DINNER BY ME: Crock-pot Joes, a simple homemade meal

My favorite meal to cook is dinner.

I love to take a photo of what I prepare for dinner and post the picture on Facebook. Most of them are titled “Dinner by Me,” a tagline for the dinners I would cook while I was attending classes at Central Michigan University.

I liked when college friends would comment on my cooking or ask about the recipe. Many of the dinners I made were simple, home-style recipes my mother or grandmother would make when I was a child. In my career as a cook I took many of my favorite recipes from my childhood and made them my own.

I did that by using ingredients and inspired flavors from my travels and experiences from around the world.

“Dinner by Me,” is my way of sharing my passion for cooking a meal with the reader.

Cooking a meal is one of the most personal and intimate things you can do for someone. You’re sharing with them real nourishment made from your creativity — even if you’re using a recipe, you chose and planned the meal.

As human beings, eating a meal is a common bond that connects all races, nationalities and backgrounds. Eating together encourages us to relax, let go of everyday inhibitions and talk to one another.

The special thing about a home cooked meal is the feeling of abundance it provides. Everything you have and need is at your fingertips. There’s real freedom when you cook at home. You don’t need to worry about what you’ve ordered and what’s in it because you are in control. You’re the artist. You experience that feeling of freedom when you see it in the smiles of your guests after the meal begins.

Cooking also is a chance to go on a new experience with someone — especially if they share the same passion and joy of food as you.

I always remember the fried chicken I prepared for college friends or the salmon I made at a friend’s party. They remember these events too, and share them with others. These events were special because of the cooking. It feels great to know I provided a memorable dinner for them. It is my hope that “Dinner by Me,” will do the same for you.

This week I made my favorite childhood dinner. I remember as young teen coming home from school to this simmering on low in the slow cooker. I was about 12 and mom and dad were both working second shift, so our meals were usually simmering in the Crock-pot. It was my mother’s Sloppy Joes. They’re the best; nothing could beat my mom’s homemade joes.

I took her classic joe sauce, added some of my favorite flavors from the desert southwest and created a zesty sandwich that takes the original sloppy joe to a new level. Remember the sauce is what makes the joe, sloppy and delicious.

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups of ketchup

2 tablespoons of yellow prepared mustard

2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons of brown sugar

1 cup of diced onion

2 cups of diced yellow bell pepper

2 jalapeno peppers, diced

1 tablespoon of minced garlic

1 pound of ground beef, turkey or chicken

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large saucepan combine ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and diced jalapenos. Bring to a boil for a minute and then reduce heat to a low simmer. Take a large skillet and start cooking the meat. Once the meat is about medium rare, add the salt and pepper, bell pepper, onion and garlic. Cover and cook until the meat is done. Remove the sauce from the heat and pour into a slow cooker set on low. Drain the excess fat from the meat and vegetables. Once the fat is drained, add the meat and veggies to the sauce and stir well. Cover and cook on low for five to six hours.

Serve the joe meat on your favorite bun or bread and enjoy with your favorite side.