Monday, March 26, 2018

Whole 30 Compliant Turkey Sloppy Joe

Like a lot of moms in the 1970s, my mom had to go back to work when I was nine years old to help out with the economic realities that an oil crisis and runaway inflation imposed on our country. No longer could we rely on the kind of complicated and time-consuming dinners we had once enjoyed like pot roast, fried chicken, and meatloaf. By the time my mom got home from the law office where she worked as a secretary (they were still called secretaries back then), she needed some quick and easy meals to get on the table.

One of her go-to meals was sloppy joe, made all the quicker by the ready-made sauce known as Manwich. Brown some ground beef, dump on the Manwich, stir it up and slap it on some hamburger buns. I was more than happy to dig into this salty mess as a kid, but today it doesn't sound all that appealing, which is why I haven't eaten sloppy joe in decades.

Recently, the Minx and I have been on the Whole 30 diet and have been seeing some positive results. In a nutshell, the diet requires that one eat non-processed foods for 30 days, which eliminates a helluva lot of food when you get down to it. This makes coming up with filling meals that are also Whole 30 compliant a bit of a challenge. One day while we were trying to come up with dinner possibilities, the Minx suggested making sloppy joe. While we could make it with ground beef and stay within the diet, she thought it would be even healthier to try to make it with ground turkey.

I liked the idea because it would give me a chance to create a sloppy joe that would taste better than the from-a-can stuff I ate as a kid. The tricky part was that sloppy joe is usually slightly sweet, and you can't use any sugar or sweeteners on Whole 30. We decided to replace sugar with finely chopped dates. They dissolve in the mixture and add just enough sweetness to balance the tartness of the mustard and the acidity of the tomatoes.

Our recipe requires about 15 ounces of tomatoes, pureed to create a smooth sauce. Since it's unlikely you will find pureed tomatoes in a can that small, we used a can of diced tomatoes and whizzed them up with a stick blender plunged straight into the can. You have to be careful not to make a mess, but it does work. Otherwise, some chunky tomato in the sauce is probably fine. (And yes, though canned vegetables are technically "processed," if there are no weird additives they still qualify as "whole" foods.)

Whole 30 Compliant Turkey Sloppy Joe

1 pound ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
Kosher salt
14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes, pureed
6 dates, chopped
1 tablespoon ground mustard
1 tablespoon brown mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Freshly ground black pepper

Brown the ground turkey in a skillet over high heat. Once the meat is browned, reduce heat and add the onion and bell pepper. Sprinkle a little salt on the mixture at this point to help draw out the moisture of the vegetables. When the onion becomes translucent, thoroughly mix in the tomato puree, dates, ground mustard, brown mustard, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. Turn the heat to low and allow to simmer covered for fifteen minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.

If you are using this recipe as part of a Whole 30 diet, you can replace the bun one might normally serve sloppy joe on with a baked potato or French fries.

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