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.

 

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.