Tips for Perfect Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese tips | Kale and Ale

I love cooking. It is very calming and relaxing to me, and I can make food to my preference (which usually means savory and heat level). But there are two things in our house that I had the reigns (if by reigns we mean skillet and spatula) over to Aaron for: Pancakes and grilled cheese. That’s because those are his specialties and he enjoys making those. And make them well he does!

His pancakes stay pretty traditional (maybe a little vanilla or chocolate chips here or there) but they are fluffy and moist, consistently good. While the pancakes are good, the grilled cheese is simply divine. I tried to be helpful and make the grilled cheese once, and it didn’t compare. Aaron’s grilled cheese game is on point, I leave it up to him.

Like stepping away from the stove on grilled cheese night,  I hand over my blog ahead of National Grilled Cheese Day on April 12. Aaron shares his tips and tricks to the perfect grilled cheese sandwich to Kale and Ale readers.

Aaron national grilled cheese | Kale and Ale

Aaron shares his tips for perfect grilled cheese.

Hi, Aaron here.

I love helping Val with her blog from the background or as a taste-tester, but melty cheese is my jam. It’s a food group in my diet, anchored by foods like mac ‘n’ cheese, pizza and, of course grilled cheese. I want to share some tips for the perfect sandwich on National Grilled Cheese Day or any other day, which have been honed and shared here.

Tips for the perfect grilled cheeseNational Grilled Cheese Day assembly | Kale and Ale

Low and slow cooking.

I set my stove on medium low to medium. This helps the sandwich achieve a nice crisp golden-brown outside and smooth inside. If your burner doesn’t cook evenly or you’re making two at once, you might need to rotate the sandwich during cooking to brown all sides evenly.

If it’s a basic grilled cheese, it’s ready to flip when the top butter starts to melt. If it’s a deluxe sandwich, pay attention to how the bottom is browning, flipping when it’s cooked and starting to get crisp but not overdone.

Cheese choice is crucial.

A combination of flavorful and melting cheese (I prefer sharp cheddar and Havarti or chedder and pepper jack) balances one another nicely. You end up with a mix of taste and flavor and gooey meltiness blended together in every bite.

Grilled cheese layers | Kale and AleExtras really elevate the sandwich.

Guacamole is my filling of choice because it adds a creamy, buttery richness and good flavor. Other add on ideas include sauteed mushrooms and onions or tomatoes, but really the sky is the limit.



CSA Week 2 (and July Fourth)

Week two of my CSA was good, but I didn’t get a picture of the food. I get my share on Wednesdays, and Thursday I went home for the holiday weekend, so I took my food with me, still in the state it was delivered to me. But that means I did get to share it with my mom, who looooves asparagus, so we both win!

Roasted radishes and asparagus |

Roasted radishes and asparagus with eggs

I recently heard about roasted radishes, so just quickly roasted the radishes and asparagus and had with some eggs for a varied meal. This method seemed to make the radishes less peppery, and gave them a little different flavor. Have you had them that way before? What other ways do you like to eat radishes?

I’m excited for this next week, as I’m expected to get chives and potatoes. Oh, my! Also, we are getting more peas. What do I do with all these things?!?

Post-race bomb pop -

Post-race bomb pop!

I love the Fourth of July so much; it’s great weather and a happy time with important people. After starting my day with an 8k and homemade patriotic tank top, I relaxed. Later, I went to a minor league game, where the mascot was in his most patriotic outfit as well. Hope you had a wonderful, relaxing Fourth!

DIY flag tank top

DIY flag tank top |

The finished product

A few weeks ago, I mentioned in this blog post that I want to make a flag tank for my Fourth of July 8k race. This weekend, I made said flag tank, and share it with you. I haven’t washed this and am not sure how it will hold up, but my goal is to wear it July Fourth. Anything beyond that is gravy.

DIY flag tank top supplies |

Getting the supplies together

Working on the tank |

Full concentration to cut messy stars.

I wanted this shirt to have a somewhat random and messy look, so if I did mess up it wouldn’t be a huge deal or stick out too much. I put on the shirt and measured where I wanted the blue star field to end and the red and white stripes to start, and used painter’s tape to divide the fields. I then cut  out stars of various sizes and taped them on. Be sure to put something between the shirt, so the paint doesn’t bleed through to the back.

Using a sponge and fabric paint, I painted around the stars once, then made a second layer on areas I wanted to touch up, letting it dry fully between rounds. I then put red paint on the long side of the sponge and made two layers of vertical lines. The end result is what I had in mind, and I have a hair tie with ribbons to give some flair up top.

As far as the running and training for the 8k, it’s not going that well, but I am getting stronger. This race certainly won’t set any personal records, but it has gotten me back into running every two or three days, so that is great.

What festive plans do you have for July Fourth?

Spring tequila cocktails

Spring has finally arrived just this weekend in Minneapolis, and I couldn’t be happier. Outdoor running weather and dry, green grass are here! What a great way to celebrate Earth Day than enjoying Mother Nature.

I’ve been craving the light, refreshing and awakening flavors of spring. So when I had the opportunity to sample Casa Noble Tequila, certified organic in 2009 (perfect for Earth Day), I knew I wanted to make drinks that would be perfect for a spring awakening and earthy flavors.

To be honest, my experience with tequila is—like many people, I’m guessing—limited to margaritas. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But I wanted to move beyond that.

Casa Noble Anejo

Casa Noble Anejo aged in French White Oak Barrels for two years, with homemade guac and blue corn chips. Great snack!

So I cracked open the añejo. And I smelled right away that not all tequilas are created equal. Not that this is a shock, as I’ve sampled rum on a tour, tasting different aged rums, and enjoy aged whiskey. But I’ve never known enough about tequila to plop down money for a quality bottle. So I decided this would be a sipping tequila. I didn’t want to mix it with anything to hide the flavor. It is smooth and caramel-y, yet had a smooth, distinctly tequila taste. But it is tequila, after all, so I sipped it along a homemade guacamole and blue corn chips.

Rhubarb spritzer cocktail with reposado tequila. So easy and refreshing.

Rhubarb spritzer cocktail with reposado tequila. So easy and refreshing.

For the reposado, the middle of the three tequilas, I wanted to balance the smooth and citrus with my take on a springtime margarita. I made a simple syrup (cut two stalks rhubarb into 1-inch long pieces and simmered them in one cup sugar and one cup water for about 20 minutes until it was a syrup) and rimmed the glass with the syrup, then dipped it in sugar. For the drink, mix 2 ounces each syrup and tequila in a glass with ice. Top with a splash of club soda. So refreshing and a simple rhubarb cocktail that is both. sweet and tart.

Casa Noble Crystal

My take on a tequila mojito.

I wanted to bring out the citrus of the unaged crystal tequila, so I featured lemon and mint—kind of a tequila mojito—in this one, with great results. The type of tequila I’m used to drinking worked well. I juiced a lemon into a glass, added almost a teaspoon of sugar (more or less to taste and cut the tartness), tore up about four mint leaves into large pieces, put in ice and poured 2 ounces of tequila and stirred.

All in all, I got to experience different types of cocktails and celebrate spring. What are your favorite tequila drinks, or what great spring drinks have you been enjoying?

Disclaimer: Casa Noble provided me with tequila to sample and a gift card from Whole Foods to buy ingredients, but all opinions and recipes in this post are my own.

A fresh start to 2014

Happy New Year!

Hope everyone is having a great day/year so far and starting it off on the right foot. I planned to start my day with a run, but the weather refused to cooperate, going between hard rain, drizzle and overcast breeziness looking like it could rain again all day.

Rainy day in the Sunshine State to start 2014.

Rainy day in the Sunshine State to start 2014.

Instead, I opted for a juice/smoothie (not quiet a smoothie but thicker than a juice) of frozen watermelon, cucumber, chia and flax seeds and water. It was really good. Other than that, I’ve been snacking on heirloom tomatoes from my CSA.

Heirloom tomatoes from my CSA.

Heirloom tomatoes from my CSA.

This whole holiday season has been a blur and felt the least like a holiday time of any of them, but I’m looking ahead to 2014. The past few years I have posted resolutions on my blog, but this year I will just need more time to think about them and figure out what direction I’m headed.

What are your healthy living resolutions this year?