If breakfast is the easiest meal of the day to prepare, lunch is the hardest. I don’t really like lunch, to be honest. Like I said before, coming up with three nutritious & delicious meals a day is damn hard work. Two I can manage, but the third puts me over the edge. When I was just making lunch for myself (or my husband & I) lunch seemed easier… it didn’t really matter what we ate, as long as it was something to fill the void. I was not as concerned about the nutritional value of my lunch as I am for the girls (I know, I should be, but hey, I know I eat a variety of foods that are good for me). Now though, trying to make sure they get some kind of protein & some fruits & veggies, that’s a challenge.
For a while, lunch wasn’t too bad. They liked tofu (it’s hit & miss with Miss S these days) or I could make them spinach & eggs in muffin cups (Miss S won’t eat that anymore either). These were two of our lunch staples, combined with some fruit & yogurt, but as you can imagine, the picky tastes of Miss S has ruined that. I am actually finding that the girls have differing tastes at lunch, which is frustrating, because I don’t really want to be making two separate lunches. I want us all to be able to eat the same things. Miss S likes quesadillas (Little K not so much), they like perogies, peanut butter sandwiches (peanut butter is only a recent addition to their diets) & grilled cheese sandwiches. But we can’t eat those things every day! In addition to whatever main thing we are eating, I always try to give the girls some fruit & depending on how well they are eating, I round out the meal with some Greek yogurt… I find Greek yogurt is a good way of helping to fill them up but also get some protein into them. I feed the yogurt to them at lunch though… feeding themselves yogurt is more of a mess than I can handle midday! (We strategically eat yogurt by ourselves… only on nights when we are having a bath… Miss S just makes too much of a mess!)
I will admit that Deceptively Delicious has given me a few new ideas for lunch & that the addition of peanut butter has also helped. When I am really stuck, this is what we have. It’s quick & easy & I always have everything to make a PB sandwich. A few weeks ago I did try a recipe out of Deceptively Delicious for Tortilla “Cigars”, which is basically cream cheese, cheese & some pureed veg, creamed together & wrapped up in tortilla shells. They sounded good to me & I thought the round shapes would be fun to eat for the girls, but they weren’t a huge hit. They ate them one day but not the next…
There is, however, a recipe for grilled cheese with a twist… a twist of squash. Now before you go & turn your nose up & ask me why I am messing with good old traditional grilled cheese, hear me out. The squash melts into the cheese (it is important to use cheddar for camouflage purposes) & it really does not taste any different than a regular grilled cheese. Yes, I have eaten it.
Adding squash to grilled cheese really is the perfect deception because it’s the same colour as the cheese, if you use cheddar. The recipe in Deceptively Delicious suggests that you could also use sweet potato puree. While I have not used sweet potato in a sandwich I did use it once when making quesadillas for my girls & they loved it.
The key here is using shredded cheese as the recipe suggests & it has to be “real cheese” as I refer to it, meaning it can’t be a cheese slice.
When I was little, my Poppa used to make my brothers & I “melted cheese” as a snack before breakfast (only at your grandparents house do you get snacks before breakfast!). We used to think this was the best thing ever, when really it was a processed cheese slice melted on a piece of bread. I’m not even sure if I would eat this now but it sure tasted good then.
Okay, now that I have gone down memory lane, back to the sandwiches. In her cookbook, Jessica Seinfeld, recommends making up a bunch of purees & then freezing them so you always have purees at your disposal. I don’t know about you but I don’t really have time for this (though it sounds like a great plan). I have two toddlers! It’s hard enough to accomplish what I do with two kids hanging off my legs most of the time. If I have decided to make a recipe I will just make the puree up then (my food processor is one of my new best friends – along with my dishwasher & dust buster!). I will usually make extra though, so that I can at least have one portion in the freezer for next time. I have found that the zippered snack bags (which are about half the size of sandwich bags) are the perfect size for holding half a cup of puree – the standard measure for most of the recipes in Deceptively Delicious.
I must admit that I only followed this recipe exactly the first time I made these sandwiches, since then, I wing it. It’s grilled cheese after all, really not that difficult, even if you are adding a little squash. The Deceptively Delicious recipe calls for half a cup of shredded cheese & half a cup of puree. This makes two very thick sandwiches – far too much filling for a toddler sandwich in my opinion. So, now I only use a couple tablespoons of squash puree & maybe slightly more than a quarter cup of cheese (sorry, that’s as precise as I get). The recipe also calls for margarine & salt to be added to the cheese/squash mixture. I added salt once but have never added the marg (as my Nannie used to say!). Jessica Seinfeld seems to love non-stick cooking spray & uses it in her grilled cheese recipe (in most of her recipes actually) instead of buttering the bread. Personally, I don’t see why you need to mess with a good thing & just used butter on the bread as I usually would.
So, in a nutshell, puree your squash (or thaw it as I did this time), shred your cheese (or buy shredded cheese – something I have been doing more & more just to save time), mix together, butter your bread & build your sandwich. Cook as you would a regular grilled cheese, browning both sides until the cheese is gooey & melted through. When all the cheese is melted you would never know there is squash in there merely from appearances! Remove from the pan, cut on the diagonal (my preference!), add ketchup (also my preference – although I don’t yet let my girls have ketchup – Miss S would just eat the ketchup) & enjoy. If you’re being really fancy, I like dill pickles on the side too. On a side note, this squash/cheese mixture works really well in quesadillas for lunch as well. My girls love this mixture in both sandwich form & quesadilla form, with picky Miss S even eating all of the cheese filling before she eats all the bread or tortilla shell.
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (from Deceptively Delicious)
1/2 cup shredded reduced fat Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup sweet potato or butternut squash puree
1 tbsp. trans-fat-free soft tub margarine spread
1/4 tsp salt
4 slices whole-wheat bread
Nonstick cooking spray
1 tsp olive oil
In a medium bowl, mix the cheese, vegetable puree, margarine & salt. Spread two slices of the bread with the cheese mixture & top with the other two slices.
Coat a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray & set it over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, add the oil. Put the sandwiches in the pan & spray the tops with cooking spray. Cook 4 to 5 minutes per side, until the bread is crisp & the filling is melted.
Makes 2 sandwiches