Sloppy Joes, Sloppy, Sloppy Joes…

May 30th, 2008 by katie

My 3 year old is my kitchen helper.  Her older sister is a creative creature that has a very hard time staying focused in the kitchen.  She truly believes that at six she possesses all the world’s knowledge on cooking and recipes and therefore can take matters into her own hands without waiting for instructions from mere mortals, such as her mother.  Forcing her to go slowly and wait for instructions usually results in sabotage.  Such acts of kitchen terrorism frequently take the form of accidentally spilling the cake batter on the counter then accidentally dragging her fingers through it.  Then-as Mommy frantically runs for the paper towels to stop the batter avalanche from spilling inevitably into a drawer or down the fronts of the cabinets, which are generally ajar, resulting in the spill also involving stacks of casserole dishes or intricate small appliances-using the distraction to wildly lick her palms and fingers.  Strangely, this desire to coat her hands in whatever we are cooking with only extends to batters and cheese.  Asking her to actually touch (with her hands?! you must be crazy…) most works in progress such as chicken breasts, meatloaf mixture, etc… results in her suddenly deciding, “um, I’m done doing this right now. I need a break.” 

For years, I thought this was just how little children behaved in the kitchen.  I started every project by preparing myself mentally for the subsequent wasting of food, time, and patience that such endearing moments in the kitchen together were going to cost.  However, since introducing my middle child to the wonder that is “cooking with Mommy,” I have realized that this is not the case.  She of no attention span, will actually listen to my instructions and then execute them.  There is no task beneath her.  While her sister stirs a pot with such enthusiasm and abandon that the contents slosh over and down the sides, my mess of a middle child meticulously stirs, combining the ingredients in a smooth and even process.  If you tell her, “open the pocket cut in the side of the chicken breast and fill it with shredded cheese from here and crumbled bacon from here,” by golly that’s exactly what she does.  No trepidation about touching the raw chicken.  Not shoveling bacon and shredded cheese into her mouth when Mommy isn’t looking.  Not scavenging the counters for some additional ingredient to add without consulting the grown-up.

In light of my budding chef’s interest, I have been trying to give her as many opportunities as possible to help me in the kitchen.  This included making a dinner of sloppy joes the other night. 

Sloppy Joes

makes 4-6 sandwiches depending on size, Prep: 10min, Cook: 1hour

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 white onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Hamburger Buns
  1. Brown ground beef and onion in a skillet.
  2. Stir together all additional ingredients and pour over ground beef.  Simmer about an hour.
  3. While ground beef is simmering in sauce, you can cleanup and prepare sides of homemade fries, tater tots, or steamed broccoli or corn.  Coleslaw would be a nice side if you are ambitious and planned ahead.  While you’re being ambitious why not toast your hamburger buns?  Or be like me and serve them straight out of the bag, cold and misshapen.  I was not feeling particularly ambitious. 
  4. Serve!  When I was a kid I liked a slice of American cheese on mine, but both of my kids said no way.

 So to assist me with dinner, my sweet second baby poured all of the pre-measured ingredients, cooking show style, into a mixing bowl and then stirred them together. I diced the onion and crumbled the ground beef into the hot skillet.  With my supervision, she then added the onion to the hot skillet and attempted to stir it into the beef.  It was pretty apparent she wasn’t at that point skill-wise yet so I took over.  Once the ground beef was nice and brown, her job was to pour the sauce mixture from the mixing bowl over the ground beef.  She almost made it. 

Now, she is only three, so as the mixing bowl began to tip, while no where near the skillet that was supposed to capture its contents, I had a decision to make.  I could grab the bowl and guide it over the skillet myself or I could just let it happen.  I choose to let her pour.  I know, I was shocked too, still am.  She poured about half of the mixture down the front of the oven before she figured it out and got it in the skillet.  Then it was over, and she was so proud of herself.  She helped me clean up the oven and floor and later, at the table, we all thanked her for making dinner.  She asked each of us if we liked our food and she made a valiant effort to eat, proclaiming how much she liked sloppy joes.  It was noteasy to let her pour sloppy joe sauce down the front of the oven, in all the little crevices, all over the stool and kitchen towels, but I am actually glad I did.

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Posted in Cooking with Kids, Easy, Main Dish

One Response

  1. Julie Gordon

    Sweet pickle juice adds a very nice flavor to any sloppy joe recipe I have tried. It leaves your sweet pickles a little shy of their juice, but it’s worth it for the additional flavor.

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About chaos

cha·os -noun 1. a condition or place of great disorder or confusion. My chaotic kitchen is the result of three kids, two adults, dog, cat, and fish, a food obsession, a wine drinking hobby, and too few hours in the day. Between trying to feed a family of five healthy, happy meals, watching my weight, saving my pennies, and staying partially sane I have picked up a few tricks along the way. So here they are: the very best tips, tricks, and recipes from my chaotic kitchen-to yours!

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