Roasted Asparagus Sandwiches

I’d like to discuss so much with you in regards to the perfect sandwich. One might think that there isn’t much to it, other than a few common ingredients here and there, but they’re wrong. There’s so much more to it than a few slices of bread and some filling in between. The bread needs to be hearty and toasted. I’m the kind of the guy that likes my bread toasted to the point where it can pass as a lethal weapon. Always have been, ever since I was a little boy. It was so bad that I wouldn’t even eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if my mamma didn’t toast the bread for me. I’d throw the sandwich back in her face if it wasn’t (that didn’t really happen, although now she’ll claim that it did, just you watch). Of course the perfect sandwich has got to have cheese of some kind. No exception. It doesn’t matter what kind of cheese, I don’t discriminate, just as long as there is cheese involved. And lots of it. The ultimate sandwich needs meat, also. I’m not a vegetarian and although sometimes I find it necessary to pretend to be (don’t ask), when it comes to a sandwich, all bets are off. Something salty and cured is definitely a must. Because my dream sandwich involves lots of bread and cheese and cured meat, it needs to have a vegetable of some sort, you know, to pass itself off as “healthy.” Whatever is in season will do, don’t worry about it. It’s really just so that my mom and doctor won’t complain. See guys? I’m eating my veggies! I love vegetables!

So now that we have all that down, the sandwich to end all sandwiches is coming together. Before we can proceed to devouring said sandwich, however, it needs to have  a crunch factor of some sort. I’m all about different textures when it comes to eating. I don’t like to feel like I’m eating baby food, where everything is sort of one note, that one note being mush. I’d say to throw some potato chips directly into the sandwich itself, but I’m trying to be classy here. I sometimes forget that I’m not ten years old anymore and people expect you to eat your chips on the side, not on the inside. All these rules, I can’t seem to keep up. So we’ll classify this sandwich making business up a bit by adding a nut of some sort. Walnuts will do. Pine nuts would be great, sure, but what am I made of money?!

Once you have all these different components together, you can begin to assemble the World’s Best Sandwich. Or Jon’s Ultimate Sammie if you’d like. Or maybe Move Over Subway Because You Ain’t Got Nothing On Us? Okay, perhaps not the last one, I’m still working on the title, bear with me. So here we are making delicious sandwiches like our lives depend on it, because it’s a serious task. One that requires so much more than we originally anticipated. We’re sandwich making masters. Pros. We got this. We’re going to make them open-faced and put an egg on top because we all know that everything is better with an egg on top. Hello, that’s why there’s a saying going around, “put an egg on top.” So now that we know how to make the perfect sandwich, all that’s left to do is to go out and celebrate this feat by making these perfect sandwiches and eating ALL of them until we can’t eat anymore. That’s the only way I like to eat my sandwiches if I’m being honest. 

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Loaded Baked Potato Scones

I don’t think I have to explain my undying love of potatoes to you. I think you just get it. If I were to say to you that potatoes are the best vegetable/starch ever, like in all the worlds, well you would know I wasn’t lying. You’d most likely agree with me, because umm hello, potatoes. I have this obsession with potatoes. That’s where Potato Tacos and Potato Balls come into the picture. Not like a “they’re so good I’m obsessed can’t get enough of them” kind of obsession. While yes that’s true, it’s more like a “I need to eat potato everything and anything because they’re that good,” kind of obsession. I think it’s a healthy addiction. Nothing to worry about. It’s quite common if you really think about it. Don’t look at me like that!

I know that at some point I’ll be asked if these are scones or biscuits, and to tell you the truth, I’m not quite sure myself. I have no idea. Let’s be frank, they look exactly the same. All I know is that they’re flaky and delicious and I want to eat them all. I guess we can call them biscuit scones. Biscones. Or sconsuits. Hey look at us, we’re inventing new things. Aren’t we clever? The answer is yes. Always, yes. In all honesty, jokes aside, scones and biscuits, they’re pretty much the same thing, right? I mean, I can’t really tell the difference. Some sources claim to know the answer. The answer being that scones have eggs in the dough. Um no. I know plenty of scones that don’t have eggs in them so therefore, are they biscuits? Others claim that scones are scones if they are triangular and biscuits are biscuits if they are circular. This might be the case but at the same time, I’ve seen circular scones so I don’t think there’s a right answer here. I think the people who invented each of them got together and decided to play a trick on all of us. They wanted to mess with our heads. 

The bottom line is I made these potato scones/biscuits with bacon and cheese and I can’t think of anything more delicious at the moment. They’re something out of this world, especially right out of the oven all warm and flaky and delicious looking. Am I convincing you yet? These biscuits/scones are sort of like the ultimate snack, perfect for on-the-go. It’s potatoes, cheese and bacon and bread in a small package that you can eat with one hand while you (safely) drive to work or school or where ever else you drive. How about now? Are you convinced? These scones/biscuits are all like, “Hey look at us, we’re loaded with potatoes and crispy bacon and delicious cheese. You need to eat us!” They’re calling out to you because they know you can’t resist. Don’t fight it anymore, go on and make these biscuits/scones for yourself. 

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Kale and Artichoke Dip

So long spinach. Goodbye. It was nice knowing you. Until next time. You’re out of the picture. You’ve been replaced by a new green. Something much more marketable and hip and tasty, and do you want to know something, spinach? People really love the new you, too. It’s sad, but true. They can’t get enough of it. It seems to be everywhere right now. No matter where I turn, BAM, I run into it. You can’t escape it, spinach. You’re done. Cooked. No one wants you anymore. You were popular, what, in the eighties? You’ve had a nice run though, so you can’t complain. I think it’s better to go while you’re still on top. While people still remember you with admiration and nostalgia. Take the high road, on your way out. It’s the only sophisticated thing to do. One day you’ll look back at this moment and think to yourself, “Everyone was right to trade me in. I am a loser. I’ve reached my full potential.” It’s okay though, cheer up spinach. Think of all the happy and healthy times you brought all those people throughout the years—that is before kale came into the picture and stole all of your thunder, rendering you pretty much useless and unwanted. Word on the street is that even Popeye the Sailor Man is getting all his strength from kale these days. Talk about hitting rock bottom, spinach. Hitting the cold hard concrete. In the pouring rain. Shut out with nowhere to turn to. 

There there spinach, don’t cry. It happens to the best of us. You should be happy that kale is getting its chance in the spotlight. It’s nice to share. Between you and I, spinach, I think it’s just a fad. People in this town like to jump on band wagons. You see, in no time they’ll get bored of kale, throwing out words like “one note” and “non-versatile.” I can see it already. You’ll be back on top…eventually. Oh spinach, I’m not saying it’ll be tomorrow or anytime soon. I’m sure it’ll be a long while before people forget about the wonder that is kale. It’s pretty magical, but I’m sure you don’t need to hear that right now.

I guarantee you though, that there will come a day when everyone drops kale like it’s hot. It’ll lose its cool factor and they’ll move on to something new and exciting. Something bigger and better. That’s where you come back in, spinach. You swoop in with a new and improved look. A rebranding so to speak. When Popeye comes running back, you say, “Get lost Sailor Man! I don’t need you!” Get yourself a new spokesperson and reinvent yourself. That’ll win America’s hearts back once again. Then you’ll slap kale in the face and send it running back to the dark hole from whence it came. You’ll have the last laugh, dear ol’ spinach. I know it’s difficult to see that right now because of all the tears and anger towards kale, but you’ll see how right I am. Hey! I know what will cheer you up! I made some dip, maybe you’d like some. Dip always makes me feel better. I tried out this new recipe. It has artichokes and lots of cheese and this deliciously wonderful green in it. Oh what green, you ask? You don’t know it. It’s a new green, spinach. Something out of this world. You’re still number one though (in my heart), and that’s all that matters.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Sangria

Sometimes we could all use a drink. I’m not talking about a water because we’re thirsty kind of drink, either. No, I’m talking about alcohol, people. Booze. The hard stuff. Liquor. Yea, we could all really use a drink every now and then. Especially after a long day of work, but not necessarily only on those days. Sometimes we’re not all that tired or stressed out, but we still want a drink anyhow. That’s okay. I’m here to tell you that’s okay. As a matter of fact, grab yourself a drink right now. And even if you don’t drink, well then pour yourself some juice and pretend it’s a stiff drink, because you’re tired and because you need it and because you deserve it. There are some days where I’m just staring at my watch, counting down the minutes to five o’clock—because I don’t know about you but I feel much better drinking once it’s officially the evening. I’ll be honest with you, though, many times, I don’t even make it to five. I can’t bear all the waiting so I just start drinking early on. Don’t worry, I’m not an alcoholic. I just go through these phases where I need a drink, and if I don’t get one, I fly off the rails and go crazy. I have it under control though. I don’t have a problem. (I’m totally kidding mom). 

This is for all the people out there that love a good drink but don’t need it to be super strong. It’s a drink for those who like lounging in the backyard or by the pool enjoying the sun and the start of spring. For those of you still experiencing tons of wet, cold, snowy weather, well then, this one is for you as well. Make a big batch of this stuff and close your eyes imagining that snow isn’t there anymore. I’ve got you covered. 

Sangria is typically made with red wine which is how the name sangria got placed onto it because it has something to do with it looking like the color of blood…or something along those lines. I can’t really remember what I read about it. Perhaps I was drinking at the time. Anyhow, I’m not much of a fan of red wine so I wanted to make a white wine sangria. With white wine, which I guess makes sense, and since I’ve been in a strawberry rhubarb kick lately, I thought to myself, “Self, why not make a strawberry rhubarb sangria? That sounds delicious!” And what do you know? It was delicious. I should listen to myself more often. Right now I’m telling myself I could use a couple glasses of strawberry rhubarb sangria, excuse me. 

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Beef Sausage and Peppers Tacos w/ Avocado Cream*

I have a confession to make. It’s a sad and terrible confession but one that I should get off my chest, right here and now. Why prolong the inevitable? Sure it’s embarrassing, but maybe I’m not the only one out there with the same belief. Or I guess I should say, with the same belief that I used to have. I don’t anymore because now I’ve totally seen the light. I used to think cooking with sausage was a big hassle. It was daunting and scary to me because I felt like I just never knew what to cook with it. I was in a slump, friends. A cooking slump, and those are the worst kinds of slumps to be in. I mean, a guy can only eat so many hot dogs before you begin to get tired of them. So I wouldn’t really make anything else with sausage. I always bypassed it at the grocery store, not wanting to put that pressure on myself. Whenever I’d pass through the sausage aisle, I’d look away. It was too much for me to bear. Of course I would always end up getting chicken because, in my mind, it was the easiest thing to cook with. “Jonathan, just grab a couple of chicken breasts and call it a day,” I would say. Just like that too. I like to talk to myself in first person sometimes. If you recall my Roasted Autumn Vegetable Pot Pie post, my friend Jenny can attest to always having chicken at my house. It was starting to become a problem. So one day I got the courage to start exploring more with smoked sausage. In part because anything smoked is just plain delicious (have you met my friend bacon?) but mostly because sometimes—and by sometimes I mean like all the time—I get lazy in the kitchen and just want something quick and easy to whip up so I can devour it as soon as possible. Can you blame me?

So there I am one day at the grocery store, walking—no, stomping, that sounds a lot better—towards the sausage aisle with determination in my eyes. Really it was a glint in my eyes and a light bulb over my head, because I finally had an idea as to what I can cook with sausage. It wasn’t that hard to come up with, really. I just started thinking of all the delicious things I enjoy eating and then I’d mentally swap out the main ingredient for sausage. I did that until I got the perfect match. You all know my love for doughnuts, however, cake doughnuts with a sausage glaze just didn’t sit well with me. So just like that, sweets were out of the question. Sausage lasagna with a creamy béchamel sauce with seven different cheeses sounded amazing. I was just about to pick up the eighth cheese when I came to my senses. “Jonathan, you don’t have that kind of time on your hands to make a lasagna! You need something quick and easy!” So out the window went that plan. Then all of a sudden someone threw a package of tortillas at my face and BAM just like that, tacos were in my future. Oh and not just any tacos, my friends, but angus beef smoked sausage tacos.

After about fifteen of the most stress-free minutes I’ve ever encountered in the kitchen, I sat down to eat my beef sausage and peppers tacos with all the toppings you could possibly think of. And right there, between my fifth and sixth taco, I realized cooking with sausage isn’t all that difficult at all. In fact, it’s ridiculously easy (and tasty too). So now every time I go to the grocery store, I don’t avoid the sausage aisle. In fact, I go over and wave at it, picking up a few packages of Hillshire Farm along the way. “Hello delicious smoked sausage,” I yell out. Don’t worry, I look around before talking to the sausage to make sure no one is looking at me. I’m not that crazy. Okay maybe a little crazy. Crazy for smoked sausage tacos that is.

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Sausage and Mushroom Wild Rice

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Like in a few short days, around the corner. I’m sure that’s the last thing you want to hear right now because you’re probably panicking and worrying about everything turing out perfect and you feel like you might cry at any moment because it’s just too overwhelming. Or maybe you’re pulling out all of your hair because you still haven’t done the grocery shopping, and you don’t even know what you’re going to make yet, and you’re having a bunch of people over for dinner, and you just don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into, and you feel like the world is ending. No? Maybe, I’m just projecting here. I’m still refusing to believe Thanksgiving is here. To me, this Thursday is just like any other day. The year just, whoosh, flew by. Although I do have to admit my stomach is starting to get really excited because I can’t wait to stuff my face with copious amounts of turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and dinner rolls and this here rice recipe I’m about to share with you. Oh and let’s not forget about all the pumpkin pie I plan on eating. Yeah you read that right, it’s just a carb fest. A carb-a-thon. I’m pretty sure that when the first Thanksgiving took place, it was their full intention, for this holiday to be nothing but carbohydrates. Carb party. One way ticket to Carb Town. I’m not mad at that though. Yeah, yeah, I’ll eat a few veggies here and there (for my mom’s sake). More like I’ll put some on my plate and when no one is looking just feed it to the dog. I’m totally kidding, I don’t even have a dog, but if I did you better believe he’d love vegetables. I’ll just hide the veggies somewhere else. Like under my placemat or onto my sister’s plate. She’ll give me her turkey and I’ll give her my veggies. It’s a win-win when someone you know doesn’t eat meat. If you don’t have a vegetarian friend, you’re missing out on all the wonderful eating opportunities that comes with it. Go out and find a vegetarian right away.

Thanksgiving, in all seriousness, happens to be my favorite holiday because it’s a holiday centered around food. What can be so wrong about that? It’s also a holiday (like most, I’m sure) centered around family and friends and loved ones. I added the “loved ones” to that line just in case you don’t love certain family members or friends and you just can’t stand their faces or something. See? I’m looking out for you. I’ve got you covered. I’ve also got you covered in the recipe department. If you’re tired of the same boring dishes year after year, around the Thanksgiving table, or if your family refuses to eat another green bean casserole or mashed potatoes (don’t include them in the loved ones category because they’re crazy) well, then you can switch things up this year by trying out this wild rice dish. I think that it compliments all the traditional turkey day flavors perfectly. But maybe I’m just biased because I made this and it’s the new post and I’m trying to sell it to you like a used car. That could be true. But do you really want to take that chance? This could be your new favorite Thanksgiving side dish for all you know. This could be the deciding factor for your boyfriend or girlfriend to propose to you (probably not, but I’m really trying here). I don’t think you should take the risk of not making it this year. That’s it. It’s settled. It has been decided—I’ve decided for you, trust me. You’re going to make this dish in just a short few days. No no, no need to thank me. It’s my job to make these types of decisions for you. All I ask is that you dedicate your Thanksgiving meal to me. Right before eating, just stand up and say, “I want to take a moment to dedicate this meal to the man who made it possible. The man who created this wonderful wild rice dish you’re all about to enjoy. The man who changed my life. Jonathan Melendez.” That’s not asking for much right? I think it’s pretty reasonable. But enough about me, sheesh, you all sure know how to talk my ear off. Let’s get cooking. Thanksgiving is around the corner. Like in a few short days, around the corner. We’ve been here once before…

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