Day 229 – National Sloppy Joe Day

I went for the hat trick today. Usually I try to pick one holiday for every day I celebrate and stick with it, but today had a good group of celebrations that all intrigued me. Naturally I was curious about Sloppy Joe Day mainly because I have never had one. More on that in a  few, but it was also National Corn Dog Day. Those I have tasted. Of all the things to celebrate, a corn dog seems like one I could get behind. It was also National Lacy Oatmeal Cookie Day and that became my fall back plan. Let me explain how all this played out:

My nephew Zack had his school play this weekend and Lola and I, being patrons of the arts, we decided to go see him in action. We went to see him last year when he played Big Jules in the Dodd Middle School production of Guys and Dolls. He was really excited about it and did a great job. This year, his school was launching a production of the musical Legally Blonde, and Zack again had a part. He was playing the role of Padamadan, the ex-Dictator and fellow law student alongside Elle Woods. It was a smaller part this year, but he still got to deliver a great funny couple of lines and get his laughs from the crowd. It’s fun to see him on stage and with his friends and we were excited to go cheer for him. The show went on at 2 PM which meant that we would have to leave our house around 11 in order to get there on time. As I thought about that, I realized I had to get a plan in place for celebration. I wasn’t sure when we would be getting home so I’m not sure I could make anything later in the day. I was pretty sure it would be hard to stumble upon a restaurant that happened to be serving Sloppy Joes or Corn Dogs, so I had to make sure I got my celebration in before we left the house. I made the call to make some Lacy Oatmeal Cookies.

A lacy oatmeal cookie is basically your typical oatmeal cookie that you just spread the batter out on your sheet pan so it creates a very thin cookie. It uses a combination of butter and sugar and that helps the edges of the cookie to crystalize and create that lacy effect. I found a recipe from Food Network which was very simple and quick. I was surprised at how little flour these cookies use (only 1/4 cup) so I was having my misgivings as I started mixing it all together. You start by dissolving the sugar in the butter and then you pour that into a mixture of oats, flour, salt and vanilla. After it cools, you add in a tablespoon of beaten egg whites – that too seemed like a small portion. You place your batter in balls onto two sheet pans and then you spread the balls out so it creates 3 inch circles of batter. Then you cook for about 15 minutes. The recipe said to line your trays with parchment paper and I had just run out of that they other day, so I skipped this part. That ended up being a mistake because when I took them out of the oven, they smelled great and looked amazing.  They were big, thin and lacy. I had to leave them on the sheet pan for a second and then transfer to a wire rack when they were cooled enough to move.  My first tray came out great and after a little finagling, slid off the sheet pan. The second tray, which had more time to firm up while sitting on the hot sheet pan, had flat out stuck to the pan. Stuck. Couldn’t get them off after scraping with spatulas, knives and every tool I could think of. Nope, they weren’t leaving that pan. So in the end, I only ended up with six cookies, albeit six glorious ones.

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These could me one of my new favorite cookies. They were light and crispy but packed full of sweet, buttery flavor. The recipe suggested drizzling them with dark chocolate, but I skipped that. These were good just as they were. I naturally ate one right way (#breakfastcookies) but then packed up the other five for our trip. I had a tough time focusing while we were driving knowing that these cookies were right behind me, but I survived.  We made it in plenty of time and Marybeth, my sister, was waiting for us in the lobby. We watched the play and cheered on Zack. It was actually a really cute play and was a good production for a middle school. After it was over, we wanted to get back on the road, so we said our goodbyes and were back in the car.  Zack had another show at 7 pm, so he went back to hang with the cast while Doug and MB went home to get a quick snack before their next stint in the audience.  About five minutes after we pulled out, Lola asked if I wanted a cookie and that’s when we enjoyed the true joy of a lacy oatmeal cookie. I felt bad we didn’t leave any with MaryBeth, but we only had five! Plus Zack is allergic to eggs, so I wouldn’t want to tempt him. Lola liked the cookie, but I am not sure if she enjoyed them as much as I did. I was waiting for her to start going off on how good they were, but she just said they were really good and left it at that.  I think she just had other thoughts on her mind. No matter, these were one of my personal favorites.

We rolled into Portsmouth around 5:30 and I realized that it was still kind of early and we still had to eat dinner, so I stopped at Clements before heading home. It turns out that I had plenty of time to pack more celebration into the day. I knew exactly what to get. Before heading into the store, I asked Lola what her thoughts on Sloppy Joes for dinner were and she immediately launched into the Lunchlady Song. I guess that’s an implied approval.

I got the supplies for Sloppy Joes, but while I was there, I started walking around the frozen food aisle to see if they had any kind of corn dog situation available. Corn dogs were still on my mind, so I thought if they had some frozen ones, it would be a good little appetizer. On our way home, there is a gas station right on the Connecticut/Rhode Island border that houses a Nathan’s Hot Dog restaurant. I almost stopped there to pick up some corndogs for the ride, but we happened to be in the midst of an intense conversation at the time and I thought it would be insensitive if I had interrupted that by saying I needed to make a corn dog run. So I passed on by, although in retrospect, that would have been the perfect place to celebrate and they know how to do a Corn Dog at Nathan’s. Instead, after a pretty thorough search of the frozen foods in Clements, all I could find was a Kid’s Cuisine frozen dinner that featured mini corn dogs.  Close enough.  I threw that into my basket and proceeded to check out. When we got home, I microwaved it according to the package instructions and then served us some corn dogs as an appetizer.

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These were awful. First they sat on a bed of french fries which simply did not fare well when microwaved. They were mushy and tasteless. Even though I followed the cooking instructions to a T, the corn dogs got over-microwaved (thanks Obama!) and started to fall out of their cornbread coating. The cornbread was ok, but the hot dog part was tiny and tasted like school lunch. Plus it was all served with corn. Actually, the corn wasn’t bad, but I really had no need for corn niblets as part of an appetizer. I guess a real corn dog has to be served on a stick to feel legit and this failed that image miserably. I can see a kid being happy with this meal, but not any one with actual discerning tastebuds. I kind of wished I had left this one alone. More proof that one should always be selective in their corndog intake .

Thankfully, we had Sloppy Joes to fall back on. In fairness, a Sloppy Joe is pretty easy to make, at least when you are using a mix. There are lots of recipes to make your own Sloppy Joes, but that seemed like to much effort. No, there’s something about Sloppy Joes that calls for opening a can. That can came from the folks at Manwich.  I didn’t realize there were other brands of Sloppy Joe mixes. I though Manwich had the Man-opoly on it, but there were four or five different varieties available. Manwich was the way to go – they seem to be the apex of Sloppy Joe in a can, so if I was making my first ones, I had to go with the top of the line. All you do is brown up the ground beef, about a pound of it, and then you pour in the can of Manwich and heat it through.  You serve it on a hamburger roll, although I opted for some fresh Portuguese rolls. We also added some shredded cheddar cheese on top. I wasn’t sure if that was standard Sloppy Joe preparation, but then again I can’t picture the Congress of Sloppy Joes getting together and fighting against cheese. I imagine that body would be very pro-cheese.  I dare say that even Sloppy Joe himself would say yes to cheese.

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I’ve never had a Sloppy Joe before. No real reason, just that my Mom never made them and I have never really had the desire to get one. I was always a bring-your-lunch to school kid, so I would never get to indulge in Sloppy Joe day in the cafeteria.  Frankly, outside of that setting, Sloppy Joes don’t really make too many appearances. It looks super tasty and smells pretty flavorful too. When I tried it, the overwhelming taste of it is ketchup with a slight hint of Worcestershire in the background. Lola felt that there was another flavor too – ginger or clove? It was pretty good, although not really my jam. I’d rather just have a good old-fashioned burger. Lola however seemed to be pleased. I asked her how she liked it and a big smile came to her face. Maybe she was just hungry or maybe it brought up some memory of nostalgia, but it was a nice little treat for her. Funny how that goes. The Sloppy Joe is definitely a sandwich of merit and has itself a nice little niche in the land of food. We may not make it in our house ever again, but tonight, it was a nice little surprise and if we ever see a special recipe being served in a restaurant, we might be intrigued.

So that was our day of celebration – the hat trick with the Legally Blonde twist. I must say that I don’t know too many people that combined the delicate flavor and elegance of a fine lacy oatmeal cookie with the roadside splendor of a corn dog and the lunch lady pleasure of a loose meat sandwich. That’s quite a day. Plus we got to cheer on my nephew who we are big fans of. All in all, I’ll say this was pretty great day packed full of dining treasures, long rides and some fine arts. All I can do now is just bend and snap.

I would like to give a quick little nod to the loss of Chuck Berry. He was a true icon of rock and roll music and a major influence behind all the classic English rock bands that formed my musical education foundation. He helped change the world with just a few chords and I’m sure it was never an easy ride. Nonetheless, he kept going, playing that guitar like he was ringing a bell. Thanks for the music Chuck!

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Next Up: National Chocolate Caramel Day

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