Recipes from the cafeteria

3 Recipes that will remind you of your favorite school lunches

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Not only is March National Nutrition Month, but the second week is also a celebration of school breakfasts. To commemorate these events, here are three recipes that will remind you of the foods you ate as a kid in school.

Sloppy joes

Serves 4

Adam Sandler paid tribute to Sloppy Joes (and lunch ladies) in his popular song, and there are few dishes that come to my mind that are more worthy.


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/4 pounds ground beef, turkey, chicken or pork
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning blend
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 buns or rolls, halved


  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and meat to the pan. Spread the meat around the pan and begin to break it up.
  2. Combine brown sugar and steak seasoning. Add sugar and spice mixture to the skillet and combine.
  3. When the meat has browned, add onion and red peppers to the skillet.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and cook onions, peppers, red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce with meat for 5 minutes.
  5. Add tomato sauce and paste to pan. Stir to combine.
  6. Reduce heat to simmer and cook mixture 5 minutes longer.
  7. Using a large spoon, pile sloppy meat onto bun bottoms and cover with bun tops. Serve with many napkins nearby.

Chipped beef gravy

Serves 4

The days when chipped beef gravy was on the menu at my college were days that got off to a good start. Nothing roused us out of bed quite like the prospect of a plate of this creamy, rich gravy atop flaky biscuits.


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 ounces dried beef lunch meat, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce or hot sauce


  1. Add the butter to a large saucepan set over medium heat.
  2. When melted, sprinkle in the flour. Whisk constantly until there are no lumps and the roux has slightly darkened.
  3. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Keep whisking until there are no lumps. Cook until the sauce thickens, just a couple minutes.
  4. Add the nutmeg, sauce and a crack of fresh black pepper.
  5. Stir well, and then add the dried beef. Cook for a couple minutes to warm the beef.
  6. Season the mixture with salt to taste, then dump onto biscuits or toast and devour.

Chocolate sheet cake

Makes 24 servings

Very few desserts are more easy to prepare and serve to large crowds than sheet cake. This particular version is decadent and delicious, thanks to a nutty, rich topping.



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 8 ounces butter
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 6 ounces butter
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 18 x 13-inch sheet cake pan, or the closest you have to that size.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the cocoa and stir together.
  4. Add the boiling water, then allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat.
  5. Pour this hot mixture over the flour mixture and stir lightly to cool.
  6. In a bowl, combine the buttermilk, beaten eggs, baking soda and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Mix only until combined.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, make the icing by melting the butter in a saucepan.
  9. Add the cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat.
  10. Add the milk, vanilla and powdered sugar. Mix well.
  11. Fold in the pecans and pour over warm cake.

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