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

31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: Tis’ the Season for Citrus

The price of citrus fruits, like clementines and grapefruit, looks pretty good in the produce aisles these days. That’s because citrus season is really kicking in high gear, especially for mandarins and oranges. Sunkist® has a great Seasonality Calendar listing a wide variety of refreshing citrus options and their peak seasons.

Everyone can benefit from a little extra vitamin C and other citrus nutrients right now – since colds and flu are also in season. Need a super EASY, super REFRESHING smallish gift for friends or coworkers? RD colleague Sarah Chellberg shared this Orange Wreath idea with me last week and I love it. You could, of course, make this wreath from any fruit – alternating red and green apples would be quite festive too. All you need is some plastic wrap and ribbon!

Simple citrus wreath

Simple citrus wreath

Or how about a Rudolf Orange? All you need are some citrus fruits, edible markers (available at most hobby stores, and some bits and pieces of ribbon, pipe cleaners and other wrapping/craft leftovers. These are simple enough for children to make themselves!

Rudolf the Red-Nosed Orange

Rudolf the Red-Nosed Orange

This fun Snowman Fruit Snack is also simple enough for children to make. A variety of other fruits and veggies could be used to make the hat, face and scarf – just let your fruit-tastic imagination go wild!

Snowman Fruit Snack

Snowman Fruit Snack

Need more ideas? Visit the School Meals That Rock Christmas Food Fun Pinterest board!

31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: #Hunger Doesn’t Take a Winter Break

Yesterday I was doing a little exploring in a new-to-me Billings neighborhood and I drove down a dead-end road on the outskirts of town. There sits, as my friend Ginny Mermel describes it, the “second worst trailer park in town” – muddy roads with thawing snow, dilapidated homes, rusty cars and many young residents based on the school bus just turning around after dropping off students for winter break.

While most children are excited about a two-week vacation with holiday celebrations and presents under the tree, winter break has a whole different meaning for kids who live in poverty. It means two weeks without school meals – two weeks without the guarantee of a hot breakfast and lunch every day. Thanks to my friend and colleague, Virginia ‘Ginny’ Mermel (far left) and the Billings Public Schools BackPack Meals Program, the situation is not as bleak as it could be in our community.

Archie Cochrane Ford donates $2500 to the BackPack Meals Program (May 2014)

Archie Cochrane Ford donates $2500 to the BackPack Meals Program (May 2014)

Ginny received one of the 2014 Hunger’s Hope Award from the Montana Food Bank Network (MFBN) in November. In presenting this prestigious award, MFBN noted … “Ginny has the challenging task of feeding very low-income, food insecure students in Billings through school pantries and BackPack programs. Many of the students she serves are emancipated or homeless and rely on the assistance provided through her programs in order to eat. She has steadily expanded the reach and scope of child hunger programs in Billings and the surrounding area while working tirelessly to ensure stable funding and administration for child hunger programs.”

While I see the work of Billings Public Schools BackPack Meals Program and Teen Food Pantry Program personally, I know that thousands of schools and other volunteers work year round to bring healthy food to families in need. Here are two of the many recent Facebook entries that impressed me.

The San Diego (CA) Unified School District Farm to School Program posted this photo on the Friday before their break: “Since today was our last day of school before the 2 week winter break, we donated our leftover fresh produce to 11 San Diego food rescue agencies including Feeding America San Diego, Bayview Charities, various churches, mental health agencies, etc.! Trying to do our part to help those in need.” Rather than letting beautiful produce go to waste, they made sure that it went to those in need.

Produce Donations from San Diego School District

Produce Donations from San Diego School District

In Greensboro, North Carolina, the Guilford County Cooperative Extension School Garden Network had a great idea on December 16tth: “The Donation Station at the curb market at Yanceyville St. was a hub of activity Saturday as shoppers donated mounds of beautiful produce for our food insecure population here in Guilford County. Volunteers Melissa Tinling, FoodCorp service member and Cynthia Nielsen, GCCES School Garden Network Coordinator for Farmer Foodshare.”

Donation Station in Guilford County, North Carolina

Donation Station in Guilford County, North Carolina

It’s not too late to make the holidays better for hungry children in your community. Wherever you live your local donation station is as close as a food bank, food pantry or mission. Confused about what to donate? How about MILK – one of the most requested, least donated food items? You can donate milk directly or through The Great American Milk Drive. Thanks to America’s Milk Companies and Farm Families, you can help fill the milk gap – and have your donation matched gallon-for-gallon. Honestly,  it doesn’t get much better than that!