Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What's for Lunch: Tamale Pie

By Ed Bruske

aka The Slow Cook

Not only is this meal monochromatic, there's a double dose of beans: pinto beans in the "tamale pie," and kidney beans in the beans and rice.

There is no lack of jokes about beans in elementary school, trust me, and this may be one reason why.

Still, the "tamale pie," as Chartwells calls it on the menu site, was darn good cafeteria food and proves once again that our lunch ladies can cook from scratch, even with the limited ingredients they are given.

This particular dish is made with that infamous "beef crumbles" (frozen ground beef clumps) I saw when I first stumbled into the kitchen at my daughter's school kitchen a year ago, along with canned diced tomatoes, onion, canned pinto beans, some Mexican-style seasonings, onion, cheddar cheese and corn bread mix.

What, you were expecting authentic masa? Nevertheless, this reminds me of the terrific homemade enchilada dish the schools in Boulder were serving when I was there.

I shouldn't have eaten it with all the starch, but I want to taste the same thing the kids are tasting. I liked it, and I think the kids did, too.

The mystery is why someone thought the kids needed a second dose of beans in the "brown" rice. Talk about starch. In fact, kids are pretty crazy for starch, which is why the new meal guidelines proposed by the USDA cut back on starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn. Yet there's no restriction on breads and pastas--as long as they contain at least 51 percent whole grain--or on beans.

The Caesar salad is a personal favorite of mine. As you can see, the dressing isn't real Caesar, but Kraft ranch.

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