Archive for August, 2015

Mushrooms Make School Lunches Delicious

As summer comes to a close and we begin swapping bathing suits and flip-flops for backpacks and pencils, school lunches become top-of-mind. What will your little ones (and big ones) be eating for lunch every day? Council Representative, Kathleen Preis, walks us through all the delicious meat and mushroom blend dishes your kids will be enjoying this school year!


What do Chicken & Mushroom Gravy, Spaghetti & Meatballs with Mushrooms, and Mushroom & Olive Tapenade all have in common? No, they are not the bestselling menu items at a restaurant up the street. They are not dishes that wowed the judges on a national cooking show. In fact, they are menu items that could be served in your kid’s lunchroom this school year!


School Foodservice Directors across the nation are embracing fresh mushrooms and blending them into lunch menus in hundreds of districts across the United States. Hickman Mills School District in Missouri added a Mushroom Taco Salad and Mushroom Spaghetti to their menu and the response from the students was overwhelming! 90% of students surveyed enjoyed the Mushroom Taco Salad and requested it be served again! In New Orleans Public Schools, School Nutrition Director Rosie Jackson added Vegetarian Lasagna and Mushroom & Olive Tapenade to the menu during Mushroom Week. 80% of students at the secondary level preferred the mushroom blended entrees!


The secret to all these delicious tasting and highly requested lunch items is… mushrooms! Blending finely chopped mushrooms in popular ground-meat favorites like burgers, meatballs, tacos, and meatloaf helps to create healthier menu items for school lunch programs. Two years ago Jessica Shelly at Cincinnati Public Schools switched her 100% beef burger to a beef & mushroom blend burger and was delighted by the results. “By switching to the beef burger with mushrooms, my calories and fat went down enough that I could add cheese to the elementary school burgers and offer turkey bacon to high school burgers – when they saw turkey bacon cheese burger as an option my high schoolers went nuts! They loved it!”

Adding mushrooms into classic ground meat dishes not only makes them healthier, it keeps them tasting “familiar” so students are more likely to continue gobbling up their burgers, meatloaf, and tacos without knowing they are better for them! So when your kids come home and tell you how they tried mushrooms at lunch time, don’t be surprised… heck you could even give blending a try it at home!

#BetterBurgerProject: Quaff ON! Better Burger

Quaff ON! Bloomington Tap House, a Better Burger Project winner,  is part of the Big Woods and Quaff ON! family, established to showcase the beers brewed by Quaff ON! Brewing Company.

QuaffON Bloomington's Better Burgers

Why  did Quaff ON! join the Better Burger Project? Chef Dan Nichols says, “After reading about the Better Burger Project, the idea of creating a blended burger intrigued me, so I started testing various recipes. Being in the top five throughout the project came as a surprise to me. Having the opportunity to go to the James Beard House and prepare food will have a profound impact on me as a chef.”

QuaffON! Bloomington's Better Burger Winning Recipe

Quaff ON! Better Burger:

For The Blend
50% sirloin; 25% chuck; 25% short rib
Crimini mushroom duxelle
Porcini mushroom powder
Roasted green chiles

Triple cream brie
Caramelized Spanish onion
Beer mustard
Demi glace
Baby arugula
Vine ripened tomato
Brioche bun

#BetterBurgerProject: Belly Acres Better Burger

Belly Acres’ Chef Rob Ray says “I wanted to participate because it has ties with the way I cook and view food. The Better Burger Project was different, it was healthy, and like other practices, it is a step in the right direction to make a difference in the way people view their food.

At Belly Acres we are proud of what we do and always try to offer a better option for families: healthy, sustainable, fresh! From our free range chicken to our 100% grass fed, grass finished beef, to our local produce ~ we are proud of our products, proud of our farmers for all they do, and we are proud to be apart of the Better Burger Project!

To me, this win is an honor like no other! For years I have been keeping up with the James Beard Foundation and the chefs that have been apart of it. Always being amazed with the impact the foundation has on the culinary world, I have merely imagined how great it would be to cook at THE James Beard House, now it’s really happening! Honestly, I would have never guessed I would be going due to a Burger! DOUBLE WIN!”

Belly Acres Better Burger

Belly Acres Better Burger

Mushroom+Beef Patty
4lbs.  Chopped Button Mushrooms
10lbs.  Beef

1. Cook mushrooms with a 1 tablespoon of Olive oil till tender.
2. Strain mushrooms and cool
3. Mix well with beef and form into patties
4. Season with salt and pepper before cooking

Ginger Lime Mayo
3c.   Dukes Mayo
3T.   Soy Sauce
4T    Ginger (minced)
3T.    Honey
1/2c. Lime Juice
1/2t.  Red Pepper Flakes

1. Mix all ingredients, Refrigerate for 12 hours before serving.

Pickled Summer Squash
2qt.   Sliced Summer Squash
4c.    Water
2c.    White Vinegar
6t.     Sea Salt
1t.     Celery Seed
1t.     Mustard Seed
1/2t.   Red Pepper Flakes
1/2t.   Whole Black Pepper

1. Pack quart jars with sliced squash.
2. Mix water, vinegar and salt together
3. Distribute spices into the jars
4. Fill with the mixed brine.
5. Refrigerate for 1-2 days before serving.

While Chef Rob always uses farm fresh ingredients, sustainable ingredients are just as important to him. Before opening Belly Acres as a managing partner and executive chef, his culinary background consisted only of fine dining. Chef Rob considers his first venture out of the elite food scene a piece of cake. The way he describes his approach when creating Belly Acres’ menu: “Make it different, keep it simple, always know where ingredients are coming from, and don’t sacrifice quality, ever.”

Opened late last year in the Overton Square Entertainment District in Historic Midtown Memphis, Belly Acres was created for the customer, always looking out for their health, happiness, and to offer the best family friendly environment possible. Chef Rob went local with as much as possible. He says “I did that with the mind state of if we go to New York to cook this burger we will take a piece of Tennessee and Mississippi with us! I did a lot of pondering and testing with this burger- and with starting multiple weeks after the start of the competition…it was a quick creation!

I wanted to keep the calorie count down a lot with total fat and keep the health benefits high. Notice there is no cheese on our burger, and as we all know you have to make it just right if you aren’t adding cheese! Some “out there” flavors went into this burger: southern pickling, fire roasted peppers, then mix an Asian Mother Sauce (soy lime) with ginger and turning it all into an aioli? With a mushroom blended beef patty?…what?? I wasn’t sure if they would even work together at first but with trial and error came our Better Mushroom State of Mind Burger!”

And the #BetterBurgerProject Winners Are…

The burgers have been served, the plates have been cleared, and the ‘grams have been counted.

After more than two months of the Better Burger Project™, a challenge that invited chefs to create a more healthy, delicious, and sustainable burger by blending ground meat with finely chopped cultivated mushrooms, we’re excited to reveal our five winners.


The chefs whose burgers appeared in the most Instagram photos, uploaded by their customers, emerged victorious. Our winning chefs are:

1.  Quaff ON!, chef Dan Nichols – Bloomington, IN
2.  Blue Southern Comfort Food, chef Carolyn Manning – Shreveport, LA
3.  Belly Acres, chef Rob Ray – Memphis, TN
4.  Bachi Burger, chef Lorin Watada – Las Vegas, NV; Los Angeles, CA; Pasadena, CA
5.  Burgh’ers Restaurant, chefs Kiel Campbell and Fiore Moletz – Harmony, PA

In October, these chefs will travel to New York City, where they will serve their “Better Burgers” at the official welcome reception of the 2015 JBF Food Conference, taking place Sunday, October 18, at the historic James Beard House.

“This year’s conference will look at the future of food through three lenses: the farm, the kitchen. and health,” says JBF’s Kris Moon. “In keeping with the future-focused theme, the Better Burger Project was an inventive contest that challenged the culinary community to create new versions of an American standard, working toward a better tomorrow for food lovers nationwide.”

For more information on the winners, visit You can find Better Burgers by all participating chefs by searching for #betterburgerproject on Instagram.

#BetterBurgerProject: 20 Highland Tavern Better Burger

20 Highland Tavern, a Whole Foods Market restaurant, shares their Spinach Mushroom Better Burger with us all the way from Phoenix, AZ. 20 Highland prides themselves on being perfect spot to stop in for a drink after work or meet a group of friends on the weekend!

20 Highland Tavern Better Burger Recipe

20 Highland Tavern Spinach Mushroom Burger

1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. chopped button mushroom
1 ¼ c panko bread crumbs
1 egg
2 TBSP herb and garlic seasoning
1 TBSP kosher salt
Shape into 4 ½ lb. patties, place burgers on flat top and cook to desired temperature

While burgers are cooking heat 2 TBSP EVOO in a pan
Sauté 1 small yellow onion (julienned) and 1 TBSP chopped garlic until soft
Add ½ lb. spinach and sautée until wilted

Place burger on bun and top with 2 slices of provolone and ¼ of the sautéed spinach and onions.