Archive for the ‘Sandwiches’ Category

Think about the towns you’ve lived in.

Whether it was a favorite dish at a restaurant, a donut worth dragging your hung-over ass into the bakery at seven o’clock in the morning, or crunchy produce and warm bread at a local farmer’s market where the parking lot is as muddy as your grandpa’s farm in April, you’re bound to have dreamy food memories from places you’ve called home – memories that pull at your car’s heartstrings until you find yourself in the parking lot when passing through town.

If you grew up in Brookings, S.D. you’ll find yourself driving up and down Main Avenue in search of a parking spot in front of Nick’s Hamburgers at noon and down a few blocks at Pizza King in the evening. And if the Purple Cow, Donut Barn, Julienne’s Bakery, or Arctic Circle were still there you’d need three days and an extra hole in your belt.

sweet burger

This winter I took a drive to Fairmont, Minn. and as I drove there I recalled that when I lived in Truman, we used to get the best burgers from this place by the lake [in Fairmont]. So I decided to stop for a sweet burger at the Channel Inn on the north edge of Hall Lake.

Channel Inn Fairmont MN

I easily mimicked the green olives and Swiss cheese burger at home (pictured above), but nothing beats the real deal from that little lakeside bar—maybe it’s the buttery grilled bun or the drippy, tender burger in-between, it could be the five-inch pile of olives or the snappy pickles, but I think what makes the burger even better is its sidekick of tater tots with a rich cheese sauce so thick it doesn’t drip.

sweet burger Channel Inn Fairmont

I must be a sucker for tater tots and cheese sauce because when I think about another place I used to live, Avoca, Minn., we often ate at the Hub Drive-in and that was my usual order there too. What food memories do you have from places you have lived? Do you try to replicate it at home?

Sweet food memories,


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Like many of you, I spend Monday through Friday at the office. We use our lunch hours to email teachers and coaches, call dentist and doctor offices, scratch out lists and to-dos in our planners, and sprint up the post office stairs just in time to run back to work with disheveled hair, looking like we were out for a dash of afternoon delight.

grilled turkey cheddar bacon sandwich

You and I share a common bond. We want tasty and effortless weekday meals—simple to plan, easy to shop for, and speedy to toss together. Sandwiches are becoming exceedingly ingenious but we don’t always have time to invent something outlandish.

I like to recreate my favorite restaurant meals at home. That way, I have control over the quality of ingredients. There used to be a restaurant in Pipestone, Minn. called the Villager. A simple turkey melt was my favorite.

Whether you have a short half hour at home for lunch or are jetting off to the ice rink after supper, you have time to grill yourself and your family a crisp, melty sandwich. Since you need precooked bacon, fry up an extra pound of bacon on weekends and store it in the freezer. You’ll love how many times it comes in handy.

Grilled Turkey Cheddar ‘n’ Bacon

1 tablespoon butter

2 slices bread

2 slices cheddar cheese

deli turkey, approximately 1/4 pound

2 or 3 slices cooked bacon

onion salt


dashes of pepper sauce to taste (my favorite is Cholula Hot Sauce)

  1. Melt half a tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat.
  2. Place one slice of bread in the melted butter.
  3. Top with one slice of cheddar.
  4. Lay out deli meat on the cheese.
  5. Dash with onion salt,  pepper, and pepper sauce.
  6. Arrange bacon on meat.
  7. Top with cheese.
  8. Cover with second slice of bread.
  9. When the bottom bread is golden brown, lift up the sandwich with a spatula and toss the other half tablespoon of butter in the saucepan. Let it melt and then put the sandwich back down, flipping it on the ungrilled side.
  10. When both sides are golden brown, remove from pan and eat.

I also like to dip my sandwich in Arby’s sauce. (pictured above)

Sweet & simple wishes,

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There’s no name swapping when it comes to matters of the loose meat sandwich. Call them what you will – BBQs, sloppy Joes, taverns, loose meat sandwiches –loyalty to one over the rest is likely a reflection of your childhood days spent at church basement potlucks, drive-in cafés, and birthday parties where the main dish was served from a slow cooker. But it really comes down to the region where you grew up.

To add to the controversial list of loose meat sandwiches, I used tomato sauce, BBQ sauce, and beer to create a tangy, hearty meat sauce meant for a bun. So is born, and will forever be known from my tiny southwest corner of Minnesota – the BeerBQ Joe.

BeerBQ Joe Taverns - BBQs with beer

Here’s my (Eastern South Dakota roots) take on the meaty sandwiches:

BBQs – this is what we grew up with my mom making. We still say, “I’ll make the BBQs,” for a party. Mysteriously, there isn’t any BBQ sauce in the recipe. Just tomato sauce or soup and ketchup. Catsup? That’s another story.

Sloppy Joes – I’m still afraid this might imply Manwiches, which remind me of “those” kids whose moms made these for birthday parties and it almost always meant there were green flecks in my meat. And the funny dads stuck Cheetos in their ears.

Taverns – I had never heard of taverns until about four years ago when someone at work mentioned them. She grew up in Beresford, S.D. That’s only 89 miles south on I-29 from where I grew up. But…it’s only 46 miles from Yankton, S.D. which according to South Dakota Magazine’s Laura Johnson, proper taverns ought not include anything from a tomato. You must read her article, “The Humble Tavern” and all the comments that follow to get to the heart of people’s steadfast beliefs about taverns. A recipe and story about taverns on Food.com seem to corroborate a comment made by Julie Simpson in Laura’s tavern story – Ye Olde Tavern in Sioux City, Iowa just might be the birth place of taverns in the early 50s.

Loose meats – I just figured these were sandwiches with cooked ground beef and onions and seasonings. Or just deli meat sandwiches. I didn’t really know.

BeerBQ Joes

Make 12 servings (recipe can easily be halved or doubled) 

2 lbs (85-90% lean) ground beef

1/2 cup diced onion

1 garlic clove, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)

1 cup (8 ounces) BBQ sauce (use a spicy sauce for more heat)

1 cup (8-ounce can) tomato sauce

2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon onion salt

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces dark beer (I use Shiner Bock, just like in my Once a Month Beer Chili Spaghetti)

Buns or garlic toast, cheese slices, dill pickles

In a medium pan, brown ground beef with onions and garlic until the meat is cooked through, breaking meat into pieces. Drain the grease. Add the next 7 ingredients (BBQ sauce through the pepper), stirring to combine. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.

Pour in beer. Stir. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Serve on buns, sandwich bread, pretzel rolls, toasted garlic bread, pita bread, etc. Top with cheese and pickles.

Cover leftover BeerBQ tightly and store in refrigerator up to 5 days.


What’s perfect for dessert? Peanut Butter Pie.

peanut butter pie for mikey

Where do your loyalties lie? BBQs? Taverns? Sloppy Joes? Loose meats? BeerBQ Joes?

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It’s more about the crusty, spongy in the middle, toasty seeds on top, breads than anything I put on my homemade sandwiches. I’m a bread lover not a bread baker and my toppings are simple, like my tuna salad with truckloads of crunch from diced celery.

Bread Lover's Tuna Salad | Random Sweetness Baking

We hit the road this weekend to New Ulm, Minnesota for a girls hockey tournament. It’s one of the few towns within hours of us that I know still has a small-town bakery. Like the town’s streets, German history wafts from The Bäckerei’s ovens.

The Backerei and Coffee Shop in New Ulm MN

We bought dark buns brushed with a hint of butter and a sprinkle of salt. We ate them before we left town. The other one, pictured at top, was called “something in German that I don’t remember,” and “they are like an onion bread.” Whatever it is, a crunchy tuna salad goes perfect right on top of it. (And yes, it really was orange.)

Even though you likely have your own favorite tuna salad recipe, it’s a good reminder to stop and smell the fresh bread once in a while. Bring a loaf home and make yourself a special sandwich.

Staci’s Simple Tuna Salad

1 (2.6 ounce) package Albacore white tuna in water

1 Tablespoon finely diced red onion

chopped celery, I use at least 1/2 cup

mayonnaise to taste

a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce

a few dashes of onion salt

a few dashes of garlic powder

pepper to taste

enough lettuce leaves to cover the entire bread

sliced red peppers

a couple of slices of your most favorite bread in the whole world

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Crunchy Deli Wraps

You don’t really need a recipe for these fresh veggie and deli meat wraps. I call these our “camping “wraps because the first time I made them was when we camped at Bunker Hills Regional Park in Minnesota with my sister, Heidi, and her husband Will and my nephews Cody, Garritt and Travers. I’m not much of a camper—at all. As in, a full-size camper with beds, table, kitchen, shower, toilet and air conditioning is roughing it according to my idea of vacation accommodations. What I did learn though, is that I can make a killer meal without an oven, sour cream or pasta.

These make a nice light meal in the summer; we’ve been eating them for lunch all week. The best part is that you can use your favorite vegetables—from the garden or your local farmer’s market—and your favorite deli meats and cheeses.

Crunchy Deli Wraps

Tortillas, any kind, burrito-size

Cream cheese spread (we like Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese spreads)

Fresh vegetables, sliced and diced (we use red & green pepper, red onion, lettuce, shredded carrot and sometimes tomatoes and cucumbers)

Cheese, shredded or deli slices

Deli meat

Dash of onion salt

Something I really like about these wraps is the convenience of making fresh wraps all week long. I cut up all my vegetables and store them in the refrigerator so I can make fresh wraps each morning to take to work with me.

Assembly is easy. Simply spread your favorite cream cheese on the tortillas (we really like the Garden Vegetable). To one side of the tortilla, layer your favorite deli meat, sprinkle the meat with a little onion salt,  and add cheese and vegetables. Roll it up and cut it cross-wise in the middle. I roll them up tightly in aluminum foil so that when it’s time to eat them, they keep their shape nicely. (I wish that trick worked for me, although I’ve never seen a roll of aluminum foil that long…) They hold up well in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. Any more than that and the tortillas start to get soggy from the vegetables.

If you like chicken caesar salads, these are good with shredded rotisserie chicken, caesar dressing, parmesan and asiago cheeses, romaine lettuce and crushed croutons.

If you like spicy Mexican food, use shredded rotisserie chicken, southwest spices, hot sauce, shredded mexican cheeses, onion, tomatoes, lettuce and crushed tortilla or corn chips.

How will you make these wraps to your favorite tastes? Spicy, vegetarian, Asian?

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