Tomato, Mozzarella and Pesto Panini

Brent and I made these sandwiches on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Brent took one bite, and immediately  turned to me and said, “This has to go on your food blog.” Brent is my food critic 🙂 He is completely honest when recipes aren’t blog-worthy, which is why you will not be seeing a calzone post anytime soon. He knows good food when he tastes it, and this sandwich is worth the hype. It is such a simple concept, and so delicious. Switch it up with sun dried tomato pesto, heirloom tomatoes, avocado, or crusty bakery bread. With a combination of tomato, mozzarella, pesto and bread, you are sure to have a delicious result.

2 large beefsteak tomatoes
1 (16 oz) ball fresh mozzarella
12 slices whole wheat bread
1 cup pesto
Unsalted butter at room temperature

Heat a large skillet over medium heat or preheat a panini grill. Core the tomatoes so that they don’t make your sandwiches soggy, and slice tomatoes and mozzarella ¼ inch thick.

Spread each slice of bread evenly with pesto. Place two slices of mozzarella on half the bread and cover with a layer of tomato. Place the remaining slices of bread, pesto side down, on top. Spread the top and bottom of each sandwich with softened butter. Grill the sandwiches in batches on the grill or in the pan for 2-3 minute, until the mozzarella starts to ooze. Cut each sandwich in half and serve warm.

Lemon Bars

My favorite part of the school day is reading with my two learning teams. The fifth graders are divided into groups of ten, based on their reading level, and we meet for thirty minutes a day to read as a book club. It is such a relaxing class, and takes minimal preparation, and so rewarding for myself and the kids. It feels like a college seminar, sitting around with a small group of kids reading and discussing a book. This past week one of my reading groups finished Junebug, by Alice Mead. It is the story of a young boy growing up in a rough neighborhood in New Haven who dreams of becoming a boat captain. We’ve now moved on to a more challenging text. To celebrate finishing Junebug, and moving on to Al Capone Does My Shirts, we indulged in these yummy lemon bars. Here’s how my learning team described them:
Gooey, sweet, sticky, buttery, lemony, powdery, and my personal favorite, goody.

Ingredients: For the crust:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups  flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Powedered sugar for dusting


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light. Combine the flour and salt, then add to the butter until just mixed. With floured hands, press the dough into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides.
Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Cool. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Cool. Cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar.

Adapted from Ina Garten

Guacamole Salad

The beautiful colors in this dish brightened up my mood on a gloomy fall day. The taste is fresh and light, making it the perfect complement to a heavy Mexican entree. Try turning this salad into an appetizer by dicing everything even smaller, and serving with tortilla chips. Guacamole Salad is easy to prepare. Make sure you have a good knife, and are ready to chop, chop, chop!   

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can reduced sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
2 minced jalapeno peppers, seeded
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
Lime juice from 2 limes
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 ripe avocados, seeded, peeled, and diced

Place the tomatoes, yellow pepper, black beans, red onion, jalapeno peppers, and lime zest in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper and pour over the vegetables. Toss well.

Just before you’re ready to serve the salad, carefully mix the avocados into the salad. Check for taste, and add more salt if necessary. Serves six.