New salad dressings may come and go, but classic ranch is here to stay. “Ranch flavor is the Swiss Army knife of salad dressings. It dresses salads, gets kids to eat their vegetables, and adds oomph as an ingredient; all reasons why it is the top ready-to-use dressing flavor shipped to foodservice outlets,” reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company.
According to Mintel, for menu items tracked in Q3 2014, ranch dressing appears along with 30% of sandwich offerings and 37% of meat offerings (think buffalo wings and chicken fingers).
You can buy it in a bottle, sure, but why not leverage the house made trend by whipping it up yourself with Foothill Farms Ranch Dressing Mix? Buttermilk is the go-to ingredient to add to the mix, however it’s not always practical to keep on hand just for making dressing. Never fear. Here are two alternative ways you can create the traditional ranch flavor everyone craves with ingredients you already have on hand.
Sour Cream & Mayo
Make a hand-crafted thick, rich and creamy dressing perfect for salads, dipping sauces and sandwich spreads with sour cream and mayo. Get the full recipe.
Greek Yogurt & Mayo
Give guests the Greek style dressing that’s so trendy now without buying another SKU. Just add nonfat plain Greek yogurt and mayo to the mix. Get the full recipe.
Salsas are a fantastic addition to any menu. They are quick and easy to make, they taste fresh and have health appeal. Most Americans consider it part of the regular condiment lineup. Salsa has appeared on menus in the US for years, and not just at Mexican eateries. In fact, salsa flavors grew by 26% across US menus between 2011 and 2014.1 The average consumer has grown used to seeing the tomato-based product in every grocery store nationwide, too.
I love the versatility of a salsa seasoning mix. It allows chefs to customize dishes to a patron’s liking, which is good since 61% of consumers say it is important that a restaurant customizes their order exactly how they like it.1 With salsa seasoning mix, other ingredients can be incorporated such as beans, corn and pineapple to offer spicy and sweet options. With imagination the dish can be incorporated into a variety of vegetarian foods. Don’t forget to add different heat levels for on-point flavors and trends. Think outside the box. With just one salsa seasoning mix SKU, you can create multiple choices.
Breakfast: Offer salsa as an accompanying choice for eggs. Mix it with black beans and corn for a breakfast burrito. Lunch: A must with taco salads. Dinner: Create a cranberry salsa that can be served with roast turkey.
Salsa bars: Salsa bars are a great way to tap into the popularity of made-to-order flavors. In fact 43% of consumers say they will try a dish if they can customize the sauces and spices. 1 Create your salsa bar with different ingredients and heat levels, such as fiery habanero salsa or salsa verde. Offer vegetarian options with the proteins from beans and lentils.
Accompaniments: There is a great opportunity to serve pineapple or mango salsa with a pork taco by adding spicy heat to the dish, or with pico de gallo and shrimp.
Vegetarian: Salsa mixes let you incorporate beans into the menu by offering wholesome dishes such as Cowboy Caviar.
Snack: Add salsa to sour cream to create a flavorful dip with snacks. You can also add heat to chips to complement the freshness of salsa.
If you’re looking for a delicious, fresh-made salsa seasoning for your foodservice operation, Foothill Farms offers a seasoning mix that helps you get the most out of just one SKU. Contact us for more information or to place an order.
I must admit that I used to be firmly in the “if it doesn’t count towards something I’m not using it camp” and then two things happened – I came face to face with high school students and I started writing recipes for Child Nutrition. That is where my transition started.
Secondary students are basically adults that can eat more than we can on any given day, which makes them hungry all of the time. Look at a serving of macaroni and cheese using a 2 M/MA sauce and 2 whole grain ounce equivalents it is underwhelming in size. However if you use a flavorful cheese sauce that doesn’t count you have the same portion size but then add 2 M/MA such as diced ham, fajita chicken or BBQ pulled pork and you have something worthy of their appetites with little added cost. The same goes for vegetarian options. Change up the spice profile and add peppers and beans and you have something new and different to offer.
Another option, staying with the mac and cheese example, is to use it simply as a grain. When the menu calls for another whole grain it is easy to just add a dinner roll or breadstick. However a side of mac and cheese using a non-claimable cheese sauce accomplishes the same thing and works wonderfully, for example, if serving bone in chicken. Looking to the South, pulled pork doesn’t have to be served on a bun. Imagine a plate with pulled pork, mac and cheese, and greens. It all fits into the guidelines and you have a terrific comfort food lunch!
Do I hear “what about the added sodium?” Foothill Farms has cheese sauces that are moderate in sodium – around 220 mg per serving – in their Flavorwise line of products. Since the sodium target is weekly, with planning, these cheese sauces can fit into your menu. In elementary programs sodium is occasionally an issue but I don’t find the struggle when working with secondary programs. Since students would enjoy the addition of cheese sauce it takes some planning but isn’t anything to shy away from.
Getting Creative with Cheese Sauce
There are so many ways cheese sauce can enhance menu items. The simplest being as a dip for raw or cooked vegetables. There are vegetables that your students prefer and it is a struggle to present them in a different way so that they continue to eat them every day. I am not saying to offer cheese sauce every day however it is an alternate to Ranch Dressing. By adding Sriracha or chipotle to the cheese sauce you have a new dipping sauce that will get kids talking.
Getting creative, another example that comes to mind is the Chicken Nachos. It is a simple recipe with tortilla chips, diced chicken, cheese sauce and salsa and check out the sodium – 498 mg. You can easily offer toppings without negatively changing the overall nutritional profile such as diced red and green peppers, green onions, black olive slices and, if you wanted to add a vegetable component, either black or pinto beans – whole or refried. As you can see very doable!
And for the possible doubters out there here is a full day’s menu including the refried beans so, yes, it can be done! While you may want some additional fruit and vegetable choices, it shouldn’t impact the sodium noticeably.
Another option that I really like – Mexican pizza! Layer on top of the whole grain crust refried beans mixed with salsa as the “sauce” and top with taco meat. Bake and, immediately before serving, top with chopped lettuce and tomatoes and drizzle with cheese sauce. Excellent flavor with crisp vegetables and the cheese sauce completes the entrée with a splash of color and flavor.
I could keep throwing out ideas but you can see that I have become a believer! Everything you use does not have to count toward the meal pattern. To me, it is more important to bring students back to our programs with interesting, tasteful foods that show we can meet the guidelines while being innovative!
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.
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.
Jennifer Kent, customer service manager for Kent Precision Foods Group, explains how to order Foothill Farms seasonings, sauce, gravy and dessert mixes.
*A guest blog by Jennifer Kent, Customer Service Manager Kent Precision Foods Group
Very often, we get questions from our social media followers about “How to Order” our products. A customer can order from us a few different ways. When we say “customer” we are talking about foodservice distributors, not individual end users. A foodservice distributor is a company that buys, stores, sells, and delivers tens of thousands of food products as well as non-food restaurant supplies to restaurants, hospitals, military bases, colleges and universities and specialty food stores across the nation.
Orders can be placed in a variety of ways:
1. EDI – Electronic data transfer. The order data gets transmitted to us from the customer directly. Once it hits our system, we check to make sure the items, pricing, address, etc. all match and process according to our standard lead times. We receive around 50-60% of our orders via EDI.
2. Fax – Customers can order by sending their PO (purchase order) to our order fax number (314-567-7421). The customer service representatives then enter the order into our system and double check that the pricing in the system matches the customer’s PO. The order is then released to the warehouse and processed according to our standard lead times. This is the second most popular way for customers to place their orders.
3. Email – Some customers send their POs via email. They usually send them directly to the customer service representative that is assigned to their account. The rep then enters the order and follows the same process as the above.
4. Phone – We do have a few customers who still call in their orders. We discourage this as we prefer to have a PO that we can refer to that shows the pricing, address, item number and expected delivery dates. If customers don’t have the ability to use one of the above methods to order, we will take their order via the phone. These calls usually get routed to the appropriate customer service representative who takes the order and processes it as with the above methods.
After the order is placed, it is assigned for entry depending on what products are ordered and what region they’re in. For instance, our Foodservice Sales is divided into seven regions. When we receive an order for our foodservice products, the order is entered by the customer service representative assigned to support that region. The same is true across all segments of our business: Foodservice, Consumer Packaged Goods, Personal Nutrition Solutions, Custom and Industrial.
Our standard lead times apply to all orders, no matter the method in which the order was received. For regular stocked items, our lead time is five full business days from order receipt to order shipment and 10-13 full business days from order receipt to order delivery. Orders that are picked up by the customer or for which they arranged their own freight, can be picked up after five full business days from receipt of the order. For made-to-order items, our lead time is three to four weeks to allow time for the item to be fit into the production schedule. Orders are invoiced on the next business day following shipment.
We believe that following the above processes and lead times allows us to service our customers in the most efficient way possible. The lead times allow us to avoid most stock shortages and to fill as many orders as possible in full and in a timely manner.
To speak to a Kent Precision Foods Group customer service representative, please call our toll-free number (800) 442-5242.
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.
Pizza can fill an important role in a restaurant kitchen by both driving consistent business and helping control preparation time and manage cost by using available kitchen ingredients.
Pizza has been an American staple since its arrival in the late 19th century in cities with large Italian populations such as New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. Pizza sales began as peddlers walked the streets with metal washtubs filled with pizzas and selling them for two cents a slice¹. What can pizza do for your foodservice business? With its universal appeal and virtually limitless choices of toppings and sauce styles, it can fill an important role in your kitchen by both driving consistent business and manage cost by using available kitchen ingredients. Here are four ways to expand menu options without too many additional SKUs.
Did you know that 93% of all Americans eat pizza at least one time a month²? All of this demand for pizza warrants a fresh perspective on how to best cater to that critical segment of the dining population. Pizza isn’t just for lunch or dinner. Consider breakfast pizza. Tapping into the breakfast segment can increase traffic resulting in a more profitable bottom line. And why not consider serving breakfast pizza for dinner? This breakfast for dinner trend continues to grow and has blurred the lines between traditional foods served in exclusive time segments and crossover dishes finding new life no matter what time of day they are served³.
Pepperoni remains the most popular type of American pizza topping, but consumers are looking beyond pepperoni to new pizza horizons. New twists on pizzas is fusion – featuring Latin, Asian, and Greek inspired toppings and sauces – to expand the pizza audience in delicious ways. It can be as simple as using an Asian-inspired sauce, like Sweet Thai Chili (with grilled shrimp, sliced jalapenos, fresh chopped green onions and mozzarella) to add Asian flare to your menu. Specialty pizzas can appeal to multiple consumers – those seeking pizza and Asian food lovers alike. Do you have the basic ingredients for a Mexican dish? With a few ingredients, making a taco pizza with taco meat and salsa, lettuce and tomatoes is an easy menu extension.
Looking for more unusual, seasonal spins on pizza? Butternut Bourbon Tavern Flatbread is a rich, crispy flatbread crust with squash, arugula, and baby spinach with an easy Bourbon Sauce as the base for this fresh pizza creation which is accented with goat cheese and olive oil. Suddenly, new tastes and seasonal, fresh ingredients along with different sauces give customers exciting new pizza options. And expanding on seasonal ingredients, consider apples. A Steak Apple Walnut Blue Cheese Pizza rounds out any pizza menu with shredded steak, apples, and baby spinach. The rich tastes of hearty steak and crunchy apples brings unique flavor to an old favorite. This would be a perfect fall creation: a new comfort food creation.
What about a white pizza instead of the traditional red, tomato-based sauce? Using a creamy Alfredo sauce works well to create a more elegant pizza offering. You can use just about any topping on a white pizza that you would use on a red sauced pizza. It can be topped with chicken for a White Chicken Pizza or with shrimp for a Seafood Pizza. The sauce is also very accepting of add-in ingredients like basil pesto, minced garlic, or dried dill to really pop the flavor and create a signature taste that customers can only get from your restaurant.
From its humble beginnings being sold out of washtubs in New York City to the evolution of an entire menu of options, pizza continues to keep guests coming back for more. More options, more sauces, more recipes…the possibilities of pizza creations are as endless as the ingredients in the kitchen.