Grilled Cheese BLT with Warm Apple Salad

So the classic sandwich of winter is the Grilled Cheese, and the classic sandwich of summer is the BLT. It’s now March, and spring is at least trying to get here, so BAM, here’s a hybrid of the two that is a sandwich that is sure to impress!

I’ve also included a great side to go with it, and it is ALL done in ONE pan. (Always makes it better!)

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Of course, the best part is the bacon – at least for me – so start by cutting two pieces of bacon in half and frying them up until they’re crispy. Place them on a paper towel to drain while you cook the rest of the sandwich.

Now, sandwich making is an art. (Women-in-the-kitchen jokes aside.) There’s a certain way that is optimal for layering and ensuring every bite is the same, so pay close attention!

Slice two pieces of Italian bread and butter one side of each. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and thyme on both.

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I used fresh thyme because I happened to have some on hand, but dried would do fine as well!

Next, add a few slices of extra sharp cheddar cheese and then your reserved bacon slices.

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My favorite brand of cheddar is Cabot – it’s super sharp and tastes fabulous!!

Next comes the lettuce. Any kind will do, but I feel like this sandwich is classy enough for spring greens:

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Then comes tomato slices and julienned onion:

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And finally, top with some more cheese before capping the sandwich with the other piece of bread. Make sure the buttered side is INSIDE the sandwich on both slices!

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The cheese goes on the outside so that it melts and creates a “glue” that holds the sandwich together. The tomatoes and lettuce are in the middle to keep them farther from the heat, and the lettuce goes between the tomatoes and bacon to ensure the wetness of the tomatoes doesn’t make the bacon soggy!

Now here comes the awesome part… put the heat back on the pan that still has your bacon fat in it, on medium-low, and then carefully place your sandwich right into the bacon fat. Let it cook for just a minute or two, enough to crisp up the bread and melt the cheese, and then turn it over and do the same to the other side.

Remove it from the pan and plate it along with some more spring greens, then turn the heat in the pan up to medium-high and add 1/2 an apple (sliced) along with some julienned onion and pepper. Squeeze in some lemon juice, sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper, and toss to coat.

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The goal is to brown the apples, onions, and peppers quickly so that they still retain some of their crunch. Once they’ve cooked for a minute or two, plate them on top of the spring greens and enjoy your fabulous spring dish!

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I’m still a little kid inside and like to have my sandwiches cut in half… but it also does a great job of showing the layers inside and how delicious this thing really is!

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Full Recipe:

Grilled Cheese BLT

Yield: 1 sandwich

Ingredients:

2 slices Italian bread
Butter/salt/pepper/thyme (to taste)
4-6 slices sharp cheddar cheese
2 slices of bacon
3 slices of fresh tomato
1 thin slice of an onion, broken apart
A small handful of spring greens

Process:

1) Cut the two slices of bacon in half and cook them in a frying pan until crisp. Set aside on a paper towel to drain.

2) Butter one side of each of the 2 slices of Italian bread and add salt, pepper, and thyme to the buttered sides.

3) Place one slice of bread, buttered side up, on your work surface and then layer the ingredients as follows: half the cheese slices, the bacon pieces, the spring greens, the tomato, the onion, and finally the other half of the cheese slices, before capping with the other half of the bread (buttered side down).

4) Put a medium-low heat under the same pan that you cooked the bacon in and carefully place the sandwich directly in the bacon fat. Allow to cook for just a minute or two, until browned, and then flip and cook for an additional minute. Serve immediately.

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French Toast Bread Pudding

So, a few days ago, we had a nice Italian dinner with home-made garlic bread. You know, the kind where you buy the uncut loaf from the store and slice it yourself and coat it in garlic and Parmesan goodness and then bake it. We had so much bread left in the loaf that we had French toast the next morning for breakfast.

And then there was STILL some leftover…

I didn’t want to have boring old French toast again, but the bread really needed to be used up, as it’s really only good for a couple of days, so I got to thinking, what if I made a hybrid of French toast… and bread pudding? I mean, are they really all that different?

And thus, this dish was born.

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Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Take three 1 inch slices of Italian bread and cube them into 1-inch cubes. (It should end up being about 2 cups of bread.) Then, dice up 1/2 a granny smith apple and slice 1 banana into 1/4 inch slices.

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In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together 2 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp cinnamon. (If you like, you can also add 1/2 tsp of almond extract, and/or use almond milk instead of regular milk.)

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To this, add your bread cubes and gently fold them into the egg mixture until they are all coated, then fold in the apples and bananas.

Split 2 tbsp of melted butter between two ramekins and brush it over the bottom and sides, then spoon the bread pudding into each ramekin. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar.

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Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and apples have softened. Serve immediately!

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Full Recipe:

French Toast Bread Pudding

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

Three 1-inch slices of Italian bread, cubed (about 2 cups)
1/2 granny smith apple, diced
1 medium-large banana, sliced

2 eggs
1/4 cup milk (or almond milk)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)

2 tbsp melted butter
Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and extracts.

3) Fold in the cubed bread to the egg mixture first, then fold in the apples and bananas.

4) Split the melted butter between two ramekins and brush to coat the bottom and sides of each.

5) Spoon the bread pudding into each ramekin and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and apples have softened. Serve immediately.