I am a first generation American daughter of parents who were born in Germany. They worked hard to assimilate into American culture — Dad ditched his German accent in high school to avoid being teased by his classmates, Mom made time for youth sports by allowing my sibs to skip Hebrew school on occasion, and both were active in community organizations like Little League. But our family meals were decidedly old country. We all ate together almost every night. And none of my friends had dinner like we did, with a fruit salad or grapefruit starter, followed by a green salad, then a main course plus veggies and starch side, then dessert. The green salad was dressed with lemon juice and sugar, an oddity here in the US that embarrassed me when friends came for dinner. Imagine my surprise when I saw that dressing option on a menu in Stuttgart, my mom’s home town! Here I thought it was her unique culinary creation!

I spent the last two weeks with my mom in Southern California, where I took my turn cooking for Mom. So no lemon-sugar salad dressing, but still plenty of veggies and fruit. We ate grilled cheese, a classic that I haven’t eaten since childhood, not once but twice. The first was at Rogue Creamery, where the indulgent, artisanal bleu-cheddar combo with local honey was a far cry from the American cheese classic I grew up with.

The second was my healthier take, below. I switched to whole grain bread, the fabulous European Style Whole Grain Bread from Trader Joe’s. Each sandwich had a thin slice of Havarti cheese, a couple of thin slices of Granny Smith apple, some crumbles of bleu cheese, and a drizzle of honey. No butter needed — we baked the sandwiches in the oven.

In honor of September’s Family Meals Month, I’m happy that I could share this family meal with my mom. She’s not sure whether real kids would like it, but grown-up kids sure do!

Mom’s Grown-up Grilled Cheese
Serves 2


  • 4 slices Trader Joe’s or other European style whole grain bread
  • 2 ounces sliced Havarti cheese
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, cut into thin slices
  • 2 ounces crumbled bleu cheese
  • Honey


  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  2. Place half the Havarti slices on each of two slices of bread. Top with apple slices, bleu cheese, a drizzle of honey, and a second piece of bread.
  3. Loosely cover with a piece of foil.
  4. Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Note: A panini maker, griddle, or skillet would work also.