Now they cook – UND Today


UND Dining Services blending it with local foods and more plant-based options on the menu

Registered Dietitian Dustin Frize says UND Dining Services pizzas have a little nutritional extra because they’re made with Four Families HealthSense High Fiber Wheat Flour, which is higher in dietary fiber and protein and lower in calories than other varieties. Photo by Janelle Vonasek/UND Today.

Jeff Saint-Michel settles in the bench and slides a small paper cup on the table while handing the guest a plastic spoon.

“Would you like a snack? Tell us what you think,” says UND’ Catering Services longtime Associate Director of Culinary Support. “This is our first experience with an all-vegetable cheese sauce. It’s free of all common allergens – no soy, no dairy, no eggs. That’s good, right?”

First a swirl, then a spoon.

Mm-hmm…the smooth, creamy sauce is rich and delicious.

It’s exactly the kind of homemade goodness you’d expect for Sunday dinner at Grandma’s – and soon it’s coming to a diner near you, not just on Sundays, but every day.

Finally, no worries. You can take that extra bite of hearty, sticky macaroni and cheese with no regrets. St. Michel and UND Registered Dietitian Dustin Friesland say that the perennial student favorite is about to get even healthier.

And this is heavy information. As the #1 most popular dish, 1,120 pounds of mac and cheese are served monthly at UND. (Just in case you were curious, boneless chicken wings, burgers, street style chicken taco carnitas, and Asian pot stickers round out the rest of the 5 favorites.)

From farm to table

Always looking for ways to increase the health factor as well as reduce the carbon footprint and the distance between farm and table, Frize says that UND has already switched in 2020 to whole wheat pasta made with a wheat specialty grown by farmers here in the Red River Valley.

The Casselton, ND-based Four Families Company boasts that its HealthSense High Fiber Wheat Flour and Pasta provides up to 10 times more dietary fiber than traditional wheat flour. Plus, they’re higher in protein and lower in calories than the white varieties. The North Dakota brands are sold at area grocery stores, and an added bonus is that a portion of sales goes to support Journey Home Animal Rescue in Grand Forks.

Now ask yourself, what’s better than happy pets and healthier noodles? Well, St. Michel says it might be this new plant-based cooking cream they use to perfect mac and cheese.

The maker of the culinary cream, Rich Products Corp. – also known as Rich’s – recently brought in its company chef from Texas to show St. Michel and other area restaurant chefs how to create about 25 new dishes to satisfy the ever-changing palates of health-conscious guests.

No matter how good it tastes, St. Michel says that because the plant-based cream is both vegan and gluten-free, it opens up a whole new world of cooking for people living with dietary restrictions.

“Students want to eat mainstream,” he explained. “They want to be part of the regular crowd and environment and not feel left out just because they can’t eat regular mac and cheese.”

Stirring the sample cup of cheese sauce again, he comments on how well it holds together and isn’t grainy like other non-dairy cheeses can be. A few more tweaks and chefs can add a few different ingredients to create new flavor profiles — say, a creamy alfredo sauce or a spicy southwest variety for quesadillas. This is good news for everyone.

Dustin Frize takes a spoonful of noodles. He said UND Dining Services serves 1,120 pounds of mac and cheese each month. This makes it the #1 most popular dish among diners. Rounding out the rest of the Top 5 are boneless chicken wings, burgers, street taco chicken carnitas, and Asian stickers. Students love these portable options that can be consumed on the go, Frize says. Photo by Janelle Vonasek/UND Today.

Good for you and all

Frize estimates that about 10% of students with UND meal plans face some sort of dietary restriction, whether it’s gluten sensitivity or allergies to one or more of what the FDA identifies. such as the eight most common food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soy.

So many dietary variables can make it difficult to provide safe and satisfying meals for everyone. And that’s why food scientists are increasingly generating healthy alternatives.

It is not a question of determining what is the second choice. It’s more about finding that first magical flavor.

An example: For 75 years, food giant Rich’s has crafted its bread and butter into baked goods, desserts, beverages and decorative toppings. Today, it presents chefs with a whole new level of savory possibilities with its plant-based culinary creams, non-dairy cheeses and other plant-based products.

“They have been a leader in all plant-based technologies,” St. Michel said. “They’re really big on their cauliflower and zucchini pizza crusts.”

Added Frize, “You wouldn’t typically think a slice of pizza would give you a good source of daily fiber, but ours does, and that’s because we use this whole wheat flour. We also use it in our muffins and quick breads.

“It goes a long way towards reducing the fiber deficit that we tend to see, with most Americans not getting enough of it in their diets. We can give our students that head start by producing a desirable dish of very high quality like mac and cheese or pizza.

And companies like Rich’s have done research to back up claims that there’s a growing appetite for more plant-based foods as part of more diverse traditional diets. In fact, 80% of respondents said they either already buy plant-based foods regularly or are interested in doing so – with a strong representation among women and young people.

Additionally, the company claims that 30% of millennials and 60% of Gen Z are trying to eat more plant-based foods. With this kind of demand fueling new food trends and technologies, experts say it’s more possible than ever to have your cake and eat it too.

“This year, we’ve used Culinary Cream to create a game-changing new French toast batter,” St. Michel said. “A student can actually get a piece of gluten-free bread that’s still moist and just as good. And it will taste like French toast. Five years ago, there was no way to get this. It was just garbage.

keeping it local

Besides vegan cooking cream, HealthSense flour and Four Families pasta, St. Michel and Frize say they work hard to find good quality local and regional brands. UND works with no less than 20 producers and suppliers based in North Dakota and Minnesota. Among them are the North Dakota Factory in Grand Forks, 8th Avenue Pasta (formerly known as Dakota Growers Pasta Co.) in Carrington, ND, and Baker Boy in Dickinson, ND Others include Cloverdale Meats of North Dakota in Mandan and Land O’ Lacs in Bismarck, as well as In Harvest in Bemidji, Minnesota, and Hormel Foods in Austin, Minnesota. Then, of course, there is American Crystal Sugar Co. with factories in several nearby towns.

St. Michel recalled a state initiative that came out of the North Dakota governor’s office a few years ago.

“They wanted us to use as many North Dakota-made, state-backed products as possible,” he said. “Even though it’s no longer an official initiative, we’ve never really moved away from it. We really want to support our local and regional manufacturers.

Frize agreed: “It’s a way to support our farmers and our local communities, and that’s a big part of our motivation. We consider it our duty to serve our students and our state, and we take great pride in providing high quality food to all of our students. Some of the country’s best food is grown or produced close to home.

Make your own monster cookies at the link.

We bet you didn’t know…

  • The Top 5 monthly purchases manufactured by UND Dining Services are Chicken Nuggets, Chicken Strips, Burger Patties, Watermelon and Pineapple.
  • More people choose Not carbonated the water brands on soft drinks on campus.
  • One of the most popular treats among UND diners is the Monster Cookie. Yeah, 800 dozen – Where 9,600 cookiesto be exact – are consumed every school year.
  • 10 percent to 15 percent of the total food budget goes to local and regional producers.
  • All hydroponic lettuce for the salad bar at the UND Food Center, as well as greens for salads in vending machines and micro markets on campus are grown at Mandt Market in Grafton, ND
  • UND Dining Services provides approximately 3,500 meals per day.
  • Every day, the guests have 90+ entry options 10 different food zonesincluding the enormous salad bar and delicatessen with its panini press and the “made before your eyes” Sizzling Salads station.
  • The menu in the allergen-free zone was revamped over the summer and diners now have approximately 35 choice of starters they can pre-order for pickup through the Grubhub app.
  • 5,600 pounds of HealthSense flour is used to make pizza dough every school year.

Oh yeah, and about those Monster Cookies. We would like to thank UND Bakery Manager Caylie Salge to do the math and break down the recipe from a 10 dozen batch to a more reasonable family batch. You can now make them at home by following the link.

Yes, they are delicious and incorporate locally produced ingredients. Just remember: We didn’t exactly promise that the giant treats are in good health. They pack a huge 489 calories each. Hey, those are cookies! You will have to use some old fashioned moderation. This is how the cookie crumbles.


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