Sloppy Joes

On any given Monday evening, you will find me in my kitchen, carefully preparing a delicious meal for my family…my lipstick fresh, wearing heels and a ruffled apron of course. As I serve the first course, my children nod and smile upon seeing their favorites: escargot simmered in butter and parsley from my window box, foie gras spread like butter over brioche toast, or micro-greens with shaved black truffle. I give them a few moments to digest and prepare for the next course and check on the sous-vide pork loin…ah yes, it’s done right on time. And won’t they be excited for their chocolate soufflés? Such haute bliss. Isn’t this what motherhood is about?

That’s a good one, right?

It’s more like, this:  It’s already 6:30pm, I’m still, sadly, in my “active wear,” no makeup in sight. What I really need is a shower. “Everybody wash hands! Dinner is ready. Hey, I said wash hands! Dinner’s getting cold. Julia, EAT. You can’t only have milk for dinner. Use your fork! Sofia, stop touching your feet. Go wash your hands again. That’s a great story, but I need you to EAT. You’re going to be hungry and I’m not giving you a snack at bedtime. No, it’s NOT spicy. Those green flecks are basil. You LIKE basil. It’s not going to taste good if you make that face while you’re eating it.”

Yeah, that’s more of what dinner is for us. If you imagine that this food-loving, world-traveling, art inspired mom has adventurous eaters, then you are wrong. Yeah, they like sushi, olives, and ripe French cheese. Big deal. I’ve got bigger plans for their palates, but sometimes, it’s not worth the effort or the fight. I’m learning. Which is why I broke down and made Sloppy Joes a couple of months ago.  And I served hot dogs the other night. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a (total) food snob. I’d eat beans, tortillas and potatoes all day and call them the most delicious food if they were cooked well. I love a good hot dog (when it can be found), and in case you’ve never read my true confessions, Home Depot sells the best bratwurst, which for some reason, taste especially delicious with Doritos Cool Ranch chips and a Coke in the back of my car, tailgate style. Yeah, that’s right. I just said that.

So when Sofia came home asking me if I had “heard” of Sloppy Joes (like she did with meatloaf a couple of years ago), I figured I needed to just man up…or woman up…and make this for her. Poor American children in my house aren’t getting the American experience even now and then. My mom made Sloppy Joes when I was a kid, and I remember liking them. So, I did a quick google search to see what the rest of the world thought should go into a Sloppy Joe, texted my mom who said “add a little vinegar!” and I put together the combination of ingredients that sounded good to me. It was delicious. It was quick. It was easy. And the children, they ate! And as sloppy as they can be, I actually had occasion to walk around a roller skating rink not too long ago with one of my Sloppy Joes tucked into my purse without incident. See? Not so sloppy after all. So when you next find yourself out of time, energy, and just want a yummy dinner without any kid-confrontations, you’ve got this to go to. Enjoy your dinner and the peace that comes with it.


Sloppy Joes

recipe by Stephanie Kunstle

Note: makes 4-6 adult servings. The key is to simmer this gently to marry the flavors and avoid burning the whole thing. Pour yourself a beer or glass of wine and you’ll be more patient.


  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped (about a cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar (or another good vinegar)
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper


  1. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat olive oil and add chopped onion, cooking for 2-3 minutes until it starts to soften.
  2. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant. Add the ground beef, sprinkle generously with salt and some freshly cracked pepper, and then use a metal spatula to break it up as it browns for about 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato sauce, the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, vinegar and 1/4 cup of water. Simmer covered on medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Serve by filling hamburger buns or use any favorite bread… I made some home fries to go with. Total comfort, kid-friendly food.

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Maple Roasted Beets, Carrots & Fennel

Is it surprising that a killer recipe was discovered in wine country? No, I’m not talking about Michelin star studded Napa. I’m talking about Washington state, down in the southeast corner in a little agricultural town called Walla Walla. “W2″ is definitely on THE map when it comes to wine (and if it’s not on your map, now’s a really good time to google-research it and get on that bandwagon). And as many of you know, we are partners in a juicy venture there (full story on that HERE), which means we need/get to travel to W2 periodically for business reasons like…pouring lots of wine.

So, “there we were.” It was early May, and Spring Release Weekend in W2. Dave and I had traveled up to represent for Proper and share our latest vintage with our estate Syrah loving fans. We had a tasting event lined up, time in The Rocks with our vineyard managers, and other important to-dos, all of which are too much fun for us to technically call them “work” but still require a ton of energy. What is that saying? All work and no play makes Stephanie a very dull girl. Doesn’t it go like that? Well, don’t worry, we make sure we enjoy ourselves. Dave and I are huge fans of several wines being made in W2 by wineries such as Gramercy Cellars, Kerloo Cellars, Maison Bleue, and Rotie Cellars to name a few. Which is why we were at Gramercy’s release party one night, sampling Greg Harrington’s liquid art. The team at Gramercy always puts together a really fun yet casual party which makes for a relaxing atmosphere to just enjoy the wines being poured, but never forgetting that wine is made to accompany great food. This time there was some succulent BBQ, but honestly, I can’t even remember what, because once I clamped eyes on the roasted vegetables mounded beautifully on the table, I was sold out. Beets! Carrots! And fennel! Well, this roasted combination was so delicious that I had several helpings, and found out that the woman who was responsible for this fabulous concoction was the lovely Elisa Hope, friend of winemaker Greg Harrington and wife to Brian Hope, pastor of Mission Church in W2. Elisa was not only helping Greg throw a great party, but she also volunteered to help us pour wine the next day too. She graciously said she’d share her “recipe” with me, though it was intended for a party of 80 plus people, and even gave me permission to share it with all of YOU.

I did some testing this summer and found proportions to serve 6 to 8 people, and had some fun pairing this as a side with whole grilled fish and other grilled meats, and as a roasted salad served over pea shoots and other baby greens. The layers of flavor are so delicious from the roasted veggies, to the crunch of the fennel fronds and delicate leaves. It’s one of those recipes that works well with so many dishes or can stand alone, and a definite favorite which I will continue to make through the fall and winter months.


Maple Roasted Beets, Carrots & Fennel

recipe by Elisa Hope of W2, adapted by Stephanie Kunstle

Note: This recipe is brilliant because you can do so much of the prep and roasting the day before you want to serve it. Combine the veggies with the vinaigrette just before serving, top with fresh fennel frond slices and their leaves and you’re good to go. Once the weather turns cold, I may just combine these veggies and dress them while they are still hot. See what floats your boat and enjoy!

Roasting Ingredients:

  • 14 small to medium carrots
  • 6 beets
  • 3 fennel bulbs (fronds and leaves attached)
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • salt and pepper

Vinaigrette Ingredients:

  • 1 clove smashed garlic
  • 1 and 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 3/4 Tbsp. orange juice (freshly squeezed is best)
  • 1 tsp. whole grain mustard OR Dijon if you like a little zing!
  • 1 tsp. sea salt


  • 1-2 fennel fronds, to taste, cleaned and sliced
  • about 1 heaping Tbsp. fennel leaves, torn or just barely chopped to break them up a bit


  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF
  2. Peel carrots and beets, keeping them separate to keep the colors true (if you let those beets near anything, all will be red!) and slice carrots lengthwise and then in half or thirds, and cut beets into 1 inch strips
  3. Trim fennel bulbs off fronds, peel off rough outer layer and slice into about 1/4-inch thick slices in whichever direction you prefer, reserve the fronds and leaves in the fridge for later on
  4. Combine the sliced carrots and fennel bulbs in a large bowl
  5. Place beets in a separate bowl
  6. Whisk together the 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and 1 Tbsp. maple syrup and pour 2/3 of the mixture over the carrots/fennel and the remaining 1/3 over the beets, stirring each bowl to coat the veggies well. Spread the beets onto a large baking sheet and the carrots/fennel onto another large baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and some freshly cracked black pepper.
  7. Roast the beets and carrots/fennel separately at 400ºF for about 30 minutes. Let them cool and then chill the roasted veggies (still taking care to keep the beets separate) until  cold or overnight.
  8. Combine vinaigrette ingredients and toss ALL the veggies together with the vinaigrette. Top with sliced fennel fronds and scatter with fresh fennel leaves. Serve cold or at room temperature as a side, or over baby greens (pea shoots, anyone?) as a salad.

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Farmer’s Market Pappardelle

It’s already October, and we are on the cusp of diving deep into roasted meats, soups, and hitting the comfort food hard. The weather has been so beautiful in Colorado, with a rainy day here and there to remind us that it won’t last forever. I’m still cooking with as much produce from the bountiful harvest season as possible before it quickly disappears. This has been a favorite at our house for the past few summers and there is just enough time to for you to still enjoy it too. The Sherry vinegar is what makes this, so it’s worth a trip to the store just to have this in your pantry.


Farmer’s Market Pappardelle

recipe adapted from Gourmet, Farmer’s Market Féte

Note: serves 6


  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. Sherry vinegar (or a white wine vinegar if you must)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 and 1/2 lb. multicolored and multisize cherry tomatoes, halved (quartered if large)
  • 3 ears corn, shucked
  • 1 and 1/2 lb. medium zucchini
  • 1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion
  • 8 to 9 oz. dried egg pappardelle or dried egg fettuccine
  • 1/4 lb. sugar snap peas, halved diagonally (because diagonal is just prettier…)
  • 1 cup small basil leaves, or torn if large
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • Parmigiano Reggiano to shave over the top


  1. Bring a 6 to 8 quart pot of well-salted water to boil for corn and pasta.
  2. While water is coming to a boil, mince and mash garlic to a paste with 1/2 tsp. salt, then stir together with vinegar, oil, and 1 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Add tomatoes and stir gently, then set aside.
  3. Cook corn in boiling water until tender, 4 to 6 minutes, then remove with tongs and cool.
  4. While the corn cools, peel lengthwise ribbons from 1 side of a zucchini with a vegetable peeler into another bowl, stopping when you come to the seedy core. Turn zucchini a quarter turn, then peel more ribbons, stopping at core. Repeat on remaining 2 sides of zucchini (you will end up with rectangular shaped cores, reserve those for another use).
  5. Cut corn from cobs, and add the corn to the tomatoes.
  6. Cook pappardelle according to package directions until al dente. Just before pasta is done, stir in zucchini ribbons and snap peas, and cook for 15 seconds (if you’re at high altitude, another 15 or so seconds is a good idea). Drain pasta and vegetables together in a large colander. Add the pasta, zucchini and peas to tomato mixture with sliced onion, then toss gently.
  7. Add herbs and gently toss again. Serve with big shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano!

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