You know how you try to recreate a childhood favorite meal, and once you taste it as an adult, you discover it really isn’t that good? Or maybe it’s downright terrible? Yeah, that’s how this dish started.
Like many American children, I grew up eating sloppy joes on a regular basis. What kid doesn’t love something eaten with their hands that makes a complete mess?
Fast forward 15+ years and I pretty much forgot this meal even existed. I assumed it was one of those things I only enjoyed as a kid. Yet inspiration hit when I discussed this anomaly with some friends in college. I even attempted to make said dish for my roommates, once. Emphasis on once.
I channeled the feelings this invoked as a child, bought the trusty caned variety at our local Meijer, along with the staple sesame topped hamburger buns, and threw together what I thought to be a great home cooked meal. I was the first to admit the dish wasn’t palatable. Actually, it sucked. It was then I swore off the dish for good. Or, until I fell upon a completely new interpretation.
The kitchn was one of the first food blogs Garett and I followed religiously. I think we can all agree the team there always knocks it out of the park. If you aren’t familiar with this site (do you live under a rock?) take the time to visit them, like right now. Or right after you read this post at least.
It was here that we discovered the holy grail of sloppy joes. Complete with real ingredients, loads of veggies, and a from-scratch tangy sauce. After making this once, we were hooked.
Fast forward again to present day, and I suddenly found myself in a conundrum. I had recently gone Paleo and could no longer eat one of my trusty dishes. So I set out to modify the original, keeping the key flavors and ingredients in tact, in order to make this Paleo friendly. What resulted is again one of our staple dishes. How’s that for food evolution?
This is a healthy comfort meal and includes all of our favorite elements – a rich sauce with sour, sweet and savory notes. We often make this on a Sunday for a casual family meal at home, or dress it up for a dinner party with friends.
I know I know, how dare I suggest you put such a mundane meal in front of your friends. Yet, this is no out-of-a-can meal. You’ll be surprised at the response of your guests. Most will have some connection to the dish, and you’ll deliver a new grown up version they’re sure to remember. We bet several even request the recipe. #winning
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- 4 large sweet potatoes, washed
- Paleo cooking oil
- Kosher salt
- 2 pounds grass-fed ground beef
- 2 large yellow onions, diced
- 3 medium carrots, diced
- 4 celery stalks, diced
- 2 small green bell peppers, diced
- 2 (8) oz packages baby bella or white button mushroom (or one of each), cut into small chunks
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-2 tablespoons honey (optional)
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 (15) oz can unsalted tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ cup Paleo or all natural ketchup
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire (homemade or Paleo-friendly)
- 2 tablespoons fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- Sea salt
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- Pre heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Poke each potato several times with a fork to allow steam to escape. Rub oil all around each to form a light coating, and drizzle with kosher salt.
- Place on a foil lined sheet pan and transfer to hot oven.
- Bake for about one hour, flipping each potato halfway through to prevent over browning. Potatoes are done once tender and easily pierced with a fork.
- Heat a large high sided sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook until browned and no pink remains, staring occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in a heat proof bowl.
- If using grass-fed beef, keep rendered fat in pan to cook vegetables. If using conventional beef, discard fat and add 2 tablespoons Paleo cooking oil to the pan.
- Add onions, carrots, celery, and green pepper to pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are softened and onions are nearly clear, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.
- Add mushrooms to vegetable mix, toss to combine, and cook until also softened, another 6 minutes or so. Toss in minced garlic, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Return cooked beef to the pan, along with apple cider vinegar, honey (if using), tomato sauce, tomato paste, ketchup, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove cover, and simmer an additional 5-10 minutes until sauce reduces. Add more seasonings to taste. If the mix becomes too dry, add a dash of tomato sauce, Worcestershire and vinegar.
- Finish with chopped parsley. Serve over a split baked sweet potato or your favorite toasted bread.
**You can also save time by making make the dish more rustic. Chop the veggies instead of dicing, just keep in mind you may need to increase the cook time when sautéing.
Recipe adapted from the kitchen sloppy joes
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