Friday, April 23, 2021

Pack the perfect picnic with sandwiches that don’t get soggy and “jarcuterie"

Dining al fresco is one of my favorite things about warm weather. Food tastes so much better outdoors. I love relaxing on a big blanket with a tasty sandwich as the sun warms my skin.

Packing the perfect picnic involves some strategy and planning, but I promise it’s worth it in the long run.

One of the greatest picnic problems is soggy sandwich syndrome, so I’m sharing several tips to prevent this.

Tip 1: Use dense, crusty bread.

Regular store-bought white sandwich bread won’t hold up over long periods of time. Breads like sourdough, rye, ciabatta, and baguettes will actually soak up all the flavors of your sandwich fillings without turning into a mushy mess.

Tip 2: Slather on a fat-based spread.

Fat-based spreads like mayonnaise, pesto, olive tapenade, cheese spread, butter, and olive oil create a moisture barrier and actually repel liquids from soaking into the bread. Mustard is not a good condiment to use because its main ingredients are vinegar and water.

Tip 3: Avoid juicy ingredients.

It’s best to avoid tomatoes and wet fillings like chicken salad and egg salad, and make sure you pat dry any of your other ingredients.

Now that you know how to avoid a soggy sandwich, you can use that knowledge when preparing my favorite packable sandwich recipe, a Grilled Vegetable Picnic Loaf.

A picnic loaf is a partially hollowed out loaf of bread, stuffed with your favorite fillings, and then chilled and pressed. Transport the entire loaf with you to your destination, and slice it when you’re ready to eat. Also, you can make the sandwich ahead of time. I actually like it better when I make it the night before because the flavors have time to mingle together.

Also, if you don’t want to grill your own vegetables for this recipe, Trader Joe’s sells Misto alla Griglia in the frozen department, and it works really well. Just make sure to pat the ingredients dry!

Grilled Vegetable Picnic Loaf 


  • 1 loaf of crusty bread, round or oval
  • 1/2 cup olive tapenade
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 1/2 cup arugula
  • 1 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/4” thick, grilled or roasted
  • 1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/4” thick, grilled or roasted
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips, grilled or roasted
  • 1/2 red onion, julienned
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into slices
  • Other options: Italian meats, artichokes, grilled portobello mushrooms, goat cheese


  1. Cut off top of loaf of bread (about 2 inches down) and set aside. Scoop out most of the inside. You can save breadcrumbs to use for cooking later, if desired.
  2. Spread inside of bread shell and underneath lid with layer of olive tapenade and layer of pesto.
  3. Place layer of arugula in bottom of bread shell. Then layer eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper, red onion, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and top with more arugula.
  4. Place top layer of bread on top.
  5. Wrap the entire loaf in plastic wrap, move to refrigerator, and place something heavy on top for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  6. Transport whole loaf to picnic and slice when ready to serve.

Many people prefer to graze on snacks than have a sandwich, but elaborate picnic charcuterie spreads look like a pain to transport, lay out, and clean up. “Jarcuterie” is a much better option. Jarcuterie is just charcuterie in a jar. To assemble, I recommend sticking several tall crackers in first (crispy breadsticks and cheese sticks work best). Then fill in the bottom with dense ingredients like nuts and dried fruit. Then use skewers to layer meats, cheese, and olives, and fill any gaps in the center with berries and grapes.



  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Cured meats
  • Cheese
  • Olives
  • Crackers
  • Grapes or berries


  1. Layer durable ingredients like nuts and dried fruit in bottom of mason jar
  2. Layer meats, cheese, and olives on 2 skewers and stick in jar
  3. Fill in space on outside edge with crackers
  4. Use grapes and berries to fill in gaps in center


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Grilled cheese and wine

This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

A happy hour cheese plate with a glass of wine is the inspiration for this grilled cheese sandwich.

Experimenting with new food combinations is fun, but it's also important to think about which flavor combinations work well together. It's all about balance. 

There's a reason wine and cheese is a winning combination. The acidity in the wine helps to balance the fat in the cheese. I incorporated wine in this sandwich by cooking caramelized onions with red wine. The onions become sweet after they're caramelized, and that sweet flavor balances the saltiness of the butter and cheese.

It's important to use the best combination of cheeses for your grilled cheese sandwich. I like to use a creamy cheese, a stretchy cheese, and a sharp cheese. I chose Challenge cream cheese, gouda cheese, and white cheddar cheese. Cream cheese is smooth and rich; gouda cheese has a pH level of 5.4 which is the optimal acidity level for melty, gooey, stretchy cheese—gruyere also works really well; and white cheddar cheese is sharp and packs a punch. I used Challenge cream cheese for this recipe because I know they use hormone-free milk from local dairies, resulting in all-natural and high-quality products. 

Another important factor in building the perfect grilled cheese sandwich is the bread. Choose bread that doesn't have large holes and isn't fragile. It needs to support the filling.

When it comes to cooking the grilled cheese, I'm a big proponent of cooking it low and slow. The cheese takes time to melt, and you don't want your bread to burn while waiting for the cheese to melt. Also, press down on your grilled cheese with a spatula while it's cooking for the best results. This creates more surface area for the bread to brown, which means more flavor and better texture. It also helps to melt the cheese.

Grilled cheese and wine


For the red wine onions

  • 1 Tablespoon Challenge butter
  • 1 pound sweet onions, julienned
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)

For the sandwich

  • 2 slices thick, good quality bread
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, softened to spreadable consistency
  • 2 ounces Challenge cream cheese, softened to spreadable consistency
  • White cheddar cheese, sliced to fit size of bread, around 4 slices
  • Gouda or gruyere cheese, sliced to fit size of bread, around 4 slices
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil


For the red wine onions

  1. Heat butter in large saucepan over medium low heat until melted.
  2. Add onions to pan, season with salt, and cook, stirring every few minutes, until onions are translucent and starting to caramelize, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add red wine, sugar, and thyme to pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to slow simmer.
  4. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid evaporates, around 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

For the sandwich

  1. Butter one side of each slice of bread
  2. Flip bread over and spread cream cheese on both slices
  3. Add half of the white cheddar and half of the gouda to one slice of bread and then add the other half of the cheeses to the other slice.
  4. Add a layer of red wine onions to one slice before topping with the other slice
  5. Heat skillet to medium-low heat. Add olive oil to skillet, and swirl to coat.
  6. Add sandwich to skillet. After about 30 seconds, push down on sandwich for even browning and to help melt cheese. Flip sandwich after about 2 minutes, or when bread starts to turn golden brown.
  7. Continue cooking until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
  8. Store leftover red wine onions in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Hot Cross Cinnabunnies


This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible.

I've always wanted to make hot cross buns—it's one of my favorite Easter treats. I love the combination of warm spices and dried fruits. I'm currently taking a yeast breads class at school, so I was feeling extra motivated to make them this year.

I decided to do a mashup of a hot cross bun and a cinnamon roll. And to make them extra festive, I made bunny ears. I'm calling my creation "Hot Cross Cinnabunnies."

The trick is to not cover the entire rectangle of dough in the filling. Leave a 4-inch border at the top. After you roll it up and cut your rolls, just unravel the part of the dough without the filling and cut it in half lengthwise. Then bend the two cut pieces so they resemble bunny ears.

I like to coat the cinnamon rolls in an apricot glaze after they come out of the oven because it looks shiny and it contributes to the fruity taste of hot cross buns. If you prefer, you can brush the rolls in egg wash before they go in the oven so they're shiny when they come out.

If you don't have time to make homemade cinnamon rolls but still want to try this recipe, there are a few shortcuts you can take. First, you can use frozen (and thawed) sweet dough (I like Rhodes), puff pastry, or crescent sheet dough. If you try this, skip ahead to the "for the filling" section of directions.

Alternatively, you can just buy jumbo cinnamon rolls, mix some dried fruit with a little all spice and orange zest, and stuff the dried fruit in the swirls of the rolls.


I used Challenge unsalted butter and Challenge cream cheese for this recipe. Challenge uses the freshest, purest cream in their products for superior flavor. You can smell the difference immediately upon opening their products.

I've learned a lot about baking breads since I started the class. As you can imagine, there's a lot of science involved! For example, one tip I learned is that when adding sugar to bread dough with a high percentage of sugar, only add half of the sugar at the beginning. Wait to add the other half until the dough appears to be mostly developed.

The reason is sugar is hydroscopic, meaning it attracts moisture. But hydration is required for gluten development and yeast fermentation. If you hold back some sugar and wait to add it until the dough is mostly developed, you don't have to worry about it stealing all the moisture.

Another thing I want to point out is I used instant yeast in this recipe. I like instant yeast better than active dry yeast because it doesn't require proofing. However, it is more difficult to find. (I purchased my instant yeast at Gordon Food Service) If you use active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, multiply the yeast amount by 1.33. This goes for any recipe in which you encounter this situation. And then, of course, you'll need to proof the yeast before moving forward with the recipe.

Hot Cross Cinnabunnies

Yield: Makes about 14 rolls


For the rolls

  • 1 cup (240 grams) whole milk, lukewarm
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) Challenge unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
  • 2 eggs (100 grams), beaten, room temperature
  • 4 1/4 cups (510 grams) bread flour
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar, divided in half
  • 1 Tablespoon (8 grams) ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons (4 grams) all spice
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (7.75 grams) instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (9 grams) salt 

For the filling

  • 1 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon (2.5 grams) cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) all spice
  • 1 cup (160 grams) mixed dried fruit (raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries)

For the glaze

  • 2 Tablespoon apricot jam
  • 2 teaspoons water

For the cream cheese frosting


For the rolls

  1. Combine milk, butter, and eggs in large mixing bowl. Add bread flour, half of the sugar, cinnamon, all spice, instant yeast, and salt.
  2. Knead everything together, using a mixer or by hand, to form a smooth ball of dough. It will take around 8 to 10 minutes on second speed of stand mixer. About halfway through the kneading process, add the other half of the sugar. Dough will be sticky, but it should pull away from sides of bowl. If it doesn't add more flour, a tablespoon at a time.
  3. Place dough in large, greased bowl. Tightly cover dough with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in warm, draft-free environment until it doubles in size, around 90 minutes to 2 hours. 
  4. Punch dough down and transfer onto pastry mat or lightly floured surface. Roll into large rectangle, about 20 inches by 14 inches, it doesn't need to be those exact dimensions.

For the filling

  1. Mix the orange marmalade with cinnamon and all spice. Spread mixture on dough, leaving 4-inch border on top. 
  2. Sprinkle dried fruit on top of marmalade.
  3. Tightly roll up rectangle and cut into about 14 equal pieces. Arrange pieces, cut side down, on 2 baking sheets.
  4. Uncurl the 4 inches of the roll without filling and cut in half lengthwise. Bend dough strips and pinch ends to look like bunny ears. Cover rolls and let rise in warm place about 30 minutes or until dough is noticeably puffy.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake rolls about 15 to 20 minutes, or until they're light brown. If the bunny ears brown too quickly, cover baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  6. Remove rolls from oven.

For the glaze

  1. Place jam and water in bowl and microwave 30 seconds. Mix to combine. Brush cinnamon roll bunnies with jam mixture while warm.
  2. Allow to cool.

For cream cheese frosting

  1. Beat together cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, and salt until smooth. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
  2. Transfer cream cheese frosting to plastic sandwich bag and snip about 1/4 inch from corner.
  3. Pipe crosses onto cinnamon rolls to indicate hot cross buns.
  4. Serve immediately or store in air-tight container at room temperature for several days.

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