Classy it up: the Messy Joseph

Messy Joseph

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, no? It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, exactly . . . it’s just that, well . . . okay, we haven’t really been cooking. Not in a share-this-awesome-recipe-on-my-blog way, anyway. Mostly skillet meals and such.

I’ve been trying to get serious about meal planning, but last week’s dinners looked like this:

Monday: Skillet meal
Tuesday: Slow cooker ham and bean soup
Wednesday: Pizza with friends
Thursday: Dinner out with family
Friday: Pizza with my parents

And yeah.

I did bake banana bread over the weekend to use up a bunch of brown fruit. But that barely counts.

Spence and I were back in action on Tuesday, though! Back, hungry and ready for something new. I discovered this recipe for Messy Josephs — the older, sophisticated brother to the popular Sloppy Joe — a few months back, and I can finally say that I pinned it and made it.

And it was delicious.

I had to modify the original because we were missing a few of the ingredients, including fresh basil, and it was raining and my hair was already poofy and yeah, no grocery run for me. Because we also lacked portobello mushrooms — a hallmark of the recipe! — I had to get even more creative.

It all worked out.

The Messy Joseph is tangy, interesting, a little bit sweet from the addition of balsamic vineger (LOVE) and red wine. It retains the structure and texture of a Sloppy Joe, but the flavors are totally turned up a notch. It just tastes fresh in a way that a prepared-from-a-can-mix Sloppy Joe cannot.

If Sloppy Joe was the affable high school athlete beloved by teachers and classmates alike, Messy Joseph is the Ivy League-bound senior who heads up both the National Honor Society and the drama department. He’s a little bit finicky, maybe, but a total smartypants who can also please a crowd.

The recipe made enough for a hungry couple to devour with leftovers for the next day — a criterion that has become increasingly important as I realize being an adult means preparing meals for yourself every evening. Leftovers for lunch or other dinners are pretty much the best.

Serve it over rice, in a bun or atop a portobello mushroom . . . or just, you know, eat it by itself. I totally just dove in at my desk the next day, though I had the forethought to secure half a bun to create a little open-faced meal as I answered emails.

I was right proud of myself, friends. And it sure as heck beat some lukewarm Progresso soup.

Messy Joseph

Messy Josephs

Recipe adapted from Diving Into Vino Again

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 package (about 2 cups) fresh mushrooms
Sun dried tomatoes, diced
Marinated red peppers, sliced
1 lb ground turkey
2 tbsp garlic, minced
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup red wine
1 tbsp dried basil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Saute the onions and mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat until onions turn translucent and mushrooms begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add ground turkey and cook until cooked through. Add the garlic, sun dried tomatoes, marinated peppers, balsamic, red wine, tomato paste, basil and salt and pepper. Continue to let it simmer for 15 minutes over low-medium heat. Serve in a bun or over rice.

New go-to dinner: Turkey oven sandwiches

The menu around our house has slowly grown in diversity, but it takes something special — something very special — to earn a regular spot in our weeknight rotation. One night is taco night. Then we have spaghetti night, or chicken nuggets night. My dad will probably thrown chicken on a grill on a different day, and then we’re left with dreaded Leftovers Night or We’re Going Out to Bob Evans Night.

Then I began combing the web for something new to make with ground turkey, something our freezer seems to never be without. Until a few months ago, ground turkey was reserved for homemade meatballs (thereby placing them on the roster for Spaghetti Night) and not much else. But now? With this recipe for turkey oven sandwiches, the times have been a’ changin’.

I love these because they’re simple, quick and different, plus mighty tasty and easy to prepare after work. And the best part is that they’re completely customizable — appropriate for the varied tastes of your family and guests, for sure. My dad hates celery, for one, so he gets one that’s completely plain . . . no celery, no onion, no nothing (well, besides cheese and sour cream). Everyone’s happy because they get what they want, and I’m happy because . . . well, it’s just delicious.

Whenever I think about making these, the best part is that we usually have everything we need right at home — minus the pita bread. I’ve made many a run to the grocery store and walked out with just pita bread, but it’s worth it. Filling and warm, these “sandwiches” — open-faced, anyway — are definitely comfort food. They don’t have to have the calories of traditional comfort foods, though; it’s easy to use fat-free sour cream instead of regular, reduced-fat cheese, etc.

The recipe below is a guideline, and most ingredients should be considered “to taste.” For instance, Spencer and I are totally nuts over garlic — so way more than the teaspoon below goes into our skillet. I’m also guilty of slapping tons of garlic salt, black pepper and other random spices, and these have never turned out poorly. The last thing you want is bland ground turkey, so go bold! Add what you think your crew will like — I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Also, I can easily make five sandwiches from one package of ground turkey — sometimes six, depending on how hungry everyone is!

Turkey Oven Sandwiches

Adapted from Betty Crocker

For turkey:
1 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon black pepper

When layering pitas:
4-6 pita breads
1 medium tomato, diced
1 medium celery stalk, sliced (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (or to taste)

For topping:
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Paprika, if desired

1. Heat oven to 425ºF. In a skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil and garlic before adding turkey, poultry seasoning, garlic salt, black pepper and parsley. Stir occasionally until turkey is no longer pink, then drain.

2. Layer pita bread rounds on ungreased baking sheet (it’s okay if they overlap). Layer turkey, celery, red onion, tomato and Cheddar cheese on pitas.

3. Mix sour cream and mayonnaise, then spoon over top. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until topping is light brown. Enjoy!