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Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheese Makeovers

Once upon a time, grilled cheese consisted of a slice or two of processed cheese slapped between two slices of very uniform white bread. All sides were smothered in margarine, and the sandwich was fried until the cheese melted and the bread was nicely browned.

Nostalgia isn't always a good thing. When it comes to grilled cheese sandwiches, you can do so much better! And it won't take much more time or many more ingredients—just creativity and quality food.

So, keep the melted cheese and nicely browned bread, but step everything else up a notch! Here are some suggestions for making great grilled cheese:

* Experiment with an array of cheeses. Swiss, mozzarella, and cheddar are good bets, but almost any cheese is an option. Try hot pepper jack, Havarti, Fontina, provolone, Gruyere, gouda, and Brie, for example. You'll find that some cheeses are better melters than other, some have a nutty, robust flavor, and others are milky sweet and fruity. By the way, if you take your cheese out of the refrigerator a bit before using (say an hour), it'll melt more evenly once put on the griddle.

* Break out of the bread rut. Processed white bread might spell comfort food for some, but it does not a great sandwich make. Pumpernickel, whole wheat, sourdough, rye, hearty peasant and crusty French or Italian breads will produce infinitely more interesting sandwiches. Vary the thickness of your slices, too.

Grilled Cheese* Go condiment crazy. Purists may only use butter, but a slathering of aioli or grainy mustard will really enhance that sandwich. You can also use a seasoned butter or cream cheese. Simply combine your favorite spices with softened butter or cream cheese and use as your spread, as in this Basil Pesto Grilled Cheese. Other good options include Simply Organic Ranch Dip Mix, Guacamole Dip, and Fruit Dip (use with sliced gouda and Granny Smith apples).

Salad dressings can expand your sandwich options, too. Think slices of avocado and mango, with Emmenthaler cheese, sprinkled with Pineapple Cilantro Vinaigrette. Horseradish (thanks Dagwood), chutneys, salsas, and sauces made from mixes also make great bread condiments. (For sandwich use, simply make your sauces thicker than usual by adding less liquid to your mix.) This Grown-Up Grilled Cheese relies on Simply Organic's Italian Herb Spaghetti Sauce Mix for its rich flavor.

* Pile on ingredients. Veggies, meats, soy products, and even fruits make wonderful additions. Good bets include tomatoes (fresh or sundried), bell peppers (crunchy or roasted), minced hot peppers, onions (raw or caramelized), avocado, mushrooms (big portabella slabs or little chopped shitakes), zucchini, sprouts, olives, prosciutto, ham, turkey, cooked bacon, salami, pepperoncini, crab, chicken breast, slabs of marinated tofu, and cooked tempeh. But don't stop there. Try fruits such as pear, mango, or apple slices, and chopped dates, figs, and cranberries.

* Season liberally. Here's the crux of the step up in status. (In fact, if you do nothing else, you can easily transform that old-fashioned grilled cheese in two shakes of a spice bottle.) Before topping your sandwich, sprinkle on some flavorful spices, such as basil (fresh or dried), black pepper, chipotle pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, or oregano.

Or grab a spice blend for convenient, sure success. All-Purpose Seasoning and Garlic N Herb Seasoning are always appropriate. Or go ethnic with Italian Seasoning or Mexican Seasoning.

Visit our recipe pages for more grilled cheese inspiration!

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