I run into many people who rely on fast food, delivery, restaurants and processed food because they either can’t cook or don’t want to take the time. (And as I have stated before, I did not learn to cook until after college!) When it comes to lasagna or pot roasts I understand, but not even being able to make a sandwich? How scary could that be? Then I saw a contestant on “Worst Cooks in America” place a slice of cheese on a griddle, without ANY bread, and try to flip it over, in preparation to make a grilled cheese sandwich! (Bless your heart, sir! I wish you the best of luck!)
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the meme out there that if we want to have a sandwich, we need to do it up fancy! We either need a panini press (a $25-$50 appliance) or make a perfect, tightly wrapped sandwich wrap using a sun-dried tomato tortilla…not likely, if people don’t even have bread in the pantry at home!
In these long, hopefully final cold days of winter, we may not be in the mood for a “cold” sandwich, and we don’t have the wonderful tomatoes to make a legitimate BLT. But we can still make a grilled sandwich; a tasty, toasted simple thing that can be healthy and delicious. With just a few simple steps, you have limitless combinations at your fingertips, from grilled cheese to ruebens!
HOW TO MAKE A GRILLED SANDWICH
- Spray a frying pan (that has a lid) with cooking spray, and preheat between low and medium-low. (Your setting will depend on your stovetop.)
- If you are using meat in your sandwich, place it in the pan to warm it until it is slightly toasted. This is a key step…it will help your warm sandwich all the way through, but will also leave some of its fat in the pan, eliminating the need for you to butter your bread! You will eat this fat anyway, so why not use it!?)
- If you are not using meat, you only need a small amount, if any, butter or spread on the outer sides of your slices of bread.
- Mise en place: Prepare your sandwich fixings in advance: slice any onions,
tomatoes, etc., and spread your mustard or avocado on your bread.
- Assemble your sandwich and put in the pan. You can either do this on your pan or transfer the sandwich carefully after its ready just the way you like it.
- Cover and toast away! During this step, don’t walk too far away; the time it will take on each side is somewhere around 3-5 minutes, but depends on the bread you use, how hot the burner is and how thick your sandwich is. I check mine after a couple minutes, but always replace the lid–this is what helps the sandwich warm through and helps melt any cheese.
Patience will be rewarded here; keeping the pan too hot or not watching over your sandwich can lead to a scorched sandwich, while showing it some TLC and patience will leave you with a beautiful golden crust on the bread that will be surprisingly impressive!
- Carefully flip your sandwich and toast the second side, also covered.
- Enjoy! (I always cut my sandwich in half…its prettier when you can see all the yummy things inside.)
Once you have this basic pattern down, your sandwich options are limitless! Here are just some of your mix-and-match options:
BREAD: Your healthiest choice is 100% whole wheat, but any sliced bread will work. Try rye or sourdough, or explore the many artisan breads available; ask the bakery or deli to slice it for you if its not pre-sliced.
PROTEIN: Turkey is the go-to option in our house, but we have used ham, roast beef and
even pastrami–any deli meat will work, but the healthiest will be low fat and low sodium. Don’t be shy–ask your deli person what they have to offer that fits the bill. I have also used a fried egg to make a sandwich, which is a cheap and pretty low-calorie choice! Bacon, though it should be used sparingly, adds a salty crunch, and can be a good way to use leftover slices.
FIXINGS: This is pretty wide open. There are the standard lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion, but roasted eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms or red peppers are great, too! Besides pickles, other pickled vegetables would work, such as olives or some giardinia (pickled vegetable mix,) and sauerkraut works to make your own rueben! But vegetables aren’t the only possibilities! Depending on the cheese you might use, apple or pear slices add a great sweetness and crunch.
SAUCES: Though I don’t hate mayo as some do, I don’t really see the need to use mayonnaise anymore, because there are SO many other options! There is a flavor of mustard for almost every day of the month, so just trying those options could keep one pretty busy. Avocado has become a popular spread; it has a mild flavor but adds creaminess. Unlike mayo, however, avocados have healthy fats, and a little goes a long way, so its a great choice. There are also several flavors of hummus that can help add personality and protein to the sandwich. Even if you have nothing else on hand, any vegetable dip, or even a bit of salad dressing, can add zing to your sandwich.
Using a few staples, a small amount of cooking skills and just few minutes, you can have a healthy sandwich ready before you could return from the drive-thru! Throw in a salad, soup or some roasted veggies, and you have a simple, comforting and healthy meal…that you cooked!
FOOTNOTE: Chad and my version of a reuben:
2 slices rye bread
1/4 cup warmed sauerkraut (More for me!)
~3 oz turkey
Dijon mustard (1-2 T)
1-2 slices reduced fat cheese
Each sandwich, using the smaller portions, is approximately 390 calories.