4th of July Recipe Favorites for Your American Celebration

The fourth of July is the best kind of American holiday — celebrated at the height of summer, with grills going and fireworks sparkling and ice-cold lemonade (or beer) in hand.

When family is around and backyard games are in progress, it’s more fun to be outside than slaving away in the kitchen. These tried and true summer dishes are not only easy, they can also be prepared either ahead of time or on a Weber kettle.

Watermelon Feta Salad with Kalamata Olives

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Fair warning: this salad, by British cookbook author Nigella Lawson, is addictive, and not only during the summer when watermelon is abundant. Sweet with melon, salty with kalamata olives and feta cheese and fresh with chopped mint and parsley leaves, this is a crowd-pleasing summer salad that goes with everything. Steeping raw red onions in fresh lime juice removes their rasp, so start those first.

There are dozens of variations on the watermelon salad — try Whole Foods’ version with goat cheese and basil, or Ina Garten’s take with baby arugula and parmesan.

Deviled eggs with smoked salmon

Deviled eggs for Lila

With a bit of spiced mustard and creamy mayonnaise, deviled eggs are a classic party dish. This Forkful of News recipe, topped with smoked salmon and sliced chives, has a secret tang from pickled onions (you can use dill pickles, too).

To make them even more elegant for a dinner party, add fish eggs (like flying fish roe, or tobiko) for a tiny bit of salty snap.

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak

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Flank steak can be incredibly tender and flavorful if you give it a night in marinade. After trying Mediterranean and Southwestern combinations, the best is an Asian-style combination of soy sauce, garlic, ginger and brown sugar. Start with a marinade like Alton Brown’s or this version from AllRecipes. Then add/subtract ingredients to your taste.

Because flank is a tough cut, the key is to let the steak sit in marinade overnight. Grill for about 15 minutes total and then LET IT REST for 10 minutes, at least. While the steak rests, you can throw on kebabs.

Vegetable/Chicken Kebabs

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The only thing slightly fussy about these skewers is the assembly. Cut up whatever vegetables you have around (peppers, onions, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, squash, mushrooms), brush with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with some interesting spices (cumin, paprika, aleppo pepper) and grill on medium, 6-10 minutes.

The skewers above have small pieces of chicken on them, but shrimp or precooked slices of chicken sausage work, too. Vegetarians at your celebration might appreciate veg-only kebabs, like these from Epicurious.

Martha Stewart recommends threading each vegetable or meat separately, to have better control over the cooking time. That’s certainly an option, but if you’re staying away from super-high heat anyway, the lazy man’s everything-on-one method has worked fine for us.

Patriotic Bundt Cake

June Cook-off Lindsay and Nicole 006

Holidays are no time for restraint. Go big with a lovely pound cake, like the sour-cream based Man Catcher from Melissa Gray’s “All Cakes Considered” (try it with fresh blueberries in the batter) or Ina Garten’s lemon pound cake, cooked into a bundt pan as the Smitten Kitchen suggests.

Shown above is my friend’s deliberately patriotic bundt cake, which she topped with fresh white whipped cream and stewed fresh berries (bright red strawberries and blueberries, of course). A scoop of ice cream would be delicious, too!

However you celebrate, we wish you a very happy 4th of July and share our gratitude that we are a country that believes in freedom  and Democracy.

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About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime.  gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin.  Contact:  Rick KileyChief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
Follow the Company Blog –  “Celebrating Work”.
Join the Conversation @gThankYou 
Watch our gThankYou! YouTube Video – “Learn More About Us”.

“G” logo and “Certificates of Gratitude” are trademarks and “gThankYou” is a registered trademark of gThankYou, LLC.

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Employee Gifts for New Hires: A Good Investment

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“An employee’s introduction to the company is equally important to the later success of both the individual and the company,” says an Inc. Magazine article, “Onboarding Done Better.”

“Welcoming employees with an assortment of gifts and activities help new hires get involved right out of the gate.”

The article quotes George Bradt, managing director at PrimeGenesis, an onboarding and leadership consulting company based in Stamford, Conn. He also blogs for Forbes.

“The way you manage the transition of somebody into your culture speaks volumes about the culture to the person coming in, because you’re making those first early impressions and they know what’s expected of them.”

Companies are realizing this philosophy is necessary, the article notes. It’s not just about the bottom line; the key is to make employees enthusiastic right from day one.

As Victoria Weinblatt of Demand Media writes at the Houston Chronicle’s Chron.com, in “Gifts for a New Employee,”

Entering the realm of the working world is a life-changing event.”

Make it easier with personal attention and a small gift. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but a thoughtful “welcome to the team” gift might be just the thing to build your company’s reputation as a great place to work. Your next search for the best talent will likely be that much easier.

Vera Leigh, eHow contributor, adds: “New employee gifts make people feel welcome and appreciated on their first day of work. They also set the tone for the work environment and let people know that you are glad they have joined your staff,” in her article, “New Employee Gift Ideas.”

Here are some popular gift suggestions:

  • Gift certificates or gift cards—preferably ones that enable employees to select their own items, shop at their store of choice and even share with their family.
  • Desk goodie basket—healthy snacks as well as treats.
  • Greeting card—a personal message from management and staff.
  • Lunch—catered in a conference room, in the company cafeteria, or a local restaurant.

HR software company TribeHR, contributes a few more ideas in “Make an Amazing Employee Welcome Package.”

  • Put a small gift on new employees’ desks each day during their first week. Try a gift certificate or card on Monday, chocolates on Tuesday, fresh flowers on Wednesday, a cupcake from a local bakery on Thursday, and Friday, a coffee mug with your company’s name on it.
  • If they’re new to the area, give them a stack of menus to popular local restaurants and coffee shops, and a bunch of brochures for local museums, theaters and other attractions.

You just spent $40 and did something your employees will always remember.

“Businesses spend tens of thousands of dollars a year or more on new hires, with the hope that they will become valued employees who add to the company’s success. It pays to do a few little, inexpensive things to welcome them aboard.”

How do you make new employees feel welcome?  Learn more about how employee appreciation helps your employees feel valued, keeps the workplace motivated and improves your bottom-line!

About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime.  gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin.  Contact:  Rick KileyChief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
Follow the Company Blog –  “Celebrating Work”.
Join the Conversation @gThankYou 
Watch our gThankYou! YouTube Video – “Learn More About Us”.

“G” logo and “Certificates of Gratitude” are trademarks and “gThankYou” is a registered trademark of gThankYou, LLC.

Father’s Day Dinner – 5 Grill Favorites

Father’s Day, falling as it does on a temperate mid-June Sunday, is the perfect time to get out the grill. No matter who is handling the chimney starter, these five recipes for a grill-centric meal will make for a delicious and special Father’s Day celebration.

Five Grill Favorites for Father’s Day

Dad will absolutely love these delicious yet healthy Grilled Turkey Burgers from Bon Appetit. Made with cheddar and smoky aioli (a kind of homemade garlicky mayonnaise), these burgers don’t skimp on flavor, seasoned with cumin, coriander and smoked paprika (I recommend the incredibly flavorful Spanish paprika from Penzeys).

Photo by Nigel Cox for Bon Appetit

Photo by Nigel Cox for Bon Appetit

Is your dad more of a rib guy?  Father’s Day is a special occasion, after all. Recently I picked up some country-style ribs to try as an alternative to our bone-in barbecue favorites slathered with sauce.

In its recipe for Barbecued Country-Style Ribs, Cook’s Country has some excellent tips on how to keep the cooking even between the white and dark meat.

From Cook's Country

From Cook’s Country

“We brined the ribs so that the white meat would stay juicy and pounded the ribs to an even ¾-inch thickness to “break down” the fattier dark meat,” writes the Cook’s Country test kitchen. “As for flavor, a double layer of barbecue spice and sauce and a quick smoke on the grill turned these ribs into something to sing about.”

Whatever meat you put over the coals, combine it with Charros, or smoky Tex-Mex beans. Steve Raichlen has a recipe for these “soulful, spicy pinto beans” seasoned with onion, bay and cloves, finished with bacon, jalapenos and fresh cilantro.

Charros from Primal Grill

“Don’t be surprised by the soupy consistency of the beans,” Raichlen writes. “Charros are always served with lots of flavorful broth.”

Spring has been slow to come to our part of the country, so we’re still in asparagus mode. Luckily, it’s a one of my favorite things to grill and an early summer favorite.

For Father’s Day I might dress them up with this Gourmet recipe for Grilled Pancetta-Wrapped Asparagus by Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez.

photo by Ditte Isager

Photo by Ditte Isager

For a decadent and special finish to your Father’s Day celebration, try grilling peaches.

The first time I ever attempted the recipe below to make caramel, I meant to drizzle it over ripe, juicy grilled peaches, a finishing touch to a dinner party with friends.

I followed the New York Times recipe for Grilled-Peach Sundaes With Salted Bourbon-Caramel Sauce almost to the letter, though in my nervousness about the temperature, I pulled the caramel before it got really brown.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

I didn’t make that mistake the second time. When it got really, well, caramelized, this syrup was easily the best “candy topping” I’ve ever made. Heck, for a simpler dessert, ditch the grilled peaches and just make this caramel. Spoon it on store bought ice cream and it’ll be the best dessert dad’s had all year.

One final note: If dad loves to grill, one of my favorite cookbooks for cooking on the fire is Weber’s excellent “Way to Grill” (Sunset Books, 2009). It’s full of big color photographs, step-by-step illustrated demonstrations and practical advice. At about $17 on Amazon, it’s a Father’s Day gift that begs to be paired with some grilling tools and/or a homemade meal from you.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads and Dad stand-ins who make all the difference in our lives!

About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime.  gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin.  Contact:  Rick KileyChief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
Follow the Company Blog –  “Celebrating Work”.
Join the Conversation @gThankYou 
Watch our gThankYou! YouTube Video – “Learn More About Us”.

“G” logo and “Certificates of Gratitude” are trademarks and “gThankYou” is a registered trademark of gThankYou, LLC.

Five Great Mexican-Inspired Dishes for a Summer Party

As the days get longer and the sunset stretches on well past dinner time, all things Mexican-inspired start to sound irresistible. Guacamole with fresh tomatillos, agua fresca, mushroom chile tacos topped with pickled onions and jalapeños — and who can turn down a fresh margarita or a crispy, indulgent tostada?

These five recipes can serve as the cornerstone of a late afternoon Sunday supper, or make them all and invite some friends to sit around a backyard fire. Salud!

Turkey Tostadas

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From Coupon Clipping Cook

If by chance you have a gift certificate for turkey or ham still lingering in your wallet, you’re in luck this summer — according to About.com’s Chelsie Kenyon, “turkey is actually indigenous to Mexico and was a part of the Aztec diet along with tomatoes, squash and sometimes iguana.”

Tostadas are among the most forgiving of Mexican dishes, stacked like nachos on a crispy tortilla with everything from refried beans to fresh cilantro. Try Rachael Ray’s recipe for tostadas topped with black beans, corn and shredded turkey, with cheese (cotija is excellent), sour cream, lime and chipotle sauce for extra kick. A little avocado wouldn’t go amiss here either.

Queso Fundido with Chorizo

Some recipes don’t need any translating. That’s the case with this rich, gooey cheese dip, spiked with serrano chile and studded with fresh Mexican chorizo sausage.

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Photo by Romulo Yanes for Bon Appetit

Bon Appetit’s recipe combines Monterey Jack and cheddar with beer (they say a lager, like Corona), minced onion, tomato and fresh oregano.

Served hot out of the oven or in a fondue pot with some good tortilla chips, it’s a can’t-miss party appetizer.

Ham and Cheese Torta

A torta is basically a Mexican sandwich, a crusty white roll piled high with meat (steak, chicken, pork, chorizo) and the classic trimmings you’d find on a taco or tostada, like queso fresco (a mild white cheese) and pickled onions.

It’s also a great vehicle for ham, as made clear in this simple recipe from Pati’s Mexican Table. Made with refried beans, avocado, queso fresco, fresh tomato and fresh onion as well, these ham tortas would make an excellent weekend lunch.

For more inspiration, see a slide show of 10 fantastic tortas on Huffington Post Taste. Fried egg, spinach, pork belly and roasted jalapeño? Si, ¡dámelo!

Pozole

20090610182812Pozole (or posole) is a Mexican stew made with tender, slow-cooked pork, hominy (corn without the hull, soaked in lye), fresh chiles and lots of toppings. You can slurp it with a spoon or pull out the meat and toppings and wrap them in fresh tortillas.

A classic version is Rick Bayless’ white pozole with all the trimmings, which calls for three kinds of pork (shank, trotters and bone-in shoulder) and is best made on  a weekend, when there’s plenty of time for a slow simmer.

Or try Marcela Valladolid’s recipe from “Mexican Made Easy” on the Food Network, a beef shank version that’s faster and simpler.

One Great Margarita

Margarita on the rocksThe perfect margarita doesn’t come from a mix, use bottled lime juice or require freezing and blending. No, the perfect margarita, as printed in Imbibe Magazine, is simple and fresh, the ideal thing to celebrate the coming of summer.

Make this correctly, and everything else on the table will taste even better. The salt on the rim is optional.

Makes 1.

  • 2 oz. silver tequila (or reposado if you like)
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 oz. Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
  • Ice cubes
  • Tools: shaker, strainer
  • Glass: double rocks
  • Garnish: lime wheel and salt (optional)

Combine ingredients with ice in a shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into an ice-filled glass and garnish.

Employee Recognition: Sincerity Counts

If your gratitude doesn’t feel sincere to your workforce, it won’t yield the positive results you’re hoping for.

gThankYou! Employee Gifts - Trust Photo “When you recognize your employees and show thanks to them, do you fake it?”

That is the question, says the intro to “Gratitude and Employee Recognition,” a #TCHAT Radio show by TalentCulture World of Work Community on BlogTalkRadio.

“Maybe or probably not, but does it seem like you do, to them?” the intro continues. “That’s a conundrum, how organizations can project genuine gratitude and authentic recognition. We’re not saying you don’t mean it, but your employees need to know you mean it.”

Positive Feedback Delivers Outstanding Results

TalentCulture founder Megan M. Biro hosts the show with co-creator Kevin W. Grossman. The expert guests are author and blogger Ted Coine, along with Rob Catalano of Achievers.

TalentCulture community members participating in the related discussion articulate their strong belief in “the value of simple, sincere interaction, and a culture that encourages recognition when it’s deserved.”

“ … Acknowledgement keeps employees on a path for engagement and productivity. Positive feedback fuels individuals and teams to continue delivering outstanding results. And in the aggregate, it keeps organizations focused on key success factors, and drives business momentum,” the TChat summary says.

Biro echoes the sincerity theme in her Forbes article, “5 Ways Leaders Rock Employee Recognition.”

“[That need makes] the human touch so important to effective recognition,” she writes.

Recognition Drives Productivity and Revenue

And Gallup researchers contend that employee recognition is a powerful driving force behind employee engagement, notes Roy Saunderson, co-host of Real Recognition® Radio in “Engaging Employees with Recognition.”

Gallup found that as its scoring methods found differences in the amount of recognition employees received, productivity and revenue—even retention of loyal customers—changed by 10% to 20%.

“It is an amazingly simple concept to give people the praise and recognition they deserve,” Saunderson writes.

It’s Simple: Mean What You Say

Take the time to think through what you’re going to say so it comes from your heart. If you mean what you say, look employees in the eye, and give specific, timely examples of accomplishments you’re grateful for, employees will know you’re sincere.

Then, advises Saunderson, simply:

  • Thank them for doing good work.
  • Express concern for their well-being.
  • Demonstrate respect in day-to-day activities.
  • Celebrate their successes.
  • Acknowledge their achievements.
  • Honor those who have made significant contributions to your company.
  • Appreciate the little things people do for you and others.

Don’t Take Employees’ Efforts for Granted

“This simple act of acknowledging and recognizing people is so taken for granted that nearly 20% of employees leave organizations because of insufficient recognition,” Saunderson writes.

How do you know when someone’s workplace thanks are sincere?

gThankYou! Ultimate Guide to Employee Gift-Giving

Click to Download your FREE Guide to Employee Gift-Giving by gThankYou!

About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime.  gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin.  Contact:  Rick KileyChief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
Follow the Company Blog –  “Celebrating Work”.
Join the Conversation @gThankYou 
Watch our gThankYou! YouTube Video – “Learn More About Us”.

“G” logo and “Certificates of Gratitude” are trademarks and “gThankYou” is a registered trademark of gThankYou, LLC.

What Everyone Should Know About Grilling Tools

It’s finally — finally! — summer, time to dust off the grill and pull out the tiki torches. It’s always fun to get a few new tools (or replace a few old ones) at the change of seasons — below, find some of our favorite gifts for both the grilling novice and the backyard barbecue pro.  (Inspiration for early Father’s Day shoppers too!)

The Work Table

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Once the coals are hot, it seems a waste not to use them to the fullest. Along with juicy steaks and bratwurst, why not grill whole red bell peppers, parboiled new potatoes, zucchini halved lengthwise and sweet, ripe peaches?

All of that is a lot to juggle, of course. A prep table, preferably one that attaches right to the grill, makes it much easier. Try Weber’s work table ($50), which fits Weber’s kettle charcoal grills. You can also find double side tables ($82) or splurge on a beautiful wood add-on that perfectly fits a Big Green Egg ($499).

The Hinged Grill Grate

2013_04_11_06_07_18_hinged_cooking_grateIt seems like such a small thing, but having a hinge on your grill grate makes a world of difference when it comes to cooking over indirect heat or smoking a big piece of meat. It’s so useful, some commenters on Amazon wonder why it isn’t “the defacto grate” for all Weber kettles. At $27, if you like smoked meat, you can’t afford not to have one.

Double-Prong Skewersmaster-BUL132

Among the simplest, most versatile food to cook over a flame comes on a skewer: Japanese yakitori, Middle Eastern kebabs, Argentinean churrasco.

Make sure those beautiful shrimp and sweet peppers don’t fall into the flames with double-prong skewers like these ($30 for six). These in particular were recently featured in Bon Appetit magazine, so they’re out of stock at the moment; for a good substitute try these rosewood-handled beauties ($18 for four).

Alternately, try these flexible wire grilling skewers from Williams-Sonoma ($14.95 for four).

A Whole New Grill

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Maybe you’ve had a really rough winter, and it was still snowing in May. Maybe your grill is too small for your massive ‘cue skills, and you need a range big enough to feed the entire block. Maybe your grate has rusted out because you accidentally left the grill out in bad weather (oops).

It’s time for a new grill. For this, we go to the experts. Check out “Primal Grill” host Steve Raichlen’s list of his favorite grills (the man has 60, and he narrowed it down to four!). I have always been fascinated by the Big Green Egg ($800), a ceramic grill that has a kind of cult following. But I know my personal grill master would be happiest with this big boy from Weber ($349), with a built-in timer, a charcoal storage bin and an easy cleaning mechanism.

Once you have your grill set-up and ready to go, here are expert tips for great grilling results so you have more time to relax with friends and family:  “Grilling Tips: From Good to Great” and “10 Tips for Great Grilling”.  Now it’s time to light those tiki torches!

Happy grilling and best wishes for a very happy Memorial Day!

About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime.  gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin.  Contact:  Rick KileyChief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
Follow the Company Blog –  “Celebrating Work”.
Join the Conversation @gThankYou 
Watch our gThankYou! YouTube Video – “Learn More About Us”.

“G” logo and “Certificates of Gratitude” are trademarks and “gThankYou” is a registered trademark of gThankYou, LLC.

Mother’s Day: How to Make Breakfast in Bed for Mom

gThankYou! Employee Gifts - Mothers' Day FlowersThere are a few secrets to giving mom a great breakfast in bed.  First, don’t make it too complicated.  A simple breakfast is better than a fancy one that’s difficult to do and risks not being all you (or Mom) hoped.  This is especially true if the kids in the house are making the meal.

Second, know what mom wants. If she loves the cranberry orange scones from a neighborhood bakery, head out early and pick one up rather than try to make one yourself (scones especially have a dangerous tendency to get rock-like if you don’t have much practice).

Third, nail the garnishes!  Put a single lily, Gerber daisy or Mom’s favorite flower in a bud vase. Arrange everything on a pretty breakfast tray. Maybe even put her orange juice in a wine glass, just for looks.

gThankYou! Employee Gifts - Artistic TrayAnd, don’t forget the hand-made Mother’s Day card from the kids.  It will make Mom’s day, no matter how breakfast turns out.

Finally, try one of these fun recipes for Mother’s Day brunch this year. They’re all simple and delicious, and at least one of them should hit the sweet spot between decadence (for her) and ease (for you).

Sumptuous Smoothies

8639164930_f00bfb2a15_cThere is a secret in these not-too-sweet, sophisticated smoothies from Joy the Baker. They’re actually pretty healthy (!) – but don’t tell the kids. A regular size pineapple smoothie from Jamba Juice will set you back more than 400 calories, which doesn’t leave much room for bacon (or Mother’s Day dessert).

But try the vanilla, blackberry, oat and almond milk smoothie from Joy. Almond milk is the healthiest alternative to cow’s milk (60 calories per cup, versus 86 for skim), but it’s full of flavor; sweet, lightly nutty and perfect for smoothies.  You’ll want to keep making these all year-long.

Wonderful Waffles

Waffles are such wonderful weekend food. If you do them up sweet, they can almost be like dessert for breakfast.

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Photo by Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen

Mom would probably love these whole wheat Belgian waffles with mascarpone, thyme and fresh strawberries from the blog Happyolks. If you’re feeling ambitious, try them.

But if you don’t have yeast lying around, Deb Perelman’s recipe from Smitten Kitchen (above) made with buttermilk and vanilla extract should do the trick. Just make sure to top with powdered sugar and fresh fruit.

Perfect Pancakes

1fc1e62d03af7b13220daafa9f139b04If hauling out the blender and/or the waffle maker on a Sunday morning seems like just too much effort for early in the day, pancakes are the perfect fallback. Fancy enough for a special occasion but easy enough that your six-year-old can help, “flapjacks” can be sweet (chocolate-pecan pancakes from Martha Stewart Living), savory (butternut squash pancakes or sweet potato and kimchi pancakes from Lantern Restaurant via Epicurious.com) or somewhere in between (lemon-ricotta pancakes from CHOW).

There’s nothing better for breakfast than a stack of golden brown silver dollar pancakes with good maple syrup drizzled on them. Sprinkle in a few dark chocolate chips while they’re cooking, and it’s really a holiday.

Mom will be delighted!  So have fun and keep it simple. For more recipes and other Mother’s Day ideas – please check out our post: The Perfect Mother’s Day Gift!

Happy Mother’s Day!

About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime.  gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin.  Contact:  Rick KileyChief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
Follow the Company Blog –  “Celebrating Work”.
Join the Conversation @gThankYou 
Watch our gThankYou! YouTube Video – “Learn More About Us”.

“G” logo and “Certificates of Gratitude” are trademarks and “gThankYou” is a registered trademark of gThankYou, LLC.

One Ham Bone, Three Great Soup Recipes

Just like I’ll fight (nicely, of course) the other cooks at the Thanksgiving table for possession of that flavorful turkey carcass — such a great way to make stock — I do the same at Easter for the ham bone.

These rainy April days are the perfect time to take that ham bone out of the freezer and put it to good use for some great tasting and heart warming comfort food.

Bean soups especially benefit from a long simmer with a ham bone, whether or not there’s much meat left on it. If there is, that’s just a bonus; slice it off at the end and add it to the soup.

Allow at least two hours for each of these soups, and know that they’re just as good reheated for lunch.

SPLIT PEA SOUP

One of my favorite spring soups is split pea, that hearty staple, even better when it’s studded with bits of ham. Ina Garten’s recipe for split pea soup, taken from the original Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, is a simple and delicious way to start.

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To use your ham bone in this recipe, submerge it in the soup during the last 40 minutes of cooking. Depending how much meat comes off  the bone, you may be able to reuse it if you refrigerate it between uses.

NEW ORLEANS RED BEANS AND RICE

Red Beans & Rice

John Besh’s beautiful, coffee table-worthy cookbook, “My New Orleans,” is 384 engaging pages of stories, recipes and Southern inspiration.

I first made this fragrant pot of red beans and rice on Super Bowl Sunday, with the justification that the game was being played in New Orleans, and so red beans and rice were perfectly appropriate.

This simple recipe starts with the trinity (green pepper, celery, onion) and gets flavor not only from smoked ham hocks, but also from bacon fat, cayenne pepper and, of course, Louisiana-made Tabasco sauce. The red beans freeze well, too.

HAM BONE SOUP

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Everything is better with bacon, and that includes Melissa Clark’s simple ham bone soup, adapted from an old Junior League cookbook. According to Clark’s piece in The New York Times, “The soup was simple: boil a bone with beans and a bay leaf, and dinner was done.”

Add a green salad and some crusty bread and you have a wonderful meal to share and savor!

About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime.  gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin.  Contact:  Rick KileyChief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
Follow the Company Blog –  “Celebrating Work”.
Join the Conversation @gThankYou 
Watch our gThankYou! YouTube Video – “Learn More About Us”.

“G” logo and “Certificates of Gratitude” are trademarks and “gThankYou” is a registered trademark of gThankYou, LLC.

10 Tips for Writing Employee Thank You Notes

The humble handwritten thank you note can boost your company’s bottom line, believe it or not.

gThankYou! Thank You Note

A recent Forbes article by Josh Bersin, founder and principal at Bersin by Deloitte, illustrates the point. His article, “New Research Unlocks the Secret of Employee Recognition,” cites his company’s comprehensive research project on employee recognition showing that organizations giving regular thanks to their employees far outperform those that don’t.

Companies scoring in the top 20% for building a “recognition-rich culture” actually had 31% lower voluntary turnover rates.

That makes sense to Geil Browning, founder of Emergenetics International. In an Inc. Magazine article,  “How to Thank Your Employees in Only 8 Words,” she writes:

“When you recognize the contributions of others, you reinforce the kind of behavior you want to see again. People who feel their efforts are noticed, and their work makes a difference, are more likely to go the extra mile in the future. Leadership is about empowering others to realize their own abilities. Communicate your belief in your people, and watch them rise to meet your expectations.”

Put another way, recognizing employee’s contributions shows you’re paying attention and that you care. It makes people feel valued. When you write a thoughtful note of gratitude, it’s also a permanent keepsake reminder.

Browning quotes business guru Tom Peters:
“People don’t forget kindness.”

Her research at Emergenetics suggests most employees appreciate personal thank you notes, if they’re personalized and meaningful. To be meaningful, notes should be specific and prompt. And to reward behaviors you want people to repeat, be sure to recognize efforts involving those behaviors.

Browning offers 10 tips for customizing thank you notes to celebrate employee strengths, according to brain-related research:

  1. The “gift of gab” is a work asset for gregarious people. You might write: “I celebrate how you share your enthusiasm,” or “Thanks for keeping the lines of communication open.”
  2. For quieter people you could say: “I prize your well-considered solutions,” or “I appreciate your respectful attitude toward everyone.”
  3. For assertive people, try: “Thank you for keeping the momentum going,” or “I appreciate your decisive action.”
  4.  More easygoing people who want everyone to get along might appreciate: “Thank you for helping to keep the peace,” or, “I appreciate your amiability more than you know.”
  5.  To flexible, change-seeking workers who don’t get flustered easily you might write: “I recognize your easy resilience” or “Thanks for how you handled [difficult client].”
  6. To focused staffers with strong opinions, try: “I depend on your support,” or “I honor you for your convictions.”
  7. Analytical thinkers might value: “I appreciate your penetrating questions,” or “I respect the depth of your knowledge.”
  8. For structural-minded, detail-oriented people, consider: “Thank you for transferring all that data perfectly,” or “You always meet your deadlines—impressive!”
  9. Social thinkers want to please you, so you could write: “I’m so grateful for your team building skills,” or, “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
  10. Conceptual workers who want to feel unique might value: “Your solution to the XYZ problem was stunning,” or “I treasure your creative long-term views.”

Bersin’s research also showed the effectiveness of rewarding employees for:
1.  specific results and behaviors and,
2.  making thank yous public.
Consider displaying a list of employees you’ve recognized in your company newsletter, on bulletin boards, or via social media.

The best practices his research project uncovered also recommended including peer-to-peer recognition and making it easy for employees to recognize each other frequently.  For more on new “social” peer-to-peer recognition, you might enjoy Incentive Magazine’s article, “The Pressing Case for Peer-to-Peer Recognition” by Andrea Doyle.

How often and on what occasions do you write employee thank you notes? Do you ever have peers write thank you notes to peers?

About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime.  gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin.  Contact:  Rick KileyChief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
Follow the Company Blog –  “Celebrating Work”.
Join the Conversation @gThankYou 
Watch our gThankYou! YouTube Video – “Learn More About Us”.

“G” logo and “Certificates of Gratitude” are trademarks and “gThankYou” is a registered trademark of gThankYou, LLC.

3 Fantastic Food Blogs | gThankYou! Favorites

As winter weather drags on, finding inspiration in the kitchen can get a little harder.

Sweet potatoes, again?

Sweet potatoes, again?

On one hand, in my kitchen is often where I most want to be, next to the heat of the stove and a ready pot of tea. I’m the hunkering-down sort. I tend to bake too much, drink too much hot chocolate, and make endless variations on roast chicken and risotto.

On the other hand, winter in colder climates is one of the most discouraging times for produce. By March, I am tired of winter squash and potatoes. I have no more ideas for kale. I want something new.

That is where these food blogs come in. Visit any of these websites and let Deb Perelman, Heidi Swanson and Joy Wilson inspire and engage you with their vivid photographs and active imaginations.

9780307595652_custom-683a87e207903e45bbbd8a85df5d00c2e7502387-s6-c10I became a fan of Smitten Kitchen in a backwards way. I had heard of Deb Perelman, the New York-based author of the popular tiny kitchen blog, in passing via recipes from friends. But it wasn’t until I read about (and subsequently cooked) her lasagna bolognese in Best Food Writing 2012 and then impulsively bought her gorgeous new cookbook that I became a true SK convert.

A great blog is a combination of look and voice. Perelman takes all her own photos, and they’re beautiful, from a colorful mixed citrus salad with feta and mint to the French onion tart posted just this month. Her tone is self-deprecating and funny.

Her husband is “such a tidy eater … I comparatively eat with the grace of a Hoover.” She has a category on the blog called “disasters,” and writes about one set of them, “They’re not inedible. … They’re just not wonderful or magical or seriously, why have you not dropped everything yet and run to your kitchen to get this started?

Smitten Kitchen is organized for maximum ease — recipes are grouped by season, as well as by type (pancakes, dumplings), ingredient (eggs, apples) and cuisine (Indian, Italian). Now is the perfect time to try pancetta, white bean and chard pot pies, or “hibernation fare,” pasta with sausage, tomatoes and mushrooms.

SwansonFor healthier, I’m-sticking-to-my-New-Year’s-resolutions dishes, my absolute favorite blog is Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks. Swanson is the essence of inspirational, raving about her farmer’s market finds and offering simple substitutions for almost everything she makes.

Because of Swanson’s blog (and her two cookbooks, Super Natural Cooking and Super Natural Every Day), orzo has become a pantry staple, for potluck salads and easy weeknight dinners. I am no longer afraid of tofu, and I am shamelessly addicted to kale.

Following 101 Cookbooks is a great way to incorporate more grains into your diet in interesting, easy ways, from scones to warm noodle bowls. Start reading before spring, and you’ll be ready for every peapod and asparagus spear that crosses your path.

On the opposite end of the “virtuous” spectrum is Joy the Baker, a delightfully hedonistic blog full of cupcakes, cookies and lots of dark chocolate. Ina Garten is her kindred. (And yes, Joy has a cookbook too. It’s lovely.)

Joy baker

Photo from Joy the Baker

The site’s author, Joy Wilson, is perhaps best known for her sweets, but the first thing I made from her website was savory: this creme fraiche/bacon/gruyere quiche with a puff pastry crust, which simultaneously satisfied my craving for creme fraiche (like a mild sour cream) and something different to make with eggs.

I am intrigued by Wilson’s dark chocolate, pistachio and smoked sea salt cookies, the oatmeal sandwich cookies with creamy peanut butter filling and her roasted strawberry buttermilk cake, which transforms strawberries “from summer fruit to warm, soft candy.”

Maybe strawberries aren’t quite in season yet, but that sounds like the perfect cake to snap me out of my winter funk.

A few other food blogs to try and enjoy:

Wishing you spring weather soon!

About gThankYou, LLC

Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any Brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any Grocery Store in the U.S.

gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime. gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.

gThankYou, LLC (www.gthankyou.com) is based in Madison, Wisconsin. Contact: Rick Kiley, Chief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at info@gthankyou.com or 888-484-1658.
Follow the Company Blog – “Celebrating Work”.
Join the Conversation @gThankYou
Watch our gThankYou! YouTube Video – “Learn More About Us”.

“G” logo and “Certificates of Gratitude” are trademarks and “gThankYou” is a registered trademark of gThankYou, LLC.