Heather Steele
Heather Steele, a registered dietitian, took top honors for her “Chicken Parm Blended Burger” as part of the Retail RD Blenditarian Recipe Contest.
Heather Steele, a registered dietitian (RD) and licensed dietitian with Reasor’s, an Oklahoma-based grocery store chain, won top prize for her “Chicken Parm Blended Burger” as part of The Mushroom Council’s Retail RD Blenditarian Recipe Contest.

The contest was held for members of the Retail Dietitian’s Business Alliance (RDBA) and included submitted recipes based on “The Blend,” a technique that combines mushrooms with meat to increase the servings of vegetables in a dish and extend portions. It also is a way to lower calories, saturated fat and sodium, and eat more sustainably.

“The contest was inspired by the interest of retail dietitians to develop their own original Blend recipes in-house,” says Kara Lydon, RD and nutrition consultant for the Mushroom Council. “We saw dietitians sharing their recipes on their retailers’ websites and social media accounts, demoing in-store, and pitching to their meat and deli department heads to sell to their customers.”

RDBA contestants were asked to chop mushrooms to match the texture of ground meat--beef, pork, chicken, turkey (or tofu) — and use it in place of some of the meat in recipes.

Chicken parmesan blended burger
Steele said she always discusses "The Blend" with customers, and she's sharing her award-winning Chicken Parm Blended Burger recipe.

“I love that ‘The Blend’ is easy is for anyone to incorporate into a meal they already make at home,” says Steele. “To help Reasor’s customers get that extra serving of vegetables, I always discuss ‘The Blend’ and now I’m also passing out my winning recipe. Reasor’s plans to feature all the ingredients along with the recipe to simultaneously inspire shoppers and increase sales.”

Steele’s burger marries her love of chicken Parmesan and her husband’s burger cravings. According to Steele, the nutrition profile gets the RD stamp of approval and she adds, “I love that ‘The Blend’ brings a healthy twist to a dish without sacrificing flavor.”

Runner-up contestants and their recipes included:

• Susan Coe of Hy-Vee for her Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Turkey Bowl
• Sara Kelly of Hy-Vee for her Sweet Sesame Chicken Meatballs
• Tina Miller of Meijer for her Favorite Chili Blend
• Brittany Nikolich of Skogen’s Festival Foods for her Turkey Blend Kofta with Roasted Spiced Veggies and Yogurt Sauce
• Cierra Robbins of ShopRite for her Blended Gyro Sliders

MEAT+POULTRY spoke with Lyndon about The Blend.

MEAT+POULTRY: The Blend can vary, in mushroom type, chop size, etc. Please discuss how mushroom type and chop size impact final product.

Kara Lydon: Any mushroom variety will work--white button, crimini, portabella, shiitake--to bring flavor, moisture and nutrients to dishes. Creminis and portabellas lend rich flavor and a darker color making them an ideal match for ground beef dishes. White button mushrooms blend seamlessly with ground chicken, turkey and pork. The key is to have your mushrooms match the texture of the meat in your dish. If you’re using ground meat for tacos or burgers, finely dice the mushrooms to mimic that crumbled texture. With larger chunks of meat in stews, consider halving or quartering mushrooms. To match strips of meat in fajitas or stir fry, slice mushrooms accordingly.

M+P: What meats work well with The Blend?

Lydon: All meats blend seamlessly with mushrooms. Mushrooms not only add umami flavor to meat dishes, they add moisture as well. Beyond burgers, we’ve seen chefs use The Blend in a variety of culinary applications, such as meatballs, meatloaf, pasta sauce, tacos, gyros, chili, lasagna, kefta and Korean rice bowls.

M+P: What opportunities exit for meat and poultry processors to create kitchen-ready and heat-and-eat foods made with The Blend?

Lydon: Any heat-and-eat item that uses ground meat can use The Blend. Of course, there is considerable demand for more heat-and-eat burgers, in the meat case, the prepared foods case and the frozen aisle. Beyond burgers, there is opportunity in meatballs, meatloaf, tacos, chili, and more. The frozen case is filled with products that are globally inspired. Think bao buns and other Asian dishes, pastas with meat, most Mexican platforms, Indian cuisine and others. Even at breakfast, especially with the growth in the frozen foods section, sausage--both pork and turkey--can be blended to reduce fat and amplify flavor.

For more information on The Blend, visit www.Mushroominfo.com.