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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sloppy Joes

Beef, it's for dinner:

When I was younger I remember there being something really special about sloppy joes. Maybe it was because we didn't eat them very often and so on occasions when we did have Mac 'n Cheese or a sloppy joe it meant there was something to celebrate. Ground beef and tomato sauce just doesn't cut it for me the way it used to these days. (I much prefer a steak with lime and avocado or that blessing of blessings, pot roast). Of course, this blog can't always be about me... Today, for the first time, I pay homage to a simple meat recipe in honor of students far and wide who want a quick, satisfying meal without the usual pomp and circumstance. Sure, you could get a sloppy joe at the nearest D-hall but why leave if you can enjoy the same humble, home-cooked meal at home?! Plus, for such simple ingredients you get a delicious, filling dinner fit for friends or visiting family.

This recipe is a variation on a dish I found in "Cook Healthy, Cook Quick"(1994). I cut down on the "catsup", Worcestershire and nixed the garlic powder totally, replacing it with fresh garlic. Of course, this dish is extremely versatile. Served on gently toasted buns it is the perfect sandwich. Use the minimal amount of ketchup, add a little taco seasoning, a few jalapenos and you can serve it on chips with some sharp cheddar cheese. Moreover, spoon it over a baked potato or, some sources suggest, toss it with spaghetti for a quick meat sauce.

Notes: Buying ground beef is simple. The meat should always be a bright red, never brown or gray. Be sure to check your fresh date before buying. In the left hand corner of the package you will see a percentage. I purchased 97/3 which means 97% of the beef is lean. Some fat is essential if you don't want crumbles that taste and feel like shoe leather. But, buying a lean meat means you don't have to drain the beef after cooking to remove excess fat and oil. Most packages run $3-5 a pound so it is an affordable, versatile addition to your grocery list. Similarly, ground turkey and chicken are also available to use in place of ground beef. The same rules apply: bright even color, good fresh date and a suitable fat percentage.

Makes 4-5
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
1/2 a green pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon spicy mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or apple cider or red wine vinegar)
8 ounce can tomato sauce, flavored sauce would work
1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

salt and pepper
hamburger buns or soft rolls, toasted

1. Chop the onion, green pepper and garlic. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl mix together the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire and lemon juice or vinegar and set aside.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion, pepper and garlic.
4. Crumble the ground beef into the pan using your fingers. Season with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Do not stir. Let the beef cook until it is 3/4 brown then stir, breaking the meat up into small crumbles. This allows the meat to caramelize, undisturbed. Continue cooking until thoroughly cooked and no longer pink.
5. Add the tomato sauce and brown sugar mixture, stirring to combine. Continue cooking 4-5 minutes or until the sauce is heated through and bubbly. If you like sloppier Joes add a little extra ketchup.
6. Remove from the heat and serve on toasted buns with a coins of dill pickle if you like. Refrigerate remaining mixture or freeze for up to three months.


  1. I added a 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano and spooned some left-over joe onto spaghetti noodles. No longer a skeptic, it was certainly edible. Could have used a few extra spoonfuls of tomato sauce, though.

  2. You know what would go well on this?