Plan for Health On-the-Go: Layered ‘n’ Pressed Picnic Sandwich Recipe

Spring and summer are all about moving and enjoying the great outdoors! So as we celebrate and honor the men and women of our armed forces during National Military Appreciation Month this May, here are tips to help you feel your best while being active.

Get a game plan

What you put into your body – food fuel – makes a difference. It affects how you feel and function during the day. And while “clean eating” and “detox diets” are trendy, think healthy-ish and begin by trying to simply add more fruit, vegetables and whole grains to your diet. Here’s how to start:

  • Menu Making – first write down favorite recipes and foods you and your family love, considering when to insert more whole grains; sprinkle in a few new recipe ideas that aren’t overwhelmingly complicated – search online for “no cook meals recipes” and think about portable meals for eating outside, such as salad in a jar (all the rage) and layered, pressed picnic sandwiches … there just happens to be a recipe below!
  • Shop Ahead – the key to eating healthy-ish meals and snacks is taking the time to shop from a thoughtful list; start with your menus and add fresh fruit and whole grain snacks, lower-fat dairy favorites and in-season produce; keep frozen and canned fruits and vegetables on hand for when you don’t have time to shop or for when produce is not in season.

Dining “Out”side

If you plan meals and shop ahead, it’s easy to pack food for a road trip or simple picnic. Think about a bike ride or hike to where you’re dining; food seems to taste better when you’ve been active and truly have worked up an appetite. Consider keeping a cooler in your car all of the time, making it simple to keep food and beverages cold. Also, remember to keep properly hydrated, especially in warmer weather. Check out this article on Good Ol’ Summertime Hydration.

A favorite grab-and-go meal for my family – and for serving guests – is this Layered ‘n’ Pressed Picnic Sandwich. I purchase all of the ingredients at either Costco or the grocery store, making my own olive tapenade, hummus and pesto (when I have fresh basil growing). Feel free to purchase these spreads – made with healthy olives, olive oil – for ease, however. And though I love to bake bread, I often purchase the part-whole-grain, chewy Italian loaf that sandwiches together the fabulous array of vegetables, cheese and meat. Plan to make this either in the morning for dinner or the day before serving so all of the flavors have time to meld together. Pack a fresh fruit salad or watermelon and a thermos of cold-brew coffee to go with it. Finally, if you’re thinking of substituting a sub sandwich that can be picked up on many major street corners around the country, don’t. This is a treat worth making!     

Layered ‘n’ Pressed Picnic Sandwich

1 large loaf (2 lb) multigrain Italian, ciabatta or other favorite sturdy, chewy bread

½ cup olive tapenade, made ahead or purchased

3 whole roasted red bell peppers, seeded and quartered

1 cup (4 oz) shredded smoked Gouda or crumbled goat or Boursin cheese

1 cup marinated, sliced artichoke hearts

2 ounces prosciutto or hard salami, thinly sliced

6 ounces roasted turkey, chicken or favorite deli meat, thinly sliced

1/3 cup red pepper or traditional hummus, made ahead or purchased

1 1/2 packed cups baby kale or spinach

¼ cup pesto, made ahead or purchased

Horizontally slice bread in half, creating a large top and bottom. Evenly spread tapenade on bread bottom; evenly top with red peppers, cheese, artichoke hearts, prosciutto, turkey, hummus and kale. Evenly spread pesto on bread top; place on top of kale.

Tightly, completely wrap sandwich with layers of plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator; top with a baking sheet and then a heavy skillet, pot or canned goods. Let chill about 4 hours or overnight. Unwrap to slice and serve.

Makes 1 large sandwich (about 8 servings)


  • Think of the layers and ingredient amounts listed in this recipe as a template. Liberally change them to suit your preferences.
  • Definitely use hearty, chewy bread to absorb the filling juices without falling apart. The loaf shape – round boules are great – and size do not matter; adjust the filling amount to fit the loaf size.
  • After slicing the bread, you may remove part of the middle crumb to create more space for filling ingredients. (I prefer to leave most of the bread intact, however.)
  • Roast your own or purchase roasted red bell peppers. 
  • For a vegetarian sandwich, replace chicken and prosciutto with grilled or roasted planks of zucchini, eggplant, yellow squash or other favorite vegetable.
  • This sandwich feeds a crowd. Or leftovers keep for several days; simply re-wrap and refrigerate … the flavors will continue to marry and the hearty bread will beautifully hold it all together.


Beth Witherspoon, MPH, RDN, has a passion for communicating culinary and nutrition information. She is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who consults with Community Coffee Company to help communicate the flavor and health benefits of coffee.