31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: Recipes from Commodity Boards

By Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Just three more days to wrap up 31 Days of #RealSchoolFood – and I want to continue sharing school recipe resources. There’s no reason to spend time reinventing recipes that have already been developed. Your valuable time is much better spent making farm to school contacts, arranging culinary training for your staff or providing nutrition education to students.

Rather than starting from zero with a new menu item, find an existing recipe – and adapt it, if necessary, to fit the needs of your customers. Commodity boards – the marketing side of agricultural producer groups – are delicious sources of school recipes. They are eager to have schools incorporate their products into school meals – and offer lots of creative recipes to help you do that. The Mushroom Council has gone all out with a website devoted to Mushrooms in Schools, where they offer newsletters, success stories, complete menus and wonderful recipes. This Vegetable Flatbread offers a colorful combo of on-trend veggies and is perfect for Meatless Mondays.

Vegetable Flatbread

NOTE: Both Malissa Marsden, my webinar co-presenter, and I consult for The Mushroom Council. You can also find more mushroom inspiration on the School Meals That Rock Pinterest page on the Mushrooms in Schools board.

Speaking of olives, Malissa has also helped the California Olive Committee create some really outstanding recipes. Many of them, like this Southwestern Stuffed Baked Potato, are very cost-effective because they use multiple USDA Foods in one recipe. There are recipes for all grade levels and all taste buds. All the K-12 California Ripe Olive Recipes are designed to meet current meal pattern guidelines – and to please your most discerning customers!


I’ll cover some protein commodity groups, including beef, eggs and dairy, tomorrow. Here are two others that have outstanding resources for school nutrition professionals.

31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: Recipes from Your Colleagues

As 2014 comes to a close, we’re talking #RealSchoolFood recipes that you might want to incorporate in 2015. The overall goal is to offer you some great scratch recipes, saving you the time, money and hassle to creating your own recipes from scratch. Remember the recorded USDA webinar on Finding and Creating School Recipes for Success with USDA Foods (featuring Malissa Marsden and me) is available on YouTube. Several colleagues have suggested that this would make a great (and free) January in-service to share with your staff.

Another wonderful source of recipes is your friends and colleagues in the school food world. Most school nutrition professionals are more than willing to share recipes – just ask nicely and be sure to say thank you! Here are three examples of recipe sources from colleagues you can trust.

The Washington State Schools “Scratch Cooking” Recipe Book is packed with delicious contributions from school cooks across Washington. More than 20 districts contributed recipes to this September 2013 publication (all recipes meet new meal pattern guidelines). The book has lots of interesting main dishes, from basic Chicken Fajitas to Italian Baked Fish w/ Provencal Sauce, as well as grains, fruits and vegetables. 

WA ChildNutritionRecipeBook Cover

Provo School District in Provo, Utah, is an outstanding example of scratch cooking with locally sourced ingredients. They are also incredibly generous with sharing their food art on Facebook – and their recipes as well. In May 2014, they shared six recipes that featured local meat, poultry, veggies, fruits and even mushrooms! You can download them at Provo City School District Recipes with Local Food Items from the National Farm to School Network database (where you can also search for other recipes and resources).

I can personally recommend the Roasted Asparagus, which I once had the pleasure of both eating and serving this recipe to middle school students. Many of them asked how many spears they could have!



As a final treat, Windham Raymond School Nutrition Program, RSU #14 in Maine, has been kind enough to share their recipe for the Whole Grain Rolls served at their Thanksgiving meal in November. Here is what Director Jeanne Reilly wrote to go with these yummy photos: “Yesterday was such a great day, with so many of our students and staff taking part in our Thanksgiving Feast throughout our entire district. Our “homemade” school baked rolls were a huge hit and many have requested the recipe. Our rolls (unlike the original recipe) were whole grain and we substituted a portion of the white flour with100% whole grain white flour.” That is district Chef Samantha forming the rolls in the top left.

Thanksgiving Rolls in Windham-Raymond Schools, Maine

Thanksgiving Rolls in Windham-Raymond Schools, Maine

Here is a JPG of the recipe that Jeanne shared with me. If you cannot read it well enough in this format, send an email to SchoolMealsThatRock@gmail.com, I will send the recipe PDF to you. Thanks to Jeanne and all the other directors for being willing the share the goodness of from their kitchens!


31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: #MustHave Recipe Resources

There are many excellent resources for standardized school recipes – from USDA, NFSMI, state Team Nutrition Programs (ex., Michigan and Iowa), food companies (ex., Norpac Foods) and producer commodity groups (ex,. American Egg Board and The Mushroom Council). Remember, you do NOT have to reinvent the ‘wheel,’ you can always adapt recipes to fit your kitchen and your customers! In final six blogs in this series, I’m exploring a variety recipe sources for school meals. Today, I share two MUST-HAVES – from Oklahoma and Vermont.

The Oklahoma Farm to School Cookbook has a great name: Kidchen Expedition. It also has great recipes for serving locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables in schools. There are eight sections covering everything from Broccoli to Zucchini, along with a nice selection of dips and dressings. Two recipes are shown on this slide – more great names, Underground Candy (aka roasted root veggies) and Rainbow Salsa. The cookbook can be downloaded in large file – or section by section – and there are family-size recipes to send home with your students.


By now I hope that every school nutrition program has an electronic – or hard – copy of Vermont FEED’s New School Cuisine: Nutritious and Seasonal Recipes for School Cooks by School Cooks. This is a very impressive first-ever effort by public school cooks to write a hands-on cookbook for their peers. It is written for school cooks, by school cooks and includes totally kid-tested recipes, featuring local, seasonal ingredients and farm to school resources. I have met several of the cooks who tested the recipes – and I have seen the recipes being served at many schools. This gorgeous Vermont Maple Apple French Toast Bake had just come out of the oven at Goddard Elementary in Worcester, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, I did not get to stay for brunch for lunch.

Vermont Maple Apple French Toast Bake

Vermont Maple Apple
French Toast Bake

Every school needs a copy of New School Cuisine: Nutritious and Seasonal Recipes for School Cooks by School Cooks on their computer or book shelf – the photos alone make it worth your while! Get yours today!



31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: Success Starts with the Recipe

On December 4, 2014, I had the privilege and pleasure of presenting a USDA Foods webinar – Anatomy of Standardized Recipe: Finding and Creating School Recipes for Success with USDA Foods – with Malissa Marsden. The recording of the hour presentation is now available on YouTube. Malissa did a terrific job of laying the groundwork with the critical importance of standardized recipes.


Malissa then offered a precise, step-by-step analysis of HOW to create and adapted standardized recipes for school meals. I highly recommend listening to the webinar recording – because I cannot do her presentation just here.

I had a much easier job – talking about some resources for recipes that can be used as is or adapted to meet your needs. Sadly, I have learned that no everyone knows about the best SEARCHABLE source for USDA recipes, the What’s Cooking website. This site includes the USDA recipes available on the National Food Service Management (NFSMI) recipe database (which are only alphabetical by recipe name) PLUS some additional recipes from other sources. A couple of things to note when using the QUANTITY RECIPE side of this website (there are also family size recipes available).

  • Not all the recipes are standardized, but you can check a box to see only those that are (426).
  • You can also search by course of the meal.
  • You can create a ‘cookbook’ of the recipes you like. However, you cannot currently save it online. If you collect recipes, they will need to be printed.


There are many other wonderful sources of standardized recipes for schools. You do NOT have to reinvent the recipe ‘wheel,’ you can always adapt one to fit your kitchen and your customers! In the next several blogs, I’ll explore recipe sources for school meal components, here are two state-level recipe sources – from Michigan and Texas – that are worth checking out.

Michigan Team Nutrition has lots of wonderful recipes – both printed and as YouTube videos. I can personally vouch for these recipes created by Chef Dave Mac – I have tasted many of them while doing trainings across Michigan.


Education Services Center for Region 11 is also collecting and standardizing some delicious recipes. While their current recipe collection is small, I am sure that they will adding more quickly – thanks to Chef V and the other ‘Foodnatics’ there!


Check out these three sources of recipes – and let’s us know your favorite sources to share. We have five more days of recipes resources and we would love to include yours!


31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: Peas on Earth

Now that the holiday hustle is almost over and food comas are common throughout the land, it is time to begin looking toward 2015. New Year’s Day is but a week away and, before you know it, it will be time to think about starting next spring’s garden plants.

All my wishes for 2015 can really be summarized by this simple graphic. 

Peas on Earth1

Like so many others around the globe, I can imagine no greater gift than a more peaceful planet. If only we could ‘beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks.’ If only we would war no more and so that all children could have the nourishing foods they need to grow strong and well.

My dedication to #RealSchoolFood is an extension of my love of growing food, cooking food and enjoying food. While world peace may continue to elude us, I am totally confident that 2015 will bring more good news about school meals, school gardens and local foods for local districts. I am grateful for the opportunity to share that news here on this blog and School Meals That Rock on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Please join me whenever you can!

31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: #MerryChristmas from the New York Times

Jane Brody, longtime New York Times columnist, cookbook author and all nutrition guru has just sent all school nutrition programs an early Christmas present. It came wrapped in a 12/22/2014, Personal Health column called “Why Cafeteria Food Is the Best.” A version of the article appeared in print on 12/23/2014, on page D5 of the New York edition with the headline: Food From Home Fails Nutrition Test.

In fact, Ms. Brody did not say anything dramatically new; she merely reviewed the results of several school nutrition studies published in the past year. She also did not say anything different that what you or I say multiple times a day. This column is important because of WHO wrote it – a respected, authoritative voice in America’s nutrition life – and because of WHERE it was published – one of the most influential newspapers in the world.

Jane Brody, Personal Health, Why Cafeteria Food Is the Best, NYT, 12/22/2014

Jane Brody, Personal Health, Why Cafeteria Food Is the Best, NYT, 12/22/2014

You don’t have to read the whole thing now – it’s Christmas Eve and you need to spend time with your family and friends. BUT, here is what you need to do when you head back to school on January 5, 2015.

  • Print a PDF of the online article for your files. (Use the print version if you live in NYC and happen to have a copy.) You can do this right from the PRINT command at the link above.
  • Forward the link and attach a copy of the PDF (or deliver a hard copy) to your superintendent, chair of your district school board, and any school meal ‘bashers’ in your community.
  • Use the links in the article to download copies of the research articles that Brody cites. Read them carefully, save them in your files and use them to pitch a story to your local media about why “Cafeteria Food is the Best.”

But, Dayle, it’s Christmas Eve and you just said that we should be with our family and friends. NO worries – you don’t have to download or read anything today. I’ve done all the downloading for you – and am going to remind you in January. That’s my Christmas present to you!!

31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: Fruitastic Santas for #Christmas

Tomorrow night is Santa’s time to shine – and I totally agree with milk and cookies as the preferred snack of bearded men who drop down chimneys. However, I also think that sometime you need some fruit to go with your cookies and milk. With that in mind, here are two Fruitastic Santa Snacks – and a veggie one too, just for good measure.

These Strawberry Santa Snacks are super easy – and you still have time to buy the three ingredients you need: berries, cream cheese (or substitute whipped cream) and mini-chocolate chips. These are so sweet that Santa may just need a glass of ice cold milk with them.

Fruitastic Strawberry Santas

Fruitastic Strawberry Santas

These clever Santa Poppers have three more ingredients: Bananas, marshmallows and red candies. That’s a little more sugar – but also perfect with a tall refreshing glass of ice cold milk. Step-step-by-step instructions are available at the link above – and you get to eat all the extra fruit pieces while you are making them!

Strawberry-Banana Santas

Strawberry-Banana Santas

And, because I could not resist, how about some Tomato-Goat Cheese Santas? The recipe link calls for some brand name cheeses, but I am guessing your favorite soft cheese combination would work just as well. I would definitely make these if I hadn’t already committed to a ‘pine cone’ cheese ball made with almonds. So many cheesy appetizer opportunities, so little time!

Tomato and Goat Cheese Santas

Tomato and Goat Cheese Santas