Archive for the ‘School Lunch’ Category

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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

“Mushroom Mania” Takes over Five Cafeterias at Penn State University

It should come as no surprise to see mushrooms at Pennsylvania State University, but when Mushroom Council representatives, Kathleen Preis, Katie Poppiti, and Nicole Stager, took over five Penn State cafeterias, a full-fledged Mushroom Mania ensued!

Student’s tastebuds tingled as they caught a glance of the Mushroom Mania lunch menu at Penn State University earlier this month. Cream of Mushroom Soup with Crimini and Portabella Mushrooms warmed students up, while the Beef, Pork and Mushroom Blend Slider Topped with Pesto & Sharp Provolone had them questioning whether or not the burger was in fact made with mushrooms; it was just so delicious!

By the time dinner rolled around, students were clamouring for more! The dinner menu featured a Grilled Pork Chop with Five Mushroom Umami Gravy and a Mushroom and Goat Cheese Flat Bread Pizza that was the talk of the town.

Beyond the food, students lined at the Mushroom Selfie Station and tried their hand at Mushroom Jeopardy. Participants were asked a variety of trivia questions including; mushrooms contain 90% _______.; what are the best growing conditions for mushrooms; or name that mushroom variety. Hundreds of Mushroom Mania commemorative t-shirts and gift cards were given out to mushroom savvy students, who became very intrigued when told the many health benefits of mushrooms. Yes, they not only taste good, but they are good for you too!

Mushroom Mania came to a successful close on the Thursday morning when Kathleen Preis, of the Mushroom Council, presented to a menu committee of 13 chefs from across Penn State campuses. Not only were they thrilled about the Mushroom Mania campaign, they were excited to include more blended menu items on their school menus for the year ahead!

Mushrooms Make Back to School Time Trendy

Summer is quickly coming to an end and “back to school” time is in full swing. While the kids might be thinking about the latest trends in clothing and back to school gear, you might be thinking about what they’ll be eating for lunch. Council Representative, Kathleen Preis, tells us how the simple mushroom is making lunch menus across the country not only tasty this school year, but trendy.

Spicy Meatballs. Philly Cheese “Steak” Sandwiches. Chili con Carne. Sounds like the menu at a gourmet restaurant, while in reality this is what your kids could be dining on this school year. That’s right; all these trendy foods have made their way to school lunch trays across the nation, all because of mushrooms.

School Foodservice Directors everywhere have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the new blending concept – blending finely chopped mushrooms with ground meat – and have created healthier and trendier menu items for their school lunch programs.  “Mushrooms are on trend – the coolest thing to eat… We need to be on trend, we need to be serving those foods and meals that have a trendy buzz about them,” says Dayle Hayes, MS, RD, an award-winning child nutrition expert. And those buzz worthy, trendy menu items will have kids gobbling up their serving of vegetables!

So when your kids come home from school this year saying how much they loved that turkey burger with cheese and bacon, don’t fret; thanks to The Blend you can be sure they ate their veggies as well!

The Blend Was a Hit at the School Nutrition Annual Conference

Over the past year the mushroom industry, food service directors and meat processors have been hard at work hoping to bring The Blend to the forefront. The outcome of these efforts were obvious at this year’s School Nutrition Conference, and Council Representative Kathleen Pries, was there to share all the benefits of blending with knowledge seeking directors.

The energy, excitement and enthusiasm at the SNA ANC in Boston, Massachusetts last week was palpable. School food service directors from across the nation were eager to visit the Mushroom Council booth to learn about fresh mushrooms and blending.

Located in the United Fresh Pavilion, the Mushroom Council had the opportunity to work with other likeminded exhibitors to bring school foodservice directors real solutions to increase fresh produce consumption in schools. The Fresh Produce Pavilion showcased a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables available to schools, as well as highlighted the produce industry’s commitment to helping schools meet the new fruit and vegetable requirements for school lunch/breakfast.  With the new “Smart Snacks in Schools” requirements going into effect, and continuing media attention on healthier school meals, it is more important than ever that the fresh produce industry be fully engaged with schools.

To demonstrate how meatless options can be just as tasty, and how The Blend can enhance school meals, we sampled Spicy Mushroom Meatballs, Mushroom Blended Turkey Breakfast Sausage Patties, and Meatless Portabella Cheesesteaks. Attendees were thrilled to hear student’s favorite meals can be made healthier without losing taste, volume or texture. But we weren’t the only ones showing off blending, three additional companies showed mushroom blended products totaling 11 products on the show floor for school foodservice directors to sample and add to their menu.

The presence of mushroom blending at this year’s School Nutrition Association Conference was especially important given the current debate on regulating nutrition requirements in the school lunch program.  Concepts like The Blend demonstrate that districts can serve healthier versions of foods kids love without sacrificing taste or acceptance.  The acceptance with districts, processors and industry influencers of mushroom blending is a huge opportunity to continue to improve student lunches.

We at the Mushroom Council are tremendously lucky to be included in the groundbreaking group of individuals and organizations that form the School Nutrition Association. We would like to thank everyone at the conference for a truly memorable week!

Celebrity Chef, Jehangir Mehta, Helps the University of Washington Celebrate Mushroom May-nia

What happens when you bring an iron chef to the University of Washington? May-nia ensues! Students at University of Washington were eager and excited to meet Chef Jehangir Mehta during a weeklong “Mushroom May-nia” event, and Council Representative Brittany Stager was there to capture the enthusiasm.

Enoki, king trumpet, shiitake and beech; just some of the types of mushrooms students at the University of Washington had the opportunity to enjoy during last week’s “Mushroom May-nia” event.

Several of the school’s dining halls served a rotating menu of mushroom dishes all week. Everything from roasted chicken with mushroom sauce to pulled portabella mushrooms and smoked tofu in a steam bun. A free sampling at the university’s highly trafficked “Market” caught the attention of hundreds of students, who lined up to try the simple sautéed white button mushrooms.

Mid-week, Mushroom May-nia excitement grew as students were ready to welcome Food Network celebrity Chef, Jehangir Mehta for a prestigious private dinner and live cooking demos. On Wednesday night Chef Mehta prepared a special dinner for a table of 20 guests including the University’s President, Michael Young, and several students who were nominated by their peers for the exemplary leadership skills.

The 4 course mushroom menu was a work of art; starting with a Mushroom & Scallop Tartar, a Black Cod, Seared Duck Breast over Zucchini and Enoki “Noodles,” followed by a mushroom infused Chocolate Panna Cotta. With every course, Chef Mehta addressed the guests, explaining his inspiration behind each dish. From health and flavour, to family and personal experience, Chef’s passion for mushrooms was truly apparent.

Thursday’s demo brought 100 hungry students to UW’s “Chef’s Table” at Local Point Dining Hall to see Chef cook his famous Graffiti Slider Burger; a blend of portabella mushrooms, king mushrooms, and angus beef. Students in the audience couldn’t believe how much flavor the blended burger had, some even exclaiming “I never would have guessed there were mushrooms in it!”

The Blend concept is one that has been highly accepted in schools, colleges, and universities, and as Chef Mehta found out, sure knows how to draw a crowd!