Strawberry, Goat Cheese, Arugula Panini

Roll up your sleeves and grab a basket because strawberry pickin season is here at last! This weekend, the boys and I joined friends at Lockbriar Farms strawberry patch on the beautiful Eastern Shore of Maryland. There were rows, upon rows, of sweet, ruby red, ripe berries just waiting to be picked. We spent the whole morning strolling through the patch, hunting for the biggest and sweetest berries we could find.

The kids, four of them in all, probably ate their weight in strawberries! Each of their cute little faces were covered in sweet berry juice by mid morning. Fortunately, we were able to keep a few of the strawberries in our baskets to bring home- although, I admit that a handful of them were devoured along the way! This was the first time my littlest guy (hell be 2 next month) has been on a strawberry picking adventure. I wasnt sure how he would take to it, but he joined right in, picking berries and sampling them along the way. All of the kids had a blast and it was great to see them outdoors, soaking up the sun, and enjoying life on the farm. Childhood, at its very best! Strawberry picking in Maryland www.BlueCrabMartini.com Although you can buy them year round in the grocery store, strawberries are so much better when they are picked fresh from your local farm. Of course all fruits and veggies are best when they are in season, strawberries are especially sweet and juicy after soaking up the early summer sunshine. Maybe its just me, but I think that the berries grown in the Mid-Atlantic region have an extra burst of sun-ripened sweetness.

This was the first of our strawberry picking adventures this year, but hopefully there are many more to come. Spending the day on the farm was so much fun and we all left with smiles (and berry juice) on our faces. The strawberries we picked were sweet, but the memories made with our great friends were even sweeter! Strawberry picking in Maryland www.BlueCrabMartini.com See all of those berries in the picture above? They only cost me $6.50! At the grocery store they would be at least double that amount. Yet another reason why farm fresh local produce is the best!

Speaking of the picture above, this was the best shot we could get of these two little rascals. It took about 10 attempts to even get them in the same picture. Smiling and looking at the camera just werent in the cards for that morning! But this is a memory I will cherish forever because it captures a very real moment in my life, raising two rambunctious boys. Though it may not be picture perfect, this life is perfect for me.Strawberry, Arugula, & Goat Cheese Panini from www.BlueCrabMartini.com Once home, I realized that although we could eat these sweet strawberries one by one, it would be more fun to make something with them. When we stumbled upon this locally made goat cheese the following day at the DuPont Circle Farmers Market, I knew just what I had to make! This creamy, rich, and decadent goat cheese is made right here in Maryland by Firefly Farms and its the perfect pair for sweet and juicy strawberries.

As soon as we returned from the farmers market, I went to work in the kitchen making a tasty (and healthy) lunch. This Strawberry, Goat Cheese, & Arugula Panini is such an easy meal to put together, but its delicious and sure to make you smile. Its everything a sandwich should be- layers of bold flavors and creamy-cheesy-goodness all tucked in between two pieces of crisp and toasty bread. Every bite is packed with farm fresh deliciousness!

We used some of our strawberries for this meal, but there were still a ton of those sweet little berries leftover. Check back soon to see what else we created with them! We hope you have the chance to get to your local farm and pick some fresh strawberries for yourself. Happy pickin! Strawberry, Arugula, & Goat Cheese Panini from www.BlueCrabMartini.com

Strawberry, Goat Cheese, & Arugula Panini
(this will make 1 sandwich)

INGREDIENTS
2 slices of hearty bread (we use a gluten free variety)
Fresh strawberries (about 3-4 berries), cut into slices
Handful of fresh arugula, more or less depending on your preference
Goat cheese (high quality), enough to layer on the sandwich
Butter (organic), enough to lightly butter both slices of bread
Balsamic glaze, for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS
1. Lightly butter the top of both bread pieces.
2. In a non-stick pan on low/medium heat, place the first slice of bread with the buttered side down.
3. Layer on the arugula, goat cheese, and strawberries- in this order.
4. Top with the other slice of bread, buttered side facing up.
5. Cook until bottom slice of bread is lightly toasted and golden brown, then use a spatula to flip over. Cook this side until lightly toasted. Use the spatula to press everything together. (Of course, a panini press could do all of this for you, but my old fashioned way works just as well!)
6. Can be served with balsamic glaze (reduced balsamic vinegar)- makes for a nice sweet and tangy punch of flavor! Strawberry, Arugula, & Goat Cheese Panini from www.BlueCrabMartini.com sig1