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.

 

Turn Ordinary Ketchup into an Extraordinary Sauce with Dry Mix

The virtual lid is about to explode off the ketchup bottle and a multitude of flavor blends will be trending, much like its condiment counterparts – mustard, mayonnaise and hot sauce.

Ketchup originated from ke-tsiap, a pickled-fish condiment in 17th century China that eventually evolved to a tomato-based blend created by late 1700s New Englanders. From its beginning, ketchup blended with ingredients from mushrooms to exotic spices was common and often an indicator of the flavors of the region. In recent history, the ketchup standard has become somewhat uniform; a familiar staple in kitchens across the nation. We are here to tell you, times are a changin’. The virtual lid is about to explode off the ketchup bottle and a multitude of flavor blends will be trending, much like its condiment counterparts – mustard, mayonnaise and hot sauce.

What does a new ketchup blend consist of? The possibilities are numerous and make it a wow experience customers crave. Spicy ketchups are easily made with chipotle, jalapeños, or by adding a tangy barbeque sauce. These additions are simple and produce a big impact on the plate when served with fries and a traditional sandwich or burger. Experimenting with sweet ketchups could lead to tasty creations such as raspberry or cherry ketchup, possibly served with sweet potato fries. A simple addition of a few new ingredients like fresh minced garlic, horseradish, or hot sauce can add a new level of dipping enjoyment for consumers. Imagine a plate with small ramekins of variations of ketchup in a clock formation, ranging from sweet to spicy depending on the added ingredients. Pairing food with ranges on the “ketchup clock” provide a unique, gourmet experience with a common condiment.

Another trend in ketchup creation is to include larger add-ins such as roasted beets, sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, water chestnuts, or even nuts to add richness to a condiment dip or topping. Imagine a juicy burger with a zucchini ketchup topper…yum! Any idea to combine the familiarity of a dish with a simple little twist is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. For bacon lovers, why not mix a little bacon, spices, and ketchup to serve with waffle fries? The buttery, sweet texture of pine nuts could pair with cilantro ketchup and be served alongside a host of menu items. One great combination that could lead to another idea to keep the dishes exciting for guests.

A recent study of consumer flavor trends indicates that two in five people say they are willing to spend more on meals that showcase new and interesting flavors, which suggests operators have substantial room to experiment. Of course, Foothill Farms has a few easy ways to zip up ketchup with products that have been popular for kitchens and guests alike. Adding a dry mix to ketchup is a reliably delicious way to stay up-to-date with the trends customers will be looking for in the near future. And operators can compete for traffic by positioning themselves as offering an upscale experience at an affordable price. Redefining ketchup could easily redefine the popularity of any foodservice menu.

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

New Ranch Dressing Mix Rebate – Good Through May

Predicted foodservice trends tell us that consumers want healthier foods and fast. One product that can help chefs satisfy consumer demand is dry salad dressing mix. Dry salad dressing mixes like Ranch, Caesar, 1000 Island and Lido Italian are not just for green salads. Mixes can be used to make robust marinades, gourmet dipping sauces for appetizers, savory spreads for sandwiches, flavor enhancers for potato dishes, and delicate sauces for fruits and melons.

Currently, we are offering a rebate for our Ranch Salad Dressing mixes (V400, V402). The promotion goes through May 31 and offers operators a $2 rebate per case (up to $200) on Ranch Dressing Mix products, plus a FREE first case of Blue Cheese, Lido Italian, 1000 Island/Honey Mustard, and Caesar Dressing Mix when you complete the rebate coupon. If you haven’t tried our V400 Ranch Dressing Mix or our V402 No MSG Ranch Dressing Mix, please leave your contact information below and we’ll send you a sample.

This money-saving offer is available to foodservice operators in the U.S. only. Please visit our webpage for more details on the promotion. The downloadable form can be found at http://doclibrary.com/MFR457/DOC/FoothillFarmsDressingRebate20155452.pdf.

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.