Cuban-style sandwich

What you need:

Bread, any type


Swiss cheese



Sriracha sauce

Spicy mustard

Directions: Stack the ingredients on your bread and grill, toasting the bread and melting the cheese.

Source: Taylor Stephan, co-author of "College Cooks"

Lunch often takes a backseat to bigger priorities like school and work.

Most days leave only a few minutes for University of Colorado students and alumni to devour their food before returning to classes or work -- so sandwiches have become a common go-to meal.

Cheap ingredients and short prep time make sandwiches an ideal snack, but the traditional ham and cheese can get old after a few weeks.

Recent CU graduate Taylor Stephan said that after more than four years of college, he's learned that nothing is off limits when it comes to experimenting with his lunch routine.

"It's important to keep changing it up, even if you have limited time," Stephan said. "Look in your fridge and try different variations of the same thing."

After years of creating different combinations, the grad and co-author of the student-friendly cookbook "College Cooks" has some tips to share with students feeling stuck in routine.

Bread, meat, cheeses and condiments can all be changed to create a nearly unlimited variety of sandwich combinations.


Using leftovers from his roommates' cooking experiments transformed Stephan's boring sandwiches to tasty meals. Chicken, beef and turkey gave Stephan an alternative to the traditional sliced sandwich meat.

Stephan and his roommates started buying different cheeses and spreads and even made their own aioli sauce -- mayonnaise, garlic, spicy mustard, lemon juice, lime juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.

"It's a great alternative to just regular mustard or mayo," Stephan said.

Buying fancy bread was often more money than the student budget would allow, so Stephan started experimenting with grilling and toasting bread -- and even using tortillas to give his sandwich a new twist.

Stephan's pastrami and cheese quesadilla, topped with homemade aioli sauce was one of Stephan's favorite combinations over his college years.

However, for Genevieve Dabrowski, CU student and co-president of CU's Vegan Justice League, meats aren't an option, making it difficult to spice up her lunch combinations.

Dabrowski said she relies mostly on veggies to add variety to her sandwiches.

"I usually stick with classic PB and J, or peanut butter and banana, but when I get bored with that I also like humus on pita bread with veggies," she said. "I also like the combination of avocado and red peppers -- either on a sandwich or in a wrap."

Sans bread, Dabrowski said many of her veggie sandwiches make great salads and require one less ingredient to carry around campus all day.

While veggies can play a big role in changing up a sandwich, Stephan said they also make a delicious side to replace the typical chip and sandwich combo. Fruit, string cheese, yogurt and granola bars are also great alternatives that are easy to carry in a backpack if students don't have time to head home for a quick meal, he said.

Stephan said not all of the combinations he tried over the years were award winning, but he never got bored with the endless options.

"We used whatever we saw in the fridge," Stephan said. "For us, we did it so we knew what goes well together and what to tweak next time."

- Follow Whitney Bryen on Twitter: @SoonerReporter.