Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Heading back to school…. for lunch in the cafeteria

English, Algebra, Social Studies, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Art, Gym, or Music, whether it was a subject or a favorite teacher, you can debate what you loved about your school days until the cows come home. However, there is one thing most of us can agree on, school lunches back in the day.

Who knew that one day we’d long for the days of Salisbury Steak, the cafeteria holiday menu of turkey breast, stuffing and cranberry sauce, and Pizza Fridays. Well, kids today have a lot of choices for lunch and instead of the cafeteria ladies we remember serving up tray after tray of food, kids today practically have a food court in school.

My mother, who I call her mothership, was a cafeteria lady when I was in junior high. There are some definite drawbacks to having every teacher know your mother. That was of course, if I got in trouble. I’m not saying I was an angel in school, but I was pretty close to one. Neither my mother or my dad were no nonsense when it came to schoolwork and behavior. The upside of having mom in the cafeteria, I always knew what was good to eat. My mother would get the chicken and tuna salad from the teacher’s menu, if she wasn’t crazy about what was one the student menu. Naturally, she didn’t have to tell me when there were peanut butter cookies. It’s an aroma all of us remember from back then, something kids today don’t know about due to the rise of peanut allergies

Those were the days. Today, I went back in time to another school lunch favorite, sloppy Joes. The sweet tanginess of beef combined with a soft and fluffy bun was heaven on a lunch tray. If you would like to take a sentimental lunch journey, I’ve got this nifty little Cooks Country recipe that I have adapted for vegans and vegetarians. There’s a little science in the recipe too. So, if you were as crazy about Social Studies or Science as I was, it’s time for lunch without the lunch monitor.

Sloppy Joes Recipe by Cooks Country. Adapted by Chamein Canton

1 pound of 80 to 85 % lean ground beef (chuck is great)

1 package of Vegan ground meat (Impossible Burger meat, Thrive, Good and Gather plant-based ground)

1/2 cup finely diced onions, sweet or yellow

2 cloves of minced garlic

1 teaspoon of paprika

1/2 tablespoon of salt

2 tablespoons of brown sugar (light or dark, your preference, You can use organic brown sugar or Swerve brown sugar substitute )

1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons of tomato paste

1/3 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (Vegan Worcestershire sauce)

2 tablespoons red wine or apple cider vinegar

Vegetable oil

Mix together 1/2 teaspoon baking with 1 tablespoon of cold water to make a slurry. Pour the mixture over the ground beef, toss the beef to coat, and set it aside. The baking soda helps to soften the texture of the beef. However, if you like the toothiness of the beef, you can omit this step. I also recommend for those making a vegan version to omit this step. Plant-based ‘ground meat” will melt so to speak from the alkaline nature of the baking soda and you don’t want mush.

Heat about 2 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan. Add the onions and sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda over the onions. Sauté for three to four minutes. The onions will breakdown or melt. Then add the paprika, salt and brown sugar. Stir together for about a minute.

Add the tomato paste. stir it in and cook until it becomes a deeper rust color. Add the ground beef and cook for eight to ten minutes. Stir the meat constantly and break it up as you go. When the meat has cooked, add the ketchup, Worcestershire, and vinegar in. Stir well. Give it a taste and adjust the seasoning and vinegar if you want more tang.

You can also add a little more brown sugar, if that pleases your palate. The recipe called for red wine vinegar, but I found that apple cider gave it the hit of vinegar taste that I remember. Go with what you like.

Serve on a Kaiser roll, brioche hamburger or potato buns.

Enjoy and be well

Sloppy Joe