Don’t have it in you to pull together a “real meal,” but aren’t up for take out, either? Well, you likely have two ingredients in your fridge and pantry right now that can serve as a springboard for supper. Plus, it hits all the right buttons for family-friendly eats: fun, delicious, easy, and wholesome.

DIY Grilled Cheese Night. You gather all the fixings, everyone else custom designs  their own dinner. Pair it with a generous salad or veggie side. It’s just right for a weekday meal or can be a fun way to entertain. Line up your grilled cheese goodies, invite friends, pop open a bottle of wine.

That’s it.

Here’s how:

1. Pull out whatever bread you have on hand and set it out on one end of your grilled cheese bar: Sliced whole wheat, levain, walnut bread, English muffins, German rye, bagels, cinnamon raisin, pita, crusty French, you name it.

2. Set out the cheeses. Grate firm cheeses such as Cheddar, Gruyère, Parmesan, and Monterey Jack.  Crumble or spread softer cheeses such as feta and chevre.  Any variety of cheese will do. Even a wedge of Brie can be sliced and grilled into oozy deliciousness.

3. Rummage through the fridge and fruit bowl for grilled cheese-friendly produce: spinach, cucumber, mushrooms, broccoli raab, tomato, avocado, pear, and apple. Sauté those that demand it, slice the rest up raw.

4. Set out any cold cuts you like: ham, turkey, and prosciutto work well here.

5. Arrange any number of condiments and flavorful extras: mustard, pesto, sliced pickles, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, pickled jalapenos, roasted red peppers, olive tapenade, fresh basil or thyme.

6. Invite the kids into the kitchen to pick and choose among the offerings and assemble their sandwiches. A little guidance is good with younger kids. Littler appetites may do just fine with a half sandwich.

DIY Grilled Cheese Bar

This DIY Grilled Cheese Bar can be scaled up or down depending on how many are in your crowd. Figure you'll need 1 1/2 to 2 ounces of cheese per sandwich (depending on personal preference and what else you are piling on there). Make a generous crunchy green salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette to serve on the side.

Ingredients

  • Favorite sliced bread , such as levain, pullman's, sourdough, or walnut
  • Favorite sliced or grated firm cheeses , such as Cheddar, Gruyere, or Havarti
  • Favorite soft cheese , such as goat cheese, Brie, or feta
  • Sandwich-friendly vegetables , such as roasted red peppers, leafy greens, or sliced tomatoes
  • Sandwich-friendly fruits , such as sliced apple, pear, or figs
  • Sliced cold cuts , such as ham, turkey, or salami
  • Little extras , such as sun-dried tomatoes or sliced cornichons
  • Condiments , such as mustard, pesto, or tapanade
  • Butter or olive oil for greasing the skillet

Instructions

  1. Set up your grilled cheese bar by arranging your ingredients on the counter, from bread through condiments.
  2. Take turns having everyone assemble their sandwiches using the ingredients of their choice. Be sure the cheese covers at least one side of the bread
  3. Put a large cast iron or other heavy skillet on the stove over medium. Grease the skillet lightly with butter or olive oil and cook each sandwich on both sides until the bread is golden and the cheese oozes.
  4. Alternatively, use a panini press or waffle iron to griddle the sandwiches.

Twelve tasty combos for grilled cheese inspiration:

  • Caramelized onion, Cheddar, and sun-dried tomatoes
  • Tomato, basil, Mozzarella
  • Goat cheese, fig, and arugula
  • Olive tapenade and Gruyere
  • Turkey, Havarti and sliced cornichons
  • Grilled vegetables and Fontina
  • Sliced apple, ham, and Swiss
  • Sauteed mushrooms, spinach, and Gruyère
  • Turkey, pesto, Provolone
  • Pepper Jack and pickled jalapenos
  • Sliced pear and Brie
  • Tallegio and sauteed broccoli raab