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Family Thoughts

Simple Saturday: The beauty of the panini maker

By November 19, 2011No Comments

This Friday is a Kitchen Favorites party over at 33 Shades of Green.  Tell us about one of the favorite things in your kitchen and add your link.  I thought I would share my own love for my panini maker.

For a while now I’ve been compiling a list in my head of some simple things I’ve done that have made life for me and my family easier and generally more enjoyable. Some of them are things that you can buy, and some of them are not. But all of them are things that I thought it might be worth sharing, especially with the holiday season approaching. And because folks might be thinking about things to buy right about now, I thought I’d start with the things you can, in fact, purchase.

 When my husband and I merged our households, we found we had a preponderance of kitchen gadgets. The temptation is great. They promise so much…faster chopping, a healthier life, weight loss, world peace. But we distilled our collection down to a size that could fit within our existing cabinetry system. And then we made room for one more thing…a panini maker.

 The inspiration came from our friends in North Carolina, their George Forman, and a particular variety of pimiento cheese spread made at the local market. The pimiento cheese was luscious, and on a good piece of bread in the George Forman made the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. When we got home that summer, we decided that neither of us had much desire to own a George Forman–we don’t do much grilling. But we did see a panini maker in the Crate and Barrel catalogue, and that seemed worth a try.

 Our panini maker cost about $70 and has more than paid for itself in the ease and convenience of the countless meals it has produced for us. It’s especially good for that lunch or dinner which you only have like 30 minutes to make. Slice some bread, see what ingredients you have in the fridge to throw on it. And voila! A meal that is quick and quite tasty. I know that it’s possible to make panini’s without paying $70 for a panini maker. But did I ever make panini’s and would I ever have without my little machine? Probably not.

 Our panini maker stores quite tidily under our kitchen island, so it doesn’t take up much room. It’s very easy to operate. You plug it in and the light turns green when it’s ready. And if you happen to also own a bread machine (which will be another installment of Simple Saturday), you can make all kinds of yummy breads that grill up well in the panini maker.

 I feel I have just barely scraped the surface of the panini making possibilities, because most of the time the ingredients are made up of whatever’s in the fridge and I have 5 minutes to figure out what to use, but here are some of the favorite combinations I’ve stumbled across. And these are mostly vegetarian options, because of my own personal preferences. Imagine the endless meat combinations.

 What I have tried:
  • Sharp cheddar cheese and salsa
  • Sharp cheddar cheese, black beans and sour cream
  • Mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil
  • Mozzarella with pesto
  • Cream cheese, feta and red pepper slices (This is especially yummy if you have fresh dill or other fresh herbs to sprinkle on)
  • Mozzarella and pizza sauce (left over from pizza night)
  • Hummus spread and veggies
  • Swiss cheese with prosciutto (my husband’s favorite)
  • Your very own favorite yummy cheese spread of any variety (There are countless to choose from at a place like Lotsa Pasta in Louisville, one of which I swear was called simply, “Yummy Cheese Spread)

Other ideas that I have not yet tried:

  • Tapenade:  I have an especially delicious tapenade recipe, and I think this would be good with just about any kind of cheese
  • Nutella:  My stepdaughter loves nutella, and this thought occurred to me when we first got the panini maker, but I haven’t tried it out yet. I believe the dessert possibilities of the panini maker are as yet untapped, but possibly endless.
  • A breakfast panini:  Maybe with scrambled eggs or bacon
  • Turkey sandwich:  Well, Thanksgiving is coming up, and my husband and I get a local bird which I eat, so I’m thinking there will be many leftover turkey sandwich possibilities this year.

About bread:

 When we first got the panini maker, I thought we had to have focaccia or ciabatta to make a panini. This limited our options, as I don’t often make focaccia or ciabatta bread. Then I just decided to throw whatever kind of bread I had on hand in there, and it worked just fine. I’ve tried almost every kind of bread in our panini maker and nothing so far hasn’t worked. I’ve even used a tortilla. I haven’t used any store-bought sandwich loaf, but I think probably even Wonder bread would do alright in the panini maker.

 What are you favorite panini variations? I’d love to hear your own panini ideas or other must-have kitchen gadgets.

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