This is a picture of a cook at Milaca Elim Meadows holding a meal.

Elevating Dining Experiences with Themed Menu Promotions

Some of our most cherished memories center around food.

It’s a childhood memory of savoring sticky, sugary cotton candy at the fair. Or maybe you remember sinking your teeth into a juicy hamburger at a bustling football tailgate. Perhaps it is sampling an authentic Oktoberfest dish for the first time. 

Food has the remarkable ability to carve memories into our hearts and minds, especially food from special occasions. But, what if there was a way to infuse this same magic into daily dining experiences?

At Milaca Elim Meadows, that’s precisely what they’ve done through their monthly menu promotions. This culinary initiative, recently reintroduced, can turn ordinary meals into extraordinary culinary experiences.

A Flavorful Comeback

Monthly promotion menus have been around for a while at Cassia. A few years ago, different Cassia communities got involved to make these menus possible.

Cassia formed a team of volunteers, including cooks and directors of food and nutrition services. Community representatives came together to share ideas and recipes during meetings. It resulted in the creation of several promotions through teamwork.

However, during the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges that came with it, many Cassia communities scaled down their menus. This included temporarily stopping promotion menus.

“Milaca has been able to re-start these up to help give the residents and staff some unique and different menu options,” says Jessica, Cassia’s regional director of nutrition and culinary. “They do a great job prepping the menu items to be able to roll out the menu flawlessly.”

Themed menus help enhance the dining experience for residents.

“The promotions offer different menu items that residents wouldn’t normally see on the normal feature cycle menu or restaurant menu,” Jessica says. “It gives them an opportunity to taste items they may try if they went out to a restaurant, fair or sporting event without leaving the campus.”

A Wide Array of Choices

Cassia has more than 25 different themed menus that communities can choose from to run for their promotions. These typically run for four to six weeks at a time.

Menus range from cultural themes such as Asian Sensation, It’s Greek to Me, Fiesta Comida and Street Tacos, to fun event themes like Fair Food, Tailgating Treats and Oktoberfest.

Other classic themes include Mac and Cheese Bowls, The Burger Builder, Warm up with Chili, Lent Seafood Specials, Dog Days of Summer and the MN Nice promotion. MN Nice features classics like wild rice hot dish and chicken wild rice soup all served with a slice of wild rice cranberry bread.

Residents can even suggest ideas for these themed menus. Dawn, the food and nutrition services director at Milaca Elim Meadows, plans to present a few promotion ideas to the Resident Council and let residents vote on the next promotion.

The Creative Process

Jill, the cook supervisor at Milaca Elim Meadows, is thrilled to restart these promotions.

 “It’s a lot of work but everyone likes them,” Jill says. 

She plays a vital role in teaching her fellow cooks how to prepare and present these dishes. This makes sure the food not only tastes delicious, but also looks appealing.

Jill also provides essential information to the staff, especially dietary aides taking orders, so they can answer any questions residents may have about the promotions. This ensures everyone is well informed.

Creating dishes for each themed menu involves a lot of preparation and planning. This includes tasks like chopping and portioning ingredients for the meals, as well as organizing everything efficiently. Daily instructions keep things running smoothly because staff members aren’t all working at the same time.

Savoring Fair Food and Greek Delights

Jill shares that residents eagerly awaited the return of menu promotions. This was particularly true for the recent Fair Food promotion.

“Most residents aren’t able to go to the fair anymore, so it was really special we could bring it to them,” Jill says.

The Fair Food promotion featured dishes like chicken skewers with bourbon sauce and onion rings, corn dogs served with a choice of French fries or cheese curds, and cotton candy ice cream for dessert.

Resident Sharon Minks says she enjoys the food and believes these special menus enhance the overall dining experience at Milaca.

“I loved the last promotion. It made me feel like I was at the fair,” she said. “I especially loved the onion rings. The promotions add variety to the meals.”

Next, Milaca Elim Meadows offered the It’s Greek to Me promotion. Jessica says that the community chose that promotion based on a resident request to have fresh vegetable sticks.

It includes a gyro sandwich filled with lamb/beef meat and tzatziki sauce, freshly made pita chips served with hummus and vegetable sticks, and a Greek salad comprising fresh cucumber slices, red onions, tomatoes, feta cheese crumbles, and Greek olives, all topped with lamb/beef gyro meat.

Where Food and Memories Meet

Milaca Elim Meadows has transformed its residents’ dining experiences with themed menus, adding excitement and variety to their meals. These culinary journeys introduce a wide range of flavors and cuisines, offering residents a taste of the world.

The culinary team’s main goal is to ensure residents enjoy their meals and create lasting dining memories. They are dedicated to making dining a source of joy and connection within the senior living community.