Monthly Archives: March 2022

Travel: The New Hampshire Mushroom Company

It is the beginning of spring and an appropriate time to venture out into the world again.  Mask mandates have been lifted in New Hampshire and just across the Piscataqua River in Kittery Point, Maine where we live. This afternoon we traveled west of the Seacoast to Tamworth, NH and the New Hampshire Mushroom Company.  Housed in a large warehouse-type building on the outskirts of town, the company cultivates specialty mushrooms that they sell fresh at the local farmer’s market or at their facility as well as to local produce suppliers. Here is a list of what was available:

Blue Oysters- Mild in flavor with a subtle nuttiness.  Great in lighter dishes, cream sauces, creamy soups, and omelets or quiche.

Black Pearl – A meaty bold oyster.  Strong flavor that holds up to braising.  Great with stir fried, paired with chicken, over pasta, in quiche.

King Oyster – Meaty umami flabor, robust texture similar to a button mushroom but with more flavor.  Great as a main protein.  Can be sautéed, grilled, pickled, smoked. 

Phoenix Oyster

Phoenix & Snow Oysters – Great in lighter dishes.  Over pasta, with fish, in creamy soups, or with eggs.

Lion’s Mane – Mild flavor.  Great with marinara sauce.  Can be used as a seafood replacement in mock crab cakes and mock seared scallops.

Elms – Strong mushroom flavor.  Pairs well with heavy meats and game.  Delicious in a stroganoff, a bourguignon, or on a steak or burger.

Chestnuts _ Strong nutty flavor.  Great for stir fries, roasted with chicken, in gravies, or stuffings.

Shitakes – Strong meaty flavor.  Traditionally used in Asian dishes.  Great on pizza, in stir fries, or in risotto.

We had arrived on a Sunday afternoon to take a mushroom cooking class. There were approximately a dozen people present along with Eric  Milligan, the owner of the company, Alec Malenfant, the General Manager, and Kristen, a young woman on their staff. Eric had founded the NH Mushroom Company in 2013 without any prior knowledge or experience. Now his scientific knowledge of mushrooms is extensive and his creative uses for mushrooms in cooking were impressive. The cooking class was even more enjoyable due to his enthusiasm and sense of humor!

He explained how the textures and flavors of various mushrooms differed.  Although they are composed mostly of water, mushrooms contain 11 essential amino acids and are good sources of protein, comparable to legumes,  However, heat must be applied to break them down.

Eric started by preparing a vegetable dip for us using dried Black Trumpet mushrooms.  They were dried, so he rehydrated the mushrooms and used the water, which he called the “tea,” to thin a container of hummus.  Then he sautéed the chopped mushrooms in White Truffle Oil and added it to the hummus. (Eric said the Fiore brand White Truffle Oil was also fantastic on Brussels sprouts, eggs or pasta.)  The dip was delicious with carrots, celery and cucumber slices as well as spread on thin slices of a baguette. Eric said the sautéed Black Trumpet mushrooms are also good added to white sauce and risotto too.

Mushrooms can be used in desserts too. Eric uses mushrooms to make a “cheesecake” with a Pecan Sandie crumb crust. The filling is two parts cream cheese, one part sour cream with a squeeze of lemon, and Candy Cap mushrooms (which taste like maple syrup) are sautéed with Black Trumpet mushrooms and blended with blueberries to make a fruit compote that is served with the cheesecake.

Next Eric introduced us to dry sautéing King Oyster mushrooms.  He had cut them in chunks which resembled scallops and had scored them on one side.  They browned nicely in olive oil on his gas griddle and looked just like scallops! Using the same King Oyster mushrooms, he grated them with a box grater, sautéed them on the griddle and then added barbeque sauce to create mock pulled pork.  When thinly sliced and added to stock, the King Oyster mushrooms also become Vegan “noodles.”

King Mushrooms as scallops, barbequed pork and hummus dip made with Black Trumpets.

The Blue Oyster mushrooms were next – torn vertically or shredded, they could also simulate pulled pork which were served in butter lettuce wraps.  If you like your pulled pork sandwiches served with coleslaw, he suggested adding a dollop of mayonnaise and some Shitake mushroom power to prepared coleslaw or pickled Chestnut mushrooms as an accompaniment.

The Lion’s Mane mushrooms were perhaps the most interesting.  They looked like giant cauliflowers and could be shredded to resemble crab meat and be used to make crab cakes. Eric roasted them on the grill until they turned a slightly bluish color and then he transferred them to the griddle.  He said never to marinate mushrooms as they get mushy, but adding liquid to them while they grilled was okay.  He made a teriyaki pineapple juice mixture which he drizzled over the Lion’s Mane mushrooms while he continued to brown them on all six sides until they looked like giant fried chicken breasts!  They even tasted like chicken!

Lion’s Mane mushrooms

Lions Mane mushrooms can be sliced and sautéed with apple slices and Candy Cap Mushrooms to make a fruit dessert served with ice cream, custard or whipped cream.

Browning Lion’s Mane mushrooms on the griddle

All the participants in the class received a recipe packet that contained instructions on making Mushroom Jerky, Mushroom Duxelles, Kimshi, Foragers Popovers, and Mushroom and Olive Puttanesca served over pasta. I’m anxious to try them all!

Mushrooms are so versatile I read a recent article about one species of mushrooms that can survive on plastic and may be a solution for reducing landfill waste or helping to clean up our oceans.

I’m looking forward to the next class they offer – Top Ten WIld Edible Mushrooms.

Sour Cream Cheesecake


Crumb Crust

1 ½ c. graham cracker crumbs (about 15 squares)

½ c. sugar

 ½ t. cinnamon

¼ c. melted butter

Cheesecake Filling

2 eggs

½ c. sugar

2 t. vanilla

1 ½ c. sour cream

2-8 oz. pkgs. Cream cheese, cut into pieces

2 T. melted butter

1 qt. fresh strawberries


Preheat oven to 400o. Generously grease a 9 ½ inch deep dish pie plate with shortening.  You can buy graham cracker crumbs already prepared, or break 3-4  whole graham cracker squares and put in blender. Blend on high to turn into crumbs.  Dump them into bowl and repeat with remaining graham crackers. Add sugar, cinnamon and melted butter to the graham cracker crumbs in bowl and mix with fork until well moistened.  Using the back of a spoon, press crust into pie plate.  Bake at 400 degrees for 6 minutes. While crust is baking, wash out blender to remove any remaining crumbs and combine eggs, sugar, vanilla and sour cream in blender and mix until smooth.  With blender running, & add cream cheese one piece at a time until blended. (I just remove the handle and drop the cream cheese in the hole) Add melted butter and blend until incorporated.  Pour into prepared crust.  Reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes. It will still jiggle in the center and will firm as it cools. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.  Garnish with halved fresh strawberries that have been tossed with a little sugar.

NOTE: To make this recipe vegan, use Cheerios for the crust (4 c. Cheerios will give you 1 ½ c. crumbs), double the amount of cinnamon and vegan butter for the crust.  For the filling, use Tofutti sour cream and cream cheese and vegan butter.  Instead of 2 eggs, put 4 Tablespoons of arrowroot in a cup and add 4 Tablespoons of cold water, stirring to dissolve. Add to filling mixture. (When baking a cake, you can use applesauce or smashed bananas to substitute for eggs, but these will not work in custard.)

White Bean, Spinach and Pasta Soup with Meatballs


2 c. diced celery

1 c. diced onions

1 c. diced carrots

¼ c. olive oil

1 c. chopped spinach

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 quarts chicken stock

3 cans cannellini beans

2 c. Orzo pasta

1 T. oregano

1 T. thyme

1 lb. ground beef

1 egg

2 c. grated parmesan cheese

1 T. Italian seasoning

1 T. olive oil


In a large stockpot, sauté celery, onions and carrots in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add spinach and garlic and stir until spinach is wilted. Add chicken stock, beans, pasta, oregano and thyme.  Bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer and prepare the meatballs.

Mix ground beef, egg, parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning in a bowl.  Shape into bite-sized (one inch diameter) meatballs. Brown meatballs in 1 T. olive oil in a skillet and transfer to stockpot.  Serves 6.

Note:  To make this recipe vegetarian, use vegetable stock, frozen vegetarian meatballs, thawed and cut in half, and to make it gluten free, use GF orzo or rice.

Vegetarian Chili


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 – 15 ounce cans fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

1 – 15 ounce can black beans, undrained

2 – 15 ounce cans kidney beans, undrained

1 – 15 ounce can white northern or cannellini beans, undrained

2 cups vegetable stock

Garnishes: sour cream or grated cheddar cheese


In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped onion, bell pepper, carrot, celery and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Stir to combine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika and oregano. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, about 1 minute.

Add the diced tomatoes and their juices, the beans and their juices, vegetable stock and bay leaf. Stir to combine and let the mixture come to a simmer. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally and reducing heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, for 30 minutes.

Add salt to taste. Serves 6.

Note: You can use an envelope of McCormick chili seasoning instead of chili powder, cumin, paprika and oregano

Travel: Ashland, Oregon

The town of Ashland is located in Southern Oregon about 16 miles north of the California border. In the early 1820’s early Hudson Bay Company’s hunters and trappers passed through the area via the Sisikyou trail. When gold was discovered in a tributary of one of the local creeks in the 1850’s, a town was established and rapidly expanded. Schools, churches and businesses were established, including a large employer, Ashland Woolen Mills, which produced clothing and blankets from local wool. In 1871, the Post Office dropped “Mills” from Ashland’s name and in 1872 Reverend J. H. Skidmore opened a college, Ashland Academy, a predecessor of Southern Oregon University. In the 1880’s San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon were joined by rail through Ashland.

Today Ashland is ranked in the top 10 of “The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America,” and is a cultural hot spot, with award-winning galleries, theaters and restaurants.  Ashland hosts the world-famous Shakespeare Festival, the Oregon Chocolate Festival and is located in the Rogue Valley wine region. Surrounded by the Siskiyou and Cascade, it is a prime area for hiking and outdoor activities.

My husband and I spent two weeks in Ashland in early March, but we were not there for the amenities the charming town had to offer.  We were there to cater meals for a Leadership Academy hosted by Conscious Social Change ( ). Eighteen University of Virginia students had arrived to learn how inner work, mindfulness, and personal transformation could drive social innovation, systemic change and make them better leaders in the future. The retreat was held at the Buckhorn Springs Resort, a rustic lodge and collection of cabins which had once been a mineral springs healing destination for native tribes including the Rogue, Klamath, Shasta and Takilma tribes, and then for white settlers beginning in the 1890’s. The students would be housed in the historically-restored cabins, surrounded by beautiful scenery, fresh air and the babbling sound of Emigrant Creek.  

Buckhorn Springs Lodge
The Meeting Room and one of the Cabins

Although I had hosted large dinner parties in the past, I don’t think I realized what I was getting into. I must admit I have greater respect for food service workers and caterers in particular now! I never could have handled this assignment without the support and energetic assistance of my husband, Craig.  We were responsible for providing three meals a day to ravenous university students.  Conscious Social Change wanted the menu to be vegetarian, and the meals had to meet the dietary needs of one person who was gluten-free, two vegans, and one person with a severe nut allergy! It was quite a challenge, but also immensely satisfying to meet the goals and receive so many compliments for the food we prepared. One student commented: “Thank you for making the best vegetarian food, it made me think twice about eating meat!”

So, how did we do it?  We decided to set up a buffet breakfast that consisted of hard-boiled eggs, assorted yogurts (including soy yogurt), granola (no nuts), assorted packages of instant oatmeal, regular and gluten free bread and bagels, vegan butter, regular butter, vegan cream cheese and regular cream cheese, peanut butter and jelly, bananas, oranges, coffee, tea (regular and herbal) with milk, soy milk, half and half, soy creamer, and oat creamer.

Much as I would have liked to prepare a daily quiche or gourmet muffins, this met everyone’s needs and left us free to begin prep for the rest of the day’s food. These were hungry college students! jjWe loved working in the commercial kitchen and wanted to offer hearty homemade soups for lunch each day accompanied by bread, rolls or a sandwich of some sort. Soups were Broccoli and Cheese, Vegetarian Chili, Tomato Basil Bisque, Red Potato, Leek and Corn Chowder, White Bean, Spinach and Orzo Soup with Vegetarian Meatballs, and a rich, creamy Curried Pumpkin. One girl told us she didn’t eat pumpkin, but she tried it and even came back for seconds!  I think the garlic bread, grilled cheese sandwiches and the vegetarian wraps were all big hits.

Commercial Kitchen

Our evening meals consisted of Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna with a Tossed Salad and Vegan Cheesecake for dessert, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos with Corn on the Cob and Chocolate No Bake Cookies for dessert, Mushroom Bourguignon over noodles (or gluten-free penne) with a tossed salad and Apple Cranberry Crisp for dessert, Asian Stir Fry with Broccoli, Bell Peppers, Snow Peas, Mushrooms, and Water Chestnuts over Jasmine Rice with Banana Egg Rolls for dessert, Ratatouille over Brown Rice with a tossed salad and Peach Crisp for dessert, Beyond Beef Cheeseburgers with Sweet Potato Fries and the Chocolate No Bake Cookies for dessert, and we ended with a Make Your Own Pizza night with assorted ice cream and sorbets for dessert. Bless my husband for slicing more than 20 pounds of mushrooms that week and washing mountains of dirty dishes because the commercial dishwasher was not working.

We loved interacting with the students and it was a great experience!