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The Best Grilled Cheese Recipe to Nourish Your Body in Recovery

Olivia Pennelle of Liv's Recovery Kitchen shares her best grilled cheese recipe to nourish and heal your body on National Grilled Cheese Day, April 12th.

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Stay healthy during your recovery by feeding your body the nourishing foods that fuel it.

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 carbohydrates (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 Goat Cheese Sandwich with Arugula & Hazelnut Pesto

Serves 2

For the pesto:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • A handful of washed arugula leaves

  • 1/3 cup whole hazelnuts

  • 1 clove of garlic

  • Salt and pepper

For the sandwich:

  • 4 slices of sprouted grain bread like Ezekiel 4:9 or Dave’s Killer Bread Sprouted Whole Grain (if you can’t find this, go for a seeded whole wheat bread with no added sugar)

  • 1 packet of hard goat cheese

  • 1 tomato, sliced

How to cook it:

  1. Turn on the broiler to medium.

  2. Make the pesto by first toasting the hazelnuts in a dry skillet over low heat until lightly golden. Remove from the heat and let them cool. Then place all the pesto ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. (Or use a hand blender.)

  3. Place the bread under the broiler until lightly toasted. Flip the bread and broil the other side. Remove from the broiler.

  4. 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 goat cheese on the other two slices of bread, and top it with the sliced tomato.

  5. Place the topped bread back under the broiler until the cheese is melted and the pesto and tomato lightly sizzled. Remove from the oven.

  6. Make a sandwich by pressing together one slice of bread with cheese and tomato, and one with pesto. (If you prefer your grilled cheese cooked in a pan, you can assemble the sandwiches first and then cook them in a skillet with a little heated olive oil, until the cheese oozes out, instead of doing the broiling process.)

Olivia Pennelle (Liv) has a masters in clinical social work from Portland State University. She is a mental health therapist, writer, and human activist. Her writing has appeared in STAT News, Insider, Filter Magazine, Ravishly, The Temper, and Shondaland. She is the founder of Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, Life After 12-Step Recovery, and Tera Collaborations. She lives near Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Instagram @Livwritesrecovery and @teracollaborations

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