Get creative with grilled cheese sandwiches

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

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Here in Cape Girardeau we are right in the middle of the SEMO District Fair. There has been so much excitement in the air building up to this week and that includes fair food.

I have been somewhat involved in planning the food and quantities for our church stand. We have had our fish and hamburger stand some 35 years and have become noted for our fried fish. So if I smell like fish when you see me, you will know why.

I cannot forget a few years ago when Mark Bliss wrote a column on fair foods on a stick. When you start looking around there are so many foods on an easy-to-carry-around stick. My Daddy's Cheesecake on a stick, steak on a stick, ice cream bars and caramel apples seem to have long lines waiting at their stands for these fair favorites.

Whatever your desire, I hope you have fun and enjoy the fair.

Grilled cheese sandwiches are certainly one of America's favorite sandwiches. Just look at the number of grilled cheese sandwiches that are sold at the East Perry County Fair. Recently I received a recipe pamphlet from the St. Louis Dairy Council featuring Mr. Food's search for the nation's best grilled cheese sandwich. There were six winners in the "Mr. Food's Hometown Grilled Cheese Contest" and I would like to share a couple of those with you today. Mr. Food looked from coast to coast to find the ones that clearly stood out as the best.

Hoosier Apple Surprise Sammies

4 tablespoons butter, softened

8 slices cinnamon raisin bread

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

4 slices mozzarella cheese

1 Golden Delicious apple, thinly sliced

8 slices Cheddar cheese

Spread butter evenly on one side of each slice of bread. On the unbuttered sides of four slices of bread, spread equal amounts of peanut butter and top with one slice of mozzarella cheese. Place apple slices over the cheese, and top each sandwich with two slices of Cheddar cheese. Top with remaining slices of bread, buttered side out. Preheat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Cook sandwiches, in batches, if necessary, for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until golden and the cheeses are melted. Serve immediately.

Heartland Pepper Harvest Cracked Wheat Grilled Cheese

4 tablespoons butter, softened

8 slices cracked wheat bread

4 slices Monterey Jack cheese

4 slices provolone cheese

8 ounces thinly sliced peppered roast beef or pastrami

12 slices cooked bacon, sprinkled with coarse ground pepper

Spread butter evenly on one side of each slice of bread. On the unbuttered sides of four slices of bread, layer one slice of Monterey Jack and one slice of provolone cheese. Place roast beef and bacon over cheeses, and top with the remaining slices of bread, buttered side out. Preheat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Cook sandwiches, in batches, if necessary, for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until golden and the cheeses are melted. Serve immediately.

Grilled cheese are so much fun to play with. Be creative and come up with one of your favorites.

Jodi Thompson of Jackson, Mo., sent this next recipe and her attached comments were too good to summarize or leave out. She wrote, "It seems too much already has been said and written about 'a chicken in every pot,' yet in these days of high food costs it still is new that chicken can come to the rescue with faltering budgets. Chicken is an excellent and economical choice for plan-ahead cooking. It is one of the best of high quality protein meats.

"A minimum portion of three ounces of broiled chicken without the bone supplies 23 grams of protein, which is one-third of the daily adult requirement.

"Chicken can be simmered to tender perfection while other household tasks are being done. The cut up, cooked meat is used in the plan ahead casserole."

Ahead Of Time Chicken

For the simmered chicken:

1 (3 pound) broiler-fryer chicken, whole or cut in serving pieces

2 cups water

1 small onion, sliced

2 celery tops

1 to 2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon MSG, (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Put chicken in kettle. Add water with onion, celery tops, bay leaves, MSG, salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Cover tightly. Reduce heat. Simmer 1 hour or until chicken is tender. Remove from heat. Strain broth. Refrigerate chicken and broth at once. When chicken is cool, remove meat from bones. Dice.

Yields about 2 1/2 cups diced chicken and about 2 1/2 cups chicken broth.

Use the simmered chicken in this delicious casserole.

Ahead Of Time Chicken Casserole

1 cup creamed cottage cheese

1 1/2 cups dairy sour cream

6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1/4 cup sliced pitted ripe olives

3 cups spinach or regular medium egg noodles, cooked

2 1/2 cups cooked cut up chicken (from simmer chicken)

In large bowl mix cottage cheese, sour cream, 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, salt and Tabasco. Stir in olives, noodles and chicken. Spoon into greased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Cover.

Refrigerate. One hour before serving, place in moderate 350 degree oven.

Bake, covered for 35 minutes. Uncover. Bake an additional 25 minutes. Yields 4 servings.

Jodi also shares this next recipe as a perfect ending to your chicken dinner.

Apple Cheesecake Pie

1 graham cracker pie crust, 9 inch

Filling:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

Topping:

1 20-ounce can apple pie filling, chilled

2 tablespoons toasted chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a bowl. Mix until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Place crust on baking sheet; pour in filling. Bake for 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely. Spread apple filling evenly on top of cooled cheesecake. Garnish with toasted pecans.

We have one request today that I'm sure will get a few responses. Ann of Cape Girardeau enjoys good blueberry muffins and would like all types of recipes for these delicious treats. There are so many different varieties; some with lemon, sour cream added, crunchy topping and so much more. Please help Ann with her quest for the best blueberry muffin.

Another week of Recipe Swap comes to a close. Enjoy the fair and have a great weekend.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Submit recipes to her at

or by mail at P.O. Box 699; Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63702-0699. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by the Southeast Missourian.

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