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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