Reinventing your Old Food and a Spinach & Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwich
It’s Blog Action Day today and since it coincides with World Food Day this year, they’ve chosen the topic of food.
I want to talk about one little thing I think most of us don’t think about too much in our fast-food, disposable society: Reuse. We recycle, and that’s good, but we should also be doing a lot more reuse.
In America, we buy a lot of food that we never eat. So much of it gets thrown in the trash, encased in a plastic bag that won’t break down, then buried in a landfill. The convenience food we buy gets overpackaged in plastic and cardboard. We even buy packaged water, which isn’t any better tasting, cleaner, or more pure than the water that comes out of the tap.
I want to challenge you to do three simple things:
- Buy less pre-packaged food. Opt for foods that aren’t packaged at all as much as you can. All that packaging hurts our environment.
- Drink out of reusable containers. Make your own bottled water with a reusable water bottle and the water that comes out of your tap. If you must have filtered water, get a water filter. Skip the plastic bottles. Bring your own travel mug to the coffee shop or ask them to put your coffee in a REAL mug. They all have real mugs, but look around at the coffee shop and notice how many people are drinking out of real mugs and how many people are drinking out of disposable containers? Why do you have to ASK for a REAL mug?
- Really use the food you buy.
Let’s talk more about #3. I know, leftovers can get boring, but they don’t have to be!
I don’t know if you noticed that a lot of the recipes on my blog are interconnected. The leftover Baked Herb Lemon Garlic Chicken got turned into a Pesto Chicken Bacon Pizza, the waffles my kids didn’t eat at breakfast were tossed into a delicious chocolate raspberry pudding. Leftover tzatziki and hummus became a gorgeous Greek Layer Dip. The other thing you can do is simply freeze your leftovers so you have a quick meal when you need something fast (a much better kind of “fast food” than the drive through at McDonald’s).
I use “old” bread to make breadcrumbs for breading fish, topping casseroles or stuffing (whir the bread in a food processor or handi chopper until it’s fine crumbs, then freeze them for quick use whenever you need breadcrumbs). You don’t have to buy “panko” or breadcrumbs–just use the ends of the bread you have!
“Old” bread is also lovely for making french toast or bread pizza, and it also makes a killer grilled cheese sandwich. The toasting makes it taste fresh all over again.
Instead of going out and buying MORE food to make things, try to think of different ways to reuse what you’ve got. Get creative. You will be saving money, eating more interesting, delicious meals, AND you’ll be making a difference in the world. That’s something you can feel good about.
Which leads me to this sandwich. This is a reinvention of the Chardonnay Mushrooms and the Rustic Rosemary Bread. The bread and mushrooms are really two great ingredients that can be used SO many ways. What’s better than that?
This is an amazing blend of tastes in one little sandwich. It’s a simple sandwich to make — and if you keep some of the cheese mixture and mushrooms pre-made in the fridge, you can whip up a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich in no time. The cheese, by the way, is also a really nice spread for crackers or on celery sticks. The mushrooms are great on a steak or chicken or pizza. Since spinach freezes so well, just pull out what you will use for your sandwich and put the rest back in the freezer for another use.
Before you can make this delicious sandwich, you need to make Chardonnay Mushrooms, so if you don’t have any on hand, go pop over and make those first. Here’s the recipe. It won’t take you long. (If you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, improvise a bit! Try another wine + your favorite seasoning blends!)
Spinach, Pesto, and Chardonnay Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
- Pesto (You can use store-bought or make your own! Here’s my recipe for pesto.)
- Chardonnay mushrooms (Recipe here!)
- Fresh spinach leaves or frozen spinach, thawed, warmed, and blotted with a towel to take out the extra liquid
- Reduced-fat trans-fat-free buttery spread of your choice — or butter — whatever you like to use!
- Your favorite rustic or french bread, sliced (I used the Rustic Rosemary bread.)
- 3 oz. light cream cheese
- 1 – 2 T. freshly grated asiago cheese
- 1 – 2 T. freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 – 2 T. blue cheese crumbles
- In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese with the other cheeses till they are well blended. You can vary the cheeses according to your preferences, but I recommend intensely flavored cheeses. Once you’ve mixed them well, warm the cheese briefly in the microwave (not more than 30 seconds).
- If you have fresh spinach, make sure it’s washed and dried well. I used frozen, so I heated in the microwave, then pressed a clean towel over it to remove the excess juices.
- Spread a very thin layer of buttery spread on the outside of the bread slices.
- Flip over the slices. On one slice of bread for each sandwich, spread a thin layer of pesto. On the other side, spread with a thicker layer of the warm cheese mixture.
- On top of the pesto side, arrange several spinach leaves or cooked spinach, then top with the Chardonnay Mushrooms.
- Put the cheesy slice on top of the sandwich.
- Heat a saucepan to med-high heat. Place each sandwich in the pan and cover for a few minutes. When the first side is golden brown and toasty, flip the sandwich to toast the other side.
- Slice and enjoy!