Lunch ladies and a meal man share their favorite holiday recipes
The role of today’s cafeteria managers is changing—they have more input on the menus, and collaboration between faculty and students is encouraged to come up with new, healthy items to include in the lunch line. In the Rochester City School District alone, approximately 13,700 breakfasts and 25,000 lunches are served each day. With the school year in full swing and the holidays here, two area “lunch ladies” and one “meal man” share stories from the kitchen and provide their favorite holiday recipes.
Name: Christine Lauber
School: Dudley Elementary School, Fairport
Title: School Campus Assistant
What’s the best part of your job?
“We serve over 150 kids for breakfast, over 750 kids for lunch. We see about eighty-five percent of the student body every day. It’s like having a thousand friends over to your house every day. They’re not just students, they’re guests, and we get to see them grow from kindergarten to fifth grade. Their teachers fuel their minds, and we fuel their bodies.”
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
“The other twelve staff members. There are eleven women and one man with an accumulating ninety-four years of experience. I couldn’t do it without the team; we’re a team of friends.”
Favorite thing you make/serve?
“The soups. They are all homemade, all from scratch. My favorite is a recipe I brought in six years ago for Baked Potato Soup, but I have to peel twenty pounds of potatoes!”
Holiday dish: French Crumb Apple Pie
“I come from a small family from Rochester, and my husband’s family is from Long Island, but many have moved up here over the past thirty years. About fifteen years ago we went apple picking and thought it would be fun to make different apple dishes to try. From then on we’ve done many of these ‘apple fests.’ My older son requests this for his birthday dessert every year, and I also make it for Thanksgiving. It makes the house smell like cinnamon, butter, and love.”
Pie filling ingredients:
• 1/2 c. sugar
• 1/4 c. flour
• 1/2 t. ground nutmeg
• 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
• pinch salt
• 6 c. thinly sliced pared apples (about 6 medium)
Pie crust ingredients:
• 1/3 c. plus 1 T. shortening
• 1 c. flour
• 1/2 t. salt
• 2–3 T. cold water
Crumb topping ingredients:
• 1 c. flour
• 1/2 c. firm butter
• 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
Heat oven to 425°. Prepare the pie filling by mixing sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in apples.
In a separate bowl, prepare the 9" pie crust. Cut shortening into flour and salt. Sprinkle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans side of the bowl. Gather pastry into a ball and shape into flattened round on lightly floured board. Place in pie plate and crimp edges.
In a third bowl mix all ingredients for crumb topping until crumbly.
Turn apple filling into pastry-lined pie plate. Sprinkle with crumb topping. Bake until crust is brown and juices begin to bubble, about 50 minutes. Cover topping with foil during the last 10 minutes of baking. Serve warm.
Name: Laura Reynolds-Gorsuch
School: Allendale Columbia School, Rochester
Title: Director of Food Service
What do you think about the title “Lunch Lady”?
“We embrace it! It’s funny because every time we make sloppy joes I sing that Adam Sandler song in my head! Even our Twitter handle is @ACLunchLadies. In reality so many lunch ladies care about their students and want what’s best for them, we’re hoping by embracing it people will realize that.”
Are you able to alter/put personal items on the menu?
“Yes I am, and my staff is as well. We even take ideas from the students, and one of our most popular desserts is from a teacher—snickerdoodle bars. They taste almost better than the cookie!”
What’s the best part about working with children?
“All the involvement with the students. We eat family style, and they help us set and clear the table. We do so much more with them than just serve them lunch. We once had first graders that wanted us to stop using disposable cups for snack, so we worked with them and now use washable cups.”
Holiday dish: AC Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
“Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’m not a fan of pumpkin pie, and the students didn’t seem to like the pie either. We make the cookies with fresh pumpkin and have served them at Thanksgiving for the last three years. It’s become a school tradition.”
• 1 c. shortening
• 2 c. white sugar
• 2 eggs
• 2 t. vanilla extract
• 15 oz. can pumpkin puree or fresh pumpkin (boiled and pureed)
• 4 c. flour
• 1 ½ t baking soda
• 1 ½ baking powder
• 1 t salt
• 1 t cinnamon
• 1 c. chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375°, and grease cookie sheets. In a large bowl, cream together shortening and sugar. Beat in eggs and stir in pumpkin and vanilla until the mixture is well blended. In a separate bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add the dry mixture to the pumpkin mixture and blend. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoon onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Makes about 64 cookies.
Name: Kirk Aderman
School: Gates Chili High School, Rochester
Title: Cook Manager
What are some of the most popular items on your menu?
“The traditional items are always popular: pizza, tacos, chicken sandwiches. What’s becoming more popular are wraps and lunch entree salads—things with a variety of veggies that are made fresh in front of them, like [at] Chipotle or Subway.”
What’s the biggest misconception about your job?
“People that comment or pass judgement on the quality and variety of foods that we serve, when they’ve never been in the cafeteria. If someone were to stop in our cafeteria, they’d see that we have twelve to fourteen different entrée choices available every day: sandwiches, casseroles, salads, there’s something for every students’ choice. A lot of people think we only offer fried food; we don’t even own a deep fryer. I want people to know how much concern and care we put into providing healthy, nutritious food for the students.”
How do you get students involved?
“A student came in about four years ago; his favorite thing was a garbage plate. We came up with the ‘Spartan Plate’ (the school mascot) with potatoes, mac salad, served with hamburgers or hotdogs, and we even made our own hot sauce. Another student wanted to do a mac and cheese pizza, but I thought, mac and cheese baked on a pizza? So we developed a recipe, and put it on the menu. I thought it sounded crazy, but the students loved it.”
Holiday dish: Sweet Potato Casserole with Mini Marshmallows
“It’s my mother’s recipe. [When I was] growing up my mother would always have it at Thanksgiving; it’s one of my earliest memories. When I bring it up with friends or coworkers, it’s surprising how many other mothers and grandmothers make it. It’s a good memory from childhood, and I always look forward to it at Thanksgiving.”
• 2 cans (29 oz. each) cut sweet potatoes (or yams) packed in syrup, drained
• 1 c. sour cream
• 2 egg yolks
• 1 t. salt
• 1 t. mace seasoning
• 1 c. miniature marshmallows
• Nonstick cooking spray
Heat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, combine drained sweet potatoes, sour cream, egg yolks, salt, and mace seasoning. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Coat a two-quart casserole dish with nonstick spray. Pour sweet potato mixture into dish and top evenly with marshmallows. Bake approximately 30 minutes or until marshmallows are puffed golden brown. Makes about 8 servings. Note: Alternate toppings can include chopped toasted pecans or walnuts.
A low-maintenance gal with high-maintenance hair, Laura DiCaprio is a writer, media director, and amateur clarinetist living in Fairport.