Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sloppy Sams

In the past, I usually tried to incorporate at least two meatless meals per week in my menu planning, but lately I've been stepping it up. I find myself gravitating more and more toward vegetarian, meat-free, or almost-meat-free entrees for a variety of reasons. (Though I think one of the main ones might be that they don't require me to remember to thaw meat from the freezer. That's how ordering pizza usually happens.)

This is not to say that I have much intention of giving up meat entirely, and tofu and I will probably never get along. Never. There's just room in my diet for more variety!

I haven't had much experience with lentils until recently, due in large part to a story my father tells about a certain dinner at a friend's house where lentils were served and things ended badly -- I'll spare you the details. Then a couple of years ago, I stumbled upon a post from Skinny Bovine's Kitchen wherein lentils stood in for ground beef in Sloppy Joes, and I was intrigued. The de-beefed version was called Sloppy Sams, and I have been looking for the right opportunity to incorporate them into our dinner lineup. So I did, and I may never look back! They're fabulous!

If your interest is piqued, I really encourage you to give it a chance. You won't know what you're missing until you give it a try!

You can use your favorite Sloppy Joe recipe if you want (though, of course, I think the one I'm about to share is the best one around). This recipe makes a ton, but reheats beautifully, so I like to make a big old batch and freeze half for later. Lazy me love, love, loves having homemade meals in the freezer, and I like to make lazy me happy. You could also scale it down, if you like math and stuff...

Sloppy Sams
inspired by this and this, and especially this

1 - 2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. onion, diced*
1 green pepper, diced*
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, grated*
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground mustard
3 tsp. chili powder
pinch red pepper flakes
1 1/2 c. ketchup
1 c. water
salt and pepper to taste
4 c. cooked lentils (I used brown/regular)

*The idea here is to make the veggies roughly the same size as the cooked lentils so that everything blends nicely in the bun and there are no jarringly large pieces. (But don't stress out about it.)

In a large skillet or saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Toss in onion, green pepper, garlic, and carrot. Season with salt and pepper, and sautée until onions are tender and translucent. Stir in tomato paste, and cook and stir for a minute or so to liven up the tomato flavor. Meanwhile, combine brown sugar, ground mustard, chili powder, red pepper flakes, and ketchup. Stir into the pot after the tomato paste. Add in water and lentils and let simmer 15 minutes. Serve on your favorite buns (I love the brioche ones from Trader Joe's, partly because they're so gosh darn gorgeous!) with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, if you like. (And I like. Oh, yes, I like very much.)

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