Marge Perry, Newsday's weekly 3 Simple columnist, also writes, broadcasts, teaches and speaks about cooking, food and nutrition.
TIP: "Light" bread, be it whole wheat, white or potato bread, works beautifully for grilled cheese sandwiches -- and saves calories.
Grilled cheese sandwiches can be light enough for a snack or lunch, or hearty enough for dinner. Pair any of these with a salad or vegetable and you have a complete, fast and easy meal.
GRILLED CHEESE, APPLE AND BACON SANDWICH
2 slices center-cut bacon
1 1/2 ounces Irish Cheddar cheese, cut into thin slices
2 slices whole-wheat bread
1/2 apple, cut into 1/4-inch wedges
1. Cook bacon in medium skillet; remove and drain on a plate lined with paper towel.
2. While bacon cooks, place the cheese on one slice of bread.
3. Add the apple slices to the pan with the bacon drippings and cook until lightly browned on each side (a total of about 4 minutes). Place the apples on the cheese and top with the bacon slices. Close the sandwich with the second slice of bread and place in the hot skillet. Cook until browned on the underside, about 2 minutes; flip and cook until browned on the underside again and the cheese is melted. Makes 1 serving.
Nutritional analysis for each serving 442 calories, 23 g protein, 46 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 20 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 811 mg sodium
ENLIGHTENED GRILLED CHEESEE
1 1/2 ounces light Cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
2 slices light whole-wheat bread
2 (1/4-inch-thick) slices tomato
2 teaspoons butter, divided
1. Assemble the sandwich: Place the cheese on one slice of the bread, top with the tomato (cutting as necessary to fit) and close the sandwich.
2. Melt 1 teaspoon butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the sandwich and cook until golden brown on the underside, about 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and swirl the remaining 1 teaspoon of butter in the pan until melted; add the sandwich uncooked side facing down and cook until the cheese is melted and the underside golden, about 2 minutes longer. Makes 1 serving.
Nutritional analysis for each serving 265 calories, 17 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 8 g fiber, 14 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 563 mg sodium
BUFFALO-STYLE GRILLED CHEESE AND CHICKEN SANDWICH
1/2 cup cooked, coarsely chopped chicken breast
1 tablespoon red-hot pepper sauce, divided
2 slices light potato bread
1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) finely crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1. Toss the chicken with about half the hot sauce.
2. Brush the remaining hot sauce on one side of a slice of bread and top with the cheese. Place the chicken on the cheese and top with remaining slice of bread.
3. Melt about half the butter in a small, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the sandwich and cook until the underside is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the sandwich and swirl the remaining butter in the pan until it melts. Add the sandwich back to the pan, uncooked side facing down, and cook until the cheese is melted and the underside is golden, another 2 to 3 minutes. Makes 1 serving.
Nutritional analysis for each serving 418 calories, 32 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 24 g fat, 14 g saturated fat, 1,149 mg sodium