Monday, November 25, 2013

Recipe Refresh: Pita Joes (...or Lightened-Up Sloppy Joes)

Okay, I realize that Sloppy Joes are not the first thing that comes to mind for the week of Thanksgiving, but here's how I see it: The crazy holiday season is descending. Soon you will be running ragged between shopping, holiday parties, and winter travel. You and your children will be eating excesses of sugar, butter, and all sorts of holiday "goodness." On the nights you are home, you will be racking your brain for a quick and easy dinner that a) counteracts all of the junk you and your children will be eating and b) your children will gobble (no Thanksgiving pun intended!) right up. On those nights, you will thank me that you are prepared with this recipe up your sleeve.

I found this recipe in a cookbook from the American Heart Association. It takes all the goodness of sloppy joes and makes it healthier and tidier. It has less sugar, less sodium (by half!), and less fat (also by half!) along with having more fiber (double!), more protein, and (in my opinion) more flavor! My son (who is not a fan of meat) ate this up, no questions asked. And my husband and I were fighting over who got to have the leftovers. Seriously, what's not to love?

Pita Joes
PREP: 10 minutes           COOK: 20 minutes            READY IN: 30 minutes

  SIMPLE         HEALTHY      YUM
pic name       pic name      pic name


  • 1 pound extra-lean ground beef
  • 2/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (I substituted steak sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
  • 4 whole-wheat pita pockets


  1. In a large skillet, cook the ground beef, onion, carrot, zucchini, and garlic over medium-high heat until the beef is no longer pink (about 10-12 minutes). 
  2. Add in the remaining ingredients (minus the pita), reduce heat to medium, and cook for another 10 minutes. 
  3. Warm the pita (you can do this by wrapping them in a paper towel and placing them in the microwave for about 30 seconds), and cut each pita in half. Spoon 1/2 cup of the meat mixture into each pita half and serve warm.


    2 pockets with 1/2 cup filling each   409 calories   8.0 g fat   54 g carbs    34 g protein    12 g sugar   

Original Recipe (from Taste of HomePass the Fresh Refresh Recipe
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup ketchup
2 Tbs. brown sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 hamburger buns
1 lb. extra lean ground beef
2/3 cup onion
1 carrot
2 zucchini
1 can tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 whole wheat pita pockets
1 sandwich has:
439 calories
16 g fat
1360 mg sodium
46 g carbohydrate
2 g fiber
27 g protein
1 whole pita pocket (2 halves):
409 calories
8 g fat
635 mg sodium
54 g carbohydrate
8 g fiber
34 g protein

Recipe adapted from American Heart Association Healthy Family Meals.

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