Growing up I had my favorite meals – Ellio’s frozen pizza was number one, followed closely by Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli from a can, Hungry Jack mashed potatoes, Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches made with white ‘Italian’ bread, margarine, and Kraft Singles (notice how the word ‘cheese’ is conveniently left out the last ingredient) served with a side of dill pickles. We didn’t drink much soda at our house, but I would often wash these fine meals down with some Hi-C (the peach flavor was my favorite) or cartoned orange juice.
When it comes to the diet of my childhood, I know my mom chose the best foods for me based on what was the fashion during the late 70’s and through the 80’s. It’s not to say that she never prepared meals from scratch, it’s just that the above packaged foods were my favorites. (For the record, I stopped blaming my parents for all of their short-comings after the birth of my first child when I realized that parenthood ain’t easy and both of my parents did their darned best.)
Fast forward to today. My grown-up dietary lifestyle has taken a turn for the old-fashioned – homemade food from scratch using Real ingredients – milk, butter, cream, eggs, meat, vegetables – and the more seasonal, local, and sustainable the better. Very little that we eat comes from a package, and most of the items in my fridge and pantry will rot if uneaten – a good sign that our food is not fake!
Despite my 180 degree shift from the processed, nutrient-deficient foods of my youth, I have to admit that I still associate many of these foods with comfort and emotional nourishment. Luckily, with Real food and a tiny bit of effort, you can have your nostalgia and eat it too.
The classic grilled cheese sandwich, real food style
Margarine or conventional butter2 Tablespoons or more of real butter from grass-fed cows
- 2 slices
whole wheat or white breadsprouted grain or traditionally soured sourdough bread 2 slices Kraft singlesThinly sliced cheddar cheese from grass-fed cows (bonus for raw cheese)
- Coarse Unrefined Sea Salt – find it here
Heinz KetchupHomemade cultured ketchup (optional) Dill PicklesLacto-fermented Sauerkraut or dill pickles Hi-C fruit punchHomemade kombucha or Apple Ginger Soda
In a large frying pan, melt the butter until it begins to foam. Over medium to low heat, add your slices of bread to the melted butter and top each with a generous layer of cheddar cheese. Cover the pan and cook for several minutes until the cheese begins to melt and the bread is lightly browned underneath. Using a spatula, remove cheesy bread slices, place together into a sandwich, and slice in half or quarters on a plate. Serve with a sprinkle of course sea salt and sides of optional cultured ketchup and/or fermented veggies, and wash it down with some cultured bubbly beverage of your choice.
Why my grilled cheese counts as health food
First of all, this grilled cheese sandwich doesn’t just taste as good as the traditional childhood favorite – the sprouted wheat, real butter and cheese, and delicious side condiments make this sandwich taste SO MUCH BETTER! On the nutrition front:
- Sprouted or traditionally soured grains promotes health. Grains and nuts contain phytic acid, an anti-nutrient which blocks the absorption of minerals. When wheat is sprouted, soaked, or soured it becomes more digestible, more delicious, and less disruptive to digestion.
- Butter and cheese, especially from grass-fed cows are nutrient-dense superfoods rich in essential saturated fats and fat soluble vitamins A and K2. Please don’t ever consume margarine or other butter substitutes. And let’s make Kraft singles retro curiosity!
- Unrefined Sea Salt is essential to health and can be added to food to taste without fear, whereas refined salts contribute to health issues.
- Cultured condiments add a probiotic punch to a nutrient dense meal, whereas conventional ketchup is laden with high fructose corn syrup and other nasty additives, and conventional pickles provide no nutritional benefit and plenty of over-processed salt.
- Cultured beverages take sodas from pure toxic junk to nutritious nirvana. Experiment with kombucha, water kefir, ginger bugs and more to fine your favorite bubbly delight.
The take-home message is this: Real food is good for you. Real food can be quick and easy. And Real food can be delicious, comforting, and nostalgic without compromise.
What’s your favorite nostalgic junk transformed to real food?