A few years back, my mom gifted me one of favorite small appliances, a panini press.  She also included a bunch of panini recipe cards bound by a thick pretty ribbon – genius gift!  Paninis work for a quick dinner option and I like to serve them beside a bowl of soup.  Over the years I have become creative with the combos (i.e. whatever we have in the fridge) but this copycat Panera recipe is definitely a go-to.  Each ingredient adds a little something, so be sure to use all!

What is your favorite panini recipe?

Copycat Panera Frontega Chicken Panini
adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients

SERVES 2

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce + 1 or 2 teaspoons sauce
  • 2 focaccia buns (or 1 loaf focaccia bread, cut into quarters)
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, I use rotisserie often
  • 8oz mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced
  • a few fresh basil leaves
  • Cooking spray or butter

Combine mayo and chipotle pepper in food processor.  Spread sauce on bread.  Layer red onion, chicken, basil and mozzarella cheese onto bread.  Use cooking spray or a small amount of butter on outside of bread for crisping.  Place panini in press and toast for 5-10 minutes, depending on strength of press.  Enjoy!

This week, I am off to spend time poolside with the fam down in Scottsdale, Arizona!  Here are some items that are making it into my bag:

Aloha, again. If you missed the first half of this recap, this will get you up to speed. The second half of our Maui vacation was spent on the Wailea side of the island.  Wailea has a more upscale island vibe and is a great choice for couples or anyone looking for a little more peace and quiet. We had a spectacular experience at the Fairmont Kea Lani.  It is a gorgeous beachfront property that never felt overcrowded with several pool options. The swim up bar was perfect to post up and watch Cub’s playoff games at, and any hotel that encourages the option to drink your beverage out of a pineapple is a win in my book.  All of the rooms are suite-style and the nightly tradition of a Hawaiian running around the grounds blowing into a conch shell and lighting tiki torches to signal sundown is not to be missed.


The grounds covered in palm trees, the glowing sunsets, the live Hawaiian music, the fresh floral leis, swoon! I became that girl tossing as many of the complimentary bath products into my suitcase as I could to take home because they were that great.  The first night in Wailea we went to Monkeypod for their fresh island fish sandwich that Dan and I both agree is the best fish sandwich we’ve ever had…in our lives…delicious down to the sweet Hawaiian homemade bun it is served on. So great that we stopped again before heading out to the airport. Their mai-tai’s do not disappoint, either.

On our second day in Wailea, while Dan golfed I visited Spa Grande. Spa Grande encourages guests to arrive well before their appointments to enjoy and experience the sauna, eucalyptus steam room, therapeutic specialty baths, plunge pools, and a full body loofah exfoliation by an attendant. Treat. Yo. Self.

Later that afternoon, we ventured to Eskimo Candy, a lunch spot you can miss if you blink that a few friends had recommended for killer poke bowls, DELISH.  That night we walked over to Maui’s Irish pub Mulligans – if there is an Irish pub around any place we visit my 81% Irish husband WILL sniff it out.

As I said in Part 1, bringing our own snorkel gear and renting a jeep allowed us to beach hop at our leisure.  On our last day in Maui, we headed over to secluded Palauea Beach and discovered a sea turtle sanctuary!  We had spotted honu before, but it’s hard to put into words what a unique experience it was, just the two of us floating in the Pacific surrounded by a bunch of Hawaiian sea turtles. They are remarkable creatures and can live for 80 years!


     Floral Top 

We spent our last night at an exceptional restaurant Hawaii offers in the Four Seasons called Ferraro’s. I would have returned just for the melt-in-your-mouth lobster pasta with vodka sauce, but the oceanfront ambiance of this place is like no other. Tip: Ferraro’s offers half priced bottles of wine after 8PM.  We stumbled upon this during our first trip and took advantage this time around, too.

A few more tips before you go:

  • Happy Hours. Happy Hours are a big deal in Maui and taking advantage if you can helps buffer the pricey cost of Hawaii. We especially loved the one at Nick’s Fishmarket in the Fairmont. Hula Grill also had a fun one with live music.  We had also heard good things about this one.
  • Car Rental.  An open air jeep is a must! We’ve booked through this company several times; never any issues and always a good deal.

Maui is truly paradise. We left feeling rejuvenated, well-rested and definitely not hungry. Until next time, Maui, Mahalo!

After spending three days in Maui and experiencing the rainfall effect from lovely El Niño on our honeymoon in 2015 (more to come on that later), Dan and I left Hawaii feeling like we had unfinished business.  In early 2016 we began brainstorming where we wanted to vacation that year, and tossed around ideas and potential places to check off of our bucket list.  Then, the home buying process sucked us in and the search for the perfect first property for us was on.  Six months later, we had successfully secured a roof over our heads, but a vacation remained unplanned.  We both agreed Maui in October was the perfect choice.  It was zika-free, the perfect balance of relaxation and adventure that we were after, and wouldn’t take a whole lot of time to plan since we were already familiar with it.  We decided that for the first four days of our trip we’d hit the ground running with outdoor activities, and spend the last few days beach and poolside.

For the first few nights, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa.  Overall we were very satisfied with this resort and felt it was a good bang for our buck. The vibe was family friendly and the the swim up bar within a cave was unique.  The open air resort was located on Kaanapali Beach; very close to great shops and restaurants in Lahaina and walkable to Whaler’s Village.  While our bodies were still adjusting to HI time, we woke up at the crack of dawn (read, 2AM) and headed up to Haleakala Crater to watch the sunrise.

That night, we hit Mama’s Fish House, a splurge (to be expected when Hawaiian fisherman are catching your fresh mahi-mahi DAILY and stuffing it with king crab) but a must.

The next day we drove up to Kapalua and visited the Olivine Pools and did some snorkeling around Black Rock Beach. Tip: We brought our own snorkel gear and a small fold up cooler this time around.  We stopped here (great beer/wine selection and also great poke?) and stuffed it with local Maui brews and grabbed a few bottles of wine for sunsets. Best decision ever. The cooler was especially nice to have on the 12 hour Road to Hana.  That night we went to Fleetwood’s for rooftop drinks – something about a bar illuminated by tiki torches, ocean breezes and live music makes it a favorite spot.

The Road to Hana, sometimes called heaven’s highway, was a major highlight of our trip.  We had heard mixed reviews about the Road, but if you have a day to do it, I highly suggest it, and bring bug spray! We were on the road by 7AM to be ahead of traffic (we’re talking one lane bridges on this thing) and picked up lunches ahead of time from Hana Picnic.  The lush Road to Hana is full of waterfalls and hikes.  No drive is more beautiful, and if you are worried about reaching a destination your missing the point.  We had downloaded the Gypsy App ahead of time (a must).  Our personal favorite stops were the Allele Falls, Three Bears, and driving through back country Maui on the way home.  Lahaina Pizza was the perfect end to the day.

Dan’s shirt              Dress  || Watch

If you are considering Maui as a vacation, pick up a copy of this book, Maui Revealed – it is full of hidden gems you’ll want to know before you go.

Also, if you are indecisive when it comes to what part of the island to stay at, choose more than one! Experiencing more than one is very doable in one trip and I highly recommend it. Stay tuned for Maui Part 2!