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.

Four Ways Pizza Brings Steady Business to Restaurants

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.

Resources

¹”The History of Pizza.” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_pizza. Accessed 9 October 2014.

² The Editors of Publications International, Ltd. “Twelve Facts About Pizza.” Howstuffworks. http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/fresh-ideas/dinner-food-facts/12-facts-about-pizza.htm Accessed 9 October 2014.

³”Restaurant.com Predicts the Top Food and Restaurant Trends for 2014.” Restaurant.com. 14 January 2014. http://www.restaurantnews.com/restaurant-com-predicts-the-top-food-and-restaurant-trends-for-2014/. Accessed 9 October 2014.

Foodservice is Getting Back to the Ease of Scratch Cooking

Want to see how easy it is to make three staple ingredients (Cheese Sauce, Gravy, and Ranch Dressing) and ignite those creative juices? Watch our chef!

Restaurants, K-12 schools, healthcare and college dining halls have diverse menus and making fresh sauces and dressings from scratch can seem unimaginable. Grabbing a RTU jug and pouring it into serving containers seems like the easiest and most efficient use of time and definitely the safest choice when it comes to flavor and outcome. Agree? Not altogether. Plus, depending on your culinary staff, you might be depleting morale by limiting their freedom in the kitchen. There’s a better option. Utilizing a dry mix can capture the essence of scratch cooking yet save time and not harness your culinary professionals’ creativity and experience.

Ready. Set. Go!
Learn how to mix our most popular products in just a few easy steps.

Want to see how easy it is to make three staple ingredients (Cheese Sauce, Gravy, and Ranch Dressing) and ignite those creative juices? You will discover just how customizable dry mix products can be with the simple addition of herbs, spices or vegetables. Made fresh fare is perceived as higher quality by customers and they are willing to pay more for it. Therefore, taking the 60 seconds to combine these mixes with water, or in the case of Ranch adding mayonnaise and buttermilk, is totally worthwhile. We like to call it – Speed Scratch.

For example, ranch dressing can be transformed easily into over 45 delicious recipes. From fresh salads to unique sandwich toppers, ranch rates on the top of the popularity scale for chefs and diners alike.  To spark your imagination think Thai Ranch Dressing, Mojito Ranch Dressing, and Sriracha Honey Ranch. The same goes for cheese sauce. Everything is better with cheese, right? Just ask your food friends in the pantry and fridge waiting for the popular add-in or topper: potatoes, pasta, pizza, hot dogs, tortilla chips and fresh vegetables, among others. Lastly, instant gravy mix takes the most difficult part of mixing gravy out of the equation; getting the flour to butter/oil and water mixture consistent each time (not to mention the flavor). The guess work is removed as minutes turn into seconds for a finished product and the amount of recipes that utilize gravy mix is mind-blowing. Check out these ideas.

These videos have their own page on Foothill Farms’ website at http://foothillfarms.com/resources_videos.cfm

Macaroni and Cheese: Upscale Experience at an Affordable Price

For chefs, creating a signature macaroni and cheese menu item can be intimidating because of its known popularity and strict critics. With a little imagination and some simple ingredients, Foothill Farms helps you create unique recipes that appeal to every appetite.

From traditional to gourmet, Mac & Cheese is evolving!

You have grown up but has your “Mac & Cheese”? Macaroni and cheese is thought to have been around since before 1769, according to an article by SmithsonianMag.com. From its simplest form as plain macaroni noodles coated in melted American cheese to the introduction of additional ingredients, “Mac & Cheese” is still a staple on U.S. menus.

Lobster Mac and Cheese
A creamy, indulgent, comfort food with a rich lobster flavor.

For chefs, creating a signature macaroni and cheese menu item can be intimidating because of its known popularity and strict critics, some of which are under 10! The sauce consistency is important – not too thick and not too thin. Some desire a mellow flavor while others like to taste something unique. Our Three Cheese Mac and Cheese Sauce mix was designed to give those wanting to stay the course a delicious, satisfyingly simple pasta dish. For those ready to indulge, adding extra ingredients like bacon, vegetables, varieties of grated cheeses, and using a different sauce can turn a simple Mac & Cheese dish into a rich memorable experience. A perfect example is Lobster Mac & Cheese. It incorporates chunked lobster meat, béchamel sauce and white cheddar to make a luscious sauce that combines with your choice of pasta noodles and bakes with a Caesar bread crumb topping.

What about on a sandwich?

Macaroni and cheese doesn’t have to stay in the bowl! Some chefs are beginning to experiment with this 2 ½ century old staple. Traditionally, bread is served alongside pasta but what about serving pasta between bread? Our Chef Martin has created a recipe that does just that – Alfredo Pepperoni Mac ‘N Grilled Cheese! The recipe starts with an Alfredo based macaroni and cheese and incorporates spicy pepperoni that is placed between two slices of Texas toast and griddled until golden brown. The results are nothing short of outstanding!

Don’t forget the newest hot trend – Sriracha sauce! The benefit of using a dry mix is that you can easily kick up a sauce mix by adding extra ingredients like steak sauce, hot sauce, and BBQ sauce. In fact, a signature version of “Mac & Cheese” can be made using any of our unique cheese sauces recipes: Cheddar Cheese Steak Sauce, Chipotle Cheddar, KC, or Memphis Cheese Sauce to name a few.

Perfect Monterey Jack Mac & Cheese
Perfect Monterey Jack Mac & Cheese

With a little imagination and some simple ingredients, you can create unique recipes for macaroni and cheese that appeals to every appetite. What do you think about Mac, Cheese & Waffles?

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.

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.

 

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.