Go with the Grain – Sandwiches: It’s What’s For Dinner
I am not exaggerating when I say that I am a terrible cook and the only part of meal preparation that I enjoy is when I get to eat. Fortunately for me and my children, not only does my husband excel at it, he enjoys it and so much so that he has a food blog. But even then, sometimes he doesn’t feel like cooking and we don’t have enough leftovers for a second night but, food genius that he is, he cobbles together something like tacos, omelettes, quesadillas or sandwiches. And even though it’s leftovers, it’s fun because it’s a different dish and usually requires much less clean-up which, as the family dishwasher, I appreciate.
I recently attended an event sponsored by the Grain Foods Foundation, a consortium of companies and suppliers in the baking and milling industries, in order to promote the nutritional value of grain in a healthful diet. A publicist confided to me that the nonprofit organization was formed in reaction to the Atkins and South Beach craze, something I never got into. I love bread, pita, naan, bagels, pancakes, waffles, you name it, so their current promotion, Family Sandwich Night, is something I can get behind. You may have heard of Meatless Monday. The Grain Foods Foundation wants families to make one night a week Sandwich night.The fact that they have the Deen Brothers, Jamie and Bobby, sons of THE Paula Deen, helping to promote it doesn’t hurt either.
Now, you probably don’t think “healthful food” when you think of the name “Paula Deen” but the brothers got their start with sandwiches when they helped their mom on her first business venture, The Bag Lady, a lunch cart. (The story goes: Paula suffered from agoraphobia so was confined to her home so she prepared the sandwiches while her sons made the deliveries). “Any night of the week can be Sandwich Night,” says Bobby Deen. “Making sandwiches for dinner is a nutritious and convenient solution to the age old question of ‘what’s for dinner?’” Sandwiches can be as healthy as you want to them to be.
Step outside of the baloney and cheese box, dress up that ham and cheese sandwich with arugala you grew in your garden, these aren’t boring sandwiches you’re going to chuck in the garbage can like my husband tells me he used to do all throughout school. It’s an excellent way to get more whole foods into your diet by squishing them between two pieces of bread.
At the event, Bobby and Jamie made several delicious sandwiches for us including Roast Beef and Southern Sweet Coleslaw Sandwich, their “Perfect Chicken Sandwich” and grilled peanut butter, jelly and banana.
Most surprisingly, my favorite was the Bacon Pimento Cheese Sandwich which sounds pretty gross but was actually delicious. The trick is to use a panini press which melts cheese, makes the bread extra crunchy and warms up other ingredients. If you don’t have a press or a toasted sandwich maker, you can grill them on a cast iron pan or even frying pan. Achieve the smush-factor by putting a heavy flat item on top of the sandwich (over a plate to keep things cleaner). My husband has used a tea kettle filled with water. Then flip the sandwich over to crisp up the other side. If you’re looking to buy a press, my husband really likes our Krups machine so much that we’re on our second one. (Note that most panini makers have nonstick coating.)
The Deen brothers were adorable, charming and full of tips. Jamie’s secret to getting his son Jack to eat anything is to cut sandwiches into fun shapes with a cookie cutter. Grilled cheese can get a little old but a grilled cheese sandwich shaped like a duck? Now we’re talking! (Ask your kid which end he’ll eat first and nine times out of ten, the answer will be the tail.) Plus, sandwiches for dinner is almost as much fun as breakfast for dinner. The best part about sandwiches is that you can use leftovers and whatever you have in your fridge.
And at my house, my husband likes to serve potato chips with sandwiches. (We’re loving the Kettle brand baked potato chips. They have 65% less fat and don’t taste like cardboard!) You can go all out by setting out a buffet-style platter and let the kids assemble their own sandwiches. Unlike at the school cafeteria or at the food court, you’re in control of the fixin’s: use organic ingredients from your latest trip to the farmer’s market, have fun experimenting with whole grain breads, maybe start growing heirloom tomatoes and baby greens and then add nitrate-free bacon for an organic BLT, make your own pesto spread with basil you can grow yourself (we always have way too much basil).
To help inspire chefs everywhere, the Grain Foods Foundation has created an Endless Sandwich recipe database at gowiththegrain.org where you can download recipes, add your own recipes, vote for your favorites and share them on Facebook. The Endless Sandwich database also includes recipes created by the Deen brothers.
Here are a few of the recipes you’ll find in the database.
The Deen Brother’s Crunchy Super Kid’s Sandwich
Packed with protein, sweetness and crunch. Your kid’s new favorite sandwich.
8 slices raisin bread
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 banana, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup granola (use your kid’s favorite)
Spread butter on one side of each slice of raisin bread. Spread peanut butter on the other side of four of the slices. Top the peanut butter with thinly sliced bananas and honey. Sprinkle granola over honey and top with remaining slices of bread (butter side up).
Heat a griddle to medium hot. Grill sandwiches are golden brown, flip and cook the other side until golden brown. Serve warm.
The Deen Brother’s Grilled Bacon Pimento Cheese Sandwich
8 Slices White Bread
1/4 cup butter, softened
8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
pinch of garlic powder
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 oz. cream cheese
1 (4 oz.) jar of pimentos, drained and diced
1 teaspoon grated onion
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium mixing bowl using a hand held mixer, beat cream cheese mayonnaise and garlic powder until smooth. Add in Jack and Cheddar cheese, pimentos and grated onion. Beat until well blended. Stir in crumbled bacon. Salt and pepper to taste.
Butter one side of each slice of bread. Top 4 of the slices with bacon pimento cheese spread. Top with the remaining 4 slices of bread (butter side out).
Heat grill pan or griddle to medium. Grill sandwiches until golden brown on one side. Flip to other side and continue cooking until golden brown. Serve warm.
The Deen Brother’s Perfect Chicken Sandwich
Lemon basil mayonnaise and leftover roasted chicken make this the perfect pressed sandwich!
8 slices multi grain bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 roasted chicken breasts, sliced (use leftover
roasted chicken or rotisserie chicken)
8 thin slices Gruyere cheese
1/3 cup mayonnaise
6 basil leaves, finely chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
In a small mixing bowl, stir together mayonnaise, basil, zest and juice. Salt and pepper to taste.
Brush one side of each slice of bread. Spread basil mayonnaise on the opposite side of each slice. Top four of the slices of bread (olive oil side down) with chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add two slices of cheese over chicken and top with remaining four pieces of bread (olive oil side up).
Heat sandwich press and cook sandwiches until golden and cheese has melted.