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!

 

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.

Our Top 5 Foodservice Trends for 2015

As a leader in foodservice manufacturing, it’s our job at Foothill Farms to stay on the forefront of what people crave. Here are our thoughts on five menu trends we expect to grow in 2015.

Written by Melissa Caringer, a food and fashion freelance writer www.linkedin.com/in/melissacaringer

As a leader in foodservice manufacturing, it’s our job at Foothill Farms to stay on the forefront of what people crave. So we took a look at which of our products have been flying off the shelves, where the overall industry is moving and what our customers are requesting most. Here are the five trends that bubbled up to the top for this year.

1. Reinventing Ranch

Easy Prep. Endless Possibilities.
Easy Prep. Endless Possibilities.

Ranch is the “girl next door” of dressings. Friendly and familiar by day and surprisingly irresistible when prepped for a night out. “Ranch has an incredible opportunity to be redefined and made (or modified) in house. It can be completely reinvented and used to spice up an old favorite or familiarize a new concept,” Jorge Cespedes, research and development chef at Food IQ, told Flavor & The Menu. And it’s not just about taking salads to the next level. An upgraded ranch dressing can be your signature sauce offered on sandwiches, as a pommes frites or kale chip dip, drizzled over soups or as a taco topping.

The possibilities for ranch dressing mix-ins are endless, but going with of-the-moment flavors is an easy way to get noticed. Add some locally grown mint for a refreshing twist, or blend in a superfood like avocado. Give it a hot hit of wasabi or go bold with regional barbecue sauce. Find inspiration and recipes for Curry Ranch, Thai Ranch, Mango Habanero Ranch and more here.

2. Comfort Meets Adventure
Asian and Latin cuisines have trended for years. Why? They infuse a sense of comfort with an invitation to explore. Brothy pho soothes. Slow-cooked carnitas are the epitome of soul food. Meanwhile the exotic marriage of spicy and sweet or smoky and herbaceous lures our palates east and south. In 2015, look for the breakout of Korean, mainstreaming of Vietnamese and upscaling of ramen noodles, according to Technomic. And ever-popular Latin flavors will see in uptick in breakfast offerings, predicts the National Restaurant Association.

All you need is Sweet Thai Style Chili Sauce mix, hot water and a whisk.
All you need is Sweet Thai Style Chili Sauce Mix, hot water and a whisk.

It won’t just be ethnic restaurants capitalizing on this love affair with Asian and Latin flavors. They’re hitting the mainstream with huevos rancheros on breakfast menus and ramen nights at corner restaurants. Any operation can get in on this trend with the right sauces and seasonings. Get tips on easily adding Sweet Thai Chili condiments, Mandarin Orange Chicken and more to your menu here and find Charro Beans, Orange Chile Brownies and others here.

3. DIY Health
“What do you have that’s healthy?” Is this person looking for something that’s gluten free? Fat or preservative free? Farm-to-table? Made with whole grains or superfoods? Low sodium or high nutrient? Real food? Today what is considered healthy can vary drastically from person to person. It may be about food they think is good for their bodies or food that makes them feel good about themselves. That’s why 2015 is all about a DIY approach.

Mix greek yogurt with Cilantro Lime Rice Seasoning for a great tasting fish taco!
Mix greek yogurt with Cilantro Lime Rice Seasoning for a great tasting fish taco.

According to Food Genius, the better-for-you movement has yet to lose steam and is now being complemented by another Millennial-driven trend: customization. So let diners choose from a variety of offerings that cover one or more health concerns. Some of the dishes you already serve may work perfectly as-is. Just start calling out their benefits on your menu (eg, That mac and cheese is already vegetarian). Another quick way to get (and stay) on the radar of today’s health-conscious guests is using sauces and seasonings like Flavorwise to help meet health concerns without sacrificing flavor.

4. Back to Scratch

Back to Scratch
Back to Scratch

Get ready for a sweeping movement back to scratch cooking. It’s all about balancing food and labor costs with preparing home-style dishes back of house. Particularly look for schools to go in this direction as they cut back on reheating processed foods and do more themselves. The challenge will continue to be labor restraints.

There are various schools of thought on overcoming this challenge. Some believe that it’s about investing in new equipment. Others, like the principal of Food Systems Solutions LLC Kate Adamick, say “Most school district food service departments don’t need a bigger labor force to return to scratch-cooking, they need a better trained labor force.” Some combination of equipment, labor, training and the right products is likely where the sweet spot lies. Check out Foothill Farms sauces and seasonings to quickly and affordably transform whole foods into mouthwatering, scratch-made dishes.

5. Think Small

Diners will continue to order them instead of entrées this year, making their meals three plates instead of one.
Diners will continue to order them instead of entrées this year, making their meals three plates instead of one.

From tapas to dim sum, small plates are still big news. Diners will continue to order them instead of entrées this year, making their meals three plates instead of one. The low-commitment, high-flavor bites satisfy cravings for variety and create a social, sharing experience. They also allow chefs to stretch their legs and dabble in a variety of global flavor palettes.

One innate challenge of small plates is that the variety of menu options may mean a need for additional prep and ingredient storage areas. Depending on the complexity of the dishes, more staff may be required too. That’s why sauces and seasonings that bring a big dose of flavor to small plates with little prep or storage will be your best friend in 2015. For small plate ideas, click here.

Melissa is a food and fashion freelance writer currently based in Milwaukee, WI.
Melissa Caringer

Melissa is a food and fashion freelance writer currently based in Milwaukee, WI. Since 1998, she has written about up-and-coming food trends, shadowed chefs, participated in focus groups and tasted her way across the country in search of the best bites. If you have a question for Melissa or Foothill Farms, please leave us a comment below.

Quick and Practical K-5 School Foodservice Advice

Karen J. Peterson, SNS (School Nutrition Specialist) provides our readers with helpful tips to lessen the frustration and challenges facing K-5 kitchens.

Helpful tips for K-5 school foodservice
Founder and president of Lunchline, Inc.

We are privileged to have Karen J. Peterson, SNS (School Nutrition Specialist) provide our readers with helpful tips to lessen the frustration and challenges commonly faced in K-5 kitchens. Karen is a 25 + year veteran of the foodservice industry. She is currently serving as founder and president of Lunchline, Inc. a company dedicated to the K-12 market channel.

Tip #1 – Sometimes K-5 students need encouragement to eat their veggies! There are always the perennial favorites: ranch dressing, salsa and hummus. But how about some fun?  Broccoli easily transforms into baby trees or dinosaur food and cauliflower becomes brains – PERFECT for Halloween!

Tip #2 – Picky eaters are a real concern in foodservice. After all, it attributes to less kids buying school lunch and/or throwing much of the lunch away and going hungry for the remainder of the day. Trying new foods needs to be about nutritional benefits. Associate fun symbols with foods so kids will understand why they need to eat them – calcium for stronger bones, beta-carotene essential for vision, fiber for digestive health, and lower sodium for a healthy heart.

Tip #3 – Does K-12 menu planning have you fussy?  Planning healthy, nutritious, attractive and compliant menus are more challenging today than ever before.  If there is no access to a third-party system, try the old-fashioned buddy system with neighboring districts, manufacturers, or state resources. Collaborating is COOL!
Tip #4 – There are many benefits to K-12 cafeterias cooking from scratch, however, how practical is it given the time, budgetary and quantity limitations? The benefits to scratch cooking are numerous and convincing: lower food cost, eye appeal, ingredient control, allergy concerns, student input, local trends and employee morale. The challenges sometimes outweigh the benefits: employee training/skill level, labor cost, cooking equipment, time, food safety and consistency. My advice is to investigate speed scratch dry-mix products like gravy and sauce mixes. These items are mixed with water and ready in seconds, saving you time and eliminating consistency worries. They are also sodium conscience as well as being gluten, shellfish and nut free. Check out Foothill Farms Flavorwise product line http://foothillfarms.com/k12/about_flavorwise.cfm.
Tip #5 – Want to increase your participation in your schools? Take a hint from Costco (or other similar retailers) and have sample days. Kids look forward to visiting mall food courts and big wholesalers on weekends because they know the sample stations are in full operation! How often do you end buying whatever is tasted? What an excellent way to introduce new foods to your students!
Tip #6 – Cafeteria theme days are fun and easy implementations for school lunch. What comes to mind when you think about your days at summer camp (other than pesky mosquitoes)? Good old fashion fun along with a hearty appetite for breakfast, lunch and dinner! After all, there isn’t much snacking at summer camp!  Turn your elementary lunchroom into “base camp cafe” with each classroom creating a camp flag.  Display the flags in flag holders mounted on the wall if indoors or on stanchions if outdoors.
Tip #7 – Are the new regs causing pressure from parents, administrators, as well as students? People often react to what they don’t know or understand.  Consider hosting a “food show” where everyone can see and taste the food currently on the menu and evaluate possible new additions.  Input is a powerful equalizer!
Tip #8 – Accommodating special diets can be overwhelming. You’ve collected all the paper work – now what?  For inspiration, visit your local hospital’s dietary program. Meet with the people responsible for menu creation and gather ideas that can translate into your operation.  Also, consider setting aside a small prep area that is used for special diets only.

Karen holds an M.A. in Organizational Leadership from College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota and a B.S. in Foods and Nutrition from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. She has also earned her SNS (School Nutrition Specialist) credential from SNA. If you have a question for Karen or Foothill Farms, please leave us a comment and we’ll get back with you soon.

Our Packaging Has a New Look!

Foothill Farms® redesigned their packaging to help operators distinguish between its traditional foodservice product line and the brands healthier, lower sodium product line, Flavorwise™.

New packaging allows culinary professionals to differentiate dry mix products.
New packaging allows culinary professionals to differentiate dry mix products.

The new look of Foothill Farms® products will help keep your dry storage in your commercial kitchen organized in delicious ways. Red and green will be popping up in foodservice commercial kitchens everywhere. Some Foothill Farms products will feature a bold red band for traditional offerings or an easily distinguishable bright green band indicating the trademarked Flavorwise™ healthier options. A Flavorwise label means products have 310 mg of sodium or less per serving, fat free or low fat, have 0g trans fat and contain no cholesterol or added MSG. In addition, both packages will have highly visible identifiers, such as “gluten-free,” “fat free,” or “no MSG” as special markers on the packages in efforts to provide customers with information to help them make informed choices about the products they purchase and serve to their customers.

Inside the new packaging, are the same quality ingredients which have helped commercial kitchens embrace speed-scratch concepts to prepare delicious, consistent results time after time. Our endeavors to create an easily identifiable packaging system mirrors the concept of the actual products themselves, providing foodservice solutions to commercial kitchens.

The evolution of our new packaging streamlines the consolidation of two former brands, TUF® and Milani®, now simply under the Foothill Farms umbrella of products. This merging has nearly tripled the amount of Foothill Farms mixes which encompass salad dressings, seasonings, gravies, cheese sauces, and desserts to name a few. The new packaging will be phased in gradually.

New packaging helps culinary professionals identify products more easily.
Mystery solved! Clear labeling for gluten-free, no MSG, low-fat and prep time.

So whether you are reaching for Foothill Farms® Ranch dressing or a Flavorwise Chili Seasoning Mix, the right product will always be at hand. Our mission is to help simplify your commercial kitchen and your dry storage with quality easy-to-organize products. Red or green, the choice is sure to make a flavorful dish!

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!