31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: Protein Recipes for Success

If you’d like a few new entrées for your 2015 menus, I have three resources that you should definitely check out. At school (and home), proteins are usually at the center of the tray or plate. With these on-trend recipes, you can please your customers and effectively manage your school food budget at the same time.

It has been my pleasure to work with the American Egg Board (AEB) over the past couple of years. The Incredible Edible Egg truly is a popular, versatile, cost-effective way to add protein to any school meal. In the Eggs in Schools White Paper, I discuss these top three reasons to incorporate eggs: (1) Popular egg dishes can help increase Average Daily Participation (ADP); (2) The affordability of eggs allows more menu flexibility; and (3) Eggs provide versatile vegetarian and gluten-free options.

With input from hundreds of school nutrition professionals and the creativity of Malissa Marsden, AEB now offers dozens Egg Recipes for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Complete preparation instructions, meal equivalencies and nutrition analysis are provided. You can shake things up with this fun salad or power up with a Protein Box Lunch K-8

EggThere is also plenty of protein power – along with layers of ethnic flavors – in the nutrient-rich school lunch beef recipes developed by The Beef Checkoff. To help schools include high-quality protein, like beef, on the menu, I was honored to work with team of culinary experts who developed five new beef ground recipes that can be easily incorporated into any school lunch menu. The recipes were tested by real school cooks in real kitchens with real students – and you can read their comments online.

While I like all five recipes, the Sweet Potato Beef Mash-up is my personal favorite with  southwest-seasoned ground beef and sweet potatoes served hash-style and topped with a mixture of plain yogurt and hot pepper sauce. It can be served in a whole wheat tortilla or in Romaine lettuce cups for gluten-free option.


The final protein resource comes from the sea – from another commodity board whose product is available as a USDA Food – the Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers. From the more familiar Fish Tacos to an innovative Alaska Pollock Po’Boy, there are some delicious looking recipes on this site. I especially like the fact that they include sauces and side dishes for each of the pollock entrees. Like the other commodity groups featured, the pollock producers offer success stories and wonderful recipes that meet the meal pattern guidelines. There’s nothing fishy here – just proven ways to help students enjoy the health benefits of seafood at a reasonable cost and they can help with merchandising too.



Honestly, there is no reason to keep serving the same recipes cycle after cycle – with all the recipes and resources available online, it’s easy to mix-up your menus and offer new, exciting dishes to your customers!

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!