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Dash of Grace: The evolution of the sandwich

Sandwiches are no longer just good snack fare. Nor are they exclusively for the lunchbox or the brown bag. Sandwiches don’t all look or taste the same. They are much more attractive and interesting than they were when I was growing up. With the addition of fruits, nuts, and vegetables, they are definitely healthier, as well.

About the only fans left for the regular white breads are peanut butter and jelly, and bologna. Even ham and beef and cheese were different. It used to be American cheese and Velveeta on the sandwiches. When I was a child, or even a teenager, and my mom sent me to the store for a loaf of sandwich bread, the slices were square and uniform. Everything matched and came out even. If you put two slices together, they fit together with the lunch meat and the sides were even with the luncheon meat and cheese. And it was all white. They were held together with mayo or mustard. You got a handful of potato chips to eat with the sandwiches. 

Today’s sandwiches do not necessarily have the obligatory two slices of bread to hold the filling inside. They might be of the open-face variety, which has no top, and you will need a knife and fork to eat them, unless you are eating alone. Or, you might order the club sandwich, which will have at least 3 full slices of bread, and each is cut into fourths, and the center piece of bread will have the filling on both sides of the single middle piece. They are very messy, too. 

Sometimes, in fact, the sandwich has no bread at all. It will have a tortilla, with the filling rolled up inside. There are also various wraps and pita pockets, which you cut in half and stuff. Single rolls and buns of all sizes are used to make sandwiches. There are hard rolls, soft rolls, wheat and rye buns, and Italian bread, which you can slice in half lengthwise and toast. 

Now for the filling. The sky’s the limit here, too. Just choose a nice artisan (homemade) roll of any kind, any color, and put anything at all on it. Fruit and nuts are popular. Apples, applesauce, pineapple, olives, pepperoni, cranberry sauce (I like whole berry), and grapes. If it looks good, try it! Bacon is very popular. I prefer the precooked kind. You can microwave the bacon for a couple of minutes on a paper towel, covered, and it comes out crisp and has little grease.

The modern sandwich is filled loosely with anything you like, and more and more fresh fruits, along with the crisp greens and the lighter dressings. 

I sometimes think that my mom and I started the new fun sandwiches. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I could not wait to get past the formal stage and build a beautiful sandwich, thick with turkey, a hearty slice of cranberry sauce, salt and pepper,  and maybe a little sweet potato.

My mother and I ate sliced apple-peanut butter sandwiches on a bun and banana-peanut butter sandwiches – before Elvis ever sang about his “Hound Dog.” The family now likes turkey dressing sandwiches, but those never caught on with me.

Love that chutney

I have found a new love – chutney. My friend, Diane, came home from vacation last summer with a jar of cranberry chutney for me, and a week later, daughter Penny brought me a jar from Wisconsin. I had never tried chutney. Diane made a sandwich like the one she had on vacation, with the chutney and some cream cheese. It was delicious. 

Then, if you remember when the big storm hit last April, it came right in the middle of my son’s outdoor wedding. The electricity went off and stayed off for 3 days at my house. The kids threw out everything in the refrigerator, including the chutney I was hoarding.  

Diane and I went on a chutney hunt and found only one kind: mango. It was not as good as the cranberry.   

Chutney is a condiment, usually mixed with a jelly or a sweet fruit.

Chutney cream cheese sandwich

Spread softened cream cheese on a roll of your choice. 

Place 2 tablespoons of cranberry chutney over the cream cheese. 

Cover with a slice of ham. 

Place a slice of cheese of your choice over the ham.

Put top on sandwich.

This is a sandwich for you.

Put anything you want on it and enjoy.

Root beer and shredded roast beef

Put three ingredients in the slow cooker and forget about it.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Total time: 10 hours, 30 minutes

Makes: 18 sandwiches

1 boneless beef rump roast (4 pounds)

2 cups barbecue sauce

1 cup root beer

Dash salt and pepper, if desired

16 sandwich buns, split

In 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker, place beef. In 4-cup measuring cup or bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups of the barbecue sauce and the root beer; pour over beef. Cover; cook on low heat setting 10 to 12 hours.

About 20 minutes before serving, remove beef from slow cooker; place on large plate. Pour juices from slow cooker into 12-inch skillet. Cook over medium-high heat about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until juices are thickened and reduced to about 3 cups. Meanwhile, shred beef with 2 forks; return to slow cooker.

Stir remaining 1/2 cup barbecue sauce into reduced juices in skillet; pour over shredded beef in slow cooker. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Spoon about 1/2 cup beef mixture into each bun.

Apple-tuna sandwiches 

Yield: 3 servings

1/3 cup fat-free mayonnaise

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish

1 teaspoon sugar

1 pouch (7.1 ounces) light water-packed tuna

1/2 cup chopped red apple

6 slices reduced-calorie bread, toasted

6 lettuce leaves

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients; stir in tuna and apple. Spread 1/2 cup tuna mixture on three slices of bread. Top with lettuce and remaining bread.

Nutritional facts

1 sandwich equals 286 calories, 8 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 23 mg cholesterol, 704 mg sodium, 33 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 24 g protein. Diabetic exchanges: 2 starch, 2 lean meat, 1 fat.

–Originally published as apple-tuna sandwiches in “Quick Cooking” 

Tip of the week: To keep your sandwiches from getting soggy, put a single layer of deli meat on each slice of bread and spread the condiments on those. The meat creates a barrier between the bread and the rest of the ingredients. You can stuff more slices of meat in the middle if you want.

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