When I was a kid, Manwich sloppy joes were a mainstay in our house. It was cheap, and it stretched a pound of burger out to easily feed four kids and my dad. Plus, it was something simple that he could cook. My dad does many things really well, but at the time, cooking wasn't one of them. I can remember coming home from kindergarten one day, and he had made chocolate pudding, the cooked kind. He gave me a bowl for my snack. I loved chocolate pudding, but this just didn't taste right, and I told him that. He took a bite and told me it was fine, and to eat it. I took another bite, and told him something was wrong with it and I couldn't eat it. He was irritated, but said fine, that my brothers would eat it when they came home. Well, that didn't happen either. Neither one of them liked it or would eat it. That's saying something for my oldest brother because he was a garbage can - he'd eat anything that didn't run away! Many years later, I was talking to my dad about that story and he told me that the pudding had scorched but he didn't think I would notice. Nice try, Dad, but even then, I knew what tasted good, and that wasn't it!
I'm not saying that he burned everything or that he was a bad cook, he was just very limited and unimaginative. We had steaks and pork chops sometimes, and he could fix them well enough, but we also had a lot of fried hot dogs and bologna. That's probably why I loved Manwich so, it was definitely a welcome change from hot dogs and bologna, which I won't touch now.
Once I left home, it was many years before I had Manwich again - probably four or five years ago. We were at someone's house and they made sloppy joes with it. You know what, it still tasted good! Maybe it was because I was really hungry, or maybe it was the nostalgia, I'll never know.
Anyway, as much as I like Manwich, I have adapted a Rachael Ray sloppy joe recipe that puts it to shame. After fixing it, I will never go back to the canned variety again, and I would be willing to bet that you won't either. Here's your Cast of Characters.
1 Lb. of very lean ground beef
Lawry's season salt
1 - 2 Tablespoons McCormick Montreal seasoning
1/4 Cup brown sugar
1 Medium onion, chopped
1/2 Yellow or Orange sweet bell pepper, chopped
2 Tablespoons, each, red wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar can be subbed) and Worcesterhire sauce
2 Cups tomato sauce
1 Small can tomato paste
Thick rolls or hamburger buns
In a medium skillet, break ground beef up and start browning on medium-low heat. Sprinkle Lawry's and pepper generously over it.
Add brown sugar and Montreal seasoning. I use 2 tablespoons of Montreal seasoning, but start out with 1, and add more later, if needed.
Stir well, until all mixed in. Add onions and yellow pepper.
Continue cooking until hamburger is browned and onions and peppers are starting to get tender, about 10 minutes.
Add vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well, and cook for another 5 minutes.
Next, add the tomato sauce and paste. Blend well.
Cook for another 5 minutes, allowing flavors to get to know each other.
Sample it, and season with more Montreal or vinegar and worcestershire. Just play with it until it suits your particular tastes.
Serve on big roll or bun. (These are my Grandma Roberts' light rolls again. Maybe tomorrow I'll share the recipe for them.)
*By the way, over the last few years, my dad has turned out to be quite a good cook. He even goes so far as to make some candy! Who knew?!*