A twist on a childhood classic, Secretly Veggie Sloppy Joes are packed with veggies but taste like a traditional sloppy joe – the perfect weeknight meal to satisfy the whole family. With extra veggies and no ketchup or added sugar, it’s a meal you can feel great serving.
Who else immediately thinks of the movie Billy Madison every time they think of sloppy joes? That scene where they’re in the school cafeteria and the creepy lunch lady comes over and is like, “I made ’em extra shloppy for you!” kills me. Isn’t it weird how random things make us think about even more random things?
With the new year here, a lot of us are looking to start 2017 on a healthier foot – both for ourselves and our families. While my boys are both great eaters who will try anything at least once, (knock on wood!) at 2.5, Ryan definitely eyes veggies a certain way if you know what I mean. So I’ve had to get a little creative when it comes to packing him with veggies. The kid will literally eat anything in smoothie form, so we’ve got that down but a purely liquid diet is obviously not an ideal situation.
These Secretly Veggie Sloppy Joes taste just like your kids’ favorite sloppy joes, but are secretly packed with veggies, have zero processed ingredients, and use maple syrup as the sweetener rather than a more traditional ketchup and brown sugar combo. Feel free to substitute in honey – since we follow baby led weaning, I used a baby-safe sweetener.
This recipe relies on finely diced zucchini and mushrooms to add in texture and bulk up the meal while also adding in nutrition. Since mushrooms tend to have a ‘meaty’ texture and zucchini absorb flavor very easily, they’re both perfect options for this. If you think your kiddos will notice and object, feel free to peel the zucchini first, but make sure you still chop it into very small cubes so that the texture isn’t noticeable when mixed with the ground meat. I wouldn’t suggest grating it as the texture might get funky.
The sauce comes together easily – add all of the ingredients to the pan, mix and simmer until you’re ready to eat – and doesn’t rely on ketchup or sugar to make it tasty, a total win if you’re looking to cut out processed ingredients and/or white sugar and corn syrup in your house. It’s a win-win : your kids will love this tasty dinner, and you’ll love that they’re eating veggies happily. You can serve this plain, on a soft roll, or even over pasta or zoodles. I always enjoy mine with a slice of American cheese since it’s how I ate them as a kid.
Secretly Veggie Sloppy Joes
1-1.5 lbs ground beef*
.5 medium onion, minced
5-6 mushrooms, minced
.5 large zucchini, minced
1 bell pepper (I used red), minced
3 TBS tomato paste
2 TBS Worchestershire
2 TBS maple syrup
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
14 oz can crushed tomatoes
Brown the meat and set aside. If there’s more than 2 tablespoons or so of fat in the pan, remove the excess and cook the onion and pepper over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add in zucchini and mushrooms, cook another 3-4 minutes before adding in garlic and cooking another minute. Stir in cooked meat and the rest of the ingredients. Simmer on medium for at least 15 minutes, or reduce to low and cook until ready to eat.
This mixture freezes very well – I recommend freezing in single portions for quick meals and defrosting!
* You could use another meat, I just prefer beef sloppy joes!
* We use a lot of garlic in our house – here I used 5 or 6 large cloves, but feel free to keep it to 1 or 2
Okay, so tell me – what are some of your favorite ways to sneak in veggies? Anyone else love the movie, Billy Madison? Let me know in the comments!
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