When my husband Ted and I acquired a panini press last year, we spent the first few months smooshing anything we could find into beautiful, Italian-style flat sandwiches. (Easier and more sanitary than running over them with the car, but you get the idea.) Later, influenced by the wonderful Panini Happy blog, we began to consider the panini press as a more versatile kitchen tool. With the addition of waffle plates, we celebrated our first Wafflepalooza last summer, but overall it's the grill plates that get the most workout. For dishes like this portobello mushroom and goat cheese sandwich, the panini press is perfect. It holds four burger-size mushroom caps, and cooks and flattens them in minutes. No heating of the grill or broiler, though either would give the mushrooms the "meaty" flavor that tricks carnivores into thinking they're really eating hamburgers. Use the freshest goat cheese you can find (my friend Christine's creamy homemade chevre paired so well with the mushrooms), and don't skip the smoked pepper spread that sets this sandwich apart.
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My father had a way with ground meat. For holiday meals, he rolled five-pound batches of sweet-and-sour meatballs, each one exactly the same size and shape, as only an engineer could do. For family dinners, he threw burgers on the grill, or a meatloaf into the oven. We were a straight-up beef family for most of my life, but years after I moved into my own apartment, my dad began to make turkey meatloaf. His earliest experiments came from Weight Watchers recipes and, quite frankly, lacked in flavor what they also lacked in fat. Today, on Fathers Day, in honor of my dad, I made turkey, spinach and feta meatloaf sliders, with an easy lemon sauce. I think he would have approved.
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Uh-oh. I'd just planted seven basil plants in my herb garden, when my husband Ted, upon tasting this sandwich, proclaimed, "I like this pesto even better than basil pesto." What's a girl to do? Make an extra batch of kale pesto and stash it in the freezer, of course. Not only is it the flavor punch in this kale pesto, tomato and fontina sandwich, but also you'll love it as a topping for pasta, a filling for lasagne, or a slather for grilled chicken or beef. You'll probably think of 1,001 uses for kale pesto once you try it.
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A few weeks of recuperation after a recent health issue left me with the urge to cook, but without the energy to spend hours at the stove. My slow cookers came to the rescue. A few minutes of prep, a few hours in the slow cooker, and minimal exertion on my part resulted in some wonderful meals using ingredients straight from the pantry. This hoisin chicken couldn't be easier: three ingredients, including the chicken thighs, and three hours in a small slow cooker. The recipe came from a Kikkoman brochure, with a slight tweak here and there. Hoisin made a thick, sweet glaze on the chicken, and the slightly acidic broccoli slaw -- for which you can substitute your own favorite cole slaw -- provided a tart counterpoint with some welcome crunch. You can make the chicken and slaw a couple of days ahead. How perfect these sandwiches would be for a picnic!
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