Cheese sandwiches can be made ahead and frozen for delicious grilled cheese sandwiches anytime

Want a Quick Grilled Cheese Sandwich? Just Load Up Your Freezer

This post was written as a guest blog for Family Goes Strong. You can read the original copy here.

CHEESE SANDWICHES CAN BE MADE AHEAD AND FROZEN FOR DELICIOUS GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES ANYTIME YOU WANT ONE

Did you know you can make a delicious grilled cheese sandwich from a frozen cheese sandwich? Well you can! Think of it like a frozen pizza, only these are heated on a griddle or skillet.

That information will come in handy if you ever find yourself with extra bread and cheese that you’d like to use up before taking a vacation. It’s also a useful tip when serving a crowd or planning ahead for days when you run out of other meal options.

Why not assemble a stack to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day on April 12th?

Bread and cheese are two ingredients found in most households, and the possible combinations of the two are endless. There are many nutritional possibilities for that combination as well.

Choose Your Cheese

Deciding what type of cheese you want to use is a matter of taste. From sharp to smooth and tangy to nutty, there is a lot more than yellow American out there. And don’t forget the flavored cheeses, like horseradish, tomato basil, and jalapeño.

You can use any form of cheese – sliced, shredded, grated, crumbled, string, or spreadable – to make a great freezable sandwich. Thin layered slices will melt more evenly than thicker slices. Reduced fat cheeses and those with less sodium offer healthy options for everyone. There are also lactose free cheeses, though most natural cheeses contain minimal amounts.

Select the Slice

Don’t settle for sliced bread when a round sandwich thin, soft roll, pita pocket, or hot dog bun will work just as well. But do avoid breads or rolls more than an inch thick since they will be fully toasted before the cheese melts.

Expand the variety and nutritional value by using whole wheat, multigrain, rye, pumpernickel, raisin or sourdough to surround your cheese. This is also a great way to use up bread that is a day or two old and not as tasty without toasting.

Follow These Steps

To assemble:

  1. Use 2 ounces or 1/4 cup shredded cheese per sandwich
  2. Cover one slice of bread or side of roll or bun with cheese, spreading to edges
  3. Cover with other slice of bread or top of roll or bun
  4. Label zip-top or self-sealing bags with the date and type(s) of sandwiches made
  5. Put each assembled sandwich into a labeled bag and remove air before closing
  6. Place bags in a single layer on a flat baking pan or tray
  7. Put pan in freezer for an hour or until sandwiches are firm
  8. Place sandwiches in larger freezer bag, remove air before closing and store in freezer for up to 3 months

To grill:

  1. Remove sandwich from bag and spread outsides with thin coating of soft spread margarine
  2. Heat flat-top griddle, double-sided grill or skillet depending on how many you are cooking at once
  3. Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes per side, or until cheese melts and bread is golden brown

Now you can easily make a grilled cheese sandwich for one or a crowd!

Milk and cheese are great sources of protein, too

 

Food Trends Forecast What We’ll Eat in the New Year

Best Top Ten Food Trends for 2012 From The Everyday Dietitian

TOP TEN FOOD TRENDS FOR THE NEW YEAR PICKED BY THE EVERYDAY DIETITIAN

The final predictions have been made for what we’ll see on restaurant menus in 2012 and what foods we’ll be serving at home. Based on all the forecasts from all of the experts, I have prepared my list of the Top Ten Food Trends I found most favorable, foreboding or fascinating for the coming year.

The Hartman Group – This market research firm studies consumer culture and behavior and sees a continuing shift away from traditional meals. Their forecast for 2012 and beyond has is eating alone more, less eating together as a family and more doing your own thing, more snacks/ fewer meals, distinct “food occasions” replacing traditional meal categories and food decisions for “immediate consumption” based on mood or whimsy.

Technomic – The visionaries at this food service research and consulting firm predict the uncertain economy will make consumers less willing to take risks when dining out, so familiar foods will be given a new twist instead. Expect innovations in sandwiches, wraps, pizza and pasta. Cost-consciousness will also be seen by the use of simpler ingredients, such as beans, artisan grains and cheaper cuts of meat, presented as “rustic fare” in place of premium ingredients.

Mintel Group, Ltd. Anticipating ongoing economic and health concerns, these forecasters say restaurants will feature more “Double-Sided” menus giving consumers the choice of healthy options on one side and the usual indulgences on the other. This concept will also allow restaurants to offer premium and value pricing on opposite sides of the menu.

Phil Lempert’s Supermarket NewsSupermarket Guru Phil Lempert describes “Xtreme Home Cooking” as a way people will save money in 2012. Home cooks will strive to make the ultimate “value meal” by placing price and taste ahead of convenience. Lempert also says stores will be catering to the 76 million baby boomers now turning 65 who will control over half of the $706 billion spent on groceries by 2015! As the largest food influencers and purchasers, manufacturers will be motivated to develop more products featuring health and wellness benefits.

Small Business Food Trends – Entrepreneurial restaurant owners looking for an edge will be serving more appetizers or small plate portions on their menus. Customers love them because they allow sampling and sharing, appeal to health-conscious diners and are less expensive than entrees. Chefs like them because they can experiment with new ingredients and recipes without great risk.

Leatherhead Food Research They predict a continuing rise in the sales of “free-from” foods, such as free-from gluten, lactose, soy or nuts, to meet the demands of both the growing aging population and more health and nutrition conscious younger consumers.

Functional Ingredients and Nutraceuticals World – Both of these ingredient suppliers anticipate consumers will continue their search for “clean” labels. They say “pure” is the new “natural” and the meaning of “green” has diversified beyond responsible and sustainable to also mean ethical, less wasteful and more authentic.

The Food Channel A key trend in their sights for 2012 is more “Shopping Schizophrenia” with the revival of butchers, bakers and other specialty food shops right in your neighborhood. These Mom & Pop shops offer a more intimate shopping experience to compete with one-stop shopping in big box stores.

National Restaurant AssociationKids are prominent in the NRA’s vision for 2012. They see more healthful kids’ meals on restaurant menus, children’s nutrition as a culinary theme, more whole grain items in kids’ menus and smaller versions of adult meals served as “children’s mini-meals.”

American Council on ExerciseWeight loss won’t just about diet and exercise in 2012, it will include “lifestyle coaching.” Gyms will staff nutritionists, physical therapists and psychologists in addition to personal trainers to conduct “wellness programs.” Local employers will use these services to try to keep their work force healthy. There will be more mobile apps for interactive and online workouts accessible from smartphones and tablets.

What’s on your list of Top Ten Foods to Eat in 2012?

Control unwanted calories when eating out to control weight

Calorie Control Means Weight Control When Eating Out

USE THESE 10 TIPS TO KEEP UNWANTED CALORIES OUT OF YOUR DIET WHEN EATING OUT

Eating out is no longer just for special occasions. For many, eating in restaurants is a means to survival. But with it come all those extra calories from larger portions, hidden ingredients and menu temptations that can wreak havoc on any diet.

If you are trying to control your weight, you’ve got to control those extra calories when eating out. This doesn’t mean you should only order broiled fish and undressed salad. To control unwanted calories you’ve got to control the situation.

Here are 10 Tips for Calorie Control When Eating Out that put you in charge.

  1. Choose wisely when deciding where to eat so you know in advance what’s on the menu.
  2. Decide what you want to eat before looking at the menu to avoid being distracted by tempting choices.
  3. Don’t arrive famished, it’s much harder to resist temptation.
  4. Refuse the complementary bread, tortillas or fried noodles if offered.
  5. Don’t be shy. Ask how things are prepared and request what you want – you’re paying the bill.
  6. Skip the shared appetizers and just pass them along if they weren’t what you ordered.
  7. Listen to your stomach. When you start to feel satisfied, STOP eating and pack up the unfinished food for another meal.
  8. Beware of the effects of alcohol. Cocktails contain calories AND impair your judgment about how much you’re eating.
  9. Fit the meal into your day by making adjustments at other meals so you have room for some of the extras calories.
  10. Remember, there is always tomorrow. When everything just looks too good to pass by, plan a return visit for another meal.

How will you be controlling calories on your next meal out?

How to select the right diet foods for your holiday menu

Diet Foods for the Holiday Menu

USE THIS CHECKLIST BEFORE SHOPPING FOR SPECIAL DIET FOODS

Preparing a holiday meal is no longer a matter of recreating the traditional family recipes handed down through the generations. Now more than ever people are following medically prescribed or self-styled diets that make menu planning a challenge. And when extended family members don’t gather around the table that often, it’s even harder to know who eats what?

Let me offer some advice.

If you’re hosting the meal, ask in advance about special food restrictions so you’re prepared. You don’t have to be a short-order cook, but you should have something on the menu for everyone. Recipes can be modified and alternate ingredients used to make them fit.

If you’re going to be a guest, don’t make assumptions about what will be served. Call ahead to explain not only what foods you can’t have, but what you can. Then offer to bring something from the “can eat” side of your diet.

Here’s a quick checklist of 10 lesser known diets to guide you before you go shopping:

Special Diet Checklist

  1. Baby Food Diet – Only allows pureed baby food in jars as snacks or for up to two meals a day
  2. Gluten-Free Diet – No croutons, bread stuffing, crumb-topping, rolls, pie crust
  3. Low Carb Diet – No potatoes, yams, winter squash, any of the gluten-free choices, anything candied, cranberry sauce, fruit, dessert other than nuts
  4. Halal Observant – No coffee, tea, alcohol, pork, gelatin, improperly killed animals
  5. DASH Food Plan – Very little added salt and mostly low sodium foods, no processed meats or high fat cuts, only low fat or fat free dairy products, lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds.
  6. Low Purine Diet – No organ meats, gravy, goose, butter and spreads, nuts, cream
  7. Macrobiotic Lifestyle – Depending on the stage, they may eat nothing more than brown rice or be a vegetarian who eats fish, but preferably only locally grown foods that are minimally processed
  8. Raw Food Diet – No cooked or commercially processed plant foods, although blending, pureeing and dehydrating them is acceptable
  9. Stone-Age, Caveman or Paleo Diet – Only those foods that could be obtained by hunting, fishing or gathering, nothing grown by modern agriculture or made by food processing
  10. Low Residue Diet – No whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, coconut, raw vegetables, edible fruit skins or seeds
): Sugar and sweeteners can be part of healthy diet

Sugar or Sweetener – Which is Best?

Both sugar and artificial sweeteners can have a place in a healthy diet

They’re the foods and beverages we love to hate – anything that tastes sweet. We love them because they satisfy one of our most primal appetites. We hate them because it’s so easy to consume too much of them, or to eat and drink sweet tasting things instead of the other less tasty stuff.

But is that really a sugar/sweetener problem or one of portion control? Take a look at my post on portion control and evidence below, then decide.

Sugar is Natural

The Food and Drug Administration allows food manufacturers to describe foods as natural if they do not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. Both sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) meet those criteria. The both come from plants and undergo less processing than what it takes to turn milk into cheese.

Once sugar, HFCS or a naturally sweet piece of fruit is eaten, they are broken down into the exact same simple sugars. Your body cannot tell where they came from and uses them all in the same way. And although fruit does have other nutrients in it along with the sugar it contains, the sugar is there for a reason. It helped us select the ripest, and consequently, most nutritious fruits when we were foraging for our food, and that contributed to our evolutionary success as a species.

Flash forward to the 21st Century and sugar is no longer hard to come by or only found in fruit. That makes it easy for some people eat too much of it, but that does not mean sugar or HFCS is bad for us. Too much is not good, and that’s true about everything as I wrote in my blog, There are No junk Foods.

And what about the alternative to sugar and HFCS, artificial sweeteners?

Sweeteners Are Safe

Low and no calorie sugar substitutes have been available for over 50 years. Saccharin was the first, and each new sweetener discovered since then has undergone more extensive study than any other additive in the food supply.

Still, the suspicions linger on.

The weight of the research sides with the sweeteners. Not only is there no scientific evidence that they are harmful or increase our appetite, they can actually play a role in weight and blood glucose control when used as part of an energy balanced diet. Of course, some people use a lot of them who do not have balanced diets, but are the sweeteners to blame?

According to international experts, the answer is no. The safety of the low and no calorie sweeteners on the market today has been endorsed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives of the World Health Organization, the Scientific Committee for Food of the European Union and the regulatory agencies for more than 100 countries. Could they all be wrong?

Position Statements in support of these sweeteners have also been issued by groups including the American Diabetes Association, American Medical Association, American Dietetic Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Cancer Society to name a few. Are they all misleading the public?

You decide. Are sugars and sweeteners the problem, or do some people have a problem with them?

Buying seasonal foods and storing properly lets you enjoy them all year

Stock Up On These 5 Food Values in Stores Now!

Find the best prices on fall foods while in season

The last two months of year are filled with holidays that feature food. Traditional dishes and favorite family recipes dominate the menu. For many that means stretching the budget to cover all the extra ingredients needed to prepare those special meals. But it also provides an opportunity to stock up on seasonal foods that aren’t as plentiful any other time of year while they are at their lowest price. Take advantage of these bargains to reap their nutritional benefits all year long.

  1. Apples. Buy them in baskets at farms stands and start making applesauce! It’s easy to do and freezes beautifully. Skip the sugar and season with your own signature spice blends using cinnamon, clove and allspice. Freeze it in individual and meal sized plastic containers or zip-top freezer bags. If you have a fruit dehydrator, make dried apple slices to snack on or to add to baked goods, oatmeal and pilafs. Visit the New York State Apple Association or the Washington Apple Commission for the best recipes and information about different varieties.
  2. Fresh Cranberries. Get them in bulk or bags to load up your freezer after rinsing and placing in freezer-grade storage bags to preserve their quality. Use some to make a big batch of homemade cranberry sauce that you can put into little jars and give away as holiday favors to go with all that leftover turkey. They’re also good to have on hand for decorating, garnishing cocktails and dehydrating to make your own “Craisins.” The Cranberry Institute has answers to all your questions about their nutritional content and emerging health research.
  3. Pomegranates. Like apples, the fruit can be stored at refrigerator temperatures (32⁰ – 41⁰ F) for up to seven months. The whole fruit can also be frozen for over a year in heavy zip-top bags. Just defrost completely before using. The arils found inside the fruit are the edible part. To freeze, remove the arils from the fruit and place them in single layer on a sheet pan until frozen, then transfer to a freezer bag for up to 6 months. Get more health and nutrition information plus ways to use them from the Pomegranate Council.
  4. Walnuts. They can be stored in their shells for 8 months at room temperature or shelled and frozen for a year or more. Walnuts are ideal on their own as a snack or can be added to everything from appetizers to desserts. You can find all you need to know about these nutritious nuts, including recipes, from the California Walnut Board.
  5. Canned Pumpkin. Storage is no problem, but if you don’t load your pantry now you may not find this powerhouse of good nutrition so easily the rest of the year. A ½ cup serving of canned pumpkin provides more than 100% of your daily allowance for Vitamin A and 20% of the Daily Value for fiber– that’s 5 grams, and has only 40 calories. There are recipes galore on the Libby’s Pumpkin site, and they’re not all pie!
Processed food shouldn’t be blamed for unhealthy diets.

Can Processed Foods be Part of a Healthy Diet?

Food processing has many benefits that make choosing a healthy diet possible.

Do you think your diet is healthier as a result of using processed foods? If you answered yes then you have a good understanding of all that food processing involves. If you said no, you might be surprised to find out just how difficult it would be to have a healthy diet without processed foods.

The most basic definition of food processing includes any method that transforms raw foods and ingredients into another form before consumption. A more detailed definition includes washing, cleaning, milling, cutting, chopping, heating, pasteurizing, blanching, cooking, canning, freezing, drying, dehydrating, mixing, packaging or other procedures that alter a food from its original state.

From the moment a crop is harvested or animal is slaughtered, food processing begins. It is done to preserve the food, make it easier to store and transport, improve its digestibility and taste, enhance nutritional value, increase the variety, shorten preparation and cooking time and lower the cost.

While food processing has gotten a bad rap of late, it has been used since prehistoric times when it was discovered that the sun and salt could keep foods from spoiling. Applying heat from a fire soon followed, and cooking is now one of the most commonly employed forms of food processing used around the world today.

All of the advances made in food processing since the days of drying berries on a rock in the sun have helped to make our lives and our diets better. Yet many people object to the modern treatment our food undergoes. They view food processing with suspicion while welcoming technological improvements in every other area of their lives.

The irony is I’ve never met anyone who wants to eat raw whole grains as opposed to being able to eat bread, let alone anyone who wants to bake all their own bread from scratch! So like it or not, food processing does make our lives easier, more palatable and more nutritious if we choose our food wisely.

And that brings us back to the real heart of the issue. How well do we make our food choices amidst so many choices? There are some foods that have way too much salt and fat in them, but it is also possible to pluck fresh spinach from your garden and put too much salt and butter on it right in your own kitchen.

The key is to balance your food choices so they add up to a healthy diet at the end of the day. Processed food can help us do that, but we have you do our part, too.

For more on making the right food choices, read:

Imagine Shopping Without Nutrition Facts on Food Labels

Guess What? There Are No Junk Foods!

The Yin Yang Symbol Offers Path to a Balanced Diet

Are Superfoods the Key to a Healthy Diet?