Panini Sandwiches and The Kitchen Remodel

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A few weeks ago, I made panini sandwiches for supper. Each and every time I make these warm grilled wonders, we are taken back to our kitchen remodel years ago. We laughed about how we ate panini’s at least 3-4 times a week, sometimes more! We lived in a nearly 100-year-old house at the time (it turned 100 two years ago)! It was our first house and will always be remembered with so much love and memories of the blood, sweat and tears we poured into it. I knew from the second I first walked through the heavy front door that it was going to be our house! I fell in love with the tall ten foot ceilings, original woodwork, stained glass windows, pocket doors, ornate staircase, and all the quirks and charm that it carried through the years. We were lucky that it was livable and most of the woodwork was in original condition. The kitchen had been remodeled in the 80’s sometime and we knew that would be a big project that we would tackle one day. It had wood paneling covering one wall, a lovely faux brick linoleum floor, old appliances, and this lovely drop ceiling with fluorescent lighting. We lived with the old kitchen and all its brown beauty for about four years before we started remodeling the kitchen. We had already remodeled our upstairs bathroom all on our own and the help of my mom and dad, which included removing a second kitchen and expanding the bathroom to about three times its size, updating all the electrical and pluming, gutting and building new walls and finishing the drywall, building a custom shower, tiling the floor and shower, and who knows what else I’m forgetting! With the help of my mom and dad, we knew the kitchen project would be do-able, it would just take more time and more money! I was on maternity leave with our second daughter and had been out to dinner with some friends and I came home to find my husband had started demo on the kitchen. I guess we were starting our kitchen remodel 🙂

The demo duo – AKA, my dad and husband were great at tearing out the old stuff!

Demo has begun! the wall of cabinets, backsplash, and dishwasher on the left had already been removed, leaving behind layers of beautiful wall paper over plaster walls.
Demo has begun! the wall of cabinets, backsplash, and dishwasher on the left had already been removed, leaving behind layers of beautiful wall paper over plaster walls.
The awkward doorway leading to a bathroom off the kitchen.
The awkward doorway leading to a bathroom off the kitchen.
We walled off the demo’d part of the kitchen with plastic to help cut down on the dust and luckily the house was big enough, the girls and I could go upstairs when it got to be too noisy or messy. The kitchen was a complete gut job, except for a few walls. When I look at pictures of those old lath and plaster walls, my throat starts to itch!

I would caption this picture: "What have we gotten ourselves into?"
I would caption this picture of my husband: “What have we gotten ourselves into?”
We had to remove all the old cabinets, paneling, drop ceiling, old trim, window and wall in an awkward second doorway to a bathroom off the kitchen. We had some stubborn plumbing pipes hidden in a lovely column that we had to work with and just made that our corner of our large walk in pantry. Oh, I miss that pantry!

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The rough in for our pantry. Under where the fluorescent light is hung, was an old bar that we tore out.
We saved the demo part of the Eat In part of the kitchen so we could still use it as our make shift kitchen. We moved old cabinets over and moved our fridge, set up a little cart on wheels that had a toaster oven, hot plate, and my new best friend – my panini press.

My make shift kitchen including our fridge, panini press, toaster oven and a hot plate.
My make shift kitchen including our fridge, panini press, toaster oven and a hot plate.
When we removed the old panelling off the wall in the eat in area, we found a dark blue wall color.
When we removed the old panelling off the wall in the eat in area, we found a dark blue wall color.We moved some cabinets over to the eating area and stacked them up there with a little counter top so I had a little kitchen to work with during part of the remodel.
Once the kitchen sink was out and plumbing was shut down to the kitchen, my nearby bathtub became the kitchen sink and washing area. Some days I think back to that time and laugh. I worked full-time, nursed the baby, which meant I pumped while at work. When I walked in the door, exhausted from the day, I had to wash baby bottles, wash out the breast pump and parts – all in an antique bathtub and make shift drying rack. Then I went to our little temporary kitchen and scraped together something for dinner. We used a lot of paper plates, but I still had silverware and pots and things to wash out. We were determined to get the remodel done and I think living like this for a few months or so really kept that exhausted train rolling until we saw the light! Ok, so as I’m writing this post and looking back at the pictures and dates of the pictures. I went without a kitchen sink for FOUR months! That’s just crazy! We must have been crazy! I can’t believe we survived!

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Insulation and wiring are my dad’s areas of expertise. In his book, a house cannot have enough insulation, and he knows a thing or two about wiring and doing it the correct way. We could not have done this remodel without him. One of my favorite old house memories is my dad and his cousin upgrading our old knob and tube fuse panel to a safe and larger capacity breaker box. Hearing them giggle and joke all day long, telling stories and acting like they were 12 years old again was priceless.

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If I remember right, I think there was an old vacated wasp nest in the upper right corner of the wall where the old pink insulation is showing.
My mom - the do anything lady! She helped with drywall, mudding, you name it!
My mom – the do anything lady! She helped with drywall, mudding, you name it!
Still working on the never ending dry wall. Don't make fun of my shirt!
Still working on the never-ending dry wall. Don’t make fun of my shirt!
My painting helper!
My painting helper! Go OLY!
Starting to see some progress! Maybe there is a light at the end of this dusty, everything is coated in drywall dust – tunnel! I was so excited once my dishwasher was installed! I didn’t waste any time trying it out! Once I had the new cabinets, countertops, and a working sink again I didn’t know what to do with myself! I was so excited to be able to cook real meals again!

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This project took a long time. Every night after work, my husband was working on it. Every weekend, we worked on it. There was no free time. There were no lazy Sundays, we had a kitchen to finish! I think little gaps and nooks conspired together over night so we would look at them in the morning and think we needed “just one more piece If trim!”

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We loved that kitchen, we were proud of the hard work we did and laugh about the silly mishaps along the way. We’ve learned that we are not drywallers, nor do our walls look as good as the pros. This mamma will not be taping and mudding walls any time soon, that’s for sure! I think I still have nightmares about getting those seams just right!

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We are older and maybe a teeny bit wiser! We still have dreams of someday owning another old house and taking on these big projects, but we will leave the “fun” stuff like drywall to the pros. We have learned what materials we like, what we don’t like, regrets we had and ideas for future projects. My mother and father-in-law are going through a kitchen remodel now and I think of them as I see pictures of the progress! Hang in there! Kitchen sinks are over rated anyway 😉 Just Kidding!

We made it through our kitchen remodel, thanks to my parents, cases of Rolling Rock, lots of laughter, a pretty content baby who usually loved her swing, a patient and helpful three-year old, and my trusty panini press! I think it was one of the best Christmas gifts ever given to me by my mother-in-law!

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Panini’s helped to get us through that unforgettable kitchen remodel, and they are still a family favorite today! You can pile on whatever meats and cheeses you like, add veggies if you like, or just keep it simple! They are a quick meal that pleases everyone!

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Panini Sandwiches

Ingredients:

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Good hearty sliced bread like sour dough, French, or Italian. You could also use loaves of bread, like Jimmy Johns Day Old Bread  and press them. The Italian Turano bread I used was from Aldi.

Meat- whatever you like. I usually use turkey, salami, and pepperoni.

Cheese- sliced – whatever flavors you like, shredded is ok in a pinch.

Veggies, onions, pepper slices, olives, whatever you like.

Dressing – I like Roasted Red Pepper or Sun dried tomato type dressing. You could also use Olive oil and whatever herbs you like.

Olive oil for brushing on the top and bottom of the sandwich.

 

Here are some flavor ideas for you that I like!

Turkey, salami, cheddar, mozzarella, red pepper with sun dried tomato dressing (as shown in the pictures)

Turkey, pepper jack or provolone cheese, sautéed onions and BBQ sauce

Meatballs (sliced in half), pepperoni, Mozzarella cheese, fresh basil with marinara sauce

Grilled chicken, provolone cheese, fresh basil, with pesto sauce

Grilled Chicken, Cheddar with a ranch buffalo sauce

Go with whatever flavor combinations you are craving and have fun experimenting!

Directions:

Heat Panini Press. If you don’t have one, you can use a large skillet and just weight the sandwich down with another pan to give it a little press.

Spread on a little dressing or whatever sauce you like on the bread.

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Layer on your meat, cheese, and veggies.

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Brush the top and bottom of the sandwich with olive oil. I use light olive oil for brushing.

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Place sandwich on hot panini press or into hot skillet.

Lower the lid to press the sandwich. Use another smaller skillet if you don’t have a panini press.

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Flip over after 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown on the first side if using a skillet.

If using a panini press, just keep an eye on the sandwiches and remove once the bread is golden and toasted and cheeses are melted.

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Enjoy!


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