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Are you a master or disaster in the kitchen? Most likely, you’re somewhere in between. If the thought of moving beyond the microwave freaks you out, that’s all the more reason to get the hang of basic cooking techniques and quickie recipes.
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 a classic 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
The fresh tomato adds a burst of flavour, 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 fibre. You can hardly taste the spinach, so even if greens aren’t your thing, this likely will be.
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 fibre and antioxidants. Look for bread that has wholegrains or whole-wheat flour listed as the first ingredient and contains at least 3 g of fibre and 3 g of protein with little to no added sugar (aim for less than 3 g of sugar) per serving.
What’s not to love? Cheese is flavourful, 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 flavoured cheese, so a little goes a long way. Our favourite 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.
- Rinse the tomato under running water because you never know.
- Cut it into slices.
- Assemble the sandwich. Use two thin slices of sharp cheddar (or whichever cheese), tomato slices, and a handful of baby spinach leaves.
- 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.
- Place your sandwich in the pan. Using a spatula, press down on it to ensure the underside is crisping up.
- Periodically check the bottom of the sandwich. You want it to turn brown but not burn. Once it’s a crisp brown colour, 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.
- Remove the sandwich from the pan, slice it in half, and artfully arrange it with the oven fries for your Instagram pic.
- Eat. Savour. Be happy. Watch those likes accumulate.
Oven baked fries
This recipe is what you’ve been looking for—the ideal way to recognize World Cancer Day (February 4) and Heart Month (all of February), organized by the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation. Right? Way to let those awareness days keep you alive and kicking (as in kickboxing) longer.
Make these fries at home or school, 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 building on fire.
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)
- Preheat the oven to 230˚C (450˚ F). A toaster oven works for this too (use the conventional oven or bake setting).
- Rinse the potato under running water, and scrub with a clean brush or dish towel.
- Chop the potatoes into matchstick shape (as shown).
- Note: The thinner you cut the fries, the crispier they’ll be. If you like softer fries, go for a thicker cut.
- Learn basic knife skills and how to chop
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Photography by Joanna Carmona
American Heart Association. (n.d.). Trans fats. Retrieved from https://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 https://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 https://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 https://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/nutrition/grains.html
United States Department of Agriculture. (2012, October). Tomatoes, fresh. Household USDA Foods Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://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 https://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/nutrition/slideshow/cheese-bad-your-health