grilled cheese Archives

Hot Grilled Cheese Pockets

Hot Grilled Cheese Pockets | Big Girls Small Kitchen

The other day, my pizza dough just wouldn’t rise. I was set on homemade pizza for dinner, so I started a second batch seeded with a way bigger spoonful of yeast. Refusing to believe that my pizza dinner dream wouldn’t somehow bubble into reality, I put my two bowls of unrisen dough by the radiator and went for a walk. I was hoping that the watched-pot-never-boils truism would apply to bowls of flour with stunted yeast, too.

When I got back, the doughs–both of them–were bubbling. Pizza failure was averted. But now I had extra dough. I put bowl #2 in the fridge, and two days later, I decided I’d better do something with it.

Hot Grilled Cheese PocketsHot Grilled Cheese Pockets

In most grilled cheese sandwiches, the bread matters, of course. But the quality and freshness of the slices aren’t the most important factor in the quality of the finished sandwich. Leave that to medium-low heat and a generous pat of butter (here’s how to make a perfect grilled cheese).

Hot Grilled Cheese Pockets

But what if the bread were perfect too? What if it were chewy, fragrant, salty, and stretchy, like just-pulled-from-the-oven focaccia? And, while we’re at it, what if the cheese were cooked right inside?

You can guess what happened next: I took all the cheeses out from my cheese drawer, combined provolone with mozzarella and a little cheddar. I pulled my dough, now a wind fall, not a burden, out of the fridge and stretched pieces into small rectangles. I filled each with my three cheeses, and folded them over into pockets. Last, I brushed the outsides with butter, sprinkled them with coarse salt, and baked them in a hot oven until I had golden, oozing, fresh grilled cheese pockets.  Though the whole activity happened by chance, the results were so good and so easy (once you have dough made) that I had to post about them here.

These would be an ideal lunch or dinner paired with tomato soup.

Herbed Tuna Melts

Herbed Tuna Melts | Big Girls Small Kitchen

Nothing fancy here! On the other hand, I recently assembled a green rice bowl with about sixteen elements. When I’ve been away from the kitchen for a while. I often want to get all the dishes and cutting boards dirty. This has been a spring season of travel, but when I’ve been home in the interludes my desire to cook has swelled so immensely, the kitchen time I’ve put in might even out with a regular month.

Grilled Cheese with Spicy Pickles, Pepper Jack & Garlic Aioli


One of the reasons I make so many grilled cheese sandwiches is that they solve an essential cooking dilemma: what do I feed myself when there’s not much around to eat? The behind-the-scenes truth about the various tasty fillings come from the fact that there are often condiments in the fridge that I think will pair well with melted cheese. (Not much doesn’t.) Spicy pickles and pepper jack are a perfect match, even though they came together from hungry desperation.

So, delicious and gooey and indulgent as they may seem, grilled cheese sandwiches actually serve a boring function in my life: regular old sustenance. Not to undermine all their exuberant qualities.

When Big Girls, Small Kitchen began, reasons to cook were at the forefront of our minds–and reflected in our categories. Were we early twenty-somethings cooking for ourselves, for others, for potlucks, or for the fun of baking? The type of cooking done in each situation is slightly different, to be sure, and the dishes posted here reflected that in their serving size, time or energy required, and money spent.

As the site and I grew up, I expanded the categories to reflect some of the different reasons I was finding to cook. Dinners for two. Lots of brunches for friends. The category situation got out of hand as I experimented with different formats. So I’m here today to tell you that I still think reasons to cook are as good an organizational schema for a blog like this, and that I’m updating the archives and creating some slightly revised categories, ones that touch on single servings, packed lunches, snacks, sweets, party contributions, weeknight dinners, and projects. This batch covers more terrain than plain old breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I think they still stand up for those of you who are here because you want to make home cooking your main source of food.

To keep all those categories going, I’ll be bringing in a few more contributors in the near future. (It seems like you’ve been enjoying Natalie’s posts, so I’m really excited about this change!) As I’ve been pushing my career beyond the boundaries of this site, it means everything to me to have some help in the kitchen here.

And, in the spirit of spring cleaning and updates: I’m also planning on making a few functionality tweaks to the site soon. Is there anything you’d like to find here, or a way you’d like to use Big Girls, Small Kitchen? Please let me know in the comments!

For now, I offer you this incredibly delicious pickle grilled cheese. Enjoy!

Crazy Spring Veggie Cheesy Toasts

Spring Veggie Sauté | Big Girls Small Kitchen

I miss a lot of things. Epic YouTube videos that everyone saw six years ago. Anchorman references. Jokes. Despite loving food more than videos, for the last several years, I’ve also missed favas, peas, and fiddleheads. Too busy eating ramps, I guess. Those I never miss.

This year is different. I ate all my spring produce at once, on these cheesy toasts. If there was a quota, I’ve filled it.

Around here, a lot of the produce is fleeting. We check the farmers’ market  bins for ramps week in and week out, only for them to appear once or twice, then disappear again. Do we like them more because they’re so transitory? Maybe. I do also like radishes and asparagus, though, both of which appear for longer stretches.

Anyway, I filled my quota by cheating. See, I wound up with this yield after a photoshoot for work. I don’t know if any of these have been sighted at local vendors yet, but at least I got a jump on the vegetables and am getting this chance to show you what I do when I cook with fleeting, tender, spring-like veggies: not much. My go-to prep is a flash in the pan with some sautéed onion (or shallot) and garlic. None of the vegetables need much cooking time, and a sauté allows you to monitor cooking so you don’t go overboard and turned the prized veggies into mush. 

Open-Faced Grilled Cheese with Mashed Avocado & Harissa + A Grilled Cheese Giveaway


This giveaway is now closed. Thanks for entering! -C

For my last post in the epic Middle Eastern Flavor Journey of 2013, I’m coming back to where I started: grilled cheese. My first entry in the series was this Muhammara Grilled Cheese, in which I simultaneously introduced myself to za’atar and pomegranate molasses, made a dip called muhammara, and brought a Middle Eastern twist into my favorite food in the world: grilled cheese.

To bookend that post, today we’ve got homemade harissa, a condiment I can’t believe I haven’t talked about yet, and a technique for making open-faced grilled cheeses for people who live in kitchens too small to fit toaster ovens. Best of all, together with Sargento, I’ve put together the ultimate toolkit for making grilled cheese at home, and you’ll have a chance to enter to win the perfect nonstick frying pan, a grilled cheese press, ingredients for building your Middle Eastern pantry, and coupons for free cheese to melt between two slices of bread–or on top of one slice, which is what we’re up to today.

There are times when I just want an open-faced grilled cheese. It’s like a French bread pizza/toast/tartine craving, as opposed to the need for a sandwich. Right? That makes sense. But when you don’t have a toaster oven, you don’t have the ability to not sandwich your bread together, because otherwise when you go to flip the open-faced sandwich, the cheese will smush all over the pan. That’s why, taking inspiration from this open-faced egg sandwich recipe, I cover the frying pan, turning it into a little stovetop oven, and let the heat build inside until the cheese melts.

To complete this meal, I just mashed avocado with lemon and salt and spread it on top, then dabbled the top with homemade harissa, a garlicky spice paste used throughout the Middle East both as an ingredient and a condiment. I’ve had some really great harissa at falafel joints around town, but I had never confronted the hot peppers needed to make it myself. It’s kind of an experience to make, if you have a few extra hours to kill, and it’s absolutely awesome to eat–fiery, smokey, garlicky, and fragrant with cumin and caraway.

I hope you try the recipe, and here are the details for the giveaway, which includes: the perfect nonstick frying pan, a grilled cheese press, ingredients for building your Middle Eastern pantry, and coupons for free cheese to melt between two slices of bread.

You’ve got three chances to enter the Sargento Ultimate Grilled Cheese Set Giveaway, a $100 value:

  • {one} Leave a comment below and tell what cuisine you’d most like to see explored on Big Girls, Small Kitchen in 2014.
  • {two} Be a subscriber to the Big Girls, Small Kitchen newsletter and leave a second comment letting me know you’ve subscribed.
  • {three} Tell your facebook friends and/or twitter fans about the contest – post the link and tag @Big Girls Small Kitchen (facebook) or @BGSK (twitter). Leave a third comment letting me know you’ve done so.

The contest will run for 10 days, and I’ll announce the winner in my January 3rd newsletter. Good luck!

Roasted Sweet Potato & Fig Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Reduction


Well, I bring you another grilled cheese today! It’s been more than eight months, a delay which would make very little sense to you if, like my frying pan, you could see a tally of my grilled cheese consumption.

Within the stringent bounds of the grilled cheese sandwich (must have: bread, cheese), there’s room for creativity. Some tweaks, like adding veggies, make the sandwich a bit more healthful. Others use up leftovers, like this timely Turkey Reuben. This one finds inspiration in the pages of Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, a blockbuster in the Middle Eastern cookbook sector of the shelf. (No, really, it’s gone viral.) I was browsing my copy and found a salad of roasted sweet potatoes, halved figs, balsamic vinegar reduced to a syrup, and feta. The salad sounded good. Which meant it would be better, I thought, as a grilled cheese.

Though I usually roast my vegetables to a nice browned crisp, for this recipe, I left the potatoes a bit softer, which works better in a sandwich. The other elements of this Middle Eastern fusion-y sandwich? Balsamic vinegar, reduced with a bit of sugar into a syrup that’s equal parts sweet and tangy, and fig jam, to replicate the original flavors of the Ottolenghi recipe. Then there’s Swiss cheese, the sandwich’s delicious glue, and good bread that gets buttery and golden in the frying pan.

I always love to combine sweet and savory, but this time of year the combo is everywhere! At our Thanksgiving, we roast our sweet potatoes with brown sugar and butter, and I can just imagine slicing up a leftover potato and making this sandwich for a day-after sweet-meets-savory meal at which I’ll clearly be giving thanks to the Jerusalem cookbook, for yielding so much inspiration.

More sweet potato recipes:

Baked Brie & Sweet Potato Bites

Sweet Potato & Andouille Hash Browns

Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Frittata