Actually Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Wednesday was National Grilled Cheese Day.  I don’t really remember that day from past years, but thought I would celebrate this year with actually preparing grilled cheese sandwiches–Not just made indoors on a grill, but made outdoors on a charcoal grill.

The feat was totally easy since I have a new grilled cheese basket by The Charcoal Companion.  This non-stick basket is perfect for any type of grilled sandwich on an open grill.  The rosewood handle is especially nice and the basket clip keeps the tool together for easy turning.  I was able to fit three smaller sandwiches with plenty of cheddar cheese for each sandwich into the basket. The sandwiches are held together nicely without any worries of losing a sandwich into the charcoal.

It took only minutes before the cheese was melty, gooey and so delicious!  The actual outdoor charcoal flavor adds that extra special taste that cannot be achieved indoors. The basket is the perfect size and really could be used to grill flat vegetables as well.

I plan to be using my grills so much more this year as I have come to appreciate all types of outdoor grilling and various foods that can be easily made on the grill today with the proper tools. Grilled cheese is also perfect for tailgating season.  There is just something about cooking food outdoors that makes it taste extra special!

Baskets can be found at Wal-Mart, World Market, many specialty cooking stores and even online at The Home Depot or

roasted tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons

I felt “Fall” in the air this past weekend in Michigan.  I must admit, I love this season the best of all of the seasons of the year.  The brisk mornings and the changing leaves make the season so comfortable for me.  I have been looking at many recipes over the past few weeks just getting ready for comfort food season.  I found this one in Jamie Deen’s cookbook titled Good Food.  It felt perfect for dinner last night, since I still had a whole bowl of tomatoes from the garden ready to be used in a recipe.


I have made homemade tomato soup several times before and have posted recipes on the blog, but not for roasted tomato soup.  I must say that the tomatoes had an extra layer of flavor, since they were combined with the roasted onions and garlic.  The soup was delicious, making extra for lunches and to freeze for another colder fall evening dinner.

I loved the grilled cheese croutons.  They were delicious in the soup and were such a great garnish.  My husband had an extra grilled cheese on a plate, since the croutons were just not enough for his meal. The sandwiches could also be cut into strips and served with the soup, for dunking.


to make the soup recipe:

Gather the following ingredients for the recipe–3 pounds of fresh tomatoes, or a mixture of fresh for roasting and boxed, one Vidalia onion, 6 cloves of fresh garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon honey, Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, 3 1/2 cups of chicken stock and dill.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Slice the tomatoes in quarters, and the large onion into chunks.  Separate the garlic into cloves. Place all on a heavy sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and honey. Mix well together.  Roast in the oven for 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and take out the garlic cloves.  Smash 2-3 cloves depending on their size and return to the pan,  discarding  the rest.  Place all in a blender to puree in batches.  Mix any browned bits from the baking pan into the chicken stock. Using about 2 cups of stock, add to the soup pan on the stove.  Add the tomato mixture from the blender along with other boxed tomatoes as needed for the recipe volume.


Season as needed.  Simmer for at least 25 minutes. Add the rest of the stock to incorporate during the cooking time.  Stir in the dill during the last minutes of cooking to taste.  Or use as a garnish on the soup when serving. I also used fresh basil from the garden as a garnish.


to make the grilled cheese croutons:

Prepare a sheet pan with cooking spray.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Using margarine, spread one side of each slice of bread making a sandwich.  For 4 sandwiches, that would be eight slices of bread.  Place butter side down, one slice for each sandwich.  Add shredded cheddar cheese or other cheese slices.  Place the second slice of sandwich bread on top, butter side up.  Bake in the oven for a total of 20 minutes.  I usually bake 12 minutes on one side and flip the sandwiches.


Cut into slices, strips, or cubes for croutons.  Delicious and so perfect for Fall.




easy crock pot macaroni and cheese



making macaroni and cheese in a crock pot can be a bit tricky.  the challenge comes from using milk and cheese in a crock pot.  these ingredients tend to curdle when not treated properly. i have been researching recipes, as i have wanted to have a fool-proof way to make this dish without running into soggy noodles or poorly blended cheeses.  i found the technique and the perfect recipe.

the recipe comes from the six sisters cookbook.  actually, i own a couple of their books and really like their easy to make recipes.  if you haven’t checked them out, i would recommend trying a recipe or two from one of their books.



the macaroni and cheese recipe comes from this book and worked perfectly in my crock pot. i followed their ingredients and suggestions exactly as written in the book.  this recipe could easily be doubled or tripled.  i used my smaller crock pot, and could have easily doubled the recipe for a larger crowd in this pot.  i would say that the recipe given makes six servings.  i had leftovers for another couple of days that i easily stored.  here is how to make the macaroni and cheese:

boil 2 cups of elbow macaroni only 6 minutes and drain. this shorter cooking time helps the noodles from becoming soggy in the slow cooker. in a medium sauce pot, melt 4 tablespoon butter or margarine and add 2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese to melt.  stir until soft and melted. watch this carefully and don’t walk away.  spray your slow cooker with cooking spray.  add the following ingredients and stir:  1/2 cup sour cream, 1 can cheddar cheese soup, 1 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, salt and black pepper to taste.  add the melted cheese and the drained noodles.  stir very well and cook on low heat.  this recipe will be perfect in 2 to 2/12 hours.

this is not an all day slow cooking recipe.  but, this recipe can be used when you don’t want to be baking a casserole of macaroni and cheese, but would like to serve on a buffet or for a sports party.  guys love this recipe and will enjoy having a scoop with just about any other sandwich or dish on a buffet.




summer grilled cheese with apple


summer sandwiches are traditionally light and flavorful. by using some crisp apple slices along with some deli ham and provolone cheese, this sandwich is just that good.

i assembled the sandwich on a thin baguette from the market, layering the ingredients–ham, apple slices, crisp green lettuce, and then topped with provolone.  cover the sandwiches with tin foil and place on a baking sheet.

put into a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes to heat and melt the cheese.  remove from the oven, take off the foil, and press the sandwich together.

the cheese melts just perfectly during that time, and the lettuce stays crisp.  the apples are just perfectly warmed and not soft.  their crunch adds a wonderful texture to the summer sandwich.

serve warm with a side salad, fruit salad or pasta salad for your next picnic.

baked grilled cheese sandwiches

when making a quantity of grilled cheese sandwiches for a group, try this easy method for crispy baked “grilled cheese” sandwiches.  baking the sandwiches in the oven on a sheet pan works wonderfully and is much easier than grilling in a panini press or in a skillet.  this decreases the time of cooking and allows for all the sandwiches to be done at once.  i was skeptical at first, thinking that the sandwiches would not be crispy and crunchy to taste, but this did not prove to be true.  the cheese was crispy and hot, and the bread was crunchy as well.

to bake the sandwiches:  choose a firm bread, such as a sourdough.  butter one side of each slice of bread.  place one piece butter side down on the sheet pan that has been prepared with a light coating of canola oil spray.  add the cheddar cheese slice to the bread, and then place the top slice of bread with the butter side up.  assemble as many sandwiches on the tray as desired.  bake at 375 degrees for 6 minutes, and then check on the sandwiches.  turn them over and bake again for 3-6 minutes, until brown and crispy.  oven temperatures will vary, so watch them on the second baking.

allow to stand for one minute before cutting in half to serve.  this is a great technique.

and, these sandwiches could be adapted to be Swiss and ham or provolone and turkey.  the choices are up to you and your taste preferences.