(Very) Sloppy Joes

This weekend is a total bust for cooking. I’m bummed out because we’ve been doing so well. But when loading the dishwasher after cooking last night we discovered water leaking out from under the sink. We also found out that water from the faucet leaks right out of the garbage disposal. So our sink is out of commission until Monday when our landlady has a plumber coming out. I really don’t want to generate dirty anything until it’s fixed. But hopefully we’ll be back on track on Monday.

But on the plus side, we were otherwise good at cooking meals from scratch last week. We moved away from the slow-cooker this time around and did a couple of different sandwiches. It actually ended up being pretty sandwich heavy which was mostly due to poor planning.

The first meal we did was Sloppy Joes. Now I’m not sure what inspired me to suggest this to Mike as a meal option. It’s not like it’s ever been a favorite meal of mine. I’ll eat it without complaint, It’s just not a meal I’m generally excited about. But when I saw it on a food blog, I tossed it into PepperPlate and eventually decided to try it out. Maybe it just felt like one of those meals one should know how to do.

sloppyjoesveggiesI quickly realized that I had no idea what went into sloppy joes because I was surprised by the ingredients list. There were a lot more veggies than I had realized was in that brown substance. Look at all the minced onion, red bell pepper, jalapeno, and garlic.

I asked Mike to brown the onion and lean ground beef. And that’s the moment we looked at each other in horror. We hadn’t actually picked up beef at the store….so Mike made one of our frozen skillet meals instead.

Skip ahead to the next night. I had successfully purchased the beef on my way home from work Time for our second attempt!

sloppyjThe night before I wrapped the veggies up in the fridge, so the meal was almost ready to go. I cooked the meat and onions and then tossed my chopped veggies on top. After that had cooked for 5 minutes or so we added the tomato products and let it continue to cook for another five minutes.

It tasted like sloppy joes. It’s a meal I honestly still don’t understand. It was okay and I did take satisfaction in knowing it was a meal we had made, but I’ still not sure I understand what people love about these sandwiches! That being said, we got 3 meals (6 servings) out of this and I was still content eating it by day three. I think Mike enjoyed these more than I did, so it will likely be a repeat recipe.

We ate these using half of a hamburger bun rather than trying to eat it like a proper sandwich. Sloppy Joes have the name for a reason, after all. It was easier to eat with a fork and it reduced some of the extra empty calories from the bread.


Contrary to the picture, we only used one side of the bun which I recommend.

I do have a confession to make. After I had to stop a second night and pick up the beef, I was feeling grumpy and frustrated. So I decided to say screw it and picked up a bag of frozen fries at the same time. We haven’t had these in years but it sounded nice and simple to go with the sloppy joes. It wasn’t a healthy choice, and I could have picked up sweet potatoes and made something healthier to go with it. But I was grumpy and annoyed and I don’t regret the choice at all.

Because those frozen fries were just good.

If you, like Mike, are a fan of sloppy joes, check out the recipe from Food Network

Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

Last week was a bit crazy for me! I wanted to post about this earlier but never quite got around to it. I’ve recently acquired a love for buffalo chicken. Mostly thanks to Red Robin’s Buzz Clucks & Mac andbuffalochicken Cheese. That meal, however, is horrendously bad for you, even on the eating out scale. So it’s something I’ve had to ban myself from eating except on the rare treat myself occasion.

When I saw this recipe for buffalo chicken sandwiches, I thought it might be a nice way to scratch that craving in a healthier way. (Disclaimer: This recipe is horrendous in sodium, I hadn’t thought about that at the time)

It’s the easiest crock pot recipe I’ve done yet. Place the chicken breasts in the crockpot, dump a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce on top. Cook on either low or high depending on how much time you have, shred the chicken, return it to the sauce and it’s done! (There’s an optional step for stirring in greek yogurt to the sauce at the end before adding the shredded chicken back in. This cools it down a bit. It was still deliciously spicy even with this step)

I ate mine as a sandwich. You could serve it plain, or in any number of ways. If I repeat this recipe, I think I may try it as a wrap or topped on a salad.

For a side, I had raw sugar snap peas. They were a nice crispy cool contrast to the sandwich! It sort of fills the same role as celery does.

One thing that would be delicious on top of this would be ranch or bleu cheese dressing. I didn’t go for any additional toppings, but I would definitely provide something like that if serving to a group.

Repeat recipe? Probably not. I was tired of it by the end of the week. Plus It’s so very high in sodium and it’s just not an impressive lunch. I’ll keep this in the recipe books in case I’m ever trying to think of something different for a BBQ, but for personal meals, I probably won’t make it again.

Find the recipe here: Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

Cooking Tools: Pepperplate

While we work our way through leftovers, I thought I’d share an excellent tool out there for anyone who needs some extra help with meal planning and creating shopping lists.

When I started out on this little venture my first thought (as it always is) was “how can technology help me with this?”

I immediately went to look for apps & websites that would help me with the organization I knew I would desperately need if I wanted to keep at all on top of this stuff. The concept of having a meal planned for every night of the week is a bit of a turn off for me. It sounds annoying, rigid and hard. I quickly realized that it actually made things easier, and that I (gasp) didn’t actually have to stick to the plan if we changed our mind later.

recipelistThe tool that appealed to me the most was Pepperplate. It’s an easy way to save recipes discovered from around the web into one big recipe collection. You can then plan meals for the week – either by manually entering in meal names (i.e. sandwiches) or by linking to the recipes. You can also go to each recipe and choose to add it to a shopping list. It will
automatically sort the list by aisle/food type and will combine similar food (chicken breasts for multiple recipes) into one item. Each time you go to add a recipe to the shopping list, it also offers you the option to deselect items. So if you already have some of the essentials on hand, you don’t have them showing up all over your list. shoppinglist

It’s not perfect. There are some items that show up under the wrong category. canned tomato sauce shows up under produce for me when I would rather see it under canned goods. Little stuff like that. It’s pretty each to go in and tell it to move to another category but it doesn’t remember this choice. Next time you add the recipe to your shopping list, it’ll be back under produce. I’ve tried to see if there’s a way to force the categorization but I haven’t found one. This means either going in each time and reorganizing the list (my preference), closely scanning your list in each aisle (which I’ve also done), or backtracking like crazy (guilty). It’s a small criticism and once you get used to it not a big deal. But it’s a change I’d like for the future.

It also has an option for creating menus. This would be good for planning bigger meals for special occasions or a family get together, but I haven’t had a reason to use it yet.

Visit pepperplate.com. They also have an app available for android/iOS. I mostly use the app to view my shopping list in the store but it has all the other functionality as well.

Here is a preview of my planner for next week (still working on it):


Slow Cooker Chicken Teriyaki

Someone thought I wouldn't notice him sneaking a bite.

Someone thought I wouldn’t notice him sneaking a bite.

One of the first recipes I did in my crock-pot a few years ago was chicken teriyaki. It’s a favorite meal for both of us and it was easy to take to work. So it was an obvious choice when I was meal planning.

Almost no prep work for this one. Toss the chicken in, mix the sauces in another bowl with minced garlic grated ginger, toss that on top and cook on low1. I started it in the morning and when I got home from work, the kitchen smell fantastic. I tossed some rice into the rice cooker and pulled out the chicken breasts for final prep. I was a little over zealous with shredding the chicken (it just fell apart). Next time I’ll probably try to leave bigger chunks.

The last step is to strain the sauce and thicken it in a saucepan with cornstarch. This is probably the most “difficult” step for me. I never feel like it’s consistency really changes. But Mike claims he can see the difference. I decided to just let him do the last step.

We probably got 3 meals (6 servings) out of this recipe. We had two meals this week and will have a frozen meal for the future. The green beans featured in this picture were also made by Mike. He sauteed some fresh ginger, garlic and green onion in olive oil, stir fried a frozen bag of green beans in that and finally added soy sauce cooking it down. He says his green beans were “okay”. I say delicious!

The verdict on the chicken? We both agree it’s just okay. I think for me the orange marmalade added too much of an citrus taste to the meal. That’s a legitimate choice but not what either of us look for in our teriyaki. It was good for a few meals but I think I’ll look for a different recipe the next time we crave teriyaki chicken.


Oh and a handy tip for left over rice after a meal. Mike and I have been dong this for years. Freeze it! Take saran wrap and put a single serving of rice in the middle forming a flat rectangle. Wrap the rice up and plop it in the freezer. The next time you need rice for a meal pull up the saran wrap just a little bit to allow it to vent. Cook for a few minutes on 50% power and then cook for a couple more minutes at normal power. The left over rice will be closer to the desired texture. Even if I’m planning on using rice the next day I’ll do this, rather than stick it in the fridge. That just dries it out. I didn’t think to snag a picture of ours but we do pretty much the same thing featured here.

Overall the meal was enjoyable. The chicken was easy. Maybe my problem was with the brand of orange marmalade I used but if I try this recipe again I’ll probably leave it out altogether.

This was also my first time leaving the crock-pot unintended. Even though I knew that it’s a normal thing people do it was still slightly terrifying for me. So perhaps the biggest success to me of this meal was arriving home to find my kitchen still in-tact!

We may do sandwiches or wraps with the leftovers…*ponders*

Find the recipe at Cooking Classy

I cooked it on low for 9 hours instead of the recommended 5. I was talking to my co-worker about my problem with a lot of these recipes is that it requests for a shorter time than my work day. She told me she often lets it cook on low until she gets home. So I took her advice! Maybe one I’ll have one of those fancy crock pots that has a delay timer or automatic switch to low. But for now, just letting it stay on worked! The chicken/sauce didn’t feel at all overcooked.

Slow Cooker Turkey Taco Chili

chiliThis week I decided to do a massive pot of turkey chili for my work lunches. It felt like something relatively simple that would be easy to take to work. It may not extraordinarily exciting but for the moment my goal for my lunches is simplicity and quantity. I want to be able to make a big batch of food that will last me the week. Chili seemed to fit the bill.

To be honest, I never used to be a fan of chili. I wasn’t a big bean person and I’m still not crazy about soups. But since my dad died, I find myself craving chili from time to time. It’s a way to feel closer to him.

So off I went to lady Google. I snagged the first turkey crock pot chili recipe that looked reasonable in terms of ingredients/ease. After starting the recipe it occurred to me that it’s actually a taco chili recipe (I guess that explains the call for taco seasoning). When I’m chowing down the chili doesn’t scream taco themed to me, but toss in some of the optional toppings and I can totally see it.

I didn’t follow this recipe 100%, mostly due to missing a few ingredients. For whatever reason my recipe/shopping app didn’t show the two types of red beans correctly, so I only ended up with one can of kidney beans. But it was for the best. My medium sized crock-pot was filled to the brim with what I had and the chili is hearty. I don’t feel like it is lacking beans at all. I will probably leave out the extra can of red kidney beans in the future. Until I get a bigger crock pot there is no additional room for food in that thing.

I was also apparently incorrect in my assumption that I had chili powder at home. Which I realize is slightly ironic given what I was cooking. I tossed in cayenne pepper for some spice. Between this and the taco seasoning, the missing chili pepper isn’t obvious.

Finally the only optional ingredient I’ve added is light sour cream. The other suggestions in the recipe (cheese, crushed tortilla chips, salsa, etc) sound so good but I cut them out to save on calories. I’ll totally have them on the table if I ever cooked this for a group.

I turned it into 7 meals so I have all 5 meals for this week and two frozen bags for an easy work lunch in the future.

Find the Recipe here from Gimmie Some Oven