Let’s Get Sloppy!

sloppy-joe

Enough with the novel-length posts. You know the story  and you’ve been warned about my recipes. It’s time to eat!

This is a recipe that is always a little different depending on what I have around the house and how hungry I am. Best case scenario? I’ve got a crock pot and I just ate so I have plenty of time for my Sloppy Meat to simmer. That’s when I call this a Sloppy Joe recipe. If I’m starving and I want it done quick and dirty, then I call them Sloppy Ho’s.

The nice thing about Sloppy Joe meat is that if you make enough, they can become Sloppy Ho’s whenever the mood strikes you. There’s pretty much always a bowl full of this meaty treat in my fridge. Throw it on roasted mashed sweet potatoes or spaghetti squash for a warm and filling meal. Want something lighter? Make lettuce wraps. REALLY need some protein? Eat a bowl by itself. If you’re not doing a Whole30, be super traditional and slop some on a bun. If you are doing a Whole30, make some sliders out of sliced, baked rounds of sweet potato and go town (fair warning – that combo is the sloppiest of my suggestions).

So let’s get cooking! The ingredients listed are for a full batch – enough to feed 12-14 hungry people.

  • 2 lbs ground turkey (you’re going to season the crap out of this, save the good meat for another dish)
  • 4 medium(ish) sweet yellow onions, diced
  • 1-2 TBSP of ghee
  • 2-3 small cans of tomato paste
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • 2-3 individual cups of unsweetened applesauce (the kind with the foil lids that you pull off – I’m pretty sure that equates to a cup if you’re measuring from a jar)
  • Coconut aminos (this is a Whole30 staple – if you are doing a Whole30 buy a bottle ASAP!)
  • 100% pure apple juice or 100% pineapple juice (this is to sweeten to taste and/or to thin out the mix – you’ll have to decide how much on your own)
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Date syrup (I know, some people won’t consider this Whole30 compliant. I’m using it in a savory dish and I know my triggers. You do you though, this can absolutely be omitted.)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

A quick note about the onions: you could totally make this without the onions. I am a firm believer in sneaking vegetables in wherever I can for 3 reasons; 1 – it’s healthy, 2 – it adds flavor and texture, 3 – it bulks up the recipe and makes it last longer without having to spend a ton on extra protein. 

I don’t know about you – but to me, the key to a good Sloppy Joe is the sweetness. As Raj discovered in one of my favorite Big Bang Theory episodes, good Sloppy Joes should be “sweety and meaty at the same time.”

The first step to this dish is to get the onions ready. You’re going to want to caramelize these low and slow in a skillet. Use minimal cooking fat (the ghee) and keep your heat absolutely no higher than medium. Properly caramelized onions take a little love. Keep an eye on them and stir them pretty often. If they start to stick or blacken instead of slowly brown then your heat is too high. Done right, your onions will reduce in volume by almost 75%.

As you’re slowly but surely caramelizing your onions, you can throw the following in a slow cooker on high:

  • The ground turkey
  • 2 cans of tomato paste (save 1)
  • The tomato sauce
  • 2 containers (or 1 cup) of applesauce (save 1)
  • About 1/3-1/2 cup of coconut aminos
  • 2+ Tbs of onion powder
  • 3+ Tbs of garlic powder
  • A generous dash of salt

Stir everything together very well. This will cook for 4-5 hours. Unlike traditional slow cooker recipes, you’ll want to stir this pretty frequently in the first hour-hour and half to make sure all the ground meat breaks up and mixes. Whenever your onions are done caramelizing, just dump them straight into the the slow cooker. Again, make sure you mix everything up well.

When the meat is fully cooked (around 3.5 hours) we get to start having fun. First things first, TASTE IT! Then – let’s play! Too sweet? Add that extra can of tomato paste. Did that make it too acidic? Throw in another container of apple sauce? Still not sweet enough? Add the date syrup. Too runny? Leave the lid off the slow cooker and let it cook down. Not savory enough? Add. More. Garlic. (FYI – I firmly believe there is no such thing as too much garlic. If a vampire ever bites me, he’s screwed.) And don’t forget salt and pepper are your friends. Season as you go, not at the table!

Once you get you batch of sweety and meaty seasoned to your liking, let it all the flavors meld together for another 30-45 minutes. Taste it one more time and if it’s still great, you’re done! Serve it up with your favorite fixin’s and chow down!

To prep for storage, fill your containers and let them cool down a bit before putting them in the fridge. Store them all in the fridge over night, and then move any you’re planning on freezing into the freezer the next day after they’ve had time to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Note: This post was not sponsored by or affiliated in any way with the recommended products. 

 

A Word to the Wise – I Don’t Do Recipes

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There’s something you need to know about me. I don’t do recipes. No, really. I don’t do them. If I want to make something I’ve never made before, I’ll find 3-5 recipes for whatever it is, read them, and then I’m done with them. The only reason I’ll refer back to a recipe while I’m actually cooking is if it mentioned that something would be particularly weird/unruly/tricky/different. When I’m cooking, I use my experience in the kitchen and my knowledge of how flavors work together to tweak and adjust as I go until I like where I end up.

I’ve been this way my whole life. It’s all my grandmother’s fault. One of the first things I ever learned to cook was her cornbread dressing that was a Thanksgiving staple. Except, I didn’t really learn how much of what to put together. I learned how the stuffing was supposed to smell, how it was supposed to feel, how it was supposed to look, and (before we added the raw eggs) how it was supposed to taste as we mixed it. If it didn’t smell like there was enough sage, we added more (it never had enough, unless you were my mother – then it always had too much). If it was to dry, we added more broth. If we screwed up and it was too wet, well then we found some more cornbread. I’ve been cooking without rules ever since.

So, sharing my recipes with all of you is going to be a bit tricky for me. Sometimes there won’t be measurements. Sometimes I might instruct you to add something until a dish is a certain color or a certain consistency – it won’t matter how much or how little you add as long as you get the right color or the right consistency. Sometimes I won’t have an exact cooking time – you might have to keep an eye on things.

I promise I’m going to do my absolute best to make the recipes I share with you as clear and easy to follow as possible. But, if for whatever reason something isn’t clear, then please leave me a comment and I’ll figure out how to make it clearer. If you’re trying to follow along and think you’re doing everything right, but somehow the entire meal turns into a disaster – let me know! Maybe I could do better, or at the very least help you figure out what went wrong.

This road goes both ways though. Use my recipes as a basis for your own creations in the kitchen. Don’t be afraid to add more of one spice or less of another. If you screw up, never throw something out without trying to fix it first. So what if your casserole becomes a soup, who cares as long as it tastes good? If you make a tweak to something I’ve shared and it works for you, let me know. I’d love to hear how you’ve made my dish your own!

 

Everyone Keeps Asking (Part 2)

why-whole30

I’ve already shared my thoughts behind why now was the best time for me to take on following a strict Whole30 for an entire year. Long story short: I’m *real* adult now who’s __ years old (sorry, you’ve gotta read the post for that information – admitting that to the interwebs was hard enough the first time), and it’s gosh darn time for me to dig deep, find what motivates me, set a super-challenging, “big girl panties”-type goal, achieve it, and reap the rewards.

Now, I’m giving you the answer to the burning question I just *know* all of you have:

Why Whole30?

Short answer? Science. The real kind of science you learned about in 7th grade with hypotheses, experimentation, variables, controls, and real, obvious measurable results that you discover for yourself. Not the kind of science that crash/fad diets quote  (you know – like the kind that have you cut out an entire major nutrient group) or the kind of science that comes from studies who pay people to participate so some new diet drug can be more “marketable”. Or even the good but generally boring kind of science that we all read about in textbooks and journals and stuff (or on buzzfeed, because we’re all lazy). The kind of science YOU get to DO.

When I first started researching the Whole30, it was because “my person” (AKA, the Cristina to my Meredith) had cut out gluten to try and fight a recent health diagnosis. We spent a weekend together, and in under 48 hours we consumed all of the following:

  1. Pizza
  2. Chocolate truffles
  3. Chocolates filled with booze (don’t do it – they aren’t good!)
  4. Biscuits (gluten free)
  5. Sausage gravy (gluten free)
  6. Brownies (gluten free)
  7. Sour Punch Straws
  8. Butterfingers
  9. Reeses
  10. Sugar Cookies (gluten free)
  11. Margaritas
  12. Chocolate martinis
  13. Chicken nuggets
  14. Macaroni and cheese (gluten free)
  15. Puffy Cheetos
  16. Cooler Ranch Doritos
  17. A Mexican brunch buffet
  18. Unlimited mimosas
  19. French fries
  20. Milkshakes
  21. Cheeseburgers
  22. And finally, A fish bowl full of booze with a rubber ducky (yup, really)
    12115691_922313591182906_5282526838003309955_nPhoto credit: a very intoxicated version of myself

After that weekend it occurred to me that there’s no way eating what we ate was going to help anyone get healthier. I spent some time looking into dietary changes that have led to curing, or at least seriously improving, health problems and found Whole30.

Then something really awesome happened. I had never really heard a lot about Whole30 before, but when I posted about it on Facebook, people came out of the woodwork to tell me how life-changing it was. It was like the exact opposite of every other “diet” I’d ever heard of. Normally the next big “thing” in losing weight or getting healthy is so over-hyped it’s like you can’t get away from it. (Don’t tell me you can’t all sing the Jenny Craig jingle from the ’90s in your head. The one where the phone number changed with the year? 1-800-94/95/96/97-Jenny!) Absolutely no one got all up in my face about Whole30 until I asked them too – and then all of the sudden no one could shut up.

In my very small, totally unregulated, not-qualified-to-be-print-in-any-scientific-journal-at-all observational study, I learned that I have friends who have experienced all of the following thanks to doing a Whole30:

  • Weight loss
  • Better sleep
  • Clearer skin
  • More energy
  • Motivation to exercise (where previously there had been none)
  • Better sex (ya, I went there, and I liked it)
  • Fewer complications with thyroid disorders
  • Regulation of blood pressure
  • Reduced acid reflux
  • Increased fertility
  • A closer connection to the people who did Whole30 with them (usually a spouse)
  • Improved confidence in the kitchen
  • Reduced sugar cravings

That’s a lot of good stuff! And no, none of it scientifically proven. And sure, some it may only be tangentially related to Whole30 (or may not even be related at all). But here’s the thing – a commercial didn’t tell me any of this. A magazine didn’t tell me any of this. A celebrity spokesperson didn’t tell me any of this. MY FRIENDS told me all of this. Friends who are my friends because I trust them. Also, I didn’t have to pay them to hear what they had to say,  and I didn’t have to pay them anything once I decided to try Whole30 for myself. And, as far as I know, Whole30 didn’t pay any of them either. (Though – if Whole30.c0m wants to pay me to blog I’ll totally let them!)

Armed with absolute rave reviews from my friends, I clicked on over to Amazon (#Millennial  #whatsabookstore #whatsaBOOK) and ordered my very own copy of It Starts with Food. I cracked open the book (#OHthatsabook), half expecting to be admonished for my previously awful relationship with food and half expecting to read the words of some kind of crazed, whole food eating drill sergeant (Melissa Hartwig, co-founder of the program, is known for her tough love attitude).

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Instead, I was enlightened with the science behind the reason that I simply HAD to eat.all.the.cupcakes. For real, there’s a reason that no matter how many times you tell yourself you WILL NOT EAT ANOTHER CUPCAKE you still eat the damn cupcake. And it’s not because you suck at life. (And you don’t need to check yourself into the Betty Crocker Clinic, either).

I was motivated by stories of what seemed like totally normal people who had recovered from all types of ailments by trying Whole30. Yes, I just dogged on testimonials from other diet programs. Feel free to read It Starts With Food and completely disregard the testimonials. Then reach out to your wider circle of friends and see who you know and trust that can share their Whole30 story with you. Take their word for it if that works better for ya.

So, I did a Whole30. Whole45, actually. (We’ve already established I have a thing for beating a challenge.)

After I did my first Whole30, I realized I did have more energy, I had lost *a little* weight, I was sleeping better, my husband and I were getting it on more (yup, I went there again, and this time I really liked it), my skin was clearer, my hair looked amazeballs, I was taking more steps every day, I had less heartburn, and in general, I felt pretty awesome.

So, let’s use the handy dandy scientific method to recap:capture

Photo credit: grade school (who else NEVER had enough room for their whole answer?!)

Seriously y’all. Do not take my super pathetic A- (yes, an A, always an A) 6th grade science worksheet for proof. Go read It Starts With Food. If it doesn’t resonate with you, I’d love to take you out for a cup of coffee and hear why. Seriously. If you read It Starts With Food from front to back and it doesn’t make you truly question what you’re putting in your body every day, leave a comment below and I will buy you a cup of coffee. (Of course, it will be black with no added dairy or sugar because I did read and enjoy It Starts With Food, but it’ll still be free coffee!)

So, I’ve chosen to tackle doing the Whole30 program for an entire year because I have been thoroughly convinced that it will work. And I’m not about to waste my time doing something that doesn’t work. That’s what my 20s were for and now I’m…oh, we all know what I am. I’m not 20.

Whole30 also isn’t easy. It’s a pain in the ass. You annoy the crap out of every waiter you encounter when you’re doing Whole30. Basically no one can cook for you except yourself. If there isn’t a Chipotle around, you run the risk of using your entire data plan just trying to find out what the hell Salata puts in their salad dressings. (FYI: soybean oil and sugar, you can’t have them. You can’t have any of their meats either. At Salata, on Whole30, you can have greens, vegetables, and lemon juice. Just go to Chipotle again.) There are always dishes to wash. So. Many Dirty. Dishes.

On the other hand, Whole30 is actually really easy psychologically (Once you get over your damn sugar dragon. Mine is a nagging pain in the butt. I named her after my mom.) There is a list of rules, and you don’t break them. When I’m doing Whole30, I don’t eat added sweeteners. Of any kind. The end. When I’m doing a Whole30, I don’t eat grains. Of any kind. The end. There’s something very simplifying and freeing about just knowing you don’t do something.

So, how do I turn doing a Whole30 in something as awe-inspiring, challenging, or adult-like as having a baby, running a marathon, or buying a home? I do it for a year. At least that’s where my head went. Of course, what happens in my brain is also what inspired the hysterical mess you all witnessed in my last post. I completely understand if your brain doesn’t somehow equate popping out a kid and then raising it for 18 years or committing to spending $400,000+ over the span of 30 years to just giving up alcohol and cookies for 1 year. But mine did, so that’s how I got here. I’m doing a Whole30. For a whole year.

And after I’m done I can look all of you smug new mommies and daddies with your precious body-altering, money-sucking, time-consuming bundles of joy and all of you brand new house poor can’t go on a vacation because you had to fix your foundation and upgrade your AC unit homeowners in the eye and know I’m just as good as you are! And after I’m done I absolutely believe I’ll have the sense of pride and accomplishment I was searching for on that cold, sad, lonely night when I turned 29. +1.

Now you know why I’ve chosen Whole30 as my particular path to a healthier, happier life. I’d like to take a minute (just sit right there, I’ll tell you how) to point out that this really may not be for everyone. I firmly believe that if someone makes the commitment to doing a Whole30 and sees it through, they WILL feel better. But I also know that everyone has their own circumstances. I know that this lifestyle involves a lot of cooking, which I love – but some people hate. I know it’s almost impossible to make this lifestyle work if you are constantly traveling, unless you happen to be rolling in dough. I know that for some people counting and tracking and weighing makes the most sense. I happen to think that leads to compulsive, neurotic behavior and isn’t a maintainable lifestyle – but you do you! Whatever you need to do to get healthy, go do it! Unless you’re like me. Then don’t do it until you have a complete breakdown on your birthday, and then do it all in one crazy year.

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XoXo,

The Player

Everyone Keeps Asking (Part 1)

why question in metal type

Well, because…why the hell not?!

Seriously though, I understand the curiosity. Why now? Why Whole30? The real answers take a bit of explaining, and I’ve broken them down for your reading pleasure. Starting with:

Why now?

So, I just turned…

*deep breath*….

*accept it’s OK to say it (type it?) out loud (on the internet?)*…

thirty…*GASP!*

I know. You’re all rolling your eyes at me. And I’m being ridiculous. And overdramatic. To which I would normally reply, “you’ve met me right?” But this is the internet, so the odds are you haven’t actually met me. It’s taken me a while (yes…30 years…it’s out there now) to admit, but I can be a tad dramatic. At times. I think the best way to explain what I mean is to show you what happened at exactly 12:00AM on the day IT happened.

Video credit: The BFFAEAE

(She’s my bestie, so yes, that is a shameless plug for her Etsy Shop. She also put up with ^that for 30 years, so she deserves some business!)

Obviously I did not take the big THREE-OH well. Bless all the wonderful, amazing friends who put up with my hissy fit that night. You all deserve an award!

The recurring theme of my  breakdown that evening was that everyone had done something  except me. To be fair, in the sober light of day at the wise old age of…you know…I know that’s not true. I’ve experienced an awful lot in my life. However, I’ve always believed the saying “drunk words are sober thoughts”, which meant it was time to do some serious sober thinking.

I came to the realization that most of my friends were at a point in their lives where they were setting some big goal and then actually achieving it fairly quickly. My closest friends were buying homes, running marathons, having babies…and I was…re-watching Friends for the 100th time on Netflix. I mean, I LOVE Friends and one day I will be able to say I’ve watched the whole series over 100 times and actually mean it (#goals). But, that doesn’t really stand up against buying a beautiful new home or running a triathlon.

I also realized that all of these goals my friends were accomplishing were personal goals, not career goals. I’ve coordinated more than a few six-figure weddings. I’ve planned dating events for the #1 dating site on the internet (that might not be true now, but I don’t work there anymore so I can say what I want). Currently, I plan events that raise an awful lot of money to kick cancer in the butt. At all of these jobs, I’ve succeeded. I’ve reached the goals set for me and worked hard to surpass them. But really, those were not MY GOALS. Those were my employer’s goals. And while I do find a sense of accomplishment and purpose in fulfilling them, I am not personally fulfilled by achieving them.

So what’s a girl to? Search her soul. Find something that resonates. Set a goal. Achieve the goal. Sounds easy enough right, especially if “everyone else is doing it”?

Except…I am NOT having a baby. Not right now, anyway. I’m not buying a house. #Millennial #GreatRecession #StudentLoans. I’m definitely not running a marathon. I’ve never been a runner and I’m not starting now. I tried that last year and even promised myself I could run the marathon in Disney World with costumes and princesses and everything. It didn’t work. That failure was a clear demonstration of the importance of setting a goal that resonates.

So what does resonate? Food. My husband. Travel. Our dogs. Binge watching pretty much anything on Netflix. Being my own boss. Feeling better in my own skin. Finding new ways to connect with old friends. Sharing my talents. Beating a challenge.

And how do I bring that all together? Well…if there there was a way I could cook and eat a lot…with my husband…while incorporating worldwide flavors and cultures…and still spend lots of time with our dogs…while Netflix is on in the background (yes, Friends is on right now)…and potentially turn my cooking into a revenue stream (through a blog maybe?)…while improving the way I look and feel physically…and use my new experiences with food to build a community of friends both new and old…where I can share my talents…all while going above and beyond the normal expectation…

Enter Whole30. For a Whole Year.

 

Hey There!

 

Want to know who the heck I am and what the heck this site’s all about?

Check out The Whole Story!

For now, I’ll let all y’all get acquainted with me by checking out The Whole Story. I do want to give you a sneak peak of what’s to come though!

I’ve been stockpiling Whole30 recipes in my brain for a while now, so in the coming days I’ll be sharing recipes for all of these tasty treats:

Welcome to my “Whole” little piece of the word!

XoXo,

The Player