Ruby Tuesday

Mother’s Day Recipes From Food Network Moms

In 1908, Anna M. Jarvis campaigned for the creation of an official Mother’s Day to honor her mother and for peace. Anna petitioned the superintendent of her mother’s church.  She got her wish as the first Mother’s Day celebration took place May 10 of that year.  Anna then spent the rest of her life protesting people for celebrating Mother’s Day.  She ridiculed florists for selling flowers and even petitioned the US  Postal Service to remove the words “Mother’s Day” from a stamp that also feature her own mother on it.  Apparently she was just a tad bit crazy.

Marcela ValladolidMother’s Day is just around the corner.  Rather than prodding mom into the cattle car that is the Olive Garden lobby how about actually cooking her something?  After learning about the originator of Mother’s Day the idea of you cooking for your mother shouldn’t seem quite as crazy.

The Moms of the Food Network have put together a few recipes to help you show your mom a little love.  Marcela Valladolid (pictured above with son Fausto), Sandra Lee, Paula Deen, Gina Neeley and Giada De Laurentiis help you to make a it a Mother’s Day to remember:

: Cream Cheese Filled Bisquits

: Recipe courtesy Paula Deen

  • 2 cups biscuit mix (suggested: Bisquick)
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • Milk, to moisten
  • Flour
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cut cream cheese into biscuit mix until cornmeal consistency. Add enough milk to moisten.
  3. Place dough-like mixture onto floured surface and knead 2 or 3 times. Don’t knead too much or your biscuits will be tough.
  4. Roll dough to desired thickness using a rolling pin and cut out with round cookie cutter. Place biscuits on a greased cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, approximately 15 minutes.

Notice this is a Paula Deen recipe without any butter in it.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 12

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

: Lazy Sunday Mimosa

: Recipe courtesy The Neely’s

  • 1/2 cup pink sanding sugar
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle brut Champagne
  • 4 tablespoons pineapple juice
  • 4 tablespoons blood orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)
  1. Dip the rims of the champagne flutes in water. Dip again in the sanding sugar.
  2. Divide Champagne between 2 glasses. Add half of both juices to each glass and top with orange liqueur.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

: Guac’ with Fresh Baked Tortilla chips

: Recipe courtesy Marcela Valladolid

Guacamole:

  • 4 firm, ripe avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled
  • 1/2 medium white onion, minced (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 medium lime, freshly squeezed (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chips:

  • 12 fresh corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt

To make the guacamole:

  1. In a medium bowl, coarsely mash the avocado. Lightly mix in the onion, cilantro and the lime juice. Season the guacamole liberally with salt and pepper.

To make the chips:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Brush each tortilla lightly with oil. Slice the tortillas into 8ths. Using 2 baking sheets, distribute half the chips onto each sheet, making sure they are evenly spread out and not overlapping. (If the chips overlap they will not crisp in the oven.)
  3. Bake on the top rack until golden and crispy, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven to a serving bowl. Season with salt and serve immediately.

Cook’s Note: Season your chips with chipotle powder and/or garlic salt before baking for extra flavor.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Culinary tradition: Mexican

: Sparkling Cider Mimosa

: Recipe courtesy Sandra Lee

  • 1 (25.4-ounce) bottle sparkling apple cider
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and pour into chilled champagne flutes.

Preparation time: 2 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Culinary tradition: Italian

: Jade’s Mini Pancakes with Blueberries

: Recipe Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

Pancakes:

  • 1 cup buttermilk pancake mix (recommended: Krusteaz Buttermilk)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pint blueberries
  1. Preheat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the pancake mix and water until just blended and slightly lumpy. Melt the butter on the griddle. For each pancake, add 1 tablespoon of batter to the griddle. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes each side until golden brown.
  3. In a clean bowl, using an electric hand held mixer, beat the heavy whipping cream until thick. Add the sugar and vanilla. Continue whipping until the cream forms stiff peaks.
  4. Top the pancakes with whipped cream and fresh blueberries.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 8 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

 

half-assing it

Valentine’s Day Dinner Fail!

valentine's dayJust a quick hop on the old soap box.  Ladies, it’s Valentine’s Day.  Granted it means nothing to men except that if they don’t put forth some kind of effort they’ll be sleeping on the couch until Mother’s Day.  Well, ladies, I’m here to say, “Don’t settle!”

If Valentine’s Day is special to you do not let him off the hook by taking you to a glorified fast-food restaurant like Olive Garden or Ruby Tuesday or Outback Steakhouse or Red Lobster or Applebee’s or Texas Roadhouse or any of those fern barns that are just a clown short of having a drive-thru.

Not even Cheesecake Factory; that’s still phoning it in.  He needs to take you to a nice restaurant, a restaurant that actually takes reservations not herds you into a lobby like so many heads of cattle.  A man who loves you doesn’t want you packed like a sardine in a cramped foyer.

I wouldn’t even cut him slack over one of those cliche heart shaped pizzas.  Unless of course he made it himself from scratch.  That’s the absolute best Valentine’s dinner – one he cooks for you or even better with you.  Cooking together can be amazing foreplay whether it is a full blown meal or something as simple as chocolate covered strawberries.

But once again I beg you, don’t settle.  The only thing worse than forgetting is a half-ass effort.  Make him earn it, ladies.

olive garden

Diary of a Wannabe TV Chef – PT 5

This is the latest installment in a continuing series that documents my personal quest to become the host of my own cooking show. Since this is a relatively new “career,” there are no vocational programs or community college courses to prepare me for it. From what I have seen, the two most important elements in securing such a position are passion for food and plain old dumb luck. Born with a passion for food, I set out to make my own luck.

Significant Change

Lincoln, NESo the Fern Bar Chain offers me a job. I am to be the Kitchen Manager at their flagship store in the Mobile market. Perfect. The Kitchen Manager’s duties parallel the duties of an executive sous chef. This is a tremendous break. Although I am not exactly a fan of this particular chain, the money is good and opportunity is great.

By mid July of 2005, I have moved to a corporate apartment in Crestview, FL. Of the locations where I could train, this is the most convenient being only 100 miles from my home. Crestview is part of the Florida Panhandle that was stuck by Hurricane Ivan the summer before. The scars are still evident. The week before I report another tropical storm hits the area and I am greeted by $3.00 gas prices at a time when the national average is $1.79.

The town of Crestview is nothing special, a spot in the road on your way to some place more interesting. It is peculiar in one very big way. It appears that no one in this burg of some 14,000 people ever cooks. The Fern Bar is always busy as are the other restaurants in town. If I ever need to spend time alone all I have to do is go to the grocery store for I am the only one who buys fresh produce, meats, and breads. Everyone else is on the frozen food aisle.

Training goes well but on the first day I am informed that my assignment has changed and I will be transferred to Ocean Springs, MS when I am done with training and there I am to be the Bar Manager. Huh? Oh, well, Ocean Springs is only 45 minutes from Mobile and sure I will have to move but the location is nice. I find an apartment on the beach and begin making plans to relocate.

During week three of training I am informed that my assignment has changed again and I will heading back to Mobile when I am done, but to the “troubled” store, not the flagship. I am to be the Service Manager. What the hey? Before all is said and done my assignment will change locations five times in three different states only to end up at the store I originally applied for, but as the Service Manager not the Kitchen Manager. Corporations.

During the second month of my training Hurricane Katrina hits. I am safe and sound 100 miles east of the affected area while my friends and family are stranded without power, jobs, or gas. I am filled with remorse as I watch the news. New Orleans, a city that I love dearly, is flooded with water and hoodlums. The Mississippi Gulf Coast (the hardest hit area of Katrina) is utterly destroyed – CNN choppers record the memories of my early college years as they lie crushed and torn. My home town of Mobile is also hit, but as has been the case with the last five tropical maelstroms to hit the Gulf Coast in the past 14 months, it is back on its feet in just a few days. Still I am racked with guilt over my relative comfort while friends and family battle 95 degree weather without electricity or running water. I cannot wait for training to be over so that I can get home and help people out.

Part of my 10 week training with the Fern Bar is to visit the franchise headquarters in Lincoln, NE. A charming city that is the very embodiment of middle America. Talk about great steaks! I think I had some form of flame cooked beef carcass every day I was in town. During the week long seminar, I find myself slightly troubled by the words that the folks at the corporate office use, specifically they never refer to the restaurants as restaurants – they are all concepts.

Finally I return home to my storm ravaged hometown and begin work at the Fern Bar proper. Two days in and the promises made about employment are already being broken. The other managers are glad to see me because they have gone weeks without days off that did not include 140 mph winds. My addition to the staff means that they are now only one person shy of the required number of managers needed to run efficiently.

Each week working conditions become more stressful and the corporation turns a deaf ear to our needs. It is now that I found out how bad the company is that I have been employed by. Managers are leaving in droves from all of the area “concepts” for better jobs. Somehow several recruiting firms have gotten a hold of our cell phone numbers and are calling each of the managers three or four times a day with job offers. At one point the three store region, which is supposed to have a grand total of 14 managers and a regional director, is down to eight managers and no director. It is at this time that I, too, head for greener pastures.

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday: an Indictment of the Corporate Restaurant Industry, pt. 3




This is part three of a three part series (dare I say exposé?) on the corporate restaurant industry.

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday: an Indictment of the Corporate Restaurant Industry

The closing of so many chain restaurants is one of the few bright spots in an utterly dreary economic state. Corporate restaurants are a bane to American society. Making a buck is never wrong, but these companies have done so by enslaving workers, knowingly poisoning their customers and sabotaging small business. We should not be lamenting the fall of the corporate restaurant industry, but rather celebrate it by be prosecuting the CEO’s and politicians who conspired to create the nefarious beast.

America’s Modern Slave State

The onslaughts on the general public and small business are not the only transgressions of corporate restaurant chains as their workers (servers, bar tenders and the like) are the only profession in the entire nation that are not paid minimum wage. Try, if you can, to imagine how your life might change if the state you live in passed a law that said your employer now only has to pay your profession $2.50/hour. The rest of your income is solely up to the generosity of strangers. Additionally, the government makes you pay taxes on these charitable contributions regardless of whether or not you actually receive them. As if that were not enough, you also have to work every holiday without receiving overtime or holiday pay. And you can forget about sick-leave all together.

Now let’s sweeten the pot a little by informing you that if someone who is inebriated happens to enter your work area you are now personally responsible for every action that person takes until they sober up. Regardless of whether you provide them with alcohol or even conduct business with them in any manner you are still criminally liable for their actions.

It sounds preposterous does it not? This is the 21st Century; the conditions just described sound like something out of a Dickens’ novel. At best this is an extreme example of the deplorable human rights violations in some war-torn African nation. One thing is for sure, this could never happen in America, not with all this change and hope floating around.

Sadly the circumstances illustrated do exist today and right here in River City.

As it turns out the restaurant industry is exempt from US Federal minimum wage laws. Each state is free to set whatever minimum wage they deem for bartenders, bussers, servers, and even hostesses as little as $2.13 an hour. A few states are enlightened enough to guarantee these workers the same minimum wage as any other profession. Most do not. In fact only eight states currently require the same minimum wage for restaurant workers as everyone else. The remaining 42 states allow companies to legally pay their workers less than what economists and society have agreed is a fair wage.

In Alabama for instance the server wage is $2.13 an hour or one third the current minimum wage. Florida is scarcely better at $3.50 an hour. Montana and Minnesota have two minimum wages for servers (both are below the national minimum) – one for big business and a lower one for small. The corporations argue that this punishes them for being successful while small businesses insist the better servers opt for the chains leaving them to pick through the leftovers. In Nevada full time restaurant workers are actually forced to choose between a fair wage or health insurance.

A gratuity is a bonus for a job well done; a little something extra for going beyond the norm, or at least it used to be. By making servers rely on tips to pay their wages and then taxing those tips, the government has in effect made it a law that everyone must tip at least 10% regardless of the quality of service. Whether a 10% tip is left or not the server still pays taxes on it. Consequently, anyone who fails to leave 10% is in reality stealing from the server.

Some people do not know that the bulk of a server’s pay comes from tips and assume that restaurant workers make a fair wage like everyone else. And why wouldn’t they? After all, there is a federal minimum wage and excluding one profession from having to adhere is unethical.

Lobbyists working on behalf of the large restaurant cartels rely heavily on the argument that servers make very good money in the form of gratuities. In fact, that is the entirety of their argument – servers earn so much money on tips that their bosses should not have to pay them for their toil. So this begs the question, just how much money are we talking about?

If the money servers earn is as good as argued then surely they make in excess of $75,000 a year, maybe as much as $174,000 – the annual salary of a US congressmen. According to the US Department of Labor in 2006 the median hourly wage-and-salary earnings (including tips) of servers was $7.14/hour. In most cases, the hourly wage does not even cover their tax burden leaving them still owing the government money at the end of the year. The same government that says that their effort is not worth as much as other professions apparently does not feel likewise about their tax obligation.

Still many may contend that servers make great money for no more work than they do. After all, all they do is take your order and bring you food that someone else cooks and drinks that someone else mixes, right?

In addition to clearing their tables and cleaning them for the next party, they also have what is called side work. Side work consists of tasks that must be performed to keep the restaurant running smoothly. Many of these duties are simple and occupy little time like rolling silverware into napkins. Others include considerable labor like hauling heavy buckets of ice from one end of the building to the other, vacuuming large sections of food-embedded carpet, mopping floors, preparing foods, cleaning bathrooms, and scraping bubblegum from underneath tables.

Side work comes in three forms and almost every restaurant requires its servers a certain amount as part of their daily performance. The three types of side work are opening (performed before the shift), running (performed during the shift), and closing (performed after the shift). Although the restaurant must pay the server a regular minimum wage for side work performed prior to opening the same is not said for closing side work which typically constitutes the most arduous and time consuming chores. Federal law states that one hour after a server’s final customer leaves the employer must then pay the employee the standard minimum wage.

Thanks to the way the wage law is written employers are actually allowed to pay less than minimum wage for one full hour despite the fact that the employee makes no tip for that labor. Some companies deliberately exploit this loophole by piling extra work on the tip earners that previously was performed by higher wage earners. Although this practice is entirely unethical, remarkably it is legal.

Some families are on budgets that prevent them from spending very much. These people may actually tip the standard 20% but they are forced to streamline their order. A standard 20% tip on the least expensive item is better than nothing, but it requires the same amount of effort as the most expensive dish and in some cases more. A server at The Olive Garden for instance actually does more work for customers who order the economical soup, salad, and breadsticks than for those who order a more expensive entrée.

The Olive Garden is one of the concepts owned by dining conglomerate Darden Restaurants, Inc. out of Orlando, FL. Darden also operates Red Lobster, Smokey Bones, Longhorn Steaks, and Bahama Breeze making it a classic example of the typical restaurant corporation. Darden owns and operates more than 1,700 restaurants across North America employing roughly 160,000 people. Darden is, in terms of revenue, the world’s top restaurant operator.

But Darden is hardly the only player in the ultra-competitive multi-unit market. Brinker International, Inc. out of Dallas, TX which owns Chili’s, On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina, Maggiano’s Little Italy, and Romano’s Macaroni Grill is another titan of the industry with more than 1,800 restaurant locations in 20 countries. They, too, are one of the largest restaurant cartels in the US and as such are one of the largest employers of restaurant workers in the country.

Actual Olive Garden Check StubDespite working nearly 30 hours this Olive Garden employee took home nothing after state and federal taxes were applied.

On average a server who works roughly 30 hours a week and earns 15% in tips will have a weekly paycheck totaling zero after taxes. Not only does Uncle Sam dip into servers’ tips, but many restaurants make them “tip out” their fellow employees. Servers must share their hard earned money with hostesses, bussers, dishwashers, and even bar tenders. Tipping out allows business owners to also under pay non-tip earning employees by classifying them as tip-earners. A server’s “tip out” is determined by a percentage of their sales for the shift and ultimately denies them of anywhere from 15% to more than 50% of their daily earnings.

So if the same argument used to justify paying servers a substandard wage is applied to other professions then school teachers would have to choose between making a living wage and having medical insurance. Corporate executives would be making $3.50 an hour with the rest of their pay coming from board members stuffing dollar bills into an old pickle jar. That would include men like David Goebel, the former CEO of Applebee’s International Inc. who took home $2.7 million in 2006 while paying his servers less than $3 an hour.

Be sure to check out the first two parts of this series The Big Bad Wolf – Mom and Pop Under Siege and Biting the Hand that Feeds.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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