School Nutrition Specialist Finds Creative Solutions for Baking Smart Snack Foods with Ultragrain®.

Ingenuity, experimentation and Ultragrain supplied three key ingredients to help Chef Sharon Schaefer transition her school’s foodservice to new nutrition standards for whole grain-rich foods, as well as successfully comply with the Smart Snacks in Schools Program.

While serving as Culinary Manager at Omaha’s Westside High School, Sharon first discovered Ultragrain at a local retail store. After initially testing the product on her own family and experiencing zero acceptance problems, she began incorporating it into her school’s scratch bakery recipes for cookies, cakes, muffins, pie crusts and biscuits. Starting with small amounts of Ultragain in the mix, she gradually increased levels as students became more accustomed to the whole grain foods.

Perhaps that gradual approach explains why Sharon experienced no pushback from the students—even after adding higher levels of whole grains to scratch baking and other school menu items. In fact, her high school’s foodservice program was already compliant with current school nutrition requirements for whole grains by 2012, well before the new guidelines were fully implemented.

According to Sharon, however, complying with the Smart Snacks program presented the greatest challenge of her culinary career—particularly for baked goods sold as single item snacks or “extras.” “For schools that do scratch baking, the challenge came in meeting whole grain-rich requirements for Smart Snacks, while giving the kids a tasty and appealing snack they still want to eat.”

After much tweaking, experimenting and testing with recipes, the chef found success for her scratch bakery with several grain-based, Smart Snacks-compliant foods such as cookies, cupcakes, scones and brownies. And she attributes much of that success to Ultragrain. Thanks to it's slightly nutty flavor and natural sweetness, it let her lower sugar levels by simply adding more flour.

Chef Sharon sums up by saying, “Before we switched recipes, we conducted an informal taste test at school, comparing our original chocolate chip scratch cookie with the Smart Snacks-compliant cookie made with Ultragrain. With both students and adults, our new cookie won hands down!”

Chef Sharon Schaefer is a School Nutrition Specialist (SNS) and serves as nutritional consultant for a number of school districts throughout the Midwest. She boasts 18 years of professional experience in the cooking industry, with the past 5 years devoted to school foodservice and nutritional education.

For more information on the Smart Snacks in Schools Program, visit: http://www.fns.usda.gov/healthierschoolday/tools-schools-focusing-smart-snacks

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