"Hocus Pocus is undeniably a cultural phenomenon and an iconic symbol of Halloween," Mathews tells Yahoo Life. "Plus Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker? Umm, hello — Halloween dreams do come true."
But while Hocus Pocus and the upcoming long-awaited sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, may inspire viewing parties filled with spooky treats, the franchise inspired something different for Mathews — a healthy sandwich.
"It's almost fall, which is my favorite time of the year," says Mathews. "And with that, some of my favorite foods are back in season. I always aim to eat as healthfully as I can while not feeling like I'm giving up the things I love."
That's where this "Rossipe" — the name Mathews gives to the recipes he shares on social media — comes into play. He says the changing season and the upcoming Hocus Pocus sequel were a recipe for a great idea. "I loved the idea of creating a delicious and healthy 'sand-witch,'" he says. "Funny enough, sandwiches aren't usually my first choice, but the ones I do enjoy are beautifully layered, bread-y and textured."
Mathews, who created the recipe as part of his partnership with WW (Weight Watchers) says what's great about the recipe is most ingredients are items people already have handy in their fridge or pantry, something that makes building the sand-witch easy. "What is truly special about this Rossipe is that every ingredient has a role and packs a punch," says Matthews.
The "Sand Witch" recipe calls for chicken breast as the main protein. Leftovers from last night's roast chicken are just fine. But don't feel married to the chicken: If you don't have any handy, it's OK to switch things up. "You can use whatever you have in your fridge," says Mathews. "Maybe that's leftover chicken breast or deli turkey."
Mathews prefers to serve the sandwich open-faced. "You can really pile the ingredients high and enjoy seeing the variety of textures," he says, "from the juicy and sweet red tomatoes and spicy hot cherry peppers all the way up to the roasted pumpkin seeds."
After checking out the ingredients for Mathews' Sand Witch, I couldn't resist attempting to make it myself at home. The ingredients are, as promised, super-basic and involve items I already had in the fridge. I used leftover chicken breast from the previous night's dinner (sliced into smaller pieces) and a beautiful sprouted rye bread that was already in my freezer.
I started by lightly toasting the bread in my air fryer — the recipe calls for a broiler, but my tiny NYC studio apartment oven doesn't have one. Thankfully, my air fryer has a broil function that worked perfectly. After the bread was toasted, I slathered on some Dijon mustard, followed by the chicken, sliced red onion and pickled jalapeños. Next came some cheese before putting the sandwich back into the air fryer to let that cheese melt. Though Mathews' recipe calls for provolone cheese, it's OK to use your favorite variety: mozzarella or pepper jack would also be lovely.
Next, I tossed some mixed greens in lemon juice and added those — along with some roasted pumpkin seeds — to the sandwich. I enjoyed it open-faced like Mathews recommends, and discovered just one piece of bread was very filling, so I packed the other away to enjoy the following day.
What's interesting about this sandwich is that each ingredient plays an important part — the mustard adds tang while the peppers add spice and the onions add that necessary bite. The addition of the pumpkin seeds offer crunch and texture, too. It's a sandwich that's just fun to eat. Maybe that's the Hocus Pocus tie-in ... it's magic. It made me excited about eating something that was actually pretty good for me.
Mathews says it's all about the details that go into making the sandwich.
"One thing I always love is a nice little garnish," he says. "It makes the dish go from, 'I made this in my kitchen,' to, 'I ordered this at a fancy restaurant.'"
"For this Rossipe, a healthy and light garnish like seasoned microgreens (or any greens you have in your fridge) and avocado (which is one of my ZeroPoint foods on WW) will brighten up the plate," Matthews adds. And don't be afraid to treat yourself: "The hot peppers also pair perfectly with a glass of wine or mocktail," he says.
"When I do sit down to enjoy a sandwich, it's one of these take-your-breath away delicious beauties that really satisfies multiple tastebuds," Mathews continues. "It's cheesy, spicy, juicy and sweet all at the same time, and it makes use of a lot of ingredients you might already have stocked in your fridge or pantry."
But a sandwich like this is one you can very much make your own, omitting or adding things that sound spellbinding to you. "Maybe you love the spice from a hot pepper, maybe you don't — that's OK," says Mathews. "One of many things I love about this sandwich is the added kick. When I moved to the East Coast, I started to find hot cherry peppers in Italian food and I love to find any reason to use them — they have a sharp heat that also rounds out the sweetness in the sandwich."
And, yes, having a big and hearty sandwich fits just perfectly into Mathews' healthy eating plan. "What I love about WW is that nothing is off limits and it is designed to fit my life," he explains. "Just because you're getting healthy, it doesn't mean you need to deprive yourself of what you want."
I'm a big fan of finding ways to repurpose leftovers and found Mathews' sandwich to be a perfect vehicle for leftover chicken or those last few slices of onion. I love the idea of customizing it for whatever I have around the kitchen, too. I may pull this Rossipe out at Thanksgiving, creating a version using leftover turkey and shaved Brussels sprouts: The possibilities are pretty endless.
Want to try Mathews' Sand Witch at home? He shared the recipe with Yahoo Life.
Courtesy of Ross Mathews and WW
Looking for a tasty use for leftover cooked chicken breast? Thinly slice it and layer it in this sweet, hot, cheesy open-faced sandwich.
Olive oil cooking spray, 2 sprays
Sprouted grain bread, 1 slice
Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon
Cooked skinless boneless chicken breast, 2 ounces, thinly sliced
Uncooked red onion, 3 thin slices
Pickled jalapeño peppers or sweet-hot peppers, 2 tablespoons, chopped
Provolone cheese, ¾ ounce
Green pumpkin seeds (pepitas), ¼ cup
Table salt, 1 pinch
Black pepper, 1 pinch
Chili powder, 1 pinch
Mixed greens or microgreens, ½ cup
Lemon, 1 wedge
Preheat the broiler.
Lightly toast the bread and then place it on a baking sheet. Spread the mustard over the bread. Layer the bread with the chicken, onion and hot peppers, then top with the cheese.
Place the pumpkin seeds in a small oven-safe dish and lightly coat with cooking spray. Season the pumpkin seeds with the salt, black pepper and chili powder to taste.
Place both the sandwich and the pumpkin seeds in the oven and broil until the cheese bubbles and browns and the seeds are toasted, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss the greens with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt.
Remove the sandwich and the pumpkin seeds from the oven. Allow to cool for 1 to 2 minutes and then sprinkle the pumpkin seeds over the sandwich. Top with the greens and enjoy.
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