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Brie, Ham and Pear Panini with Spicy Pumpkin Soup

In my mind, there is nothing comfier after a long, crazy day than sitting down in front of the television and having a soup and sandwich supper while watching Jeopardy. Of course, you must only do this dressed in your pajamas and fuzzy slippers. And, you must use TV trays. When I was little, enjoying a meal this way was always such a treat for me. Now that I’m a grown up, I still view it as a bit of a guilty pleasure.

As my husband, daughter and I sit in front of our trays, I can close my eyes and feel the nostalgia wash over me. It is so easy. We eat and talk and laugh, as we each try to be the first to shout out the Jeopardy answers. I hope that when my sweet child is all grown up, she will remember nights like this with the same fondness and warmth that I do.

While soup and sandwiches can be a quick and easy fix for dinner, they don’t have to be humdrum. In fact, my “Go To” meal for this week is anything but. This spicy pumpkin soup is a snap to make, but one smooth, velvety taste will prove that it’s not ordinary. You can cut and chunk a whole pumpkin yourself, but I was able to cut down on the prep and clean-up time by using pre-cut pumpkin from the the produce section of my grocery store. If you can find it, try it. It really is a time saver and the taste isn’t compromised. From start to finish, this dish took about thirty minutes to prepare.

These brie, ham and pear panini are also a breeze to prepare and they are simply fabulous! Each bite is a harmonious marriage of sweet, salty and creamy. I used my trusty Griddler to get a nice pressed panini. Any other electric grill will give you the same results. If you don’t have an electric grill, you can also make this sandwich in a regular skillet. Just press down on it using a pot lid with a smaller circumference than your skillet. However you do it, in less than ten minutes, your inner gourmand will be thanking you!

Spicy Pumpkin Soup
2 tbsp. butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 tsp. cumin
1 tbsp smoked paprika
2 lbs. fresh pumpkin cubes
1 quart chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Saute onion and apple for about 2 minutes. Add cumin and paprika and continue to saute until soft (about 5 minutes).

Add pumpkin and broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium. Simmer, covered, until pumpkin is tender, about 10 minutes.

Transfer in batches to a food processor and puree until smooth.

Pour the soup back into the sauce pan and stir in the cream. Heat through and adjust seasonings to taste.

Brie, Ham & Pear Panini with Apricot Honey Mustard Sauce

1 loaf crusty French or Cuban bread
1 large wedge of brie, sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices
1 pear, cored and thinly sliced, lengthwise
1/2 lb sliced deli ham
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1 tbsp honey mustard

Split bread in half. Set aside.

In a small bowl, heat preserves and mustard for 30 seconds in the microwave. Spread both sides of bread with sauce.

Layer ham, brie and pear slices on one side of bread. Cover with the other side of the bread and grill until heated through and cheese is melted.
Slice and serve.