Tasty Ranchero Beans!

Ranchero Beans are yummy school nutrition

With a side dish like  Tantalizing and Tasty Ranchero Beans from a district like Brantley County Schools in Georgia, you can’t go wrong.

There’s been a lot of talk about school nutrition, and what’s being served in cafeterias around the country. The best way to find out what’s being plated in K-12 is to actually go to the schools and have lunch yourself. I work with schools around the U.S., and there is some wonderful food being served, with creative ways of serving!

These healthier options have been putting school foodservice at the forefront of tasty recipes. They’re consistently satisfying one of the most demanding groups of customers there is – kids.

The K-12 market segment food manufacturers have done a marvelous job with reformulating and reinventing a lot of the tasty treats kids love to eat. Add in the scratch cooking that’s being done in many schools and you’ve got some great recipes for healthy well-fed students that get kids ready to learn.

Here’s my challenge to you. Would you try a dynamic, delicious, made-from-scratch school food recipe at your next outdoor cookout?

Ranchero Beans are yummy school nutrition

Ranchero Beans

We took the original bulk ranchero beans recipe from School Nutrition Director Laura Lynn’s Brantley County School District and honed it down for a small family gathering. We’ll share the original and the family-sized versions.

School style:

  • Number of Portions: 43
  • Size of Portions: ½ cup



  • 1  cup -(8 fl oz) water
  • 1 #10 can tomatoes (diced)
  • 2 tsp – low sodium ham base
  • 1  #10 can – /18.5 ct/.5 cup beans (canned, drained, rinsed)
  • 1 cup – frozen diced onions
  • 2 tbsp – Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp – cumin (ground)
  • 1 tbsp – salt
  • ¼ cup – mild banana pepper rings
  • 1 tsp – pepper, black


Pre-heat CVap Retherm Oven by pressing Channel 6.

Place can of tomatoes, drained beans and onions in a 2” deep hotel pan. Add one cup of warm water mixed with the ham base. Add Italian seasoning, cumin, salt and black pepper. Mix well and place pepper rings on top. Once it’s pre-heated, place in the retherm oven and cook for 30 minutes. Then place in holding cabinet with a food temperature of 155°F and a food texture of +10 degrees until ready to serve. Serve students with #8 scoop or ½ spoodle.

Home Style Version


  • 1/2 cup – water
  • 1/4 tsp – low sodium ham base (I used Better Than Bouillon brand)
  • 2 cans – (15.5 oz) unseasoned pinto beans (drained, rinsed)
  • 2 cans – (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup – frozen diced onions (I used Kroger brand)
  • 1/4 tsp – Italian seasoning (I used McCormick brand)
  • 1/8 tsp – salt
  • 1/4 tsp – pepper
  • 1/4 tsp – cumin
  • 6 or 8 – mild banana pepper rings


Mix all of the ingredients together in a half size aluminum hotel pan. Place in a preheated CVap Cook and Hold Oven set to 90+9 for 30 minutes on high yield so it will drop into an automatic hold of 150°F following the heat cycle to warm.

If you don’t have a CVap Cook and Hold Oven at home, you can cook it old school. Combine the ingredients in a gallon pot, reserve the mild banana rings for topping. Heat on medium on stove, covered until warm, then put the banana pepper rings on top for serving.

I served this to friends and family, including my toddler granddaughter Penelope (minus the mild banana pepper rings) and asked them all what they thought.

The adults loved it and Penelope asked for more. Then the big reveal…I told them it was school food!

This made Penelope ready for kindergarten immediately!

Check out this wonderful dish and try it at home. Take heart in knowing that schools are serving great school nutrition like this to your children. Winston’s CVap equipment helps schools serve food that’s top notch.

CVap® Pork Butt: How Sweet It Is!

pulled pork butt

Boston butt or pork butt is the American name for a cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the shoulder from the front leg and may contain the blade bone. Boston butt is the most common cut used for pulled pork. Despite the name, it does not come from the pig’s rear end.

 Okay…I will admit I never used to be much of a pork fan. Before you gasp in horror, let me explain! When I was growing up, my folks served pork chops that were thrown on a dry frying pan for probably 25 minutes per side, and I honestly think shoe leather would have been easier to eat! This is one food memory I simply cannot forget.

That was then. Now I have CVap on my side, and I’ll never have to eat a dried-out, chewy piece of pork again.

pork butt quesadillas

Let’s get down to business. I wanted to create a tender, moist, sweet piece of pork that I could shred for quesadillas. In this case, I made a small roast to feed a few people. If you are feeding the masses, simply increase portion size. I used pre-packaged ingredients for convenience, but you can experiment with flavor combinations. I have two hungry boys at home (one of whom eats so fast I wonder if he can taste his food!) and they both love this recipe and ask for it repeatedly.



  1. Preheat CVap Cook and Hold Oven to Vapor 175°F/Air 205°F
  2. Place pork in the steam table pan.
  3. Mix all the ingredients in a separate bowl and pour over the pork.
  4. Put into the CVap oven. Set cook time for 6.5 hours, and hold for 150°F, infinite. Push start, and walk away.
pork butt in hotel pan
pork butt in marinade

At this setting, the oven will hold at 150°F when the cook cycle is complete. Following the cook cycle, I usually shred the pork and put it back into the oven for approximately 1.5 hours before serving. It always turns out great! Sweet flavor all the way through and perfect texture. Accompany the pork with some black beans and cilantro lime rice, and the family is well on its way to full and happy bellies. If you’re not a fan of pork butt, this recipe will make you a believer!

pork butt
Fun Facts About Pork Butt

The pork butt is a moderately tough cut of pork with lots of connective tissue.

The name makes sense when you consider that the word “butt” can also mean the thicker end of something (like the butt of a gun) or the blunt end of something since a pork butt is the thicker end of the shoulder cut. Pork butt cuts are relatively inexpensive, compared to some other pork cuts.

How to Cook Pork Butt

Pork butt does best with long, slow cooking, which is why CVap ovens are so ideal. Butts are great choices for barbecuing, braising, and stewing. They stand up well to strong flavors because they have a strong flavor themselves. This is because the meat is derived from a hard-working section of the pig. Carrying around all the weight exercises that portion and results in it developing great flavor. This is especially true of pastured pigs raised in environments where they can walk around.

What Does Butt Taste Like?

Sorry, couldn’t resist that heading. The fat content in pork butt gives it more flavor and naturally bastes the meat. Long, slow cooking on low heat brings out the juices and makes for a tender, more succulent cut of meat. The low heat breaks down the connective tissue, slowly dissolving it away. That’s why pork butt benefits from holding in a CVap for a while after the cooking cycle is complete. The low heat just keeps making the butt more tender (and tasty).

You can, if necessary, use a pork butt and pork shoulder interchangeably in most recipes. Pork shoulder is a bit better if the final plan is to slice or chop the meat and have it hold its shape, while the more intense marbling of pork butt makes it particularly well suited for barbecue, specifically making pulled pork or other recipes where you want the meat to fall apart into shreds easily.

Why is it Called Boston Butt?

Pork butt is sometimes called Boston butt. Why? Like a lot of food terms, there’s a bit of debate. One theory was that it referred to the barrels used to ship pork products from Boston. But then, Boston was never really a center of pork production, so that theory doesn’t really hold up. It’s much more likely that as the term came to be accepted as railroads made standard cuts more widely accepted. Think New York strip or St. Louis ribs. In that context, Boston butt makes more sense.

Lobster and Fresh Corn Chowder with CVap Staged Scallops

lobster for corn chowder

What better way to celebrate the transition from summer to fall than to create a hearty chowder? We prepared this savory dish with lobster, fresh corn, and scallops. The layers of flavor in this dish are subtle, yet satisfying. You’ll want to make it again and again.

The Process

We butter-poached lobster tails with thyme and lemon in a CVap Cook and Hold Oven at 200°F + 0 for 12 minutes. Next, we removed the meat from the shells and returned it to the oven to hold until plating.

Meanwhile, we used the shells to make stock. Next, we added corn milk and cobs remaining from stripping the kernels (which were reserved) from fresh ears of corn. We also added onions, celery, carrots, bay leaves, and thyme. This was placed in the CVap oven at 180°F + 0 and simmered all day.

seafood broth with lobster and scallops
brunoise cooking
Searing the Scallops
brunoise on the plate

We sauteed a brunoise of new potatoes, onions, celery, and carrots in butter. Next, we added the reserved corn kernels, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. This mixture went into a CVap Holding Cabinet. We also staged some gorgeous sea scallops in a CVap oven at 126°F + 0. These held until we were ready to bring everything together. We pan-seared the scallops to finish them.

First onto the plate was the sautéed vegetable mixture, topped by the poached lobster tail meat. Next came two pan-seared scallops. Finally, the dish finished with a generous ladle of broth that cooked all day.

The final dish was sublime.

lobster and scallop stack
ladle broth onto the plate
Lobster and Fresh Corn Chowder with Scallops

Can’t wait to make – and eat – this again!

To learn more about CVap staging and the possibilities it can bring to your kitchen and speed of service, download the FREE Staging eBook: