Twists on Classic American Sandwiches

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While it's hard to improve on the greatness of the classic grilled cheese sandwich and peanut butter and jelly, these small additions and twists might be just make your kids excited for their next lunch.

Grilled Cheese

This sandwich really doesn't need much of anything to make it delicious, and this simplicity, in large part, is responsible for its success. The bread and cheese combination dates back to ancient foods in most countries, but the grilled cheese sandwich as we know it was invented in the 1920s. During this period, mass produced cheese and sliced bread became available.

Over time this sandwich just increased in popularity and, according to the Food Timeline, government issued cookbooks show that "World War II Navy cooks broiled hundreds of American cheese-filled sandwiches in the ships kitchens." While it might not be the most popular lunch meal on naval ships anymore, it's still a winner with kids and parents alike.

These days many chefs have tried their hand at reinventing this sandwich. It's been served with brie and apples, many different kinds of cheeses, and even vegetables, but this Croque Monsieur recipe from Daniel Boulud is a personal favorite.

Peanut Butter and Jelly

This is a combination that never gets old--the rich peanut butter topped with the sweet jam is always delicious. The ingredients for this dish have been around forever. Jellies and jams date back to the fifteenth century and peanut butter, in its current incarnation, was developed in the nineteenth century.

The first peanut butter sandwich recipe was published by Julia Denis Chandler in 1901, according to the Food Timeline. It was an overnight sensation with the upper class and by the time the Depression hit it was enjoyed by all classes.

The regular combination is always a good lunch box or after school option, but there are many other ways to reimagine this sandwich such as Rocco DiSpirito's PB&J cookies, and Rachael Ray's peanut butter and jelly French toast.

Sloppy Joe

This sandwich was always a top pick, maybe because it's so much fun to eat. Bits falling out the side and lots of flavor have made it a fast favorite with kids. According to the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink and the Food Timeline this dish dates back to about 1935 and "there is probably no Joe after whom it is named--but its rather messy appearance and tendency to drip off plate or roll makes "sloppy" an adequate description, and "Joe" is an "American name of proletarian character with unassailable genuineness."

This sandwich is still a top pick for family dinners, lunch and even a snack, depending on how hungry you are. Emeril's version is a quick and easy, but full on flavor, while Stephanie O'Dea's is slow-cooked. to perfection.

Chicken Sandwich

This sandwich is a lunchtime classic, just as popular with kids as it is with adults. Variations on this sandwich like the Wiener Schnitzel date back over a hundred years, but it's S. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-Fil-A, who gets credit for the American chicken sandwich. According to his company's website, in "1961 Truett invents the boneless breast of chicken sandwich, calling it a 'Chick-fil-A.'" He worked on the recipe over a four year period with techniques that he picked up from his mother's boarding house kitchen.

So you've had the Chic-Fil-A classic and you're looking for something a little different, give Jessica Seinfield's version a try or even Sandra Lee's healthy chicken sandwich combination.


Though some sources date the hamburger back to the time of the Mongols and Genghis Kahn, the true American version didn't emerge until much later. The first beef patties were eaten in the port of Hamburg, Germany in the 18th and 19th centuries. This dish was vastly different than the deluxe and savory burgers we know today, but they did mark the true beginning of this sandwich's evolution. The meat was salted and lightly smoked, then it was minced and mixed with onions and breadcrumbs. These sandwiches were filling and hearty, the perfect dish to eat while at port.

Over a hundred years later America took this idea and developed it into a sandwich between two pieces of bread. Starting in 1885 Charles Nagreen of Seymour, Wis., sold flattened meatballs between two pieces of bread at the local county fairs. While pushing around his cart he would sing "hamburgers, hamburgers, hamburger hot; onions in the middle, pickles on top. Makes your lips go flippity flop," according to what'

If you're looking for a burger recipe give Michael Symon's Fat Doug version a try.

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