National Grilled Cheese Month, Fun Facts About Grilled Cheese

Happy National Grilled Cheese Month! (Yes, there really is such a thing.)

Grilled Cheese Sandwich With Tomato Soup

What is it about grilled cheese? If you looked up the definition of comfort food, you may just find a picture of a grilled cheese sandwich, because it easily evokes memories of childhood.  Just the mention of the words is enough to make your tummy rumble with longing and delight. You can almost smell the melty, hot cheese enclosed between two slices of crispy, buttered bread.  To honor this timeless classic, let’s take a look at some of its more interesting facts.

  • The Ancient Romans were the first civilization to make a cooked bread and cheese type sandwich. Many cultures since have invented their own take on the dish. In Switzerland it is customary to toast the bread and melt the cheese separately before combining them, while in France the Croque Monsieur (grilled ham and cheese sandwich) is popular.
  • When affordable sliced bread and inexpensive cheese became available in the U.S. in the 1920’s, the grilled cheese became a household staple. At the time it was prepared a little differently, open-faced and topped with shredded American cheese.
  • In the 1960’s, the grilled cheese as we know it emerged when the second slice of bread became a standard part of the sandwich.
  • The actual term “grilled cheese” doesn’t make an appearance in print until the 1960’s. Before then it was all “melted cheese” or “toasted cheese” sandwiches.
  • The most popular additions to a grilled cheese sandwich are bacon, ham and tomato.
  • In 2012 during a contest in Texas, a Japanese competitive eater ate 13 grilled cheese sandwiches in only 60 seconds.
  • In the 1993 movie, “Benny and Joon,” you may recall seeing Johnny Depp use a clothes iron to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Though that is not the recommended method, it does go to show that there is not just one way to cook a grilled cheese. Many use the stove top, but pre-toasting and baking is another method used.

Laura Werlin, author of Grilled Cheese Please!, offers these techniques for making a grilled cheese.

  • Instead of slicing the cheese, grate it.
  • Butter the bread, not the pan.
  • Use a non-stick pan.
  • To melt the cheese faster and prevent the bread from burning, cover the sandwich for most of the cooking.
  • Before digging in, allow the sandwich to sit for 5 minutes to cool just enough to be able to taste all the flavors.

 

Grilled cheese can be transformed in innumerable ways, as the only necessary components are the cheese and bread. So get creative! Even at the most basic level you can transform your sandwich by simply substituting a higher-quality cheese and/or bread. Try adding different oils, meats and even vegetables for extra flair. While Fill Your Plate doesn’t have a grilled cheese recipe, we have some classic comfort food recipes you’ll enjoy, here. We’ve also included a couple of recipes from allrecipes.com to help you get started.

 

Tomato Bacon Grilled Cheese

Ingredients: (makes 4 servings)

  • 8 slices bacon
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 8 slices white bread
  • 8 slices American cheese
  • 8 slices tomato

Directions:

  1. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, and set aside.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Spread butter onto one side of each slice of bread. Lay 4 slices of bread, butter side down, in the skillet. Top with a slice of cheese, 2 slices tomato, bacon, and another slice of cheese. Cover with a slice of bread, butter side out. Fry sandwiches until golden on both sides.

Spicy Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Ingredients: (makes 2 sandwiches)

  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 4 slices white bread
  • 2 slices American cheese
  • 1 roma (plum) tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1/4th small onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat a large skillet over low heat. Spread butter or margarine onto one side of two slices of bread. Place both pieces buttered side down in the skillet. Lay a slice of cheese on each one, and top with slices of tomato, onion and jalapeno. Butter one side of the remaining slices of bread, and place on top buttered side up. When the bottom of the sandwiches are toasted, flip and fry until brown on the other side.

 

Join us in celebrating National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month by cooking one up your favorite way and serving with a delicious, piping-hot bowl of tomato soup! Mmm Mmm, good!

 

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National Egg Salad Week

Annually, National Egg Salad Week follows Easter. This year that week is April 6 – 12.

Most households boil 1 to 5 dozen eggs on average each year for Easter in the tradition of dying and decorating the eggs. Egg Salads are commonly served, in some fashion, in lunch boxes and on the dinner table the whole week following Easter, as many Dads and Moms try to think up resourceful ways to eat the left overs. (It is important to keep in mind that eggs and other perishable foods should not be eaten if left at room temperature for longer than two hours.) This is probably why the week after Easter was designated as National Egg Salad Week.

preparing egg salad, chopped egg

Egg Salad was most likely created in the 1800’s sometime, its exact creator and creation date are unknown. It is known that it did not originate before 1756, which was the year that the modern rendition of mayonnaise was invented. Given the origin of mayonnaise it is safe to assume that the egg salad also originates from France. How it became a staple in the US is unknown, but regardless of its beginnings, the egg salad has found its place in the heart of most American diners. Now a popular sandwich spread of mayonnaise, mustard, chopped eggs, minced veggies and spices, egg salad is a mouthwatering spring time treat. When it comes to simplicity the egg salad is hard to beat.

Most household kitchens have readily on hand the most basic of the egg salads ingredients: Black pepper, bread (if you wish to make it into a sandwich.), eggs, mayonnaise, and salt. There is minimal effort to make egg salad, with the final result being a scrumptious comfort food.

Hard-boiling the eggs only takes a couple of minutes. Gently layer the eggs in a saucepan and fill with water to about one inch above the eggs. Next, bring the water to a boil. After the water has reached a boil you should remove the pan from heat and cover, then let rest for about 18 minutes. Then, drain the water and rinse the eggs with ice cold water. For easier peeling, choose eggs that have been in your refrigerator about a week, as fresh eggs are harder to peel. (To test an eggs freshness you can drop it into a cup of cold water. If the egg sinks, and stays, then it’s normally fresh. If it floats, it is too old to be eaten and should be tossed.) You will be chopping the eggs, however, for egg salad so a perfectly peeled egg is not exactly a requirement. If you can’t remember if the egg in your fridge is cooked or not, you can spin them to find out. Boiled eggs will spin and raw eggs will wobble.

Adding any combination of bacon, celery, cheese, cucumber, onions, pickles, or pickle relish to your next egg salad will yield desirable flavor results. Cold cuts, such as chicken, ham, or turkey are great served with egg salad. Serve them together in a sandwich, maybe adding some chopped tomato or avocado for extra nutrients and a pop of color.

To celebrate this egg-cellent week, pick up some of Arizona’s Hickman’s Family Farm eggs! Their eggs can be found in AJ’s, Albertsons, Bashas, Costco, Food City, Fry’s, IGA, Sams Club, Sprouts, WalMart and many convenience stores across the state.

 

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What’s in Season in April?

Our desert climate makes it possible for local ranchers and farmers to operate almost year round which means residents have access to a wide range of fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, and dairy products grown right here at home.  If you are looking for the freshest, most flavorful food products available, look for those that are grown locally.

Here is a list of what is in season this April and ideas for delicious recipes featuring each of these locally grown in season items.

Arugula

Asparagus

Beets

Cabbage

Carrots

Celery Root

Cucumbers

Garlic

Leeks

Lemons

Lettuce

Onions

Peas

Potatoes

Radishes

Spinach

Strawberries

Summer Squash

Zucchini

 Zucchini Blossoms

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All About Pecans

On March 25, Americans celebrated pecan day. Pecans are those sweet and tender nuts greatly loved by Southerners from Georgia to Arizona. In fact, when asked to think of how pecans might be used in a food, 80 percent of respondents will say “pecan pie”.

Freshly Roasted Pecan Nuts

Southern Living, a publication of Time Inc., recently offered a spread of pecan recipes ranging from skillet pecan pie to pecan pesto. Closer to home, Fill Your Plate offers Arizona consumers several pecan recipes like sour cream banana cake, seven layer bars, or apricot appetizers – all easy to make with three ingredients or less. The site also provides shoppers with opportunities to find and patronize local growers, like Cochise Groves or Shalako Pecan Farm. Buying local helps the state’s economy and delivers the freshest and most wholesome food available.

 

Pecans store quite well. In-the-shell pecans will keep for four months at room temperature, or three months if they are shelled. Refrigerated, shelled nuts remain tasty and hang onto their nutrients for up to a year and a half! Without the shell, this best-by date is six months. But the best storage location is the freezer. Set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit (0 °F), your freezer will help shelled or unshelled pecans retain that just-picked sweetness and tenderness for up to two years.

 

Pecans are excellent nutrition. They are loaded with unsaturated fat, which helps lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Their protein count, ounce for ounce, is four times greater than meat or beans. Besides being sodium-free and having the highest antioxidant rating of any other nut, pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals – including vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, several B vitamins, and zinc.

 

Here are some other fun and interesting facts about pecans:

 

  • The United States produces 80 percent of the world’s pecans

 

  • Georgia is the leading pecan-producing state, followed by Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona

 

  • Pecan trees take 10 years to reach maturity and produce nuts, but can live for more than 300 years

 

  • Pecans were a staple food of Native American tribes living in the southern tier of states and Mexico before America became a nation. They were introduced to Spanish explorers crossing Mexico, Texas and Louisiana, and sent back to Europe in the 16th century

 

  • The Spanish sometimes called pecans “tuerca de la arruga”, or “wrinkle nut”, though they were commonly known as “nueces” (walnuts), since that is what they most look like

 

  • Like Arugula, that crinkly crisp little lettuce variety, pecans are rumored to improve your love life, via zinc (which spurs the production of testosterone)

 

  • Pecans can grow as tall as oaks; that is, 150 feet or more, and the really old ones sport trunks greater than three feet in diameter, or 10 feet around

 

  • The more than 1,000 varieties of pecan tree are often named for Native American groups like the Cheyenne, Sioux, Mohawk (Six Nations Iroquois) and Shawnee

 

If you are looking for a truly impressive way to use your locally-purchase pecans, try one of Fill Your Plate’s featured recipes, Tessa Sweet Potatoes. Sweet, crunchy, exotic, and satisfying, this “comfort food” will bring your family back to the dinner table again and again!

 

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In Time for National Oranges and Lemons Day

As if you needed an excuse to eat oranges and lemons, March 31st is National Oranges and Lemons Day.

Fresh orange juice and fresh oranges on a wooden table

Oranges originated around 2500 B.C. somewhere in Asia. In ancient Europe, oranges were grown largely for medicinal purposes. As you already know, Vitamin C is still deemed an excellent cold remedy to this day.

Did you know that lemons are actually a cross between the citron and the sour orange? Christopher Columbus is credited for bringing lemon and orange seeds on his journeys, consequently introducing them throughout the New World. Today, both lemons and oranges, grow exceptionally well in California and Florida. Both fruits grow quite nicely in Arizona. Oranges are more seasonal here, doing well in the winter and early spring months, and lemons can do well year round. To celebrate these esteemed fruits, let’s take a look at some little known facts about each.

Oranges:

Oranges are a delicious, juicy, sweet-sour citrus fruit. There are actually around 600 varieties of oranges, some of the most popular being Blood Oranges, Navel, and Valencia.

  • Oranges are unknown in the wild. The orange is a hybrid of the mandarin and pomelo.
  • Orange juice is the most popular juice in America, and the orange itself is the fourth most popular fruit.
  • Brazil grows approximately 1/3rd of the world’s oranges, with the production of 17.8 million tons per year.
  • About 85% of all oranges produced are used for juice.
  • You can sprinkle orange peel over a vegetable garden as an effective slug repellent.
  • During the years of world exploration, sailors planted orange trees along their trade routes to prevent scurvy. A disease that develops from a deficiency of vitamin C.
  • Orange is the world’s third favorite flavor, coming in behind chocolate and vanilla.
  • Warm weather can cause the skin of an orange to reabsorb chlorophyll, causing it to re-green. Don’t let this stop you from eating them though, they still have that same great taste.
  • Oranges are high in anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants neutralize the effects of free radicals in your body, which are believed to cause diseases and aging. So eat an orange to stay young and healthy!
  • Just one orange, contains enough vitamin C for two day’s supply.
  • The fruit came before the color. It wasn’t until 1542 that “orange” was first used as the name for a color.
  • The more bitter varieties of oranges are used to make marmalade.
  • Navel oranges get their name from the belly-button like formation on the opposite end of the fruit’s stem. A bigger navel makes for a sweeter orange.
  • You can store oranges either in the refrigerator or at room temperature. They last about two weeks regardless of which storage method you choose.
  • It is better to store oranges loose rather than wrapped in a plastic bag as they develop mold when exposed to moisture.

 

Lemons:

Lemon trees will produce fruit year-round. One tree can produce 500 to 600 pounds of lemons in a single year. The most common varieties of lemon include Eureka, Lisbon, and Meyer.

  • Lemon juice contains about 5-6% citric acid, giving them their sour taste.
  • Arizona and California produce 95% of the entire U.S. lemon crop.
  • Years ago, kings would present lemons to one another as they were once very rare.
  • Add the juice of one lemon to an equal amount of hot water for an anti-bacterial gargle the next time you have a sore throat.
  • The grated outer rind, or lemon zest, is used for flavor in many baking recipes and other dishes.
  • The leaves of a lemon tree can be used to make tea and in the preparation of cooked meats.
  • Lemon can be used for cleaning due to its high acidic nature. Lemon halves dipped baking powder or salt can be used to clean kitchenware and brighten up copper.
  • Cattle will choose lemon over grapefruit, peaches, oranges, and even apples. Most likely because the citric acid in lemons aid in their digestion.
  • Lemon juice has a low pH which makes it a good disinfectant. It can also break up grease and oil and does away with bad odors.
  • Lemon oils are regularly used in non-toxic pesticides.
  • Lemon juice is often used to preserve foods that have a tendency to turn brown, like avocado, apples, or bananas.
  • Drink warm water with a squeeze of lemon before breakfast to relieve constipation.
  • One lemon can provide 50% of a day’s requirements of vitamin C.
  • Refrigerate lemons in a plastic bag after sprinkling them with water to keep them tasting fresh. When frozen, lemons can last a month or longer.
  • Temperature changes turn lemons from green to yellow, not ripeness, so green patches are OK, but it’s best to avoid those with brown spots, which indicate rot.

 

As you see, lemon has a lot more use than that pitcher of lemon aid! And, though orange juice is our most popular juice, oranges can be made into so much more! To celebrate their special day, take a look at some of the lemon and orange recipes we have collected, you may discover a new orange or lemon recipe favorite.

 

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