beef and lentil sloppy joes

First off, I’m going to apologize for posting two sandwich recipes in a row.  Generally, I like a little more variety in my rotation than that.  But these just…happened.  And they were too good not to share.

Second, this recipe sort of just happened after a conversation with the husband about buns, and how bad buns can spoil the whole….sandwich experience.  (You see now why my mom always liked to call them rolls).  Anyway, in a rush through Target a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a package of their Market Pantry brand hamburg buns.  Wow!  What a huge mistake.  If ever there were Worst Buns Ever competition, that’d be the winning bun!  They were flimsy, flavorless, flaccid, and forgettable.  Not that the bun (roll – sorry, Mom) needs to knock your socks off.  But to hold up to sandwich fixin’s with any sort of juicy, gravy, or sauce, well…flimsy, flavorless and flaccid won’t cut it.

Not that this post is about buns.  Ahem…rolls.  Just saying, if you make these, select a better quality bun.  Oh, and a skim coat of butter and a little time under the broiler doesn’t hurt, either.

So, on to the real reason for this recipe:  it just sounded good.  My husband had his cholesterol checked a while back and, despite my predominantly healthy cooking choices, it was still elevated.  With exercise and supplements, he’s been able to get it in to a healthier range, but it made me ever more mindful of how food choices (especially if you’re pre-disposed to high cholesterol) are so very important.

What attracted me to this recipe in the first place was the lentils.  They’re a super source of protein, inexpensive to purchase, easy to cook, and provide a whole host of health benefits.  You can read more about lentils here at Whole Living and Alive, but if you’re not including more lentils in your diet, you really should give them a try.  Adding them to Sloppy Joes is just an act of pure genius!  The original recipe actually used lentils as a replacement for the beef, but I followed the adapted recipe, then made a minor change of my own to adjust the seasoning for my sometimes picky eater.   After having tried them (they were delicious), I think completely replacing the beef with lentils would be a perfectly acceptable way to go for a truly meatless dish.

As you can see, my little Sous Chef was helping me cook dinner that evening.  We only had one minor disaster!!  Yikes!  Thankfully, the tomato sauce was right out of the can and wasn’t hot when it sloshed over the edge of the pan.  We decided that one might have gotten us downgraded on Worst Cooks in America!!  The end product, though, was really good.  Lots of flavor, even without the chili powder, and great texture.  Next time I might actually try them without the beef.  Enjoy!

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Beef and Lentil Sloppy Joes (recipe adapted from One Ordinary Day)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked green lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • ½ lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder (I left this out completely, but 3 Tbsp is just way too much chili powder: adjust according to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 c tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • burger buns or sandwich rolls

Directions:

  • Place lentils in a sauce pot with the 4 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and and simmer for 20 minutes or until lentils are soft.  Drain and set aside.
  • When the lentils are about halfway cooked, heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Saute ground beef until crumbled but not fully cooked through.  Add the onion and saute until beef is no longer pink. Add garlic and saute about one minute.  Add the cooked lentils, oregano, and salt and mix.
  • Add tomato sauce and tomato paste and combine…gently.  Cook for about 10 minutes and then add brown sugar and mustard.  Stir until well blended.
  • Reduce heat to lowest setting and let the favors come together for about 10 minutes.
  • Serve on broiled or grilled buttered rolls.

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Cook’s Notes:  Easily adaptable to a completely vegetarian meal.  I think these would be just as delicious with only lentils and no beef.

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slow-cooker pulled beef and beer sliders

The Super Bowl!  Ahhhh, yes.  There’s only one reason I agree to attend gatherings centered around professional sports and that’s the food.  I can only stomach the antics and machismo of a bunch of overpaid prima donnas if my own stomach is full of good grub.  Oh, and if there’s beer!  Because what you’ll need to pair with this recipe is not wine (sorry, my dear Carolyn), it’s beer.  We paired it with Bell’s Amber (a craft brew from my native Michigan) and the combo was delicious.

Serving the beef as a “slider” sandwich is perfect for a party where there’s going to be a lot of other food, too.  Our friends had laid out a nacho/taco bar and pork carnitas, so we added the sliders with toppings of cole slaw, pickles, peperoncinis, and some sharp Vermont cheddar cheese.  The meat was incredibly tender and flavorful, and the mini sandwiches were a hit with the kids, too.  This recipe is definitely a keeper – lots of flavor with pretty minimal work, and would be yummy any time of year when you’re feeding a crowd.  Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Pulled Beef and Beer Sliders
(recipe courtesy Jersey Girl Cooks)
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 Ingredients:
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 lb beef roast (chuck, bottom round or shoulder roast works)
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 12 ounces beer
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays Sweet & Tangy)
  • 12 to 16 mini slider rolls or potato rolls
  • optional: serve with extra BBQ sauce, cheese, pickles, peperoncinis or crispy onions
Directions:
  1. Place the chopped onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. Season roast with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then place roast in the slow cooker.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the beer and BBQ sauce. Pour over the roast.
  4. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
  5. When meat is cooked, shred and serve on slider rolls with any of the suggested extras…or, anything else you prefer.

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***Cook’s Notes:  I used a round roast which cooked up beautifully in about 10 hours.  I strained the juice and saved it for re-heating leftovers.  Next time I might tinker with the quantities of beer and BBQ sauce called for during cooking.  I would have liked a little more BBQ flavor, but the meat was still delicious when prepared per the recipe.

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slow cooker shredded beef sandwiches

The other day I was flipping through a stack of recipes, lamenting the heat and begrudging having to cook dinner for the next string of 110+ degree days.  It was also one of those days I was particularly missing my mom – grief is such a long, strange process.  About a third of the way through the pile of recipe cards, this one fell out and fluttered to the floor.  My mom had handwritten it for me when she visited the last time before she died.  It was a staple in her repertoire when I was growing up.  I took it as something of a sign:  Mom’s recipe, no slaving over a hot oven required.  Thanks, Mom.  I needed that.

These sandwiches are perfect no matter what the weather.  They’re savory and comforting in the cold, and easy-peasy in the heat.  They’re also great for a pot-luck when you’re feeding a crowd.  Best ever cole slaw recipe to follow.  Enjoy!

Shredded Beef Sandwiches 

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs beef chuck pot roast, trimmed
  • 1/3 c vinegar
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

Trim fat from roast and place in 3 to 4 quart slow cooker.  Combine vinegar, onion, bay leaves, salt, cloves, and garlic powder; pour over meat.  Cover and cook on low heat for 11 to 12 hours or until meat is very tender.  Remove meat and use forks to shred, discarding any bones or fat.  If desired line hearty rolls with spinach or lettuce leaf of your choice, or top with cole slaw.  Strain meat juices, skim fat.  Serve juices with sandwiches for dipping.  Serves 8 to 10.

beer-braised brisket

Sunday after church, if all goes as planned, and if the moon is in the Seventh House, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, I do a menu plan for the week.  In other words, sometimes I don’t do a menu plan for the week.  But, I try.  Planning meals for the week makes life so much easier:  greatly reduced amount of time spent staring into the fridge wondering what to serve, and greatly reduced stress levels during one of the more frustrating parts of the daily grind; the two hours between getting home from school (snack, homework, etc), and actually getting dinner on the table.

When I have it all planned out, I can get a lot of the prep work done ahead, not stress over which veggie to serve, and (added bonus), I actually cook less – can you give me a woot woot for leftovers, and I have a lot less organic food waste.

This week was one of those great weeks when all the necessary interplanetary alignment occurred without interruption and I was able to sit down for a while with my old-fashioned recipe box, my computer, and the latest issue of Cooking Light.

This recipe is so simple and there’s very little to do once the brisket is browned and in the oven.  With that said, though, it’s not a slow-cooker recipe, so you can’t walk off and leave it cooking unattended, either.  There are a total of three turns of the meat, and the veggies go in during the last hour.  Serve immediately over the carb of  your choice.  I plated it with wide egg noodles for a very hearty, seasonal autumn dinner.  Enjoy!

Kitchen Notes:  My brisket was just over two pounds as compared to a slightly larger brisket used in the original recipe.  Even reducing the baking time accordingly, my brisket was so tender it practically shredded when I sliced it.  This is quite a departure from the photo in the magazine which clearly shows a very neatly, evenly sliced piece of beef.  Although the meat was delicious, if I’d been looking for a perfect and pretty slice of cooked meat, I’d have been disappointed.  On the other hand, the leftover meat made for a really nice improvised pulled beef sandwich.  Adjust your baking time accordingly.  Also, the gravy is very intensely flavorful.  Use it!

Beer-Braised Brisket

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 1/2 pounds flat-cut beef brisket, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups pale ale
  • 4 cups lower-sodium beef broth
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 6 carrots, cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 6 celery stalks, cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium onions, each cut into 12 wedges
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup water
Preparation:
  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl; stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Rub spice mixture evenly over both sides of brisket. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add brisket; sauté 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove brisket from pan. Add beer; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add broth and garlic; return to a boil. Return brisket to pan. Cover and cook at 325° for 2 hours. Turn brisket over; cook an additional 2 hours. Turn brisket over. Add carrot, celery, and onion; cook an additional 1 hour or until brisket is very tender.
  3. Remove brisket and vegetables from pan using a slotted spoon. Skim fat from cooking liquid; discard fat. Bring cooking liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Place flour in a small bowl; stir in 1/2 cup water. Add flour mixture to pan, stirring until smooth; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Serve the sauce with beef and vegetables.