nina | July 31st, 2013 - 9:00 am

Healthy food, more diversity and local produce are among the menu trends that many professional foodservice employers, are currently seeing throughout the foodservice industry, ranging from food retailers to full-service restaurants. 

Approximately 80% of consumers believe it is important for restaurants to feature more produce. And operators are anticipating the future of produce as well: 82% believe produce will be important to their operation in the next few years.

Foodservice menus are also offering an increased variety of authentic world cuisines, as well as a heightened awareness of eating healthy and well.

Consumer said he has also noticed more emphasis on health-conscious food, for both quick- and full-service, and more diversity and frequent change in menu items as customers’ requirements change.

Customers live in an ever-increasing sensory-stimulating world that elevates their requirements for uniqueness. The instant and far-reaching influence customers have over other customers through social media causes their likes and dislikes to be the impetus for rapid responses to their newer and higher expectations. Some consumers have also noticed a trend in touting freshness, as well as sustainability.

We know that among changing restaurant menu and format propositions that several popular formats offer cues to quality which include freshness, or sustainability, both of which are central to produce on the menu.

There is also a  “growing interest in, and proliferation of, seasonal, locally-sourced and heirloom produce varieties, as well as increased demand for, and menuing of, ‘fresh’ items, with ‘fresh’ being defined broadly.

Other interesting menu trend findings from a recent report, Sustainability 2013: When Personal Aspirations and Behavior Diverge, include:

  • In food service and restaurants, menu selections and communications are the foundation of a sustainability halo.
  • Consumers find it difficult to separate the sustainability of a foodservice location/restaurant brand from its food.
  • Consumers tend to think first about the meat products foodservice locations serve when judging their sustainability.  After a focus on meat, narratives of importance to consumers in relation to “sustainable food service” are seafood (e.g., sustainable farming or fishing), produce (e.g., organic, non-GMO, local) and coffee (Fair Trade).

To play a role in driving trends produce companies should have the deep capacity to deliver more customer intelligence to their clients.

Make customers your partners, not just consumers of your product.  Learn from organizations outside your industry; remember, when it comes to the experience created, your competitor becomes every other service provider on the planet.

Source:, 7.26.2013


nina | July 30th, 2013 - 9:00 am

Some restaurants have good news: Business is booming. Hiring is now in the budget.

Fresh crews streaming into restaurants lifted the number of leisure and hospitality jobs to a record 14.2 million in June. Hiring is 80 percent stronger this year than in 2012. The sector now accounts for about 10.5 percent of the nation’s workforce, also a record since the government started tracking the jobs in 1939.

We’re definitely seeing that people are coming out more frequently, and we’re seeing a growth in transactions. 

The looser spending that is lubricating date-night bar tabs and higher traffic at casual-dining restaurants also is paying off for investors. This year, share prices have risen 28 percent at Starbucks, 29 percent at Dunkin’ Brands and 52 percent at Sonic, all far exceeding the 19 percent advance in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Sales at restaurants and bars will reach a record $461.3 billion this year, a 3.8 percent gain from 2012, the National Restaurant Association in Washington estimates.

Even with the U.S. unemployment rate stuck above 7 percent for a 55th straight month in June, the economy has regained 6 million jobs in recent years. That’s 6 million more people who can afford to go out.

Source:, 7.24.2013


nina | July 29th, 2013 - 9:00 am

Remember the cucumbers of our youth when they were as thick as baseball bats, their tough skins dappled with small, prickly spikes. Running my fingers along their peel was as pleasurable as stroking barbed wire.

But no more. Today, seedless varieties — known as English cucumbers. Happily, these plastic-wrapped cukes are just as easy to find as their traditional counterparts.

To use, slice neatly into rounds for salads, or use as a base for a simple hors d’oeuvre with soft cheese. Want to try something different?  Trade your knife for a vegetable peeler, and serve your cucumber salads in ribbons.

Need more variety? Try petite, tender Persian cucumbers. With thin skins, too, they pair beautifully with cherry tomatoes and hearts of palm. Or hop the pickling train with cucumber varieties called, apporpriately, pickling cucumbers. These stubby gourds are best suited to a long soak in a puckery brine.

No matter which variety you favor, select cucumbers that are firm to the touch. Avoid those with soft spots or signs of yellowing (unless you favor seedy, sun-colored lemon cucumbers).

For salads, slice cucumbers into rounds, half moons, or small dice. If you like, you can halve them lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a serrated spoon before slicing and dicing. Doing so is a matter of personal preference, but I find it makes salads crunchier.

If your cucumber is wrapped in plastic, pop it in the crisper as is. Otherwise, toss it in a plastic bag first. (But don’t seal the bag.)

Nutritional benefits:
One cup of cucumber provides potassium and calcium, both of which may help maintain healthy blood pressure, as well as beta-carotene, vitamin C, and lutein, which are all important antioxidants that may increase longevity, and we even get one gram of fiber.

It is best to eat cukes with the skin on, to maximize their nutritional impact.


nina | July 24th, 2013 - 9:00 am

The fast casual foodservice sector continues to see growth, even as other industry segments struggle.

Last year, fast casual sales rose by 13 percent.

Fast casual is outperforming quick-service and full-service segments, even though fast casual accounts for only 14 percent of the $223 billion limited-service restaurant industry.

Experts expect the trend to continue, forecasting a compound annual growth rate of 10 percent, on average, between 2012 and 2017—more than twice the 4.5 percent predicted for all limited-service restaurants.

Burger and sandwich chains saw the highest unit growth, rising by 14 percent and 13 percent respectively. The sandwich cluster recorded the fastest sales growth, up by 17 percent.

Fast casual has become a $31-billion segment. Consumers today want quality offerings made quickly. Segments like burger, sandwich and Mexican have done a great job delivering on quality, fresh, gourmet, and made-on-demand offerings.

Source:, 7-19-13


nina | July 23rd, 2013 - 9:00 am

Why does your bacon burn? Cookware needS proper care to give you the best results.
The most important advice offered was to pay close attention to the nuances of different cooking materials, whether it’s stainless steel, nonstick, cast iron or something less conventional.

For some, a pan is a pan. It gets hot, it burns things, it occasionally cooks food correctly.

Quenching a hot pan, can cause a pan to warp, which can lead to hot spots. An abrasive sponge, meanwhile, can quickly strip the nonstick coating (coatings companies).

Avoid metal utensils or anything else that might scrape the surface and cook with only medium or low heat.

You want to avoid using it for pan roasting or high heat sautéing or deep frying. Excessive heat will cause it to wear and discolour.

Propellants used in aerosol cooking sprays can leave a residue on nonstick pans in particular. If that is a concern, an oil mister is a good alternative.

When it comes to cleaning these pans, certain lines of nonstick cookware are dishwasher safe, but most nonstick coatings are not. It’s suggested you handwashing nonstick pans with a nonabrasive cleaner and a sponge, to preserve the nonstick coating.

Many people stack their pans after cleaning them, without accounting for the scrapes that can result from the metal-on-metal contact. It’s best if you don’t stack them, but if you do, just put a cloth between them.

Stainless steel pans are much more forgiving because they withstand high heat, resist scratching and can be tossed into the dishwasher and then stacked for storage. But with a pure stainless steel pot, you want to avoid stacking, because the more the handles slam around, the more they can loosen, so you could have leakage.

Meanwhile, given the strength and durability of cast iron, it does require more finesse than stainless steel.  It would be unwise to use such cookware for dishes like steamed vegetables, though, since water can lead to rust.

How, then, does one avoid water when washing a cast-iron pan?

By cleaning the surface like you would a grill.  Many people who cook with cast iron forgo traditional soap and water cleaning, and instead wipe the surface with oil and then heat the pan in the oven to dry and sanitize it.  The assumption is, just like with a grill, you’re building up flavour and seasoning in the pan.

Should your cast-iron pan require scrubbing, use salt instead of something with harsh chemicals, because cast iron is on the porous side.

Cast-iron pots coated with enamel are another matter.  These are best cleaned the conventional way, with soap and water. But watch for cracks or chips in the enamel. Water that makes it through those cracks could cause rusting.

Some say the biggest secret to a good pot is to use it over and over again. Various types of pans will react to the elements if they are left unused for too long. Aluminum and copper are two good examples.

One way to increase the likelihood of using them is to store them in the open. Some favour pot racks hung from the ceiling.

Source:, 5.30.13

HOT POTATOES: Crop Prices Rise.

nina | July 22nd, 2013 - 9:00 am

Potatoes are on pace for an increase of more than 35 percent this year.

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the May price for 100 pounds of potatoes in Minnesota was $10.50. That’s just the second time in 20 months the price has passed $10, and it’s more than $4 higher than it was in December.

The average price during 2012 was $6.98. Through May, this year’s average has been $9.44. (Prices for June generally don’t become available until late July.)

Last month, alfalfa dropped slightly to $240 a baled ton. That’s its lowest price since January, but crops have still averaged an increase of about 50 percent in price during 2013.

Oats have pushed close to $4 per bushel, an increase of more than 9 percent from last year. And the price for 100 pounds of milk has hovered just above $20 for much of this year, an increase of less than 3 percent from 2012.

Source:, 7-14-13

12 Foods to Eat for a Healthier Ticker.

nina | July 12th, 2013 - 9:00 am

Start adding more of these healthful and delicious foods to your meals. Eating for a healthier heart never tasted so good!

Salmon and Other Fatty Fish.
These coldwater fish are one of the richest sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats can decrease your risk of arrhythmias, reduce your triglyceride levels, decrease blood pressure and slow the formation of plaque in your blood vessels. Enjoy at least two servings of fish weekly, preferably fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines, and lake trout. 
These tiny seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, too, as well as fiber and phytoestrogens called lignans—all which can benefit your heart. Make sure you use ground flaxseed and store the package in your refrigerator to prevent those healthy fats from going bad. A little goes a long way and you only need about 1-2 teaspoons daily.

Serving Tip:
Sprinkle ground flaxseed on hot breakfast cereal, add it to smoothies, or mix it into casseroles and meatloaf.

The soluble fiber found in oats is especially good at binding with cholesterol and reducing its absorption in your body. It therefore helps to lower yur total cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol. Soluble fiber is also found in beans, barley, lentils, apples, citrus fruit and squash.

This “musical fruit” is magical for your heart thanks to its soluble fiber content. A 1/2-cup serving contains 6-7 grams of total fiber (1-3 grams of which is soluble fiber). One USDA Agricultural Research study found that consuming just 1/2 cup of beans daily could help lower total cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol in healthy people and individuals with an increased risk of heart disease. So enjoy 3-5 servings each week.

Serving Tip:
No time to cook up a batch, don’t worry. Use your favorite canned variety, just drain and rinse for 1 minute under tap water to remove up to 40% of the sodium. Then add them to your favorite soup or casserole; or top of your lunch-time salad.

Go nuts! Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts–all nuts contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce your unhealthy LDL cholesterol level. Nuts have also been shown to promote the feeling of fullness when trying to lose weight. However, portion size is the key. Enjoy a 1-ounce portion (a small handful about the size of a golf ball) 3-5 times a week.

Serving Tip:
Choose unsalted nuts whenever possible. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top of your yogurt, breakfast cereal or salad, or coat baked fish or chicken with a layer of coarsely ground nuts.

Soy protein has been shown to be effective in decreasing the risk of coronary heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels. Enjoy up to 2 servings daily to obtain the recommended 25 grams of soy protein from soymilk, tofu, edamame, roasted soy nuts or tempeh.

Serving Tip:
There are so many ways to enjoy soy, there everyone is bound to find a soy food he or she finds delicious! Tofu doesn’t have to be scary, either.

Dark Leafy Greens
Spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, bok choy and other dark, leafy greens are filled with the antioxidant lutein. Preliminary research indicates this carotenoid may protect against plaque buildup and prevent clogging of the arteries. Plus, these leafy greens also provide the body with fiber, folate, potassium and calcium, which all promote heart health.

Serving Tip: Go green! Try a green smoothie for breakfast or afternoon snack.

Green Tea
Research indicates that green teamay help to reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol, triglycerides and total cholesterol levels, while increasing your HDL “good” cholesterol. The catechins found in tea appear to hamper the body’s inflammatory response as well. Can you say, tea time? Enjoy up to 4-5 cups daily.

Serving Tip:
To receive the benefit of green tea, brew your own. Bottled varieties contain very little antioxidants.

Dark Chocolate
Next time you need a chocolate fix, reach for dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa. Researchers have discovered that the flavonoids in cocoa may help to thin your blood and benefit your cardiovascular health, as well as reduce inflammation. As always, moderation is the key. Enjoy about 3/4 ounce of dark chocolate, 3 times a week and balance your intake to avoid excess calories and weight gain.

Serving Tip:
Mix up a batch of trail mix using a whole grain cereal, raisins, nuts and dark chocolate chips. Portion it into small containers for a convenient and inexpensive snack on the go!

Considerable evidence suggests that lycopene, the bright-red carotenoid found in red foods (tomatoes, carrots, watermelons, red grapefruits, and papayas), may play an active role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Tomatoes and tomato products, including ketchup, tomato juice, and tomato sauce are the richest sources of lycopene; these concentrated tomato products also provide vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium, all of which benefit the heart.

Low-Fat Dairy Products
Numerous studies are showing that dairy products, when consumed appropriately, can benefit the heart. It appears that dairy products and fermented dairy products like yogurt can help lower blood pressure and improve your lipid profile. But the key is to select varieties that are lower in saturated fat: skim or 1% milk, nonfat yogurt, and low-fat cheeses. These foods are packed with calcium, protein and much-needed vitamin D. Aim for 2-3 servings daily.

Serving Tip:
Whip up a delicious smoothie using 6 oz of nonfat yogurt, 3/4 cup skim milk, 10 frozen strawberries, and 1 banana. Enjoy for breakfast or as a snack. Leftovers can be frozen into pops for a great frozen treat!

Olive Oil
It’s a common misconception that all fat is bad for your heart. In fact, the monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and olives can help your heart by lowering your bad cholesterol level. Still, keep your total fat intake to 25-35% of your calories each day.

Serving Tip:
Sauté those colorful vegetables in 1 teaspoon of olive oil OR mix up your favorite salad dressing using olive oil and a flavored vinegar.

Most of these foods can either lower your blood pressure or help thin your blood. Which could help you get off some medications such as Xarelto. But always talk to your doctor before you stop any medications. And consider talking to a Xarelto lawyer.

Source:, 6.27.2013


nina | July 11th, 2013 - 9:00 am

10 Things You Didn’t Know About…Grilling the Perfect Burger. 

We’ll just grill some burgers.  How many times do we hear this during the summer time, when thinking about what to cook for a weekend get-together that involved lots of sunscreen, a swimming pool.Isn’t that how so many of our summer afternoons end, whether at the pool or park, hiking or biking — tossing some burgers on the grill. Really, nothing is quite as good at satisfying those mysterious post-pool munchies like  good grilled burgers, and they’re so easy to make. Honestly, it’s pretty easy to grill the perfect burger, too. No fancy techniques; no exotic or expensive cuts of meat. Just a few simple tricks can take your good burgers to great.

TIP #1. 
Health-conscious as many of us are, now is not the time to skimp on fat. If your ground beef is too lean, your burgers will be too dry. A good ground chuck or ground sirloin is probably your best bet; they have a fat content of between 15–20 percent.

TIP #2. 
But the more fat in the beef, the more your burger will shrink on the grill, losing up to a quarter of its weight for fattier meat. So keep the fat content of your meat in mind as you decide how thick to make your patties.TIP #3.  If you like your burgers on the rare side, it’s a good idea to find a butcher who grinds his meat on site from fresh, whole cuts of meat (or even grind your own if you’re adventurous). Freshly ground meat is less likely to harbor the kinds of bacteria that can make you sick. You’ll also be able to get meat that has a coarser grind, which makes for better burgers.

TIP #4. 
You want to keep the fat in the meat as cold as possible before it hits the grill, because you’ll keep more flavor in the burger. To that end, rinse your hands under cold water before forming your patties (which will also help to keep the meat from sticking to your hands) and chill the patties up to an hour before grilling them. Take them straight from the fridge to the grill.

TIP #5.  Don’t overwork the patties when you form them either, which will also help the fat stay cold and keep the burgers from getting mushy. Work gently and quickly — as soon as the patty is formed, stop messing with it

TIP #6.  So how thick should you make them? Well, thinner patties cook more quickly and evenly, but thicker patties can compensate for the loss of fat. A good rule of thumb is about ¾-inch to an inch thick for ground chuck or sirloin.

TIP #7. 
Don’t salt your patties until right before you put them on the grill. Salt extracts precious moisture from the meat.

TIP #8. 
For gas grills, heat your grill on high, then turn the heat down to medium, which will help control cooking. Once your patties are on the grill, don’t try to turn them for about 3 minutes or so — as the meat chars and the fat seeps out, the patty should naturally release from the grate.

TIP #9. 
Only turn your patties once. Move them to an unused part of the grill if you can.

TIP #10. 
And PLEASE don’t press down on your patties with your spatula! You’re just wringing all those delicious juices out of your burgers and watching them (literally) go up in smoke.

Source:, 7.12.2013

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