A lighter take on ranch dressing

ranch dressing chicken fingers

While salad bars are often the first place K-12 operators look to incorporate more fresh produce, few go as far as making their own salad dressings. But last fall, in a continuing effort to transition from prepackaged meals to an all-scratch menu, Mark Augustine, executive chef of culinary and nutrition services for Minneapolis Public Schools, switched to concocting four varieties in-house—ranch, Caesar, Italian and Asian vinaigrette. The move, designed to eliminate artificial ingredients and lower fat and sodium, presented the biggest challenge when it came to ranch dressing, the school-wide favorite. “Ranch dressing is the new ketchup. I’m amazed at how much students use,” he says, adding that it serves as a veggie and chicken dip as well as a dressing. Augustine’s team took six months to develop, rework and kid-test the recipe before rolling it out, but the results are already boosting salad consumption. 

  1. Augustine’s goal was to retain the creamy characteristics and flavor profile of prepared ranch dressing using all-natural ingredients. He swapped regular mayonnaise for the light variety, and added yogurt from a regional dairy in Iowa. Its rich and creamy texture made up for the lack of emulsifiers used in processed yogurts, says Augustine.
  2. Tartness was another challenge. “We tried several different vinegars—white, apple cider and champagne vinegar—to get the right balance of tart and sweet,” says Augustine. Through trial and error, the winning result was a mix of white vinegar, lemon juice and plain yogurt. Doubling the amount of dried tarragon and adding dill weed pumps up the flavor, he says.
  3. The dressing is made in quantities that can be used within a week; otherwise it separates when stored. Since the dressing doesn’t sit as long, the dried herbs don’t lose flavor, says Augustine. The recipes prompted the school district to invest in new equipment so that all four dressings can be packaged on-site in single-serve cups.

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
management team

Last week’s NACUFS National Conference proved to be a treasure trove of management and staffing takeaways. Here are a few we noted at the annual event , held this year in Providence, R.I.

1. Make it scalable

When explaining something new to staff, instead of asking, “You got it?” or “You with me?” have employees rate how well they understand the new material on a scale of 1 to 10, said Ron Paul, a senior consulting partner for Partners in Leadership, during a session on building accountability in the workplace. People are likely to say yes even when they don’t fully grasp what you’...

Ideas and Innovation
song break

Once per month in a daily huddle, we dedicate a few minutes for the staff to sing a short song. The staff has responded so positively to this. They now bring costumes and other props. It's a few short minutes, but the payoff has been tremendous.

Photo courtesy of iStock

Ideas and Innovation
plastic straws

An item about the size of a pencil has become the latest target in foodservice operators’ sustainability plans. Though small, plastic straws are said to have a large impact on the environment, with Americans using approximately 500 million straws each day, according to a release from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, which temporarily ditched plastic straws as part of an Earth Day promotion this year.

In recent months, a growing number of eateries and cities across the United States have scrapped plastic straws. In July, Seattle enacted a ban on plastic straws and utensils, requiring...

Industry News & Opinion

Medford High School in Medford, Mass., is looking to add an orchard to its campus, Wicked Local reports.

The idea for the orchard was brought forth by students looking to help combat food insecurity. They are working with the school’s nutritionist to make the orchard a reality.

If planted, the orchard would be located inside the school’s courtyard and would grow fruits such as apples, paw paws, blueberries, peaches and plums. It would also include an outdoor classroom space.

The school committee signed off on the project last year; however, some administrators are...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code