I love to host parties and gatherings. I think that it all started as a child, where I would watch my parents host an annual Christmas party and regularly host friends for cards. Of course, the biggest part of any party or gathering is the food. I love making and serving a variety of foods. Frequently, parties are my only chance to make many of the foods that I love and can only prep when I have a large gathering to help me eat them (otherwise, I would seriously over-indulge on many of my favorites).
One of the challenges of hosting a party is having the right amount of food. I frequently find myself with leftovers. I don't want to waste food, so I find myself looking for creative solutions for eating the leftovers without feeling like you are eating the same thing over and over again.
My son's birthday party was last week (I'll have to share the cake) and we did a cook-out. We bought extra buns and had extra meat to go with them until a grill fire resulted in a loss of some heavily sooted/smoked meat. The net outcome was a large amount of buns remaining.
So, my weekly menu moved into creativity mode. How could I use up a number of buns and not feel like the meals were the same every night?
Generally, when I am doing the weekly meal plan and trying to come up with ideas for dinner, sandwiches are not something that comes to mind. I enjoy sandwiches - sloppy joes, cheesesteak, hamburgers, and such. Typically, if I'm having a sandwich for dinner, I definitely want for it to be a warm sandwich - cold cuts are for lunch. But, if you take that same cold cut sandwich and turn it into a Panini - that is dinner! Did you know that August is National Panini Month? I'm thinking it is something about having a warm meal without heating up the kitchen - but that is just my theory.
If you don't have a Panini maker or press, you can actually just double up with a skillet or frying pan to make your panini. Simply prepare your cooking skillet with a bit of oil or spray and put it over medium heat. Add your sandwich and top with the other skillet. Add some weight to your skillet - a can would work. Cook for a couple of minutes, turn and repeat.
I actually have had a grill pan for a while and recently bought a panini press from Pampered Chef. I like that I get the fun grill lines that way. Plus, it is a great way to cook chicken faster.
The great thing about having paninis for dinner is that everyone can customize their sandwich to their likes. I like making mine a bit more fancy, but the kids like theirs more simple - and I can accomplish that without feeling like I am making several meals.
Tonight was panini night. We had the following options to choose from: chicken, pepperoni - regular sliced and turkey minis, provolone cheese, hot pepper cheese, spaghetti sauce, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, roasted red peppers, and mayonnaise. We served the paninis with red pepper strips, potato chips and homemade onion dip.
I think that next time, I'd like to use some chicken, cucumber, red pepper strips, tomatoes and a bit of hummus on my panini. Just thinking about the combination of the crunch and the warm, juiciness of the tomato (I love warm tomatoes on a sandwich) is making my mouth water.
What would you put on your panini? You can find some recipe inspiration for paninis like Bacon and Spinach Panini and Turkey Red Pepper Panini on Hormel's website.
(In case you were wondering, we used buns four nights this week - the first night we turned them into garlic bread as a side for our pasta, the second night I made them into personal pizzas, the third night we had egg, cheese and bacon sandwiches, and of course, paninis tonight. We even toasted up a couple one night for a snack with butter and jelly. It was fun finding creative ways to use them.)
No compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed are mine or those of my family. I am completing this post as a participant in the Hormel Foods Extended Family Blogger program. Hormel Foods provided a thought starter and some of the information for this post.