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Mushroom Madness (and Recipes)

This week's post is a bit different - it is a collection of recipes about mushrooms. Which may seem weird for a farm that specializes in grass finished beef, but while John and I raise cows, we also feel strongly that people should eat a lot less meat.

It is not sustainable for everyone to eat meat every day (let alone for every meal) - there is no way to raise that many animals without feeding them corn and soybeans and crowding them into feedlots, which cause huge environmental issues. It is true that animals are essential on farms - without them there is no natural fertilizer - and they turn grass and sunlight into protein. But too many animals, like too much of anything, is also hurting the Earth.

Oyster mushrooms grow on trees - particularly dead ones - and they are out in abundance on the farm. Mushrooms of all kinds (even the ones you buy in the store) are a wonderful way to eat less meat - they are "meaty" and add lots of flavor to dishes. And while I have picked and eaten mushrooms for years, I took a short course on them recently and am now licensed in the state of Iowa to pick and sell them.

Oysters don't have any dangerous look-alikes to be worried about, but because people react differently to mushrooms of all kinds, it is always best to try a few mushrooms before you dig into a plate full. And always be sure to cook wild varieties of mushrooms (eating them raw is often what makes people sick).

The mild taste of oyster mushrooms (as compared to a morel, for example) won't overpower your food. They are easy to incorporate into dishes you already might eat - like stir fry, or atop a hamburger as you would with other kinds of mushrooms. The flavor grows richer the more you cook them, so it is recommended to always sauté or roast them to a golden brown for the best taste experience.

Oyster Mushroom "Burger"

This vegetarian burger is a tasty alternative to the all beef kind. You can even mix in a small amount of beef to help season the burger. You can also use any kind of mushroom you happen to have available.

5 oz mushrooms

*marinate in balsamic and oil

Umami flavoring like (all or some):

* 1 sheet of nori seaweed paper (chopped into small pieces)

* 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

* 1 tablespoon parmesan

1/3 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup walnuts or pecans (chopped)

1 clove garlic (chopped fine)

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg (scrambled in a separate bowl)


Marinate mushrooms for an hour. Then roast in the oven at 425 until they are browned (but don't burn!). Chop coarsely.

Add all ingredients except for the bread crumbs. Then add bread crumbs slowly, until the mixture will stick together to form a patty and not fall apart. Refrigerate for about an hour (this helps it stay together).

Cook in a frying pan until brown on both sides (and melt cheese on top if you like) and serve as you would a hamburger, on a bun with all the fixings.

The Oyster Mushroom "Blooming Onion"

This is a simple but tasty dish John loves. Take a whole clump of oyster mushrooms and dunk in a seasoned batter (you can even use Bisquick, but beer batter is a bit too strong for the delicate oyster mushroom).

Fry. Peel off the mushrooms and dip in sauce or pop in your mouth. Delicious.

Simple Oyster Mushroom Sauté

For this chop up some onions and garlic and cook them with the mushrooms in a pan with hot oil. Add fresh thyme if you have it. Brown the mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. If your arteries are still good, at the end of the cooking, turn off the flame and add cold butter to thicken the sauce and add more flavor. This mixture can be eaten as a side dish, or it can be spooned over egg noodles (as you would for Chicken and Noodles).

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