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.

 

8 Helpful Kitchen and Culinary Tips for Foodservice Pros

Chef Rob Corliss, a 3x James Beard House guest chef and culinary consulting company owner, provides foodservice professionals with helpful kitchen and culinary tips.

ATE's passionate daily goal: connecting people to their food, environment & wellness.
ATE’s passionate daily goal: connecting people to their food, environment & wellness.

The search for predicted food trends, kitchen shortcuts and new sales strategies correlates with the beginning of a New Year. Foodservice professionals never slow down, especially not during the holidays. Now it’s March and possibly you’re ready to start working on efficiency, new recipes, and boosting check averages. We asked Chef Rob Corliss, a 3x James Beard House guest chef, to provide our readers with helpful kitchen and culinary tips.

Tip #1 – Maximize efficiency by organizing dry food storage by categories – menu categories or 5 tastes categories (salt, sour, sweet, bitter, umami) labeling shelves, grouping similar items together, storing goods in the same location every time, storing most used goods in the most accessible area and following FIFO. For safety, place heaviest goods on lowest shelves.

Tip #2 – Versatility coupled by heat with flavor is the real story behind the mega-success of sriracha. Consumers crave bold flavor with complexity and the American palate demands more than just heat. Leverage these attributes and look for savory-sweet-spicy sauces to be the next big thing!

Tip #3 – A focused slimmed down menu, strategically developed and executed, can address and deliver on the growing consumer demand for variety. The key is to creatively optimize SKU’s/flavors across menu categories, creating bold and diversified menu offerings. Incorporating seasonal flavors and/or LTO’s is another menu strategy to bring perpetual “new news.”

Tip #4 – The key to reducing food costs takes a multi-faceted approach and constant attention. Track and address your cost of goods, food storage, inventory management, prep levels, waste & proper food costing. Optimize menu positioning and pricing by evaluating the stars, dogs and workhorses on your menu, then drive sales!

Tip #5 – Health and indulgence can strategically coexist on a menu, as life is about balance and so is menu development. Consumers now expect it! They are driving the trend towards health/wellness to be elevated to deliver quality, authentic, craveable on-trend flavors. Independents and the fast-casual segment are leading this innovation.

Tip #6 – Trends ebb and flow, but classic comfort foods are always in style because they strike a deeper, nostalgic emotional connection with consumers. Menuing a comfort food as is for retro appeal or staying relevant with an updated regional, global or healthy twist can be a recipe for success.

Tip #7 – The guest experience, value and consistent food quality are integral tools for driving check averages. Additional tactics are bundling, educating FOH staff, training on upselling, competitive pricing structures, menu verbiage, variety with menu price points, maximize and feature beverages, leveraging trends and using seasonal LTOs to generate traffic.

Tip #8 – FLAVOR is what everyone craves! Craveability = understanding + executing the art & science of flavor. Flavor = complementary appeal (visual impact of food, actual & expected temperature, texture contrasts, opposing attractions, emotional connections) + aroma (80% of flavor) + taste (balancing sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami).

Corliss has over 20 years of experience across multi-disciplines that include running world class resort hotels, launching new restaurant concepts, working in top foodservice marketing agencies and currently owning his own culinary consulting company, ATE – All Things Epicurean http://www.7ate9.biz.

It has always been a vivid source of imagination, growth, inquisitiveness and nourishment over a 20+ year career. ATE is the culmination of Rob’s creative spirit, love and appreciation of the culinary arts and the romance of “all things epicurean.”
Rob’s passion in life (aside from his family) is the culinary arts.

Let Dressing Mixes Turn “Chicken Again?” Into “Chicken Again!”

Dressing mixes are the versatile ingredients you can easily have on hand to keep chicken on the plate and diners asking for more.

Are your customers growing tired of the same old chicken recipes? Liven up the menu with salad dressing mixes which help transform your usual chicken dish into something special. Dressing mixes are the versatile ingredients you can easily have on hand to keep chicken on the plate and diners asking for more.

Wings are classic. Start your chicken adventures off on a tangy note by using Caesar Dressing Mix to make deliciously zesty Chipotle Caesar Wings. The garlic flavor in this recipe, coupled with a little chipotle pepper, is balanced out nicely with the cooler Caesar dressing base.

Zesty Chipotle Caesar Wings
Garlic flavor and chipotle pepper make a nice gourmet wing sauce

Not sure what to do with plain grilled chicken breast? Sliced, grilled chicken breast served over a sensational summer dish like Strawberry Spinach Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette can be just the topper for a lighter dish. Shredded radicchio, slivered almonds, wheatberries, spinach, and strawberries are among the ingredients that make this salad a favorite when drizzled with the summery Raspberry Vinaigrette. Another salad which is a crowd pleaser is Farm Stand Salad with Basil Pesto Vinaigrette. Add your grilled chicken topper to this salad which features fresh romaine lettuce, chunks of roma tomatoes, minced kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and shaved parmesan: It’s chicken reinvented!

Let dressing mixes turn dips and spreads into a tasty partner for chicken strips or crispy chicken sandwiches. 1000 Island/Honey Mustard Dressing Mix turns “WOW” with this Wow Sauce recipe, bringing extra zip to your dishes. Add a specialty bun, such as ciabatta or brioche and turn a regular chicken sandwich into something extra special. Still want another dressing option for a dip or spread? Wow Sauce becomes Super WOW Sauce by adding horseradish to the mix. The horseradish flavor adds a distinctive touch that becomes the star of your chicken sandwich.

Super Wow Dipping Sauce
Super Wow Dipping Sauce

As spicy flavors have become more prevalent, consumers’ preference for these options has also increased, particularly for sauces and dips. Don’t worry if you can’t decide which dressing to make! For a fun twist on chicken fingers, add multiple sides of dressings on the side for a dipping extravaganza and patron customization. Keep the heat dialed up when you take Ranch Dressing Mix up a notch. Offer condiments at different spice levels to cater to consumers’ varying preferences. Try Chipotle Ranch for something a bit more calm and smoky, Jalapeno Cilantro Ranch for those more adventurous, and Mango Habanero Ranch for those who want to go all out.

Wrap up your chicken menu with an Avocado Ranch Dressing which is perfect for a healthy wrap, perhaps made with other summer favorites like spinach, spring lettuces, and crunchy iceberg. Avocados and lime juice complement a grilled chicken filling-simple and delicious! For bacon lovers, try a Bacon Ranch Dressing to match up the wonderful flavors of ranch, chicken, and bacon all in one wrap. With dressing mixes, your ideas become an easy-to-make reality and chicken is “in” again.

Chicken Wrap with Avocado Ranch Dressing
Wraps are a summer favorite!

For all of these recipes and more, visit foothillfarms.com/recipes.

Latin Sauces take the Express Track…Destination: Big Flavor!

Orange Ancho Chile Sauce Mix
Orange Ancho Chile Chicken with Avocado Flatbread

For a Latin sauce with flair, just add water.  It really can be that simple!  As food professionals, we know better than to overlook the importance of a quality accompanying sauce.  It elevates the main dish and turns great into extraordinary.  However, the reality of creating the perfect sauce from scratch for every individual recipe can translate to losing valuable prep time and drive up expense as the list of ingredients increases.  Can the solution be as easy as adding water?  It actually can be that simple if you are using Foothill Farms® instant mixes which include delicious cheese sauces, ethnic sauces, classic sauces, and specialty sauces.  Within the line of sauces, there are low sodium options from our Flavorwise™ product line.  Foothill Farms® mixes create reliable, delicious flavor that still offer options to customize recipes and showcase your individuality as a food artist.

Red Enchilada Sauce Mix
Enchilada Sauce with Cheese Rolls

Our Latin sauce mixes embody the trending concept of speed scratch, which incorporates ready-to-use food products to expedite prep without sacrificing flavor.  Foothill Farms® products are allowing food professionals to save time, money, and create consistent dishes with much less fuss and increasing menu possibilities.

Versatility? Yes.  Foothill Farms® Orange Ancho Chile Sauce Mix can take you from Orange Ancho Chile Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice to Orange Ancho Chile Chicken with Avocado Flatbread without skipping a Latin beat.  Spicy Chili Orange Sauce gives a signature flavor of sweet and spicy to wings, chicken and ribs without spending valuable time on prep.

Healthy? Yes.  Foothill Farms® Classic Red Enchilada Sauce Mix with Guajillo Chiles-Reduced Sodium keeps an eye on nutrition for your healthful menu items without compromising flavor. It is a part of our Flavorwise™ product line and contains no added MSG, no partially hydrogenated oils, no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial colors or flavors, low in sodium and preservative free.  Using this one sauce mix can expand your menu at least three times with Beef Enchilada Empanadas, Cheese Enchilada Mini Pierogies, and Carne Asada Sauce.

Beef Enchiladas
Beef Enchiladas

Cheese, please? Yes.  Foothill Farms® has 16 cheese sauce mixes to explore ranging from traditional cheddars, to creamy whites, to spicy nacho cheese, to exceptional specialty cheese sauces. Serve Chipotle-Cheddar Cheese Sauce alongside fresh baked bread or onion rings as a specialty dip, compliment juicy burgers with a rich creamy cheese experience or mix it with pasta for a unique mac n’ cheese. Don’t forget the chips and dip! Pepper Jack Queso gives a little menu twist and livens up this popular appetizer staple.

Standard Fare? No.  We are constantly adding new recipes to provide a spectrum of dishes to keep adding to your food repertoire.  Adding new twists with innovative recipes can keep the menu fresh while keeping costs in check with the mixes that will become a staple in the kitchen.

Foothill Farms® will keep the Latin sauce movement alive in your kitchen and help keep your focus on easy flavor with lots of versatility.  Latin heat just got easier.

Pepper Jack Queso
Pepper Jack Queso

It All Starts Dry! Versatility Is Where You See The Difference

Tacos and Rice

FOODSERVICE SCENARIO

The first of the month is approaching and it’s time to place orders and reorders. You’ve seen what is working and you know what isn’t. The menu can be tweaked but with menu changes comes new products to purchase. Your foodservice broker introduces you to a dry mix product that correlates to your menu change. WAIT! Did you say “DRY MIX”?

YES WE DID! NO NEED TO FEAR CHANGE…IT ALL STARTS DRY!

One of the benefits of using a dry mix is that customers receive a mixture of the basic ingredients rather than having to purchase each one of them individually and possibly, mince and dice multiple ingredients before ever starting to cook. Dehydrating vegetables and blending fresh, dry seasonings along with smart packaging, opens the door to a world of menu VERSATILITY. This is where the possibilities become endless! For example, a container of Chipotle Flavor Taco Seasoning Mix isn’t just for making the obvious; it can easily be combined with cream cheese, mayonnaise, rice, ranch dressing or brownie mix (yes BROWNIE mix) to make many culinary concoctions. In fact, one package of dry mix can be used for as many as 50 servings and in at least 10 different recipes.

Another strong attribute of dry mix is the capability to adjust the strength of the flavors or alter the thickness of the sauce or gravy. When the mix starts dry, you can make the product according to package directions or slowly add liquid until the desired thickness or flavor is reached. This closely resembles “cooking from scratch”. Although, cooking from scratch exudes craftsmanship, it also means additional prep time and expense.

There is a trendy, culinary term that backs the concept of dry mix called “speed scratch”. Speed scratch is loosely defined as the process in which a chef utilizes a prepared mix in replacement of individual basic ingredients and then adds a handful of additional ingredients to make the creation signature and to finish the dish – FAST!

Versatility isn’t just a matter of menu expansion or culinary art, it also helps restaurants and foodservice providers make more profitable meals. How? Dry mix is lighter and less bulky than RTU products, which translates to “more for your money”. It also allows more flexibility for food storage since refrigeration is not required.

Dry mix lends itself more to menu versatility, higher profits, less storage worries and more time for doing what you LOVE to do!