a. be made in the poorly equipped, understaffed cafeteria.
b. include beans—lots of beans.
c. be tolerated, but ideally loved by students.
d. fit into the absurdly confusing nutritional guidelines set up by the USDA.
If you were ever curious as to what the reasons were behind the deplorable offerings in our school cafeterias, reason a and c above have something to do with it, but reason d is public enemy number one. These guidelines have food service directors calculating percentages of proteins and fractions of fats for everything the students put in their mouths.
This is very time consuming and difficult so the USDA has made it easier by aligning with major food corporations like Tyson. These companies have unlimited resources to figure out just what to put into their highly-processed chicken nuggets to make them suitable for USDA standards, so all the schools have to do is open a box.
Now if you were strapped for resources and time would you spend the hour calculating how many grams of sugar is in a fresh roasted chicken leg with homemade barbecue sauce or just read the side of a package?
You think the standards could be much simpler. How about this one? No processed foods. Or this one? Nothing with ingredients that you can’t pronounce. But instead they have one that dictates yogurt as a protein, not a serving of dairy, so a breakfast must also include some form of milk and of course we offer chocolate—that’s not a problem.
Adapted from Regan Burns Cafiso
This is a recipe that I hope will fit the bill at our local high school. It is one developed by my friend and kitchen goddess Regan Burns Cafiso. Her original recipe has some plain yogurt in the dressing which I omitted for my dairy-free house, but if that sounds good to you add a dollop or two to your dressing.
I used dried beans in this recipe, but if you're short on time, you can substitute 2 (15 oz) cans of black beans instead. Just drain and rinse them then cook them with the sautéed veggies and chile powder. Add 1/4 cup of water and salsa and continue cooking until heated through. Season with salt and serve.
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons prepared green salsa
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- pinch sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 red onion, diced
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons chile powder
- 8 ounces (1/2 bag) dried black beans, preferably soaked overnight
- 1 quart vegetable broth or water
- 1/2 cup green salsa
- 1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 ripe avocados, diced
- tortilla chips for serving
- cilantro leaves for serving
- Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Taste and season with more salt as needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Dressing can be made up to 5 days in advance.
- Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add onion, jalapeño, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, but not brown. Add chile powder and cook 30 seconds more. Add beans and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Stir in salsa and season with salt.
- Divide lettuce among four salad bowls. Using a slotted spoon, remove beans from pot, letting excess liquid drip back into pot and top lettuce with beans. Garnish with tomatoes, avocados, tortilla chips and cilantro. Drizzle each with dressing and place remaining dressing on the table for passing.