grilled cheese with roast chicken and apples

I spent the last weekend (for the most part) off the Internet, and in that time, I went shopping, walked through a cute little downtown, spent time with friends, watched a movie, almost finished a book, cleaned the entire kitchen and the bathroom, took two naps, reorganized all my drawers, braised lentils, roasted skinny asparagus, bought one of those Trader Joe’s pears for like fifty cents because I can’t turn them down.

While I didn’t get offline to prove anything or because the Internet is inherently bad in any way but rather just to simplify my life a little, spend time focusing on the holiday we’d be celebrating, I have to say: Who knew it’d be so darn nice. When Monday morning came (and with it, the end of my self-imposed fast), nobody was more surprised than me to learn I had less of an appetite for social media and more of a desire for life without it. Now I’m wrestling with that strong contradiction of wanting to share while also wanting not to, of struggling with determining what is worth sharing versus what is worthless, of wanting to be more intentional about the things I do, and not just online.

grilled cheese and spring mix

But I guess contradictions are nothing new. I could just as easily tell you how weird it is that while I love today for its green grass and warm weather, I wish for tomorrow. Or while I want to get physical activity into each day, I let things prevent it. Or that sometimes I have a lot to say but don’t. Or want to try new recipes but fall into what’s familiar.

grilled cheese with butter

Like, grilled cheese. Grilled cheese, like apple pie or sandwich platters, is familiar, I know. There’s nothing super exciting or brilliant about having it for dinner. However, hear me out: there are so many (new to me! so look, I’m being creative!) ways to have it! And at least I’m trying them.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve made grilled cheese on homemade bread, Ezekiel bread, Breadsmith bread. While I’ve always used gruyere, I’ve switched from crumbles to slices because they stay in the sandwich better when it’s time to flip. And I’ve added sliced apples and roast chicken for impressive results.

The grilled cheese that most recently won my heart was this one, though, for which total credit goes to my brother. It blends the best of familiarity with the best of invention.

my latest favorite grilled cheese

Here is what makes it so good: sweet fig jam spread on one of the bread slices, with sea salt and black ground pepper sprinkled on top of the gruyere before grilling. You could probably use any jam you’d like; what works so well is the combination of sweet and salty, blended with the buttered goodness of the sauteed bread. Oh, man. We like it with a salad of spring mix on the side, but I guess that’s me falling into the familiar again. What can I say? I may be eating what I already love, but at least I’m trying new versions of it. And I’d love to hear yours.

Homemade Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

This is just one of the many, many ways I’ve had this recently, but it is the latest favorite, and it is very, very good, complex in its flavors and easy to whip up on any weeknight (or, ahem, several of them right in a row).

Ingredients:
2 slices of bread (such as sesame Ezekiel bread, for example)
Slices of Gruyere cheese
Fig jam (or whatever kind you like)
Sea salt
Ground black pepper
Butter

Directions:
Butter one side each of two slices of bread, and spread the opposite side of one slice with fig jam. Heat skillet on medium-low heat. Place jam-covered slice of bread, butter side down, on heated skillet. Add cheese and sea salt and pepper, then top with other buttered bread slice, butter side up. Let cook until brown on bottom, then flip until opposite side is browned. Enjoy!

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 30 Comments

  1. Avalee

    I can totally appreciate where you’re coming from with the ambivalence towards being on-line — I often find myself in the same place. Grilled cheese definitely makes it all better though! :-)

  2. kate

    I love grilled cheese with thinly sliced tomato inside. I’ve done them with slices of roasted eggplant and zucchini too (and those veggies add a delicious twist to a BLT as well). Brie and sliced apple make a wonderfully elegant sandwich, especially if you add in some crushed candied pecans.

  3. Katie

    Stumbled across your blog a while back and always enjoy your photos, recipes, and musings. I too battle constantly with giving up the internet, and running to it as a way to connect. Convinced that balance is out there…so, let us know if you find it first!

  4. kickpleat

    I love grilled cheese but haven’t made it in ages. My trick is to use a good chutney like Major Grey. And back when I was a vegetarian, I’d make a grilled cheese with pickles and onions to replicate the taste of a hamburger! Yum.

  5. Jenious

    I usually opt for slices of avocado, tomato, whatever cheese closest, and a healthy smear of horseradish sauce. I’d love to try this recipe though and have a jar of fig jam that’s been neglected for far too long. Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. Jacqui

    I spent, most the weekend away from the computer and enjoying simpler things too. It was wonderful. And I can really appreciate a good re-make on a classic grilled cheese sandwich. Love the addition of fig jam to yours!

  7. Jacqui

    i cannot make a grilled cheese sandwich to save my life. the bread always turns out brown but then the cheese isn’t melted. or the bread is burnt and the cheese is stuck to the pan. who knew there was such an art to grilled cheese — and patience! the patience involved kills me. that’s why i’m so glad murdo makes a killer sandwich. love that you’re experimenting with yours — variation is key! i love avocado on mine, and tomatoes, and of course, a fried egg. YUM.

  8. Misty

    I usually make mine on sourdough, with sharp cheddar, sliced tomato, fresh basil, and a sprinkling of lemon pepper. Add a cup of creamy tomato soup on the side and you’ve got my favorite comfort food.

    I am intrigued by the fig jam. And I just ate a fig newton. Must be a sign, don’t you think?

  9. Tammy

    I really enjoy your writing style. Its reflective, it makes me think and it always puts a smile on my face. Thank you for doing that for me. This is one of my favorite blogs I read!

  10. Maddie

    I’m embarrassed to say that, at the ripe old age of 23, I’ve never had a grilled cheese sandwich. But your photos, recipe, and everyone’s comments may lure me into trying one!

    I can, however, relate to the pull between sharing your life in a public forum and relishing it privately. I’m an introvert, but I’ve come come to realize that I need a mix of both to feel personal and social fulfillment.

  11. TJ

    Great ideas for a grilled cheese sandwich. I think it’s really good to unplug from time to time, but it is hard for me to come back too, because there is just so much out there, especially this time of year.

  12. Jessica

    God I love grilled cheese. I’m also very intrigued by how you put pats of butter on the other side of the bread. I don’t have tub butter and always tear the bread. Crazy. I need to try it your way!

  13. Kim

    I tend to make grilled cheese on whatever bread we have available, with whatever combination of cheddary cheeses we have on hand (which can sometimes get messy when it’s time to flip). I’ll sometimes add salami and tomato.

    But my favorite grilled cheese? My old stand by classic…American cheese on egg bread. I never make it anymore, because I don’t tend to keep American cheese on hand (maybe I should), and while I love egg bread (or challah), it’s not the sliced bread I usually have on hand (that’s usually some sort of whole wheat sourdough, which is also good). And yeah, I spread (tub) butter on the outsides of both pieces of bread.

    Now I’m craving grilled cheese…which I usually serve aside a bowl of hot tomato soup. :-)

    Also, I’m with you on the technology-free thing. I sometimes want to disconnect altogether, but I can never just do it. I love staying up to date on the goings on of friends I don’t see frequently, and there is so much interesting stuff out there! But it can all be a bit overwhelming, and sometimes I feel a little crazy about it all!

  14. Niki

    It’s funny b/c I love the internet. Maybe b/c I’ve found a balance b/w technology and the non-techy world. I’d love to try and explain it, but I can’t. I think it’s def for everyone. Even though I use the internet/computer EVERY DAY at work, my work life is very separate from my personal. Keeping distance when I feel the need to or whenI feel my time is spent better elsewhere, helps me be less frustrated w/ all the techy stuff. Which is why I don’t post every day (or every week for that matter, even though I have a good 7-8 things to post…)
    I think you’ve already found a bit of the balance by taking the weekend to focus on the holiday and yourself and non-social media stuff.
    And p.s. none of us want you to leave!!!

  15. George Erdosh

    I am also very fond of grilled cheese sandwich, any time, even for breakfast. But I am odd–I like mine plain and simple: slices of basic good bread and medium cheddar, butter on the slices. Anything I want to add is on the side (which is often nothing else but pickle)

    George (author of What Recipes Don’t Tell You)

  16. Gemma

    The internet is a funny beast – I am suddenly inspired to blog again after it deserted me for too too long. I love a grilled cheese sandwich but make them in our toasted sandwich maker – not sure if you get these in the US, they make 2 triangles that are sealed around the edges with all of the cheese melted within? My favourite is cheese and ketchup which sounds wrong but works much better than you would think!

  17. Maria

    I am late to read this also not because the internet is inherently bad, but because I was just away, not online, for a weekend.

    And funny enough – in between spinning a lamb and drinking cups of milky tea and playing dinosaurs with my favourite boys, I was making grilled cheese for breakfast. Mine had sharp cheddar and wisp-thin pineapple – perhaps unorthodox, and it made my littlest sister gag – but it was just delicious. Salty, sweet and buttery, like you say – leaving dangly cheese strings on my chin.

  18. Megan Gordon

    I kid you not…I was cleaning my kitchen this weekend and stumbled upon a jar of fig jam, thinking: hmmm, I need to crack this baby open and use it one of these days. So funny to see your recipe featuring it. O.k., so I’m all over this. And gruyere is my favorite melty cheese of all time–especially awesome with apple.

  19. Shannalee

    LoveFeast Table – Yum! And what is so great about gruyere is it melts really nicely and has a mild flavor that complements so many things!

    Sara, I TOTALLY saw something like that in a magazine recently and thought it sounded amazing. I tried a similar thing but used dried cranberries instead of cranberry sauce, and mmmm. good.

    Avalee – First of all, I like your name! Second – yeah, it’s a real struggle lately. Working on it.

    Kate, Oooh how good would it be with like a basil pesto or maybe fresh basil? with the slice tomatoes? To try.

    Sarah, Ha! Love the honesty. Glad to know other people have days like those. Really.

    Kendall, I know! I always notice when you say something about going offline on Twitter, and I never really understood until now. What to do….

    Katie, Thank you so much for saying that. Can I just tell you, encouraging people are the best part about blogging.

    Kickpleat, Clever! I’d never have thought of mimicking burger toppings!

    Jenious, Oh the fig jam is what does it. You MUST try it. Soon. Let me know what you think!

    Jacqui, Isn’t it great? Really reminds you of how unimportant a lot of it all is, I think. Maybe we just need those unplugged times.

    Jacqui, I do love me some avocado. I will def try that. Jealous of your sandwich-making fiance but I am working on it over here, getting better every day! There really is art in a good sandwich. It is true!

    Misty, Oh I totally wanted tomato soup when I made the first grilled cheese a couple weekends ago. That would be PERFECT.

    Tammy, Seriously, thank YOU for putting a smile on my face!

    Kathleen, Can’t go wrong with that!

    Maddie, What are you waiting for? Do it! Do it!

    TJ, You’re right. This time of year is wonderful.

    Jessica, Another great trick is to freeze your bread (like I do with my Ezekiel bread). This way, the bread is so firm, you can spread the butter with no problem… and everything still heats up nicely in the skillet!

    Kim, Oh that sounds so good! And on technology – I think I agree. It’s so nice to be able to keep in touch, and there are so many good things about technology, I can’t see myself cutting away entirely. I do want to continually check and recheck myself to see if I’m going obsessive with it, you know?

    Niki, You’re sweet. Thanks for that encouragement – I think I will stick around. :)

    George, Nothing wrong with simplicity!

    Gemma, I know! I was so excited to see your recent posts – welcome back! I think I have seen the sandwich maker you’re talking about, although I haven’t used one, but it reminds me of the Waffleizer blog where they make everything in a waffle maker, including sandwiches.
    (Side note: my stomach just growled. At almost 11 PM.)

    Maria, I actually love the idea of pineapple – sweet with the salty! – as I do the sound of your weekend. Spinning a lamb?! Drinking cups of milky tea?!

    Megan, Yay!!! I’d say this sandwich has your name all over it. Hope you love it! (PS – fig jam is also oh-my-gosh good on crackers with goat cheese. my stomach just growled again.)

  20. Shannalee

    Kim, That cracked me up. The Onion is so funny sometimes – and in this case, wayyy too close to accurate.

    JessieV, You too huh? It’s definitely nice to break away now and then.

    Sweets at Vicky’s, Grilled lemon loaf with mozzarella? That’s something I’ve never had. Interesting!

  21. gemma

    This sounds so delicious! I love all manner of grilled cheese sandwiches — and there is something about dressing them up a bit that makes me feel like more of an adult when I eat them. Great combination of flavors.

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