Kale, Apple and Cheddar Panini with Strawberry Jam

Sautéed kale is not just for side dishes. Give it a try as a sandwich base and you will forget all about lunch meat. This Kale, Apple and Cheddar Panini with Strawberry Jam is a hearty vegetarian sandwich with seasonal farm-fresh favorites. It is comfort food that packs a nutritious punch and takes less than 15 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients:
2 sub sandwich loaves (5 to 6 inches each), cut from a baguette
1 medium bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 small apple, cored and thinly sliced
2 slices white cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons strawberry jam (preferably homemade)

Directions:

  1. Preheat a panini maker to medium-high. Slice sandwich loaves in half and set aside.
  2. Remove stems from kale and roughly chop. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add kale and water. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Add balsamic vinegar and cook or another minute, tossing to evenly coat.
  3. Layer apple slices, kale and cheddar cheese on the bottom bread slices. Spread strawberry jam on the top bread slices. Stack together and place sandwiches in the panini maker, closing the top. Grill until the bread is crusty and golden and cheese has melted. Slice sandwiches in half and serve.

Note: If you do not have a panini maker, use a grill pan or skillet and flip the sandwich to grill both sides. Placing a heavy skillet on top of the panini while grilling will give you the panini effect.

Servings: 2

Sausage, Apple and Spinach Grilled Pizza

Fall is in the air and on my plate! Fresh picked apples bring the taste of the season to this grilled pizza. For a vegetarian version, simply omit the sausage and top with toasted pecans or walnuts for a crunchy protein after removing from the grill.

If there are pick-your-own apple orchards near your home, I recommend stopping by for fresh, local apples. Visiting orchards and farms are great ways to educate the children in your life about where our food comes from, and this recipe is a kid-friendly one that you could make together after harvesting your produce.

Ingredients:
½ pound ground sausage
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium apple, cored and diced
1 bunch spinach, trimmed and chopped (about 4 cups)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 homemade or store bought pizza dough ball (about the size of a grapefruit)
2 tablespoons cornmeal
¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  1. Warm a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until browned and no longer pink. Drain fat from skillet and return to the stove. Add onion and apple to the sausage and cook until tender and lightly browned. Add spinach and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper, remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Roll and stretch pizza dough to a thin layer, about ⅛ inch thick and 12 to 14 inches in diameter.
  3. Prepare the grill for medium-high, indirect heat. For a gas grill, leave one or two burners off and for a charcoal grill, place coals on one side and use the coal free side.
  4. Place crust on the grill (a pizza peel comes handy here) and cook for about five minutes, until top of crust starts to bubble and light brown grill marks appear on the bottom.
  5. Remove crust from grill. Top cooked side of crust with sausage, apple and spinach mixture. Add shredded mozzarella evenly over pizza toppings.
  6. Return pizza to the grill and cook for about five minutes, until cheese has melted and bottom of crust has light brown grill marks. Remove from grill, slice into 8 wedges and serve.

Note: When I make homemade pizza crust, I often double the recipe and freeze to have on hand for fast weeknight meals like this one.

Servings: 4 

Bourbon Apple Pie Ice Cream Drink

What better way to stay cool this summer than with an ice cream dessert drink, and this one is served in true Kentucky style with a splash of bourbon. In the dairy state, Wisconsin locals love their ice cream, and alcoholic ice cream drinks like the Grasshopper, Golden Cadillac and Pink Squirrel are popular after-dinner beverages. This is my version of a dessert drink that incorporates good old American apple pie and vanilla ice cream with Kentucky’s favorite beverage — bourbon. Cheers to celebrating National Ice Cream Day.

Ingredients:
¾ cup apple pie filling (preferably homemade)
4 ounces bourbon
2½ cups ice cream
2 cups ice
cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a blender, add apple pie filling, bourbon, ice cream and ice. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  2. Pour into four glasses, sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.

Note: I use homemade, canned pie filling with locally grown apples. You could also make this with seasonal berry pie or cobbler filling in place of the apple. You can also leave out the bourbon for a kid-friendly version.

Servings: 4

Bacon and Apple Peanut Butter Dip

The inspiration for this dish came from a restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky that serves a honey bourbon and sugar glazed bacon appetizer with peanut butter. My version is lighter, but still captures the wonderful combination of bacon and peanut butter. I know it sounds a little odd, but once you have tasted it you will forget all about peanut butter’s famous sidekick — jelly. Peanut butter and bacon is the new duo in town.

This appetizer is a perfect pairing with your favorite Kentucky bourbon. It brings out the whiskey’s sweet notes of vanilla, caramel and honey. Cheers to good bourbon, an appetizer your friends will love and adventurous food combinations.

Ingredients:
1 pound center cut bacon, cooked
1 large apple, sliced
2 tablespoons peanut butter
½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon skim milk

Directions:
1. In a blender or food process, combine peanut butter, Greek yogurt, honey, vanilla and milk. Blend or process until smooth.
2. Serve immediately with bacon and apple slices or refrigerating until ready to serve.

Servings: 6 ~ Serving size: 2 bacon slices, 4 apple slices and  1½ tablespoons dip