As I was eating a “fancy” grilled cheese sandwich the other day at a hotel restaurant, I thought of the grilled cheese sandwiches of my childhood. The hotel sandwich had some kind of cream sauce, about five kinds of cheese and sliced tomatoes inside. I paid way too much for it.
Although I usually eat almost anything, I scraped the cream sauce to the side because it was kind of a strange addition that made the bread mushy. The tomatoes were a nice addition, although I would have preferred them in soup.
When I was a kid, my favourite grilled cheese sandwiches were made with homemade bread cut fairly thin and buttered on the outside. We called them “toasted cheese sandwiches,” which is common in older cookbooks.
We cut slices of cheese from a three-pound block of cheese and cooked them in a 1950s-style electric frying pan until the bread was crispy and light brown on the outside. When I cut the sandwich in half to form two triangles, the warm, melted cheese formed long strings that stretched from the plate all the way to my mouth.
Along with our sandwiches, we always had tomato soup, home-canned peach sauce and cups of homemade cocoa with little marshmallows. We drank the steaming cocoa from special brown mugs. I guess the cocoa was my mom’s special touch on a simple menu.
What’s your favourite sandwich? August is National Sandwich Month and an excellent time to try some different sandwiches.
Sandwiches have been around for centuries. Most people give John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, credit for naming our popular menu item in 1765, according to food history information at foodtimeline.org. This busy man wanted an easy way to eat at his desk.
By the early 1900s, sliced bread was available in American bakeries, and this made sandwiches a portable meal.
I always thought my mother invented the menu of grilled cheese sandwiches paired with tomato soup. Turns out, this sandwich combination became popular post-Second World War in school cafeterias because the tomato soup was the source of vitamin C on the menu. Tomato soup and cheese sandwiches also are easy to prepare and the flavours work well together.
Some people like hot sandwiches and others prefer cold. Maybe you enjoy peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese, a pita stuffed with tuna salad, a bacon, lettuce and tomato (BLT), a “Po Boy,” a French dip or a veggie and cheese panini pressed in a grill. The options are endless.
Sandwiches usually consist of bread with fillings, but some people use lettuce as the outer layer. Save some money by bringing a sandwich to work instead of going out to eat.
Here’s how to create a sandwich with healthful ingredients:
- Begin with a whole grain base, such as whole wheat bread, tortillas, pita bread or buns. Whole grains provide fibre, vitamins and minerals. Try to make at least half of your grain choices whole grains.
- Add a spread to your bread if you like. Try some mustard, hummus, guacamole or light mayonnaise. Go easy on the butter or regular mayonnaise because these ingredients add calories without much nutritional value.
- Add your favourite fillings. How about some chicken salad made with leftover grilled chicken? Choose lean proteins, and compare the sodium values of deli meats using the Nutrition Facts labels.
- Pile on the veggies and/or fruits. Add some spinach, cucumber and tomato slices, chopped onion or grated carrots. Try sliced bananas on a peanut butter sandwich. Add some dried cranberries to a chicken salad sandwich.
- Want more inspiration? Check out “7 Steps to Creating a Sandwich.” See other resources, such as NDSU’s free online newsletter at Nourishing Boomers and Beyond.
If you regularly have sandwiches for lunch or dinner, you can save time later by freezing some sandwiches. However, some popular sandwich ingredients (eggs, jelly, tomatoes, pickles, onions, mayonnaise) do not freeze well. Sandwiches made with peanut butter, cooked meats (chicken, roast beef, turkey), shredded hard cheese (cheddar, Swiss) and canned meats (tuna, salmon) freeze well. Add fresh veggies and toppings right before eating.
You can prepare the sandwiches and place them in zip-top freezer bags. Be sure to label the bags with the contents and date. Next, freeze the sandwiches in a single layer on a tray. When solidly frozen, place the individual bags in a larger freezer bag and freeze. Thaw the sandwiches in your refrigerator and enjoy.
Here’s a tasty sandwich my students tried in our food lab. They were a hit, and you can use fresh local produce from farmers’ markets or your own garden.
Thai Chicken Wraps
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 4 oz. Thai peanut sauce
- 8 whole wheat tortillas
- 4 c. lettuce, shredded
- 2 large carrots, cut into thin strips or julienne
- 1 cucumber, seeds scraped out, cut into strips
- 4 tbsp. cilantro leaves
- 4 to 8 tbsp. peanuts, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Pound the chicken, until flat, in a zip-top bag or between two pieces of plastic wrap. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then grill or sauté until done. Slice into thin strips. Lay a whole wheat tortilla on a cutting board. Add lettuce, chicken pieces, carrot and cucumber strips and cilantro leaves. Drizzle on a good amount of peanut sauce, then sprinkle on some peanuts. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Roll up the tortilla tightly, slice in half and serve.
Makes eight servings. Each serving has 280 calories, 8 grams (g) fat, 19 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 4 g fibre and 530 milligrams sodium.