Callie’s Cabin: Gourmet grilled cheese, home fries and fresh berries | TahoeDailyTribune.com

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Callie’s Cabin: Gourmet grilled cheese, home fries and fresh berries

Welcome to the classy gourmet grilled cheese, home fries and berries. These are some of my favorite good-for-you comfort foods with a healthy twist.

A grilled cheese sandwich is often heated by placing the buttered slices of bread, with the cheese between the slices, on a frying pan. It goes back to the 20th century, and cheese has roots to ancient times around the world. One version of the grilled cheese sandwich can be found in the film "The Devil Wears Prada." When the heroine's boyfriend makes her a pricey sandwich to celebrate he uses Jarlsberg and big-ticket cheese blocks found in the deli section — well worth the price.

Several years ago, on Valentine's Day I was signing my book "202 Pets' Peeve: Cats and Dogs Speak Out on Pesky Human Behavior" at a Barnes and Noble bookstore in Sacramento. Ironically, the manager had booked dogs from the shelter, too. Of course, the cute canines upstaged me, the author with no name. I was embarrassed because my book did not make a hit, nor was I acknowledged. I took a break.

In search of comfort I bought a deli cheese sandwich and bag of chips. When I came back I sat slumped in a chair behind a small desk piled with my unsigned books. The dogs won but I vowed to treat myself again with better signings and better sandwiches.

Gourmet Grilled Cheese

4-6 slices Jarlsberg (premium brand)

2-4 slices sharp cheddar cheese (premium brand)

4 slices whole wheat sourdough bread (or light rye bread)

3-4 fresh Roma tomatoes, sliced

2-3 tablespoons European style butter, unsalted

Preheat a large frying pan over medium heat with a bit of butter. Place bread slices in pan and cover each with butter. Top two slices with cheese(s), tomatoes. Let cheese melt. Top with the other bread slices. Cook sandwich in pan until golden brown on both sides. Slice in half or diagonal shape. Add a side of green salad with olive oil and red wine vinegar, dried cranberries and nuts. Serves two.

Home Fries

2 russet potatoes, washed, sliced in thick wedges

1-2 tablespoon European style butter

1 teaspoon chives, fresh

Ground pepper to taste

Sea salt to taste

Put potato slices on a nonstick baking pan. Place in a 450 degree oven. Bake for about 30 minutes. Turn potatoes a few times. Remove when golden brown. Serves two.

Strawberries and Cream

2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, sliced

½ cup whipped cream (real whipped cream is recommended)

Chocolate shavings (dark or milk chocolate)

Wash berries and slice. Top with whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings. Place the berries in parfait glasses or ramekins. Top with whipped cream and chocolate.

The sound of a sizzling gourmet grilled cheese sandwich cooking on the stovetop is worth the price. More rewarding book signings followed up and down the West Coast—and better sandwiches before and after events, too.

As I plan another trip, savoring a hot and gooey cheese sandwich and crispy home fries for dinner is comforting. Enjoying decadent berries (expensive, like Jarlsberg, because they're not in season) for dessert is bliss while anticipating watching the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on TV with my beloved Australian shepherd. Valentine's treats, like these, are as good as it gets.

Motto: Comfort foods are priceless and can help comfort you like man's best friend during life's ups and downs.

Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, and Tea) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is http://www.calorey.com.