Archive for March, 2012

Get Sneaky on April Fools’ Day

Breaking news! This year’s mushroom crops are going to be less hearty than expected, leading to a mushroom shortage in stores. Stock up while you can…


Did I get you? Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best prank ever, but here are a few fun ways to play “Gotcha” with your family AND sneak wholesome mushrooms into their meals while you’re at it. We think these recipes will have mushroom naysayers changing their tune from “Mushrooms?” to “MUSHROOMS!”

  • Be sneaky with mushroom swaps. Get your family excited for a burger dinner and watch as they savor Mushroom Burgers, and then see if anyone can guess the secret ingredient.
  • Prank ‘em with pizza. After your family has gobbled up slices of crowd-pleasing Mushroom Flatbread, reveal your April Fools’ practical joke and watch as they change their minds about mushrooms.
  • Surprise with spruced up spaghetti. Serve this Almost Lasagna recipe, and shock your satisfied family with the secret ingredient: mushrooms.

These suggestions will pay off three-fold by leaving your family surprised, full on a nutritious meal and praising you for a successful (and tasty) April Fools’ trick. Leave a comment below to let us know how your family reacted!

All Vegetables Matter

Do you know the tasty truth about veggies? Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S.,R.D. reveals her tips!

Recently, I watched a well-known celebrity chef on a national television show advise people about the health benefits of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. She displayed an array of deeply-hued produce, and gushed about the nutrients that colorful fruits and vegetables offer.

Color counts but that’s not the whole story when it comes to produce, particularly vegetables.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

(1) Eat A Variety of Fruits and Veggies

Research shows that eating at least 2 ½ cups of fruit and vegetables daily is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. Certain produce helps protect against some types of cancer, too.

Getting enough fruits and vegetables is a challenge for most of us, as fewer than 1 in 10 Americans meet the suggested daily intakes. To make meal planning easier, MyPlate, the government’s new symbol for healthy eating, advises filling half your plate with a variety of fruits and vegetables that offer an array of nutrients.

For example:

• Beans are rich in protein, a nutrient most vegetables lack, and they also deliver iron and zinc in levels similar to those in seafood, meat, and poultry.

• Citrus fruits, kiwi, and tomatoes are particularly rich in vitamin C.

• Sweet potatoes, carrots, and cantaloupe are packed with beta-carotene, which provides their bright orange hue, protects cells against damage, and serves as the raw material for making vitamin A in the body.

(2) Pale is Pretty

Consumers are often encouraged to eat brightly colored vegetables because they’re loaded with nutrients, but that gives white and tan vegetables short shrift.

No one vegetable or fruit is more nutritious or beneficial than another. Scientific research has proved that white and tan vegetables (and white fruits, such as bananas) are packed with valuable nutrients.

Here’s what white and tan vegetables bring to the table, and interesting ways I prepare them for my family:

Mushrooms: Mushrooms are the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and is needed for strong bones and teeth. All mushroom varieties supply vitamin D, but growers can increase vitamin D levels by exposing mushrooms to ultraviolet light. One serving (about 4-5 white button or crimini mushrooms, or one portabella) of light-exposed mushrooms can provide close to 400 IU of vitamin D – that’s two-thirds of the suggested 600 IU everyone over the age of one needs daily.

In addition to being relatively low in calories, very low in sodium, and free of fat and cholesterol, mushrooms provide B vitamins, selenium, potassium, and more.  Mushrooms are packed with compounds that boost your immunity and may help protect against cancer.

I sauté sliced white button mushrooms to go with meat, chicken or fish, and I swear by portabello burgers on whole grain buns because they’re easy to make and delicious. I often swap half the meat in my favorite pasta, pizza, and burger recipes for chopped, sautéed mushrooms.

Cauliflower: Cauliflower contains antioxidants, vitamin C, the B vitamin folate, potassium, fiber, and anti-cancer compounds.

In spite of its many health benefits, cauliflower is not always an easy sell at the dinner table. Cauliflower has a strong taste, and it may take time for your family to fall in love with it like I have.

I roast cauliflower to bring out its sweetness and because it’s easy. Chop a head of cauliflower into bite-size pieces, place on a baking sheet, and coat lightly with olive oil. Cook at 400˚F until crisp-tender – about 15 minutes.

We also like pureed cauliflower. Cut up a head of cauliflower and steam it until very tender. Place in a food processor and blend with a bit of tub margarine, a tablespoon or two of milk, and grated Parmesan cheese.

Potatoes: Potatoes have been blamed for weight problems and a greater risk of type 2 diabetes, but it’s difficult to believe that eating spuds as part of a balanced diet is the cause of what’s ailing us.

Potatoes provide carbohydrate, fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. One medium potato has 110 calories, as long as they’re not fried or slathered in butter.

Stuffed baked potatoes are nearly a meal, and kids love them. Slice a medium baked potato in half lengthwise and reserve potato shells. Scoop out the inside and mash; mix with ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese, 1 cup chopped, cooked vegetables, and your choice of seasonings. Spoon filling into the potato shells and sprinkle with ¼ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese. Bake on a baking sheet for 10 minutes in 400˚F oven or until cheese melts.

Stir leftover mashed potatoes into soup to increase nutrition, boost vegetable intake, and create a creamy texture.

As a registered dietitian and mother of three, I’ve never met a vegetable I didn’t like. That goes double for the vegetables my kids will eat without a fuss, including the pale ones like mushrooms, cauliflower and potatoes!

Take a (Spring) Break with Easy Mushroom Fajitas

It’s finally spring! This time of year always makes me itch for a fun getaway. Since there is no spring break vacation on my calendar this year I decided to give myself a staycation, complete with my favorite vacation food…fajitas!

Fajitas have always been a favorite of mine because they are tasty no matter what I’m craving – beef, chicken or even veggie. This time I settled on using steak. It’s the perfect complement to the medley of crisp-tender spring veggies like onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. And besides, who doesn’t love the flavor-packed combo of steak and mushrooms?

This recipe was a total breeze to put together. While the steak marinated, I chopped all of my veggies and preheated the grill. In less than 15 minutes, I was ready to savor the flavors of vacation without having to leave my backyard!

If you share my love for fajitas and appreciate leisurely meal preparation, then you’re going to enjoy this Mushroom Steak Fajita recipe.

Mushroom Steak Fajitas (serves four)


  • 12 oz sirloin or other boneless steak, about ¾-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon no-salt fiesta lime seasoning (Like Mrs. Dash), divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, sliced into strips
  • 8- 6-inch whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 4 tablespoons non-fat sour cream



  1. Slice beef across the grain into ¼-inch strips. Place in a medium bowl with ½ tablespoon fiesta lime seasoning’ toss to coat.
  2. Place mushrooms, peppers and onion and remaining fiesta lime seasoning in a large bowl; toss to coat.
  3. Heat oil in large, non-stick skillet. Add beef strips; cook about 3-4 minutes. Remove from skillet. Place coated vegetables in skillet and sauté until vegetables are slightly tender, about 5-8 minutes. Add beef back to skillet and sauté mixture 1-2 more minutes.
  4. Assemble fajitas by dividing beef-vegetable mixture evenly on each tortilla, top with remaining ingredients and roll up.

Spring into The Blend

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)




  • 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


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.


  • 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.


  • 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.