As a chef for Windham Raymond RSU School District #14 in Maine, Samantha Cowens-Gasbarro faces a daunting daily challenge: convincing kids to just try it.
That’s why she and her staff go to great lengths to win kids over to fresh nutritious foods. From fashioning pineapples into owls to carving bug-shaped sandwiches, to dressing up as Thing One and Thing Two for Dr. Seuss’s Birthday: “It’s all about making food fun,” she says.
Happily, Wild Blueberries have been an easy sell. The deep-blue superfruit is so delicious that even her finickiest eaters will gobble them up plain and frozen from a 4-ounce cup— no disguise necessary.
“They’ll just nibble on them as little treats,” she says. “We always have Wild Blueberries on hand and we’re always looking for ways to use them.”
What’s more, Wild Blueberries pack a potent nutritious punch. In addition to containing one-third less sugar and twice the disease-fighting antioxidants as cultivated varieties, Wild Blueberries deliver a powerful brain boost for school-aged kids, research suggests. A study published in the October 2015 issue of the European Journal of Nutrition indicated that 7- to 10-year olds had better memory and concentration after consuming just 1.75 cups of Wild Blueberries. Not only that, but the tiny superfruit may be able to reduce kids’ risk of depression. A study published in the February 2017 issue of Nutrients, indicated that a drink with the equivalent of 1 ¾ cup of Wild Blueberries significantly improves kids’ moods., compared to a placebo.
Even better, they are a smart economical choice. Frozen Wild Blueberries provide 25% more servings than the same weight of frozen cultivated blueberries—which spells lower per-serving costs, important for chefs under strict budgetary constraints.
“Having it be a commodity item really helps our budget,” she says. “Sometimes frozen gets a bad rap. But it’s frozen at the peak of ripeness, locking in all of those incredible nutrients.”
Wild Blueberry Stuffed French Toast has become a popular special-occasion treat since Cowens-Gasbarro introduced it in December 2016. It’s featured as Fun Friday breakfast for kids in grades K to 5, and listed as a special for older kids. The recipe is a twist on a familiar favorite she had previously been making with local apples.
“It just made sense to start incorporating frozen Wild Blueberries,” she says. With eggs, Ricotta Cheese, Milk, Vanilla, Cinnamon, Whole-Grain Bread, and Whole Grain Flour, Salt and confectionery sugar, her Wild Blueberry French Toast is a tasty way to serve up a grain, a fruit, and protein alternative.
“The Wild Blueberries have a better flavor than cultivated varieties,” she adds.
A big perk of the Wild Blueberry Stuffed French Toast, inspired by Chef Samantha, is that it’s easy to prepare and serve. The dish can be mixed the day before; the next morning it just needs to go in the oven. That’s especially important for breakfast, when her staff has less than an hour to get ready before 200 kids start pouring through at 7 am. “Easy preparation is key in school nutrition because of the large amounts of food we have to prepare in such a short amount of time. We have so many factors that need to be considered to make a meal go smoothly. We need recipes that are simple, fast, and delicious!”