Fifteen years ago today our first child, Solomon, emerged into the world.  Solomon was a placid baby.  We would take him for long walks under the blossoming cherry trees and afterward he would sleep for hours on the front porch in his softly padded stroller.

As Solomon got older and spent longer stretches of time awake, he developed a vivid imagination and intense curiosity that would keep him raptly focused on his beloved wooden trains and figurines, creating complex worlds and accompanying narratives for them. He didn’t always engage fully with other kids at school or on the playground when he was very young. He was a quiet guy, a patient observer with a lot going on inside.

From when Solomon was a baby, through toddler-hood and elementary school, he never had much of an appetite, which often had me fretting about whether he was getting enough calories and nutrition. (Okay, fretting is an understatement.) Of course, he was fine.

Now a freshman in high school, Solomon is a self-motivated student, a bass guitarist, and an athlete. He recently joined the high school volleyball team, which practices two hours a day. He also rides his bike to school, takes PE every day, is on a soccer team, and practices parkour somersaults in the basement.  As a result of all of these activities, he is burning massive amounts of calories. Consequently, his appetite is (finally!) growing.

After school he consumes fruit, veggie, chia, and protein smoothies, nutrition bars, chips with warm cheese dip, and peanut butter banana shakes, and yet still has an appetite at dinnertime. Sometimes if he’s still hungry after dinner, he’ll scoop himself a bowl of his favorite ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food.

Now that he’s hungrier, it’s such a pleasure cooking for Solomon, watching him enjoy second helpings for the first time, and having him request favorite meals.  His recent favorite dinner was inspired by one of the 2011 finalists for the National Beef Cook-Off , which I demonstrated for a crowd at the DC Convention Center last year as part of the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show.

This cross between three kid-pleasers — pizza, cheeseburger, and Sloppy Joes — made Solomon’s list of all time favorite recipes. It’s such a simple concept, it’s a fun mini-meal for all ages, and the flavors really work well together. Vegetarians can leave the meat sauce off and just make regular mini English muffin pizzas with sauce and cheese, or use meatless crumble. For Solomon’s birthday, we’ll serve it with his favorite vegetable, green beans, and with extra-gooey chocolate brownies for dessert.

Happy Birthday, dear Solomon! It has been delightful to watch you (and your appetite) grow.

What meal would your children request for their birthday dinners?

Recipe: English Muffin Pizza Joes

  • Prep Time: 5 min(s)
  • Cook Time: 25 min(s)
  • Total Time: 30 min(s)
  • Servings: 6

This simple cross between three kid-pleasers -- pizza, cheeseburger, and Sloppy Joes -- is an all time favorite recipe.


    • 6 whole grain English muffins, split
    • 3/4 lb. 95% lean ground beef, turkey, or meatless crumble
    • 1 cup red pasta sauce
    • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced (1/2 cup)
    • 1/4 yellow onion, finely diced (1/4 – 1/2 cup)
    • 1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
    • 1/2 cup reduced-fat shredded Cheddar cheese
    • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


    • Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or line it with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Put the English muffin halves on the baking sheet, and bake for 5 minutes.
    • Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, brown the beef over medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes, breaking it into smaller pieces as it cooks. Add the pasta sauce, bell peppers, onions and Italian seasoning. Continue cooking for 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally.
    • In a small bowl, combine the cheeses. Top each muffin half with about 1/4 cup of the beef mixture and 1 Tbsp. of cheese. Bake it for about 5 more minutes until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

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4 Responses to “English Muffin Pizza Joes”

  1. Michele

    I remember the first time I tried cheese on my sloppy joe. I have no idea what prompted it. Maybe I wanted a cheese burger. Maybe I tried it somewhere before. Well my kids love it as much as I do…Other cheeses would really make it interesting. Pepper jack, provolone or other soft melty cheese.

  2. Michele

    Oh I forgot to mention…my kids request. Chesapeake Bay Fried chicken, from John Shield book or Our home made pizza. They usually want me to make a cake which I love to do.

  3. Accident at Work Lawyers

    These look fantastic! I will defiantly be making these in the near future for my son and daughter. Great share Aviva. Keep up the great work 🙂