April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Day! A day that Americans mark one of their most favorite comfort foods. It's no wonder that this easy to make recipe is so popular: bread, cheese and butter are highly palatable foods—combined, and you’ve got a meal that sets off your brain’s feel good chemicals off the charts, in the same way as drugs and alcohol. Can you eat foods like grilled cheese and stay ‘healthy’ in your recovery? I’d argue that you can.My journey in recovery began with eating what I wanted, when I wanted it. I ate stuff that didn’t nourish my body—they made me feel terrible. With continued recovery, I began looking after my physical self—my whole self, as it were. This led me toward a journey of health and wellness. But I had to find a means of achieving that which worked for me.
How often do we associate diets with dull and uninspiring lettuce leaves? With feelings of deprivation and punishment? Too often, I’d argue.
I didn’t want that in my recovery. My recovery is about balance, and taking care of myself—not depriving and punishing my body. So, I sought to create food that tastes delicious, nourishes my body, gives me energy, and makes me excited about eating it. If I wanted to eat chocolate fudge, I’d make my own improved version with dates and raw cacao. I started to make the connection between what I put in my body and how I felt.
I discovered that refined carbs—like white bread, candy, pastries—didn’t give me energy, but instead sent my mood up and down like a rollercoaster. Leaving me lethargic, tired and lacking any kind of get up and go. I guess it's the same as coming to the realization that excessive use of drugs and alcohol do nothing for us.
Conversely, when I ate a diet with limited refined carbs and processed foods, and a diet high in fiber, fruits and vegetables, I felt great. It isn’t rocket science, we all know it. But the difference is that I needed to not only come to the realization of how I was treating my body, but I needed to care enough about myself to make wiser choices that look after my wellness.
I don’t profess to be perfect—far from it. But I do have some practice at making better choices, and my brain is more conscious of the options available to me. Just like I choose not to drink or take drugs, I choose not to eat foods that make me feel terrible.
"But what does this have to do grilled cheese, Liv?"
Well, I advocate finding a way to still eat foods that you enjoy—but just making a more nutritious version of them. Traditional grilled cheese is heavy in saturated fat (which isn’t great for your cholesterol or arteries) and high in refined carbohydrate (causing your blood sugar to spike and then crash—which affects your mood drastically). It contains little nutritional value. I have created a healthier version—I would argue tastes better—which I now enjoy far better than the traditional version.
Recipe for Grilled Goats Cheese, Rocket & Hazelnut Pesto Sandwich
For the pesto:
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- A handful of washed rocket leaves
- 1/3 cup whole hazelnuts
- 1 clove of garlic
- Salt and pepper
For the sandwich:
- 4 slices of Ezekiel or sprouted grain bread (if you can’t find this, go for whole wheat, seeded with no added sugar)
- 1 packet of hard goat’s cheese
- 1 tomato, sliced
How to cook it:
- Turn on the grill to a medium heat.
- Make the pesto by first toasting the hazelnuts in a skillet on a low heat, until lightly golden. Then place all the pesto ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Or use a hand blender, if you don’t have a food processor.
- Place the bread under the grill and lightly toast both sides, then remove from the grill.
- Spread a generous amount of pesto on two slices of bread (be sure to coat right up to the corners, so that they don’t burn). Place sliced or grated goats cheese on the other two slices of bread, and add the sliced tomato. Make a sandwich with one slice of bread with cheese and tomato, and one with pesto.
- Place the sandwiches under the grill for a few minutes each side, until the cheese is melted and the bread is completely toasted. If you prefer your grilled cheese cooked in a pan, you can place them in a skillet with a little heated olive oil, until the cheese oozes out.
Olivia Pennelle is a writer, blogger, nutrition and recovery advocate, and is in long-term recovery. Liv passionately believes in a fluid and holistic approach to recovery. Her popular site Liv’s Recovery Kitchen is a resource for the journey toward health and wellness in recovery. For Liv, the kitchen represents the heart of the home: to eat, share, and love. You will find Liv featured amongst top recovery bloggers and published on websites such as: The Fix, Sanford House, Winward Way & Casa Capri, Intervene, Workit Health, Sapling, Addiction Unscripted and Transformation is Real.