Veggie Adventures, Part 1: Sloppy Josephines

I have a problem: I’m married to a meat-n-potatoes guy, but many days I find myself not in the mood for chicken, or beef, or pork. Forget fish. Fish is gross.

I have a solution: Go vegetarian for lunch! That way, I can experiment with other types of food without subjecting Scott to it. I can also indulge my inclination for lighter fare without having to cook two different meals. Win, win!

And, just like any of my well-intentioned yet overly ambitious ideas, I plan to document my Veggie Adventures here.

Adventure numero uno: “sloppy Josephines,” a sloppy Joe recipe that uses lentils instead of ground beef, which I found at Peas & Thank You. Based on what I read online, this seemed like exactly the kind of recipe that would appeal to me. Besides the lentils (and a request for “vegan” Worcestershire sauce that I ignored), the ingredients were all everyday items that I (thought I) already had in the fridge or pantry.

One thing about me: I’m not one of those people who tinkers with recipes. Ohhhh, no. I have to follow those puppies TO THE LETTER. More than to the letter. To the…serif? Pica? Given this tendency, it’s surprising that I went to the store with only a vague idea that I needed “lentils and an onion” to complete this recipe rather than with the actual recipe in hand. Almost like I wanted to fail…more on that later. And to think I imagined my biggest problem would be knowing when a lentil was “cooked.”

The ingredients...or is it?

I was very excited as I assembled the ingredients on the counter. Vegetable broth, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce (with anchovies…sorry, little fish), chili powder, tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, lentils, and one tiny, unassuming shallot. Oh, yeah. You know how I said that I’m predisposed towards following recipes precisely? Well, that doesn’t apply to onions. Three years ago, I would have left it out of the recipe entirely. Two years ago, I might have used some onion powder. Recently, I’ve been attempting to be an adult. Putting on big girl pants doesn’t mean I’m up to putting an ENTIRE onion in a recipe, though. Ew.

The first step of the recipe was “rinsing and draining” the lentils, and this is where my problems began. All of my strainers have holes larger than the size of a lentil. Using any of these for the “draining” process would drain my little sloppy joe-to-be’s directly into the garbage disposal. Fortunately, I found a solution:

Ah, the noble cheese grater. Thank you for your multi-tasking skills.

The next step was boiling the lentils in water, vegetable broth, or some combination thereof. I opted for half and half: two cups of broth with two cups of water. Once those were going, I chopped the “onion” (ew) and tossed it into a skillet, wrinkling my nose in an appropriate amount of distaste.

Step 1: Lentils and Shallots

As I was preparing the remaining ingredients for the sauce, I made one alarming discovery after another.

Alarming Discovery #1: The recipe called for tomato paste. I had no tomato paste. After my brilliant MacGyver-like work with the Cheese Grater turned Lentil Strainer innovation, I turned my superior intellect to the task of finding a substitute. …Ok, scratch that, I had no substitutes. None whatsoever. I glanced towards the lentils simmering away on the stove. Should I abandon the whole plan and try again when I had all the ingredients? Tempting, but NO, dang it! I’ve gotten this far. How essential can 1/4 cup of tomato paste actually be to the success of the recipe? It’s probably just for thickening anyway, so maybe I can add a little cornstarch if the mixture seems too runny. Maybe?

Even as I was rationalizing away the troublesome paste, the recipe-following obsessive compulsive inside was screaming. And then, it got worse.

Alarming Discovery #2: As I attempted to move on, I noticed another troubling thing. The recipe called for tomato sauce, which I had. Problem was, I had an 8 oz. can instead of a 14 oz. one. Good grief. And of course that would be my only can of tomato sauce. Beautiful. Simply beautiful. This time, though, I found a reasonable substitute — spaghetti sauce. That’s a reasonable substitute, right? Maybe?

At this point, I had exactly no confidence that this recipe would be edible. I’d been warned by my vegan friend that lentils had a “bite,” so I wasn’t even sure I would like the result…and that assumed the recipe would be correctly prepared in the first place!

During my battle with various tomato products, the Cat Who Loves Cheese appeared in the kitchen. You see, most of my cooking involves cheese, so when I enter the kitchen she starts to get excited. “I’m sorry, cat. This is a vegan recipe. I can pretty much guarantee you that there will be no cheese in your future.” She ignored me and instead began vibrating in her desire to get some cheeeeeeeeeeeeese.


I ignored her, because if I was forgoing dairy products for the day, by golly she could, too! Of course, ignoring a shrieking, crazed, cheese addict of a feline is exactly as difficult as it sounds. Anyway. The sauce was made, the lentils looked tender, and it was time to combine the two. I did so, and looked at the mixture suspiciously. Would it be tasty? Would it be disgusting? Would I get the cat to shut the heck up without caving and giving her some cheese?

The final step was upon me: assembly. The recipe said to use a “toasted whole wheat bun”. All I had on-hand were white hamburger buns, which pushed my OCD side over the edge.

“NO! No. Just no. You didn’t use a whole onion…or even a real onion at all. You left out the tomato paste, you monkeyed around with spaghetti sauce instead of straight tomato sauce…NO! You may not change the type of bread.”

I’m sorry, crazy Megan, you’ve just got to deal. We don’t have any other bread, and I’m not eating sloppy joe’s with a spoon. That’s gross.

“You’re right. That is gross. Could you at least toast the bun like the recipe asks?

Arrrrrrrggggghhhh. Don’t make me bust out the griddle. This is already a lot of dishes for just lunch.

“Please? Pleasepleasepleaseplease?”



Hey, doesn’t the fancy toaster have a “bun warmer” option?

“IT DOES! Do it do it do it do it…”

I did.

Toasting my buns.

Ok. It’s done. My kitchen smelled weird and…lentil-y…and I was already imagining the fun conversation I’d have with Scott when he came home and got a whiff. In typical “Megan” fashion, I put my mostly healthy sandwich alongside some not-healthy-at-all frozen french fries and absolutely-positively-not-healthy Mountain Dew. That pretty well sums up my eating habits — one healthy thing with two pieces of junk.

The final product...and the verdict?

It was delicious. I’m delighted to have six of its friends waiting in my freezer for future lunches. Sloppy Josephines are an easy, economical recipe that is apparently impossible to mess up. Huzzah! 🙂


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