Monday, August 8, 2016

A Thrown Together (Sandwich) Story

A low rumble roused me from my brief sleep.

My eyelids flew open and I jolted myself up, ready for action. Other than the strange rumbling sound, it was still quiet. I let out a long, silent sigh but the mysterious rumbling returned. It was a moment before I realized, with relief, it was coming from my stomach.

I needed food.

I paused briefly at the mouth of The Monster’s den and listened intently. The barely audible ‘shh, shh’ of The Monster’s breath was the only sound.

I crept silently and stealthy, avoiding the creaky steps with practiced precision. A small grunt suddenly pierced the silence.

The Monster was beginning to stir. I didn’t have much time.

I gathered up all the food I could find within reach: meat, cheese, bread. As I searched for something leafy, The Monster’s grunting grew louder.

I had less than two minutes now.

I pulled out a bundle of greens and barely stifled a curse as I noticed how damp and wilted they were and I had to throw them away.

The Monster’s grunts morphed into shrieks. Time was running out.

I piled the food together sloppily and crammed it into my mouth.

“I’m coming!” I called between chews with my mouth still full.

The Monster responded by shrieking and snorting more intensely.

Wiping my hands on a random cloth, I ran back to The Monster’s liar.

I was out of breath but ready; my hunger satiated, my energy restored. Thanks to the sandwich I’d thrown together and eaten in record time, I could resume my duties.

When The Monster saw me approaching, her snorts subsided and she reached out a pudgy hand towards me. Cooing instead of crying, a wide, gummy smile spread instantaneously across her face.

My Baby was awake and happy to see me, her Mom.

And then she realized she was hungry too…


*******************************************************************************************************

The above is a based-on-true-events story of some of my sandwich adventures as a new mom. In the past three months, I’ve made many a Throw-Together-Sandwich and it’s helped keep me going. It’s important to eat well and eat frequently while taking care of one’s baby. Since time between feedings, changings, and naps can be short, when you get the chance to grab something, DO IT!

I’ve said from the very beginning of this blog that the true beauty of sandwiches lies in how versatile and adaptable they are depending what you have on hand. A Throw-Together Sandwich is the absolute embodiment of this fact. Paired with other no-fuss snacks, like apples, bananas, dried cranberries, crackers, chocolate and potato chips, you’ve got a reliable standby meal in just minutes. And as my story shows, Moms sometimes only have minutes to refuel and recharge before getting back to their monsters.

I look forward to when I’ll have more time to make, enjoy and blog about sandwiches that are a bit more involved, but for now, I’m happy and thankful for fresh, non-wilted, non-gross sandwich ingredients, and for writing/blogging one nap at a time.

Some of my favorite Throw-Together Sandwiches are:

-Classic ham, cheddar, tomato and lettuce

-Salami, gouda and spicy mustard

-Leftover chicken, mayo, tomato and lettuce

-Turkey, any cheese and any vegetable; red and yellow peppers are great

Good luck to you all with your Throw-Together Sandwiches and a special shout-out to my fellow Mom Warriors on this crazy child-raising journey. We’re doing it, one sandwich, one nap, one day at a time.

PS. My husband and I refer to our girl as The Monster in a ‘My Pet Monster’/term of endearment way. She is a very content and generally sweet-natured girl…unless of course, she’s very hungry. :)

I cheated with the photo. These are not true Throw-Together Sandwich because no such photos exist.







Saturday, April 23, 2016

Mmmozzarella Meatball Subs

Remember when Joey on Friends swore his meatball sandwich was “the greatest sandwich in the world”? He loved it so much he even dove to ‘protect it’ from what he thought was gunfire, prompting Chandler to think he cared more about Ross, who was next to the sandwich, than him. 

Turns out it was actually a car backfiring and nobody and no sandwiches were ever in any danger but whatever - to Joey, it was worth taking a bullet for.



To quote Chandler, could there be any higher compliment paid to a sandwich?

Ever since I started this sandwich blog, I’ve wanted to make a meatball sub-style sandwich and revisiting this Friends episode reminded me that our previous attempts, while commendable and tasty, just weren’t quite blog-worthy yet. I knew we were close to something great; we just needed a little something extra…

So I consulted one of my new Jamie Oliver cookbooks and found the answer – our meatballs needed to be a mixture of beef AND pork. Another burst of inspiration had us tossing in some sautéed green peppers for another layer of flavour and with a side of Crunch Veggie Salad, we’d finally done it – our Mmmmozzarella Meatball Sub was ready to meet the world.

Mmmozzeralla Meatball Subs

You will need:

Ground Pork

Ground Beef – I’d recommend getting lean ground beef since ground pork is usually higher in fat content

Bread crumbs – we used our immersion blender to crumb-ify half a dried baguette; worked great

One egg

Minced garlic or garlic powder – we didn’t measure specifically but it looked to be around ½ - 1 Tbsp

Minced rosemary – around 1 tsp-ish

Fresh baguettes or sub-style loaves, 1-2 depending on how many sandwiches you want to make

Mozzarella cheese, torn into chunks

A jar of your favorite tomato-based pasta sauce – after experimenting in our previous attempts, we recommend one with a bit of a spicy kick, like our favorite Arrabbiata sauce from Barilla

One green pepper, sliced and sautéed

Process:

1-Combine the pork and beef in a big bowl and use your (clean) hands to mix it all together.

2-Add the egg and bread crumbs and keep mixing until the meat sticks together but isn’t too wet; add more crumbs to achieve this and add the spices.

Meatball process
3-Shape the meat into balls; try to make them the same size so they cook evenly.

4-Place the meatballs into an oiled pan and bake in the oven until they’re cooked all the way through. (You will probably have to sacrifice one to check, but you can still use it in your sandwich.)


Watching and waiting for meatball goodness

4.5-Make the Crunchy Veggie Salad:

            -Chop and combine red and yellow peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery and crumbled goat/feta cheese in a bowl

            -Mix olive oil, cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar and oregano and pour over salad 

(Tip: If you make a big batch and know it will all get eaten, pour it over everything. But if you plan to eat this salad with a few meals, only pour the dressing over your individual serving to avoid it turning into a soggy mess.)

Crunchy Veggie Salad

5-Cut the baguette in half, length-wise and fill with meatballs and green peppers.

6-Pour pasta sauce on the meatballs and top with chunks of mozzarella.

7-Bake or broil the sandwiches in the oven, around 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden.

8-Serve with a side of Crunchy Veggie Salad.

Mmm!

Definitely one of the most photogenic sandwich creations we’ve made.

The pork and beef combo work so well together, I can’t believe it took us this long to figure it out. One fun variation to try is to stuff the meatballs with mozzarella before you bake them. This makes for some oozy, cheesy meatballs, if that’s your thing. I could go either way on this, but the pork and beef togetherness are a must.

Meatballs are actually quite easy to make and there are so many recipes out there to experiment with, so don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get in there.

Here are some meatball recipes to get you started – have fun! 





Joey would certainly approve.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Lunch at Bagelstein Bastille

Packed and stacked with rows of different kinds of bagels and cookies, the window display of Bagelstein Café in the 11th arrondissement certainly did its job in attracting this hungry customer. 



A quick glance at my options on the sandwich-board outside, or bagel-board in this context, and I’d found my lunch spot that Friday afternoon.

I’m always on the lookout for new lunch places to try in Paris and this newly opened café on Rue de la Roquette is one of them. It’s not a big place inside but what it lacks in space, it makes up in fun décor: the walls are plastered with framed magazine covers, newspaper front pages, signed celebrity headshots and small plaques of witty French quotes.


It smells warm and inviting inside and unlike the (albeit) tasty baguette sandwiches that crowd the display cases of nearly every boulangerie, Bagelstein’s creations, on freshly baked bagels, are made to order right in front of you.

I chose the Hypolite – roast chicken, honey mustard, cream cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles - on a toasted Gratin (cheese) bagel. I chose my seat by a signed photo of Wonder Woman and munched on my tasty bagel lunch. I was at first unsure about the pairing of pickles and chicken (and yes, as a pregnant woman I’m aware of the irony of that!) but when mixed with the flavourful honey mustard and cream cheese, it worked for this sandwich.



The reasonably-priced menu has many options for all your bagel-cravings: smoked salmon, tuna, pastrami, vegetarian and build-your-own on your choice of bagel. There’s even a Bagel-of-the-Month meal, plus a mouth-watering selection of cookies, cheesecake, and muffins so you can eat your bagel and get your fix of French baked goods. And a big bonus - the location on Rue de la Roquette is open 7 days a week for your bagel devouring pleasure.


Paris-area sandwich lovers, on your next jaunt in the city, be check out one of the many locations of Bagelstein for a delicious, low-key lunch. Because even the most devoted baguette fan needs variety once and a while. 


For more menu info and other fun facts, check out Bagelstein's unique website:



Sunday, January 31, 2016

Pulled Pork Perfection

Pork is a great sandwich staple and I enjoy a good ham sandwich as much as the next person. It’s classic, straightforward, no-nonsense meat that pair well with all kinds of mustards, cheeses and pickles. For a refresher on this concept and some inspiration to get you started, check out an earlier post from 2014, 3 Parts Mustard/2 Parts Pickles/1 Part Ham.

But it’s always fun to change it up and try something different and it’s even better when you have some outside help. So I must give the majority of the credit for this sandwich creation to my husband Mike, since it was his kitchen-wizardry that came through in a big and tasty way when we made our own Pulled Pork Sandwiches, on some fresh-from–the-bakery bread, topped with some lovely caramelized onions.

Pulled Pork Perfection, in 3 stages
To make your own Pulled Pork Perfection, you will need:

Leftover Pork Shoulder Meat, shredded

1/2 cup White Vinegar

1/4 cup Red Wine or Cider Vinegar

1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar

1/4 cup Brown Sugar

1/2 cup Water

1/4 cup BBQ Sauce

1/4 cup Ketchup

2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

1 Tbsp Spicy Mustard (heaping)

Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste

Caramelized Onions (optional)

Sandwich Bread, thickly sliced

Smells so good!
Prep:

1-Shred the pork meat with two forks and put in a pot on the stove.

2-Add the three kinds of vinegar.

3-Mix the water and sugar together and pour over the meat and vinegar.

4-Bring to a boil, uncovered for 10 minutes.

5-Turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and let out the steam. Your kitchen will smell amazing at this point.

6-Mix the BBQ sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and mustard.

7-Pour sauce over the pork, mix and reduce heat.

8-Top with some fresh ground pepper and caramelized onions. They’re optional, but a very nice touch. Simply heat the sliced onion in a skillet with some olive oil and stir until they soften and brown slightly.

9-Assemble the pork and onions into sandwiches.

10-Serve warm and enjoy!

This pulled pork is tangy, sweet and just a touch spicy. You can always adjust the quantities of the vinegars to suit your tastes and play with different types of mustards and breads. It would pair really well with a cool, crisp coleslaw or salad. Think classic deli-style. Yum.

This is a great way to use up leftover pork shoulder meat from a Sunday dinner. It works well with bread and wraps stuffed with whatever you like. And it freezes well too. So with all that going for it, what’s not to be excited about?




Sunday, December 27, 2015

Homemade Tim Hortons Breakfast Sandwich

Being the good Canadians we are, my husband Mike and I suffer from the occasional bout of Tim Hortons withdrawal.

For those readers who are unfamiliar with the institution that is Tim Hortons, allow me to educate you: Tim Hortons is the largest fast-food chain in Canada and it specializes in doughnuts, coffee and sandwiches. It was founded by Canadian NHL hockey player Tim Horton in the 1960s and there is a Tim Hortons in virtually every Canadian city, post-secondary campus, airport, community sports complex and corner gas station.  It’s known as Tims, Timmie’s, or Timmy Ho’s, in various communities. Their ‘Rrrroll up the Rrrrim to Win!’, ‘Camp Day’, Double-Doubles, Timbits doughnuts and the Timbits hockey teams (both of my nephews have started their hockey careers as Timbits, as well as NHL superstar Sidney Crosby), and their many other marketing tie-ins are extremely popular throughout my home and native land.

My Grandpa goes to the Tim Hortons in Olds, AB almost every day to visit with whoever’s there. My father-in-law makes daily runs into the Stettler, AB Tims for his large, black coffee. When we visit them, he often brings me back a small pack of Timbits, which I have to hide from the dogs. The chocolate ones are my favorite. Friends of mine swear the ultimate hangover cure is a large order of Tim Hortons chicken noodle soup and Mike has a soft spot for their iced-cappuccinos, no matter the outdoor temperature. I’ve often picked up coffee and snacks for my friends and coworkers as fuel during report card time, and almost every staff meeting or potluck lunch includes a box of Tim Hortons doughnuts.

So you can see how we would miss it occasionally.

In the winter, Mike and I would often pick up two sausage breakfast sandwiches, hashbrowns and orange juices on our way out to the cross country ski trails. Admittedly, not the most healthy pre-skiing breakfast, but it always hit the spot and gave us motivation to ski harder to burn it off.

The snow is scarce here in Le Plessis-Robinson, France and so are the fast-food places, which is actually a really good thing. But not when you’re missing a taste of home.

So we created our own, Homemade Tim Hortons Breakfast Sandwich and now you can too.



Ingredients:

-Half a pack of ground pork
-1/2 teaspoon each of paprika and cayenne pepper
-Cheddar cheese slices
-Eggs (1 per sandwich)
-Homemade dinner biscuits, which I made using butter instead of shortening, from this good recipe

Prep:

1-Mix the paprika and cayenne pepper in with ground pork.

2-Shape the pork into small patties and grill on a hot skillet. 

3-Make the biscuit dough and cook them for 13-15 minutes, as per the recipe. For a convection oven, set the initial time for 10 minutes and check them periodically to avoid burning. Allow them to cool a few minutes before assembling the sandwiches.

4-Whisk the eggs individually and pour each egg into a small, greased, microwave safe dish. 

5-Microwave the egg on a low setting, and check/pause it regularly to prevent mess and overcooking. Or cook them in the pork grease, if that’s what you fancy.

6-Slice the cooled biscuits in half and assemble the sandwich. Our order was egg, cheese, meat, top.

7-Pour yourself a Double-Double or a glass of orange juice and enjoy.

The result for us was a welcome taste of Canada on a balmy, French winter day. 

I’ll leave you to your sandwich making now, along with one of my favorite Tim Hortons commercials, featuring Sid the Kid himself and a nation of hockey-crazed Canadian folks.


Enjoy!



Friday, November 6, 2015

Leftover Turkey Dinner Sandwiches

Gobble, gobble! 'Tis the season to celebrate big dinners and lots of leftovers!

It’s the time of year when turkey dinners make themselves at home in our kitchens, dining rooms and after all is said and eaten, in our fridges in leftover form. You could enjoy piling up plate after plate of leftovers for the next few lunches and dinners – and there’s nothing wrong with doing just that. Who doesn’t love another meal of mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce?

Or you could compress all that goodness between two thick slices of bread instead.
And from the Tupperware and Pyrex containers of leftovers rises the Leftover Turkey Dinner Sandwich.

I’m not going to pretend the idea for this sandwich creation is uniquely mine because I know for a fact that many people have been enjoying this sandwich for countless post-turkey dinners. It’s probably not as iconic as Grilled Cheese, but it’s up there. At least, it is for me.

It’s hard to describe the sheer pleasure I got a few weeks ago, from pulling out the leftovers from our big Canadian Ex-Pat Thanksgiving Dinner and heaping them together in a huge, delicious mouthful of a sandwich. So tasty, so filling. After your next turkey dinner, I encourage you to do the same.

This was only part of the feast. Potluck dinners are amazing.
You will need:

Sandwich bread, thickly sliced, or a small baguette, ciabatta or sub-style loaf cut lengthwise
Whatever leftovers you have from Turkey Dinner: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, potatoes, etc.
Mustard and/or mayo, if you so choose
A hearty appetite
Stretchy pants or a belt you can loosen after eating are nice to have too

Stuffing, mustard, cranberries, turkey and bread.
Prep:

1-Spread your chosen condiment(s) on the bread or loaf.

2-Pile on your turkey dinner fixings in any order you choose. My personal favorite is turkey (dark meat, if possible), then stuffing, then topped with cranberries. We almost never have mashed potato leftovers, so I haven’t tried them on the sandwich. Hopefully I will someday.

Ready for stacking and snacking upon.

3-Stack the sandwich closed. This part is a bit messy but worth it.

4-Enjoy with a Cranberry Ginger Ale. If you’re lucky enough to find the real Canada Day stuff, good for you! If not, top up your half-full glass of ginger ale with cranberry juice.

Stacked to perfection.

My sandwich was good and thick and biting into it brought back many memories of Thanksgiving Dinners past: at home with my family in Canada and here in France with seven other families that make up one big combined, extended family. Always great times with great people on both sides of the Atlantic.

A question I’d like to put out there in the blogosphere – to heat or not to heat?

I didn’t heat mine and it tasted just fine, but when my husband made his, he pre-heated the leftovers before assembling his sandwich. It comes down to personal preferences and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

My husband's version, baguette style.

I hope this post gets you inspired with something fun to try after your next turkey dinner. For those of you who aren’t hosting and therefore don’t necessarily get leftovers, I hope your host sends you home with a care-package so the holiday gluttony can last for a few more days. Whether you eat your leftovers heaped on a plate or piled high in a sandwich, the end result should be the same: the satisfied silence of a turkey-dinner coma, complete with a full belly and a loosened belt.


Gobble, gobble, Sandwich Lovers. Eat up!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sandwiches of Denmark

Denmark is a delightful country to visit: its capital Copenhagen has a relaxed atmosphere, friendly people, brightly coloured architecture, a rich history, and – my marker of anywhere worth visiting - delicious food and drinks.

We discovered some of the excellent food, specifically sandwiches, on our recent visit to this beautiful Scandinavian country. We tried out as many different dining experiences as we could, from the take-out sandwich place on a busy street, the cozy sit-down lunch restaurant, to a bustling street-food market. With this much variety, each experience was unique and enjoyable and gave me lots of fun material to blog about.

The iconic and colourful Nyhan, which means 'new harbour'. 
Blue House:
After an epic trek up the 400+ steps of the Church of Our Saviour, we’d worked up quite an appetite and needed something quick and filling.  

The Church of Our Saviour: who wouldn't work up an appetite climbing that spire? 

So we decided to check out the nearby Blue House. The giant sandwich outside this tiny take-out restaurant on Market Street caught my eye – how could it not? 

Blue House: the giant sandwich is excellent marketing for hungry passers-by

The menu was written in Danish but since Danish is a cousin of English, we could pick out some key words, like roast beef, remoulade sauce and tomatoes. So that’s what we ordered. While we waited, we watched their high-lite promo video and learned more about their interesting sandwich-making process. First, they panini-grill the dough in individual sandwich-sized loaves, then they cut it lengthwise and assemble the sandwich directly inside the freshly grilled loaf. Finally, they re-grill the whole thing and serve it immediately. The result is a very fresh, very warm and toasty sandwich that we ate on a bench overlooking the canal.

The roast beef was quite rare, which tasted good but was a bit chewy and caused some messiness but overall, it was satisfying lunch on our first day in the city.

Roast beef from Blue House. A solid introductory Danish sandwich.
Spiseriet:
We took a day trip to Helsingør, where we spent the better part of an afternoon exploring Kronborg Castle, the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It was a slightly windy and chilly day, which only added to the atmosphere of our tour, led by Horatio himself. Afterwards, as we were wandering the streets in search of a lunch place, we found Spiseriet, a little restaurant tucked away at the end of a cobblestoned alley. 

Spiseriet, in the town of Helsingnor

Its lunch specialty was smørrebrød, the Danish word for an open-faced sandwich. Denmark has a long tradition, dating back to the Middle Ages, of serving smørrebrød as a light meal and who were we to argue with tradition? When in Denmark, do as the Danes do.

I enjoyed two smørrebrød: first the Roast Pork and then the Potato. The Roast Pork consisted of thin slices of rye bread, topped with two thick pieces of roast pork, pickled red cabbage and cucumber. The meat was warm and the cabbage was similar to a nice, non-mayo based coleslaw. Since the portions were small and the first round was so good, we each ordered another: the Potato for me and Mike, and the Mustard-Herring, topped with watercress and fried capers for my uncle. My auntie ordered apple crumble for dessert.

The Roast Pork
The Mustard Herring


The Potato
The Potato smørrebrød was two thin slices of rye bread with warm, thick slices of potato, sprinkled with crisp bacon, fresh dill, red and green onion, and topped with a dollop of smoky cream cheese/sour cream. Divine! It was my favorite – a warm, fresh, dill-pickle potato chip sandwich.

For more information about smørrebrød, check out this excellent blog I found on the subject: 


I know I’ll be searching it for new recipes and sandwich-spiration.

Copenhagen Street Food:
This bustling street food market was a super fun experience on our last day in Copenhagen. Located across the harbour from the Opera House, near Nyhan (the beautiful harbour of colourful buildings and boats) and Christianshavn in an old paper-manufacturing warehouse, the Copenhagen Street Food market is home to over 30 unique food trucks and stalls. You can try everything from traditional Danish sandwiches and burgers, to butter chicken, fancy spring rolls and Brazilian BBQ. There are even a few different bars to try, if you want to get your wine/beer/cocktail on. The food is well-priced and decently portioned so you don’t have to spend all your Kroner at one place – and nor should you!


It was hard to narrow down all our options but we managed somehow and trust me, that’s the #firstworldproblem you don’t mind having on vacation. After a quick initial pass through the warehouse, we decided on DUCK IT, the burger place near the front, for a completely satisfying pulled-duck burger served hot off the grill, stuffed with red onions and salad greens. 

Pulled Duck Burger from DUCK IT

To keep our duck-trend going, we paired our burgers with paper cones stuffed to overflowing with Belgian frites double-fried in duck fat from Copper and Wheat. There was greasy-ducky gloriousness in every bite, enjoyed at one of the indoor picnic tables under the twirling cow-shaped disco ball.

Belgian frites double-fried in duck fat from Copper and Wheat

Groovy Disco-Cow
Visiting Copenhagen was definitely one of the highlights of my summer and I hope that wherever you traveled, you were met with similar positive experiences: friendly people, interesting sights and as always, unique and delicious food.

Cheers to you, Copenhagen, and to your beautiful sandwiches! Skål!