The makings of brown bean chowder, an old cafeteria favorite.

A. CUERVO / Tulsa World

Below: Watermelon preserves keep the taste of summer alive long after the harvest.

MICKEY WELSH / Gannett


Readers remember favorite school recipes and more

For a generation of Tulsa school kids, the school cafeteria wasn't a scary place.

It's never been haute cuisine, but there were a couple of really good days to eat school food. And one day in particular had kids lined up to eat.

Bean-chowder and cinnamon-roll day.

"The bean chowder was just so thick, it was just always so good," Donna Moeller says. "Your mom could never make anything like it.

"But, of course, the added incentive was always the cinnamon rolls."

You'll hear the same thing from Tulsa Public School graduates everywhere. But Moeller, who's now a secretary at Key Elementary School, has the chance to revisit the classic combo from time to time.

Like on election day, when the duo is always resurrected. The bean chowder isn't exactly as she remembers it from childhood, "but my tastes have changed," she says. She still loves the cinnamon rolls, though, and sneaks through the line to get them.

For everyone else who wants to revisit the old favorites, though, we've got recipes.

This is a request that Reader Exchange gets quite often. And we've printed recipes from cafeteria ladies and from the school newsletters and a school cookbook.

But there's always someone else who wants to recreate it.

"It's one of the mysteries of life," reader Susan Dornblaser says. "Tulsa Public School's bean-chowder and cinnamon-rolls day ... The weird thing is, though, the combo seems to work.

"The cooler weather makes me think it might be fun to serve them to a group before a Friday night high school football game," she writes. "Your reader today asked for the chowder recipe. Couldn't send it, though, without the other."

So, here are both.

Tulsa Public Schools Brown Bean Chowder

Makes 12 servings

1 pound (or 2 1/2 cups) pinto beans

1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon salt

1 pound ground beef, coarse ground

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 2/3 cups tomato puree

1 teaspoon garlic

1 cup bread crumbs

Cook beans in 3 quarts of water, or more, depending upon dryness of beans. When beans are nearly done, add 1 tablespoon chili powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

While beans are cooking, combine meat, onions and garlic and brown in skillet until done. Add puree, 1 tablespoon chili powder, salt and bread crumbs and simmer 15 minutes. Combine meat mixture and beans. May have to add more water for desired thickness or more chili powder for desired seasoning.

Tulsa Public Schools Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 12 servings

1 ounce yeast

1 1/4 cups water

1/4 cup shortening

1 egg

2 1/2 tablespoons powdered milk

4 to 4 1/2 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

Cinnamon Mix:

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

Powdered sugar glaze:

1/2 box powdered sugar

1/4 cup butter, melted

Water or milk

Dissolve yeast and sugar in lukewarm water. Add melted shortening and beaten egg. Add flour, powdered milk and salt and mix thoroughly. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled. Work down and roll to 1/4-inch thickness. Brush with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon mix and roll up lengthwise. Cut into 12 2 1/2-inch rolls. Place on greased tray and let rise until doubled. Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Brush with powdered sugar glaze.

To make glaze, combine powdered sugar, melted butter and enough water or milk to make it a spreading consistency.

Also sending in these two recipes were Debbie Barker, Glenna Shoun, Margaret Bowen, Mrs. Robert Reed, the Tulsa World's own Stefanie Forney, a reader who just signed her e-mail "Jan," and Donna Livengood.

Marian Stepp, who once worked as a cook in the school system, sent in "the" bean chowder recipe, but it's probably not as practical for home cooks as the one above. It calls for 5 pounds of beans and 5 pounds of ground beef. But it's interesting to note that some cafeterias used a flour-water mixture instead of bread crumbs to thicken the chowder, according to Stepp. Her recipe lists both alternatives.

Then there's the suet.

Many of you sent in this version of the recipe, and it's one that we've printed before. Sending in versions were Pat Moon, Glennis Miller, Carolyn Stewart, Marilee Chambers, Ruby Abbott, Vivian Preston and Mary Jane Nobles.

School Bean Chowder

Makes 3 quarts

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup suet, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 1/2 cups tomato puree

2 cloves garlic, diced

1 pound dried pinto beans

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 tablespoon salt

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup cold water

Cook beans according to package directions, allowing ample water to cover. When nearly done, add 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons chili powder. Drain beans, reserving liquid. Thicken liquid with flour and cold water. While beans are cooking, combine meat, suet, 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt, onion and garlic. Brown in a 350-degree oven. Stir frequently until done. Add tomato puree and simmer 15 minutes. Combine meat mixture with beans and add liquid.

Now, on to the pie. We've never met a pie we didn't like, so maybe that's why we've featured slices in three of the last five Reader Exchange columns. And, for the record, a pie recipe did appear in the other two, as well.

Having said that, we can't resist printing all four answers we got for the dried-apricot pie request. Each has its benefits -- a crumb topping, a lattice crust, meringue and our personal favorite -- brandy. Each can be used with a combination of other dried fruits.

This "super good" recipe from Lloyd Watkins is baked in a jelly-roll pan. Watkins uses home-dried apricots, which have much less moisture than commercially dried fruit. Use less water if using store-bought apricots.

This recipe is from a cookbook called "The Best from New Mexico Kitchens," a 1978 release.

Indian Pie

Pastry for a double-crust pie

1 pound dried apricots

5 cups water

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup brandy, optional

Cover apricots with water and sugar, bring to boil, cover and simmer until very tender. Cool slightly. Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor. If mixture is too thick to spread easily, add more water. If it's not sweet enough, add more sugar. Mix in the brandy, if desired.

Roll half the dough out into a thin sheet and line a large baking pan or jelly-roll pan. Cover the pastry evenly with apricot filling. Roll out the remaining pastry and use it for an upper crust. Prick the surface with a fork, brush with evaporated milk or with an egg beaten with a little water, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 to 55 minutes, or until pie seems well browned and cooked through the middle. Cool in pan on rack. Cut in squares to serve.

Carol Fuller sent in this apricot pie from the California Apricot Advisory.

Golden Apricot Pie

2 6-ounce packages dried apricots

2 3/4 cups water

1 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter

Pastry for 9-inch lattice-top pie

Combine apricots with water in 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered 20 minutes. Cool.

Line a 9-inch pie plate with 3/4 of the pastry. Trim pastry to 1/2-inch beyond edge of pie plate. Combine trimmings with remaining pastry, roll thin and cut into strips for top of pie. Drain apricots, reserving cooking liquid.

Arrange apricots in pie shell. Thoroughly mix sugar, cornstarch and nutmeg with 3/4 cup reserved cooking liquid and pour over apricots. Dot with butter.

Arrange lattice of pastry strips over filling. Moisten ends of strips and press against bottom pastry. Fold bottom pastry over strips; seal and flute.

Place pie on lower rack of oven; bake at 400 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until pastry is nicely browned and liquid bubbles. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Anne Stanley sent in this crumb-topped version.

Dried Apricot Pie

9-inch pie shell, unbaked

1 package dried apricots

Cold water, to cover

2 1/2 tablespoons tapioca

1 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping: 1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 1/2 tablespoons soft butter or margarine

Put a package of dried apricots in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Cook 1/2 hour or until very tender. Drain most of the water off, then cool and mash (this is before food processors, which make it a lot easier to puree). Add tapioca, white sugar and salt; let stand 5 minutes. Pour apricot mixture into an unbaked 9-inch pie shell.

Mix brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter into crumbs. Sprinkle on top of apricot filling and bake about 40 minutes at 400 degrees.

And, finally, that word-lover Sally Bright, who writes a grammar column for the Tulsa World, sent in this meringue-topped version. She's also used fresh apricots with success. It's from "Cleora's Kitchens."

Apricot Meringue Pie

9-inch pie shell, baked

5 tablespoons corn starch

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups boiling water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup dried apricots, cooked and strained through coarse sieve

3 egg yolks, beaten

1 tablespoon butter

Pinch salt

Meringue: 4 egg whites

9 tablespoons sugar

Sift sugar and cornstarch together. Blend well, stir into boiling water and cook until thick and clear, stirring constantly. Add lemon juice, sieved apricots, butter, beaten egg yolks and salt to cornstarch mixture. (Be sure to pour a tiny amount of hot matter into egg yolks, and add more until they are hot before adding them back to the pan, or you will have cooked eggs.) Cook in double boiler 10 minutes. Cool and pour into baked 9-inch pie shell.

For meringue, beat egg whites until stiff. Add 8 tablespoons sugar, 2 at a time, beating continuously until meringue is stiff and shiny. Spread over pie; sprinkle top with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake 15 minutes at 325 degrees until golden brown.

Ruth Keating sent in this banana sheet cake in answer to our reader's request. It's from a cookbook called "Cooking with Sheridan."

Banana Sheet Cake

2 sticks margarine

1/2 cup water

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup mashed bananas

1 cup pecans

Icing: 3 ounces cream cheese

1/4 cup margarine, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 box powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Boil margarine and water. Pour over flour, sugar, eggs, soda, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir in bananas and pecans. Grease and flour a large jelly-roll pan. Pour mixture into pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

To make icing, mix cream cheese, margarine and powdered sugar thoroughly and spread on cake when taken out of the oven.

Connie Chatfield went to the Internet to answer a request for the fried apples from Cracker Barrel. This recipe comes from www.recipegoldmine.com.

Cracker Barrel Fried Apples

6 large Granny Smith apples

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 cup bacon drippings

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dash of ground nutmeg

In a large skillet, melt bacon drippings. Pour apples evenly into the skillet. Sprinkle with lemon juice, brown sugar and salt. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes, until apples are tender and juicy. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Yvonne Roberts worked at Diamond Jack's in the '60s, and she says this is the real kidney-bean salad.

Kidney Bean Salad

1 gallon can or 4 cans kidney beans

1/4 cup sugar, or to taste

1 cup sweet pickle relish

Louisiana Hot Sauce, a dash or two

Salt and pepper, to taste

Ott's Salad Dressing (the red one,) enough to coat beans

Drain beans and rinse in a colander, let stand until almost dry. Add sugar and the rest of the ingredients in another large bowl. Add the beans and mix enough Ott's dressing to almost cover all of the mixture. Put in an airtight container and let stand overnight in refrigerator. Turn or shake a few times to marinate in dressing. These will keep a long time.

Anita Turley, who seems to have a healthy sense of humor, responded to Wanda Gimlin's quip about her age and her request for watermelon preserves by saying, "And I don't mind telling you I am 78 years old." This recipe for watermelon preserves was her favorite as a child. It is from the 1946 "Searchlight cookbook."

Watermelon Preserves

Pare and cut watermelon rinds into pieces 2-inches long and 3/4-inch wide. Cover with brine made by dissolving 1 tablespoon salt in 1 quart water. Cover and let stand overnight. Drain. Cover with water and boil 10 minutes. Drain. Cover with a heavy syrup made of 1 part sugar and 1 part water. Add 1 thinly sliced lemon to each 3 quarts rind. Add whole spices if desired. Cook slowly until rind is tender and clear.

This is the recipe for those of you who aren't scared of the words "slaked lime." It's from Fern Nichol, who sent in her mother's recipe for Watermelon Preserves. "I can remember these preserves as a child and they were delicious," she says.

Watermelon Preserves

2 pounds watermelon rind

1 tablespoon ground ginger

2 quarts water

4 cups sugar

2 lemons

Slaked lime (calcium oxide)

Salt

Soak rind 2 or 3 hours in lime water to cover. Prepare lime water by adding 1 tablespoon slaked lime to each quart of cold water. For a product with a texture more like that of preserved pears, soak rind overnight in salt water (2 tablespoons salt to each quart of cold water).

To make the preserves, cut the white part of the rind into pieces of uniform size and shape. Soak in lime or salt water. Fresh in 2 or more changes of cold water. Sprinkle ginger over rind. Cover with water, boil 1 1/2 hours. Drain and drop into cool syrup made with 4 cups sugar, 2 quarts water and juice from 1 lemon. Boil gently 1 hour. Add second lemon sliced thin. Continue boiling until rind is tender and syrup is thick as honey. (If the syrup gets too thick before the rind is tender, add a cup or more of boiling water.) Let stand several hours. Pack into hot jars. Process 15 minutes at simmering.

And, finally, Sally Bright and Mary Jane Nobles sent in the same recipe from a Kerr cookbook. It might be better suited to modern kitchens and cooks who like definite measurements.

Watermelon Rind Preserves

Select melons with thick rinds. Peel off all green portion using only the white part of the rind. Cut into small dice. Soak in mild salt water overnight ( 1/2 cup salt to 1 gallon water). Remove from the salt water and cook in clear water for about 30 minutes or until tender. Drain well. For 4 pounds (11 cups) of the lemon rind, make a syrup of 9 cups sugar, 8 cups water, 4 sliced lemons, and add 4 teaspoons stick cinnamon, 4 teaspoons cloves (tie spices in cheesecloth bag.) Boil the syrup, lemon and spices 5 minutes before adding the rinds. Add rinds and cook until transparent and clear. If desired, a few minutes before removing from heat, add enough green or red food coloring to tint preserves. Remove spice bag, pour into sterilized Kerr jars and seal.

Ashley Parrish, World staff writer, can be reached at 581-8318 or via e-mail at ashley.parrish@tulsaworld.com.


Requests

Susan Cluff wants two recipes -- a goulash like the one served at Shiloh's and an egg salad like Big Al's.

A reader wants a microwave praline recipe the Tulsa World printed some years ago. Does anyone still have it?

A caller wants a good recipe for glazed carrots.

Debbie Klock's mother would like an old-fashioned bratwarst and cabbage recipe.

Another caller would like a recipe for a cowboy cookie with mini chocolate chips and nuts.

Lynda would like Shoney's cornbread mini-muffins. She knows it had buttermilk in it, but hasn't been able to replicate it.

Another caller wants a chocolate cake made with green tomatoes and cocoa. A co-worker remembers the "delicious, old-fashioned recipe."

And several of our requests last month went unanswered, so we're printing them again. Now, we know that some of you have recipes from Mary's Bread Basket. Can anyone find the chicken salad?

Readers are also looking for a blue-cheese salad dressing like the one at Ruby's; the brandy-butter sauce from El Chico's and a jalapeno cole slaw like Wild Fork's.

If you have a request or want to answer one, send it to Tulsa World, Reader Exchange, P.O. Box 1770, Tulsa, OK 74103 or e-mail it to ashley.parrish@tulsaworld.com.