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Maple cheddar

Okay, so if you don’t live in Wisconsin, this might be a bit more difficult to relate to. But on a recent visit to the most awesome Brennan’s Market, I came across a new flavor of cheddar–maple cheddar. It’s cheddar cheese literally infused with maple syrup. I was a bit skeptical but when one of the employees asked me if I needed help and then saw the maple cheddar in my basket, she said that was her favorite. Okay, if I was ambivalent before, now I was sold. And I was already imagining what to do with this cheese.

I had also picked up some thick cut bacon at Brennan’s, and so my breakfast the next morning was an open faced bacon/cheese melt using the bacon and the maple cheddar. And as you might expect, it was awesome. Of course, you can make this with any type of cheese, but this maple cheese gave it that hint of sweetness, and it was subtle, as if you were eating pancakes and some of the syrup slid onto your sandwich. Yum.

And it’s simple–just cook 2-3 slices of bacon. Cut a thick slice or two of crusty Italian bread, top with the bacon and some shredded cheese, and broil or toast for about 2-3 minutes or until the cheese melts and is bubbly.

Grilled cheese and tomato soup always classic

A gray day in December just screams for a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, so thankfully we had everything on hand to have the combo for lunch. Here is my take on the most authentic version…..

The sandwich: You can use any kind of bread, but for authenticity sake I used Italian bread–the packaged kind that is essentially glorified white bread. For the best results, also use real butter, thawed to room temperature (seriously, the sandwich will come out perfectly crispy, and you will not have ingested any of that plastic tasting fake stuff). Slice about a quarter inch slab of butter and place in a quality nonstick skillet. Then butter the outsides of two bread slices. Meanwhile, grab either two thin slices of American cheese or cut a few thin slices off a log of Velveeta. Put the cheese on the bread so that the buttered sides are facing out. Warm the skillet over medium heat and once the butter is melted, put the sandwich down. Cook for about 60-90 seconds or until brown and crispy, then flip the sandwich. Cook for about 30-45 more seconds (the second side cooks in about half the time, but I’m not sure why that is). Slide onto a plate and slice in half if you like.

The soup: With all due respect to chefs who make killer tomato soup, or to soup companies that create nice versions of tomato soup, I have to say that nothing quite compares to Campbell’s. And make it with a can of milk instead of water for a nice creamy soup. I’m not sure if it’s because this is the tomato soup my mom made growing up, but regardless, it always tastes perfect and awesome.

I’ll work on more versions of the combo in the next week or so. Meanwhile, do yourself a favor and make this one–I guarantee it will be the best lunch you have all week. Okay, maybe, but you get the point.

White bread MIA

First of all, what I’m going to discuss here is going to sound somewhat hypocritical. And that’s because as of January 1, I’ve been trying to *mostly* eat clean–which means a very healthy diet that is low in sugar, refined carbs and fat. Kind of like South Beach or the new Weight Watchers but without sugar substitutes or counting, respectively. One of the things this diet entails is eating whole grains, including bread that is all natural with whole wheat or rye or other grains front and center. Trader Joe’s has excellent bread like this that has little or no preservatives either.

Anyway, let’s face it. If you grew up eating white bread like most of us baby boomers did, you sometimes just have to have white bread. In addition, our 3-year-old son is not keen on whole wheat bread and we like to make sure he eats some bread. I know this is the wrong message to send him at a young impressionable age, but still. Anyway, recently I went out in search of Wonder bread to buy our son for his sandwiches, and what I found were rows and rows of all whole wheat, fiber-added, whole grain white, or otherwise brownish-tinted white bread. Sorry, that ain’t white bread.

The one I wound up getting was Wonder “Smart White,” which is made with regular wheat flour and has wheat gluten and cottonseed fiber added to give it an obscene 5 grams of fiber per two slices. At this point, why wouldn’t you just go for the real thing? But I digress.

I wasn’t compelled to write about this until my wife brought home Thomas’ English muffins over the weekend. These, by the way, are also not available in classic white versions anymore. Oh, they’re white, but the ones she bought were called “Triple Health,” meaning they are 100 calories, high in fiber and low in sodium. Blech. These have farina and wheat gluten and oat cellulose added. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it? Well, I tried one of these yesterday and it toasted up unusually crispy with little flavor and almost no real substance. It was like eating a large, aerated cracker. Triple Health to me is not this English muffin. Blech.

I should add, however, that she also bought a loaf of Village Hearth Italian bread, and voila–this is real white bread as I remember it!

The moral of this story? If you have a hankering for real white bread and you have to spend an hour in the bread aisle trying to find what you need, just look for the I-word–Italian. My brother-in-law, who likens whole wheat bread to sawdust, and I, have this conversation regularly about white bread and why it just tastes good. Many whole wheat breads do as well, but sometimes white bread makes more sense to the sandwich you are making, or to your own nostalgic palate at any given time.

The last few days, I’ve been under the weather with a nasty cold, and when I am, I typically have a hard time sticking to a healthy eating plan (contrary to what I should be doing to get better!). So today I had a peanut butter sandwich with that Italian bread and it was awesome. And now, I can go back to my whole wheat ways for a while, until that white bread hankering hits me again. How about you?

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