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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Recipe Makeover: A Childhood Staple

If you've been keeping up with my latest blog posts, you know by now that cheese and I have a dark and troubled past. But as I transition out of diet-mode and into maintaining my healthy lifestyle, I'm trying to give my old diet staples much needed makeovers. 

Growing up grilled cheese was something quick my mom could cook up for my picky palate, and it was one of the first things I started to cook for myself as a child. For a fast, no-fuss dinner, I use to eat two grilled cheese sandwiches with a big bowl of tomato soup. Yikes! If I could build a time machine and apologize to my young arteries, maybe I could also educate 13-year old me on the dangers of a high-sodium diet. But, alas, I don't have the brain power, so I'll just have to continue on my healthy living quest. 

What's the easiest way to make a meal healthy? Load it up with vegetables. Yes, even if it's grilled cheese. There are so many different variations of the classic sandwich now, you can customize it to accommodate anyone's taste. My secret with this sandwich is that I brush each slice with a little bit of olive oil. You still get the same crunch that comes from frying, just without the cholesterol and trans fats of butter or margarine. 

Feel free to use whatever vegetables, fruit, and cheese for your "grown-up" grilled cheese, but vegetables and firm, white cheeses are the healthiest options. As always, use whole-wheat or whole-grain bread.

Grown-up Grilled Cheese with a Kick
  • 2 Slices of whole-wheat bread
  • 1 oz. Monterey jack cheese with jalapeƱos, thinly sliced
  • 2 Slices of a large tomato
  • Small fistful of spinach leaves
  • 1 Thin slice of red onion
  • 1 tsp EVOO, divided

1. Use a small brush to evenly distribute 1/2 tsp of olive oil on one side of one of the slices of bread. Place bread, oiled side down, in a not-stick frying pan. Don't turn the heat on yet.
2. Layer spinach, tomato, cheese, and onion (in that order) on top of bread. Use the last 1/2 tsp of olive oil for the other slice of bread, turn on the flame to a medium heat, and place the other slice of bread on top, oiled side up. 
3. Use your spatula to apply pressure to the sandwich so that the bread gets cooked evenly and the cheese begins to melt. After about a minute or two (or when bread is cooked to your liking), flip sandwich over. 
4. Finish cooking to your liking, then remove from pan, cut in half, and enjoy!
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Total: 10 minutes

Nutrition: (One sandwich) Calories: 335, Total fat: 15g, Sat. fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 30mg, Sodium: 583mg, Total carbs: 45g, Fiber: 5g, Sugars: 7g, Protein: 17g

You can't deny that that gooey, melting cheese is calling your name. I paired my grilled cheese with a big salad and it kept me full for hours! It's okay to satisfy your cravings sometimes, just make it as healthy as possible.

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