more than one sandwich you have a couple of options; one being to just cook them and not worry about keeping them hot. If you’re only doing 2 or 3 you don’t have to worry about keeping the cooked ones warm because it won’t take that long to make the rest so long as you have them assembled & ready to go before you start cooking the first one. And if you have a skillet & pot big enough you can do at least 2 at a time. Problem solved. But if you’re doing more than a few, or you really feel like you HAVE to keep ALL of your sandwiches piping hot, then your only real option is to go ahead & turn the oven on to “warm” or the lowest setting it has and keep the pressed sandwiches on a pan or tray to keep warm. That will heat the house up more (soon that won’t matter, but as it’s still hot here that’s what I’m trying to avoid) but your sandwiches will stay hot.

Here is what I made for breakfast this morning…

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Sausage, egg and cheese- yummy! I was fiddling with taking pictures so I let it cook a little too long on the first side (the bottom), but it still turned out well. It only needed about 30 seconds on each side- so it’s a fast option too! In the time it takes for the panini grill to heat up you can already have your sandwich done when you do it this way! This is a great way to make a fast, portable dinner for those (hopefully rare) nights that you have to be running at dinnertime instead of sitting as a family and enjoying a meal. Just make up some pressed sandwiches, wrap them in paper towels or parchment, grab a drink, and you’re out the door.

So we’re down to a week & a half of summer. 10 days. It’s finally coming to an end. As I write this, it’s dark, rainy, and cool, and I’m in heaven! It’s supposed to stay like this for the rest of this week and then heat up again going into next week. After this wonderful little break in the weather I think I might just make it through the next bout of hot weather before the first hard frost. I do hope it comes soon though!