I pretty much take anything that is free—especially when it comes to food. There is always a way to use ingredients even if they aren’t normally paired together…or they aren’t that appealing to me. Such was the scenario when Christina, one of the girls I was living with, moved out and left me with a bunch of random food items I would have never normally purchased. A few of the ingredients included: guacamole, roasted red bell peppers, and creamy swiss cheese. “I don’t even like guacamole,” I thought to myself. But, I really couldn’t afford to be picky.
What I could afford, however, was Jimmy John’s Italian bread. If you don’t already know about this, it is a college student essential. Just ask for day old bread—its only $.50…okay, $.54 with tax. But, lets be real, I could almost find that much change on the sidewalk during my trip downtown to buy the bread! You can use other bread if you don’t have a Jimmy John’s nearby, but just make sure it has a smaller diameter.
Since I had the bread, I couldn’t resist making a sandwich because the grill plates on my sandwich maker allow me to make the most delicious panini. (If you don’t have a sandwich maker with interchangeable grill plates, I highly recommend it. You can purchase the kind that close completely so it doesn’t leak grease like a George Foreman grill does. I am allowed to have a sandwich maker in my dorm but not a George Foreman grill or normal panini press. Every dorm will have their own rules, so check on this before purchasing anything.)
Personally, I don’t care for BLT sandwiches, but I decided to take the general idea and plug in the ingredients I had.
I didn’t have lettuce, but guacamole is green, so that seemed to be the best logical substitute which gets spread right on the bread.
You can guess what’s next. Roasted red bell pepper, in place of the tomatoes. Both are red, so they look about the same. I’m not a fan of raw tomatoes, but bell peppers have been growing on me.
Oh, and you always have to add some cheese—one of my favorite ingredients. I never buy spreadable cheese, but it melts beautifully into the rest of the sandwich toppings. If you can splurge on it, that is highly recommended. If you don’t have the spreadable swiss version, you can always use some other variety of cheese.
Last, but certainly not least…BACON. The phrase, “Everything is better with bacon,” is most definitely a fact in my book. It is a rare occasion that I have bacon on hand, but this was a lucky day. If you aren’t familiar with cooking bacon in a microwave, here are a few tips:
- Make sure to use a microwave safe plate (I accidentally burned a hole through a roommate’s plate once because the bacon grease was so hot…needless to say, I replaced the plate and learned this tip the hard way…sorry Bekah.)
- Line the bottom of the plate with two pieces of paper towel, layer the bacon in the middle, and top with two more layers of paper towel. Using approximately three slices of bacon at once has provided the most even cooking results in my experience, but this will depend on your plate size and microwave power. I recommend starting with one minute and 30 seconds and then adding more time in 30 second intervals after that until the bacon is golden and crispy.
Layer all the ingredients on the sliced bread. Yes, it is slightly a balancing act.
Depending on the size of your sandwich maker, three sandwiches usually fit at once. It is a tight squeeze to close the top, but this helps the outsides of the panini to brown well. Most sandwich makers have an indicator light to let you know when the food is cooked, and for my maker, that takes about four minutes. Once the sandwiches are cooked, leave them in the maker for a few minutes so that it doesn’t smoke profusely when you open it. (Setting off the smoke alarm in a dorm room is never a pleasant experience. My dorm always has a few false smoke alarms due to burnt popcorn every year. Don’t be THAT person.)
The goal is a tasty lunch, and I recommend trying this even if you don’t think you are going to like it. You never know till you try!
ALTERNATIVE BLT MINI PANINI
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
- 6 slices 1/2 inch thick Italian bread
- 1 tbsp guacamole (or guacamole dip)
- 2-3 pieces of roasted red bell pepper, sliced into thin pieces
- 1 (.67-.75 ounce) wedge of creamy swiss cheese (size of wedge varies based on brand: I have used both Crystal Farms and Laughing Cow and had good results with both)
- 3 slices of bacon
- butter for greasing the grill plates
Spread the guacamole on three slices of bread. Top those same pieces with roasted red bell peppers. Spread the cheese on the other three slices of bread. Break pieces of bacon in half and pile on top of the guac and peppers. Close sandwiches with other slices of bread. Grease sandwich maker grill plates with butter. Place sandwiches on the grill plates and tightly close the maker. Plug in or turn on the sandwich maker. Cook until the indicator light changes colors or for approximately four minutes. Unplug or turn off sandwich maker and let set for a few minutes. Open, and remove sandwiches using a fork or knife. Serve warm.