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Sandwiches for Dinner? Make a Healthy Sloppy Joe

There are some summer days when it’s just too hot to stand over the stove and prepare a nutritious meal. It’s even too hot to think about firing up the grill and cooking in the shade. It’s days like these that bring a single mom’s favorite childhood meals to mind, especially those summer evenings when we ate our dinner on a blanket under the shade tree in the back yard.

Sloppy Joes have been a favorite with kids for generations. The short prep time make them a favorite with moms, too. An added benefit is that they can be made ahead and be frozen for later use without losing any flavor. They can also be prepared early in the day and held until the evening meal in the crock pot.  Sloppy Joes are also easily reheated in the microwave.

The word sloppy is in the name of this tasty treat for a reason. Letting the kids enjoy them as a dinner picnic outside will save mom from having to clean the floor of the sloppiness after the meal. It won’t, however, help with getting stains out of the clothes. Nothing is perfect, after all.

Some slight changes to the traditional Sloppy Joe recipe will make it an even healthier all-in-one meal for the family. Instead of ground beef, use ground turkey and replace the regular hamburger buns with those made of whole wheat.

This recipe will serve four, but can easily be doubled so that the leftovers can be frozen for the next hot day when mom can’t bear the thought of turning on the stove.

Turkey Sloppy Joes

  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 med yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1 lb 99% lean ground turkey
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tsp brown sugar (optional)
  • 2/3 cups strained tomatoes
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 4 large whole wheat hamburger buns
  1. Heat the olive oil in large sautée pan over low heat.
  2. Add the onion, pepper, garlic, and celery.
  3. Cover and cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and start to become translucent. This usually takes about 7 minutes.
  4. Remove the vegetables and bring the heat to medium high. Add the ground turkey to the pan and cook, stirring when needed, for about 7 minutes, or until it is almost cooked through.
  5. Add the previously cooked vegetables, stirring them into the turkey.
  6. Add the tomato paste, vinegar and sugar to the mixture and cook, stirring occasionally for about 4 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes, nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  8. Lower heat and simmer until thick.

If tomatoes are in season, use fresh ones instead of the canned. Nothing is as good as fresh when it’s available.

Feel free to substitute red or yellow pepper if they are less expensive than the green bell peppers or if the kids simply favor one over the other. If the peppers are on sale, buy an extra one and cut it into strips and serve along side the sandwich.

Homemade Chicken Tenders

Once the single mom has disciplined herself to reading the ingredients and nutritional labels on the food she offers her family, she may feel a pang of guilt when she gives into their demands for their favorite foods, especially if the normal source of the food is a fast food restaurant or processed and frozen preparations. But there are many favorites that can easily be made at home with the benefit of added nutritional value.

There aren’t a lot of kids who don’t like chicken. Call them chicken nuggets, chicken fingers or chicken tenders, the pieces of mean encased in bread crumbs or batter seem to be a favorite of many whole families. They aren’t as hard to make as you might think.

For this recipe, one chicken breast is considered a serving size. The recipe is for one serving, so adjust the ingredients depending on the size of your family. You should be able to put the meal together in about ten minutes. That’s just slightly longer than it takes at the drive through on a busy evening. It takes another 20 minutes to bake, which gives mom plenty of time to prepare the side dishes.

  • 1 4-oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • ¼ c. egg substitute or skim milk
  • 1/3 c. flaked, high-fiber cereal, crushed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  1. Rinse the chicken breast and pat it dry. Cut it into strips.
  2. Dip the strips into the milk or egg substitute.
  3. Coat the strips of dipped chicken by rolling it in the crushed cereal.
  4. Place the coated chicken strips onto a non stick baking pan.
  5. The chicken should bake for 18 to 20 minutes. It’s ready to be turned after 9 minutes. The chicken will be white throughout when it is done.

When you compare this recipe to prepackaged chicken, you’ll be surprised to find out that you are giving your kids 12 grams less fat per serving. Some other nutritional benefits are the introduction of 185 mg of folic acid, and increase from 4 mg of iron to 10, an increase to 44 mg calcium from the 2 mg calcium found in the fast food chicken. The big payoff is in the sodium reduction. The serving of chicken that you previously served the kids had approximately 670 mg of sodium. Using this recipe, your child is getting only 239 mg of sodium per serving.

Next time your kids are begging for their favorite chicken, you can be confident that you are giving them a nutritious meal that the whole family will love.

Healthy Hamburgers for Dinner

Dinner is very inconveniently timed. Most single moms have already put in a tough day when thoughts turn to meal preparation. A lot of kids know that when mom is exhausted, it’s a good time to suggest take out or other fast foods. Many moms are tempted by the option too often, even knowing that her kids are missing out on the health benefits of nutritious home cooked meals. When the kids are begging for hamburgers, give in to them. Just turn your attention and theirs to preparing hamburgers with nutritious ingredients.

Vegetable filled hamburgers can be put together in as little as 25 minutes and be cooked to perfection in about twelve. Cleanup is easy.

Choose whole wheat hamburger buns instead of the usual type made with white flour. Split and lightly toast the buns before filling them with the burger and toppings.

Use ground chicken or turkey instead of ground beef and add finely grated vegetables to the mixture. If you don’t think the curry powder will be a hit with the kids, just don’t add it. The sliced zucchini is also an optional ingredient. The idea is to make a nutritious meal that the kids will eat, after all.

To make four hamburgers, mix the following in a medium sized mixing bowl:

  • 1/4 cup of soft whole wheat bread crumbs
  • ½ cup carrot, finely shredded
  • ¼ cup green onion, sliced thin
  • ¼ teaspoon of crushed, dried Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 Tablespoons of milk
  • A dash of pepper

Add ¾ pound of ground turkey or chicken to the bowl and mix all of the ingredients well.

Divide the mixture into four parts and shape into patties that are approximately 3/4 inch think.

The healthy and nutritious hamburger patties will cook well in the kitchen broiler or outside on a charcoal or gas grill in about 12 minutes. They only have to be turned once. Because the chicken or turkey has little fat, grease the grill lightly before adding the burgers. When done, the internal temperature will be 165 degrees F.

Top off the burgers with spicy mustard you can make by mixing ¼ cup of the Dijon type of mustard with ½ teaspoon of curry powder.

Have sliced tomato, lettuce leaves or even shredded zucchini available to top the tasty hamburgers. You’ll be surprised how tasty this recipe is!