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.

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.

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

 

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”.

Customization Options are in the Sauce!

Consumers want more power over the dishes they are eating through flexible menus and by choosing their own ingredients for a particular dish. Having a few classic or signature sauces on hand that are easily adaptable will increase the options served on a daily basis and help satisfy even the most discerning customer.

We are no longer working in a one flavor fits all industry. The number one food trend according to Technomic’s 2013 Year in Review: 10 Macro Consumer Foodservice Trends is customization. Consumers want more power over the dishes they are eating through flexible menus and by choosing their own ingredients for a particular dish.

Our chefs enjoy seeing how many dishes one sauce mix can create!
Our chefs enjoy seeing how many dishes one sauce mix can create!

How do you achieve this daunting prospect of individual choice in foodservice? Look no farther than the sauce! By offering a spectrum of sauce choices customized from a few Foothill Farms® basic sauce mixes, food professionals leave room for individuality on a much bigger stage. Having a few classic or signature sauces on hand that are easily adaptable will increase the options served on a daily basis and help satisfy even the most discerning customer.

Chicken, fish, beef…let’s face it, if a sauce is drizzled over it, the dish instantly moves up the gourmet ladder. Foothill Farms® Béchamel Sauce mix easily transitions into a mild Mornay Sauce, ready to embrace a baked tilapia filet. The same mix can make a velvety smooth Veloute´ Sauce to serve over a grilled chicken breast. Moreover, our Béchamel Sauce mix is the base for our Blue Cheese Sauce and Gorgonzola Sauce recipes. Looking at our product this way illustrates the benefits of using dry mix. Sauce mixes become customizable food art simply by adding a handful of fresh ingredients.

Likewise, a kid and senior-friendly Alfredo Sauce has a multitude of applications. It can be tweaked to form a Ragin Cajun, palate-pleasing blackened fish topper, transformed into a creamy, Memphis BBQ Parmesan Sauce, or whipped into a pasta-ready Garlic Alfredo Sauce. Do we have you mentally creating new dishes already?

Shrimp and Broccoli Alfredo
Shrimp and Broccoli Alfredo

Wait, we haven’t even discussed dessert! Satisfy the sweet tooth with Foothill Farms® Crème Anglaise Custard Sauce which is every bit as customizable as the entrée sauces. Crepes or bread puddings topped with Lemon Crème, Raspberry Rum Crème, and White Russian Crème will finish any dinner on a high note while Chocolate Peanut Butter Crème and Almond Crème beckon for a partner of ice cream or cookie wafers. Implementing dessert sauces stretches menu offerings and accentuates chefs’ craftsmanship.

Serve a sauce as a dip!
Serve a sauce as a dip!

If the goal is to take menu choices further without increasing food costs, trying dry sauce mix is worth the experiment or should we say EXPERIENCE! Trust us! Behind-the-scenes, our chefs enjoy seeing how many dishes one sauce mix can create!