On my drive south from the mountains to my favorite little creek in Lower Alabama a couple of days ago, I entertained myself listening to podcasts via my Stitcher app. Two of the podcasts, including this Bon Appetit piece on retro comfort foods, talked about our nostalgia for the foods we grew up eating. Our favorites. Dishes served for special occasions. Mom’s or Dad’s specialty. The podcast offered updated versions of meatloaf (I will be adding the bacon braid to mine), grilled cheese sandwiches (I tried the mayo and grated cheese tricks today and loved the outcome), and tuna casserole (I’ll probably still pass), among others. At my house it was fried chicken and mashed potatoes. I suspect that each of my three sisters would answer the same. That, and the oatmeal cake topped with coconut, brown sugar and pecans which I still beg my mom to make for my birthdays.
I’m not sure what my boys will ultimately pick as their nostalgia foods… probably my slaw. Maybe Chicken Parmesan, maybe pan-fried catfish, maybe these Sloppy Joe Sliders…
Sloppy Joe Sliders
- 1 1/3 pounds ground beef (or turkey)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2/3 cup diced celery
- 1/2 cup diced carrot
- 1 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed to remove excess moisture
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/2 cup ketchup (and yeah, it needs to be Heinz)
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 table spoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme plus extra for garnish
- 8 slider buns
- Brown the ground meat or turkey in a large skillet over medium high heat, using a spatula to break it up. When you are sure the meat is thoroughly browned, dump it in a colander to drain the extra fat.
- Wipe out the skillet, and heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Saute the onions, celery and carrots until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add the zucchini to the pan and saute until any moisture has cooked off, then add the garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the meat back to the pan, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Then, stir in the ketchup, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, hot sauce and thyme.
- Stir in 1/2 cup water and simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes.
- Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Toast the slider buns, top each bottom bun with the meat and garnish each plate with a sprig of thyme.
Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
I must have a fresh bag of crispy potato chips with my sloppy joe — a little extra salt, a bit of crunch for a contrasting texture. If you are looking for something healthier, a little lightly dressed broccoli slaw works well too.
I could have written this post on Motherlode about family dinner. I especially like this:
But still, there we will be, with children too small to yet hunt, forage and gather for themselves, perpetually wanting to eat, particularly around dinner time, day after day after day.
Although mine are not.
At first I could not remember what I cooked for dinner last week, except for a pot roast which reappeared in various forms. Slowly it came back to me. It was a very beefy week. Sunday was the pot roast with potatoes, onions, carrots and butternut squash. Monday was avgolemono soup with pita bread. There was supposed to have been a Greek salad that didn’t happen. Tuesday was a last minute switch to blueberry pancakes, bacon and bananas after I waited too late to get started. Wednesday was smothered cube steak with mushrooms, mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli. Thursday was roast beef po’boys with an avocado salad. Friday was leftovers. Not too shabby, especially considering that I have a ton of freelance work, a paper almost ready to submit, and managed to exercise five out of those six days.
This week we should eat less beef, but I making a big pot of chili today (the first of the season!) and planning to serve it over cheese enchiladas later in the week. I haven’t tried any new recipes in a while — this Thai Butternut Squash Soup sounds really good. I’ll likely pick up some chicken sate from the Thai restaurant by my office to go with it. I’ve been craving Indian food and we could use some fish in our diet. I just order a pricey bottle of Bengali Five Spice (times like this I love Amazon Prime) which should arrive on Wednesday so I can make this Bengali-style Fish Stew. I would dearly love to know how to pronounce its real name — Maacher Jhol. I am guessing that at some point in the week, there will be a clamor for “American food” and I’ll be feeling lazy so we can have sliders, beans and slaw (so much for eating less beef). The child who complains most loudly gets to cook this one.
What are you feeding your kids this week?
Rare snow has fallen in various places around the South today. My Facebook feed has been full of pictures of empty grocery store shelves in Columbia, South Carolina, Rhonda Faye’s weather updates from Raceland, Louisiana, and stories of friends making the best of it by scraping together enough snow for a snowball fight and sliding down hills on plastic garbage can lids. A less fortunate one tells of sliding down icy stairs and losing his glasses. Two of my favorite posts have been about “light sneaux” in south Louisiana and no snow in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina according to a friend who posted this adorable pic of his sandman. Mostly my friends are writing about being toasty and cozy at home with mugs of coffee and hot chocolate. I hope they all embrace my snow day tradition of getting out the dutch oven and filling it with something warm, delicious and comforting.
This Beef, Root Vegetable & Barley Soup is perfect for cold winter nights. I made a big pot last week when my friend Jan drove down from Philly to visit for a few days. Given her penchant for beef pot pies, I knew she’d love it. The broth has an incredibly deep, soul-soothing flavor that will warm you up and fill you with contentment. Magic stuff!
Beef, Root Vegetable & Barley Soup
- 4 1/2 pounds beef stew meat
- 8-10 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 8-10 cups beef stock
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 3 medium carrots, peeled, halved and cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 3 medium parsnips, peeled, halved and cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 3 ribs celery, halved and cut into 1/4 slices
- 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
- 8 ounces Crimini mushrooms, sliced into 1/3 inch slices
- 1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 3/4 cup pearl barley
- Pat the meat dry with paper towels.
- Pour enough oil into a large heavy-bottom dutch oven to coat the bottom. Heat the oil until it is hot, but not smoking.
- Add a single layer of meat to the pot and brown over medium heat, turning often, for 4-5 minutes. Do not add too much meat at one time or it will stew rather than brown.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the browned meat from the oil and transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat until all the meat is browned.
- When the last batch is browned, add the meat back to the pot and stir in the garlic. Sauté for a few minutes until the garlic is golden.
- Add 8 cups of beef stock, Worcestershire, soy sauce, pepper and thyme sprigs. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
- While the meat is cooking, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the carrots, parsnips, celery and onion. Sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
- Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet, turn the heat up to high and add the mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms 4-5 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside, separately from the other vegetables.
- After the meat has cooked for 1 1/2 hours, add the sautéed onion, carrot, parsnips and celery along with the potato and barley. Add more beef stock if needed.
- Bring to a simmer and cook until the barley and meat are tender, about 45-60 minutes. Add the sautéed mushrooms to the soup and simmer for about 5 minutes more.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: 8-10 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours