Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Customized Food Comes Home

(ARA) – The idea of customization is nothing new; American diners have always been inclined to make their own choices when it comes to what goes into (and on top of) their entrees. But as more and more restaurants make the idea of customization their focus, the trend is making its way into our homes at a rapid pace.

Celebrity chef, author and produce expert Curtis Aikens is particularly aware of the customization trend due to his focus on fresh vegetables, which often provide the basis for customizable entrees.

“The adage ‘you are what you eat’ has more relevance now than ever before as more Americans seek to customize their meals at home in order to evoke their own individual culinary style, preferences and taste,” Aikens says. “We want our meals our way, and when possible, we want to do the customizing ourselves.”

Aikens cites several reasons for the trend’s explosion.

Healthy possibilities, happy family

“Affordable produce like lettuce and potatoes are essential elements of healthy, personalized meals,” Aikens says. “Personalizing produce is a great way for families to create easy meals together, and because the possibilities are unlimited, everyone ends up satisfied with their creation.”

A big meal at a small price

“In today’s economy, consumers are looking to stretch their dollar by eating out less and bringing the customized dining experience home,” Aikens says. “Whether it’s a personalized sandwich or salad, it’s easy to save money while creating delicious dishes using produce and other premium ingredients, such as Sargento Salad Finishers and Potato Finishers.”

Bringing options to the table

“We’ve grown accustomed to the opportunities restaurants give us to customize our entrees, and we’re no longer willing to compromise when it comes to what we eat at home,” Aikens says. “The popularity of customizing produce means we’re seeking out individuality in our meals, but we’re still staying smart and healthy about it. That’s really encouraging.”

Aikens offers some expert tips on creating delicious, unique (and healthy) customizable meals at home any time of day.

* Omelets are one of the original customizable entrees, and they’re great for filling with a variety of fresh vegetables. Go the classic route with broccoli florets, sharp Cheddar cheese and sliced onions -- or dress it up with asparagus, grape tomatoes and shredded Parmesan.

* Weekends are the perfect time to gather with friends and family for some easy entertaining and do-it-yourself meals. Let your guests top their own baked potatoes with white Cheddar sauce, chives, bacon crumbles and shredded Cheddar cheese, and turn a common side dish into a delicious main course.

* Pasta is equal parts economical and customizable. Cook a pound of your favorite pasta, and let your dinner guests take it from there. Veggies like diced tomatoes and artichoke hearts are great mix-ins. Provide a few oil- and tomato-based sauce options for topping off their bowls. To finish your dish, sprinkle artisan Parmesan and Romano cheeses over the pasta for savory flavor.

* Summer is the best season for salads. The lettuce is crisper, the vegetables are fresher and everyone is in the mood for a light entree option. Sargento Cranberry Pecan Finishers provide a great blend of sweet and salty flavors for a standout salad. Mix and match dried cranberries and crunchy pecans, as well as Asiago and Mozzarella cheeses, which are all included in this Finishers variety.

* Customizing your entrees is great for portion control. It’s easier to cut a serving down to what it should be if you can focus on dressing it up with vegetables, shredded cheese and your favorite herbs for flavor. This works for everything from mini pizzas to macaroni and cheese.

* Produce’s rising popularity has pushed grocery stores to improve their produce selection and presentation. Take advantage of all of the options your local supermarket provides. This summer, dress up your standard salad with an array of unique vegetables for added color and flavor.

“What’s so great about the customization trend is that it provides at-home cooks with literally hundreds of possibilities,” Aikens says. “From pasta to produce, the key is to start with a great base.”

For more recipes, visit www.Sargento.com.

Courtesy of ARA Content


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