My Favorite Simple Summer Sandwiches

Sometimes I just want a sandwich…makes an easy snack or even a meal…no standing over a hot stove in summertime.

A personal favorite is the tomato sandwich…only good in summer…and only good with homegrown tomatoes ripened on the vine. Grocery store tomatoes may be beautiful on the outside, but rarely on the inside…hard and yellow…no thanks. The perfect tomato sandwich is made with white bread and has slices of vine-ripened, red tomatoes with Duke’s Mayonnaise and a little salt and pepper.

My daddy loved tomato sandwiches, but he also loved banana sandwiches and pineapple sandwiches. I’m not a fan of either. Actually I’ve never eaten either, but white bread + mayo + pineapples/bananas…just doesn’t sound good to me. I have cousins who love them, though.

Daddy loved peanut butter, but he liked Peter Pan brand. I prefer Jif. Remember “Choosy Mothers Choose Jif”? I could likely live on PB and bread. There are some other spreads that work well with PB, though…jelly is one. But I love Marshmallow Fluff brand marshmallow creme on peanut butter sandwiches. It’s called a Fluffernutter. If you’re not familiar with it, you should be. You can see a Fluffernutter commercial here. My friend, Lisa, who lives in Luxembourg, claims I caused her to gain ten pounds after introducing her to Fluffernutters. Using white bread…put peanut butter on a slice of bread, and put Fluff on the other, mash together, and voila! The Fluffernutter! While peanut butter has nutritional value, Fluff has absolutely none.

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For years, airlines have handed out packets of Biscoff Cookies, and I’ve always loved their crunchy, caramelized flavor, so when I heard they made Cookie Butter, I was all over that! My college friend, Beth, introduced me to it. As soon as I saw it, I had to have it. Add that smooth caramelized cookie butter to a peanut butter sandwich, and it takes on a whole new flavor. It’s a flavor that will keep you coming back for more. They make a creamy version and a crunch version. You can purchase it in Target or order online here.lb150816_1.png

There is one more flavor I love with peanut butter: maple. It’s not just for winter anymore. You can purchase maple butter/cream and add that to a peanut butter sandwich. I love pure maple flavor. I used to order maple candies/cookies them all the time but had to stop, because well, sugar. I couldn’t eat them in moderation. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of ordering separate maple butter or cream, Jif makes a Maple Flavored Peanut Butter that is really good too. I used to purchase it in the grocery store, but I haven’t been able to find it for a while, so I ordered it through Amazon. I had to order it in an 8-pack, but I know we (I) will eat it. You can purchase it here.

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It’s not just sweet flavors I like. I also love pimiento cheese spread. There are different spellings…some spell it “pimento”…but oh, how I love it. My mother used to make it  when I was a little girl, and I would help her, but back then, I didn’t want to eat it. As an adult, I love pimiento cheese spread. In the south, we pronounce it “pimenna cheese,” and I’ve even seen it on a menu spelled that way at Smashburger in Atlanta. I have a good recipe, but it’s labor intensive. There are so many good brands of pimiento cheese sold in stores now, so I just buy it. My personal favorite is Palmetto Cheese from Pawley’s Island, South Carolina, and I really love their jalapeño flavor. My friend, Linda, loves the Harris Teeter brand, and I have another friend who loves Queen Charlotte’s Pimento Cheese. Yet another friend tells me Augusta’s is her brand of choice…apparently, they make the famous pimento cheese sandwich for the Master’s in Augusta, Georgia. You can make a sandwich with just bread and pimiento cheese spread or add it to white bread with homegrown tomato slices and cook it like a grilled cheese sandwich…it’s what dreams are made of. All those brands, except the Harris Teeter brand, can be purchased at Reid’s Fine Foods in Myers Park in Charlotte or at their South Park location.

 

***A friend reminded me of the delicious pimento cheese spread at Zoe’s Kitchen restaurants. I love it, especially on their grilled sandwich.*** See their website here.

And then there’s my favorite chicken salad that can be “spread” onto a sandwich. I make my own, and it’s super easy and healthy. I simply stir together some canned chicken (yes, canned…drain off the water) with a little Duke’s Mayo, some mustard, and some dill relish, adding some salt, pepper, and a little Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. It turns out delicious every time. It makes great sandwiches or cracker toppers, or you can eat a scoop of it over a bed of lettuce. MmmmMmmm good.

***If you don’t want to make your own, the chicken salad at Chicken Salad Chick is fabulous!***

In fact, I could put all these different spreads on a scheduled rotation and enjoy a different sandwich every day.

Maybe I will! Fluffernutter, anyone?

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Rookie Gardener

I’ve said before that I am no gardener. A few years ago, I had some pretty good luck with gardening in my backyard, but then I developed a fear of snakes and became afraid. Every time I thought about sticking my hands into or near the dirt, I was terrified I would pick up a copperhead.

In Mecklenburg County, the only venomous snake species we have is the copperhead, but it seems there are lots of them. Growing up in Alabama, we had six species of venomous snakes, including three different types of rattlesnakes, which are highly dangerous to humans. I’ve seen more than my fair share of rattlesnakes and copperheads. In fact, I came dangerously close to stepping on a big diamondback rattlesnake when I was 18. To learn more about the venomous snakes of Alabama, including the copperhead, click here. Be forewarned: just like Jaws made us all afraid to go back into the water, seeing the pictures of these snakes may make you afraid to go back outside altogether.

Back to gardening. For years, I did nothing, till this year, and I’m not doing a lot, but I am doing a little. I have more than one inspiration. I want to have some sunflowers in memory of my parents this summer, and posts by my friend, Michelle, owner of Corner Copia Gardens and Gifts in Fairhope, Alabama, would make anyone want to try their hand at gardening. To see her Facebook page for inspiration, click here.

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Photo from Corner Copia Gardens in Fairhope, Alabama

While I want sunflowers in my backyard, I’m not planting any other types of flowers. We have some beautiful knockout roses that continue to bloom, so I don’t feel like I need to add much to those. I’m adding a few vegetables.

One thing I’ve always loved is a good homegrown vine-ripened tomato. When my friend, Wendy, lived here in Charlotte, she had a neighbor who grew some of the best tomatoes I’ve ever had in my life. And I’ve had a lot of tomatoes. Growing up, I didn’t care for tomatoes. I think a lot of kids are turned off by the slightly acidic taste of tomatoes. When I was in college, I went to the lake with a friend, and her mother had some homegrown tomatoes for us. Not wanting to be rude, I ate the slices she gave me, and I never looked back.

If you are a tomato person, you know store-bought tomatoes are deceiving. Every year, I make the mistake of picking up some beautiful tomatoes in the grocery store with hopes they are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. Then, I get home and slice into them, only to find they are hard and ugly on the inside. A good, homegrown tomato is just as red on the inside as it is on the outside.

Throughout my life, I had seen my daddy eat tomato sandwiches. He loved a good tomato sandwich, and apparently, my mother knew the perfect way to make them. It’s not difficult, but if you don’t make them just right, you can mess them up. My daddy liked his tomatoes peeled. Weird, I know, but that’s what he liked. Sometimes, I peel mine too. But the main thing is to use white bread…not whole wheat, not whole grain, not pumpernickel or rye…white bread. On the white bread slices, slather your favorite mayonnaise. Daddy preferred Hellman’s, but I prefer Duke’s. Yes, you can use the reduced fat versions, but because good tomatoes are hard to find, I don’t want to mess them up with the reduced fat stuff. Add tomato slices to the mayo-slathered bread and top it with a little salt and pepper to taste. I can almost taste it now. ***It’s difficult to find Duke’s Mayonnaise in some parts of the country. If you’ve never had it, you should try it. You can order it from Amazon here.***

Obviously, I’m trying to grow my own tomatoes this summer. My husband and I picked up a few small plants, and he put them in the ground. We purchased Bonnie Plants brand Big Boy tomato plants and Better Boy tomato plants at a local store. To see the Bonnie Plants website for tomato information, click here. It’s not too late to do your own. I’ve been tending ours. That means I’ve been calling my brother to get tips on growing good tomatoes. I’ve also been checking online for information. So far, I haven’t killed them yet, and we even have a few small tomatoes showing up on our plants. I looked online to see how long it takes tomatoes to ripen on the vine, and on average, for the types we are growing, it takes about 75 days after germination. That seems like a long time. I’m counting down the days and hoping I don’t kill them before then.

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I’ve also planted a few other vegetables. We’ll see how that works out before I go into any detail.

My friend, Leah, in memory of my parents, gave me a Sunflower Grow Kit earlier this year, and I was so excited to get that started, and so far, they’re growing! The kit included potting soil, seeds, plant food, and a bag in which to grow them. You can see various grow kits here. I also planted some Burpee brand sunflower seeds, which you can find at your local home stores. I purchased mine at Home Depot, but they have them in Lowe’s too. If you live in or near Wetumpka, Alabama, you can visit the Lowe’s there and see my handsome nephew, Brennen.

My sunflowers have been a little slow-growing, but in the past few days they seem to be getting some traction. I have hope. Sunflowers aren’t difficult to grow, and I had huge success with them 16 years ago, growing some of the biggest, most beautiful sunflowers I’ve ever seen. I planted mine a little later than before, but with sunflowers, I think that’s OK.

For planting this year, since I still haven’t overcome my fear of snakes, I wore gardening gloves and used a gardening trowel. I don’t know how much protection that offers from snakes, but it made me feel better. I found myself scanning all around me while I dug, though. I won’t even walk out onto the patio without checking out the steps before opening the back door.

As the summer progresses, I’ll keep you posted on my gardening. Hoping for tall sunflowers with big heads and some juicy tomatoes soon.

Go play in the dirt!

***If you enjoy Kelly Mattei’s Favorite Things, please invite friends to like the facebook page.***