Classics for Summer into Fall

There are certain foods we love that we eat over and over. They are sometimes nostalgic but always just click with our tastebuds and we often crave them in emotional times of celebration or stress. They are dishes that the whole table can agree to love, with one or two spicing it up with hot sauce, adding more salt, altering the dish to their taste. But all can agree, they are CLASSICS. 

The grilled cheese bake serves the classic comfort sandwich and tomato soup combined as a casserole. Add some slices of ham for extra protein. The carnitas cook super-fast without skimping on flavor, and lasting for days and freezing easy. The bruschetta is worth the dainty fuss, and made best with the last fresh tomatoes and basil in your garden. All three dishes will hold up to altered or added ingredients to your preferences, and all three will please any crowd at your table. Smile, hug your family, and eat up!


Grilled Cheese Bake


Serves 6




4 ounces cream cheese

1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil, divided

12 slices Italian, sourdough or rye bread (1/2 inch thick)

6 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup tomato paste

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1-3/4 cups 2% milk

2 large eggs

1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend or part-skim mozzarella cheese




Preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl, mix cream cheese and 1 teaspoon basil until blended; spread onto 6 bread slices. Top with mozzarella cheese and remaining bread. Spread outsides of sandwiches with butter. Arrange in a greased 13x9-inch baking dish.


In a small saucepan, combine tomato paste, garlic, salt, pepper and remaining basil; cook and stir over medium heat 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 4-5 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.


Whisk eggs in a large bowl; gradually whisk in a third of the milk mixture. Stir in remaining milk mixture; pour over sandwiches. Sprinkle with Italian cheese blend. Bake, uncovered, 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.



Instant Pot Carnitas


Serves 6




3-4 pounds boneless pork roast, excess fat trimmed, cut into 2-inch chunks 

3 packets low-sodium taco seasoning

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 red pepper, finely diced

1 small can green chiles with juice

1 cup orange juice

½ cup chicken stock

¼ cup lime juice




Add all ingredients to the Instant Pot. Mix to combine. Cover.

Select Pressure Cook mode, then adjust until time reads 30 minutes, if necessary. Cook. When the time is over, let the Instant Pot release pressure naturally, about 10 minutes. Carefully turn the vent to release any extra pressure that might still be in there. Remove the lid. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pork to a large bowl. Shred the pork with two forks. It should fall apart. 


To crisp up pulled pork: Preheat oven broil. Transfer it with a slotted spoon to a large baking sheet. Spoon 1/3 to 1/2 of the leftover cooking juices evenly on top of the pork. Broil for 4-5 minutes, or until the edges of the pork are brown and crispy.


Sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro and eat out of a bowl. Or put onto small soft flour tortillas for tacos.



Bruschetta with Kalamata


Serves 2-4




One baguette, sliced to 1/4-inch pieces

Olive oil and Kosher salt

One can petit diced tomatoes, drained

Quartered cherry or grape tomatoes from your garden (optional)

8 Kalamata olives, quartered (optional)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Fresh cracked pepper

Fresh grated Parmesan




Drain can of tomatoes. Chop any other tomatoes, the olives and the basil. Combine tomatoes, olives, basil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. 

Heat oven to 350. Place sliced baguette pieces closely together but not overlapping on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake 15-20 minutes until desired crispiness.


Once bread has cooled, put pieces on a plate and carefully top with the tomato mixture. Grate fresh parmesan over the top. Serve as an appetizer or meal with rotisserie chicken.