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When you think, "grilled cheese sandwich," does a piece of American cheese between two slices of buttered white bread come to mind? If so, it is time to add color to the palate and make this simple staple into a culinary masterpiece!

By using different types of ingredients, a simple grilled cheese sandwich is actually just a blueprint for imaginative cooking. Changing or adding just one ingredient can constitute a whole new recipe, and maybe even a new favorite treat.

Start with the bread. Many grilled cheeses are made with enriched white bread, which is almost tasteless and virtually free of vitamins and minerals. So, why not fiber up your sandwich's outer crust by using whole wheat, rye, oat bran, or multi-grain bread? Italian and French bread are tastier substitutes for those who cannot part with the "white" of the bread.

Now, consider how to turn the bread into a crispy outer crust. It is best to use real butter at room temperature and spread evenly on one side of each piece of bread. Be sure to spread a little around the edges of the crust to make the whole outside packaging extra crispy. But you may also experiment with this ingredient. Try using extra virgin olive oil or other oil. Mix seasonings into the butter or oil before spreading on the bread. Try rosemary, oregano, seasoning salt, or dill. These can also be sprinkled on the cheese when cooking the sandwich.

And for the "meat" of the sandwich -- forget about the American cheese and get gourmet! Use cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella, provolone, Colby, Monterrey jack or Munster cheese. Better yet, use a combination of cheeses. Experiment with which cheeses go best with each type of bread. Be creative!

Those are the basics, but an especially tasty grilled cheese relies on the details. Try adding razor-thin slices of tomato, onion, mushroom or avocado. You can also add a thin layer of sauces to the dry side of the bread before putting the cheese on. Try spaghetti sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, or ranch dressing. If you like a little bite, add thin slices of jalapenos, use pepper jack cheese, and/or sprinkle a bit of chili powder on the buttered side of the bread.

Now that you have the ingredients, it is time to turn them into a finished product. After greasing a frying pan, lay down one piece of bread, butter or oil side down. Place the cheese slices evenly on the bread and cook until the cheese just starts to melt. Add extra ingredients if you choose. Then put the other bread atop the cheese and toppings, dry side down, and flip the sandwich over. Cook until you can see that the cheese is completely melted. Turn over again if the first side has not yet reaches a rich golden brown. When both sides are a crispy, golden brown, remove the sandwich from the heat and cut diagonally right away. Let it cool and enjoy!