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.

 

Keeping America in Mind this July 4th … and Beyond!

Celebrating America and supporting American growth initiatives is a great way to spend July 4th! At Foothill Farms®, we are keeping American products a priority on every other day, too.

We commit to manufacture our food products from American sources as much as possible.
We commit to manufacture our food products from American sources as much as possible.

As July 4th celebrations of barbeques and fireworks begin, we are reminded of our commitment to celebrate America’s great traditions with our families, friends, and coworkers. Being a foodservice provider to schools, we also acknowledge our commitment to manufacture our food products from American sources as much as possible to exceed U.S. government regulations regarding federal nutrition programs. According to the regulations, a food product must be processed in the U.S. and at least 51% of each product must contain domestic ingredients. Buying American supports our domestic farmers but also helps ensure that food safety inspection standards are being met. Put simply, if the food is grown here, it is easier to monitor all stages of growth, harvest, cleaning and packaging processes right here in America. All Foothill Farms® products are processed in U.S. plants located in Bolingbrook, Illinois, New Sharon, Iowa and in Columbus, Ohio. And ingredients are sourced from America when possible. One exception to this would be crops that are not grown in the United States. Examples of products that are not available in America are spices which are grown around the equatorial regions. Cassava, of which tapioca starch is made, is primarily sourced from Thailand and provides the type of starch used in our sauces. Cocoa trees, which provide the cocoa for desserts and frozen treats, live exclusively in the tropical climates of Africa, Asia, and South America. Dehydrated vegetables come from other countries as U.S. grown vegetable are largely sold fresh, canned, or frozen.

Flavorful sauces, dressings & dips to entice kids to eat more veggies!
Flavorful sauces, dressings & dips to entice kids to eat more veggies!

Foothill Farms® admires the USDA’s Farm-to-School initiatives, which have been implemented by 44% of public schools and another 13% launching a program in the near future. Farm-to-School programs have the dual benefit of instilling healthy learning habits to future generations but also providing funding of school programs directly into the local community. Local farmers reap the benefits of providing healthy fresh ingredients to the schools right in their own communities and kids are eating freshly grown products. Our products can complement the Farm-to-School program by adding flavorful sauces, dressings and dips to entrees and sides in order to create tasteful dishes that entice kids to eat more vegetables. Learn more about the Farm-to-School program www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/census and check out this infographic.

Celebrating America and supporting American growth initiatives is a great way to spend July 4th! At Foothill Farms®, we are keeping American products a priority on every other day, too.

For the LOVE of CHEESE! New Cheese Sauce Recipes Added

It’s easy to find new cheese sauce recipes from Foothill Farms® by simply entering “cheese” in the search box within the recipe link on our website.

Searching for what’s new in the world of cheese sauce? It’s easy to find new cheese sauce recipes from Foothill Farms® by simply entering “cheese” in the search box within the recipe link on our website.

Our chef at Kent Precision Foods Group (KPFG)  is constantly whisking up delicious recipes and providing new concepts targeting foodservice professionals. He knows what is trending and focuses on helping you reach new heights in the food that comes out of your kitchen as well. (Read more about Chef Martin and his food philosophies.) Some of his recent cheese sauce recipes are Sriracha Jack Queso Sauce, Monterey Spaghetti, and Spicy Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup. These recipes, as well as many others, were assessed in the test kitchen and will complement many foodservice kitchens.

Cheesy Foothill Farms Recipes
For the love of CHEESE! Sauces, dips, soups, nachos, queso, entrees and sides

Dry mix cheese sauces add value and consistency to your menu by employing the speed scratch concept: make how much you need from a dry mix product with the addition of other fresh ingredients. Speed scratch products deliver the best combination of maintaining product predictability while still delivering your guests remarkable taste every time. Time and money…sauce mixes will save you both by allowing you to easily make only what you need.

Foothill Farms Potato & Cheese Soup Recipe
Foothill Farms Potato & Cheese Soup Recipe

So if you’re looking for new cheese recipes that are crave-able and innovative, we’ve got you covered with our variety of cheese sauce recipes at Foothill Farms®. Remember, just search for “cheese” and our products and recipes will help you do the rest, easily and affordably.

 

Straight from the Chef’s Mouth – A Guest Blog by Chef Martin

Sometimes cooks get hung up on not being able to make a dish properly because they are missing an ingredient. I remind myself and my colleagues that when the dish was made for the first time it was just that person’s impression of how THEY thought it should taste. It doesn’t mean it is set in stone until the end of time! You can selectively omit and recreate!

Loosen Up and Experiment with Flavor

Chef Martin
Chef Martin

It took me a while to realize that there comes a time when you stop playing by the rules; following recipes by the book. Sometimes cooks get hung up on not being able to make a dish properly because they are missing an ingredient. I remind myself and my colleagues that when the dish was made for the first time it was just that person’s impression of how THEY thought it should taste. It doesn’t mean it is set in stone until the end of time! You can selectively omit and recreate!

It is important to understand how ingredients complement each other, and then go to town creating your own unique, tasteful memories. Experiment! Obviously there are dishes that are classic in everyone’s mind: pot roast, mac n’ cheese, spaghetti, chicken noodle soup, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and of course apple pie. Comfort foods get their reputation from the whole dining experience, not just the way it tastes. Biting into a slice of apple pie might bring back memories of your grandma’s apple pie served at her dining room table but for someone else it will be a different experience altogether. Don’t let “comfort food” pin you down! In my experience, people like culinary twists to old favorites.

I love to experiment in the kitchen. My wife is always amazed on days that we have nothing in the pantry, or so she thought, and I come up with a dish that she enjoys eating. She will ask me what the dish was called and my response (and dead giveaway that I experimented) is “Anything you like…I made it just for you.” Chefs know the way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach!

I love that young chefs are being given “market baskets” as part of their testing. It reminds me of the story of how the first Caesar Salad came to be. I believe in simplicity, I am not overly impressed with chefs putting dishes together with twenty ingredients. That kind of culinary snobbery tends to confuse the pupil in understanding what is complimenting what.

With summer just around the corner, I am reminded of a couple of cool ideas that I have tasted lately that have given me a WOW moment: watermelon and basil and cantaloupe and lime juice. Unique flavor combinations are gaining in popularity. A recent Technomic report asked 1500 consumers how appealing they found 12 different flavor combinations both in 2009 and in 2013. Eleven of the 12 saw rise in their popularity in 2013. Tomato-basil received the strongest reception followed by honey-ginger. The next three top favorites were chipotle-lime, rosemary-orange and mango-habanero.

Chef Martin Experiments with Flavor
Chef Martin Experiments with Flavor

Foothill Farms and I have created new recipes; blending unique flavors to create delicious, appealing dishes, dressings, sauces, and salsas. Food should be fun! You shouldn’t be judge on how close you got to copying someone else’s effort.

Check out these recipes:

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”.

Rest Easy this Summer: Plan Your K-12 2014/15 Menu Now!

Begin your summer grilling and chilling with the peace of mind your K-12 menu is already mapped out for the 2014-2015 school year. Foothill Farms® easily takes menu planning to meal execution by offering a bevy of dressing, seasoning and sauce mixes that can take you through the year with ease

Begin your summer grilling and chilling with the peace of mind your K-12 menu is already mapped out for the 2014-2015 school year. Foothill Farms® easily takes menu planning to meal execution by offering a bevy of dressing, seasoning and sauce mixes that can take you through the year with ease. If you spend hours worrying about sodium levels, don’t worry about our Flavorwise™ product line. It was created to be flavorful yet sodium conscious. Each product has 310 mg sodium or less per serving, 0g trans fat, is low fat or fat free and contains no cholesterol or added MSG.

AUGUST

For starters, keep kids’ memories of delicious summer barbeques alive in August by going back-to-school with BBQ Teriyaki Meatballs with Asian Noodles on the lunch menu. Our BBQ Teriyaki Sauce Mix and Asian Noodle Seasoning combine with water chestnuts, turkey meatballs, and whole grain spaghetti to make a dish that sizzles. Another smart end-of-summer choice that accompanies Mexican-inspired entrees like tacos or nachos is our Corn and Black Bean Salsa.

Corn & Black Bean Salsa
Corn Salsas

Serve it with corn tortilla chips and the kids will say “gracias”! If your students are not quite ready to give up burgers, keep them interested and surprised with a sweet and savory Teriyaki Pineapple Sauce on top of a turkey patty. To satisfy fresh vegetable requirements, serve raw vegetables with a rich BBQ Ranch dip or use it to dress a traditional side salad.

SEPTEMBER

As the summer menu wraps up, consider popular Asian dishes to keep the menu infused with flavorful rice and noodle options. Asian Style-Walking Tacos keep nutrition headed for a tasty destination with its cabbage, diced chicken and whole grain Asian noodle ingredients. Our Asian Noodle seasoning can help you easily master a popular Vegetable Stir Fry with Asian Stir Fry Rice or create a scrumptious General Tso’s Chicken with Asian Noodles. Our low-sodium Flavorwise™ original Stir Fry Sauce mix can even turn pizza into Stir Fry Pizza– a simple and instant yummy upgrade!

OCTOBER THRU FEBRUARY

As cooler autumn and winter temperatures prevail, warm and hearty soups bring comfort when there is a chill in the air. Soups such as Taco Soup, Minestrone, or a classic Broccoli Cheddar keep students satisfied with wholesome ingredients. Cincinnati 3-Way Chili with its Greek influence and rich cinnamon and clove undertones, deepens the use of Chili Seasoning Mix, which also makes an amazingly simple turkey chili. Just add some topping choices of shredded cheese, crackers, or maybe even a touch of sour cream to make these soups and chili recipes shine even brighter. Fall brings the opportunity to use seasonal cranberries, but with a fun twist. Foothill Farms® Cranberry Salsa recipe incorporates the heat of jalapeños and the sweetness of cranberry which can be used as a dip or a wrap.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Broccoli Cheddar Soup

MARCH THRU APRIL

Thinking of how to wrap up winter dishes and bring in spring flair? Wraps and sandwiches are a fresh way to showcase Foothill Farms® sauce mixes such as Cilantro Lime Rice seasoning mix. This mix features chopped cilantro and a tropical lime twist that pairs well with either white or brown rice becoming the base for a healthy, lighter wrap. Lettuce wraps, with your choice of healthy ingredients, can also be featured in the early months of the year topped with a creamy Avocado Ranch Dressing. Buttermilk, avocado, lime juice, and mayonnaise flavors combine to create a more flavorful, but still nutritious, ranch dressing. Another light dish that creates the perfect food vehicle for encouraging kids to eat their beans is Foothill Farms® Hummus. Chick peas or great northern beans are the base for this delicious dip which can be served with fresh vegetables or crackers.

MAY THRU JUNE

As the end of the year approaches, let Latin twists take you to summer with delicious fajitas made with Asado Style Fajita Seasoning Mix (Low Sodium). Succulent chicken, beef, turkey or pork take on slow-roasted flavors which feature onions, chile peppers, and paprika. Don’t forget the salsa! Change up everyday salsa by adding fresh tomatoes, beans, or corn to our Salsa Seasoning Mix. The mix is equally great with fruit! Pineapples, peaches, pears, and mangos are a few of our recommendations. Keep the theme Latin inspired with Cheese Enchilada Mini Pierogies which is an easy way to keep the menu both nutritious and simple to prepare.

YEAR LONG DESSERTS

Desserts need no season; they are popular any month! Whole Grain Oat Topping Mix tempts at any time of year when baked over fresh or frozen fruit for an old-fashioned style crisp topper. Our Bread Pudding Mix with Cinnamon adds an exclamation point to the meal with its delicious rich flavor. This kitchen-friendly mix can be used with any leftover whole grain bread products such as pancakes, rolls, and buns.

Whole Grain Oat Crisp Topping
Whole Grain Oat Crisp Topping over fresh berries

Now that your meal planning has a great start with Foothill Farms®…dig out your sunglasses, kick back and relax knowing next year’s menu is full of flavorful recipes. From August to June, we have you covered.

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!