Tag Archives: recipe

Cookbooks

This Foodie Friday, let’s talk about cookbooks. I have…well, a lot. Probably 50 linear feel of cookbooks – maybe more.

cookbook shelf 1

(Photo credit: chotda)

There are hundreds and they’re separated by cuisine (if you call BBQ a cuisine) – Italian here, Cajun there, vegan, baking books – dozens of classifications. On the one hand, I’m never at a loss for inspiration when I come home with a bunch of great ingredients and no clue what I’m going to do with them. On the other hand, it’s really overwhelming.  Why make one meatball recipe when there are 45 variations at your fingertips?

The odd thing is that I don’t generally cook out of these books much any more.  Oh sure, on the rare occasions when I bake something, a good cookbook is a necessity.  After all, that kind of chemistry is not something one does off the top of one’s head.  Even so, I use them to master techniques. While it’s fun to  produce a perfect copy of something tired and true out of a favorite book,most of the time I’m  turning to a familiar volume for inspiration or reassurance.  Which is really the business point as well.

There are business cookbooks.  There are volumes that outline everything from sound fiscal policy to managing employees to developing new products and services.  In  a way, I hope that this screed serves as a daily mini-volume of inspiration.  For some things  – accounting rules, for example – it’s almost like baking.  Follow the rules or you’ll end up in trouble.  In other areas, follow the business recipe any of the great sources lay out and you’ll probably do pretty well especially if you’ve got great people and products with which to work.  Greatness, however, is something that you won’t find in a cookbook.

Many of the cookbooks on the market today are dumbed down (thanks, Food Network).  Follow the recipes they contain and you’ll present relatively good, if uninspired, food.  Using the flavor profiles as the inspiration isn’t a bad idea but just as writers use a dictionary and thesaurus, a cookbook should serve as a reference volume, not as a script.  It’s the same in business.  Books can inspire and serve as an adjunct to creative thinking based on sound fundamentals..  They’re tools, not crutches, and brilliant business pole don’t get their answers in books, because the great recipes are truly one’s own.

I can’t imagine not having not having the resources my cookbooks provide.  You should read as many business books are you have time to absorb.  Then distill them into your own recipes and make something great.

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Most Read Posts Of The Year – 3

Since it’s Foodie Friday I thought I’d add the most read food-related post to our list.  This one comes from the Friday before the Super Bowl and it’s not surprising that like most things Super Bowl it was widely viewed.  I’m not sure too many other writers put together food, business, and football but this was my take last February.

Many of you will be cooking something for Sunday’s big game and so this Foodie Friday we’ll think a little bit about what recipes to follow.  Actually, it’s more about how one follows any recipe, and what that has in common with business.

An example recipe, printed from the Wikibooks ...

Image via Wikipedia

As I think you might know, my feeling about cooking is that it’s more like jazz while baking is more Baroque music– far more structured and precise.  Given that, the way I see recipes might differ from how you see them and how that perspective carries into business.  Let’s see.

A recipe is a guide, not an edict.  I look at them as outlines of the dish, but it’s up to me as the cook to insert the flavors I want to present.  For example, if I’m making chili for Sunday’s game, I know that most of the folks who will be at the party enjoy fairly hot food so I might change the spice mix accordingly.  Cooking veal cutlets for 20 can be expensive but turkey cutlets in the same recipe can be just as tasty.  With a vegan and a vegetarian as members of the household here, I often modify recipes to accommodate their eating styles too.  I have a sense of the destination and the recipe is the map, but there are often many routes to get to where I’m trying to go.

Business is the same.  There are some basic road maps – take in more than you spend, treat customers and employees well – but every business is different.  Sticking to the recipe isn’t always possible, and sometimes the road we wish to take is closed, but with a good understanding of fundamental techniques and enough knowledge of the building blocks (ingredients), one can cope with changing market conditions and take advantage of opportunities (I was going to make snapper but look at the fresh grouper on sale!) that might arise.

So as you’re whipping up that pot of gumbo, maybe try thickening it with okra instead of your usual file powder.  If you’re not having much luck using SEM for online commerce, maybe social media can be more efficient.  It’s jazz – learn to improvise – oh, and Go Big Blue!

 

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Substitute

Foodie Friday!  Today the topic is substitutes.  No, not the early song by The Who.

Butter and a butter knife

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a thought about the use of different ingredients when the things called for in the recipe aren’t available.  This is a little different from changing up the seasonings – using oregano for basil, for example.  Cooks often do that to vary flavors and that’s an integral part of one’s own cooking style and food profile.  In this case I mean the times when you go to get the unsalted butter and realize all you have is salted or when you decide to use skim milk to lower a dish‘s fat content instead of the whole milk (or heaven forbid CREAM!) the recipe requires.

Substitutions are tricky things. Take the salted butter example.  There is no standard amount of salt in salted butter and the amount of salt can vary quite a bit.  If you’re aware of that and don’t automatically salt your dish as usual you might be OK.  Another thing about it is that the water content in salted butter is higher which, depending on the amount of liquid in the dish can make a difference.  Not a big deal for most dishes but critical in baking.  By the way, this is why I’m not a baker – it’s way too specific!

I could explain the reasons why cream vs. whole milk vs. half and half in recipes will or won’t work but you’re probably wondering at this point what the business point is.  Well, it’s that people are very much like ingredients.  Many managers see tiny differences in staff members – salted vs. unsalted – but fail to consider the broader implications those differences bring.  An unanticipated resignation from a staff member forces a substitution, but thinking that all individuals are replaceable because substitutes with the same basic skill set are available is a fallacy.  Just as an improper substitution can ruin a sauce or a custard, failing to acknowledge and adjust for the differences in the human ingredients can spell disaster.

As managers, we need to be acutely aware of how each small change in our team can precipitate much larger issues.  People are our most important ingredients, and just as great cooks consider every nuance of what goes into a dish we need to examine our people and blend them appropriately.  Feeling as if we can substitute at will is short-sighted and can ruin our business.  Then again, a smart change can make it many times better.  Your choice!

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Free Business Idea!

This week’s Foodie topic has to do with my home away from home, the supermarket (head faked you there – it’s not the golf course!).  I don’t know about you but I seem to spend more time dodging folks yakking on their cell phones than I do perusing the specials as I’m pushing my cart around.  While it’s an almost infinite source of comedic relief, it also can be frustrating when items I need are blocked by someone checking their email or confirming a recipe with home base.  Of course, to me that’s a missed opportunity.  Let’s see what you think.

The interior of a T & T store

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I rarely go to the market with a menu in mind.  As my wife is sick of hearing, my philosophy is “let’s see what looks good” and building around that.  Once I’ve sorted out the best looking proteins and produce, I will often fire up a favorite recipe app to find inspiration and a bit of guidance (and yes, I stand off to the side and not in an aisle).  What’s missing in this app is the free business idea but it also points to something we all might consider as we’re developing new products.

None of the recipe apps I’ve found are integrated with their locations, meaning the store.  Wouldn’t it be great if the store’s price, inventory, and aisle data (where in the store the product is) could come up as part of the shopping list generated by the recipe?  I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to settle on an idea and then find out the store doesn’t have a key ingredient or they’re out of stock or it’s very expensive or I just can’t find it.

I can hear you telling me about the obvious problem:  all the various food companies and supermarket chains would have to cooperate to produce a common set of data, and why would they do that?  Why should Stop & Shop let Shop Rite see their pricing and inventory (as if it was a secret)?   Because it’s the right thing to do for the customer, and that’s the business point we always must consider.  The reality is that these chains don’t compete that much on regular pricing – a lot of it is on location and specials.  Moreover, if the app is designed to help the customer already in the store, so the cooperation is unlikely to cost much.

If you know of such an app, that integrates recipes with store information, please let me know.  Some smart chain will produce one that’s chain specific; we’d all be better off if there was something universal.  Who’s going to step up and take the free idea?

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Making The Doh!

Friday at last, and we’ll do our usual Foodie thing this week with a focus on doh.  That’s not a typo – it’s doh in the Homer Simpson manner:  I want to review a few of the most common mistakes we make in the kitchen.  The inspiration was a recent piece in Cooking Light.  They cited 25 common errors – I’m going to lay out a few this week and maybe we’ll get to some others next week.  Of course, the lessons they teach won’t be restricted to the kitchen either…

Homer Simpson

Image via Wikipedia

The first one is something that I’ll cop to myself : you don’t taste as you go.  Old seasonings, a particularly pungent batch of herbs, how much natural sugar is in the food can all affect the taste of the dish and no recipe can account for all of these things.  You have to taste as you go and adjust.  Of course managers often make that same mistake in their offices – they don’t taste.  What I mean is that to get where they are, managers have followed some sort of recipe and generally have written (in their own minds, if not on paper)  other recipes for how they want things to run.  That’s great, but one has to taste too.  I’ve known bosses who lock themselves away in their offices and don’t wander about among their staff speaking, listening – tasting!

Another mistake:  you don’t read the entire recipe before you start cooking.  This is how you get 6 steps into a dish and realize you’re missing an ingredient or haven’t heated the oven or don’t have the right size pan.  Figuring out a dish takes an hour longer than you have won’t make whomever you’re feeding very happy.  In business, we make that mistake as well.  We agree to deals without getting into the fine points of a contract or we begin projects without really thinking through every step.  That sometimes results in work grinding to a halt as we hit issues that arise but were very predictable had we thought things through in-depth – had we read the whole recipe.

Finally today, we don’t know our oven’s quirks and idiosyncrasies.  Every oven has hot and cool spots.  Baking or roasting without taking those zones into account can result in uneven cooking or over/under done results.  The same is true of your staff.  If we treat each team member’s work habits as the same we get projects done piecemeal or qualitatively unevenly.  Some folks need careful instruction; others need only to be told the basics.  We need to make sure we know how often to check on the progress and adjust based on how things are moving along.

Funny how a kitchen is like an office, even when you’re not a cook!  Better that we stick to making dough and not making DOH!

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Recipes and Business

Many of you will be cooking something for Sunday’s big game and so this Foodie Friday we’ll think a little bit about what recipes to follow.  Actually, it’s more about how one follows any recipe, and what that has in common with business.

An example recipe, printed from the Wikibooks ...

Image via Wikipedia

As I think you might know, my feeling about cooking is that it’s more like jazz while baking is more Baroque music– far more structured and precise.  Given that, the way I see recipes might differ from how you see them and how that perspective carries into business.  Let’s see.

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My Time Times Ten

Homeschooled children in the kitchen

It’s Friday and I will start with a food thought this week.  I’m a fan of every cooking magazine on the planet, as you should know by now. One of the things many of them have is some sort of time estimate on recipes – this long to prep, this long to cook. Those estimates are usually pretty far off. The reality is that I can do mise en place for almost any recipe faster than most folks in my home and even the slowest of us around my house can do it faster than a real beginner. Our skills make those estimates inappropriate and incorrect.

We also have a cook top that puts out more BTU‘s than does our furnace, so we can cook at restaurant temps (I won’t bore you with the tale of the 6 weeks it took me to relearn how to cook this way after cooking on an electric cooktop for years). This means that often the cooking times are often off as well.  Fascinating stuff, I know, but what does this have to do with you? Continue reading

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