Years ago, when our hungry teenage boys came home for dinner (with hungry buddies tagging along) it was a challenge to feed them all with one pan of Sloppy Joe's. Unexpected "guests" at the dinner table required some quick thinking. To "stretch" this simple recipe, I added kidney beans, extra shredded veggies and cheese. It was always a big hit. Necessity is the mother of invention I guess, thank goodness for versatile recipes like this one.

Another way I stretched this recipe for the kids, was to whip up a batch of biscuits (rolling the dough thinner than usual) and putting a big spoon of cooked Sloppy Joe filling on one side of the flattened biscuit, then folded it over to enclose the meat (pinching the biscuit dough shut). With a small knife, I cut a vent hole in the "turnover" and baked them on a greased sheet at 375 for 15 minutes (sort of a Hot Pocket type sandwich). They were a big hit and the boys dipped them in ranch dressing.

These days, with the kids all gone, I still occasionally go to this recipe as a “back up” when we go camping. I freeze the cooked filling in Ziploc bags (patted to a 1” flat shape so I can thaw it quickly). If bad weather prohibits us from cooking outdoors, this Sloppy Joe filling makes a quick “stuck in the motor home” lunch with no mess or fuss.

1 pound lean ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped bell pepper
½ cup shredded carrot
2/3 cup ketchup
½ cup water
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon red pepper sauce (see note)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
5 hamburger buns, split and toasted

Cook the hamburger and onion together, chopping up the meat as it cooks (drain meat well). Stir in remaining ingredients (except buns). Simmer on med-low for about 15 minutes (to reduce the consistency of the sauce). Fill the hamburger buns with the beef mixture and serve.

NOTE: Don't know when the kids are coming home? Keep this sandwich filling hot in the crockpot.
NOTE: I serve these with a slice of cheese under the meat mixture and a squirt of yellow mustard on top of the filling.
NOTE: I never have red pepper sauce on hand, so I always use a pinch of dry red pepper flakes instead.
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