This post was updated March 2016.
Even though one-third of the creatures living under my roof are Canadian, I’d consider our household distinctly American. We go to the fair. We watch auto racing. And we eat a lot of meat. We’re pretty much your quintessential Americans. As citizens of this fair land (scratch that, only Juniper and I are citizens, my husband is a permanent resident), we also enjoy the taste of good ole doctored up pound of ground beef.
The amount of stuff you can do with ground beef is pretty incredible. Even more incredible are the number of products on grocery store shelves that blast across their packaging, “Just add ground beef!” One of the more popular (and more prevalent in my childhood) is Manwich.
I love Manwich (AKA: sloppy joes). They are delicious, sweet, and a little bit spicy, but honestly, I think the “just add ground beef!” way of life is seriously contributing to our country’s health issues. I love meat as much as the next carnivore, but I think, as a country, we eat meat too frequently. The nutrients and minerals in red meat are great for you, but to get the benefits of those you only really need to eat one-three ounce serving of red meat every 7–10 days! I don’t know about you, but the last time I made sloppy joes, I had a lot more than three ounces. And I know most people have it more that 3-4 times a month.
So where do that leave us if we want some sloppy without the cow? Lentils!
When cooked down, lentils have an awesome, meaty texture. They are packed full of fiber and some great nutrients and minerals. Plus, they cut the caloric load of sloppy joes down quite dramatically! One serving of lentil sloppy joes rings in around 220 calories. The beef version? Try 350 calories for a similar-sized serving.
The lentils really work perfectly for a ground beef substitute! They work especially well in highly flavored sauce dishes like this. Really, do you even taste the ground beef in sloppy joes? Or do you just taste the sloppy part? This is a super kid-friendly way to do Meatless Monday. Trust me, your family will love these!
To make this a weeknight-friendly dinner, the base of the sauce is ketchup. Did you know that many store-bought ketchups are chock-full of sugar and in most cases high fructose corn syrup (AKA: corn sugar)? To keep this on the healthier side (while still keeping the prep quick and easy), go ahead and splurge the few extra cents to get yourself a bottle with a nice and clean ingredients list.
And if it’s really important to you to keep this entire dish vegetarian (like say, you’re serving it to folks who are strict vegetarians instead of flexitarians like I am), make sure you get vegan Worcestershire sauce. Annie’s Homegrown makes a good one that is available at most health food/natural foods stores. Typical Worcestershire sauce is made using fermented anchovies (sounds disgusting, tastes delicious!)—which is obviously not vegetarian. Enjoy!