Ok, even I admit that’s a bit of a stretch. But stick with me on this one, ok?
I’m talking in a strictly comfort food sense here. Sloppy Joes are superbly kid-friendly, come together quickly and can be left to simmer for a while as you tend to life, and it can feed a crowd for a no more than a smidge from your pocketbook. While I don’t recommend it as a healthy alternative in your menu rotation, once in a while- and with the right additions- it’s not a bad thing to offer your family. Or share with your friends.
But skip the Manwich, all right??
Admittedly, once in my culinary lifetime I did buy Manwich, and I did shamelessly eat Wendy’s chicken nuggets and had an almost insane addiction to Burger King french fries, but this…..it’s all in the past, thankfully. Back when my size 8’s hung on my once-scrawny hips, I could do those things. Not any more. But there was that childhood love of a good sloppy, messy bun filled with warm saucy meat, my grin from ear to ear as I mowed through it, a pile of crumpled and stained napkins by my plate.
In my quest to make this beloved childhood favorite without opening a can of suspicious looking sauce that held unpronounceable ingredients, I tweaked and tweaked this recipe until it was superb- a rich, tomato-y, slightly vinegared taste, combining the sweet touch of brown sugar and the sharp tang of worchestershire. Because it’s an amalgamation of flavors, the presence of vegetables does not turn off my little carnivore, and surprisingly, it even made Mike’s eyes light up. For a chilly winter night, it worked magic. And I knew what everything was that went in it.
The secret is to add lots of vegetables, and my hidden ingredient- bulgar. Bulgar is the oldest recorded form of wheat use, and is made by soaking and cooking the whole wheat kernel, drying it and then removing part of the bran and cracking the remaining kernel into small pieces. It is considered a nutritious extender and can be used to thicken soups and meat dishes.
I like the idea of incorporating whole grains into the foods we already eat. The bulgar hides well in this recipe, and the chewy grains are easily mistaken for the vegetables that are present. You don’t taste it at all. It gets added straight into the mix and cooks during the simmer. Comfort food with a healthy twist. Ahhhh…..deeee-light-ful!
Super Sloppy Joes
1 package ground turkey (it’s a 20-oz unit in our area)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery ribs with leaves, chopped
1 green pepper chopped
1/4 c. quick cooking bulgar
1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup ketchup
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp steak sauce
½ tsp garlic salt
¼ tsp ground mustard
¼ tsp paprika
8-10 whole grain or wheat hamburger buns, split
In a Dutch oven over medium heat cook meat, onion, celery and green pepper until the meat is no longer pink and the vegetables are tender; drain. Add the next ten ingredients; mix well. Simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon ½ cup meat mixture onto each bun. (yield: 8-10).
If the end mixture still has an excess of liquid, add a few tablespoons of tomato paste to bring it all together. If you’re like me and don’t buy the ultra-convenient but expensive tubes of tomato paste that would make this step a cinch, take the remainder in the can and freeze it in tablespoon increments. They keep very nicely in a baggie for a long time.
If you truly prefer the taste of ground beef for Sloppy Joes, by all means use it. I would just recommend the leanest type available . Sub in a red pepper for the green too if that’s your preference. I’ve made this also with shredded carrot and zucchini in it too, and the result was still wonderful. And no, Griffin didn’t notice.