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Triple-decker baked Italian cheese sandwiches

This is Week #9 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click here to view all recipes from this challenge. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2010.

I was so happy to be randomly paired with this sandwich recipe. I'm a huge lover of sandwiches, especially when they stray from the norm in some way. A triple-decker sandwich with lots of cheese? Oh my. And with juicy, roasted tomatoes? OH MY.

After they came out of the oven, and after I took a sufficient amount of photos, I sat and gazed at this sandwich's splendor. Isn't it pretty? I had no idea how to begin the process of eating it. Perhaps if my mouth were just a bit bigger I could have attempted a bite. Instead, I grabbed a fork and a knife and I dug in. YUM. I might need to ask my friend Jess just to be sure, but I'm fairly certain I stayed hunched over my cheesy plate until the last morsel was gone.

Start out by preheating your oven to 325 degrees F. Cut 8 Roma tomatoes in half lengthwise, and place them, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours, or until the tomatoes are soft. Sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of thyme and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender and slightly shriveled but still juicy. Let cool.

Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

The recipe calls for 2 loaves of Pullman bread, but I was unable to find Pullman bread anywhere. Instead, I used a fat loaf of French bread cut into 1/2-inch slices. Whichever type of bread you use, you will need 24 slices to make 8 servings.

On 16 of the 24 slices, brush olive oil onto one side. Arrange 8 of those slices, oiled side down, on a large, rimmed and greased baking sheet (I used aluminum foil to avoid a super messy clean-up).

Top each slice with:

Sliced provolone cheese (you will need 16 oz. total)

An unbrushed bread slice

Roasted tomatoes

12 oz. coarsely shredded Fontina cheese (you will need 16 oz. total, 4 of which you'll use later)

Remaining brushed bread slices, oiled side up

In retrospect, I wish I had split the provolone slices up and put 1 or 2 between the middle piece of bread and the tomatoes. Next time.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted.

Preheat the broiler.

In a medium bowl, combine:

Remaining 8 oz. of shredded Fontina cheese

4 oz. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the top of the sandwiches. Broil 3 inches from the heat for 1 minute, until the cheese is melted.

Oh my goodness, could anything be more mouth-watering? Mmmmm.

Triple-Decker Baked Italian Cheese Sandwiches

Three layers of cheesy yumminess in this beautiful baked sandwich! (source: Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2010)

Serves: 8

Total time: 2 hrs, 45 min

Triple-Decker Baked Italian Cheese Sandwiches


  • 8 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 2 white Pullman (or French) loaves-ends discarded, each loaf cut into twelve 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 pound sliced provolone cheese
  • 1 pound Fontina cheese, coarsely shredded (about 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the halved tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake the tomatoes cut side up for 1 1/2 hours, until soft and starting to brown. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and bake for about 30 minutes longer, until the tomatoes are very tender and slightly shriveled but still juicy. Let cool.
  2. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Brush 16 of the bread slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil; arrange 8 of the slices, oiled side down on a large rimmed baking sheet. Top with the provolone and the unbrushed bread slices. Cover with the tomatoes, 4 cups of the Fontina and the remaining 8 bread slices, oiled side up. Press gently on the sandwiches and bake for about 15 minutes, until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted.
  3. Preheat the broiler. Toss the remaining Fontina with the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and sprinkle on the sandwiches. Broil the sandwiches 3 inches from the heat for about 1 minute, until the cheese is melted. Transfer to plates; serve.




Monster cupcakes

My 4-year-old has a very hard time being patient, as I'm sure most 4-year-olds do. We have learned not to tell him we are going to the park, to Grandma's house, to the zoo, to the mall (all places he loves), until two minutes before we are ready to leave. If we break this rule, the whining for "paa-aa-aaaaa-aaaaark" or "Gwaaa-aaaaa-maaaa's hooo-ooouse" gets ridiculous. I gambled big time by showing him my new cupcake cookbook (What's New, Cupcake?) and telling him to pick out which cupcakes he would like me to make for his birthday....TWO WEEKS in advance. "I want my moooo-oooo-ooooonster cuuu-uuuup-caaa-aaaa-aakes!" Ugh! So, by the time I finally got around to making these, I felt a little bit of tension between myself and these little colorful monsters. Once they were done, though, they were so stinkin' cute! I fell in love. And most importantly, my birthday boy adored them.

First, bake 12 cupcakes, whatever flavor(s) you desire, according to package directions. Also, bake 12 mini cupcakes according to package directions. Since I was making these for a birthday party, I made three different flavors: yellow, chocolate and confetti. Kids like options.

While the cupcakes are baking and cooling, prepare the monster eyes. Push the stick of a dum-dum lollipop through an apple or peach ring and pull the ring around the lollipop. This is super slick. They wrap right around each other like they were meant to be together.

Do this 24 times. It doesn't take long, I promise.

I used canned vanilla frosting, but feel free to make your own. Place a few spoonfuls of vanilla frosting into a large Ziploc bag and cut a teeny hole in the corner. By "teeny," I mean around 1/8 of an inch.

Squeeze the bag so frosting comes out of the tip. Dab a small circle of frosting in the center of each dum-dum. Before the frosting hardens, place a brown mini-M&M directly in the center. Allow the monster eyes to sit for a few minutes in order to fully harden.

Prepare the frosting that you will be using to cover the cupcakes with. I used a total of 2 jars of store-bought vanilla frosting and divided it between three small bowls. Using neon food coloring, I made one of the bowls bright orange, one bright green and one bright purple.

Grab a cupcake and a like-flavored mini cupcake.

Remove the wrapper from the mini cupcake and turn it upside down. Place it on top of the regular-sized cupcake. If you'd like, squirt some frosting between the two to help keep them in place.

Spoon the colored frostings into three separate large Ziploc bags and cut an 1/8 to 1/4 inch off the corners. Squeeze the frosting over the surface of the cupcake, in "strings," completely covering it. This was my favorite part! Get crazy!

Push the sticks of the dum-dum eyes into the cupcakes. Give the monster a fun M&M nose, if you'd like.

Aren't they adorable? They were an absolute hit for my boy and his cousins.

I had leftover cupcakes, so I made a few different kinds of monsters.

And I made a special plate for the birthday boy.

Have you ever seen a happier face?


Parmesan-olive wedges

This tasty, olive-y treat was one of my favorites from Ebby's and my Bloggy Day a few weeks ago. I'm a total sucker for olives. They are one of my all-time favorite foods. As with The Mushroom, I will never understand my husband's dislike for them. It perplexes me.

For those of you in my camp, the olive-loving one, you really must try this recipe. It is delicious.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and generously coat it with cooking spray. Remove one crust from a 15-oz. package of rolled refrigerator unbaked pie crusts. Unroll the crust into an 11-inch circle and place it onto the greased aluminum foil. Allow it to stand according to package directions.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add to the skillet:

1 cup chopped leek (white parts only)

1/2 cup chopped fennel

Cook for 5 minutes, or until tender.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in:

3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup pitted and chopped Kalamata olives

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Spread the mixture onto the center of the pastry, leaving the outer 1 1/2 inches uncovered. Fold the uncovered pastry up over the filling.

Bake for 30-35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the crust is golden brown. Cut into 8 wedges and serve warm.

Mmmmmmm, olives..

Click here for a printable recipe!


Spicy bloody mary

I think the thing I love most about the Bloody Mary is that it provides a good excuse to eat cheese and pickles and celery and olives and delicious chunks of meat. What other drink comes standard with snacks and beer? My husband and I, in our pre-child days, frequented Green Mill for the sole purpose of drinking their Bloody Marys. They are served with a ridiculous amount of snacks loaded into them. Plus, along with every BM purchase comes a tote filled with ingredients/condiments that can be added. We loved to load up our drinks with anything that contained spice and then we would feast and slurp away.

Now that we have two little ones, we don't go to Green Mill to drink BMs anymore. In fact, we really don't drink BMs much at all. But since discovering the magic of bacon and pepper infused vodka, I could not pass up the opportunity to create the ultimate Spicy Bloody Mary!

Now, there is one prerequisite for making this drink. You must have a love for peppery spiciness. Oh, and you need to enjoy consuming Bloody Marys.

If the above applies to you, then make this! It will not disappoint!

Make a batch of bacon & pepper infused vodka (this process takes 1-2 days).

Fill a celery-salt-rimmed glass with ice and add 1.5 shots of your infused vodka. Pour bloody mary mix over the top (use a mix that isn't heavily spiced or flavored..the flavors in the infused vodka take care of everything) and leave about 3/4 of an inch at the top of the glass.

Add 2 tablepoons of pickle juice and about 6 or so dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Stir with a stir stick.

Garnish to your desiring. Here are a few suggestions: celery, chunks of salami, olives of any variety, chunks of different types of cheese, celery, pickles, pepperoni, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, bacon, banana peppers. And last but not least, add a beer chaser, if that's your thing.

Yum! Enjoy!

Click here for a printable recipe!


Nut butter Jesus

Experiencing a few weeks' worth of anxiety surrounding my son's medical issues has turned me into a crazy woman. Last Wednesday evening, the night before Elijah had a procedure done on his heart, I was in a sad state. I was constantly fighting back tears. I was anxious and filled with fear about what the next day would bring. I sat down in front of my computer and opened up Lightroom in order to lose myself in a little photo editing. The first image that popped up was of the nut butter I made a few weeks ago. But nut butter was not what I saw. Jesus was looking at me! I sent it to Ebby and showed it to my husband and neither of them saw him right away. I could see him, though. He was there! And just when I needed him.

Do you see him? Don't try too hard. Think Small Nut Butter Jesus.