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Easy-Breezy Panini Dinner Bar


This Dinner Bar features a quick stress-free meal that’s easy on mom and dad and fun for the whole family.  We’ve been doing the Dinner Bar for awhile now, and I have to admit, I tend to pull it out on evenings when my hubby is traveling or working late.

This week I am featuring a panini Dinner Bar for the whole family. But, first, I wanted to check in with my kids to make sure they were as excited about a panini Dinner Bar as I was.

I interviewed each of my 4 children about why they enjoy this meal approach so much…and it was unanimous!

“Because you can make it your own.” Meaning, they are in charge of choosing what goes into their entree.

There is something to be said about letting your kids be in charge of their own dinner, even if you have chosen all the ingredients yourself. And in my house, everyone’s dinner looks different when we do the Dinner Bar! For this Panini Dinner Bar, my older two dressed up their panini with the works; my youngest girl loaded on the mustard and my son went Plain Jane with just ham and cheese.

The combinations are broad and likely to satisfy even the pickiest of palates.

panini dinner bar

You will need:


  • Deli Ham or other preferred deli meat
  • Assorted cheeses (mozzarella, cheddar and provolone were on our bar ) (also a Dairy)


  • Sour dough bread, sliced


  • baby spinach
  • sliced tomatoes
  • steamed broccoli (side dish)
  • celery sticks (side dish)


  • cantaloupe

Making paninis, dinner bar style


  • Part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • Provolone, sliced
  • Cheddar cheese, sliced


  • mayonnaise
  • pesto, jarred


  • dijon mustard
  • 16 oz pint of “light” sour cream
  • 1 envelope of Hidden Valley Green Onion dip mix

Getting it all together:

First, make your veggie dip; mix the green onion powder mix with the sour cream. Refrigerate.

Place meat, cheeses and spinach on a large plate or platter. Slice tomatoes and place on a small plate. Place condiments in small bowls. Arrange bread on a plate.

Steam broccoli in the microwave or stovetop, al dente, 2-3 minutes.

Slice cantaloupe and place on a plate or in a bowl.

How to make panini:

Invite your kids to assemble their panini sandwich, in whatever combination they desire. Brush the top of the bread with olive oil and invert onto a non-stick skillet on medium heat or a Panini grill with the oiled side down.  If you are using a skillet, you can cover a brick with tin foil and place on top of the sandwich to create pressure.

Brush the other side of the bread with olive oil.  If using a non-stick skillet, flip the panini when the cheese is melted and the bottom is crisp.  Once the other side is crisp, remove from the pan.  Slice the finished product with a knife.

Once your panini is ready, encourage your kids to choose their side items: al dente broccoli or celery sticks and dip, and cantaloupe. I always round out dinner with a glass of skim milk.


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  1. I always love your dinner bar ideas! It’s amazing how a meal so simple can still provide all of the food groups and nutrients our families need.
    Question- do you recommend a panini grill? I was considering putting this item on my Christmas wish list but wasn’t sure if I would get plenty of use out of it. Would love your opinion 🙂

    1. I love my panini grill! Not only do I use it for sandwiches, I also use it for pancakes (with the flat insert), bacon, chicken, fish, veggies…it is a very useful kitchen tool and the griddles (flat and grooved) pop out for easy cleaning.

  2. I love this idea. In our house we go through phases of great adventurous eating, veggies included. However, the norm as of late would have the choices involving cheese and bread and nothing else with a request for more cheese and bread. Any advice on how best to proceed?

    1. Of course, encourage your child to try a dabble of everything (and try to be strategic with fruits and veggies that are familiar and liked). If no interest, more cheese and bread is fine, as long as there is still hunger present. And remember to assess the variety of eating over a period of a week (28+ meals/snacks), not just a single meal.