So not Sloppy Joes

“Don’t tell my wife these are Sloppy Joes or she’ll hate them.”

I overheard this line coming from the kitchen after I’d thrown together what I thought was a brilliant new concept for dinner.

Seriously? How did I not catch on?

It was one of those nights where we had nothing planned for dinner, and no fresh ingredients. You know those nights? Where it would just be easier to go out to dinner because you’re starving and you couldn’t possibly go to the grocery store and then come home and cook dinner? (I’m the queen of the run-on sentence, by the way.)

Except we had company. And my husband and said company were in the process of making home brew, so they couldn’t leave.

What to do? What to do?
I got it! I’ll make biscuits. Those are fast and easy.
Not Sloppy Joes
Maybe I could even follow in my Aunt Patsy’s footsteps and make chocolate sauce! (True story. I’ll never forget that dinner as long as I live. I thought she was the coolest mom in the world.)

No, I can’t very well serve three grown men and a growing 6 year old chocolate covered biscuits. I don’t have her recipe for chocolate sauce ūüėČ

Ok, what else? Tomato sauce! Perfect! Oh my gosh, we have ground beef! This is going to be so awesome!
Not Sloppy Joes

I get it now. Seriously, how did I not pick up on that?
Not Sloppy Joes

But they were delicious! And gourmet…or something.

Not Sloppy Joes
Serves 6

For the biscuits:
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup milk
Preheat oven to 425F
Sift dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl until well combined. Add oil and milk, and mix until all the ingredients are just incorporated. Don’t over mix.
Turn the dough out on a floured surface, and roll out to about 1/4 inch thick–you don’t want it to be too thin. Using a round cutter (mason jar rings work really well), cut out circles and place onto a stone ware pan or lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until tops and bottoms are golden brown.

For the *ahem* gourmet and totally fancy meat sauce:
1 pound ground beef
1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce (here’s mine)
Brown the meat in a skillet, draining the juices periodically. Add the sauce and heat through completely.

Serve the biscuits warm, covered in the meat sauce.
And don’t tell anyone I made Sloppy Joes. It would ruin my street cred…or something.

Coffee Braised Beef

Apparently we’ve been eating a lot of chicken lately. I hadn’t even thought about it, but then again, I can happily eat the same things over and over again. (Not a great quality for a food blogger, I realize.)

I think beef is intimidating for me because it definitely has its own unique flavor. Chicken is just such a great blank canvas. Beef is already the whole painting.

But then again, that’s kind of arguable, depending on who you ask. Like my husband. He would totally disagree with that. (And he did. Hence, the beef.)

This recipe is a very welcome change from the pot roast recipes of my past. I hate pot roast (normally) because it was either too bland, too fatty, or too tough.

This marinade does so much for pot roast! It gave it a great, bold flavor, kept things incredibly moist, and created a really hearty sauce for serving.  Waaaaaaay better than gravy!

You might think that coffee and beef don’t go together (kind of like caramel and salt), but you’re wrong. They complement each other perfectly, bringing out the savory quality of the beef without tasting like bitter black coffee. And don’t even get me started on what it does to the vegetables in there! I could almost eat just those. The beef is like the icing on the cake. Or, the beef on the vegetables?

Coffee Braised Beef
based on this recipe from Real Simple

1 pound small red potatoes, quartered
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 pound turnips, chopped
2 1/2 pounds chuck roast
salt & pepper to taste
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups brewed black coffee
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
*optional: flat leaf parsley to garnish

Place chopped vegetables and 1/2 cup coffee in a large slow-cooker. Set the beef on top and season generously with salt and pepper. Whisk 1 cup coffee, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir tomato paste into coffee mixture to combine. Pour the coffee mixture over the beef and vegetables, then cook (covered) on low in the slow cooker for 7 to 8 hours. We didn’t add any water throughout the day because we were at work, but if you’re home you can keep an eye on it and add as necessary. Serve with country bread (any whole grain, dense bread).

It was pretty exciting knowing that dinner would be done as soon as we got home. Very minimal effort, and very minimal dish washing! And our whole house smelled amazing. I got a knife to slice into the beef, and didn’t even need it. It literally fell apart. I only wish I would have known about this all winter long! C’est la vie. There’s always next year.

What foods could you eat over and over? Are there any foods that you just can’t eat any more?


I love making things from scratch. ¬†It just tastes better, 99% of the time. ¬†There’s so much satisfaction in saying “I made it myself.” ¬†You always know exactly what went in it, and you can tailor it to suit your tastes.

That being said, I don’t know that I would have attempted to make my own tomato sauce. ¬†I mean, don’t you have to be an Italian grandma to do that? ¬†Things like homemade bagels and sugar cookies don’t worry me at all, but sauce? ¬†I don’t know man…

Fortunately, as I’d find out, tomato sauce can be much easier than bagels and sugar cookies. ¬†Nick, brave soul that he is, whipped this sauce together without knowing the Italian grandma rule. ¬†I just came home one night, and it was heating on the stove. ¬†He may not be Italian, and he’s definitely not a grandma, but it took a lot of will power not to just eat all the sauce, straight up. ¬†Both of us were spooning it right out of the pot.

I’m sure he looked up several recipes online and then adapted them for his taste and our available ingredients, but I have no idea which ones he used. ¬†I’ll check with him and give credit where credit is due.

Start with two cans of diced tomatoes. If you want to use seasoned tomatoes, that’s cool. We buy these in bulk at Costco so that we can make a lot of sauce.

Diced Tomato
Throw ’em in a pot, and then add one small can of tomato paste.

Hollow Paste
My paste has a hole in it! ūüėČ

Add some diced onion. We like chunky sauce, so there’s about half an onion in there.

Orange Bell Pepper
Diced orange bell pepper. Ours were pretty sad and limp, but we were able to get about one whole pepper worth in the sauce.

Basil & Spinach
Here’s where the Italian part comes from. Fresh basil makes a huge difference in the flavor. If you’re in a pinch, you could definitely use dried basil–just know that you’re missing out, and try not to be too sad. ¬†We added 2 cloves of fresh garlic, but you can use more or less, depending on how Italian you are. ¬†We also added a large handful of fresh spinach, just for fun. We didn’t regret it.

White Wine Vinegar
Give that a stir, and then add a few shakes (about 1 tablespoon) of white wine vinegar. Then a teaspoon of baking soda and a teaspoon of salt. When you add the baking soda, it will fizz and bubble a bit. I like watching this part, maybe even more than my son does. He’s five. I’m not. It’s ok. ¬†I was so busy watching the bubbles that I forgot to take a picture! ¬†I’m so fired.

Give it another stir, and then just let it simmer for a little while until heated through completely.

One Use
This sauce is really versatile. You can season it however you want, and we use it for all sorts of different things–pasta dishes, straight up spaghetti, chicken–we even put it in the food processor and used it as pizza sauce. ¬†Waaaaay better than canned pizza sauce! ¬†It freezes really nicely, so you can make up a big batch and pull it out as you need it, and as the sauce hangs out, the flavors get stronger and more defined.

So go get sauced!  Then call your Italian grandmother and tell her all about it.

Tomato Sauce
2 cans of diced tomato
1 small can of tomato paste
1/2 onion, diced
1-2 bell peppers, diced
handful of chopped fresh basil
1-2 handfuls of chopped fresh spinach
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste

Stir all ingredients together over medium heat until heated through. Taste often to make sure it’s seasoned the way you like. Add salt, pepper and basil as needed. Taste again to make sure it’s still good. Try to leave some for dinner. Taste one more time and remember that you shouldn’t keep it all for yourself. (What would your grandma say?)