Sloppy Joe mix in a can is cheap and easy. It's what I grew up eating and I never gave it much thought.
I have ended up with a lot of ground beef in the freezer and decided to use up some fresh vegetables by making Sloppy Joes from scratch.
There's nothing much to it; I sauteed a chopped onion, a couple of large carrots diced small and a couple of stalks of celery, then added a large tomato chopped up and some basil and a little black pepper. Set it aside and browned a pound of ground beef, draining off the fat and oil, and adding a little sage, paprika and chili powder, then a small can of tomato paste and a large dollop of ketchup (actually "chili sauce," sold with ketchup and really a better version of it*). I omitted the usual green bell pepper and put in a couple of tiny slices from a hot pepper that I had beheaded and tasted by touching the cut end with a fingertip and tasting my finger. Hot!
And then I made a terrible mistake. Tam came through the kitchen and I offered her the hot pepper, "It's too hot for me but you may like it."
She grabbed the pepper, popped it in her mouth, got a soft drink from the fridge and went back to the office. About two minutes later, she came back to the kitchen, said, "I won't need any dinner," and stuck her head under the kitchen-sink faucet with the cold water full on. This was...unexpected behavior.
She kept at it for several minutes, occasionally making strangling noises. She finally got cooled off enough to say, "I'd've been better off just using pepper spray." The pepper had been way too hot to eat whole. Major fail on my part and I apologized profusely -- but there's nothing much you can do. Water works as well as milk and she had plenty of it.
I encountered both of the tiny slices of the hot pepper in my Sloppy Joes and they were indeed hot. Not overwhelming, smothered in meat, tomato sauce and vegetables, but a little hotter than I would have preferred. Tomato paste works really well in controlling the thickness: add water until you're happy with it. It was very flavorful -- but it would have tasted a lot better without the guilt of having fed my friend a pepper that was too hot even for her.
* Both Heinz and Red Gold make a version of this kind of chili sauce; I have used it in place of ketchup for years and highly recommend it. Brooks Rich & Tangy Ketchup is very similar, or at least it was back when it was my preferred ketchup-like condiment. All three have the mild sweetness you'd expect from ketchup and little to no heat.
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