So lately I've had trouble using my brain.
I don't know if it's that I turned 40 last April or if it's because I'm on chemo for lupus or if it's that I'm really in the early stages of Alzheimer's.
Some days I think it might be all three.
But I have been saying and doing weird things lately. Like the other night, I told Michael his clean socks were at the store. I meant to say in the drier. That makes sense. All our best clothes are in the drier. But I had been thinking about going to the grocery store and so store is what came out.
Well, I actually made it to the store yesterday. Sadly, his socks weren't there. I, however, was having a particularly good day, and while the boys were at art class, I reintroduced myself to my long-lost friend, Kroger.
I walked in uber-prepared. I had a grocery list in hand and even had rebate checks to redeem. As I filled my buggy with everything I needed for the week, I checked that list carefully. Carefully! When the last item was marked off, I checked out (my total was only $21 thanks to those rebates!), drove home, and got it all put away while the boys were still at art class. I even had time to hop online and buy Michael's Christmas present during the Cyber Monday sales.
Homeschool Dawn was back in the saddle, people.
Come dinner time, I grabbed the pack of ground beef bought earlier in the day and threw it in the skillet without a second thought. Chili mac was the plan.
But then I remembered something crucial: chili mac requires mac which takes longer to cook than beef. Why had I not started boiling the macaroni already?
I ran (okay, you got me) hobbled to the pantry and dug... and dug... and dug. I pulled every.single.box, container, bag, what-have-you off the shelves, and there was not a scrap of macaroni to be found.
Grumble, grumble, grrrrrr!
I was NOT going back to the store because that "organized" trip may have only cost $21 dollars but it used up 74 whole spoons. And I only get about 50 of those per day. Michael was busy helping Ben understand factoring the something-something when the whatcha-ma-digger is a doohickey. I was not interrupting that magic moment. So I would find a way to fix the problem that did not involve disrupting Algebra class or taking another trip to the store.
(Although maybe if I had made the 2nd trip, I would have found Michael's socks! They weren't in the drier, either.)
I rummaged through the pantry again and found a package of Spanish rice. I was going to cook that up and then mix it with the beef, add in some dehydrated onions and cheese and bake it up... something I used to do all.the.time. when M and I were first married.
Then I discovered that pack of rice had been in the pantry for nearly a decade.
Great, I couldn't even whip up a newly-wed concoction.
The ground beef was getting brown, so I had to think. Thnk. Think. Think.
Tomato sauce! I had a can right there on the counter because I was going to use it in the chili mac.
Now, for some reason, in my mind, tomato sauce equals sloppy joes. But the thing is... I have never made homemade sloppy joes. EVER! As I stood at the electric can opener, ready to swirl open that garlic-y tomato goodness, I came to my senses as I envisioned a runny mess. How I would I get that sauce to thicken?
Soggy buns. Ick.
I was about to lose hope, freeze the cooked ground beef, and pull out the peanut butter and bread, when the distant dinner bell from a ranch in Oklahoma signaled help was on its way.
The Pioneer Woman!
If anybody would know how to make homemade sloppy joes and help me rescue my meal, it would be P-Dub.
Sure enough, she had a recipe for sloppies, and it did not call for tomato sauce. (Duh) It called for ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire, tomato paste (ah-ha, thick, not runny) and chopped veggies. However, at this point, there was no way I was going to chop onions and celery and what-have-you.
Sorry, PW, nothing personal. Usually, I am all about your deliciously fresh, from-scratch, chocked-full-of-goodness recipes. But my spoons were completely gone and at that moment I couldn't have chopped butter.
The ketchup and brown sugar in her "cast of characters" got me to thinking, though. I make a homemade BBQ sauce that is to die for (or so I've been told) and ketchup and brown sugar are two of the base ingredients. I ran to the kitchen (okay, you got me again... still hobbling) and whipped up my sauce. Then I just started adding in whatever spices I thought would work and make it less BBQ-y and more sloppy joe-ish.
I poured the sauce over the browned, strained beef and set it to simmer. I wanted the sauce to get good and warm, but also just about that time, Brian entered the kitchen to let me know he finally knew the capital of Maryland.
We've been working on that for quite awhile so I left the stove to listen to his recitation. It was quite good!
Good job, Bruster. Good job!
When I returned to the kitchen, the sloppy joe meat was starting to look a bit, ahem, Cajun. I quickly turned off the eye. Desperate to feed my family something, I scraped up that blackened, BBQ-turned-who-knows-what-sauced beef and plated up the Joes.
Miracle of all miracles, that stuff was good! Everyone asked me to make it again next week.
And make it I will... if I can remember exactly what I did.
Here is my best attempt at a recipe. Maybe I'll insert pictures another day so you can pin it.
But probably not.
Step One: Carefully make a grocery list for chili mac but forget to buy the macaroni.
Step Two: Brown ground beef. When it's half-way through cooking, realize you don't have the noodles and need to change your meal plan.
Step Three: Desperately try to recreate some weird casserole you concocted when you were in your early twenties and thought cookbooks were for losers. Suddenly realize you seriously need to clean out your pantry.
Step Four: Read the Pioneer Woman blog and hope she can save you. Realize that you are not as good as she is and so you can only pull off half her recipe. Go throw a bunch of dehydrated onions on the meat as it finishes browning because you don't have time or available spoons to chop the real ones.
Step Five: Mix together 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup brown sugar, a BIG squirt of yellow mustard, a tiny dash of ground red pepper, and a couple big dashes of chili powder. Throw in various other spices for good measure. It doesn't really matter what. Just pick stuff.
Step Six (This is very, very important to the overall success of the meal): Leave your meat and sauce cooking on low heat for about 10 minutes too long. It will start to blacken underneath and stick to the pan.
Step Seven: Scrape that stuff up out of the pan and get some of that blackened goodness in there before plating.
We call them Ooopsie Joes. My family says you should try them sometime.