Grilled cheese options take comfort food to the next level

(BPT) - It's time to turn our thoughts to all the good things that come with the season, including the warm comfort food.

A longtime cool-weather favorite is the classic grilled cheese sandwich in all its crisp, meltingly gooey varieties. These days, restaurants and at-home chefs are serving up the deeply satisfying American concoction with scrumptious toppings designed to pair in perfect gourmet harmony with the flavors of the bread and cheese. The sky is really the limit when it comes to devising new takes on the classic dish. That may mean pairing traditional favorites with seasonal choices such as sliced apples, pumpkin or even holiday dinner leftovers.

The perfect canvas for such creations is Sara Lee’s new Artesano Golden Wheat Bread, featuring thick, flour-dusted slices that crisp up beautifully and stand up to all of your filling choices without overpowering their flavors.

Here are a few grilled cheese recipes to kick off the season:

* Apple Picker’s Harvest: Thinly sliced freshly picked apples, brie and some smoked ham onto your bread, slathering on a bit of honey and thyme butter before your creation hits the grill or pan.

* Nine-Layer Dip: If you’re a fan of the classic seven-layer dip (chopped layers of pepper jack cheese, refried beans, avocado, corn and pickled red onions), you’ll love this savory concoction sprinkled with cilantro and grilled between buttered bread slices. Cook up a warm, gooey batch for the gang gathering around the TV for the next big game.

* Pumpkin Mac: Whip up your favorite mac and cheese recipe, season it with pureed pumpkin, top it with gouda and bacon, add slices of bread and get busy grilling. The sweetness of the pumpkin balances the bacon’s saltiness for a gourmet treat that may well become your family's new favorite.

* Gooey Gobbler: Optimize that mouthwatering leftover turkey by spreading it with cranberry jam, sage butter and gouda slices, perfecting your dream sandwich on the griddle and enjoying every balanced, blended bite.

For more recipes, visit www.saraleebread.com.