Pear-Apple Butter and Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich

In honor of National Grilled Cheese Month, I’m posting a different grilled cheese sandwich every single day through the month of April. You’re welcome.

Cheddar and apple are already considered by many a perfect pair. When you add into the mix ripe pear, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and melt it between buttery whole wheat toast, the resulting sandwich is (dare I say it?) perfect. Sweet, salty, and gooey, with a hint of spicy warmth. This is pure comfort between two slices of bread.

Pear-Apple Butter and Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Recipe Type: Sandwich
Author: Bake Up, Little Suzy
Prep time: 25 mins
Cook time: 1 hour 25 mins
Total time: 1 hour 50 mins
Serves: 1
Sweet, salty, and gooey, with a hint of spicy warmth. This is pure comfort between two slices of bread.
Ingredients
  • Pear-Apple Butter
  • 2 ripe pears, cored and sliced
  • 2 red delicious apples, cored and sliced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2/3 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Pear-Apple Butter and Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  • 2 slices wheat bread
  • Butter
  • 2 slices cheddar
  • Pear apple butter
Instructions
Pear-Apple Butter
  1. Place the fruit and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until fruit is very soft when pierced with a knife.
  2. Remove the pan from heat; add brown sugar, spices and lemon juice and stir to blend.
  3. Puree mixture until very smooth in food processor fitted with a steel blade.
  4. Return the mixture to the saucepan; simmer over low heat, stirring frequently for 30 minutes, or until thickened to desired consistency. Strain.
Pear-Apple Butter and Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  1. Top each slice of bread with cheddar cheese.
  2. Spread pear-apple butter on one slice of cheddar.
  3. Close it up and butter the outsides of the bread.
  4. Griddle on medium-high heat until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown.

 

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Winter in Minnesota is notoriously treacherous. Sub-zero temperatures. Deadly blizzards. Icy winds that’ll blow the lip gloss right off your face, and leave your naked maw puckered and chapped.

By March, after months of potatoes drowned in gravy, when the snow is still piled up in grey, icy mounds and it seems spring is never going to come, I dream of fresh, ripe summer berries. I long for strawberry shortcake and blackberry pie and homemade jam. And I wonder when will the berries at the grocery store drop in price and stop tasting like sawdust already?!

Well thanks to global warming or the world ending or something, we’ve seen record highs in temperatures and record lows in snowfall this winter. And I can’t help but believe this bizarro weather is somehow responsible for the rock-bottom price on sweet, juicy, organic blueberries at Rainbow last week.

We may very well pay the price down the road for this uncharacteristically mild weather. But if I can do nothing to change it, I figure I may as well enjoy it. And I’m enjoying the weather with blueberry crumb bars. The crust is rich and buttery with a satisfying crunch, and the blueberries bake to a perfectly thick, sticky jam that’s packed with fresh fruit flavor but not too sweet. Y’know what summertime tastes like? This.

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Asparagus Lasagna with Pancetta, Goat Cheese, and Lemon

Asparagus Lasagna Slice

Lasagna terrifies me.

Asparagus Lasagna Slice2

For years, I dreamed of re-creating the Italian comfort classic in my kitchen, but I was always scared off by the many potential pitfalls. It’s too dry. It’s too soupy. The noodles are undercooked. The noodles are mush. The noodles are stuck together in a giant starch-bomb. Who are these kitchen acrobats willing to walk the cheesy Cirque du Soleil tight-rope of perfectly baked lasagna?

Asparagus Lasagna Baked

Well, I know of one lasagna superhero, and she’s been the greatest deterrent of all to my taking on lasagna. It’s my mom. She makes lasagna once a year for Christmas dinner, and it’s outstanding. Her take on the classic lasagna is hearty and packed with flavor, and it comes out perfectly every time.

Asparagus Lasagna Layers

I just can’t compete with that. It seemed pointless to attempt a classic lasagna knowing it would never measure up to Mom’s. So I decided the only way I could bake a lasagna that didn’t leave me feeling dead inside would be to take it in an entirely different direction.

Asparagus

I knew I wanted to nix the traditional red meat sauce and use a béchamel punched up with tangy goat cheese instead. Then I held a series of vigorous auditions in the produce department, and after much deliberation, ultimately cast asparagus, lemon, and thyme as the leads. Diced, sautéed pancetta plays a salty, supporting role. (Sorry, I’m watching the Oscars.)

Pancetta

The resulting lasagna is almost as delicious as Mom’s, but could not be more different. It’s really the perfect dinner for a late February evening, when I’m still craving winter’s creamy comfort foods, but I’m ready for bright, fresh flavors. The tender asparagus and sunshiny lemon zest reach out from under a velvet blanket of cheese and pasta to invite springtime to stay for dinner.

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Lemon Pavlovas with Blackberry Sauce

I have a number of weirdo food quirks:

1. I eat all the crust off a slice of bread first, in a circle, until all that’s left is the center

2. I suck on Cheetos until they’re soggy, then chew and swallow

3. I eat french fries two at a time, and they have to be identical in length. I’ll sort them first, to match each fry with a similar-sized french fry companion, then eat them together

4. I don’t like cold foods touching hot foods

And relatedly:

5. I like to eat desserts one layer at a time

Cake, then frosting. Crust, then pie filling. Whipped cream, then Jell-O. Bars present their own issues, but that’s another story for another, messier day.

Lemon Pavlova with Blackberry Sauce

On the evening I served these ethereal splendors to Mom and Handsome Greg, I took care in sequestering the creamy filling from the cloud of meringue. Yet somehow, a crispy shard of meringue found its way onto my forkful of sweetened mascarpone, stained with blackberry juice.

Clean Plate

How could this have happened? I mean, it’s not like I’d had three glasses of wine, or anything.

Meringue with Lemon Zest

And then a light bulb turned on in my mouth, or maybe in my head. In that one, incredible you-got-your-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter-no-you-got-your-peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate moment, I finally understood the desire to construct “the perfect bite” of food.

Blackberry

While each element of the recipe – the light, crunchy meringue, the duvet of butter-sweet cheese, and the fresh, tart blackberry sauce – is tasty in its own right, together they are magical.

So what are your food hang-ups?

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Zucchini Ribbons

While I’m fully on board with the idea that one can cook with minimal tools, in practice, I adore kitchen gadgets, and I’ve grown dependent on luxury uni-taskers. At this point, I’m pretty sure I really need a garlic press and a cherry pitter and a mango slicer and an egg separator.

Zucchini Ribbons

When it’s two in the morning and I’m watching infomercials, three-glasses-of-wine Suzy is positive that LIFE WILL END without Eggies. At that point, unemployed-for-nearly-six-months Suzy hides the credit cards.

But, but, look at how cute they are! And no shells to peel! And deviled eggs!

Unemployed-for-nearly-six-months Suzy puts her foot down, and reminds three-glasses-of-wine Suzy that I (we?) don’t even really care for eggs.

At this point, three-glasses-of-wine Suzy remembers the $100 gift card to Cooks of Crocus Hill that Handsome Greg gave me for Christmas, and unemployed-for-nearly-six-months Suzy shuts the hell up.

That’s right. I’ve got one hundred smackers to blow on kitchen tools. What gadgets do I want? Is it time to buy a proper tart pan? Should I buy a food mill and stop borrowing Mom’s every time I make mashed potatoes? How about a silpat?

Zucchini Ribbons

 So maybe I don’t need the twirling spaghetti fork and the banana guard, but I simply couldn’t have made my favorite satin zucchini ribbons without the razor-sharp mandolin slicer Mom gave me a year ago Christmas. I don’t use it often, but when I need to julienne vegetables or cut perfectly even slices (like these delicate zucchini ribbons), nothing else will do.

 I sautéed the zucchini planks in garlic-infused olive oil, and seasoned them with salt, pepper, and lemon zest. They were bright and fresh as spring sunshine alongside the prosciutto, leek, and Swiss chard quiche.

Garlic lemon zucchini

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Broccoli Soup

Are you looking for a decadent, heavy meal full of cream and butter to treat yourself on pay day?

Well, move along, Friend.

This soup is creamy without a drop of cream, and buttery, with nary a pat of butter. Pair it with a hunk of crusty bread, and you’ve got a flavorful, hearty, healthy, and super cheap lunch.

The single potato makes it lush and creamy, and the red pepper flakes give it just enough heat. Don’t even think about skipping the lemon juice.

Seriously.

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Blue Umbrella Bake Sale!

Blue Umbrella Productions is hosting an ongoing bake sale to help raise money for our summer musical, Those Were the Days: A Tribute to Television Themes. I’ll be taking and fulfilling orders Girl-Scout style, plus filling any special requests (like scones for Mother’s Day!) until rehearsals begin in June.

I’ve got a menu of both sweet and savory treats to choose from posted below. Email info@blueumbrellaproductions.com to place an order for pick up or delivery. (Twin Cities only. $10 minimum on orders outside of the Banks Building.)

Menu

Popcorn with Truffle Salt
Fresh, fluffy popcorn is tossed with aromatic, savory truffle salt for a luxurious movie-night upgrade.

3 cups: $1.75
6 cups: $3

Lemon Meltaways
These bite-size, buttery lemon shortbread cookies will melt in your mouth.

Half dozen for $2.75
Dozen for $5

Coconut Macaroons
Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, light as a cloud, with coconutty goodness all the way through.

Half dozen for $4.25
Dozen for $8

Snickerdoodles with Cinnamon Chips
Classic snickerdoodles (sugar cookies rolled in cinnamon sugar) get an extra boost of flavor with creamy cinnamon chips.

Half dozen for $5.50
Dozen for $10

Homemade “Oreos”
They’re bigger, they’re better, and they’re baked fresh with no mystery ingredients.

Half dozen for $8
Dozen for $15

Oatmeal Cream Pies
A grown-up version of the classic treat – the cookies are rich and spiced, and the creamy filling is not overly sweet.

Half dozen for $8
Dozen for $15

Mini Strawberry Hand Pies
Light, flaky butter crust filled with sweet strawberry jam.

Half dozen for $8
Dozen for $15

Sweet and Spicy Candied Nuts
Crunchy almonds and pecans baked in a party-perfect blend of cinnamon, sugar, and a pinch of cayenne.

4 oz. for $4
8 oz. for $7.50
12 oz. for $11
1 lb. for $14.50