Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Breakfast Meets Lunch-for Dinner the Monte Cristo Sandwich

Let me first say this is our variation of the Monte Cristo Sandwich and it may differ from the tradition a bit. I am really not sure how close it comes even.

The roots of our house eating this dates back a while. One day I was watching some cooking show or another on TV and the host was making his/her version of the Monte Cristo. It just happened that my daughter walked through the room at that time and mentioned it looked really good.

A couple of weeks later she and I happened to be at the grocery store (on our way home from the ice rink) and I asked her what we should have for dinner the next day. We talked about a couple of possibilities and this sandwich came up. Neither of us could remember exactly how it was made or the exact ingredients but we got ingredients for what we remembered. I put this sandwich together the next night and it was a huge hit. It has regularly been on the table ever since. And you know what I never did go back to see how close this comes to the one we saw on TV that time. LOL

So you may be asking why the title of today's post. Well when you get right down to it that is what this sandwich is: part breakfast part lunch and we usually have it for dinner. The breakfast part is the exterior of the sandwich which is our old friend French Toast. The inside of the sandwich has a nice meat and cheese filling. This is all combined into a wonderfully yummy sandwich that can proudly become your dinner.

The coating for the outside is based on my standard French toast recipe. You will need this much for every one and a half sandwiches. In other words this much will do 1, double this amount will coat 2 or 3 and so on.

So for every 1 and half sandwiches:
1 egg
¼ cup milk
2 Tablespoons Bisquick
a pinch of salt.

For each sandwich you will need:
2 slices white bread- we like either potato bread of a good sourdough
deli sliced ham
deli sliced turkey
deli sliced Swiss cheese
berry jam

Start pre-heating your skillet while you build the sandwiches, I almost always use my big old antique cast iron skillet for this. I also pre-heat my oven to just warm and prepare a flat baking sheet with a wire rack. This way I can cook one sandwich at a time and move them to the oven to stay warm.

I like to line my slices of bread up in pairs for the sandwiches and do this assembly line fashion. First spread a tiny bit of mayonnaise on each slice of bread. This will help to seal it and prevent the outside coating from making it soggy later (don't ask how I know this)
Next layer on Swiss cheese on all slices of bread right over the mayonnaise. Now on half the slices add the turkey and on the other half add the ham. Over the ham spread a bit of the jam, probably about a ½ Tablespoon or so- it's up to you. Now plop those sandwiches together. From the bottom up you should have:
Swiss cheese
Swiss cheese

Now combine those coating ingredients in a shallow dish (I usually use a pie plate) getting the mixture as smooth and lump free as possible.

Add just a tiny amount of butter to your pre-heated skillet.

Carefully dip the first sandwich into the coating turn and coat both sides just like you were making french toast. Now move the sandwich to the skillet and cook until the bottom side is nicely browned. Carefully flip the sandwich over and cook the other side.

Since I always only cook one sandwich at a time- it is much easier this way I now move the cooked sandwich to a wire rack on a baking sheet and stick this into a warm oven. This does two things it allows the sandwich to stay warm while I fix the rest of the sandwiches and also it helps to make sure the cheese is all the way melted without risking burning the outside of the sandwich.

That is really all there is to it. These are sooooo yummy your family will love them, I know mine does.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Blackberry Pie

If you are either from here in Oregon or know anyone that is you probably know we have had a very hot and humid summer. Us native Oregonians just aren't cut out for this weather so we have been whining a lot about it. On the other hand the local blackberries are enjoying and thriving because of it. They seem to love this hot humid sticky weather and are rewarding those of us that take the time to pick them with some of the best berries I have seen in a few years. And lots of them too.

This last week or so I have spent a bit of time out picking berries. I really haven't had to work all that hard at it and was able to come away with around 8 cups of berries each time. Mind you I am not the best berry picker either, that title would have to go to my daughter she and my mom used to both spend hours every summer out picking berries. Both of them were much faster at the picking and ended up picking way more than I ever did. This year however if I want berries to use here in my kitchen I am on my own to do the picking so I get what I can and there are plenty to get.

If you happen to have some berries on your property be sure to go out and pick at least some of them it will be well worth it. If you don't ask around and find someone that will let you come and pick some.

However a couple of things you should never do. Don't go onto someone's property without permission and pick berries. Even if the berries are right next to the road. First off they are not yours and secondly you have no way of knowing if they have been sprayed. Every year I see people pulled over to the side of the roads out here picking berries that they see growing there. Many of these areas have been sprayed for both weeds and bugs and they are risking their health by eating them without knowing.

Next thing to remember is if someone lets you pick berries on their property and you have to go through gates be extra careful to make sure any gates that were closed when you got there remain so and any that were open also remain so. They are there for a reason.

A few things to keep in mind when picking berries. Dress appropriately this is not the time for shorts and a cute sleeveless top or for those cute little sandals you got on sale. You need to wear long pants, long sleeves and real shoes. Okay I admit I break the long sleeve rule most of the time. Remember those berry plants are going to fight back and they have thorns to do that with.

So now you have gone out and picked berries now what do you do with them?? There are so many things that come to mind but today I am going to tell you all about my favorite Blackberry Pie. That's right I said pie!!!

Remember I said I got about 8 cups of berries each time I picked? Well that amount is perfect for 2 pies. What I like to do is make one pie to eat right away and freeze a batch of berry pie filling for another one next winter. It is super easy to do and you will be so happy when you have that pie filling next winter.

Here is my favorite blackberry pie recipe complete with some pictures to help you along the way. After the recipe I'll tell how I go about freezing more pie filling to use later.

Blackberry Pie

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

Sort and rinse 4 cups of fresh blackberries and set aside to drain.


Line pie pan with bottom crust


In a large bowl combine:

¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

stir well then add the berries.

Gently combine until the berries are coated with the sugar mixture. They usually start to release some berry juices during this process.

Dump the berry/ sugar mixture into the pastry lined pie pan.

Cut about 2 Tablespoons of butter into small chunks and add to the top of the filling

Dip your finger into cool water and run it around the edge of the pastry in the pie pan. (this is your glue to hold the top crust to the bottom crust)

Carefully top with the second rolled out crust. Use a fork to press the edges together.
Cut the edge of the crust off even with the outside edge of the pie pan.

Cut some slits in the top crust (these allow the juices to bubble up and the air to escape during baking)

Sprinkle top of crust with a pinch of sugar- optional

Set pie pan on a foil lined baking sheet and place in pre-heated oven.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The pie is done when the crust is nicely browned and there are berry juices bubbling through the slits in the crust.

Cool on a wire rack

Berry pie filling for later.
Measure out 8 cups of berries and rinse them off just like when you made the pie.

Now combine you dry ingredients in a gallon size freezer bag. Add the drained, rinsed berries. Label the bag and seal it (making sure you have gotten as much air out as possible without crushing your berries. Now freeze this bag of berry pie filling. When you are ready to use it simply thaw it out (be sure to place the bag in a container just in case some of the juices decide to escape) 


You can do many things with this bag of filling once it is thawed out. You can of course make a pie following the directions for baking that we used today for our pie. Or you could put it into a casserole dish and cover it with a “crisp topping” (butter, flour and oatmeal) and bake that, you could heat it up and put it into a casserole with some biscuits on top and bake it into a cobbler, or just bring it to a boil (to cook the flour and thicken it a bit) and then cool and put over ice cream.