Monday, April 22, 2013

A Server's Thoughts on Tipping, Diners and the Restaurant Industry

In the last couple of months I have read several Internet and magazine articles about tipping standards and the restaurant service industry.  I have been very frustrated by the responses to a lot of these articles and quite frankly, the ignorance of many of the people responding. My frustrations have really been eating away at me, so I thought I would just post some thoughts I have on the subject.

1.  Servers are people first and servers second.  Just because we work in the service industry does not give customers the right to treat us rudely or poorly.  I can't tell you how many times I get to a table and greet people only to be ignored or rudely acknowledged.  Additionally waving your hand at me, calling me "girl" or whistling in the middle of a restaurant to get my attention, is just plain rude. Thank goodness I was raised to be kind to matter who they are or what they do for a living.

2.  We are not all uneducated people unable to get a better job.  I am probably more educated than half the people I serve, but I choose to work in a restaurant.  The job I have now fits where I am in my life right now.  Many people work in the service industry as a second job to supplement their income because of the flexible hours.  Do not assume that we are not intelligent people or not capable of working outside the restaurant industry.

3.  This one is going to be controversial but here goes.  Tipping is not optional.  If you cannot afford to tip your server at a sit-down restaurant, then you CANNOT afford to go out to eat at that type of restaurant.  I make $2.15 an hour and I have been with the same place for 5 years.  This is the way the industry works, my wages are primarily dependent on tips.  Many people say that the restaurant industry needs to change and pay their employees competitive wages so they, as customers, are just expressing their opinion by not tipping, but your opinion hurts my livelihood.  The reality of the situation is that the restaurant industry is NOT going to you know how much your food would cost (in the US) if every server made at least minimum wage?

On the flip side, I do think you have a right to choose how much to tip your server.  The current going rate for good service is 15-20%. (I really strive to be a 20+% server).  If your server is exceptional, than go ahead and give 25% or more.  If your server is terrible...and I mean truly awful than it is your choice how you tip.  I have had some seriously bad servers, I mean bad (think scratching private parts and then touching my plate) and have actually left a restaurant without tipping (this is really rare for me because I will almost always leave 10% for bad servers since I know what their job entails).  But here's the thing, I expressed my frustration with a manager so that the person had a reason for why I left no tip and had a chance to improve.  Also, I NEVER look for things to "punish" a server.  I feel like many people do this as a reason to justify not tipping..."my food took forever to come out, you didn't fill my tea immediately, you didn't read my mind that I can't have blue cheese, the prices are too high, etc..."  Very few of those things are actually things I have control over.

Something to ponder, if you get bad service everywhere, is it the server or is it you?  We learn very quickly which people tip poorly just because they think they can or are exceptionally demanding and rude without compensating with a tip.  Many servers will write these people off and give them bare minimum service because they know no matter how hard they work, they will not be fairly compensated.  Is this you?

4.  Yes, you should tip on a take-out order.  I am not saying to give the server 20% for your take-out order, but 10% is a decent tip for this type of order.  Please understand that in many restaurants when you talk to a server over the phone and place an order, that server is responsible for the order.  When I take a take-out order (either over the phone or in person), I not only have to ring it up, I have to make the salads or soups, ensure your order is completed correctly, bag it up, and still maintain a good level of service to the customers I already have in the restaurant.  I can actually lose money on a take-out order because the work to complete it takes away time for serving the customers eating in the restaurant.

5.  Most servers really do want you to enjoy your dining experience.  I honestly want everyone that comes in our restaurant to enjoy their meal.  If there is something that could improve your experience, kindly let us know and most of us will try to help.

6.  Back to the practices of the restaurant industry.  As mentioned before, I make $2.15 an hour.  My place of employment is legally required to compensate me to at least minimum wage if I don't make enough in tips.  Here's the thing, this is not a daily practice, it is per paycheck.  I can work one day and make less than $5 dollars an hour, including my hourly wage (yes these days day I worked a four hour shift and walked out with $5 cash) but another day I can make $11 an hour including wage and tips.  Because the average between the two days reflects minimum wage, I don't have to be compensated by the restaurant for the really bad day.

These are just a few of my thoughts.  I am sure I am forgetting something, but at least I have tried to clearly express my thoughts and frustrations. I understand that not everyone agrees with me, and that is OK, but I feel better having typed all that out!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

I'm still posting the recipes I made on baking day over a week ago.  Today's recipe is one I found on Pinterest.  The actual recipe is from a blog and these Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies were pretty easy to make, if a little time consuming.

I'm not actually going to type out the recipe since the only thing I changed was to use smooth peanut butter since we didn't have crunchy on hand.  If you would like the recipe just follow the link above the picture.

These cookies are ok.  They definitely taste the best hot, right out of the oven.  Once frozen, they just lose something.  I probably won't make these again as I think there are better versions out there, and I can think of other ways I prefer to use my peanut butter cups.

Happy Eating!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Here is another recipe from my baking day last week.  James requested these Lemon Blueberry Muffins for quick breakfasts. I am not sure where I got the recipe from.  I think it is from Pinterest and was originally a cranberry based muffin.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

½ cup plain yogurt
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
pinch salt
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup oil
2 cups fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the yogurt, sugar, salt and eggs together in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and vanilla extract.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to wet, and stir together until moistened.
3. Add oil and mix, mix, mix until batter is smooth and homogeneous. Fold in cranberries.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into muffins comes out clean.

Lemon Simple Syrup
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar

In a small saucepan, heat the lemon juice and sugar together gently until all the sugar dissolves. Brush over muffins.

James really likes these.  He says they have a good flavor and reheat well from the freezer.
 Happy Eating!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

White Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Muffins

I have had this recipe bookmarked in my ever-growing "Recipes to Try" folder for a very long time.  James is not a huge fan of whole wheat items, but I love the flavor.  I finally decided to give it a go on Monday and I am pleased with the results.  The muffins definitely are more dense than traditional muffins and definitely have a wheat taste, but the chocolate comes through strongly as well.  

The original recipe is from the King Arthur's Flour website...which I love.  White Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Muffins are worth taking a look at if you are trying to have a yummy quick breakfast, but add some fiber in your diet.  As usual, I made a few changes.  I used organic, non-fat plain yogurt instead of the milk, for the "strong flavoring" I just added extra of my homemade vanilla extract and I decreased the chocolate chips to 1-3/4 cup.  Also, I used my homemade vanilla sugar to top the muffins instead of coarse, sparkling sugar.

Let me know if you try these!  Happy Eating!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Today's Baking Session

It has been a long time since I've posted. Lots of things kept me from posting... James went on a trip, Mary got sick, we lost Mary, I was working a ton of shifts covering for other people, I got the stomach virus and then within days got a very bad case of food poisoning.  I'm glad that is all behind us, but I have had a really hard time losing Mary and haven't really wanted to do much.  I finally decided I needed to get some baking done so we would have some quick breakfasts and a couple of snacks.

I made Lemon Blueberry Muffins, Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Muffins, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup cookies, Mary Drops (I posted the recipe for these a long time ago on my other blog), Rice Krispie Treats, and not pictured is a loaf of whole wheat yogurt bread.

The bread didn't rise...not sure if my yeast is not good or if the bread was just too heavy for the yeast (it had whole wheat, bread flour, yogurt, and oats in it).  When it cools a little more I will taste it.  I imagine it is still salvageable and I don't mind eating "ugly" bread a long as it still lasts good.

I will try to post a better picture and recipes for the goodies not already on the blog later this week.

Happy Eating!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Peanut Butter Oreo Brownies


I saw this idea on Pinterest a couple weeks ago, but just now got around to trying to make them. Super easy to make and oh so tasty.

I lined a muffin tin with cupcake liners and preheated the oven to 325.  I spread some peanut butter on one Oreo cookie and then put another one on top.  Next, I spread some more peanut butter on the top cookie and then put the stacks in the cupcake liners.

I mixed up my favorite brownie recipe and scooped some on top and then baked them for about 15 minutes. You could easily use boxed brownie mix if you prefer, but I like the taste of my homemade batter. After baking and cooling the brownies, I cut one in half for a picture.

Of course, the picture didn't turn out well, so I took a closer shot and it also didn't turn out, but I think you can still get the idea of the goodness that is waiting for your taste buds.

I have to remind you of the warning I opened with...These brownies are so delicious.  I am glad that I only made 12 of them and used the other half of my brownie recipe to make German Chocolate Brownies for James.  In order to save myself from inevitable weight gain, I am going to have to take some of these to work. Peanut butter-y, oreo-y, and oh so yummy!!  Happy Eating!

Friday, February 8, 2013

One of the many reasons I love my husband...

We recently threw out the couch we have had for the last ten years. The couch was a hand-me-down from my parents, who had already had the couch for several years. It was smelly, had a hole torn in it from our dogs, and had been with us through about 19 greyhounds. It was definitely time to say good bye to that couch, but because Mary, our 13.5 year old greyhound, loved it, we had held on to it for too long. We finally had to give in and get rid of it.

Two weeks is how long it has been since we got rid of the couch, and this is what our living room tends to look like at night.  Mary is in the chair on the left, and 12 year old Daisy is in the recliner on the right.  The old girls love the chairs in the evening...I think it is easy on their old bones.

I love my husband for many reasons, but one of them is that instead of shooing the old girls out of his chairs, he let them stay comfortable.  He was tired and ended up laying down on the very expensive therapeutic floor pillow we had gotten for the beasts.  He promptly fell asleep.

The generosity and love this man displays for our "children" is amazing and I am blessed to be a part of his life.

Love you baby!

Pork with Apricot Sauce

In my continuing quest for variation in our diet, I came across this recipe in the 2002 Quick Cooking cookbook.  Unlike the original recipe, I cooked the pork in the crockpot while I was at work and just made the sauce and added it later.  I think by looking at the picture, you can tell which plate is mine, but at least I did eat some nasty broccoli.
We liked this sauce a lot and will definitely be making it again.  We thought that it kind of tasted like the duck sauce you can get in packets at fast food Chinese restaurants.  Kind of sweet and kind of sour, but nothing overwhelming.

Apricot Sauce

10 oz of apricot preserves (I just eyeballed it)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup ketchup (I used a mix of 2 fast food packets and some hot and spicy Heinz)
1/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon of cornstarch of arrowroot powder

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan or pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Stir until sauce is thickened. 

Happy Eating!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Homemade Sesame Chicken

I LOVE Chinese food...I mean, I really love it.  One problem, I am highly sensitive to MSG (monosodium glutamate), a food additive that is often added to Chinese food and most flavored potato chips, premade queso dips, and some frozen foods.  I usually get a migraine within two hours of eating it when it is added to the foods listed above.  Because of this sensitivity, I have had to stop eating frozen foods (no big loss), flavored potato chips (good bye Cheetos), and I only eat Chinese food rarely.  (Even though soy sauce has a small amount of MSG in it naturally, I seem to be able to tolerate it).
Well, last week I had Chinese food three times!  My boss took me out to eat to a local Chinese restaurant that does not add MSG to their food.  I really enjoyed my lemon chicken, but did save half of it for James to have as lunch the next day.  More importantly I made Chinese food at home twice last week.  I made General Tso's Chicken one day using this recipe I found on Yahoo.  The General Tso's Chicken was good although it was a little different from the traditional recipe.
On Saturday night, I made Sesame Chicken, using a recipe I modified from the 2003 Quick Cooking recipe book.

James and I really enjoyed this recipe, and yes, for those of you who know me, I did eat the broccoli.  It almost ruined the meal for me, but James has asked me to start cooking with more vegetables and we all know I will do almost anything for that man.  The original version used the marinade to make the sauce, and James is sensitive about using marinades that had raw meat in them for sauces, so I just made a double batch.  Also, the original marinade was really tart, so I added some brown sugar and honey to even out the tartness when I made the sauce (not in the actual marinade). Here's my version of the recipe:

Sesame Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 Tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup chicken broth
1-2 T sesame seeds, toasted

1.  In a glass bowl (or resealable plastic bag if you use them), mix together half the amounts of each of the following: the soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, and ginger and all of the canola oil.  Stir with a fork or whisk to combine.  Add the chicken, cover, refrigerate, and marinate for 8 hours or overnight.

2.  Remove chicken and grill until juices run clear.  Meanwhile, discard marinade.  Mix the rest of the soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, and ginger in a sauce pan.  Add the cornstarch, water, brown sugar, honey and broth until smooth.  Bring to a rolling boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes until thickened.

3.  Dice the chicken into bite size pieces and mix with sauce.  Add the toasted sesame seeds. At this point, I also added some fresh broccoli I had cooked and cooked rice.

Happy eating!

Monday, January 28, 2013

King Arthur's Chocolate Breakfast Muffins and Baking Day

James was out of quick breakfasts so I had a baking session this morning.  I made banana bread, orange cranberry muffins, lemon blueberry muffins, and King Arthur's Chocolate Breakfast Muffins.
I have posted the recipes for the first three, but today was the first time I tried the chocolate breakfast muffin recipe.

King Arthur is a brand name flour maker.  I like their products, but can usually find a comparable brand for a better price.  I was browsing recipes on their website one day when I came across this recipe.  I thought..."Chocolate for breakfast, hmmm."  Of course, I bookmarked it and it has been sitting in that little folder for a long time.  Since I don't eat any of the fruit items, I thought I would try making these for a quick snack or breakfast for me.  As usual, I made a few changes to the recipe.  I made a half batch, sifted the dry ingredients together, substituted a mix of heavy cream and 2% milk for the 3/4 cup of milk, used the brand of unbleached, organic flour I had in the house, did not fill the muffin tins as much as indicated, and did not top them with sugar.  These were super tasty and very moist.  I loved the little bites of chocolate chips in the muffin (I used these yummy chocolate chips.)  These were the first "chocolate" muffins I have made that tasted more like a muffin than a cupcake.  I will definitely be keeping this one in my repertoire.

** Click on the link above for the recipe.**

Sunday, January 27, 2013

All You's Chocolate Marble Cake Review

In the February issue of All You magazine there was a section titled, "Show Your Love with Valentine's Desserts".  The opening recipe was for a Chocolate Marble Cake.  The cake looked yummy and since I had the ingredients I decided to try making it.

Sorry for the bad pictures, I didn't use my good camera and the lighting wasn't the greatest.

Here's a picture of what it looks like sliced.  Yes, the plate is dirty, we just used our dinner plates for dessert as well.  Keeping it real.

Here's what we can say about the cake:  It isn't a bad cake but it isn't the best cake either.  We thought it would be better with ice cream and that it wasn't sweet enough.  Kind of tasted like a chocolate bread with chocolate ganache on top.  If I make it again, I will add another 1/4 cup sugar and switch to milk chocolate for the ganache. 
The other thing I did not like about this recipe was that it used so many bowls.  I felt like every sentence used a new bowl.
Chocolate Marble Cake
1-3/4 cups cake flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2/3 c plain, whole-milk yogurt (I substituted sour cream)
2 T whole milk (I used 2%)
1/2 t vanilla
8 T unsalted butter, at room temp
3/4 c sugar
3 large eggs, at room temp
1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t instant coffee powder
1/4 c heavy cream
1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Mist a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.  In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate small bowl, whisk yogurt, milk and vanilla.
2.  In a large bowl (up to 3 bowls now), using an electric mixer, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Add half of the flour mixture, then yogurt mixture, then remaining flour mixture, beating after each addition until nearly combined.  Remove 1 cup of batter to a medium bowl (4th bowl).
3.  Pour 1/4 cup boiling water into a small bowl (5th bowl).  Whisk in cocoa and instant coffee until smooth; let cool slightly.  Add to batter in medium bowl; stir to combine.
4.  Alternate spoonfuls of vanilla and chocolate batters in loaf pan.  Draw a knife through batters for a marbled effect.  Bake cake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  Cool on rack 15 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.
5.  Place cream in a microwavable cup or bowl (I used a measuring cup otherwise this would have been the sixth bowl).  Microwave until hot, about 25 seconds.  Add chocolate chips.  Let stand for 2 minutes; stir until smooth.  Let cool to room temp and then drizzle over cake.
Do you see what I mean about the number of bowls...crazy!  Happy eating!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Yummy Bread Machine Breadsticks

I read a blog called Money Saving Mom regularly, despite the fact that I am not a mom.  The blog has a bunch of interesting reads and I like her realistic view of life.  Awhile ago she had a recipe for homemade bread machine bread sticks and I bookmarked it.  Then the torn calf muscle happened and I haven't been able to cook.  Last night we  had meal planned for pasta Alfredo with roasted chicken and I thought the bread sticks would go great with them.

Of course, it was the end of the day and my leg hurt from the exercises I had done so I forgot to take a picture of the bread sticks, but they look a lot like they do in the link's pictures.  These bread sticks were so delicious.  Light, fluffy, sort of sweet but not overly so, and the melted butter on top was the right finishing touch.  Give them a try!

We are having Tritip steak and potatoes for dinner with some of the leftover bread sticks, so hopefully I will remember to take a picture tonight and add it on. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

I was finally able to cook/bake for the first time since tearing my calf muscle...over a month and a half ago.  Since I tweaked my calf a little yesterday tripping over my dogs, I just took it easy with a muffin recipe I found on  These Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins were so yummy and delicious.

 I changed the recipe a little by omitting the pecans since we didn't have any and adding about a teaspoon of homemade vanilla extract.  I also added vanilla sugar to the top of the muffins before baking them.
These muffins were moist, flavorful and light.  Now I will need to play with them a little and try to use some white whole wheat flour.  Happy Eating!