This post is my magnum opus. I know I haven’t been blogging long so that isn’t saying much, but still, I am pretty proud of these sandwiches.
Once a week before my art history class in college, I would often go to the museum cafeteria and order the same sandwich. It was a massive tower of raw vegetables drizzled in salad dressing balanced between two slices of focaccia.
I loved all the colors, the textures, and the flavors of that sandwich. It had lettuce, spinach, sprouts, cucumber, bell pepper, tomato, mushrooms, red onions, and (deep inhalation) provolone cheese. It’s girth was so unmanageable that half of the vegetables would fall out, so after finishing it I’d get a fork and eat the salad that had created itself on my plate.
When I finished the art history course, I stopped going to the café. That’s when the cravings began. I had eaten so many vegetables on a regular basis that my body was ravenous for more. We are creatures of habit, and I had solidified a habit that was extremely healthy and hard-to-break.
It’s basically the perfect weight-loss diet food.
(Provided that you use low fat dressing.)
I tried making them at home, and I quickly discovered a problem; you have to buy a ton of vegetables to make just one sandwich. You might use one or two leaves of lettuce and you’re stuck with an almost-whole head of lettuce, or a handful of spinach, which leaves you with 9.5 ounces of leftover spinach.
A worthy challenge!
I bought the vegetables I needed, and then to make sure I wouldn’t have any leftover, I divided them evenly into piles. This time, I ended up with seven piles. (I don’t usually have so many, but hey, that’s a week’s worth of super healthy sandwiches.) Then I put the divided piles into individual ziplock bags. Whatever was in one bag would make one sandwich.
It’s perfect for on-the-go lunches.
For bread: you can use any bread you like, and I'm partial to the focaccia not only because it's delicious; it's also flat and firm, so it's the perfect size for containing a mass of vegetables. Still, when I make this sandwich my head gets in the Health Zone, and using 7-grain whole wheat bread just feels right.
The last time I made my sandwich vegetable bags for this blog, I wasn’t as wise with my produce purchases as usual and I still had a lot of vegetables left over. I bought two bell peppers and only needed one, I got a Sam’s Club bag of tomatoes that was too big, and there was no way I was going to use an entire red onion. I also bought a bag of a spinach kale mix that I couldn’t possibly use for the sandwiches.
The solution: Vegetable Pasta Sauce.
This is the same sauce I talked about in my entry for the Home and Family Cook Contest; I chop up all the leftover vegetables in my fridge, simmer them in homemade chicken broth, puree them in a blender, and serve over pasta.
I cooked the tomatoes, spinach, kale, red onion, mushrooms, and the extra bell pepper, plus I added two carrots and also some green onions that were withered and not good for much else. (I saved those jokers from the trash in just the nick of time. Whew!)
This made way more sauce than we were going to eat – and I had seven vegetable sandwiches that needed my immediate attention, which meant I wasn’t going to eat pasta for at least a week – so I put the sauce in a bag in the freezer.
(I’ve actually been using breast milk bags to freeze all our saucy/soupy foods. I had an almost-full box of them when I weaned my youngest, and they are just perfect for liquid food storage.)
Even after the sandwiches and the sauce, there were still extra scraps: the skin of the onion, the end of the tomatoes and cucumbers, the seeds of the bell pepper, etc.
Sure, I could have just thrown them away – they aren’t edible, after all – but then I wouldn’t have written “zero waste” in the title. Instead, I put the scraps in a pot with water (plus a bag of scraps I had been accumulating for a while) and simmered them for a few hours.
This made vegetable broth, which I later used to flavor a black bean soup. Yum!
After all the flavor had been boiled out of the vegetable scraps there was nothing else I could do with them, so I put them in a compost bin.
There you have it. I had loads of raw produce and I used all of it without a single scrap of waste.
Another scrap saved!