Getting Back to Scratch Cooking

Learn the three steps that will help get you a head-start with the scratch cooking trend.

At culinary school or technical college, none of us made big plans to fill our menus with pre-made foods. We didn’t dream about one day microwaving our way to the top. We also never could have known just how impractical it is to make everything from scratch with real-world time and labor constraints. Bravo to those who do, but for the rest of us, we’ve learned to pick our battles and find secret weapons that help us get close to scratch.

Step 1: Experiment with Speed-Scratch Products

It’s not a new term, but as “house made” and “scratch” continue to pique diners’ interest it’s good to remember that there’s help at hand. According to Mintel, creating exclusive menu items is a key strategy, since they provide consumers something they cannot get elsewhere. Over the past three years, menu item claims such as “signature” (15%), “original” (10%), “homemade” (25%), and “house” (67%) have all risen. From par-baked crusts to pre-mixed seasonings, cooks can find convenience ingredients that are either partially prepped, pre-measured or primed-for-use that simplify turning out signature, house-made dishes. It’s just a matter of finding the products that do enough of the work without encroaching on your creativity.

Taking speed-scratch products for a test drive is well worth the time. Sauces are a good place to start. They can be challenging to make consistently every time depending on your staff. So experiment with good quality dry mixes that allow you to just add water and a couple other back-of-house ingredients to make them your own, like red pepper flakes for heat or roasted garlic for authenticity. You’ll find that you can significantly cut time, elevate flavor and turn out once-demanding dishes easily.

Step 2: Factor in Versatility

Some prepared products can help you get to a finished dish fast, but are one-trick ponies. You’ll want to avoid these in order to maximize your budget. For example, I’ve found that I don’t like using pre-marinated chicken because I can only menu it in one or two ways. If I get that same flavor profile in a seasoning blend or sauce mix, I can use it to create multiple dishes, including chicken, soup, pasta and more.

Customer satisfaction is a top priority which is why using prepared products to turn out quality food and a customized menu are important. But, there’s a sweet spot in the cost-effectiveness of speed-scratch products, and versatility is a big part of it. Dry mixes that you can menu in multiple ways offer significant advantages over scratch and ready to use (RTU) products every step of the way, from purchase and storage to preparation and finish.

ScratchCooking

Step 3: Consider Equipment Investments

Making a strategic equipment investment is another way to leverage the made-from-scratch trend as demonstrated by Chandler Unified School District Food and Nutrition Director Wesley Delbridge who told Foodservice Director, “It’s hard with schools to start literally from scratch, but it’s the perfect setting to do finishing touches.”

After putting pizza ovens in cafeterias and having the staff assemble prepared ingredients and bake off pizzas on site, sales skyrocketed. “It’s the same pizza as before. But the smell and seeing the pizza come out of the oven doubled participation,” Chandler says. While the up-front cost of equipment may be high, consider the long-term impact on sales.

Where there’s a will there’s a way, so don’t shy away from the scratch trend. Get a head-start with smart, multitasking products and equipment.

Find affordable and efficient ways to get closer to scratch cooking with Foothill Farms.

 

Turn Ordinary Ketchup into an Extraordinary Sauce with Dry Mix

The virtual lid is about to explode off the ketchup bottle and a multitude of flavor blends will be trending, much like its condiment counterparts – mustard, mayonnaise and hot sauce.

Ketchup originated from ke-tsiap, a pickled-fish condiment in 17th century China that eventually evolved to a tomato-based blend created by late 1700s New Englanders. From its beginning, ketchup blended with ingredients from mushrooms to exotic spices was common and often an indicator of the flavors of the region. In recent history, the ketchup standard has become somewhat uniform; a familiar staple in kitchens across the nation. We are here to tell you, times are a changin’. The virtual lid is about to explode off the ketchup bottle and a multitude of flavor blends will be trending, much like its condiment counterparts – mustard, mayonnaise and hot sauce.

What does a new ketchup blend consist of? The possibilities are numerous and make it a wow experience customers crave. Spicy ketchups are easily made with chipotle, jalapeños, or by adding a tangy barbeque sauce. These additions are simple and produce a big impact on the plate when served with fries and a traditional sandwich or burger. Experimenting with sweet ketchups could lead to tasty creations such as raspberry or cherry ketchup, possibly served with sweet potato fries. A simple addition of a few new ingredients like fresh minced garlic, horseradish, or hot sauce can add a new level of dipping enjoyment for consumers. Imagine a plate with small ramekins of variations of ketchup in a clock formation, ranging from sweet to spicy depending on the added ingredients. Pairing food with ranges on the “ketchup clock” provide a unique, gourmet experience with a common condiment.

Another trend in ketchup creation is to include larger add-ins such as roasted beets, sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, water chestnuts, or even nuts to add richness to a condiment dip or topping. Imagine a juicy burger with a zucchini ketchup topper…yum! Any idea to combine the familiarity of a dish with a simple little twist is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. For bacon lovers, why not mix a little bacon, spices, and ketchup to serve with waffle fries? The buttery, sweet texture of pine nuts could pair with cilantro ketchup and be served alongside a host of menu items. One great combination that could lead to another idea to keep the dishes exciting for guests.

A recent study of consumer flavor trends indicates that two in five people say they are willing to spend more on meals that showcase new and interesting flavors, which suggests operators have substantial room to experiment. Of course, Foothill Farms has a few easy ways to zip up ketchup with products that have been popular for kitchens and guests alike. Adding a dry mix to ketchup is a reliably delicious way to stay up-to-date with the trends customers will be looking for in the near future. And operators can compete for traffic by positioning themselves as offering an upscale experience at an affordable price. Redefining ketchup could easily redefine the popularity of any foodservice menu.

Cheese Sauce Instant Mix Gives Hot Dogs 18 New Ways to Attract Customers

Cheese sauce instant mixes are easy, flavorful additions to hot dog and hamburger recipes. Create 18 new recipes for foodservice hot dog menus.

There will always be room on the menu for hot dogs with the traditional ketchup and mustard toppings. Imagine turning everyday beef hot dogs into extraordinary “haute” dogs with the addition of ingredients like a wide variety of cheese sauces, roasted poblano chiles, fried okra, or roasted purple cabbage, to name just a few.

Let’s start with a few soon-to-be favorites like the Carolina Dog and the Philly Dog. The Carolina Dog features pulled pork, sautéed onions, fried okra, and Carolina Cheese Sauce made with Foothill Farms® Cheese Sauce Instant Mix.  Using the same cheese sauce instant mix, take a quick trip to Philadelphia for a Philly Dog loaded with cheese sauce, sautéed peppers, onions, and hot sauce. Why not add a “steak roll” bun to complete the Philadelphia experience? Our dry mix cheese sauces keep the preparation and execution of recipes easy, while still allowing an endless variety of tempting recipes.

Feeling like spicing up the hot dog menu a little? Heat things up a bit with our Chipotle Dog with its roasted pablano chiles, red onion, and chipotle cheddar sauce made with Extra Sharp Cheese Sauce Instant Mix. You can also prepare the Mariachi Dog with the same extra sharp cheese sauce, adding chili con queso to the recipe to keep this dog dancing with flavor. Using the same dry mix base helps keep the menu versatile while keeping tabs on cost control, which is something every foodservice operator can appreciate.

Cheese Sauce Can Be the Key to Building the Perfect Dog
18 Ways to Excite Your Hot Dog Menu

Change mac & cheese from just a side dish to a new hot dog sensation with the Blues Dog featuring blue cheese cheddar sauce made with Three Cheese Mac & Cheese Sauce Instant Mix, blue cheese and bacon. Using the same mix with perhaps a younger diner in mind, make our simple, yet delicious twist on traditional macaroni and cheese via the Mac & Cheese dog. Two simple concepts combine: hot dogs and delicious mac & cheese!

Now that you have turned your hot dogs into something special with different toppings ideas and cheese sauces, why not do the same for your burger menu? “Haute” burgers, anyone? All of these recipes can be used for your burger menu, too and were pulled from our 18 Haute Builds For Hot Dogs flyer. Foothill Farms® offers the cheese sauce products and recipes to turn the everyday dog into an unexpected culinary delight. Whether your menu is sweet, spicy, cheesy, light or hearty, there is a “haute” dog for the occasion and a cheese sauce that steps up the recipe.

Satisfying Customer Needs for Healthy Indulgence Using Cheese Sauce

Healthy indulgent menus that include cheese sauce have customers coming back for more.

Finding the right mix between eating healthy and indulging in rich, calorie-laden dishes can be a tough balancing act. Consumers desire flavorful and satisfying dishes but also want those meals to keep them on the right track nutritionally. What’s a foodservice provider to do? In tennis, players aim for the sweet spot on the racket. In foodservice, we can do the same! The sweet spot on a plate is the place where flavor and nutritional elements combine to make a harmonious blend of great taste and healthy ingredients. Achieving both culinary goals will keep your customers fulfilled and coming back again.

Use whole grain rice, fresh vegetables and our cheese sauce mix for a healthier side.
Use whole grain rice, fresh vegetables and our cheese sauce mix for a healthier side.

One of the ways to keep indulgence on the menu is by enhancing nutritional food items like vegetables or whole grain rice and pastas with pops of flavor. Specifically, pumping up the flavor with cheesy goodness! Adding an element of creamy cheese sauce elevates “just healthy” to “now we’re talking”! Try whole wheat pasta topped with Three Cheese Mac & Cheese sauce. A perfect example of yummy nutrition. Whole wheat goodness and smooth cheese sauce combine to provide a vehicle for nutritious elements, perhaps by also adding sautéed vegetables or a protein such as chicken or tuna.

When talking about healthy indulgence, let’s talk sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are very high in Vitamin A and B12. In addition, sweet potatoes provide some additional health benefits like regulating blood sugar, providing magnesium which helps lower stress levels, and aiding digestion with the fiber it provides. What’s the best thing about sweet potatoes? They make great fries, either cooked in light oil, baked as fries, or served baked like a traditional potato. The indulgent part of this dish is Cheddar Cheese Steak Sauce served on the side for dipping fries or topping a baked sweet potato. The rich undertones of steak sauce blends well with the cheddar cheese sauce creating a delicious match for sweet potatoes.

Pepper Jack Queso
Spicy, creamy dip perfect for chips.

Dipping healthy items such as sliced vegetables and baked chips in Pepper Jack Queso is a great way to serve a nutritious side dish, or perhaps even an appetizer. Baked chips are a great bang for the buck, flavor wise and health wise, and are extra satisfying with this spicy, creamy cheese sauce dip. Zucchini strips, sliced carrots, diced yellow and red peppers are all improved with a cheese flavor boost and serving it on the side keeps the guest in charge of portion control.

Wanting a main dish featuring a vegetable your guests will love? Roasted Cauliflower Steaks which are made by slicing the vegetable head in half, quickly searing, and then roasting in the oven with seasonings is a unique dish that keeps health in mind, deliciously. Served with a blue cheese sauce, this dish has a rich flavor that is still indulgent with a blue cheese exclamation mark. Of course, raw or cooked cauliflower is always healthy and indulgent with a cheddar cheese sauce topper: another great option for healthier fare. There is no limit to that application: green beans, broccoli, asparagus, or practically any other vegetable you can think of is improved by cheese sauce. And for every vegetable you can think of, there is a variation of cheese sauce to match your mood.

Drizzle Cheese Sauce Over Fresh Vegetables
Drizzle Cheese Sauce Over Fresh Vegetables

Keeping your menu healthy and indulgent at the same time is critical to today’s food consumers who are very interested in making good food choices. Keeping that balance has never been easier with so many options available to prepare nutritious and tasty fare. Go for the sweet spot on the plate and the results will set your dish above “just” healthy to “wonderfully” healthy.

Cheese Sauces Offer the Greatest Variety in Foodservice

Foothill Farms® cheese sauce products offer breadth and diversity to suit the needs of foodservice operations. These dry mix products combine instantly with hot water to create a variety of cheese sauces including—Cheddar, Alfredo, Three Cheese, Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack and Nacho.

As you can imagine, there are easily 101 applications for cheese sauce. Our foodservice recipe page contains many recipes to spark your creativity. Try our Ultimate Nachos, Honey Mustard Cheese Sauce, traditional Mac & Cheese and Loaded Cheese Fries. Operators like products that allow for customization and dry mix is the solution. Having a few classic or signature cheese sauces on-hand allows chefs to adapt recipes to satisfy patrons on a daily basis. For example, mix Carolina-Style BBQ Sauce with our Cheese Sauce to get a complete different and signature flavor that is great for dipping.

Foothill Farms cheese sauces allow for flexibility and operators can make use of ingredients they have on-hand while reducing preparation time, labor and food costs. Another benefit of dry cheese sauce mix is that they are shelf-stable and packaged in sensible ways that allow operators to mix as much or as little as needed to reduce food waste. For a complete list of our cheese sauce products, please click here.

Move over Meat: Vegetables Take Over the Center of the Plate

It’s apparent that customers want vegetables on the menu for health, ethics, or simply just to indulge in a delicious vegetarian recipe.

Meatless doesn't mean "less"!
Meatless doesn’t mean “less”!

Demand for vegetarian dishes are on the rise.  The National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot 2014 Culinary Forecast” says meatless or vegetarian menu items are a growing trend.  Why are vegetables taking a more central role on the plate?  Conversation in the industry suggests that an increased price of proteins have given chefs the opportunity to introduce new vegetable dishes to the menu while Technomic reports the total menu incidence of vegetables has risen over 11% in the last three years.  It’s apparent that customers want vegetables on the menu for health, ethics, or simply just to indulge in a delicious vegetarian recipe.

Bread & Butter is a simple, satisfying vegetarian side.
Bread & butter is a simple, satisfying vegetarian side.

How do you meet this demand? Try an easy crowd pleaser like Mediterranean inspired Hummus served with pita chips or toasted bagel chips.  This smooth, delicious bean based appetizer has long been a staple in a vegetarian menu for its universal appeal. A second appetizer idea is Bruschetta with Italian Salsa. Fresh basil, minced Kalamata olives, red onion, green pepper, and buffalo mozzarella cheese on top of sliced French baguette bread gives those wanting a heavier appetizer a vegetarian choice.

Soups and sides are another great area to innovate. Beer Cheese Soup is a nice menu item to feature especially if you have your own in-house brewed beer or regional preference. Our recipe includes cheese sauce, diced onions, BBQ sauce, pretzels, and works with an ale of your choice.  Serve this with pretzel bread or sticks and you are sure to have a crowd-pleaser. Want a lighter soup? Pair a grilled cheese sandwich with Tomato Basil soup. This soup is easily made with our Instant Brown Gravy Mix, tomato paste and fresh or dried basil.

Corn salsas are easy vegetarian sides
Corn salsas are easy vegetarian sides

What about sides? Think roasted vegetables topped with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce and you’ll be thinking deliciously!  Broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus all become the “center of the plate” stars topped with this easily prepared creamy gorgonzola sauce.  This sauce is so versatile it can be used with your choice of vegetables, prepared in any way desired: grilled, roasted, pan seared, or broiled.  Let’s not forget about Mexican vegetarian side dishes, always popular on the menu.  Charro Beans and Corn & Black Bean Salsa are both a great venue for vegetables and are made of pantry staples which are easily kept on hand.

Vegetable Stir Fry with Asian Stir Fried Rice
Vegetable Stir Fry with Asian Stir Fried Rice

Round out your vegetarian menu with vegetarian entrees. Asian inspired dishes like Vegetable Stir Fry with Asian Stir Fried Rice are good choices because of the variety of vegetables and sauces that can be combined and served over rice or Asian noodles. Italian pasta dishes also fair well for vegetarians. Try offering a Vegetable Lasagna with White Sauce or cheese tortellini tossed in cream sauce with peas and mushrooms.

Vegetables are moving from a side dish to the center of the plate:  make sure your menu is ready to move, too!  Vegetarian diners, or those simply wanting meatless options, are broadening out this formerly niche market.  Bringing new vegetable dishes to the table will keep your food menu on trend and customers coming back for more. Foothill Farms® offers vegetarian recipes you can easily prepare for your guests:  just search “meatless” in our recipes.

 

For the LOVE of CHEESE! New Cheese Sauce Recipes Added

It’s easy to find new cheese sauce recipes from Foothill Farms® by simply entering “cheese” in the search box within the recipe link on our website.

Searching for what’s new in the world of cheese sauce? It’s easy to find new cheese sauce recipes from Foothill Farms® by simply entering “cheese” in the search box within the recipe link on our website.

Our chef at Kent Precision Foods Group (KPFG)  is constantly whisking up delicious recipes and providing new concepts targeting foodservice professionals. He knows what is trending and focuses on helping you reach new heights in the food that comes out of your kitchen as well. (Read more about Chef Martin and his food philosophies.) Some of his recent cheese sauce recipes are Sriracha Jack Queso Sauce, Monterey Spaghetti, and Spicy Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup. These recipes, as well as many others, were assessed in the test kitchen and will complement many foodservice kitchens.

Cheesy Foothill Farms Recipes
For the love of CHEESE! Sauces, dips, soups, nachos, queso, entrees and sides

Dry mix cheese sauces add value and consistency to your menu by employing the speed scratch concept: make how much you need from a dry mix product with the addition of other fresh ingredients. Speed scratch products deliver the best combination of maintaining product predictability while still delivering your guests remarkable taste every time. Time and money…sauce mixes will save you both by allowing you to easily make only what you need.

Foothill Farms Potato & Cheese Soup Recipe
Foothill Farms Potato & Cheese Soup Recipe

So if you’re looking for new cheese recipes that are crave-able and innovative, we’ve got you covered with our variety of cheese sauce recipes at Foothill Farms®. Remember, just search for “cheese” and our products and recipes will help you do the rest, easily and affordably.