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.

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.