By Kelsey Casselbury 2015-01-05 20:10:50
For more than three decades, Kay Briles has dedicated her career to preparing meals for school children in her position as head cook for Greenfield Elementary, in Wisconsin’s Baldwin-Woodville School District. She’s learned how ingredients comingle and complement, how pops of color on a plate add to the enjoyment of eating and how to successfully use healthier ingredients without affecting taste or texture. So when she discovered in 2013 that Simplot conducts an annual K-12 school recipe contest, she thought, “Why not?” Although it was her first entry to a recipe contest, it was also her first win—for her version of Mexican Lasagna, Briles walked away with the grand prize of airfare, hotel accommodations and registration to SNA’s Annual National Conference (ANC) in Kansas City, Mo. Since then, Briles has continued to enter recipe contests with periodic success. In 2014, she won one of three grand prizes in the USA Rice Federation’s Healthy Brown Rice on the Menu contest for a Mexican Rice Bowl recipe and was named the runner-up in Simplot’s 2014 School Recipe Contest for a cheese, broccoli and ham bake. Briles always applies the money or prizes to offset the cost of attending ANC. The sheer number of recipe and menu contests offered on a regular basis (just see SN’s “Enter to Win” section each month!) affirms that many culinary professionals at all levels aren’t shying away from opportunities to submit their creations for consideration. However, in an era where time comes at a premium and creativity often must give way to regulatory compliance, some School Nutrition readers may find you are contemplating the questions of why, what and how. Why is it worth your time to create an award-winning recipe and navigate the various entry submission requirements, from incorporating a particular ingredient to writing an eye-catching name? What’s in it for the sponsoring organization and the winner alike? How can you become victorious in one of many recipe contests available to home cooks, culinary professionals, students and, specifically, K-12 school nutrition operators? All About Incentives Annual events such as School Lunch Hero Day and National School Lunch and Breakfast Weeks aren’t just terrific occasions to remind the community of the valuable role played by members of the cafeteria team in serving students, their school and the district as a whole—they also reinforce that message to school nutrition professionals themselves. However, a little extra oomph of recognition—and a valuable prize—certainly never hurts to boost one’s confidence or self-esteem. Or, in some cases, the self-image of an entire department. Cincinnati Public Schools Director of Food Services Jessica Shelly, SNS, whose Three-Way Cincinnati Chili (right) won top honors in the K-12 category of Barilla America’s 2013 Foodservice Recipe Contest, says that her name might have been published as the winner, but it’s really her staff that deserves the props. “I could create the best recipe in the world, but if they don’t make it delicious in the kitchen and make it appealing … then it doesn’t matter,” she says. That’s why Shelly requested that Barilla defer the listed prize—a trip to the Culinary Institute of America’s Worlds of Flavor Conference—in favor of a monetary gift in an equivalent amount that she could use to buy incentives and prizes for National School Lunch Week activities. Shelly notes she and her staff have a two-pronged goal for entering recipe contests: First, it really gives her a chance to highlight her staff’s capability, creativity and culinary prowess. Second, the monetary award that comes with the first-place prize helps promote the program and allows them to “reinvest into our kids,” she says. For the school meals team operating at Weston (Conn.) Public Schools, recipe contests are all about the challenge and advancement of the program’s goals. “We like to lead the way in school nutrition and culinary trends,” explains Jill Patterson, RD, a Chartwells dietitian working with the district. “We strive to continuously promote nutrition and new foods to the students, so we were up to the challenge of a recipe contest.” Andre Santelli, Weston’s director of culinary services, developed a recipe for Thai Fried Rice with Coconut Curry Chicken, which won one of three grand prizes for the 2014 USA Rice Federation’s Healthy Brown Rice on the Menu competition. While the team earned a 2014 ANC conference registration, brown rice donation and two rice cookers, the students got a new, unique recipe on their lunch menu. The View From the Other Side Public recognition, unique experiences, professional development opportunities, cash prizes and new menu items are some of the incentives that compel K-12 operators to submit entries to recipe contests. But what about the folks who coordinate those culinary competitions? After all, creating, marketing and determining the winners of such programs can be incredibly time- and work-intensive. Fortunately, sponsors report that there are plenty of benefits they gain from such projects. For the National Peanut Board, hosting a recipe contest keeps peanuts and peanut products top of mind for its consumers, says Lauren Highfill Williams, marketing and communications associate. “It might also help us share our key messages, and people can learn something new or think about using peanuts or peanut butter in new and different ways,” she adds. For the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC), a major benefit is acquiring tried-and-true recipes from foodservice professionals who are active in their operations, especially in the highly regulated K-12 segment, and subsequently being able to share these as successful and compliant menu items featuring potatoes. “We have more confidence that the most current rules and regulations that apply to school foodservice for portion sizes, percentage fat content, etc., will be addressed in the recipe,” explains Don Odiorne, IPC vice president of foodservice. At the Cranberry Marketing Committee USA, it’s not just about marketing the product, cranberries—though that’s certainly a perk. It’s also about supporting the school foodservice industry by offering a contest that is exclusive to these niche operators, asserts Executive Director Scott J. Soares. The famous Pillsbury Bake-off (with its $1 million grand prize) receives tens of thousands of entries. But that seems to be the exception to the rule, especially if you are contemplating submitting to a competition that is specific to K-12 operators. Indeed the total number of competitors is probably less than you might expect—though, school foodservice operators are often more prone to entering than their commercial counterparts. “The noncommercial segment seems to be more active in participating in recipe contests, from a low of 30 to a high of 150,” Odiorne reports. For its most recent contest, the 2012 Ripe ‘n Ready Recipe contest, which was open to submissions from the K-12, college/university and healthcare segments, the Pacific Northwest Canned Pear Service (PNCPS) says it received 50 entries—and “we were thrilled,” says Mark Miller, PNCPS promotion director. In addition to providing grand prizes, PNCPS awarded a $25 Amazon gift card to every person who fulfilled the entry criteria, including a digital photo, to stimulate interest and boost submissions. Upon entry, recipes may or may not be tested—meaning you shouldn’t try to take shortcuts by entering a recipe that’s not tried and true in your operation (or at home). At PNCPS, industry pros selected eight finalists, which were then tested and tasted to determine the winner. “Testing is always important, as writing a good recipe is far more exacting than it looks,” Miller explains. In contrast, for a recent competition sponsored by the National Peanut Board, a chef consultant picked the winning recipe from the four that best met the contest criteria. For most K-12 segment contests, such criteria tend to include adherence to regulations, overall appeal, prominence of the spotlighted ingredient and creativity. “We look for interesting textures, shapes and a variety of ingredients, especially with the addition of some color,” Odiorne notes. Winning Ways If you are starting to feel convinced that you, too, could come out on top in a recipe contest, then it’s time to get cooking! First, take note of a few tips that could help propel you to the grand prize: Double-check the rules. The last thing you want to happen is to have your creation eliminated right off the bat because it didn’t meet all the requirements. Before submission, ensure that your recipe follows the contest rules for ingredients, measurements, cooking methods and photography, among other criteria. Spotlight the sponsor’s ingredient. After all, most recipe contests are truly creative forms of marketing for the organization. The sponsors seek recipes that will promote their products in an attractive and captivating manner in post-contest promotional campaigns. Focus on wide appeal. You might love using squid ink pasta, but its jet-black color could make others grimace. Think about how the pickiest of eaters would react to your dish, and modify accordingly. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try a sophisticated recipe—and you certainly want to avoid being generic or dull—but it’s important to find balance between creativity and inclusivity. Stage the plate. You know that kids eat with their eyes first, which is why you seek to apply a variety of colors and textures to your school meals. Do the same with your recipe entry, making sure you have a colorful, interesting and clean plate to photograph. Be creative in naming. Which is most eye-catching and intriguing: Chicken Tacos with Cranberries or Cranzy Chicken Tacos? The Cranberry Marketing Committee went with the latter. Be specific about what’s in your recipe, but have a little fun, too. Know the law(s). In nearly every case, recipe competitions call for original creations. According to American copyright law, general methods of cooking and lists of ingredients are not legally protected, although the description of a finished dish and its specific cooking instructions are covered. Err on the side of originality, even when it requires a little more work on your part. Similarly, be sure you are aware of the rules set by your school and/or school district for contest participation and acceptance of prizes. If there’s one thing that both contest entrants and sponsoring organizations know, it’s that school nutrition professionals work incredibly hard every day. Recipe contests not only allow them to have a little creative on-the-job fun, but perhaps be rewarded and recognized, too. “Contests are an exciting avenue … as well as a powerful way to give back to [operators] and their schools for all the hard work they do,” says Soares of the Cranberry Marketing Committee. “Contests … also allow us to shine a light on the great work they do and share their delicious, year-round recipes with schools across the country.” Kelsey Casselbury is the managing editor of School Nutrition. Photography by iStock/jiunlimited.com. SIZZLING SPUDS YIELD: 24 servings PER SERVING: 100 cal., 3 g pro., 15 g carb., 2 g fi ber, 3 g fat, 250 mg sod., 5 mg chol. INGREDIENTS Grated potatoes*—12 cups Canola oil—2-3 Tbsps. Cheddar cheese, lowfat, grated—6+ cups Salsa—24 ozs. DIRECTIONS 1. If using fresh, whole potatoes, wash first. Leaving skins on, grate the potatoes, measuring as you go until you get to 12 cups. Rinse the grated potatoes in a colander with cold water. Dry thoroughly. If using a packaged hash browns product, follow preparation directions to rehydrate. 2. Combine the potatoes with the oil. Cook potatoes in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Cool slightly before combining the potatoes with 6 cups of the lowfat Cheddar cheese. 3. Coat a 13x9 baking sheet with nonstick spray. Spread the potato-cheese mixture evenly on the baking sheet. 4. Place in a preheated 375°F oven for 20 minutes or until the hash browns are golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven and top with a few additional sprinkles of cheese, as desired. 5. Cut evenly into 24 squares and serve each portion with a 1-oz. dollop of salsa. Photo, recipe and analysis: Idaho Potato Commission’s 2011 “Wake Up to Excellence” contest/Judith Diane Davis, cafeteria manager, Mecklenburg County (N.C.) Public Schools, www.idahopotato.com *Notes: Either fresh Idaho® potatoes or a prepared hash brown product can be used in this recipe. Kitchen Wisdom says . . . Try This! CRANZY CHICKEN TACOS YIELD: 48 servings (one taco) PER SERVING: 471 cal., 23 g pro., 78 g carb., 7.8 g fi ber, 8 g fat, 40 mg chol., 527 mg sod., 8.6 mg vit. C, 4.3 mg iron, 170 mg ca., 104 mg vit. A. CHICKEN FILLING INGREDIENTS Cranberry sauce, whole-berry—1 1⁄2 qts. Honey—1⁄3 cup Chicken, cooked, diced—4.5 lbs. Parmesan cheese, grated—3⁄4 cup BEAN SALAD INGREDIENTS (6 QTS.) Great Northern beans, canned, reduced-sodium—3 qts. Dried sweetened cranberries—3 qts. Apple juice, 100%—1 1⁄2 cups Scallions*—1 cup Garlic, fresh, minced—1 Tbsp. Black ground pepper—1 tsp. CRANBERRY MAYO INGREDIENTS (3 CUPS) Mayonnaise, reduced-fat—1 1⁄2 cups Cranberry sauce, whole-berry—1 1⁄2 cups Scallions, minced—1⁄4 cup Black ground pepper—1 tsp. ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS Spinach, fresh, chopped—6 qts. Tortillas, whole-grain, 8-in.—48 DIRECTIONS 1. To prepare the chicken filling: If using a frozen diced chicken product, allow to thaw safely. In a large saucepan, combine the cranberry sauce and the honey. Mix together, under low heat for about 2 minutes, allowing them to melt and combine thoroughly. Remove from heat. 2. Add the thawed chicken and the Parmesan cheese to the cranberry-honey mixture and toss until well-coated. 3. Spread the chicken mixture across a parchment-covered sheet pan, Use extra pans as necessary to ensure a single layer of the chicken mixture that will cook in the time prescribed in Step #4. 4. Bake in 350º F convection oven for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165º F. Hold hot for service. 5. To prepare the bean salad: Rinse and drain the beans. Chop the scallions. Mince the garlic. 6. In a bowl, toss together the beans, cranberries, 1 cup of scallions, garlic and 1 tsp. pepper. Add the apple juice. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving. 7. To prepare the Cranberry Mayo: In a bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, cranberry sauce, 1⁄4 cup scallions and 1 tsp. pepper until combined. Pour the mixture into a wide-mouthed squeeze bottle, replace lid and hold at 40º F until service. 8. To serve: Portion 1⁄4-cup chicken filling, 1⁄2-cup bean salad and 1⁄2-cup spinach onto a tortilla. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp. Cranberry Mayo. Wrap to serve. Photo, recipe and recipe analysis: Wisconsin School Foodservice 2014 Cranberry Recipe Contest/The Cranberry Marketing Committee, USA/Ingrid Rockwell, Deerfield Elementary School, Deerfield, Wisc., www.usacranberries.com *Notes: Red onions can be used as an alternative to scallions. Consider setting up a station to allow students to build-their-own tacos. According to the recipe source, one serving provides 1 3⁄4 ozs. grains equivalent, 1 1⁄2 ozs. meat equivalent, 1⁄2 cup fruit, 1⁄4 cup dark green vegetables, 1⁄4 cup vegetables/legumes KITCHEN WISDOM SAYS . . . • This was an easy recipe to execute. For a more Mexican feel, use pinto beans in place of Great Northern beans. Also, add some dry low-sodium taco seasoning or just chili powder to the Cranberry Mayo for a nice touch. • We found the wrap didn’t hold together well and the beans fell out. I would pre-make the wraps, spreading the mayo on the tortilla to help hold the ingredients together. • The biggest downside to a dish such as this is labor. It cannot be prepped far ahead of time, so if you don’t have the labor for batch cooking, it would have to be made to order on the service line, which could potentially slow down the speed of service. CINCINNATI THREE-WAY CHILI YIELD: 100 servings (7 oz.) INGREDIENTS Spaghetti, whole-grain enriched—12 lbs., 8 ozs. Ground beef, raw, 85/15 —12 lbs., 8 ozs. Water—1 1⁄2 gals. Onions, diced—5 lbs., 4 ozs. Crushed tomatoes, low-sodium, concentrated —3 qts. + 1⁄2 cup Worcestershire sauce—3⁄8 cup Ground cumin seed—2 Tbsps. Chili powder—1 1⁄2 cups Ground red pepper, cayenne—2 Tbsps. Garlic, fresh, minced—1⁄4 cup Cocoa, unsweetened, powder—3⁄8 cup Ground cloves—1 1⁄2 tsps. Ground cinnamon—2 Tbsps. Salt—3 Tbsps. Bay leaves, whole*—6 American cheese, reduced-fat, reduced sodium, shredded—3 lbs., 2 ozs. DIRECTIONS 1. Mix spices (cumin, chili powder, cocoa, cloves, cinnamon) in a small bowl, cover and set aside. 2. Pull canned crushed tomatoes from storage and wipe off the lids. Open carefully and discard lids. Do not drain the tomatoes. Set aside. 3. Pull onions from dry storage, clean and rinse them. Using a vegetable processor or knife, dice the onions to yield 3 quarts. Set aside. 4. Pull beef from the cooler. In steam-jacketed kettle or tilt skillet, place the beef and 1 1⁄2 gallons of water. Bring to a simmer while stirring until the ground beef has disintegrated into very small pieces. 5. Simmer for 30 minutes more and then add all the remaining ingredients: tomatoes in juice, onions, Worcestershire sauce, spice mix, minced garlic, salt and bay leaves. Mix thoroughly and then simmer for 3 hours on low, uncovered. Heat until an internal temperature of 165º F is reached and maintained for 15 seconds. 6. Remove the bay leaves. Place the chili in a warming cart and hold above 135º F until service. 7. To prepare the pasta using a stovetop: After boiling fresh water in a large pot, add the pasta and bring water to boil again. Do not add oil to the water. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. 8. To prepare the pasta using a steamer: Place 2 pounds of dry pasta in shallow perforated steamable pans. Cover with water. Steam for 6 minutes. Drain. Place in pans. Cover. Place pasta in warming cart and hold above 135º F. 9. For each serving, portion 1 cup pasta using a 1-cup spoodle, top with 1⁄2 cup chili using a 4-oz. ladle. Add 1⁄8 cup or 0.5 ozs.of shredded cheese using a #30 scoop. Photo and recipe: Barilla FoodService 2013 Return to Your Roots Recipe Contest/Jessica Shelley, Cincinnati (Ohio) Public Schools, www.barilla.com/foodservice Note: Barilla® Whole Grain Enriched Spaghetti can be used for this recipe. Place the bay leaves in cheese cloth before adding and don’t forget to remove from the chili prior to serving. According to the recipe source, one serving provides 2 oz. eq. grain and 2 oz. eq. meat/meat alternative and 1⁄8 cup red/orange vegetable. KITCHEN WISDOM SAYS . . . • Add beans to this recipe and you will be able to add 1⁄8 cup of beans to the vegetable offering for meal pattern compliance. • I would replace the salt with a low-sodium Mrs. Dash product. Although minced garlic would be great, it likely would be replaced with a garlic salt [in many operations], which means the 3 tablespoons of salt need to be removed for regulatory compliance. • Serve with a whole-grain corn muffin, instead of pasta, as a way to cut down on labor. GARDEN VEGGIE RANCH MASHED POTATOES YIELD: 100 servings (1⁄2 cup) INGREDIENTS Mashed potatoes, dehydrated-flake product—52-oz. package Peppers and onions mix, frozen—5 lbs. Broccoli florets—2 lbs. Tomatoes, fresh, diced—4 cups Butter, unsalted—6 Tbsps. Canola oil—6 Tbsps. Garlic granules—3 Tbsps. Black pepper—3 Tbsps. Water—2 gals. Ranch flavor dressing mix, dry—1⁄2 cup Hot pepper sauce—2 Tbsps. Non-stick cooking spray—as needed DIRECTIONS 1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray two sheet trays with non-stick cooking spray. 2. Dice the thawed frozen strips of peppers and onions, as well as the broccoli florets into 1⁄2-inch pieces. Combine the vegetables in a large bowl with the diced tomatoes, butter, oil, garlic granules and black pepper. Mix thoroughly. 3. Divide the vegetable mixture in half and spread each in single layers on two sheet pans. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the veggies have an al dente texture. 4. Bring 2 gals. of water to a boil and whip in the dry ranch seasoning and mix in the hot sauce. 5. Pour 1 gal. of the seasoned water into two 6-in., half-size steamtable pans (1 gal. each). Sprinkle 26 ozs. of the dehydrated mashed potatoes into each pan of hot water, stirring continuously. Use a spoon to evenly distribute. Let stand for one minute. 6. Carefully fold one sheet tray of hot vegetables into one half-size steamtable pan of the potatoes. Repeat for second pans. Hold at 135°F or higher for hot service (Critical Control Point). 7. Serve with a #8 scoop for each portion. Photo and recipe: Simplot® 2014 School Recipe Contest/Stephen Riley, Chanhassen High School, Eastern Carver County Schools, Chanhassen, Minn., www.simplotfoods.com/k12contest *Notes: Simplot Traditions(R) Mashed Potatoes Dehydrated Flakes, Simplot RoastWorks(R) vegetable mixture and Simplot Classic(R) Broccoli Florets can be used for this recipe. According to the recipe source, one serving provides 1/2 cup vegetable (1/4 cup starchy, 1⁄8 cup other subgroups 1⁄8 cup additional). KITCHEN WISDOM SAYS . . . • This recipe would be outstanding and a great addition to any menu. One of the changes I would make would be to use fresh peppers and onions versus the frozen mix. • Dicing the pre-sliced frozen peppers and onions was tough. Fresh diced vegetables would be likely to work better. • I recommend serving this recipe as a starchy vegetable subgroup component. BERRY BAKED APPLES YIELD: 24 servings (1 apple) INGREDIENTS Baking apples, small*—24 Dried fruit*—3 cups Ground cinnamon—1 Tbsp. Blueberries, frozen, fresh or canned—3 cups Apple juice—3 cups Mint, fresh, chopped—1⁄2 cup (optional) DIRECTIONS 1. With a paring knife or apple corer, remove cores from the apples. Peel the top half of the apples. Set aside. 2. In a bowl, toss the dried fruit and the cinnamon. Set aside. 3. Place the blueberries in a steamtable pan. Pour in the apple juice. 4. Place the prepared apples on top of blueberries and evenly divide the dried fruit mixture into apple cavities as well as around and between the apples. 5. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350º F for 45 to 60 minutes, until the apples are cooked through and tender. 6. Allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate. Garnish with fresh mint as desired just before serving. *Notes: For the apples, consider such varieties as Rome Beauty, Fuji or Northern Spy. For the dried fruits, consider dried blueberries, cranberries or raisins. According to the recipe source, one serving credits as 1 cup fruit. HAM JAMBALAYA YIELD: 100 servings INGREDIENTS Olive oil—1 cup Onions, chopped—3 cups Sweet green bell peppers, chopped—3 qts. Sweet red bell peppers, chopped—3 qts. Garlic, minced—2 cloves Ham, deli-style, chopped—7 5⁄8 lbs. Brown rice, dry—11 1⁄8 lbs. Poultry seasoning—1 Tbsp. Salt—1 Tbsp. Tomatoes, diced—2 10-oz. cans Water—1 3⁄4 qts. DIRECTIONS 1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or a heavy large saucepan; add the onions, both types of bell peppers and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are lightly browned. 2. Add the ham and brown rice; cook and stir until the rice has been well-coated with the oil. 3. Add the poultry seasoning, salt, tomatoes and water. Cover and simmer until all the ingredients in the recipe are tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes, cooking the rice risotto-style. Add water as needed, if rice is not fully cooked. 4. Portion 3⁄4-cup servings. Recipe: USA Rice Federation Health Brown Rice on the Menu Contest/Linda Mailhot, Mount Desert Elementary School, Northeast Harbor, Maine, www.usarice.com
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