Try these low-cost menu makeover ideas to boost flavor and nutrition

Sponsored by Vitamix

COVID-19 environment has placed new cost constraints on both commercial and non-commercial foodservice operations. Faced with less revenue, culinary professionals are having to discover new ways to do more with less. That’s challenging, but not impossible. Think of it as an opportunity to be more resourceful and innovate around your menu. While lowering your costs, you may also discover new flavors, recipes, and approaches that could lead to your next signature dish. 

One strategy to holding down costs is to simplify. If you haven’t already done so, you can pare down your global inventory. You can also revise your menu so each item takes less time to prepare, resulting in lower labor costs.

Still, simplifying shouldn’t mean sacrificing flavor or quality. You’re aiming for healthy, whole-food options that embrace new flavors. Your customers desire comfort, but they still want menu items that are delightful and nutritious.

How do you achieve both goals? Here are some simple prep strategies that result in delicious, comforting dishes.

  1. Make a Healthier Salad Dressing. Salad dressing is something that can easily be made in-house and can become a signature ingredient. Try creating your next dressing by blending whole, root vegetables, such as carrots, beets, and sweet potatoes, in place of some or all of the oil. This technique also adds healthy fiber and thickens the dressing naturally.
  2. Make More Sauces. Why not dress up a leaner list of entrées with sauces delivering different flavor profiles? Besides helping you to transform meats, fish, poultry, vegetables, and pastas, sauces also can allow for lightning-fast prep time. Consider a dairy-free, cashew “cream” sauce, which lends itself to both sweet and savory preparations when other ingredients such as saffron, fresh herbs, dates or vanilla are added. Condiment sauces like chimichurri and herb purees also add flavor, and can be made ahead and frozen. 
  3. Soup It Up. Soups and stews are hard to beat when it comes to top comfort foods that cost little to make and can add extra nutrition when vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, asparagus and peas are added. What’s more, the right topping or garnish can elevate any soup from everyday fare to haute cuisine, even when made with a short list of ingredients. Try using a pulse-blended gremolata, pesto, nuts, simple-flavored crème fraîche, or even your own unique spice blend to put a new twist on a simple soup or stew without requiring a lot of extra work.
  4. Push the Potatoes. Potatoes are a staple kitchen ingredient, and for good reason – they’re low in cost, versatile and nutritious. For example, you can use potatoes to quickly thicken soups and stews. Simply blend cooked potato with savory stock to make a velvety, rich addition that’s gluten-free and healthier than roux or a cornstarch slurry. Or, make a double potato hash by cutting one-third of your potatoes and adding sweet potatoes or shredded butternut squash. It’s just as tasty and gives your potatoes a whole new look and flavor. Sweet potatoes also can be incorporated into desserts. Try blending up a sweet potato crème brûlée for an affordable and seasonal option.

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By the Vitamix® Culinary Team

Stephen Hosey, Blending Application Manager 

Matthew J. Dugan C.E.C., Corporate Executive Chef 

Adam Wilson, Manager, Culinary Exploration