Every spring my fiancé and I look forward to scavenging in the woods for our favorite Michigan delicacy, morel mushrooms. Although Michiganders experienced a lengthy winter and late spring this year, the morel mushrooms have come through and can be found throughout the state.
Morel mushrooms are a unique fungus with a distinctive cap that resembles honeycomb. When cleaned and cooked properly, this mushroom ignites the taste buds with its savory, unami flavor and sponge-like texture. This fungus is prized by chefs around the world and is commonly eaten fried or paired with butter and meat. In addition to its remarkable taste, morel mushrooms are low in calories and are an excellent source of vitamin D and iron. Five morel mushrooms rank at only 20 calories and provide 2g protein, 2g fiber, and 8mg iron.
In addition to its unique flavor and nutritional properties, this fungus is also considered a rarity due to its peculiar growing conditions. This is made evident by morel mushrooms staggering retail prices which range from $200 to $900 per dried pound depending on the variety, origin, and availability. For this reason, these extravagantly priced fungi are often hunted for throughout the world.
Morel mushrooms are traditionally found during the spring months in Michigan due to the increasing temperatures and moisture present after spring showers. Often, morel mushrooms are found along forest floors near fallen bark or the decaying roots of elm trees. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, areas with previous wildfires and prescribed burns typically present large crops of morel mushrooms the following year.
When picking morel mushrooms, the DNR recommends pinching the mushrooms at the stem to encourage growth and reduce the amount of dirt in the edible portion. Like all wild mushrooms, gathers must be cautious of poisonous mushrooms. “False morels” are mushrooms very similar in appearance to edible morels and can cause illness and fatality. Before eating any wild morel mushrooms be sure to clean them thoroughly and identify if they are “false morels” with the Michigan State University (MSU) Extension’s poisonous mushroom guide “Don’t Pick Poison!”
Smoked Asparagus & Morel Mushroom Sauté
Makes 4 Servings
2 slices applewood smoked bacon
6 oz fresh morel mushrooms, quartered
1 Tbsp salted butter
1 lb asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ cup green onion, thinly sliced
1. In a large skillet, cook applewood smoked bacon over medium-high heat until crisp.
2. Remove bacon from pan and let cool. Reserve bacon grease.
3. Add butter to bacon grease and evenly coat pan.
4. Add quartered morel mushrooms to bacon grease and sauté for 4 minutes.
5. Add asparagus, salt, and pepper and sauté for an additional 5 minutes.
6. Remove skillet from heat and transfer ingredients to a serving dish.
7. Crumble applewood smoked bacon on top and garnish with green onion.
Nutrition (per 2/3 cup serving): 73 Calories, 5g fat, 11mg cholesterol, 5g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 4g protein, 234mg sodium
Written by: Callie L. Gavorek, RD
Executive Chef’s Assistant
For more nutrition information and recipes, follow Callie on Twitter, & her blog Sweet Pea Corner!
One of my favorite quotes is “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Throughout my college career I have found myself truly taking this message to heart. When I first left my hometown of Grandville, Michigan to move to EMU, I was taking a step out of my comfort zone. When I accepted a position as a Resident Advisor, I took yet another step outside of my safe place. Over and over in my college experience I have always challenged myself to see what the world has to offer outside of my comfort zone and in return I have gained priceless experiences and life lessons.
Studying abroad was always something I dreamed of as a college student. To travel the world, meet new people, and learn in a new place was the most frightening and exciting thought I could imagine. When I finally committed to study in London this summer it was so much more than a step outside of my comfort zone – it was a 4,000 mile flying leap away from home and everything that I knew best.
The University of North Carolina – Charlotte (UNCC) offered a program that studied international public relations through classroom lectures and site visits around the city of London. As a public relations and communication double major, it was perfect for me! After applying to be a guest student in their program, sorting out flights and finding scholarships, I landed here in London a few weeks ago and will be living and learning in this marvelous city until the end of June!
Having the opportunity to study abroad has been the most incredible blessing, and I have learned so much both specifically within the field of public relations, but also about the other cultures and countries that I’ve been given the opportunity to immerse myself in. If you are interested in studying abroad or want to know a little bit more about the study abroad experience, here’s six ways that studying abroad has enhanced my education as an Eastern Eagle:
- I’ve gained a new sense of independence – I already was independent in some capacity before traveling to London, however, having to fly to a new country on my own, book my flights and hostels for traveling around Europe and figure out how to navigate major city all taught me new lessons in independence that I may have never learned had I just stayed back in Michigan throughout my entire educational career.
- Confidence really is key – I flew to London without knowing my UNCC classmates or professor. There is something a little nerve-racking about getting off of a plane onto an unfamiliar continent looking for people you’ve never met before. However, with a lot of courage and some confidence I not only found myself getting comfortable in my new place quite quickly, I’ve also made friends that I know I’ll have for a lifetime.
- Education is different for everyone – Every single one of my classmates has gained something a little different from this study abroad experience. There really isn’t one blanket thing that everyone learns from studying abroad, but everyone will gain something (or a lot of things). Whether I’m comparing my experiences with my friends here in London, or we are comparing our public relations curriculum’s from back home, each one of us has a very unique collegiate experience, and we can use those differences to learn from each other.
- I’ve gained new insights from new places – London is a beautifully diverse city. Studying abroad has helped me to see just how small my corner of the world is, and how important it is to see outside of my little place on the Earth and think globally about everything in my life.
- Live in the moment and take it all in – Whether I am in London or using my weekends to travel to other countries, I’ve realized that it’s easy to get caught up in trying to get the best picture or let the social media world know where you are at that moment, but that’s not what studying abroad is about. Studying abroad is about seizing the day and taking in each moment and using it to help you grow and learn as a young adult and a student.
- People support you in everything you do – Because I was a guest student to UNCC I was given support by their study abroad office, as well as our study abroad office at EMU, during my preparations to study in London. There’s a lot that goes into taking your studies abroad, and between these two offices, the Honors College, my family and my friends, I had a wonderful support team who encouraged me throughout the entire process. Even as I continue to live and learn over here, I am greeted with loving messages and support from back home. I’ve never doubted the love that my family and friends have for me, but there is something truly magnificent about seeing that love literally span beyond boarders.
Wherever I go in life, I know that I will always encourage students to study abroad, or people to travel to new countries in general. Studying abroad has given me, and many other students, new perspectives on cultures and education. In my program, we have the opportunity to tour global public relations agencies and meet professionals from our field who can speak to the challenges and rewards that come with working on a global scale. These opportunities have helped me fall more in love with my majors, and my travel opportunities have helped me gain a bigger appreciation for the cultures and opportunities that are present in other areas of the globe. Getting outside of my comfort zone and into this study abroad experience has enhanced my education in a truly priceless way, and I will forever be thankful for the opportunities and lessons that have come with my time here in London.
Andrea is a Junior and is a double major in PR and communications! You can follow her adventures by visiting her personal blog!
Callie L. Gavorek, RD
Executive Chef’s Assistant
When I tell people I enjoy eating seitan, they often give me a puzzled look and ask, “did you just say satan?” No, I am not speaking of satan, the ruler of hell and all things evil nor am I referring to demons, eternal torment, or the fiery pits of hell; I am talking about the amazing vegetarian meat substitute, seitan!
Seitan is a versatile meat substitute traditionally made from wheat. It’s use dates back more than 1000 years in Asia, where Zen Buddhists prepared seitan in place of meat and fish. This meat alternate’s name, “seitan,” translates to “made of proteins” which is evident by this food’s high protein content of 21g of protein per serving.
In the past, I always purchased seitan products at the grocery store. While I enjoyed these products, I was always set-back by the prices. It wasn’t until recently, did I consider preparing this faux meat when I came across a seitan recipe. Little did I know how cheap and easy it was to make!
Seitan is made up of primarily gluten, which is a natural protein found in wheat, rye, and barley products. This ingredient is then seasoned with dry seasonings, spices and herbs, and wet ingredients, such as vegetarian broths and soy sauce. It is then formed into patties, meatballs, or loafs and either boiled or baked.
The idiom “third times a charm” applies to many things including my experience with seitan. The first batch of seitan I made I divided into pieces, creating little cutlets of “meat,” and then cooked the cutlets by boiling them in vegetable broth. This came out rather gummy and did not resemble meat in any way. My fiancé hit the head on the nail when he said it tasted like fat on a steak; not really the texture I was trying to achieve! The second batch of seitan I created was formed into small meatballs and then baked. The taste of this batch resembled meat, but the meatballs had a deflated appearance that could only be masked with marinara sauce. The third batch turned out just right; dough rolled into a loaf, “pork loin,” and baked to perfection.
Makes 4 Servings
1 cup vital wheat gluten
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp olive oil
1. Combine dry ingredients in a medium-size bowl.
2. In a large measuring cup, combine broth and soy sauce.
3. Slowly add wet ingredients to dry ingredients while mixing and kneading the vital wheat gluten with
your hands. Add more or less depending on moisture of vital wheat gluten. If all of broth and soy
sauce mixture is used, add water to obtain desired moisture. Seitan dough should resemble regular
pastry dough and will spring back to the touch.
4. Roll seitan into a long loaf, resembling a pork loin, and wrap in foil.
5. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Remove from oven and unwrap loaf, and brush olive oil on loaf.
7. Cook for an additional 30 minutes.
Nutrition (per Serving): 158 Calories, 1g Fat, 13g Carbohydrates, 20g Protein