Salsas are a fantastic addition to any menu. They are quick and easy to make, they taste fresh and have health appeal. Most Americans consider it part of the regular condiment lineup. Salsa has appeared on menus in the US for years, and not just at Mexican eateries. In fact, salsa flavors grew by 26% across US menus between 2011 and 2014.1 The average consumer has grown used to seeing the tomato-based product in every grocery store nationwide, too.
I love the versatility of a salsa seasoning mix. It allows chefs to customize dishes to a patron’s liking, which is good since 61% of consumers say it is important that a restaurant customizes their order exactly how they like it.1 With salsa seasoning mix, other ingredients can be incorporated such as beans, corn and pineapple to offer spicy and sweet options. With imagination the dish can be incorporated into a variety of vegetarian foods. Don’t forget to add different heat levels for on-point flavors and trends. Think outside the box. With just one salsa seasoning mix SKU, you can create multiple choices.
Breakfast: Offer salsa as an accompanying choice for eggs. Mix it with black beans and corn for a breakfast burrito. Lunch: A must with taco salads. Dinner: Create a cranberry salsa that can be served with roast turkey.
Salsa bars: Salsa bars are a great way to tap into the popularity of made-to-order flavors. In fact 43% of consumers say they will try a dish if they can customize the sauces and spices. 1 Create your salsa bar with different ingredients and heat levels, such as fiery habanero salsa or salsa verde. Offer vegetarian options with the proteins from beans and lentils.
Accompaniments: There is a great opportunity to serve pineapple or mango salsa with a pork taco by adding spicy heat to the dish, or with pico de gallo and shrimp.
Vegetarian: Salsa mixes let you incorporate beans into the menu by offering wholesome dishes such as Cowboy Caviar.
Snack: Add salsa to sour cream to create a flavorful dip with snacks. You can also add heat to chips to complement the freshness of salsa.
If you’re looking for a delicious, fresh-made salsa seasoning for your foodservice operation, Foothill Farms offers a seasoning mix that helps you get the most out of just one SKU. Contact us for more information or to place an order.
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!
And for the possible doubters out there here is a full day’s menu including the refried beans so, yes, 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!
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
5. Keep the décor simple
A good bottle of single malt whiskey with a red bow is usually ambience enough for me.
Karen J. Peterson, SNS (School Nutrition Specialist) provides our readers with helpful tips to lessen the frustration and challenges facing K-5 kitchens.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.