Sloppy Joes — What to Cook When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking #1

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No matter how much a person likes to cook, there are times when you just don’t feel like cooking. In my What to Cook When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking series, I am going to provide you recipes that have minimal ingredients, preparation, and cooking time. These are recipes I turn to over and over again when spending time in the kitchen isn’t possible or desirable.

Let’s start with one of my favorite quick meals, sloppy joes. With just six ingredients, these tangy sandwiches filling comes together in about 10 minutes. Now, I am going to assume that some people are going to bypass this recipe because it uses ketchup as an ingredient. All I can say is, at it’s heart, all ketchup is a spicy tomato sauce. It takes on a very different character when cooked. If you just can’t bring yourself to use ketchup, use an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce.

Sloppy Joes

½ lb lean ground beef
2 TBS onion, chopped
2 TBS green pepper, chopped
½ cup ketchup
1 ½ tsp brown sugar
1 ½ tsp prepared mustard
1 ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 hamburgers, split

In a small skillet, cook the beef, onion, and green pepper over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Serve on buns

Vegetable Pot Pie

I like cooking for myself but I love cooking for my friend, Steph, even more. Steph has been coming to my house for meals, at least once a week, for years. She is a willing, and often brave, taster of all my crazy culinary experiments.

A few years ago, Steph told me she was going vegetarian to see if a mostly plant based diet would alleviate some of the recurring digestive issues she was having. I kind of freaked out. I had never cooked anything vegetarian. How could anyone make a satisfying meal of just vegetables? I grew up in a family where meat is the center of the plate and frozen vegetables and maybe a salad were the sides. What did I know about cooking vegetables?

From my point of view, I had two choices. The first choice was to give up cooking for Steph. That wasn’t really an option because I really enjoy the time Steph and I spend around the kitchen table discussing the great mysteries of life, the universe and everything. My only other option was to learn how to cook a satisfying meal of vegetables.

This pot pie recipe was one of the first vegetarian meals I ever cooked for Steph. I like to make pot pies because they help use up all the little bits of leftovers that accumulate during the week. It is a flexible recipe so feel free to use whatever vegetables you like. Add leftover chicken, turkey or beef, if desired. A word of warning, it is better to go too big on your pan rather than fill it too full as this has a tendency to boil over. Serve this pot pie with a crisp, green salad and you will have a very satisfying meal of all vegetables.

Veggie Pot Pie

  • Difficulty: intermediate
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1 recipe for a double pie crust
1/2 medium potato, cubed
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup green beans, fresh or frozen
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/4 tsp dried Thyme
1/4 tsp dried parsley, optional
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 cup vegetable stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the roux:
1 1/2 tsp butter
1 1/2 tsp flour
1/4 cup milk

Make one recipe of Double Pie Crust. While the crust is chilling, place a small skillet over medium heat. Melt butter and add the flour, whisking constantly for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the milk and whisk until the mixture thickens slightly, set aside. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add the cubed potatoes, peas and beans. Saute until the potatoes are barely tender. Add the thyme, parsley flakes, if using and red pepper flakes, mix well. Pour the stock into the pan, salt and pepper to taste. Bring stock to a boil. Add the roux to the boiling stock and mix well. Continue to cook until the mixture is slightly thickened, set a side. Roll out your pie crust and line a pan that holds about 1 1/4 cups liquid comfortably. Top with the remaining pie crust and crimp the edges. Cut four venting slits on the top. Bake, 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling bubbly. Serve.

Double Pie Crust

Double Pie Crust
In a notebook on a shelf in my kitchen is my culinary bucket list. It contains a list of all the foodie people I want to meet, all the food I want to eat, fancy recipes I want to try to make and restaurants would love to eat at. On the last page of the notebook is a list of things I think every good cook should know how to make. Towards the top of that list is homemade pie crust.

Although I consider myself to be a fairly competent cook and baker, the idea of making my own pie dough intimidates me. I knew I had to get of over my pie dough phobia when I decided to make a small batch pot pie recipe. I was NOT going to pay 6 dollars for something I was only going to use a small portion of in a dish I wasn’t certain was even going to turn out.

In my research, I found a few small batch pie crust recipes. I decided to go with Christina Lane’s recipe from her marvelous blog Dessert for Two. It produces a nice tender crust and by adjusting the sugar you can adapt it too savory dishes, like pot pies, as well as desserts. In tomorrow’s post I’ll be giving you a recipe to fill this crust so be sure to check back.

Double Pie Crust

1 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
4 TBS cold unsalted butter
3-4 TBS water

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into small pieces, then add it to the flour mixture. Using two forks or your fingers, rub the butter or cut the butter into the flour until coarse crumbs form. Add 3 tablespoons of water. Stir until a dough forms that sticks together when pressed together in your hand. If it doesn’t stay together when pressed, add the extra tablespoon of water. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill the dough for 20 minutes before proceeding. After the dough is chilled, divide the dough in half, making one half slightly larger. Take the slightly larger piece of dough and place it on a floured cutting board. Roll it from the middle to the outer edges, turning the crust a quarter turn each time, till it’s slightly larger than your pie pan. Fit the rolled out dough into your pie pan. Fill your dish with your filling. Roll out the remaining dough and place it over your filling and crimp the edges and slit the top. Bake according to your recipe directions. 1 double pie crust for a 5” deep dish pie pan.
— Be careful, it is very easy to use too much salt in this recipe.

Adapted from Dessert for Two

Equipping Your Solitary Kitchen

“The only equipment you need in the kitchen: a pot, a pan, a knife, a fork and a spoon. That’s what it all comes down to. (And in a pinch you could give up the fork.)”– Bunny Crumbpacker, How To Slice An Onion

In the past year, I have had the opportunity to cook in two kitchens that weren’t my own. The first kitchen was my dear friend, Steph’s, tiny apartment kitchen. Steph is 24 and just starting out on her own. Most of Steph’s kitchen equipment came from her 82 year old grandmother. She had the common spices of salt, pepper, cinnamon, and baking powder was that was best used in 2006.

The second kitchen belonged to my friend, Mike. Mike is a culinary school graduate with a huge kitchen, brand spanking new appliances, $400 knives, 4 kinds of salt and pepper, a ton of herbs and spices and just about every kitchen/cooking gadget in existence. Although these kitchens are very different, I have eaten good food from both. Here in solitary kitchen, the solitary cook has tried to strike a balance between Steph’s bare bones approach to cooking with a minimum of equipment and ingredients and Mike’s everything plus the kitchen sink approach.

The first step in equipping our solitary kitchen is determining what we already have and what we need. The following list is based on things I use to cook with daily. If you have this basic equipment you will be able to cook just about everything I post on this blog. The people who have cooked for families or even a little bit for themselves probably already have most of the items. If you are new to cooking, you may have to invest a little more money to get started. The good news is that most of the items can be found at dollar stores and discount stores like Walmart and Target fairly cheaply.

2 cup liquid measuring cup#
a set of dry measuring cups#
Measuring spoons#
2 1 quart mixing bowls
1 8” frying pan with lid#
1 12” frying pan with lid
1.5 quart sauce pan with lid#
3.5 quart sauce pan with lid
2 cutting boards#
1 8” chef’s knife*
1 5” paring knife
A couple of wire whisks in different sizes
1 heat resistant rubber spatula#
1 flipping spatula
A couple of wooden spoons
1 3 cup baking dish with lid#
1 6 cup baking dish with lid#
Various sizes of storage containers
Aluminum foil
Plastic wrap
Paper towels
Can opener#
1 6 cup muffin pan


It is possible to spend thousands of dollars to equip your kitchen and that’s not even including major appliances like refrigerators and stoves. While that may be fun, is it really necessary? Is a 70 dollar set of Le Cruset 3 cup and 6 cup baking dishes really any better than the Pyrex set I bought at Walmart for 10 dollars? In the end, that decision is up to you. I say buy the best quality you can afford, even if that means a trip to the dollar store for the basics. Great, anything to get you into the kitchen. If you can spend a little more, try places like Walmart and Target. Keep a look out for the basics at garage sales, consignment stores, thrift stores, or hand-me-downs from friends and families. I have even found awesome pans and other equipment in the garbage bin behind my apartment. My most treasured piece of kitchen equipment is an angel food cake pan that a friend bought for me at a garage sale for a quarter.

While kitchen equipment doesn’t have to be expensive, there are a few areas it pays to spend a little more for quality equipment, those areas are your pots and pans and your knives. Over the next few weeks I will have articles on why it is important to choose quality pot, pans and knives and how to choose those that best fit your needs as a solitary cook. In the meantime, start considering the things you need to start cooking.

#= must have in order to cook