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Cindy’s still out of town and I’ve been a little bit lonely in the kitchen all by myself. In her absence, I’ve been frequenting Subway, Bread Co and Crazy Bowls and Wraps. But this weekend one of my best friends (Betsy!) is in town from Auburn, Alabama, so I found an excuse to get back in the kitchen and cook up some goodies to share with all of you!

Betsy and I had a craving for sandwiches on Saturday. We didn’t want just any sandwich though – we wanted paninis! So we decided to have a panini party (and let me tell you – these paninis were really a party in our mouths!) We started with a classic panini made with goat cheese, basil pesto and tomatoes on sturdy multigrain bread. Next up, we used one of Betsy’s favorite foods, pig candy bacon, in combination with tart green apples, honey and gouda. For dessert (when friends are in town it’s always a celebration, right?) we made a sweet panini on pastry-like brioche with nutella and bananas. It was to die for.

Goat Cheese, Tomato and Pesto Panini
I love pesto. I could eat buckets of it plain, on caprese salads, on bread, as a sauce on pasta, probably on a piece of cardboard. I just love it! And when the warm weather comes creeping back, there’s almost nothing I find more refreshing than that bright taste of basil. The tangy goat cheese and the ripe tomato are the perfect companions to the pesto, and mix really wonderfully on the chewy, crusty multigrain bread.

We have a panini maker in the condo, so we put that to use and the sandwiches turned out perfectly. If you don’t have a panini maker, a grill pan or a regular sauté pan will do the trick, but you might want to put a plate on top of the panini while it cooks so that it gets pressed like it would in the panini maker.

Four simple ingredients make for a simply delicious sandwich.

First, slice the bread into sizable pieces. You want to have enough substance to hold up once the panini has been pressed.

Slice the tomato fairly thin. You don’t want it sliding out of the sandwich and onto your shirt when you take a bite! If it’s thin, it will stay better in the sandwich.

Pour some extra virgin olive oil into a small bowl and brush it on both sides of your bread slices.

Coat your sandwich bread with the olive oil. This will make the bread nice and golden brown when it’s pressed into a panini.

Next, spread a layer of pesto onto the bread. As I mentioned, I LOVE pesto, so my spoonful was a pretty big one. Add as much or as little of the pesto as you’d like.

Slice up some of the goat cheese and spread it onto your crusty bread.

Layer on the tomatoes.

This sandwich is ready for the panini maker…

Panini press time! Press the sandwich for about 5 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is all melty.

Gooey goat cheese, fabulous pesto and fresh tomatoes? This panini is perfection.

Here’s the recipe:
Ingredients:
1 medium tomato, sliced thin
Basil pesto (I used Cibo Naturals Basil Pesto)
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 slices crusty bread
Goat cheese

Directions:
Brush both sides of each slice of your sandwich bread with the extra virgin olive oil, coating each side evenly.

Spread a spoonful of pesto onto one side of your sandwich bread, then add a layer of goat cheese. Top the cheese with a few slices of tomato and then place the other piece of sandwich bread on top.

Place sandwich into panini maker for 5 minutes, or until bread is golden brown and the sandwich has been heated thoroughly. Slice in half and serve.

Betsy and I toasted each other with our sandwich halves. Then we bit into little bites of heaven.

Gouda, Apple and Bacon Panini
When I was at Boston College, we had a sandwich bar called Hillside. At Hillside, they had paninis every day of the week, but my favorite was called the New England Classic. The New England Classic featured turkey, apple slices and Vermont cheddar cheese. Ever since I first bit into that sandwich freshman year, I’ve been in love with adding apples to savory sandwiches. So, when Betsy and I decided to have our panini party today, I knew there would be at least one panini with apple slices on it.

The gouda, apple and bacon panini is my twist on the New England Classic, but better. (Obviously, because there’s bacon!!) These ingredients combine to make a sweet and savory panini with salt bacon, rich gouda and sweet apple with a drizzle of honey. Betsy and I even made extras of this panini because we devoured the first one so quickly.

Begin by thinly slicing (and munching on a few slices of) a green apple.

Slice the cheese into small strips. Feel free to munch on a few of these too.

Drizzle some honey onto the bottom slice of bread.

Add a layer of gouda on top of the honey.

Add a few slices of bacon to the sandwich. If you want a heartier sandwich, add a few more slices of bacon.

Pile on the apple slices on top of the bacon.

Top it all off with another drizzle of honey.

Spray the panini maker with nonstick spray and press the sandwich for about 5 minutes, or until the bread is crispy and golden.

Slice the panini in half and get ready to dig in to your new favorite sandwich.

Here’s the recipe:
Ingredients:
2 slices bacon, cooked until crispy
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 slices crusty bread
1 medium green apple, sliced thin
Gouda, cut into slices
Honey

Directions:
Brush one side of each slice of your sandwich bread with the extra virgin olive oil, coating the bread evenly evenly.

Drizzle honey on one side of your sandwich. On top of the honey, stack slices of gouda, bacon and then top with apple slices. Drizzle honey on top of apple slices and place top piece of bread onto the sandwich.

Place sandwich into panini maker for 5 minutes, or until bread is golden brown and the sandwich has been heated thoroughly. Slice in half and serve.

You had me at bacon.

Nutella Banana Dessert Panini
Lately, I’ve got Paris on the brain. It might be because I’m reading a book that takes place in Paris, or that I recently watched Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, but whatever it is, I can’t stop thinking about the City of Lights. And nothing reminds me more of that beautiful city than the flavor of Nutella and bananas. Underneath the Eiffel Tower, there is a crepe stand that makes the most delicious crepes I’ve ever tasted in my life. My favorite is the banana and Nutella crepe, which I still dream about to this day. This panini is my version of my favorite Parisian crepe, but with an American twist.

It all starts with three simple ingredients: a banana, Nutella and some delicious brioche.

Scoop out a large spoonful of Nutella. Then stick that scoop in your mouth.

Then, scoop out another large scoop of Nutella and spread it all over one slice of brioche.

Thinly slice one banana.

Pile the banana slices onto one half of the sandwich. Then spread yet another large spoonful of Nutella onto the other half of the sandwich.

Top the sandwich off with the other slice of brioche and press in the panini maker for 2 to 3 minutes, or until bread is golden and the nutella is melty.

Slice in half and enjoy! You’re going to need a few napkins for this one.

Here’s the recipe:
Ingredients:
Two slices of brioche
One banana
Nutella

Directions:
Spread a large spoonful of Nutella on one slice of brioche.

Slice a banana and pile the slices on the nutella covered brioche. Spread another large scoop of Nutella onto the other slice of brioche and top off the sandwich.

Put the sandwich in the panini press for 2 to 3 minutes or until the bread becomes golden brown and the Nutella becomes ooey-gooey.

A glass of milk might be nice with this too…

Next week: Cindy finally makes her return to the kitchen! We’ll be cooking up some Easter treats.

Nom. nom. nom.