Choose Your Own Grilled Cheese Adventure #ZPocEating

When the world is coming to an end and there are zombies everywhere you don't have time for anything fancy. Grab the first can of tomato soup you find, a baguette, Velveeta cheese slices, and some butter then make up a batch of mini grilled cheese sandwiches. They're a great on-the-go snack and when the zombies attack you'll need something to munch on as you run for your lives. I know you were smart enough to pack a cast iron skillet in your bug-out bag— they do double as a weapon after all. You should probably also pack a copy of Lauren Wilson's new book The Art of Eating through the Zombie Apocalypse: A Cookbook and Culinary Survival Guide for some handy and hilarious survival tips and culinary suggestions such as today's choose your own grilled cheese adventure. I hope you enjoy today's recipe, check back tomorrow for a full review of the book.

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Mini Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Ingredients

1 Baguette, thinly sliced
Velveeta or Kraft singles
salted butter
1 can of tomato soup or tomato sauce

Equipment

Cast iron skillet

Directions

  • Slice the baguette into small rounds, butter one side, add ¼ of a Velveeta cheese slice and top with another buttered baguette slice. Place in a cast iron skillet and grill on medium heat until golden-brown.
  • Flip the sandwich and repeat until both sides are browned and the cheese is melted.
  • Serve immediately with a side of tomato soup for dipping, or eat as-is.

Notes

If you don't have a can of tomato soup we've found that tomato sauce works well for dipping, plus it doesn't contain the artificial ingredients you'll find in a can of condensed soup (Not that it will matter during Zpoc, I'm pretty sure healthy eating will go right out the window once you have a hored of zombies chasing after you.)

Here are some helpful tips from The Art of Eating through the Zombie Apocalypse: A Cookbook and Culinary Survival Guide by Lauren Wilson (reprinted with permission from BenBella Books, Inc)

Choose Your Own Grilled Cheese Adventure

When the power goes out and you are looking for a way to use up bread and cheese, I mean, really—duh. Could there be a more perfect initial outbreak survival food? Grilled cheese sandwiches have it all—they are high in calories, and they contain fat, protein, and carbs. An ooey-gooey grilled cheese is one of the few foods that can remind you that life is still worth living and comes together in less than 10 minutes.

Plus, they offer an excellent opportunity for culinary improvisation. Along with the cheese, you can shove almost any ingredient between those two slices of bread. When melted, the cheese will act as a binder, making it a self-contained zpoc superfood. And if before biting into your perfect sandwich you happen to get distracted by the ever-growing number of biters outside, don’t fret! Virtually all grilled cheese sandwiches will taste just fine cold.

Many of the ingredients here might challenge your preconceived notions of “grilled cheese”—but hey, preconceived notions are so pre-apocalypse. It’s supposed to be a grilled cheese adventure, right?

Quick Tips

According to grilled cheese guru and James Beard Award–winning author Laura Werlin, there are a few foundations any grilled cheese adventurer should know:

  • Grate your cheese—to achieve consistent and quicker melting.
  • Get the right cheese-to-bread ratio— more cheese than bread, or “thick cheese thin bread.” Trim your bread down if you need to.
  • Spread the bread, not the pan— whether using butter, oil, mayo, bacon fat, what have you, spreading onto the bread directly will ensure better and more even crisping.
  • Use a nonstick pan—cast iron is great, but who has time to waste with sticking during the zpoc?
  • Flatten while cooking—use a light weight (a foil-wrapped can works great) or you can simply press with the spatula when you flip.
  • Go slow—keep the heat at medium or lower to allow the cheese to melt before the bread burns.
  • Cool it—let the sandwich cool for at least a few minutes before eating, it will taste much better this way.

To these most excellent tips I would add one further consideration of proportions, particularly when it comes to strong flavors. Strong cheeses like blue or Parmesan, sweet additions like jam, or strong mix-ins like bacon, kimchi, or olives can quickly overpower other flavors in the sandwich, so use them sparingly. Try to give thought, even if cursory, to achieving harmony in your GC—a happy ending to your adventure, so to speak.

Inspiration for Building a Great Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The categories here are by no means exhaustive, but use them as a jumping-off point to mix and match according to what you have on hand and your own personal apocalyptic flair.

Breads

Bagel, Baguette, Brioche, Challah, Ciabatta, Classic white Wonder, English muffin, Multigrain, Olive (or any flavored!) bread, Potato roll, Pumpernickel, Rye, Sourdough 

Cheeses

American, Blue (like Roquefort, Stilton, or Gorgonzola), Brie, Cheddar, Cream cheese, Emmental, Gouda, Gruyere, Havarti, Manchego, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, Parmigiano, Reggiano, Pecorino, Ricotta, Taleggio

Textural Enhancers

Blanched fresh veggies (like broccoli rabe, green beans, peas, and/or Brussels sprouts), Chips! (Corn, potato, whatever you’ve got), Pickled cukes, jalapenos, or banana peppers, Seasoned crushed instant ramen noodles, Toasted chopped nuts

Flavor Bombs

Bacon, Browned and seasoned ground meat, Canned tuna, Caramelized onions, Cold cuts, Fried Spam

Huitlacoche, Minced fresh herbs, Prepared horseradish, Sauerkraut, Sauteed mushrooms, Sauteed or roasted garlic, Sliced hot dogs

Sauces

Adobo, BBQ sauce, Creamy salad dressings, Harissa, Ketchup, Mayo, Mustard (grainy, Dijon, yellow, Deli, etc.), Salsa, Sambal Oelek, Sriracha

Sweets

Canned fruits (esp. pineapple and peach), Dried fruits, Fig jam, Honey, Maple syrup, Marmalade

Disclosure

This book was sent to me for review by BenBella Books, Inc. As always, all opinions are my own. 

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

Advice on Feeding Our Children and a Book Review: Green Mama by Manda Aufochs Gillespie

Today’s post is a bit different than my normal Thursday book review because I’m gearing up to participate in OXO Tot #FirstBites. I had recently started a post about feeding our children when I was sent this book for review. A lot of the author's thoughts line up with the way I feel about childhood nutrition. Even though today’s book talks about green living and not just nutrition I’ve decided to combine the two posts. I know I’m being a bit long-winded today, but I hope you’ll stick with me to the end because this is a topic I’m incredibly passionate about. As part of OXO Tot #FirstBites I’ll be sharing several recipes of my own for home made baby food, including some fun summertime treats, so keep your eyes peeled for those over the next few days.

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Did you know that childhood obesity rates have doubled in the past 30 years? This was something I wasn’t particularly aware of before my son was born, but once I discovered this alarming trend I knew it was time for some serious changes in our household. We decided to make slow changes to our diet and go on from there because we knew that our child would follow the examples we set. If we couldn’t even show him how to eat nutritiously, then how could we expect him to ever learn what good nutrition was? As Manda Aufochs Gillespie, author of Green Mama, mentions in her book, “whether you start big or start small, just start!” The hardest part was knowing where to start, because when it comes to nutrition, especially childhood nutrition, there is a lot of conflicting advice. 

Doctors have a rather shocking lack of nutritional education, I often found myself butting heads with my doctor over the guidelines I was given for feeding my son. I disagree with them as well as the latest food pyramid, in my opinion they’re setting us up for a life of obesity. As you can tell, I’m very opinionated about this and it’s something I’ll likely be talking more about over the next few days. I will say that the best advice I was given, which is also touched upon in this book, is to look back at previous generations who were green by default. They made their food from scratch, often from gardens grown themselves; there were no corner stores, pre-packaged food, or fast food restaurants to worry about. 

Modern generations have become accustomed to these types of conveniences, but these conveniences aren’t necessarily doing our health a lot of good. They’re especially affecting our children and we need to speak up and let restaurants and manufacturers know that we demand better. Change often comes slowly, but it starts with us and what we allow our children to eat. By not purchasing unhealthy foods we’re sending a message to the manufacturers that we want something different, but sending them an email doesn’t hurt either! As parents we need to remember that we are the ones in charge of what our children eat, they may want the sugar coated cereal with the cartoon character on the box, but we have to be strong and tell them it isn’t nutritious for them. As the author points out in her book we shouldn’t “give in to the temptation of biscuits, bars, or crackers in lieu of real food. Whether you are trying to buy a few minutes of peace while you run an errand, are worried that he must be starving because he hardly ate dinner, or are just reaching for an easy snack, these quick fixes can turn into a serious junk food habit. If children know that a processed, and often sugary, substitute is likely, they will figure out a way to get it.”

I couldn’t agree more! 

It's blindingly obvious that we all need to make a concerned effort to foster not just a love of food, but a love of HEALTHY food in our children. However, many of us struggle with this because manufacturers have played a large roll in telling us what is healthy. It’s time we stop listening to them. We need to ignore the labels that tell us we’ll meet our recommended daily intake of such-and-such vitamin if we eat their processed food and start getting our nutrition from real food. It’s only within the last few generations that we’ve begun to eat processed foods and the manufacturers have a huge advertising budget they use to turn our eyes to their product. 

It isn’t just the food we eat that we need to be concerned about, baby food is more processed than ever before. If you haven’t been down the baby food isle recently, it may shock you to see how many processed snacks now line the shelves. These pre-packaged foods are full of added sugar and preservatives, so now more than ever it’s important to read the labels to see what your child will be consuming. If you haven’t yet decided to make the switch to home made baby food I’ll give you a suggestion that I hope you follow: go buy a jar of baby food, open it, eat some of it. Now ask yourself if it even remotely tastes like what the label claims it to be. We played a guessing game at my baby shower were we tasted the food and tried to identify what was in the jar; hardly anyone was able to identify the foods because they taste nothing like real food. It was a real eye opener for me and helped fuel my determination to feed my son home made food. If you’re looking to bypass feeding your child processed baby food this book has plenty of suggestions for first foods as well as tips to ensure you child eats a healthy, balanced diet. There are also tips to improve your diet so that if you choose to breastfeed you are passing on the most nutrition possible to your child.

While I’ve spoken mostly of nutrition in this review it is actually a small part of what Green Mama offers. You’ll find information on improving air-quality, limiting toxic chemicals, making your ownDIY green cleaning products,and a whole host of other helpful tips. There are also lengthy discussions on nursing and while the book mentions “breast is best” the author doesn’t shame you into thinking you’ll fail your child if you are unable to breastfeed. This is something that I really commend her on. Many of the other references I’ve consulted over the years made me feel that way, even though I knew I was acting in his best interest by choosing not to breastfeed. The medication I take everyday for my epilepsy causes a whole host of problems in children. Unfortunately many other resources don’t look at the whole picture before taking their stance, this book does and I find it incredibly refreshing. This book also recognizes that not everyone can afford to be green all the time. There are sidebars titled When Money Matters More filled with ways to make more green choices without breaking the bank and many helpful tips to be green in smaller ways.

Before I end my review I’ll leave you with one last bit of important advice I found in this book. “Green doesn’t necessarily have to mean ‘more expensive,’ although it can mean spending more on one type of item (like food) and less on another (like toys).” I think this is advice that everyone, not just new parents, should take to heart. If we make a conscious decision to cut out some of the less important items in our life we can take those savings and apply them where they really matter and where they will make the most difference in our lives and the lives of our children. Small actions can make a big difference, we just need to take the first step.

Where to Purchase

Disclosure

This book was sent to me for review by Dundurn Press through NetGalley. As always, all opinions are my own. 

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.