3 Easy To Make Holiday Treats

3 Easy To Make Holiday Treats

Holiday recipes for when you want to be festive but can't bake.
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Recently, I was walking down King Street with one of my best friends at college talking about how beautiful everything looks in William Sonoma, and I thought about how a girl from high school took cooking lessons there for her senior project. I thought to myself, "I wish I could do that because I’m like the worst at cooking." OK, I can boil water to make pasta, and I’m the queen of boxed brownies, but when it comes to actual cooking or baking I’m a little lost. My mother can literally take a look in the fridge and pantry and just “whip up” something. I could never. My mom is so talented in the kitchen that she hardly uses recipes, but I’m lucky not to overcook pasta in the microwave at college. If the thought of bringing your own homemade batch of cookies to a holiday party gives you more anxiety than you can manage, these recipes are definitely worth a look for you.

1. The Sweetest Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

• 3/4 cup oil

• 3 eggs beaten

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

• 3/4 cup half and half

• ¼ cup water

• 1 yellow cake mix

• 1½ cup brown sugar

• ¼ cup granulated sugar

• 2 tablespoons cinnamon

• ¾ stick butter, melted

• ¼ powdered sugar

Instructions:

1. In a large mixing bowl. combine oil, eggs, vanilla, water and half and half together.

2. Combine egg mixture with cake mix and blend. Pour half the batter into a 9x13 pan.

3. In a medium bowl, prepare streusel by combining brown sugar, sugar, and cinnamon.

4. Sprinkle half of streusel on top of the batter. Top with remaining batter and then sprinkle the remaining streusel on top.

5. Bake, uncovered at 350 for 20 minutes.

6. Melt butter and whisk in powdered sugar. Remove cake from oven and drizzle butter mixture on top. Continue baking for 5-10 min. longer until done. Serve warm with a hot cup of your favorite coffee or milk.

NOTE: ½ cup chopped pecans can be added to the brown sugar mixture if desired.

2. Easy Cookies

Ingredients:

• (18.25-ounce) package chocolate or yellow cake mix

• ½ cup vegetable oil

• 2 large eggs

• 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels

• ½ cup chopped pecans

Makes 4 ½ dozen

Instructions:

1. Beat first 3 ingredients in a mixing bowl at medium speed with and electric mixer until smooth.

2. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.

3. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet.

4. Bake at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes

5. Remove and cool on wire racks

NOTE: These cookies are definitely easy to put your own mark on. Lose the nuts and substitute the chocolate chips with peppermint chips or crushed Andes mints. Also, to make cookies more festive you could decorate with icing or add sprinkles on top.

3. Chocolate Nut Toffee

Ingredients:

• 1 cup chopped pecans, almonds or walnuts

• 1 stick of butter

• ¾ cup packed brown sugar

• 6 ounces of semisweet chocolate chips

Makes 12-15 pieces

Instructions:

1. Spread nuts in the bottom of a well-greased 8-inch baking pan.

2. Melt butter in heavy saucepan, add sugar, and boil the mixture for 7 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour immediately over the nuts and let sit a few minutes.

3. Spread chocolate chips over the top.

4. Cover with a baking sheet or wooden cutting board to melt chocolate.

5. When chocolate has softened, spread evenly. Refrigerate. When cool, break into pieces.

Cover Image Credit: Lindsey Ocock

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I'm The Customer That Doesn't Always Tip 20 Percent

I can be your best friend or your worst nightmare, but it depends on YOU.
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As a server, I fully understand that myself, and others like me, make a living off of our tips.

I know how nice it is to get a $50 tip and how frustrating it is to get merely change when you did everything you could to make the unpleasable table happy. I am well aware that an acceptable tip is anywhere from 15-20% and I typically tip way over that.
However, I can easily say that there have been times where I have tipped anywhere from 5-15%. In these times, the tip was well deserved...or not deserved.

As before mentioned, I am a server, bartender, and part-time restaurant manager. It is safe to say that I know the business quite well. This makes me aware of the tipping process and what is deemed acceptable, but it also makes me aware of what a serving job entails. We are, without a doubt, the worst critics when we are out to eat. We noticed everything you did or didn't do and we timed how long it took to get our drinks -- it's just in our blood.

We also notice if you are genuinely good at your job, or if you are just there to be there.

The key point to any serving job is knowledge. I, as a customer, expect you to be able to answer almost all of my questions. If I ask you something absurd like "exactly where was your lettuce grown?" ....Like what the f****? Who knows that? But when I ask what beers you have on draft, or what all comes on a salad, I expect you to know it. If you don't, I dock it off your tip. No, it's not mean, it's you not holding up your end of the deal when you started this job.

I know that sometimes you get busy and it's hard to cater to someone's every need, but I do expect my refills in a timely manner and would also expect you to check back with me shortly after I get my food to make sure everything tastes good. I feel like that all is just common sense. If I have to wait for five minutes with an empty glass before I even have the chance to call you over, that's going to affect your tip. If you never check up on me after I get my food, guess what, I take it off your tip. If something goes wrong in the kitchen or you forgot to put my order in, do not avoid me. Tell me. I know how hard it is to tell a table that you are the one who screwed up their experience, but it is so much better to be honest and shows more about your integrity than by saying, "I don't know, the kitchen lost your ticket. There was a computer malfunction and then things caught fire. The firemen had to come and put it out, and then they found your ticket under the smoldering embers...so that's why your steak is five minutes late.".... Just tell me you got busy and it slipped your mind. I'm okay with that.

The worst one to me is when I see my server on her phone. I know that today's generation has some need to be in contact with everyone 24/7 and I have learned to accept that. But when I need something at my table, and you fail to notice because your girl friend just broke up with her boyfriend who cheated on her with his supposed best friend...I'm not going to be happy. You are here to work and this is your job. And, not to be conceded, but I come first. I am the one paying the bill that allows you to keep that phone your on in service, so make sure that I am happy before Samantha can't call you the next time shit hits the fan with Andrew. It's common sense.

Despite all of these, probably the number one thing I look for in a server is a positive attitude. We all have our own lives outside of work, and not to be cold, but I don't really care about yours. I am here for a nice dinner and a night out to not worry about my own crazy life let alone wonder about yours. As soon as you walk into work, the outside world needs to stay there. Do not be in a terrible mood because your girlfriend is psycho. Do not show the customer that you simply don't want to be at work. You don't want to be -- I don't tip you. Easy as that. If you engage in even a small conversation with me, I will tip you more than expected. I am extremely easy to please and really understanding.

I know that every place is different and every store/restaurant has different standards, but I the guest-service industry all lies on the same guidelines. The number one rule is to make the guest happy. I am not that guest who asks for the world from my server. Nor am I that guest who doesn't tip my server if my food came out overcooked or doesn't taste good. I know what lies on the server and what lies in other areas of the store. I know what they can and can't control.
As a customer, I can be your best or your worst, but that all lies on the service that I receive from YOU.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia

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A bowl a pho keeps everything bad away.

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Pho might just be the best thing my taste buds have ever endured. If you haven't had pho, you're missing out. It's a Vietnamese soup, but it's not just any soup; it's the soup to my heart.

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Best part, there are so many options for pho. If you're vegetarian, no worries, there's pho for you. If you don't like spice, no worries! There's pho for you! If you love different kinds of meats… THERE'S PHO FOR YOU.

Please, everyone, just go get a bowl of pho and be happy. Doesn't matter if it's 100 degrees out or -13, pho is still amazing. You won't regret it.

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