Balsamic Peppers & Chicken Panini

Still goin’ strong with the new Panini maker.  It’s so much fun.  I’ve been really into buying different breads and testing them out to see which is the best.  This week’s bread was the Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Tuscan Pane.  This bread is a great shape for a nice big panini and is hearty enough to hold lots of good stuff without falling apart.

There are a few steps to making this panini, but you could make some modifications or even preparations to make life easier which I’ll go over in a bit.

I had some extra time while I was making this so I also decided to be fancy and whip up a nice little Smoky Garlic Aioli to dress the sandwich.  Turns out just an extra tiny little step made a big difference.  Yum!

Balsamic Peppers & Chicken Panini

(for one 🙂 )

Ingredients (for the peppers):

1/4 Onion, cut into thin slices

1/2 Fresh Jalapeno (leave this out if you don’t like spicy), cut into thin slices

1/2 Orange or any Bell Pepper, cut into thin slices

1 Teaspoon Olive Oil

1 teaspoon Minced Garlic

Sea Salt, Black Pepper & Italian Seasoning to taste

1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar

Ingredients (for the sandwich):

2 Slices Hearty Bread (TJ’s Whole Wheat Tuscan Pane is what I used)

1 Chicken Breast (the thin sliced kind)

Lettuce (I used baby spinach), Tomato, Mozzarella Cheese

Ingredients (for the Smoky Garlic Aioli):

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil Mayo

1/2 teaspoon Minced Garlic

Garlic Powder, Sea Salt, Black Pepper, & Smoked Paprika

1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice (approx)


1.  Cut your veggies and heat your panini press.  Heat the olive oil in a small pan.  Add the garlic, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, onion, & seasonings to the oil and cook while stirring for about 5 minutes.  Add the balsamic vinegar once the veggies are soft and starting to brown just a bit.  Stir the veggies with the balsamic until they are coated.  Cook for another 3-4 minutes while stirring.  Remove from heat and set aside.

2.  Lightly salt and pepper the chicken breast on both sides.  Wipe the pan clean and coat with cooking spray.  Heat over medium-high and place the chicken breast on the hot pan.  Cook for about 4-5 minutes on both sides until the chicken is cooked through.  Set aside.

3.  Prepare the Smoky Garlic Aioli by simply combining the ingredients in a small bowl and stirring until mixed together.  Don’t forget to taste test it.  You can add more mayo if it’s too garlicy or more salt & paprika if it’s too plain.

4.  Put the sandwich together.  I slathered the Aioli on both sides of the bread, followed by the chicken, the peppers & onions, then some spinach, tomatoes, and cheese.  Press the sandwich together and spray both outside pieces of bread with cooking spray.  Place in the panini press and press down!  Heat for about 4 minutes, flip, and repeat.  Enjoy!

Okay, so there are a lot of steps but it's so worth it!

Okay, so there are a lot of steps but it’s so worth it!

All ready for some heat!

All ready for some heat!

All done!  Ready to devour...

All done! Ready to devour…

SO- while this silly little sandwich seems like it’s going to take a while to make, theres a few things you can do to help you out.  You can either buy pre-cooked chicken, or just cook yourself a few chicken breasts extra another night.  I do this often, then save them for a few days for other recipes.  You can do the same with the veggies and even the aioli.

And for the record, “Aioli” is a fabulous scrabble word to get rid of lots of vowels!  One of my personal favorites 🙂

Click here for other awesome Sandwich Recipes:

Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese on a Whole Wheat English Muffin

Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese on a Whole Wheat English Muffin

Green Apple and White Cheddar Tuna Melt

Green Apple and White Cheddar Tuna Melt

Turkey & Brie Panini w/ Fig Butter

Turkey & Brie Panini w/ Fig Butter

Green Apple & White Cheddar Tuna Melt

It was an Instagram picture that got me to want this delicious open-faced sandwich.  Allie, one of my closest friends and favorite bloggers… has been super stressed out with work and on a semi-blogging hiatus (sadface).  She still cooks amazing food and will occasionally torture us with ridiculously yummy looking food-porn pictures.

Allie’s Green Apple Tuna melt appeared on my Instagram feed which led me to call her immediately, requesting a recipe to be emailed or a new blog post.  Allie (being the best) did it right away!

Wouldn't this picture do you in too?  It was like love at first sight...

Wouldn’t this picture do you in too? It was like love at first sight…

Which leads me to last night’s dinner:  Green Apple with White Cheddar Tuna Melt.  The verdict?  DELICIOUS.  What an awesome combination of flavors, and what a great idea to spice up an otherwise boring brown-bag-lunch kind of meal.

Green Apple & White Cheddar Tuna Melt

Recipe slightly adapted from:  Allie’s All I Eat Food

Serves:  2 (thoughts on this, read below)


2 Whole Wheat English Muffins, sliced

2 cans of Tuna (I, like Allie… like to eat a whole can if I’m eatin’ it!), chopped with a knife

2 stalks Celery, finely diced

2 large Carrots, peeled and finely diced

1 teaspoon Freeze-Dried Chives (also seen in Buff Chix Soup)

2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard (Trader Joe’s is a great one)

2 heaping Tablespoons Olive Oil Mayo, or light

4 thin slices Green Apple, peeled

Shredded White Cheddar Cheese (I used a large pinch per sandwich)

Sea Salt & Black Pepper


1.  Toast your English Muffins.  Preheat the oven to 425.

2.  Combine Tuna, Celery, Carrots, Chives, Mustard & Mayo in a bowl.  Mix until well combined.  Taste and season as you like (I like to use garlic powder, dill, hot sauce… you name it… but not all together!  The mustard in this batch was so good I didn’t need to though)

3.  Prepare a cookie sheet with foil.  Place the English Muffins on the foil.  Spoon the tuna out evenly and pile onto the English Muffin halves.  Put an apple slice ontop, and lightly smush down to make the top flat for the cheese.  Sprinkle the cheese on top.

4.  Set the oven to broil.  Place the cookie sheet with the tuna sandwiches in the top section of the oven and don’t leave unattended.  Broil for a minute or two or until the cheese is melted and just starts to brown.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

Before broiling w/ cheese ontop

Before broiling w/ cheese ontop

MMMM... could not wait to devour!  I served this with some sauteed up Cauliflower and Mushrooms (Grapeseed Oil, Garlic, Salt, Pepper, Smoked Paprika... that's it!)

MMMM… could not wait to devour! I served this with some sauteed up Cauliflower and Mushrooms (Grapeseed Oil, Garlic, Salt, Pepper, Smoked Paprika… that’s it!)

photo 3 (5) (1)

SO, now that you see just how yummy these looked, let me tell you what I think.  I’ve already raved about how good they taste (YUM), but I’m not sure about the serving size.

I, for one, typically have “big eye” syndrome and always want to eat more.  We ate the tuna for dinner, but also had a very small side salad and some sauteed veggies on the side (i was thinking to replace chips).  I also personally always “take turns” when I’m eating something that’s more than one part… as in… one bite sandwich… one bite salad… one bite veggies.  LOL.

SOOO… long story short… I was STUFFED and didn’t even get to finish my second half of tuna sandwich.  It just sat there all sad, wanting me to finish it… but I couldn’t!  I was just too full.

With all of that being said, I think you could eat one half for lunch, and even just one half for dinner if you have something on the side.  If you want both halves, go ahead but don’t waste your time making sides like I did!  This tuna melt is FILLING!

You may also like…

Smoked Salmon and English Muffin Sandwich

Smoked Salmon and English Muffin Sandwich

Beth's Tuna Salad

Beth’s Tuna Salad

Portabello Mushroom Burger

Portabello Mushroom Burger



Turkey & Brie Panini

Welcome to The Week of No Grocery Shopping.  Also known as:  The First Week after the Holidays, The Week after our First Rent Payment was Due, & last but not least, The Week of HELL at Work.

Between the holidays, work stress, and just generally being poor… I’ve decided not to go grocery shopping this week.  I know I have a ton of food that I’ve stocked our new apartment up with, it shouldn’t be that bad, right?

After finishing the last of our frozen chicken breasts and seafood earlier this week, I wasn’t left with much to choose from for dinner last night.  The decision came down to three different things:  Pasta, Eggs, or Sandwich.  With the addition of the Panini Maker to our appliances last month… the choice was easily made:  PANINI!!!

Turkey & Brie Panini

What you’ll need (per sandwich):

2 Slices Wheat Bread (I’ve been using Arnold’s Double Fiber 100% Whole Wheat)

3-4 oz Sliced Deli Turkey (Dietz&Watson Smoked Turkey, I also used up the last slice of Honey Ham we had!)

1-2 oz Brie Cheese

1 Tablespoon Jam (I used Apricot-Balsamic from the farmers market, another good suggestion would be TJ’s Fig Butter)

1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard


Heat the Panini Press on HIGH.  Let heat until the light indicates it’s ready.  Put the sandwich together, then spray both sides of the sandwich with just a touch of Pam.  Place on the panini press and PRESS down.  Wait about 4-5 minutes, flip, and press down again, letting it sit this time for only another minute.  Cut and serve. 

TB Panini

MMM!  This was a great way to make a boring dinner (what would normally be a lunch I guess!) special.  If you don’t have a Panini Maker, you could do this on a grill pan on the stove, using the bottom of a smaller, heavy pan ontop of the sandwich.  We did get ours for like $10 from Macy’s… it’s the best.

I can’t wait to see what other kinds of yummy sandwich creations come out of our kitchen next!  Here are three from my fav. Food Network chefs that I’m dying to try out…

Giada’s Chocolate Strawberry Panini 

Tyler’s Cobb Salad Panini

Rachael’s Outside-In Pizza Panini

You might also be interested in these other sandwiches and quick meals…

Salami Omelette (Leftovers!)

Salami Omelette

Portobello Burger w/ Balsamic Glaze

Portobello Burger w/ Balsamic Glaze



Lunchtime Tuesday, Week 6

I’m not gonna lie.  Today’s lunch is soooooo boring.  I ran out of time last night to make a substantial and interesting healthy lunch for myself.  Whoops!  In typical Good to be the Cook fashion, I’m eating a plethora of seriously random but healthy things today:

1/2 Leftover Grilled Chicken Breast

2 Large Carrots, peeled, cut, and ready to dip into 1 Laughing Cow Wedge

1 Salad, complete with a whole bunch of lettuce, sliced carrot, sliced sweet pepper, 3 sliced Grape Tomatoes and 1 Tablespoon Dressing… that’s all I had left!

and… 2 Hard Boiled Egg Whites.

See what I mean?  Like, how boring, and strange of me?  Oh well!  I save one Apple and a Greek Yogurt for later and I’ll be roarin’ and ready to go for my long workout evening.

Since today’s lunch is so not photo worthy, I wanted to tell you about a lunch I made last week…

If you didn’t see this ridiculous all-in-one dinner of Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Baked Potatoes, check it out now!

For this lunch, I used the leftover chicken I had while making this recipe.  I love to make enough food the night before that I’ll be able to use it over again for lunch.  It’s a great way to save money and time!

Grilled Chicken Wrap

1 Whole Wheat Wrap 

4-6 ounces Grilled Chicken Breast, diced or pulled

1 Tablespoon Honey Mustard

1 handful Lettuce

2 Slices Cucumber, cut into smaller pieces

2 Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half

1/4 Avocado, Diced

Directions:  Starting with the chicken, pile everything onto the middle of the wrap.  Drizzle with the honey mustard.  You can use more if you’d like… mustard is the best dressing you can use (in terms of healthy!)  Fold the wrap first lengthwise, then from the bottom, and then the long side.  I recommend starting the folding already on a sheet of foil, so you can use the foil to keep everything in place.  (Burrito style)  When you go to eat it, pull the foil back and keep it on the bottom so it doesn’t fall apart.

This was a great meal and an awesome change up from my normal Turkey Sandwich.  I think that the avocado replaces the need for cheese… it’s creamy and tastes so good!  I ate the wrap with a handful of baby carrots, a laughing cow cheese, and an apple.  It was really filling!  I wish I had this today too 😦


Alyan’s Restaurant

I don’t know who Alyan is, but I love him.  Or her.  

One of our apartment hunting days brought us to South Street in Philadelphia.  We were intriuged when we walked by Alyan’s Restaurant, boasting a neon “Best Falafel in Philly” sign.  Show me what you got, Alyan’s.

We were the only people in the tiny restaurant, and were seated in the back “green” room.  While Robert Irvine would throw a fit at the dusty hanging plants, it was nice to have some natural skylight from the ceiling.

After a quick Yelp hunt, I decided to start off with the Mint Iced Tea- which was fabulous.  We also got a small order of their fries, which were served piping hot.  They had hot peppers and onions mixed into it, which personally I could have done with a lot more of them… but they were really tasty and definitely “real” fries… not frozen.

Love me some fries.

I ordered the Falafel Sandwich w/ Hummus- someone had to try it!  It was SOOOOOO GOOD.  The Falafel was shoved into a fresh pita with some lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and slathered with hummus.


Look. at. THAT!


Dave ordered the Shawarma Sandwich (our favorite thing ever since Israel) with all the fixins as well.

Both sandwiches were sooo good

For everything, the total $18.  Like… really?!  I want to move to South Street now and eat here everyday!  The food was awesome, and at $6 average sandwich cost- they give you a TON of food.  We were full for the rest of the day and didn’t even end up going to the dinner plans we had!


Goat Sausage & Peppers


We ate GOAT!  Although I’d like to feel super brave for doing this… honestly goat did not taste any different than any other meat I’ve ever tried.

The Goat came from a vendor called Many Rocks Farm @ the JFX Farmers Market in Baltimore (so did this week’s Purple Basil!).  Donny suggested we try it, and the vendor told us that the Goat Chorizo Sausage was a great bet “if we like spicy”… duh.

(Goat) Sausage & Peppers

A recipe by:  It’s Good to be the Cook

Serves:  4 Sandwiches, with some sausage/peppers leftover!


4 Fresh Hoagie Rolls

2 Red Bell Peppers, seeded and chopped into small strips

2 Green Bell Peppers, seeded and chopped into small strips

1 Onion, sliced on the thinner side

1 Teaspoon Minced Garlic

Olive Oil Spray (or 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil)

4 links Goat Chorizo Sausage (or other sausage!)

1 Can Tomato Paste

1 Can Tomato Sauce

Fresh Basil (I used maybe 12 leaves, chopped)

Italian Seasoning Blend, Red Pepper Flakes (optional) Salt, Pepper, Asiago Cheese (Grated)


1.  Heat a large pan over medium-high heat.  Add the Olive Oil Spray, then the garlic, onions and peppers.  Sprinkle with just a touch of salt and pepper.  Stir occasionally and let cook for 10-12 minutes. 

2.  Meanwhile, cut the sausage into small circles.  Try to keep the sizes the same so they cook evenly.  Once the peppers are starting to soften, add the sausage.  Cook for 5 minutes, then stir around or flip them to cook the sausage evenly. 

3.  Add the Tomato Paste, Sauce, Basil, Italian Seasonings, Red Pepper Flakes, and again- a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Stir around to combine.  Cook for another 5-8 minutes.  Take out a piece of sausage and cut it to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. 

4.  Carefully spoon onto dug-out hoagie rolls.  Top with desired amount of grated Asiago Cheese. 


So pretty! Lots and lots of peppers and onions cooking up first.

Peppers, Onions, Basil, Seasonings, and Sauce… gettin’ hotter!

These were so good! I want to make them again…

Dave and I were really surprised how much we liked the goat sausage!  Granted, if you put anything with tomato sauce and peppers, it will probably taste great… but we loved it.  The Chorizo had a nice kick too.  Believe it or not, goat is actually one of the healthiest meats out there.  I wished we lived closer and could get the Goat Sausage again. YUMMY!

I made a nice fresh TBM stack to go along side using Jersey Tomatoes and some super Fresh Mozz. My new fav. salad.

The saucy finished product


Lunchtime Tuesday

After Brianne requested some lunchtime advice last week… I thought it would be a good idea to start posting some of my lunches.  Although they won’t be anything fabulous like this or this… it’s always nice to see the basics, and maybe you can get some good ideas for yourselves!

Lunchtime! Nom nom nom

For me, breakfast & lunch during the workweek is when I’m most strict on my diet.  I find that if I can be “good” at work, where there are little dietary distractions… I can leave room for a few “bad” eating decisions for dinner and weekends.  For all you Weight Watchers Point Counters… let’s just say I use my Bonus & Exercise points on Nights & Weekends.  Sorta like the opposite of a phone bill.

One of my favorite lunches just became a wee bit more exciting.  My friend Lauren, who I visited 2 weeks ago in NY gave me this great new kick to my normal turkey sandwich:  Laughing Cow Cheese.

If you’re paying attention, you should already know about this stuff:  It’s AWESOME.  Go ahead, do yourself a favor if you haven’t already… go buy a wheel.  You won’t be disappointed.

Anyway, Lauren (who has a pretty similar breakfast/lunch diet to my own) suggested I spread one LC Cheese wedge onto my bread, instead of cheese.  It’s so good!

This brings me to today’s lunch:

I packed a Turkey Sandwich on Sara Lee’s Delightful Wheat Bread (45 cal/slice!), with 1 Laughing Cow Light Swiss Wedge, 3 oz of Boar’s Head Turkey Breast, some lettuce, and Trader Joe’s Whole Grain Dijon Mustard.  

I also packed some baby carrots to eat with another LC Wedge (Blue Cheese flavor), a banana, a nectarine, and 1/2 Cup Cottage Cheese w/ All Fruit Jam.  

YUM, check out that mustard… you don’t need much!


This mustard is really hot, so be careful! It has great flavor though, you’ll love it.


I actually measure out 1/2 cup of Cottage Cheese… measuring is KEY with dieting. Did you know this little baby 1/2 cup is what ONE serving of ice cream / fro-yo should be?! EEEEEEK!


My post-lunch/pre-workout snack. If you haven’t tried Polaner’s All Fruit, please do. It’s amazing. I can’t remember the last time I had Smucker’s Jelly… you will NOT miss it, and this stuff is really good for you. (And, yes measure out 1Tbsp of that too)


Tuesday is my BIG workout day, so it’s super important for me to make sure I have a full breakfast, snack, lunch, and snack… or else I get SO hungry by the time I’m done at 7:30.

I’d love to hear what you’re eating for lunch and try it out myself!  Let me know if you have any favorites or suggestions!