People focus on what you pay attention to. Pay attention to food quality to improve food quality.
If you are responsible for food service it’s important to have technical cooking knowledge. You have to be able to explain what to do if something is not the way you want it, you have to be able to fix a recipe problem and you have to be able to step in if no one can get in because of a snow-storm. By being competent you can be more supportive of the team and you will build food cred.
I was trained long ago, to be able to do any job, including cook. My mom would joke that you didn’t ask me to cook unless you wanted food for 50 people. I never thought that was very funny, but partially, it’s true. I never learned to cook until I went to college and learned institutional cooking.
My nephew Jay is a self-trained culinarian. He and I cooked a gourmet family Christmas dinner to rival any, literally out of the Charlie Trotter coffee table cook books. When we served it, the comment was “THIS is what you spent all day on? It’s so small!” Well, it was small. It was also divine, and we had a blast, and in addition to making a delightful reduction with wine, we drank a good amount of it. I wish I had pictures of that meal.
I do like to cook, and I like the food to be pretty. I like to cook for people who appreciate it. I’m blessed with flavor-memory, so I can tell if it tastes like it did last time.
A cook can’t make good food out of bad, but a cook can ruin good food. You must start out with good ingredients. Buy quality and serve it fresh. And always, always, taste the food at the time you serve it. Be aware of what happens to food as it holds. That’s my food lecture. Buy quality, know what you are doing, and intentionally see it the way your guests do.
I have a number of recipes that are company, catering and volume-worthy. Eventually, these recipes will become a cookbook, and at that point, they won’t be free. Until then, I hope you will use and enjoy these recipes. They are well-tested in many volumes and I KNOW they work. You can start with these if you want to learn to cook, or need a tried and true recipe for whatever reason. Use them at home. Use them at work. I have 3 volumes for you—smaller amount, medium typical recipe size, and larger institutional size. All I ask is that if you use them for something other than personal, give credit where it is due. Let me know if you have questions or comments. Send me pictures!
This snack mix is irresistible, so you’ll want to make extra to account for personal and helper snacking.
Cranberry Almond Snack Mix offers the advantage of a salty snack but presents gourmet. It’s pretty in a bowl as part of a buffet and you can make it ahead. Once, I made this as a thank you for those who ordered a Christmas wreath from our son and he gave it to them when he dropped off the wreaths. I ended up having to make too many batches to be fun, and thus, the larger recipe was born. I packaged it into clear cellophane bags, tied them with raffia and added a thank you label. They were cute but it only happened one time for obvious reasons. However, I’ve served it frequently on buffets and as a little snack with adult beverages.
You will no doubt develop your own ways to adapt the recipe, but these are some things I’ve done to it:
* Substituted some Splenda for Sugar. Do it by volume, not weight. More than 1/3 Splenda changes the flavor and texture in this recipe. It does cut some carbs out though. I’ve done this pretty often.
* Made it without pretzels to save carbs. Meh. It wasn’t very good. It was missing the salty crunch and was too sweet. Dried cranberries have many carbs too so it was a moot point anyhow. I won’t do that again.
* Used varying amounts of almonds, pretzels and cranberries depending on what I have available and how I feel about going to the store again when I’m cooking. That doesn’t matter too much as long as you have the right general amount of ingredients.
* I made it with skinless almonds once but it wasn’t as pretty. Using pecan halves worked well.
The ingredients are by weight. If you don’t cook by weight, you might consider starting. A small kitchen food scale will be sufficient for this recipe.
In the first cooking, be sure to toast the almonds just until they start to brown. They’ll brown more on the pan after you take it out of the oven. In the final cooking, stirring it often helps the snack mix crisp evenly, spread the spice flavor out well, and not be too clumpy. Set a timer.
You will have egg yolks left over. Crème Brulee uses just egg yolks and is fun to make. There are some Instant Pot recipes for Crème Brulee, but I like the oven version better. Another good use for egg yolks is Eggs Benedict. Who doesn’t like those things?
Long before I knew as much about cooking as I do now, we went on a spring break canoeing trip on the Jack’s Fork River in Missouri, stopping at our friend’s parents house for the night. Two things came out of that visit that I will always remember. One, was that there were cookies on the table all the time. Cookies for breakfast? Yes!
The second memory is that Donna Tayloe served pie, and I commented that I hated making pie crust. She gave me her trick recipe which didn’t involve cutting the flour into the butter the traditional way, and was essentially “no fail”. So, whenever I need to make pie, I use this recipe. These freeze well and you can pretty much have them ready to roll at any time.
The vinegar and the technique (which I’ve simplified over the years) both contribute to making this easy. If you want to explore the food science of vinegar in pie crust here’s a start: https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2018/08/15/vinegar-in-pie-dough. As for the technique, I still don’t like making pie crust that much so I kept playing with the process.
The recipe for 2 crusts calls for half an egg. Stir the egg, take out half and keep the other half for brushing on the crust when you bake it. Chances are, if you are making pie crust, you’re baking a pie pretty soon, so half an egg is a non-issue. 1 large egg equals 2 TBSP, so just take 2 TBSP out of your blended egg and set it aside.
If you want to decrease the carbs, you can substitute ¼ of the flour with almond or coconut flour. You can estimate. Coconut flour absorbs a lot of moisture but maintains texture. You don’t want to substitute more of it because the crust will be too dry. Almond flour is a bit grainy and changes the texture, but it has fewer carbs. 1/8 of a single pie crust will give you 7.14 carbs if you use regular flour, 6.47 carbs if you use ¼ coconut flour and 7.03 carbs if you use ¼ almond flour. I like the coconut flour. It’s not that much different for just one piece of pie……. but still, I do it. I mess about with decreasing sugar in pie too, so for us personally, I figure it’s worth it in the end.
Of course, if we are eating cookies out for breakfast…
A friend and I went to see my brother in Arkansas for a little hiking vacation when he served up his delicious ham salad. (If you’re more interested in hiking than ham salad, check out brother Bob’s website https://www.barefoottraveler.com/.) I’ve always liked ham salad, but what I really missed was our mom’s ham salad, so was happy to find that same flavor memory in his. At my request, he fine-tuned the measurements and now we can all share in our mom’s ham salad memory. You of course, can adapt the recipe however suits your fancy.
Bob uses a meat grinder and I use the blade in my food processor to grind the ham. The grinding is important for texture. Hand chopping will offer a different texture but you could do that. I sometimes make this without celery since I don’t always have celery in the house, but the crunch of the celery is nice. I’ve also been known to cheat and use rehydrated dried onions instead of fresh-still good, but not as good as fresh. Green onions are also very good in this recipe. I usually chop green onions and keep them in the freezer in little packages so I have them for recipes like this. Some people like salad dressing instead of mayonnaise. Mayo has a lemony hint to it that is very different than regular salad dressing. We like mayonnaise, but if you are an anti-mayo person, give the salad dressing a go.
The last time I made this I didn’t have pickle relish. I finely chopped dill pickles, added a tsp of Splenda and a half-dash of cloves (for the 3-cup volume) to get a similar flavor. If you do something crazy like that, taste it before you put it into the salad. You know, just in case…
Bob highly recommends that the quality control expert be furnished with a sleeve of Ritz crackers.
Best have Ritz for everyone!
My mom, Betty, liked to serve appetizers before our holiday dinners. Dad said it ruined our appetites, but we looked forward to it. I think she practiced on us for her card party group. Regardless, I always hoped we’d have Marinated Shrimp. She actually had the recipe written down, but well, I could hardly read her handwriting, so I have done my own Jane Empie (mother-in-law with a masters in Home Ec) work on this over the years, fine-tuning the recipe. Our son Jonathan says he makes it and then just eats it for dinner. Jonathan says you can never have too many capers and you can just dump the whole jar in, rounding up.
Read the notes on the shrimp and don’t be afraid to experiment with sizes of shrimp and whether you like it with the tail on or off. For a big party, it’s nice to not have messy tails laying around to deal with when you are tired and just want to get to bed at the end of the night.
I make this whenever Jonathan comes home and send the rest with him in a jar…I think he rather counts on that now. That, and a fresh batch of Molasses Cookies.
This recipe came from my mother-in-law, who got it from her husband Jay’s Aunt Susie. Jane had a master’s degree in home economics and prided herself in fine-tuning her recipes, and making excellent notes on them. She was very specific about the 340 degree temp. 350 burns the bottom before the tops are done, and at 325, they just sort of melt themselves to death. (I know because I tried it.) I’ve shared this recipe with anyone who ever wanted it and it was used at my work places, too. I’ve continued to fine tune this recipe because some people need more specific recipes.
The 8 dozen batch fills a regular home mixer bowl to the top. If you are making them at home and want more, I suggest using the ingredients for your shopping but making the 8 dz batch twice. If you want to not tempt yourself, making the 4 dz batch might work, or if you are short on ingredients and need to make some cookies, that smaller batch recipe might help you.
If you chill the dough because you are mixing one day and baking another, let the dough come to room temperature. The cookies won’t go flat and won’t have the same texture if you bake them cold. The sugar for dipping is not included in the ingredients—it’s too easy for people to make a mistake and put it in the dough.
I’ve been making this recipe since 1985, and now it’s pretty much the only Christmas cookie I make because it’s always the one picked over the others anyhow.
Things you can do with this recipe:
Sandkuchen? I’ll be right over.
This is my Oma’s recipe. Oma travelled to the US from Germany through Ellis Island, with her 2 young sons (one, my dad), to join her husband in Wisconsin. This original recipe came from the local Wisconsin paper-and not stashed for her trip over the big pond or anything dramatic like that. She adapted the recipe over time, and I adapted it a little more. She used to make it in a Bundt Pan, but it’s such a fragile cake that I was never able to get it out of the pan in one piece, so I changed it to a small bread loaf pan (8 by 8 by 4). I’ve also made heart shaped muffins out of it.
An internet search will tell you that this is like a pound cake. I guess, but it’s much lighter and richer. I think it’s more addictive than pound cake. Maybe it’s the potato starch, maybe it’s the anise, maybe it’s I like that my Oma made it so I keep making it. Oma always sprinkled a little powdered sugar on top as soon as she took it out of the pan, but well, it melts and really, it isn’t needed as it’s plenty sweet straight up.
The recipe is in weight and not cups. That’s because the ingredients need to be precise to get the right texture, and when measuring, it’s easy to pack a cup. Weight is always more accurate for baking. I recommend getting a scale and getting practiced in weighing. Potato Starch is the ingredient, not Potato Flour—they are not the same thing.
I make it with Butter Flavored Crisco because sometimes we need things dairy-free and that doesn’t hurt the flavor at all. Most of us aren’t using margarine anymore because of the health issues with it, but margarine works too.
This is easy to make, and you need something to go with your coffee, don’t you?
This Stuffed Mushroom Recipe has morphed over the years to make it less rich for us, and dairy free for our son. Flax replaces the typical bread or cracker crumbs because I want to make everything as low carb as possible, and flax is healthy (I also use it in meatloaf instead of bread). Sometimes I put a little almond or coconut flour in it if it seems too moist, but that really depends on how finely you chop the mushrooms because the more minced they are, the more moisture that gets released. This is where real cooking talent comes in. I prefer a sharp cheddar cheese, but use whatever you have on hand. I’ve even used dehydrated onion and rehydrated it in a pinch. With practice, you’ll find that you can adapt the recipe for your own preferences and dietary needs.
This recipe is good made in a portabella mushroom with a fried egg on top for a breakfast buffet (garnish it with an onion frill). If you do that, you have to cut up more mushrooms for the insides. You’ll get the hang of how to decide that as you work with the recipe.
I’ve been known to make these then then microwave them a couple at a time for our dinner when we want something but aren’t starving. They really are best baked in the oven though because the ingredients get cooked thoroughly, but in a pinch and when you don’t want to turn the oven on to cook 2 mushrooms, it works. For company, I always bake them.
I have never made less than 6 cups of this for a party even at my house, because it always gets eaten. For a longer party, I would put it into smaller casseroles and batch cook it, so everyone gets some hot and fresh. Plus, it’s prettiest before everyone digs in. Hot dips are a little challenging to handle on a buffet table, but worth the trouble.
Slicing ingredients thin is the key to making them work well as a spread—there is something satisfying about hand cutting some food with a sharp French knife. It allows you to control size, more than your food processor will. If the mushrooms and tomatoes are large, you should cut them smaller before you slice. Remember, it has to go on a cracker.
Any part of the green onion will do, so don’t buy new ones if you have some in stock. However, if you have a choice, making about half of it the green part of the onion will give your dip a pretty color.
While you could substitute other mushrooms, do use fresh. Canned mushrooms will have a rubbery texture and might make the dip watery.
You could use the dried grated parmesan cheese that comes in a big plastic container-it will work in a pinch. But, it’s much much better if you buy the real shreds from the cheese section of the store. You don’t have to shred your own.
Buy sun dried tomatoes and cut them (sharp knife needed for this too). You can buy tomato sprinkles all ready to go if you prefer-that works too. I dehydrate my own tomatoes each year and use them in place of sun-dried tomatoes, but they are more like the sprinkles as I don’t put them in oil. I don’t recommend substituting fresh tomatoes-it will make your dip watery and ugly.
Little crostini are good with this. You can buy or make them. Toast some breads with a little olive oil until they are crispy. Do that the same day of the party, rather than ahead. Might as well have them taste fresh.
You can make this dairy free by buying the appropriate substitute sour cream and parmesan-like cheese. When I do that, I use slightly more Mayonnaise and other ingredients to off set the texture. It’s not the same as the original recipe, but it’s still good.