I'm coming up on my 20th year of vegetarianism, and during that time, it has become a lot easier to live meat-free, with restaurants from fast-food joints to high-end eateries offering more veg-based fare. Part of the reason is that many people are eating less meat than ever before, even if they aren't quite vegetarian. Meatless Mondays, or being a Weekend Carnivore (eating vegetarian during the workweek) are some of the ways people are cutting back.


Whether you are a part-time or full-time veggie, vegetable sandwiches are an emerging art form. I eat a veggie sandwich four to five days a week for either lunch or dinner, and here's what I've learned.


Start with great bread: Of course this goes for any sandwich. A fresh loaf of French bread is always a great base, but if you want some fiber or protein, look for sprouted grains, stone-ground whole wheat, and add-ins like sunflower seeds, poppy seeds or sesame seeds. Always opt for organic if you have the option. I recently went gluten-free, so I'm exploring and enjoying wheat-free breads like Udi's.


Add a spread — or two: I like organic mayo and mustard on one side of the bread, and a thick layer of hummus on the other as a tasty base for my veggie sandwiches. Salad dressings (I like Annie's Goddess dressing and 'creamed' balsamic vinegar versions for sandwiches, but anything thicker will work). Baba ghanoug, a Middle-eastern eggplant spread, bean dips/spreads, or anything that makes a good dip or a spread can work here.


Pile on the veggies: I like a combination of tangy jarred selections, like artichokes, olives, pickles, brined mushrooms and sweet and hot peppers mixed with fresh veggies. Crisp cucumber, ripe tomato, sprouts, shredded carrots, thin-sliced zucchini, various kinds of lettuces, and fresh sweet peppers. Cooked veggies from last night's dinner, like asparagus or spinach (just be sure they're not dripping water or they'll get your sandwich soggy) can really add flavor, too. 


Try meat-free deli slices: If you're transitioning from sandwiches piled high with cold cuts, or just want something a little different, check out Yves meat-free slices (they come in bologna and turkey varieties, and they are super tasty). Another flavorful cold cut sub are those made by Field Roast, in flavors like lentil sage, smoked tomato and mushroom.


Experiment with cheese: There are vegan cheeses that taste great with other veggies and flavors, or use cheeses you don't normally think of going on a sandwich, like Brie, feta, or even cream cheese. Think of how foods are paired elsewhere (like apples and cheddar, pear and goat cheese, or peppers and Monterey jack) and try the same thing on your sammie. 


Consider an egg: In France and Spain, it's very common to find veggie sandwiches layered with slices of hard-boiled eggs, but they are pretty uncommon in the U.S. If you keep hardboiled eggs around, you can use them for something other than (often quite fatty) egg salad. Just simply slice them and add them at the bottom layer of your sandwich, and you'll get a protein boost and that great eggy flavor.


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