Ugh, ham or tuna sandwich for lunch again? Here are some tips for giving a tasty makeover to the usual lunch fare. Start with a simple sandwich that might be used for a school lunch, then take it to the next level. These tips come courtesy of the popular food and recipe site Epicurious.com.
The basics: 2 slices bread, 3 slices ham (we recommend using a nitrate-free or low-sodium ham)
The upgrade: Hard-boiled eggs with mayo
Add 1 sliced hard-boiled egg and 2 teaspoons mayonnaise to the humble ham sandwich for extra protein, plus nutrients like vitamins A, B12, and D. To up the ante, cook the ham in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes per side. This will add a light crispness and amplify the natural flavors of the meat.
The upgrade: Smashed peas and ricotta
Getting your kids to eat their green veggies can be a challenge, but a simple pea purée just might do the trick. In a blender, combine 1/4 cup thawed frozen peas and 1 tablespoon ricotta and blend until smooth, then season with salt and pepper to taste. The combination of the smooth pea spread and the ham tastes like a delicious bowl of smoky split pea soup between two slices of bread.
The upgrade: Mashed sweet potato with honey
For a boost of beta-carotene, not to mention a hint of holiday flavor, try some sweet potatoes on your child's next ham sandwich. Mash 1/4 cup of a cooled, boiled or baked sweet potato (skin removed) with 1 teaspoon honey, and season with salt and pepper for a topping that will make this hearty lunch taste like honeyed ham and candied yams.
The basics: 2 slices bread, 1/2 can tuna (drained) mixed with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise. The best tuna for the job is solid white albacore packed in water. (Oil-packed tuna has more calories and fat, but is an OK substitute as long as you drain it very well and reduce the amount of mayo.)
The upgrade: Olives or capers
Taking inspiration from the briny flavors of the classic French niçoise salad, this combo gets a salty kick from a great garnish, which perks up the essence of an otherwise plain sandwich. Use 4 to 5 chopped olives (we recommend pitted niçoise, kalamata, gaeta, or Spanish olives) or 1 tablespoon jarred capers – look for the nonpareil variety, as they are smaller and won't require any chopping.
The upgrade: Red onion
Finely chopped fresh red onion – about 1 tablespoon's worth – will add a bit of a bite to a seafood sandwich. If your tykes like the onion flavor but not the bite, try dicing the onion and letting it soak in cold water for about 10 minutes, then drain well. This removes some of the onion's sharpness while leaving the aromatic flavor intact.
The upgrade: Sun-dried tomato
The sweetness of 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped sun-dried tomatoes will entice even the choosiest children. If using dry-packed tomatoes, soak them in hot water for about 10 to 20 minutes, until softened, then chop.