September 1, 2012 7:19:35 PM
Even though I really do love to cook, I sometimes get burnout from being in the kitchen every night. Every once in a while I just need a few days, or even a couple of weeks, off. Usually this happens during the dog days of summer, like right now. The garden is winding down, the farmers' market is not as exciting as it was at its peak, and it's just too humid to be slaving over a hot stove after a long day.
Thankfully, Ryan knows his way around the kitchen and is willing to step up when I need a break. It's only taken 10 years to get it through to him that everything doesn't have to be drowning in melted Country Crock and covered in Cajun seasoning, and that there are other vegetables besides potatoes. He's come a long way.
And then there's always the sandwich. We've been eating lots of sammies lately, and I'm not talking about deli meat between two slices of bread. I'm talking about a light nutritious complete meal on toast. Sandwiches bring me right back to childhood and there's really nothing easier to throw together. All you need is bread, spread, protein and veggies to make a perfectly-portioned, no-fuss meal.
Let's start with what makes a sandwich a sandwich -- the bread. Say "no" to the white stuff and build your sandwich on a foundation of whole grain goodness. My favorite bread for sandwiches is Nature's Own Double Fiber Wheat in the purple and green bag. It has all kinds of good stuff, including omega 3's, 5 grams of filling fiber, and even 3 grams of protein per 50 calorie slice. So if you use two slices of bread for a sandwich you're already starting off with 10 grams of fiber! Now that's exciting.
Now to add a pop of flavor. Mustard is boring and mayo (as much as I love it) has 100 calories per tablespoon. Yikes. Enter Mezzetta Sandwich Spreads, which have a light 25-50 calories per tablespoon and tons a flavor, with concoctions like Jalapeño with Mexican-Style Cheese, Sundried Tomato with Cilantro, Lime and Jalapeño, or my personal favorite, Pereroncini and Feta. All seven (yes, I have all seven) varieties add a zip to even the dullest sandwich.
Next and most importantly, pick your protein. Steer clear of overly processed, sodium-loaded, nitrogenized lunch meats. Instead, opt for diced grilled chicken breast, turkey or veggie burger patties, flat iron steak, eggs scrambled or sunny side up, barbecued shrimp, or blackened fish like tilapia, catfish or salmon. This is a great way to use leftovers from the night before. Top your protein with a little cheese if you like -- 2 percent sharp cheddar or Swiss slices, crumbled feta, Gorgonzola or shredded Parmesan are all good choices.
Finally, pile on the veggies. Whatever you like, baby spinach or romaine, tomato or cucumber slices, red bell pepper strips, thinly sliced onions, shredded purple cabbage or avocado. If you eat lots of sandwiches, switch up your veggie toppings to make sure you're getting an array of nutrients.
Delicious gourmet sandwich combinations are endless, so you never have to be stuck with a boring ham and cheese again. Get creative with combos like flat iron steak, grilled portabella mushrooms, red bell peppers and onions with melted Gorgonzola; blackened Parmesan tilapia with crispy romaine and tomato slices; or breakfast on a bun with a fried egg, turkey bacon, 2 percent sharp cheddar and mashed avocado. Yum!