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 with real food ingredients
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
The classic grilled cheese sandwich method
- 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?
Mama and Baby Love via Facebook says
I am posting a healthy grilled cheese sandwich recipe this week too! I just went back and edited it to include your link. Great minds think alike!
Lee Henderson Burdett via Facebook says
while not completely “healthy” due to the pasta component I’ve discovered a much better macaroni and cheese recipe that uses real cheese plus lots of real milk and eggs, and it cooks in a slow cooker!
Laura P. says
Could we get a link to this recipe, please? TIA!
Yum! My favorite junk food turn Real food? Um, that would PROBABLY be homemade ice cream, with raw grass-fed cream and pastured egg yolk, sweetened with maple syrup and flavored with real fruit.
Holistic Squid via Facebook says
Lee – YUM! TJ’s used to sell sprouted pasta that was delicious. Hoping to find a good replacement so that the mac ‘n’ cheese can be guilt free.
Grilled cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods, too, and that’s how I make them in our house. Sometimes we add slices of apple and (cooked) nitrate-free bacon and a swipe of good mayo.
Heather H. says
AND real food tastes way better than the ‘original’ grilled cheese. Way better.
My favorite homemade food is a real food version of Hamburger Helper. We also love homemade sprouted tortillas, coconut oil popcorn, and my version of fruit on the bottom yogurt.
I have been making a ton of grilled cheese lately. I always use sourdough as well. I add avocado slices to mine. It makes it so yummy!
I remember the Earth shifted slightly on its axis and the ground trembled the day I realized that you could make mac and cheese from scratch! 🙂 Paradigm shift! Now, if the dc want something as intimidating as, say, Peppermint Patties, I even make those from scratch. Nice post. Real food makes a difference in even simple everyday meals.
Sarah @ Fresh Living says
What a great post. I used to love grilled cheese sandwiches and like most of us, had the “unhealthy” version. It’s nice to know that we can still have what we used to love, but in a healthier form. Thanks!
Kelly Bagdanov says
My husband is a first generation Russian, and a common practice on Sunday nights in his family (they had a giant meal after church) was just to have bread, cheese, with some honey drizzled over the top, for dinner. I’ve had to go gluten free and I’ve been craving this treat After reading your post I thought, hmm, I have a decent gluten free bread, although it’s better toasted….so I followed your directions, but with a provolone, left it opened faced and drizzled with honey.. It was HEAVEN. Thank you for the inspiration.
I chuckled at your intro because I too as a child favorited frozen pizzas, kraft mac, grilled cheese and the likes. I have spent many of my adult years trying to overcome these childhood habits of processed unhealthy cravings, and love to read articles that substitute childhood favorites with real food ingredients.
I think it’s super important to teach young children how to choose the right kinds of foods, and present the building blocks for a life of healthy choices.
Love your blog, your writing style and voice!
Thanks Nikki! xo