One of my favorite food blogger friends, Phoebe Lapine, of the fantastic blog Feed Me Phoebe, had a genius idea. She recently moved and came to the conclusion that she is a pantry hoarder. Um, guilty over here, too! Phoebe then suggested to some other food blogger friends/pantry hoarders that we gather together for a virtual “Pantry Purge.” I love this idea. Nothing says a fresh start like cleaning out your pantry.
Last summer, my son came home after two weeks at sleep-away camp and couldn’t wait to tell me about an amazing food that I obviously had never heard of or eaten. He assumed this because if I had ever enjoyed such culinary perfection, I would have surely been delighting my family with it over and over again. “Mom, you’re not going to believe this thing I ate at camp! I tried to remember everything about it so that you can make it at home! It’s called…a sloppy joe!” Should I have admitted I grew up in the 70’s and saw more than my share of Manwich commercials? And that I have actually personally never eaten a sloppy joe in my life? Because really the thought of sweet beef chili on a hamburger bun never spoke to me.
But it spoke to Mr. Picky! And when Mr. Picky likes something, I mobilize into action! A classic sloppy joe is a sandwich (specifically on a hamburger bun) with a loose, seasoned ground beef and tomato filling. It’s called “sloppy” because it’s kind of a mess to eat. I came up with this version of a sloppy joe using ground turkey instead of beef and stretching the protein with some pinto beans, which I know is not traditional, but I couldn’t help myself. And since Mr. Picky loves beans, I figured it was safe. I also deviated a little from regular sloppy joes by cutting way down on the added sweeteners and by not using ketchup as my base. I think I came up with a very tasty and nutritious dish whether you can call it a sloppy joe or not! All I care about is that Mr. Picky goes crazy for it and always begs me to put it in a thermos the next day for his lunch.
I do toast up some hamburger buns for my hubby and the kids, but I like to eat the sloppy joe mixture on top of some cooked grains, like brown rice or quinoa. That’s how I can still make one meal but adapt it to appeal to everyone. Usually I’ll serve a green salad or cole slaw on the side and I’m done. You can adapt this recipe is by subbing 1 pound of crumbled tempeh for the ground turkey and you’ll have a great (even better I think) vegetarian option. Feel free to sub sweet bell peppers for the green or add a grated carrot into the mixture or double the meat and omit the beans if you want.
It’s a really easy dinner, and it reheats beautifully if you want to make it in the morning or the day before. It actually freezes well, too. Something I did recently was to make the sloppy joe mixture after school, transfer it to my slow cooker and keep it on the warm setting until we all came home for “one of the best dinners ever in my life, Mommy.” Winner!
1 ½ cups cooked pinto beans or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed (click here to learn how to cook beans from scratch)
1 18-ounce jar crushed tomatoes or tomato puree (I like Jovial organic tomatoes in glass jars.)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (look for vegan or gluten-free versions if you need)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
accompaniments: toasted hamburger buns or cooked grains such as brown rice, millet or quinoa
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add turkey and brown, breaking up the meat into small crumbles until just cooked through. Drain and reserve in a separate bowl.
In the same skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions, pepper and garlic until onion is tender and translucent.
Add turkey back to the skillet and add remaining ingredients. Stir to combine and simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.
You can also make a vegetarian version by subbing 1 pound of crumbled tempeh for the turkey and using a vegan worcestershire sauce. Just saute the tempeh where you would saute the meat in Step 1. Tempeh is not as moist as meat though, so you may need to add a few tablespoons of water or vegetable stock with the tomatoes. My family likes the sloppy joes on toasted hamburger buns with sliced dill pickles.
You can also make this more spicy with a little cayenne or hot sauce.
Very often I have an idea for a recipe and it takes me a few times to get it right. In fact, usually it takes me more than a few times! But once in a blue moon, I try something on the fly and I love it on the spot, like culinary love at first bite. That’s what happened with this salad. Last year I was putting together a Mexican-inspired menu for my April classes and I was trying to think of a fresh and easy salad to teach. I wanted something clean and healthful with all the ingredients I love to use when I make Mexican food, but without it tasting like a taco salad. I happen to adore chopped salads, so off I went with crisp romaine lettuce, red cabbage, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, pinto beans, avocado and my favorite part, toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds.) I made a very light dressing with apple cider vinegar, orange juice and enough cumin to give it that south-of-the-border flavor.
On that day of recipe testing at home last year, I nearly ate the entire salad. Whereas this salad may not win any awards for sophistication, what in the world is not to love? Not only does this salad look gorgeous, it is addictive and crunchy and juicy and creamy. You know how I love a crunchy-creamy combo. Since then, I have made this salad virtually every time we were invited to a pot luck or backyard barbeque. The beauty of this salad, besides being a giant bowl of antioxidants, vitamins and fiber, is that it can prepped almost entirely in advance. Chopped veggies go into a serving bowl with dressing in a jar and avocados to be cut just before serving. If you’re vegan, vegetarian or if you’re like me and you’re going to a party where you fear there might be non-organic meat, I think this can easily be a main course salad on it’s own. The pinto beans and pumpkin seeds offer more than enough protein. Although my husband is a bit of a carnivore and loves this salad with grilled chicken chopped in. Shrimp works great, too.
Fast forward a year later when I taught this salad again a few days ago. My assistant and I each grabbed a bit in a cup to go and crunched our way home, wishing we had had bigger cups. I know you’ll love this salad just as much as I do.
If you’re looking for more Cinco de Mayo inspiration, check out these favorites:
3 Tablespoons raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
1 ¼ teaspoons fine grain sea salt + additional to taste
a few grinds of black pepper
1 Tablespoon raw honey
½ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
1 head butter or romaine lettuce, chopped, about 8 cups
2 cups chopped red cabbage
1½ cups or 1 15-ounce can cooked pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups diced cucumbers (I like Persian), unpeeled, large seeds scooped out
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
3 small avocados or 2 large, pitted, peeled and cubed
½ cup pepitas – toasted in a dry skillet and drizzled with ½ teaspoon olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt
Make the dressing: whisk first five ingredients in a small bowl. Add olive oil and whisk completely until emulsified. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Combine lettuce and cabbage in a large bowl. Add pinto beans, cucumber and cherry tomatoes. Toss with enough dressing to coat lightly. Drizzle a little dressing on avocados and gently mix into the salad. Sprinkle pepitas on top. If you have additional dressing, save in the refrigerator for another time.
There's enough dressing that you can probably add a bit more cabbage or other veggies.
If you cut back on the oil by about 2-3 Tablespoons, the dressing makes a great marinade for grilled chicken or shrimp. Both would be nice on top of the salad, although there is adequate protein from the beans and pepitas.