Reinventing grilled cheese

October 5, 2009

shrimp naanwich

Did I mention to you that I’m on a diet? Yes, again. I’m truly the poster child for yo-yo dieting. I even have a string in the top of my head.

When I diet, I fantasize about my favourite foods. In fact, all weekend long I was tormented by dreams of crunchy, buttery, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches!

As much as I love old school, aged Cheddar melted between slices of sandwich bread (these are the sandwiches that I grew up eating for lunch), I’ve been known to experiment with my grilled cheese, too. In fact, in my 2007 cookbook Dana’s Top ten Table (Harper Collins), I featured this suppertime sandwich that combines tender naan bread, molten cheese and crunchy, sweet shrimp. Decadent, fast, easy and comforting:

Shrimp Toasty Naanwhich

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

1/2 lb (50 mL) thawed, frozen cooked shrimp, tails and shells removed
3 tbsp (45 mL) mayonnaise (light or regular)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, finely chopped
4 slices havarti cheese
4 slices naan bread, halved crosswise
1 tbsp (15 mL) melted butter

Pat the shrimp dry on paper towels and then chop coarsely if large. Blend with the mayonnaise with the garlic and green onion. Lay two large naan out on a clean work surface; spread the shrimp mixture evenly over one slice. Top with the cheese slices and remaining bread.

• Spread the butter evenly over the outside of the naan. Preheat a panini maker, hinged grill or a large skillet or griddle to medium heat. Add the sandwich and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until bread is golden on each side and cheese is melted. If cooking on the stovetop, turn the sandwich halfway through cooking. Makes 4 servings.

In case you’re uninitiated, naan is an East Indian, wheat flour, leavened bread that’s baked until pillowy, soft and golden in a tandoor oven. According to the Chicago Tribune, using naan for sandwiches is trending up. From Canada’s west coast chain Sabri Sandwiches that transform Indian entrées like butter chicken into hand held meals to old crocks like me, naan is a great way to perk up your sandwiches.

Do you use naan in non-traditional ways like sandwiches and pizza?

Road trips and lunch

September 7, 2009

packed lunch

For the first time in years, my little family stayed home instead of taking an adventurous vacation. Last year we went to Alaska and the Yukon; a few years before that we went hiking in Banff. But this year we planned to rein things in a little, being cautious with our money given the global economy. In the end, we took a number of little road trips that found us in all kinds of Southern and Central Ontario towns and even in Montreal and Quebec’s Eastern Townships for a couple of days.

My shoe leather touched the streets in Creemore, Lindsay, Minden, Haliburton, Highland Grove, Montreal, Picton, Parry Sound, Port Parry and Cookstown to name most but not all of our destinations. It was a lot of fun to take these spontaneous trips and I have to say I enjoyed seeing these nearby destinations up close more than I imagined I would.

One thing we learned, however, is that road food is nasty! Sure, stopping for a coffee is fine but just how many French fries and tasteless burgers can you eat before you want to scream? By August I was proactive and packing sandwiches and fresh fruit for the road.

How about you? Do you take the time to pack a lunch when you’re heading out on road trips or do you take your chances with roadside fare?

Lentils for lunch

April 29, 2009


While I’m really not liking this new marketing term “uber cocooning” (why not just call people shut-ins or hermits?) I worry I could be mistaken for one. You see, I do love a well-stocked pantry. It just makes life so much easier to be able to make a great recipe literally right out of the cupboard.

Case in point: this lentil salad that I made recently for my Sunday lunch. The genesis for this bowl of yummy stuff was a humble can of lentils that I drained, rinsed and put in a bowl. Subsequent scavenging led to the discovery of green pumpkin seeds, a carrot, a quarter of a red pepper, a hunk of a forgotten pomegranate, some coriander and a shallot. A little chopping and a very few minutes later, my salad was born as this concoction dressed with a curry flavoured dressing.

Delish on a dime and in no time!

What’s your favourite out-of-the-cupboard lunch?

By the way, here’s how I made the Curry Vinaigrette:

1 tsp (5 mL) curry paste
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each honey and minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp (15 mL) white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp (1 mL) minced fresh garlic
3 tbsp (45 mL) canola or extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Blend the curry paste, honey, ginger and vinegar together until smooth. Stir in the garlic and while whisking, drizzle in the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Amy needs to know

February 11, 2009

Guest Blog by Amy Snider


Oh how the lunchbox has transformed from the Holly Hobbie lunchbox I carried in my youth! Sturdy, hard plastic with a matching thermos for juice or milk, my lunchbox (like my classmates’) was a reflection of my personal style.

These days, lunchboxes are designed with functionality, food safety and the environment in mind. In fact, this stackable melamine lunchbox keeps each layer separate and well-sealed so there is no need for additional packaging.

The contents of our lunchboxes have seen changes as well. My ’80s grade-school lunch consisted of a peanut butter or tuna fish sandwich, an apple, two cookies and a juice box. With peanut bans and concerns over mercury, my favourite retro sandwich choices are no longer acceptable.

In the ’90s, processed treats like “Lunchables”, “Fruit by the Foot” (an overstatement to be sure) and “Dunkaroos” were popular for their portability and kid appeal. But with a return to whole foods in this decade, “Lunchbox 2000” has undergone another evolution.

As I’m currently compiling info on lunches past, present and future for an upcoming presentation, I would love to hear your reminiscences about your favourite lunchbox fillers from the ’80s and ’90s. Likewise, feel free to tell me about what goes into the lunchboxes you fill today.