A Fresh Take on Grab & Go Greens

You’ve probably seen the mason jar salads that have taken over Pinterest recently. Well, we couldn’t resist adapting those gorgeous layers of veggies, meats and toppings into something that would work for schools.

Why Salad Cups for Schools?

Smart Snacks and the USDA meal requirements have caused a loss in sales for school meal programs. Salad bars may seem like a good solution, but they’re expensive to maintain, students overload on dressing and cheese and waste is an issue due to spoilage from items open to the elements.

Enter salad cups! As à la carte options or part of the reimbursable meal program, they are a great way to offer students variety while remaining in compliance. They’re visually appealing with a bright fresh-made look that draws students who eat with their eyes first. Plus, the unique cup packaging is fun, easy and allows for cost control.

Salad cups can be prepared early in the week and held for up to four days in refrigeration without showing any sign of wilting or spoilage. They’re built upside down with the dressing and heartier vegetables on the bottom and the fragile components such as lettuce and meats toward the top of the cup. This packing method keeps lettuce fresh and eliminates the need for a separate dressing container which also help lower costs.

According to Mintel, packaged salad is the fastest-growing segment in the overall vegetables market. Salad companies are increasingly driving sales by playing to consumer interest in healthy, fast, and even portable products.

How to Build the Perfect Salad Cup

Start with a 20 oz. plastic drinking cup with a lid and build the salad upside down to keep the dressing away from the greens to prevent wilting.

  1. Pour about two tablespoons of dressing into the bottom of the cup.

 

  1. Add hearty ingredients that won’t soak up the dressing, such as carrots, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas or chickpeas. If you’re using onions, layer them on top of the dressing to help dilute their strong flavor.

 

  1. Continue to layer the salad with remaining ingredients. Pack the layers as tightly as possible because the less air between layers, the longer the salad will stay fresh.

 

  1. Finally, layer salad greens on the top and finish with cheese and/or nuts. Seal with the lid, label and refrigerate.

Our Favorite Salad Cup Recipes

Check out our recipes for Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad Cup, Taco Salad Cup with Fiesta Salsa Ranch and more. Also check out our downloadable salad cup artwork.

Here’s how they stack up to the USDA requirements:

Daily Meal Requirement Contribution

  • 1 cup of vegetables in several categories within each salad cup
  • 2 M/MA provided in the protein (beef, chicken, eggs and cheese)
  • The Garden Salad provides ¼ grain equivalent with the whole grain pasta
  • Can be served on à la carte line as an entrée or in the reimbursable meal program if paired with fruit, grain and milk

Smart Snack Approved

  • Less than 35% calories from fat as served
  • Less than 10% calories from saturated fat as served
  • 0 grams of trans fat as served (less than .05 grams per portion)
  • Less than 350 calories as served including accompaniments
  • Less than 480mg of sodium as served including accompaniments

 

Have you served salad cups in your school? Tell us your most popular recipe.

Classic Ranch Dressing with On-Hand Ingredients

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.

When To Use An Unclaimable Cheese Sauce On School Menus

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!Chicken Nachos.png

And for the possible doubters out there here is a full day’s menu including the refried beans so, yes,FHF.png 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!

 

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.

 

5 Must-Haves for a Successful Holiday Season for Foodservice – A Guest Blog By Chef Martin

Your customers are not looking for a lot of new trends at Christmas. At best, they might look for a spin on a traditional dish. The winter holiday season is all about memories, and for chefs, that means dishing out the classics. Here are five do’s and don’ts for menu planning and making your operation a destination for memorable holiday traditions.

1. Stick to the holiday classics

No holiday menu is complete without “roast beast.” My choice would be a standing rib roast with rich beef gravy and roasted or seasoned mashed potatoes. You can put a new spin on this classic favorite, but don’t encroach on the soul of the dish and take it too far off base that patrons don’t recognize it as a holiday favorite.

2. Get creative with sides

There are opportunities to incorporate new flavor profiles with side dishes, like stuffing, sweet potatoes and vegetables. It can be as simple as getting creative with seasonings, sauces, and flavored butters. Cranberry sauce is crying out for reinvention. When you add a spicy seasoning, you can give cranberry sauce new dimension that’s right on cue with the sweet heat trend.

3. Warm things up with beverages

Fortified wines are always very popular during the holiday season. You can also drive traffic by offering a hot beverage station with flavored teas, rich mochas, spiced ciders, or hot toddies.

4. Go indulgent for dessert

My favorite dessert is minced pie, although Gingerbread bread pudding or Egg Nog bread pudding would run a close second. Bread puddings are a great way to put an unconventional twist on a traditional dessert; and they are a great way to utilize leftover bread and rolls

Chef Martin Experiments with Flavor
Chef Martin, Corporate Executive Chef for Kent Precision Foods Group

5. Keep the décor simple

A good bottle of single malt whiskey with a red bow is usually ambience enough for me.

How to Order

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

How to Order Foothill Farms
Jennifer Kent, customer service manager for Kent Precision Foods Group, explains how to order Foothill Farms seasonings, sauce, gravy and dessert mixes.

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.

Sauce Mix Operator Rebate Good Through September

We are offering a money-saving rebate for 24 of our sauce mixes. This covers everything from cheese sauce to bourbon sauce to stir fry sauce to cream soup base. Operators receive a $5 rebate per case (up to $200).

Today, foodservice professionals feel the pains from a variety of factors facing the foodservice industry. Some of those culprits include: inefficient employee training and skill levels, rising labor and food costs, time management (prep time), food safety regulations, special dietary restrictions, and food consistency goals. One solution to help in these areas is the introduction of dry mixes, especially sauce mixes. The prep is simple – pour hot water in a bowl, start stirring with a wire whisk and gradually add mix until completely smooth. In fact, here is a new cheese sauce mixing video. If you haven’t tried a dry sauce mix, we can tell you that it is a no-nonsense approach to reaching your efficiency, quality and consistency goals.

Beginning this May, we are offering a money-saving rebate for 24 of our sauce mixes. This covers everything from cheese sauce to bourbon sauce to stir fry sauce to cream soup base. Operators will receive a $5 rebate per case (up to $200) and the promotion runs through September 30, 2015. Please visit our website for more details on the promotion and a list of applicable sauce mixes. The downloadable form can be found here.