Breakfast for dinner is always a hit in our house. Come six o’clock, eggs are conveniently quick and satisfying, and an occasional stack of pancakes is a surefire winner.
But let’s just say you had one shot at eating a hot meal on any given day. Would dinner for breakfast offer similar appeal?
This thought never occurred to me until I spent a morning volunteering at First United Methodist Church (FUMC). Through its Anchorage Breakfast Program, the church welcomes anyone in need of breakfast and caters especially to Lancaster’s low income and unsheltered population. The buffet runs from 8:30 to 9:45am, five days a week, 52 weeks of the year.
FUMC took over the program from St. James Episcopal Church, which started the program 30 years ago. In the first five months at FUMC, Anchorage served 13,573 meals. They average about 120 meals a day, and that number is growing.
I was immediately struck by the enthusiasm of the volunteers and the quality of the meal. Several of the regulars were eager to fill me in on the most popular recipes, many of which are the creative genius of Carole Adkins. Carole fills the role of team leader every Wednesday and says she truly found her passion within the walls of the Anchorage kitchen.
A variety of cold cereals, fruit, protein bars, juice, and coffee accompany the day’s hot breakfast special. I was intrigued when I learned that macaroni and cheese makes an occasional appearance—and it’s a hands-down hit.
Nothing goes to waste under Carole’s watch. When the weekly grocery list includes 80 loaves of bread, 40 gallons of milk, and 30 dozen eggs are scrambled in a single morning, the budget is always a concern. Uneaten toast is cubed and frozen until there’s enough for a savory egg bake, and leftover fruit is repurposed in a variety of sweet breakfast casseroles.
Carole reported that she was especially thrilled when she found a crowd-pleasing way to recreate leftover oatmeal. It’s baked oatmeal using cooked oatmeal in place of the usual dry oats. (Intrigued, I made a batch of oatmeal just to have the “leftover” for Carole’s recipe. If there are any readers who find themselves with a glut of cooked oatmeal, I will gladly pass along Carole’s clever recipe.)
In a conversation with Carole and program manager Laura Meisl several days later, we talked about the popularity of mac and cheese for breakfast, and I asked if they had any special plans for Anchorage’s first anniversary on August 1. They hadn’t, but this simple question was all it took to put their wheels in motion.
Shortly after, Carole and Laura reported that they would be celebrating with a dinner-for-breakfast anniversary meal, and Carole was pretty sure her recipe for barbecue sandwiches would give the mac and cheese a run for its money.
When I was a little girl, my grandmother often whipped up a batch of these saucy sandwiches for a special weekend lunch. My grandmother never measured a thing—just spooned or squirted all the flavorful ingredients into her big cast iron skillet after browning the meat. Over the years, I figured out rough measurements, and Carole’s recipe was quite similar.
Carole’s version added bell pepper and a touch of Dijon mustard; my grandmother always added a glug of vinegar. After making the recipes several times recently, I settled on a hybrid, which my family was all too delighted to see in the meal rotation after an unintentional hiatus.
Some people call these sloppy Joes, but we always called them barbecue sandwiches. Carole likes them because they’re easy, use ingredients that are plentiful at Anchorage, and taste really good!
Yield: 6-8 sandwiches
- 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
- 1/2 a small onion, minced
- 1 small red pepper, finely chopped (may substitute color of choice)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
- Sloppy Sauce (recipe follows)
- Rolls for serving
- 3/4 cup (204 grams) ketchup
- 2 tablespoons (24 grams) lightly packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) apple cider vinegar (may use white vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) Dijon mustard
- Dash (1/4-1/2 teaspoon) Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt and several grinds of the pepper mill
For the sauce: In a medium bowl, stir together the ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. If not using fresh garlic, stir in the garlic powder, too. Make ahead tip: the sauce may be prepared in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.
Add the ground beef and onion to a 12-inch, nonstick or cast iron skillet set over medium heat. Cook, breaking up the beef as you go, until the meat is about two-thirds of the way browned. Add the red pepper and garlic, and continue cooking until the meat is cooked through and the peppers are beginning to soften, about 3 more minutes.
Stir in the sauce, bring the mixture to a simmer, and then decrease the heat to low and cook, uncovered, until the mixture is thick yet still a little goopy, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve and enjoy!
- I typically use lean (but not extra lean) ground beef and do not drain the fat. Use what you prefer and, if using beef with a higher fat content, you may wish to drain off some of the fat before adding the ketchup mixture.
To volunteer or learn more about ways you can support the Anchorage Breakfast Program, go to www.engagegodfirst.org and click on Anchorage Breakfasts.