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Mushroom Mozzarella Panini

DSC_0021With Passover starting this week, we decided to use up some bread that was taking up space in the freezer. So Sunday night I whipped up some grilled Mushroom Mozzarella Paninis for a quick dinner.

I started by grilling portabella mushrooms on our grill pan for a DSC_0023 few minutes on each side. Next I spread some BBQ sauce on either side of the bread, topped it with some fresh basil leaves, and a thin slice of soy mozzarella. When the mushrooms were  soft and grilled, I placed them in the sandwiched which I then grilled whole for a few minutes. Voila! I enjoyed this sandwich paired with a spinach salad, while Funk ate it in the other room in the midst of his Fantasy Baseball draft. He did yell from the living room, “This is awesome!” Simple success! DSC_0026

I dined while reading Jillian Michael’s Master Your Metabolism book, which was recommended by my friend Nicole. I love Jillian Michaels, but was skeptical because she’s no dietitian, and I haven’t agreed with everything she’s said about food on the Biggest Loser. Here’s a little blurb about her book from Amazon.com:

Michaels (Making the Cut; Winning by Losing), the strength trainer for television’s The Biggest Loser, here addresses the influence that hormone balance—affected by estrogen, insulin, testosterone, cortisol, epinephrine, leptin, and others—has on weight loss. Various internal and external influences can cause hormones to over- or underproduce, resulting in not only weight gain but serious illness. Michaels’s plan emphasizes natural foods, organically grown and unprocessed. She describes which foods affect which hormones and how plastics and pollutants in our air and water and additives in many different products can also cause imbalances. She makes a good case for not using bioidentical hormones.

I’m just about finished the book and it is very informative, blunt and realistic, and has some darn good information about taking the crap out of our diets. It’s made me more aware of all the lurking plastic, hormones, and junk in our diets. Even my whole mushrooms I bought for the sandwich were wrapped in plastic on a styrofoam tray. Unnecessary! I’d recommend this book to anyone looking to clean up your diet, get your hormones in check, and all-around eat better. 


Crema Cafe and World Vegetarian Day

Last week I was doing some research on cafes in Harvard Square to host a 25-plus person book club (not an easy task) and came across Crema Café. I’ve heard of this café before but admittedly have never been. But, every time I come across a new restaurant, I check out the menu. It’s a hobby of mine, I guess, since reading menus inspires me to cook creatively at home. I came across Crema’s Sweet Potato Sandwich made with avocado, green apple, sprouts, hummus, and caramelized shallot vinaigrette on toasted wheat. The sandwich stood out to me since it packs in some of my favorite foods – avocados, apples, sweet potatoes and hummus! Apparently others enjoy these flavors as well because numerous people were giving rave reviews to this sammie on yelp:

“And even for this omnivore, the vegetarian sweet potato sandwich really satisfied! The creaminess of the avocado, the tang of the apple, the out-of-worldness of the dressing/sauce…”

Without ever having tasted this sandwich, I decided to make it at home. And you can too! It’s relatively simple and just in time to make for World Vegetarian Day. That’s today!

I (as usual) made some ingredient swaps – instead of a green apple I used red, and instead of the caramelized shallot vinaigrette I used a basic balsamic. And then I made up the rules on how to make this Crema sandwich.

I sliced the sweet potato into ½” thick slices and then microwaved them for a few minutes to get them soft. Then I put them on my grill pan with a little bit of balsamic vinaigrette on each sweet potato slice, and grilled away until they started to get a little caramelized with blackened grill marks. Meanwhile, I toasted an Arnold’s Sandwich Thin and layered on plain hummus, avocado slices, thin slices of apple, and a bunch of sprouts. When the potatoes were done grilling, I layered them on as well.

This made for a massive sandwich that was hard to get my mouth around! But the flavors went well together with the buttery avocado, caramelized potatoes, crunch of the tart apple, earthiness of the sprouts and creaminess of the hummus. It targeted all of my taste buds in every bite. Now I’m even more curious to know how Crema Café makes this sandwich. Do they use the sweet potato pureed as a spread instead of sliced? Does the shallot vinaigrette give it a whole new flavor profile? I guess there is only one way to find out and taste test myself!

Openfaced Apple & Cheese Sandwich with Spicy Cucumber Salad

The recipes for last night’s dinner were ones I randomly put together in my head, not having a clue how all of my ingredients combined would actually turn out. Sometimes these are the best meals to make, if you like getting creative in the kitchen. Last night’s concoction was a delicious success.

I’ll call these dishes Open-faced Apple & Cheese Sandwich and Spicy Sesame Cucumber Salad.

Open-faced Apple & Cheese Sandwich:

On a piece of whole wheat Naan bread, I spread on some spicy Dijon mustard. Then I layered thin slices of green apple with two slices of soy Cheddar cheese. I toasted these in the toaster oven until the cheese was melted and Naan toasted. The combination of spicy mustard, with tart crunchy apples, and gooey cheese was amazing! And I think anything tastes good on Naan bread, but you could try this on whole wheat pita pockets, English muffins, or even rolled up in a tortilla! It’s a fancy take on a traditional cheese sandwich.

Spicy Sesame Cucumber Salad:

Plain and simple, this salad was 1 cucumber, sliced thinly, a few shakes of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, a drizzle of sesame oil, and a dash of red pepper flakes. I recently purchased sesame oil for the first time and it has completely changed the flavor of some of my meals.

Typically I’d use olive or canola oil in a recipe that called for sesame, but never again! It has such a strong, unique flavor (in a very good way) that it cannot be substituted. It gave this salad such a great taste, it seemed much more complex than it really was.

Have you ever used sesame oil? If so, I’d love to gather some recipes to make use of my new favorite ingredient!

Grilled Pineapple as a Tempeh Sandwich Topper

Yesterday I was busy shooting another diet.com video (link to come!). The theme was healthy summer dessert ideas, and one dessert I showcased was grilled pineapple. As my co-host Sarah and I were enjoying the pineapple pieces – after filming of course – we realized this dessert could also double as a great sandwich or burger topper for a Hawaiian-style, tangy tasting dinner. Perfect timing for me, as I was already planning on making simple baked tempeh sandwiches for dinner.

I cut my tempeh into four slices and baked it in the toaster oven for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Once they were cooked through and starting to toast, I spread on some BBQ sauce and cooked about 10 minutes more. Meanwhile, I layered a slice of soy mozzarella and two grilled pineapple rounds on a whole wheat English muffin. Then I added in one slice of baked tempeh and chowed down.

Grilling pineapple is effortless and delicious. Cut your pineapple (or peaches, or even watermelon!) in thin rounds or strips and grill on either side for about five minutes, or until they have those neat grill marks. I used my grill pan for this and got great results.

This sandwich was mouthwatering good! You can try the grilled pineapple and BBQ sauce combo to jazz up a veggie burger or grilled tofu. Or enjoy over salmon with a sweet and sour marinade. It’ll be a nice flavor change from the usual lettuce and tomato sandwich or burger toppers, and a great way to add fruit into your entrée.

Grilled Eggplant and Green Pepper Sandwich

I’ve posted about eggplant sandwich recipes I’ve made in the past, but since eggplant is such a versatile veggie, and sandwiches are so satisfying, I figured it can’t hurt to showcase another sandwich. When Funk came home from Trader Joes with some oversized focaccia sandwich rolls, I knew we’d have a sandwich to sink our teeth into.

I sliced some eggplant and a green bell pepper, and grilled them with a little canola oil spray on my handy grill pan. While they were grilling, I brushed each eggplant slice with BBQ sauce for a smoky flavored sandwich. Once the eggplants were cooked through on each side and soft, I layered them on the roll with a slice of soy cheese. The whole sandwiches went back on the grill pan for a few more minutes to get them slightly toasted.

Though I could barely fit my mouth around the sandwich stack, I managed to polish off my supremely satisfying sandwich and am already day dreaming about the repeat sandwich I can make tonight with my leftover grilled eggplant.