WILMINGTON (WWAY) — People who seem perfectly planned, 24-7? Fakes, all of them. Or maybe that’s what I choose to believe in order to maintain even a drop of self-esteem.

Poor planning and poor choices are my constant downfall. I’d much rather sleep late than start the slow cooker. But every once in a while it’s not my fault: A child spikes a fever or the power goes out. Then Little Mary Martyr (my thin disguise) so enjoys marching through the house.

By sunset the reason dinner isn’t fixed doesn’t matter. It’s time, and the escape routes are limited. Chances are I’ve already gone the restaurant route this week, and the thought of cereal makes me gag.

There is a better way.

When I’m tempted to call out for food I’ll regret, I ask myself: Is it possible to whip up something that will be faster, cheaper, contain less calories and taste as good (or better) without losing my temper? If that something gets a yes on all fronts, I have to cook it. There really aren’t any excuses left.

Our Sloppy Janes, is one of those recipes. It’s a slightly more sophisticated version of a time-honored favorite. It tends to make me feel downright triumphant. Dinner on the fly? Darned right.

Sloppy Janes

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds 93-percent-lean ground beef, fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green or red bell pepper, optional
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 large can (15 ounces) low-sodium tomato sauce
1 can (6 ounces) low-sodium tomato paste
Salt and black pepper to taste
12 slices French bread (or 6 hamburger buns)*

1. Turn oven broiler to high. If beef is frozen, microwave 3 minutes, uncovered on high, to defrost slightly. Meanwhile, heat oil on medium in a 12-inch skillet. Peel and coarsely chop onion, adding it to skillet as you chop. Add beef, and raise heat to high. Seed and chop bell pepper (if using), and add. Cook, stirring to break up meat chunks and scrape cooked meat from frozen block, until beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. While beef browns, add brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire and garlic.

2. Stir in tomato sauce and tomato paste. Reduce heat to simmer and continue to stir until tomato paste is thoroughly incorporated. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes to let flavors develop. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. While sauce simmers, place bread on a large cookie sheet, and toast lightly under broiler on both sides. Serve at once, placing 2 pieces of bread on each plate and spooning some sauce on top. (Or serve sandwich style on buns.)

*Cooking Notes
To make fewer servings, use 2 slices bread or 1 bun per person. Refrigerate leftover sauce in airtight container for up to 3 days. Microwave to reheat.

© Kitchen Scoop, LLC

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