Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Guide to Modern Dining Etiquette part3 Dining Out Angry!

 Why do you go out to eat?  Well to satisfy your hunger is usually the primary goal.  When you go out to lunch, unless it's some special occasion you generally go for the food.  A quick or relaxing bite to eat, cooked by someone else.  Dinner on the other hand is a chosen experience.  Your not going just for the food.  You want the right experience and you think about it.  But if your angry when you go out you defeat the purpose almost entirely.

It saddens me to say that I encounter one of these diners on nearly every shift.  I understand things don't always go as planned, maybe it was the ride to the restaurant.  But as an employee I am required to check my problems at the door.  So should you as a patron, within reason of course.  But just because things are not lining up for you don't take it out on the staff of any type of establishment.  We have the same problems or worse, and we smile and nod and tell you corny jokes all day long.

Do your best to calm down before entering.  If you need to stay behind in the car and do so then by all means please do so.  That extra minute maybe the difference between you and a bad dining experience.
What if it happens at the table?  That is by far the worst problem.  If it was the staff that got you all fired up take a second to look at it as if you where the employee.  Are you expecting five star service from Denny's?  If so you set yourself up. 

The kids are driving you crazy.  Is that any reason to subject your server to unnecessary rudeness.  It's not the restaurants fault.  The staff did not raise your child.  I have a good personal example of this one...
I had just got to work and headed out to check my station, there where two tables already sat.  Not bad, just treat it as one table.  While I was gone putting in orders, getting drinks and starters for two tables I was sat a larger party of seven.  The kids at the table were rowdy and I nearly tripped over one of them as I rounded the corner with a full tray.  The parents witnessed the whole things so I know they had to see me putting the food and drinks down at the other two tables.  As I approached the table you could see it in dad's face.  He was upset and I was gonna get it.  The whole family was very gruff and just rude.  I went to get their salad, which required 14 sides of dressing.  Each of them wanted Ranch and Italian.  As I was gone they complained I was taking to long to my manager.  I did my best, every time I went to the table grumpy old dad needed something.  And most of it was untouched when he left.  What did I do to deserve that.  He started my shift off on the wrong foot and it made for one long night.

Another good example happened just this week to a fellow employee.  A couple comes in and they are obviously fighting.  Almost to the point of embarrassing themselves.  The gentleman is away and the lady is done with her meal.  Johny Doe asks if he may clear the plates and the lady says yes.  When the gentleman returns he gets really angry his last couple bites of soup are gone and he yells at the server.  The lady tries to stick up for him saying she gave him permission to take the plates.  "She's not me now is she!" he yells at the server.  The server offers more soup but he turns it down. 

"May I clear the rest of your dishes?" asks Johny Doe server.
"OH! Now your asking!" exclaimed the any diner.
What was the point?  The server asked from the start, he was just gone.  He was angry at his wife and took it out on poor Johny Doe.  The worst part is that he stiffed the server as well just a couple days before Christmas.
My point is do your best to deflect your anger.  If your presence at the establishment is the root of the problem, ask to have your food boxed to go and exit civilly.  I have seen plenty of parents drag their kids out the door.  This is the same concept.  You can't behave and have embarrassed everyone at your table.  You should see the looks I get from embarrassed family members.  There is no need to transfer your bad day to those who are working to try and make your day more enjoyable.
That's why you eat out right?  To have a good time with family.  Catch up with an old friend.  Celebrate some occasion with both friends and family.  To just get away and let someone else do the cooking and cleaning...
Oh yea! You where hungry too!

I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.  Maybe you have a story you would like to share?  Please feel fee to do so!
Love Food, Live Life!

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cake Balls! And Christmas Dinner 2010!

This month has been a whirlwind.  The holidays have a way of speeding up time somehow.  Was a great December aside from getting no snow.  But I can be patient since there are no Snowboard resorts within a days drive.  No time to worry about that because it was the week before Christmas in a flash.  Being the first Christmas in more than ten years that I didn't have to work, needless to say I was excited.  Dinner was to be at my Mom's and she asked me to bring desert. 

I had the perfect idea.  While reading  some of my favorite blogs I stumbled upon an "Oreo Cookie Truffle" recipe on A Hungry Spoon.  Funny thing is the day after I read it a girl at work told me about the Cake Balls, and brought them in the following day.  They are so good!  The chocolate is firm and the cake inside just melts in your mouth.  The recipe is easy but time consuming if you undertake a multi cake project like I did.
The recipe is easy enough.

Here's what you'll need:

a box of your favorite cake, or bake your own!
frosting for the cake
your favorite chocolate coating, about 24 oz. (1 lb. & 8oz.) per cake.
All you have to do is bake the cake.  When its done baking and still warm, not hot!  Break the cake apart into a large mixing bowl.  Add frosting and mix with large spoon of some sort.  When the consistency of a puddy your ready to roll!  Roll the Cake Balls that is!  There are many techniques on how to do this.  I just rolled them by hand.  After they are all rolled up place in the freezer and let freeze.  This will help when it comes time to dip, the cake is delicate and falls apart easy if it warms up.

When your ready to start dipping follow the melting instructions on the packaging of your chocolate coating.  Grab your Cake Balls and a tooth pick of two and get to dipping.  I dipped the bottom 3/4 of the Cake Ball and placed in the fridge to cool,  then dipped the tops.  They turned out alright for my first attempt I think.
While I was rolling out the Cake Balls and watching a South Park Christmas marathon on Netflix, I had a creative moment.  In the spirit of the season I was going to make a Cake Ball Snowman!
I formed the larger Cake Balls, made the hat from the cake as well and dipped in chocolate. Hunted down some twigs for his arms.  Carved a carrot down for his nose and cheated and used a sharpie to draw the eyes and mouth.  They where all a well received at the dinner party, and by the end we where all in a sugar and wine induced coma.

The rest of dinner was excellent.  I baked a Prime Rib, nothing fancy.  I just use McCormick Spicy Montreal Steak seasoning and a little garlic powder and rub generously onto the meat.  Baking times vary according to weight.  We also had a Spiral Ham with maple and brown sugar.  Sweet potato pie.  Steamed veggies.  Au gratin potatoes.  And my Mom's Avocado salad.  It was all delicious and topped off by the company of friends and family on a beautiful Christmas afternoon.

  I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday!
Love Food, Live Life!
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Traditional Scottish Shepard's Pie!

Cooking for FriendsGordon Ramsay's World Kitchen: Recipes from The F-Word
I have been a foodie for sometime now.  I didn't always realize it but it was always there.  I can often be found watching various cooking shows.  In the kitchen trying something new.  Trying a new restaurant.  I have always had this attraction to food, and have always worked with it.  Strange it would turn into a hobby.  Talk about taking your work home with you.

My addiction to cooking shows lead me to discover my favorite chef and recipe. Gordon Ramsay, and his "Shepherds Pie ".  I can't blame you if you don't like him.  Most Americans automatically associate him with his show "Hell's Kitchen".  But he is much more than the screaming maniac we have come to know him as.  Just google his name with the tag, TV, and a whole list of shows pop up most of which you see the real Ramsay.  I was watching the "BBC America's", "F Word", another one of Ramsay's shows.  His featured dish for the evening was his family's recipe for Shepherd's Pie.  Being from Scotland, the pie was made of ground lamb.

Americans don't eat lamb for the most part.  I always wondered why.  I love it, but if not cooked properly it can be very foul tasting.  Come to find out lamb was once popular in America.  That was before WWII after which it started to appere in buffet lines and fell pray to careless cooks.  Lamb is initially a very delicate meat, much like a prime rib.  And as they both cook longer they become much more though.  Lamb however starts to develop a funky taste as well as getting more tough.  And as the larger cattle began to become more economically profitable, lamb became more scarce and expensive.
Countries like Brittan and Scotland still use lamb as a staple in their diets, and tons of great recipes for it.  Like the one I will share with you now!  Remember we are not baking here so substitutions are OK!  And taste! taste! taste! as your cooking.

The mash:

1 1/2 pounds of your favorite potatoes
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 tablespoons of butter
salt to taste
pepper to taste
2 egg yokes
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese now and another 1/3 or so for the final topping (2/3 cup total)

Start a pot of water on stove to boil potatoes. Peel potatoes, or not.  When potatoes are done mash with the listed ingredients.  You can start the filling while potatoes are boiling and it will all be done at nearly the same time.  Keep your mash warm if filling is still cooking.

Here's what you'll need for the meat filling:

2teasp olive oil
1 1/2 pounds of ground Lamb or Beef (I used Lamb)
1 large carrot  (grated)
1 large onion (grated)
rosemary (fresh is awesome if you have it)
thyme (again fresh is the way to go)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
red wine to taste (I use Riunite Lambrusco for a sweeter flavor)
1/4 cup chicken stock
Worcestershire sauce to taste
1 small can tomato puree

Pour olive oil into a large preheated pan.  Add lamb, or beef.  If your using lamb you'll need to stir vigorously for several minutes.  Lamb dose not break apart nearly as easily as beef.  Add your rosemary, thyme, and garlic and continue to stir.  After a minute or so add your carrot and onion.  Stir and cook some more and add Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree, and wine and let sweat for a minute or so. Add chicken stock and let simmer. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
When your filling and mash are done you can spoon filling into a deep casserole dish.  Top with your mash, if you like you can poke the mash with a fork and make little peaks on your pie.  Top with remaining Parmesan cheese and bake for 18-25 minutes. Or until top is golden brown.

I made this for our employee Christmas party and it was a big hit!  I was scared at first because no one was touching it.  When I went back for desert to my surprise it was gone, dish scraped clean.  It's a good feeling to feed friends and turn them onto something new.  Those that did not already know it was lamb where shocked and pleased.  I always have fun making this dish and even more fun devouring it!

 Love Food, Live Life!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pecan Fest 2010! Going Nuts With Pecans part 3 Pecan Encrusted Chipotle Chicken And Spicy Carrot Soup With Roasted Pecans!

The last few days had been pretty hectic.  I had been working a lot, and trying to celebrate "Pecan Fest 2010!" with my girls. That's them below. Bella my dog, who I almost lost to parvo as she was a rescue.  Wouldn't you know when I take her to the vet to get shots and get fixed, she had just contracted the virus.  But she beat it! Gidgette (black and white) the newest member of the family, and Miley the senior of the trio.
     Love them as much as I do it would be a lie to say they are not a pain when your trying to cook.  Throw a camera in the mix and it can seem daunting.  But I'm learning to feed them just as I start to prep.  It kept them busy and filled their little bellies, which meant less interruption. 
     You may remember on day one of "Pecan Fest 2010!" that I mentioned in my quest to find some recipes that I had posted on a few forums for some ideas.  Lots of pecan encrusted sea foods where mentioned.  One of my few banes.  Seafood.  I'm very picky and rarely eat seafood outside shrimp. I love shrimp!  Then I came across a reply that said simply- put it in a food processor and make a flor or a meal! Thanks Butter is Better of the ChowHound community for your idea!  So I built on her idea and found numerous recipes, don't go in totally blind.  Good thing I did to because it needed to be baked.  Pecans are prone to scorching.
     I enjoy spicy food. I often wonder why as every orifice on my face is pouring out some kind of liquid. Tears.  Sweat.  Sinus.  Why we find pleasure in it I don't understand.  But I know I'm not alone.  A few years ago I did some experimenting with fried chicken recipes.  My ultimate success I believe was to add Tabasco to the egg/buttermilk wash.  But I also got my hands on some chipotle powder....
     To go with my chicken I found a Carrot Cumin Soup with Toasted Pecans on which was perfect because I had never made a soup from scratch by myself.  And I planned on putting the chicken on salad.  My own homemade Apple salad dressing, and we had a sweet and spicy balance to test my culinary skills.

                                                         Here's what you need for the Spicy Carrot and Roasted Pecan Soup:
1 medium onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons butter
2 or 3 large carrots
1/2 teaspoon cumin ( I thought it was a little much. I'm cutting back next time)
salt to taste
2 cups h2o
less than 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (I used a 1/2tsp and it was too spicy)

For the pecans:

I used 4 table spoons crushed pecans
1 1/2 teaspoon butter
a pinch of salt
a pinch of chipotle powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add your butter to a preheated sauce pan and cook your onion over medium heat, stirring occasionally until they are soft.  Add your carrots, cumin, salt, chipotle powder and cook for one minute while stirring. 
Add water and simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes or until carrots are very soft.  On a baking sheet place your pecans and bake in the middle of the oven for 8 minutes or so. You will smell them when they are done.  Toss the pecans in butter, salt, and chipotle powder to taste.  Puree your soup until smooth, divide soup and pecans between 2 bowls.  And your soup is done!


What you'll need for the Pecan Encrusted Chipotle Chicken:
2 chicken breast
1 cup low fat buttermilk
1 cup crushed pecans
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder divided (1/4 for the coating, 1/4 for your wash)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
a healthy dose of Chipotle Tabasco
I also found a "chopped chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce spread"
I cheated and used a sad mix from the store.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a small mixing bowl combine your buttermilk.  And to taste, the Chipotle Tabasco and chipotle in Adobo sauce spread.  Top off with half of your chipotle powder and whisk thoroughly.  Place the chicken inside the bowl to marinate and cover.  You can use a zip lock off some sort if your prefer.  Let the chicken soak for at least 15 minutes, or go the extra mile and go overnight!  I did not. I wish I had. 
When you are ready to go combine pecans with your spices and flour in a dish large enough to bread your chicken in.  Coat your chicken and place in a preheated pan, under medium heat, with half of the oil per piece. One piece of chicken in the pan at a time!  The pecans color quickly and it worth the time, which is about a minute per side.

Gently lay your seared chicken breast to a baking sheet.  It should take 10 to 15 minutes.  Let the chicken rest and it will be much easier to slice.
Grab what ever salad mix you've made, or bought like I did.  Portion two plates and top with your sliced chicken.

You may rightfully be wondering why I left the dressing until the end when it would be the first thing you should make and plop into the fridge.  Here's why...

Apple Salad Dressing:

A complete and utter disaster!  It was edible but not one I would share with even my Mom. 

I could really use some help here!  Anyone out there know of any Apple Salad Dressing recipes?  I looked around but didn't find what I was looking for. All I could really find was stuffing recipes. Any suggestions would be highly appreciated!
All in all I call "Pecan Fest 2010!" a success.  I had a blast with the girls (my pets), and tested myself in the kitchen.  It had it's ups and downs.  It had highlights and bloopers.  I look forward to next year!  Still have a load of pecans so I'm sure you'll see a recipe or two pop up under the "Recipes! Yours and Mine!" folder.  Speaking of which any blogger that has any recipes they would like to share email me a link and I will be happy to post it!(under the recipes tab). Or link a similar recipe at the bottom of this post. I also have a group on Facebook called "Wichita Falls Foodies" 59 members strong now and growing, post links, and share your culinary delights!  I hope everyone gets a chance to enjoy the dishes I've shared over the last few days.  Thanks to all my readers! Happy holidays!

Love Food, Live Life!

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