grilled cheese

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Are you a master of convenience in the kitchen? If moving beyond the microwave mac and cheese massacres your time-management, have no fear. This quickie recipe will you keep you on track—and it’s easy, unlike your schedule

Your healthier, prep-it-yourself options go way beyond salads (not dissing salads—just saying). Want some grilled cheese with those fries? Here we demo a revamped version of the classic American comfort meal.

Gooey cheese melted between two slices of bread: Can it get any better than that? Actually, it can.

How we made this grilled cheese healthy

Veggies
The fresh tomato adds a burst of flavor, Vitamins A and C, and lycopene, an antioxidant. We’re sneaking in a bit of spinach too, because it’s packed with nutrients, including magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, manganese, Vitamins A and C, folate, and fiber. You can hardly taste the spinach, so even if greens aren’t your thing, this likely will be.

Bread
Go for a whole-wheat or wholegrain bread. This crisps up nicely like a grilled cheese should, provides a sturdy base to balance the melting cheese, and adds fiber and antioxidants. Look for bread that has wholegrains or whole-wheat flour listed as the first ingredient and contains at least 3 g of fiber and 3 g of protein with little to no added sugar (aim for less than 3 g of sugar) per serving.

Cheese
What’s not to love? Cheese is flavorful, it melts into ooey gooey glory, and it tastes ridiculously good. It’s got protein and calcium, but it falls a little short on the healthfulness factor due to the high fat and calorie content. The solution? Choose a strongly flavored cheese, so a little goes a long way. Our favorite for grilled cheese is sharp cheddar. Other options: Swiss, pepper jack (for a spicy kick), goat (if you’re feeling adventurous), or crumbled feta. You can also use dairy-alternative cheeses made from soy or almond.

Directions

  1. Rinse the tomato under running water because you never know.
  2. Cut it into slices.
  3. Assemble the sandwich. Use two thin slices of sharp cheddar (or whichever cheese), tomato slices, and a handful of baby spinach leaves.
  4. Spray or spread a thin layer of oil in the frying pan. Turn a burner on to medium-high heat and let the pan heat up for 1–2 minutes.
  5. Place your sandwich in the pan. Using a spatula,  press down on it to ensure the underside is crisping up.
  6. Periodically check the bottom of the sandwich. You want it to turn brown but not burn. Once it’s a crisp brown color, flip the sandwich and reduce the heat to medium-low. If you find that your bread is turning brown very quickly, turn the heat down further. Once the second side is brown, flip the sandwich over again and heat for another 30 seconds, or until the cheese is melted.
  7. Remove the sandwich from the pan, slice it in half, and artfully arrange it with the oven fries for your Instagram pic.
  8. Eat. Savor. Be happy. Watch those likes accumulate.

TomatoSliced tomatoUncooked, assembled sandwichSandwich being cooked on frying panFinished plate with grilled cheese and fries

Oven-baked fries

Who doesn’t love their french fries soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside? But that frying thing is so 10 years ago. Try this much- better-for-you baked version.

This recipe is what you’ve been looking for—the ideal way to recognize World Cancer Day (February 4) and National Wear Red Day (February 5), organized by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Right? Way to let those awareness days keep you alive and kicking (as in kickboxing) longer.

Make these fries at home, take them with you on the go, and bake instead of fry them. Baking your fries removes that whole restaurant-trans-fat situation (the worst type of fat for your health) and reduces the amount of fats and calories overall. Deep-frying foods in oil—the way most french fries are cooked—adds a load of fat and increases your risk of chronic health issues, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Also, you won’t set the kitchen on fire.

Ingredients

Serving size: 2

  • 1 Russet potato (the long brown kind) or sweet potato (higher in nutrients than a regular potato)
  • Canola or olive oil (the spray cans work great, or you can use the regular liquid version)
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)
  • Spices & herbs if desired (try any combination of rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, or oregano)

Supplies you’ll need

  • A sharp knife for chopping
  • Chopping board
  • One large baking sheet
  • An oven (toaster or conventional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. A toaster oven works for this too (use the conventional oven or bake setting).
  2. Rinse the potato under running water, and scrub with a clean brush or dish towel.
  3. Chop the potatoes into matchstick shape (as shown).
  4. Lightly oil a baking pan with olive or canola oil. Alternatively, line the baking pan with parchment paper (no oil needed) or aluminum foil (needs oil). Spread the fries out on the pan.
  5. Drizzle a small amount of oil (1 Tbsp.) or spray oil over the top of the fries, and sprinkle with salt and pepper (if desired). Mix the fries around so they are evenly coated. Spread the fries into a single layer so that they aren’t touching—this helps them crisp up more.
  6. Bake for 25–30 minutes. Halfway through, use a spatula to flip them over and make sure they are cooking evenly. The fries are done when the edges are browned and they’re as crispy as you like.
  7. Remove the fries from the oven. If desired, toss them in your favorite herbs or spices, such as garlic powder and rosemary. Serve them with ketchup or your favorite dipping sauce.

PotatoSlicing potatoHalf sliced potatoPotato sliced upUncooked fries on baking sheetFries going into the ovenFinished plate with grilled cheese and fries

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Article sources

Photography by Joanna Carmona

American Heart Association. (n.d.). Trans fats. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Trans-Fats_UCM_301120_Article.jsp#.Voq4smQrIsk

Cahill, L. E., Pan, A., Chiuve, S. E., Sun, Q., et al. (2014). Fried-food consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease: A prospective study in 2 cohorts of US women and men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100(2), 667–675.

Colorado State University. (2015). Colorado spinach. Retrieved from http://farmtotable.colostate.edu/docs/spinachfactsheet.pdf

Harvard Health Publications. (2015, February 3). The truth about fats: The good, the bad, and the in-between. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good

MedlinePlus. (n.d.). Food label guide for whole wheat bread. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/19343.htm

TeensHealth. (2014, September). Which bread is better: Whole wheat or whole grain? Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/nutrition/grains.html

United States Department of Agriculture. (2012, October). Tomatoes, fresh. Household USDA Foods Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://www.whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/factsheets/HHFS_TOMATOES_FRESH_Oct2012.pdf

University of California Berkeley. (n.d.). Is cheese bad for your health? Berkeley Wellness. Retrieved from http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/nutrition/slideshow/cheese-bad-your-health

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Ally Carlton-Smith, MS is executive editor of Student Health 101. She has a master’s degree in health communication from Tufts University School of Medicine.


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Joanna Carmona is communications coordinator at the National Patient Safety Foundation. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Student Health 101. She has also edited collegiate textbooks for Cengage Learning and creating language learning materials for the US Department of Defense, libraries, and other educational institutions. Her BA in Spanish is from the University of New Hampshire.