The grilled cheese sandwich, all dressed up

When my son turned three and announced he wanted grilled cheese sandwiches shaped like fire engines for his birthday dinner, I wasn't surprised.  Despite my best efforts, the child was ignoring vegetables, gagging on fresh fish, and throwing fruit on the ground.  Chicken nuggets and hotdogs, he could do.  Green beans and salmon, not so much.

But how could I possibly host a family dinner party that featured grilled cheese sandwiches?  (The truth is, I'm as much of a food snob as he was.  He had a distinct list of foods he abhorred, and so did I.  The problem, of course, was that the foods I'd rather die than eat were exactly the foods my little tyke relished).  I figured I could deny him those foods on every other day of the year, but I hated to do it on his birthday.

So I decided to make the meal work, and in the process I found you can make a damn good grilled cheese sandwich that most any adult will love-- even if that adult is a picky, health nut like me.  Here's what I did:

I went to Whole Foods and bought a variety of fresh baked breads.  I got a multi-grain loaf, a sourdough-rosemary loaf, and an oat-nut loaf.  Then I bought a variety of gourmet cheeses.  I chose fresh buffalo mozarella, ghouda, provolone, and fontina.  I also bought prosciutto.  From the produce section, I selected fresh tomatoes, spinach, and basil.

I decided to serve my sandwiches with carrot ginger soup, a tossed arugula salad, and homemade applesauce.  Beverages included either milk or pinot noir, depending on the age of the recipient.

On the day of the celebration, I assembled the provolone cheese on whole wheat bread and grilled sandwiches for my son and daughter.  Then, of course, I used my fire engine cookie cutter to cut them into the proper shapes.

For the adults, I lay out all the sandwich makings and allowed each person to choose his or her own bread, cheese and extras.  I chose the sourdough bread and topped it with buffalo mozarella, prosciutto, tomatoes, and basil.  It was truly yummy, and so I learned from my son that some childhood dinners can be dressed up, just a little, to be both healthy and delicious.

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