Posts Tagged ‘Featured Contributor’

Blendability Recognized as a Way to Transform School Lunches

Earlier this month the Mushroom Council was invited to serve mushroom blendability products at the Vendor Showcase Lunch at School Food Focus. Council Representative, Kathleen Preis, was there to demonstrate how blendability can transform school lunches.

The Mushroom Council could not have been more honored and grateful for the invitation to serve mushroom blendability at School Food FOCUS at the beginning of the month. Being surrounded by other vendors who are working towards transforming food systems to support students’ academic achievement and lifelong health, while directly benefiting farmers, regional economies, and the environment was incredibly inspiring.

The Mushroom Council Booth
At our booth we sampled a delicious blendabiliy Shroom’n Turkey Meatloaf. Foodservice directors eagerly waited for samples; all the while noting how moist and flavorful the meatloaf was – attributing all these wonderful properties to blendability. It’s amazing how mushrooms can instantly improve any dish they are paired with; that it’s no wonder why mushrooms have become a go-to ingredient for school foodservice directors.

Touring Oakland Unified School District
On the first day at School Food FOCUS we had the amazing opportunity to visit two schools in the Oakland Unified School District. Hosted by Jennifer LeBarre, the school foodservice director for OUSD, we visited the site of the central kitchen being planned for 2016, and learned the strategies being implemented to transform school food in the district. Hearing how dedicating city funds directly to the school foodservice program, and how quickly this massive project is not only being accomplished but supported, was inspirational.

After our central kitchen tour, we traveled to an East Oakland campus to eat lunch and experience “California Thursdays,” a collaborative project between Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and the Center for Ecoliteracy, which showcases dishes made from fresh, California-grown ingredients as part of the California Food for California Kids™ initiative.

School Food Focus Lunch

Hearing the elementary schools’ favorite meal from the “California Thursday” program was a tofu and noodle dish made me certain students would absolutely devour our mushroom recipes. Capping off the tour, we visited OUSD’s school produce market and a truly spectacular school garden.

School Food Focus Garden Tour

If there is anything we can learn for Jennifer and her talented team it’s that slowly introducing scratch cooking dishes to her students and staff can ease the acclimation process and increase acceptance.

Thank you to all the foodservice directors at School Food FOCUS who now recognize mushroom blendability as a realistic technique to transform school lunch at a large district level.


School Food FOCUS, is an collaborative effort funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and a growing number of sponsors, individuals, and private funders,  to make school meals nationwide more healthful, regionally sourced, and sustainably produced. FOCUS aims to transform food systems to support students’ academic achievement and lifelong health, while directly benefiting farmers, regional economies, and the environment.

Mushrooms Take Over the Campus at University of Southern California

A weeklong mushroom-centric campaign called Mushroomapalooza kicked off this past Monday at the University of Southern California. Council Representative, Brittany Stager, was there to help educate students on the many health benefits of mushrooms, as well as take in some of the delicious mushroom items menued on campus during the week.

Interest piqued as the fresh mushrooms display was set up at Cafe 84 on the University of Southern California campus. A wide array of fresh, local and cultivated mushrooms were put on display at the cafeterias sauté station to celebrate the launch of Mushroomapalooza; a week long mushroom promotion hosted by seven campus restaurants and the Mushroom Council.

Students waited patiently at Cafe 84′s sauté station for their fill of simple sautéed mushrooms; a medley that consisted of shittake, crimini, maitake, and beech mushrooms. Mushroom pizza, risotto, salad, and soup were just some of the mouth-watering mushroom filled items that made an appearance on the cafeteria’s menu for the week.

Cafe 84, along with several other campus restaurants including McKay’s, The Lab Gastropub, Morton Fig, Lemonade, Seeds, and Traditions celebrated Mushroomapalooza by serving up fresh mushrooms all week long. Students enjoyed everything from a simple mushroom & spinach crepe served at Seeds, to crispy tempura oyster mushroom at USC’s pub, Traditions.

The students weren’t the only ones excited by the appearance of mushrooms, USC chefs showed some excitement too; “I love what you can do with all the different varieties of mushrooms. But it was important that we didn’t over think the mushroom menu at The Lab. I wanted to create dishes that were unique but still familiar – soup, flatbread, pot pie, tacos, these are all familiar pub dishes,” says Chef Joe Ledesma, who was thrilled to take part in the festivities. Chef Mikery Hatfield, Executive Chef at McKay’s, also had a great time coming up with their mushroom menu, “there are so many ways to menu mushrooms, but I wanted to really feature one new dish every day.”

Mid-week the students were invited to experience two more mushroom centric dishes, Chicken & Mushroom Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Smoked Shiitake, Kale, & Spelt Salad, prepared by Chef Eric Ernest and Chef Lance Avery at the USC Weekly Farmer’s Market. Beyond the free samples, students were eager to win a Mushroomapalooza commemorative t-shirt, taking part in USC’s “Shirts for Selfies” contest.

The Mushroom Council was proud to take part in this campaign; educating students on the many benefits of mushrooms and allowing them to experience their true versatility in all the dishes served across campus.

Spring Into Swapability

This unseasonably warm weather has had me thinking spring for weeks! I don’t know about you, but when the temperature starts to tick up, I can’t help but get into the mood for grilling. As luck would have it, this goad to grill gave me an excellent opportunity to experiment with the whole “swapability” notion of substituting a portion of a higher-calorie ingredient, like meat, with a portion of mushrooms instead. I’ve been tinkering with it in the kitchen and find it’s an easy way to get an extra serving of veggies on my plate and an extra tasty meal in my stomach.

After searching for mushroom recipes that could easily be made on the grill, I settled on this tasty little number… burgers, of course! I decided to put together a batch of meaty Mushroom Burger Wraps. The original recipe is made in a skillet, but when the weather is this beautiful, you have to hit the grill. I’m telling you, these bad boys are so tasty, you may not ever make a full beef burger again! Of course, for all you turkey fans out there, this is a delicious swap for you, too.

In addition to swapping mushrooms within the burger wraps, I also marinated some sliced portobellos in a balsamic vinaigrette and threw them on the grill alongside the burgers for a complete lean, mean dinner that had me thinking summery thoughts in the middle of March. Not too shabby!

Mushroom Burger Wraps (serves four)

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces white button mushrooms
  • 6 ounces cremini mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 8 ounces 93% lean ground beef
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil or 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 4 2-ounce whole-wheat tortillas
  • freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1. Chop mushrooms into ¼-inch pieces.  Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 2 teaspoons canola oil.  Place mushrooms in pan and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes.  Drain. Return mushrooms to pan and season with freshly ground black pepper.

2. In a large bowl, combine the mushrooms, ricotta cheese, ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, and basil. Form mixture into 4 burgers.

3. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons canola oil. Cook burgers for about 5 to 7 minutes on each side, or until done. (Or grill burgers.) Serve in tortilla.

Tips: These are delicious with caramelized onions, fresh tomato and cheddar cheese.

Mushroom Lasagna from Chez Us

Turn your Meatless Monday meal into a comfort food feast with this Mushroom Lasagna recipe from Denise of Chez Us!

I recently had the chance to tag along on a mushroom foraging excursion with an expert from Northern California.  It was fascinating what I learned about my favorite food!  Besides learning that mushrooms are primarily composed of water, I also learned that mushrooms shouldn’t be consumed raw since they contain chitin, a material that needs to be cooked in order to break down and become edible. Also, thanks to their high water content, you don’t need much cooking liquid when preparing mushrooms.

Luckily, mushrooms are also packed with nutrients and vitamins!  They are a great source of B vitamins, especially niacin and riboflavin and happen to be protein powerhouses.  I found it interesting that dried mushrooms have almost as much protein as a piece of veal. I could go on and on, but will save for that for another time!  I mean, you’re probably hungry by now, right?

This mushroom lasagna is my go-to recipe for vegetarian meals.  Since mushrooms are a great source of protein, this recipe is very filling.  I lightly saute a mixture of brown crimini, portobellos and shiitakes with a little olive oil. Thanks to their high water content, there’s no need to add more liquid! Here and there, I’ll add golden chanterelles and oyster mushrooms to the mushroom blend.  I love the meaty texture of the chanterelles mixed with delicate oyster mushrooms.

To balance all of the earthy goodness in this recipe, I use three cheeses: fresh mozzarella, mascarpone and ricotta. I also use an abundance of fresh herbs to round out the flavors. Yes, it is rather decadent, but it is so worth it!  Instead of a traditional red sauce, I use a creamy béchamel.  When béchamel bakes with the three cheeses it makes a delicious, creamy base that mixes perfectly with the earthy mushrooms and fresh herbs.

This recipe takes a bit of time to prepare, but it worth it.  When you take the bubbly lasagna out of the oven, your dinner guests are going to be WOWED from start to finish.   I’ll let you in on a little secret… we prefer this recipe over meat lasagna. It’s THAT good! Try it for yourself and let us know what you think.

Mushroom Lasagna

Mushroom Filling
Note: if omitting chanterelle and oyster mushrooms, use an additional 8 oz. of crimini, portobello, or  a blend of the two.

  • 1 lb. of crimini brown mushrooms
  • 1 lb. portobello mushrooms
  • 4 ounces oyster mushrooms (optional)
  • 4 ounces chanterelle mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 yellow onion, minced finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • kosher salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste

To make: In a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-low, add the onion, stir and cook until soft, about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir, and lower heat to low, cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add all of the mushrooms except the oyster mushrooms.  Stir the mixture and cook over low heat for 12 minutes.  Add the oyster mushrooms (if using), stir and turn off the heat.  Set aside

Cheese Filling

  • ricotta
  • mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh oregano, roughly chopped
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of kosher salt and black pepper

To make: In a large mixing bowl add all of the ingredients and stir with a spoon.  Set aside.

Béchamel

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper

To make: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat (about a 4) until melted.  Do not let the butter burn.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth.  Continue cooking over low heat until light and golden in color, about 5 minutes.  Add the milk to the butter mixture, slowly, whisking the entire time.  Raise the heat to a medium (about a 6), cook for 5 minutes, whisking the entire time.  Remove from the heat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Lasagna

  • 1pound fresh or dried lasagna noodles
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella

To make: Heat oven to 350.  Butter a large glass baking dish.  Ladle a spoonful of béchamel over the bottom of the dish and spread about.  Cover the bottom of the dish with some of the pasta.  Smooth a third of the cheese filling over the pasta, add a third of the mushroom mixture, and then ladle 1/3 of the béchamel over the top.  Tear a 1/3 of the mozzarella into small pieces and scatter over the béchamel.  Continue the process;  you should have three layers.  You will have three layers built up with cheese and mushrooms.   Cover the third layer with pasta and pour the remaining of the béchamel over the top of the pasta.  Sprinkle with mozzarella.  Bake for 50 – 60 minutes, until golden and bubbly.  Serve.  Eat.

What’s For Dinner?

Pizza is usually the Achilles’ heel of anyone trying to eat healthier meals, especially pizza with meat toppings. That’s why the next recipe in my mushroom “swapability” cooking adventure (recipes that swap out a portion of meat to make way for more mushrooms) was particularly exciting—a Mushroom Flatbread from registered dietitian Elizabeth Ward.

Remember, the three-step technique for “swapability” is to chop, cook and combine mushrooms into recipes to add an extra serving of veggies to the plate so your meal is tasty and healthy.

Treat yourself tonight by making this lightened-up simple, flavorful and filling pizza.

Mushroom Flatbread Pizza

Recipe for Mushroom Flatbread (serves two)

  • 6 ounces white button mushrooms
  • 6 ounces cremini mushrooms
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces 93% lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 – 12 inch light whole wheat wraps
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
  2. Chop mushrooms into ¼-inch pieces.
  3. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add meat and cook, breaking meat into very small bits. Drain. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Remove from pan and reserve.
  4. Add olive oil to skillet. Add mushrooms and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain. Add beef back to pan and combine with mushrooms.
  5. In a small bowl, combine ricotta cheese, oregano, and basil. Spread the cheese mixture on two 12-inch light whole wheat wraps, dividing evenly. Layer equal amounts of the beef and mushroom mixture on top of the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.
  6. Place the pizza directly on the oven rack. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted.

 

** Tips: ½ cup cottage cheese blended with 1 tablespoon of milk in blender or food processor is a suitable substitute for ricotta cheese. Use fresh herbs like oregano and basil instead of Parmesan cheese and also use reduced fat cheese for a lighter version with less cholesterol, fat and saturated fat. **

And if this “swapability” technique intrigues you and you’re looking for other ingenious ways to eat healthier, then we have two exciting Twitter parties coming up that you’ll want to join. Both are in celebration of National Nutrition Month and should deliver lots of fun tips! Mark these dates on your calendar:

  • March 8, all day: Center for Nutrition Policy & Promotion (CNPP) Twitter Day. Join the conversation to engage with different communities and organizations in helping to promote the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, using the hashtag #MyPlateYourPlate on Twitter.
  • March 12, 8 p.m. – 9 p.m. EST: Feed Your Family Well Twitter Party. Use the hashtag #Mushrooms on Twitter to join the conversation about how to serve your family more nutritious meals that they’ll love to eat. Beloved blogger Resourceful Mommy will lead the conversation and author of MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better, Elizabeth Ward, will be dishing out expert advice. You’ll even have the chance to win awesome prizes valued up to $150! 

We look forward to chatting with you there!