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.

 

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.

 

Keeping America in Mind this July 4th … and Beyond!

Celebrating America and supporting American growth initiatives is a great way to spend July 4th! At Foothill Farms®, we are keeping American products a priority on every other day, too.

We commit to manufacture our food products from American sources as much as possible.
We commit to manufacture our food products from American sources as much as possible.

As July 4th celebrations of barbeques and fireworks begin, we are reminded of our commitment to celebrate America’s great traditions with our families, friends, and coworkers. Being a foodservice provider to schools, we also acknowledge our commitment to manufacture our food products from American sources as much as possible to exceed U.S. government regulations regarding federal nutrition programs. According to the regulations, a food product must be processed in the U.S. and at least 51% of each product must contain domestic ingredients. Buying American supports our domestic farmers but also helps ensure that food safety inspection standards are being met. Put simply, if the food is grown here, it is easier to monitor all stages of growth, harvest, cleaning and packaging processes right here in America. All Foothill Farms® products are processed in U.S. plants located in Bolingbrook, Illinois, New Sharon, Iowa and in Columbus, Ohio. And ingredients are sourced from America when possible. One exception to this would be crops that are not grown in the United States. Examples of products that are not available in America are spices which are grown around the equatorial regions. Cassava, of which tapioca starch is made, is primarily sourced from Thailand and provides the type of starch used in our sauces. Cocoa trees, which provide the cocoa for desserts and frozen treats, live exclusively in the tropical climates of Africa, Asia, and South America. Dehydrated vegetables come from other countries as U.S. grown vegetable are largely sold fresh, canned, or frozen.

Flavorful sauces, dressings & dips to entice kids to eat more veggies!
Flavorful sauces, dressings & dips to entice kids to eat more veggies!

Foothill Farms® admires the USDA’s Farm-to-School initiatives, which have been implemented by 44% of public schools and another 13% launching a program in the near future. Farm-to-School programs have the dual benefit of instilling healthy learning habits to future generations but also providing funding of school programs directly into the local community. Local farmers reap the benefits of providing healthy fresh ingredients to the schools right in their own communities and kids are eating freshly grown products. Our products can complement the Farm-to-School program by adding flavorful sauces, dressings and dips to entrees and sides in order to create tasteful dishes that entice kids to eat more vegetables. Learn more about the Farm-to-School program www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/census and check out this infographic.

Celebrating America and supporting American growth initiatives is a great way to spend July 4th! At Foothill Farms®, we are keeping American products a priority on every other day, too.

Let Dressing Mixes Turn “Chicken Again?” Into “Chicken Again!”

Dressing mixes are the versatile ingredients you can easily have on hand to keep chicken on the plate and diners asking for more.

Are your customers growing tired of the same old chicken recipes? Liven up the menu with salad dressing mixes which help transform your usual chicken dish into something special. Dressing mixes are the versatile ingredients you can easily have on hand to keep chicken on the plate and diners asking for more.

Wings are classic. Start your chicken adventures off on a tangy note by using Caesar Dressing Mix to make deliciously zesty Chipotle Caesar Wings. The garlic flavor in this recipe, coupled with a little chipotle pepper, is balanced out nicely with the cooler Caesar dressing base.

Zesty Chipotle Caesar Wings
Garlic flavor and chipotle pepper make a nice gourmet wing sauce

Not sure what to do with plain grilled chicken breast? Sliced, grilled chicken breast served over a sensational summer dish like Strawberry Spinach Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette can be just the topper for a lighter dish. Shredded radicchio, slivered almonds, wheatberries, spinach, and strawberries are among the ingredients that make this salad a favorite when drizzled with the summery Raspberry Vinaigrette. Another salad which is a crowd pleaser is Farm Stand Salad with Basil Pesto Vinaigrette. Add your grilled chicken topper to this salad which features fresh romaine lettuce, chunks of roma tomatoes, minced kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and shaved parmesan: It’s chicken reinvented!

Let dressing mixes turn dips and spreads into a tasty partner for chicken strips or crispy chicken sandwiches. 1000 Island/Honey Mustard Dressing Mix turns “WOW” with this Wow Sauce recipe, bringing extra zip to your dishes. Add a specialty bun, such as ciabatta or brioche and turn a regular chicken sandwich into something extra special. Still want another dressing option for a dip or spread? Wow Sauce becomes Super WOW Sauce by adding horseradish to the mix. The horseradish flavor adds a distinctive touch that becomes the star of your chicken sandwich.

Super Wow Dipping Sauce
Super Wow Dipping Sauce

As spicy flavors have become more prevalent, consumers’ preference for these options has also increased, particularly for sauces and dips. Don’t worry if you can’t decide which dressing to make! For a fun twist on chicken fingers, add multiple sides of dressings on the side for a dipping extravaganza and patron customization. Keep the heat dialed up when you take Ranch Dressing Mix up a notch. Offer condiments at different spice levels to cater to consumers’ varying preferences. Try Chipotle Ranch for something a bit more calm and smoky, Jalapeno Cilantro Ranch for those more adventurous, and Mango Habanero Ranch for those who want to go all out.

Wrap up your chicken menu with an Avocado Ranch Dressing which is perfect for a healthy wrap, perhaps made with other summer favorites like spinach, spring lettuces, and crunchy iceberg. Avocados and lime juice complement a grilled chicken filling-simple and delicious! For bacon lovers, try a Bacon Ranch Dressing to match up the wonderful flavors of ranch, chicken, and bacon all in one wrap. With dressing mixes, your ideas become an easy-to-make reality and chicken is “in” again.

Chicken Wrap with Avocado Ranch Dressing
Wraps are a summer favorite!

For all of these recipes and more, visit foothillfarms.com/recipes.

Gluten-Free Infographic Helps Foodservice Operators Offer New Menu Items

Foothill Farms® created an infographic titled A Foodservice Guide to Gluten Free. The infographic informs restaurant owners about the importance of offering gluten-free menu items. It contains relevant data from leaders in the foodservice and research industries illustrating trends in dining behavior, popular gluten free menu items, and tips to ensuring a gluten free dining experience.

The gluten-free eating trend is on the rise and restaurant owners and chefs are taking note. More and more people are eliminating gluten because of dietary restrictions or lifestyle choices. One in every 133 Americans has Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by consuming gluten protein. Because of this statistic, we created an infographic titled “A Foodservice Guide to Gluten-Free“. The infographic informs restaurant owners about the importance of offering gluten-free menu items. It contains relevant data from leaders in the foodservice and research industries illustrating trends in dining behavior, popular gluten-free menu items, and tips to ensuring a gluten-free dining experience. The infographic also details a new FDA regulation that determines how much gluten can be in a product before it can legally be labeled gluten-free as well as details on cross-contamination in kitchens.

FDA regulations enforce proper gluten free labeling
Celiac Disease Statistics

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. If a person with Celiac or gluten-sensitivity chooses a dish at a restaurant that is labeled gluten-free, they do so for health reasons. If they get sick with symptoms similar to a gluten reaction, they will likely not return for a second dining experience. Secondly, if a family member is gluten-sensitive or has Celiac Disease they are likely to influence dining decisions. We offer 67 gluten-free products, including mixes for dressings, gravies, sauces, soup bases, cheese sauces, seasoning and desserts. Recently, our marketing staff created an easy reference sell sheet for operators wanting to offer gluten-free menu items which is located under the resources/marketing materials tab on our home page. For K-12 customers, our gluten-free sell sheet has been expanded and targets a wider scope of dietary restrictions. The “Kids’ Allergens, Intolerances and Special Diets” sell sheet features Flavorwise™ products in an easy chart that showcases gluten-free products as well as products free from nuts, crustaceans, lactose, HFC, no added MSG and vegetarian products. It is also housed under the resources/marketing materials tab on our website.

We hope that our infographic is helpful to you! That’s why we created it!

Increase Sales with Gluten Free Menu Items
Trends in Gluten Free Menu Items

 

K-12 Recipe Challenge – Earn Airline Gift Cards for ANC

The Foothill Farms® K-12 Recipe Challenge kicked off this April and runs until September 30, 2014. Foodservice professionals may submit up to four recipes during the promotional period, earning a $100 airline gift card per recipe submission. This is not a contest, but rather a reward for submitting unique recipes using Foothill Farms® products. The gift cards can be used for any type of travel and is not limited to ANC.

We want to help send more school foodservice professionals to School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference (ANC) July 13-16, 2014 in Boston or July 12-15, 2015 in Salt Lake City . The Foothill Farms® K-12 Recipe Challenge kicked off this April and runs until September 30, 2014. Foodservice professionals may submit up to four recipes during the promotional period, earning a $100 airline gift card per recipe submission. This is not a contest, but rather a reward for submitting unique recipes using Foothill Farms® products. The gift cards can be used for any type of travel and is not limited to ANC.

Foothill Farms® designed this challenge to entice more school foodservice professionals to try dry-blend, speed scratch products. It’s helpful to see how foodservice professionals utilize the K-12 product line in their daily menu planning. Directors, dieticians, managers or other foodservice employees may submit recipes. They do not have to be existing customers. The basic requirements for recipe challenge submissions are: original recipe, recipe name, ingredient list and ingredient measurements, complete preparation/cooking instructions, complete nutritional information, and meal pattern information. One of the ingredients must be a Foothill Farms® product.

Each submitter can choose which airline they would like to use for travel: Southwest, American Airlines, Delta, United or US Airways. The challenge is designed for individual submissions, however, if two people work on the recipe together, Foothill Farms® will split the gift card amount and distribute a $50 gift card to each person. Gift cards are awarded upon receipt and verification of the recipe. The recipes cannot resemble the recipes currently on Foothill Farms® website. For more specific challenge information, please visit the Foothill Farms® website www.foothillfarms.com/k12 or contact customer service at 800-442-5242. Schools that have submitted recipes will be announced via our social media pages. To find out which schools and what recipes, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

DOWNLOAD THE ENTRY FORM – CLICK HERE!

Salad Dressings Offer Mixing Alternatives for Creating Unique Recipes

With more than 80 dressing recipes online, Foothill Farms® offers operators unique salad dressing, sandwich spread and dipping sauce inspiration to satisfy patron cravings while allowing operators to make top dressing menu claims including—freshly made, signature and house.

Think of everything that tastes better with Ranch Dressing? Wings, salad, wraps, sandwiches, raw veggies, pizza…The applications are endless. Expand dressing variety to Caesar, Blue Cheese, Italian, Honey Mustard and 1000 Island and you can envision the possibilities! With more than 80 dressing recipes online, Foothill Farms® offers operators unique salad dressing, sandwich spread and dipping sauce inspiration to satisfy patron cravings while allowing operators to make top dressing menu claims including—freshly made, signature and house.

Super Wow Dipping Sauce
Super Wow Dipping Sauce

Recently, Foothill Farms tapped into Pinterest, a popular social media site known for showing off unique ideas, beautiful photography and culinary creations. With over 20 boards and 280 pins, the recipe collection is vast and designed to help chefs find taste-tested recipes quickly and easily with just a couple clicks of the mouse. Just added are recipes using Foothill Farms 1000 Island / Honey Mustard Dressing Mix #V405. Find recipes for Wow Sauce, Super Wow Sauce and Asian Dressing on the Dressings board.

Asian Salad Dressing
Asian Salad Dressing

Most Foothill Farms® salad dressing dry mixes are designed to be mixed with buttermilk and mayonnaise. If a chef doesn’t want to use this ingredient, no fretting necessary! Our dry mixes are versatile and can also be mixed with a combination of sour cream, mayonnaise and water without compromising flavor. Another non-existing compromise is shelf and refrigerated storage space. Dry mix is known for allowing operators to only mix what they need when they need it. The expiration date on the dry mix packaging is 12 months.

We’re slightly biased but we would love to hear your feedback on our dry mixes. Please let us know your culinary experiences with dry salad dressing mix. Feel good making your dressings from “speed scratch”.