Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Crunchy Salad - For Those Like Me Who Never Really Liked Coleslaw.

Once upon a time when I used to work in an office, I was offered to taste a salad that quite frankly, blew me away.

Being the true to form Taurean that I am, I of course asked what was in it (meaning the dressing because the contents, you will see, were pretty darn obvious) with a view to replicating this at home.

We now have this salad most weekends.  It is healthy, super crunchy, and delicious.  And if you are like me and have some foods you wished you loved but don't - like I do with coleslaw - then this is for you.

This recipe though allows me to improvise like nothing else.  With supermarkets producing packets of already chopped salad ingredients, I just go to town with what looks good on the day.

Here we go:

1/4 red cabbage finely shredded*
1/4 green cabbage finely shredded
1 carrot grated*
4 slices red onion
1/2 avocado, chopped
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 tbsp chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)


1 tbsp mayonnaise**

Mix all of these together and you have yourself a healthy and delicious lunch time salad.  Add a tin of tuna for an extra protein hit!

* the cabbage and carrot form the base of the salad. However, rather than chop the ingredients myself, I have also been known to purchase a pre-packed bag of coleslaw and just add to it, or more recently, a pre-packed bag of chopped beetroot, carrot and zucchini.  I will also add avocado, capsicum (peppers), cucumber - whatever you think

** to add a little extra zing to the dressing, I will mix in a teaspoon (or thereabouts) of caesar salad dressing or ranch with the mayo

Tuna Pasta Bake

This recipe is a simple go-to that uses ingredients you already have at home in the pantry and freezer.  I love it for those times I forgot to take something out for dinner or haven't done the groceries as yet.

What started as simply following a recipe from the internet, I couldn't help myself, I had to improvise!

Here's how I put my Tuna Pasta Bake together:

250 g pasta (spirals, penne, whatever you like)
40 g butter
2 tbsp plain flour
2 cups milk (full or low fat)
3/4 cup grated cheese
425 g can tuna, drained
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas or half cup finely chopped broccoli if I am smuggling vegies. I've even finely diced a zucchini. (Desperate measures with kids!!)

Pre-heat your oven on 180 deg C.

Boil a medium sized saucepan of water and cook your pasta until al dente. Sounds fancy!  Just cook it until it's done. Drain.

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and stir until combined.  Remove from the heat.  Add the milk, stirring to combine. Place back on the heat and continue to stir until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat again and add half of your grated cheese, stirring it in to combine.  Mix in the drained tuna.  Pour all of this mixture into the drained pasta and stir through.

Pour into a prepared oven dish. I use about a 6 cup capacity Pyrex dish. Preparing means I have pulled it out of the cupboard!  Smooth the mixture out so it is even. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the top.

Pop the dish into the oven and bake for about 10 - 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

This is great served on its own or with a side salad.

Serves 4 (with lunch leftovers!!)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup

The extent of my winging it in the kitchen goes as far as making a dish based solely upon what I think may be in it.

For my chicken and sweet corn soup that tastes like the real deal,  I use:

2 chicken breasts
420g can creamed chicken
420g can cream of chicken condensed soup
4 cups chicken stock
125g vermicelli (optional)

Serves 4

Place your vermicelli in a bowl and cover with boiling water to soak and soften. 

In a frying pan, cook your chicken. You could use bbq chicken if you wish to save on time (and who doesn't love that!) If using fresh chicken breast, I use a frypan with a lid to cook it quicker. 

In a large saucepan, bring your chicken stock to the boil. Add your condensed soup and creamed corn and stir. 

Shred the chicken and add to the soup, reducing the heat to a simmer.

Drain the vermicelli. Place in the bottom of your serving bowl. 

Pour soup on top and serve.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Chilli Con Carne - Slow Cooker Tuesdays

It is becoming widely known - because I keep reminding you - that I improvise (a lot) in the kitchen.  Turns out, so does my father, and his mother before him. So it is fair to say it is in the genes!

Today's recipe is a play on Taco Tuesdays.  My kids heard that term on a show once and decided to run with it.

Tonight however, it is not taco's as such. We are having Chilli Con Carne. And I decided to do it in the slow cooker.  Here's how it's happening:

1 tin crushed tomatoes
1 tin mixed beans (you could use red kidney beans)
500g lean mince
3/4 cup frozen corn kernels
1 sachet Chilli Con Carne recipe base powder mix 
(I would also use taco seasoning if I had to. It smelled the same!)

I emptied the tin of tomatoes into the slow cooker first. I then filled the tin to about half way with water, swished it around and poured that in as well.

Rinse the tin of beans under water until the soapy looking bubbles are no more. Pour them in to the slow cooker.  

Add the mince, the contents of the recipe base sachet and the corn.  Give it all a good stir to combine.  Lid on and turn to LOW.

Time on was 7.30am.

Because I am feeling all fancy and Mexican (and mainly because I have today off), I am serving this with corn chips, avocado, sour cream, lettuce, red onion and grated cheese, almost (but not quite) turning this into a Nachos-athon.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

2 Things To Keep In Mind When Dealing With Difficult Customers

More often than not, customers can interact and transact with us on a daily basis and all will be completely fine.

Then there are the times, for one reason or another, we have difficult customers.  

Knowing how to handle these situations can hinder or help our ongoing relationship with that customer and ultimately our business.

When I really stop and think about the best way to deal with difficult customers, I think it comes down to two things:



Communication is paramount.  It is the key driver to all relationships.  

A lack of communication can harm, or worse, destroy a relationship, and great communication can build and strengthen a relationship.  

But first of all, let's look at perspective.  

To do this, let me give you an example of what I mean by perspective.

Many moons ago, I lived with one of my best friends.  She is a nurse that works in operating theatres and at the time was the nurse who assisted the anaesthetist

Answering her question of how my day was, I launched into a (no less than) 20 minute rave about how bad my day had been. I can't even remember why it was apparently so ordinary in order to fill you in! At the end of my rant, I returned the question "so, how was your day?" 

Her reply put everything in perspective.  

"We lost a patient today."

The patient had gone in for what should have been a low risk, routine operation, but he had arrested on the table. She and the anaesthetist had worked on him for 45 minutes but could not bring him back.

It rarely happened so when it did, it never failed to rock her boat. Having a patient die and then having to inform their family never gets easy.

That conversation stopped me in my tracks.

I thought I'd had a bad day, but I had not had anyone die. It gave me perspective and I have never forgotten it.

The reason I tell that story is that when I have a difficult customer, I always shoot to that memory...has someone died? Chances are, the answer is no.

I am not diluting the customer's concern. I am keeping it in perspective.

Of course the customer's issue is important and I treat both the customer and the issue with respect.  

Perspective can help you detach from taking it personally. Unless you have done something yourself to upset a customer, the complaint is often not about you directly.  Keep that in mind when dealing with them.

It also helps to keep in mind that you never truly know the full story of what is going on in someone's life: stuff that can heighten their emotional state and possibly magnify their view of the situation they are taking up with you.


This brings me to communication.

By no means am I condoning or excusing a customers' less than desirable behaviour towards you by blaming it on what they have got going on in their lives that you may not know about.  

There is no excuse for bad manners and that goes for bad behaviour too.

It does help you however to be mindful.  It helps keep things in perspective.  Be respectful towards the customer, but detach yourself from allowing their heightened emotions to have more of an impact on you than they should.  

We have all been customers and we have all been upset with the (lack of) service we have received at one time or another.  Our meal took too long to arrive, it wasn't cooked through, we were overcharged, our flight was late, being attended to took way too long, we did not receive the return phone call we were promised, we were disconnected. The list could literally go on and on forever. Sad but true.

Dealing with difficult customers is not something anyone enjoys.

If you have built a relationship with your customers, dealing with an issue or delivering unpleasant news to them is made all the easier.  It may not alleviate all of their frustration or angst over the situation, but they will be less likely to take it out on you because they KNOW you. Though I am the first to acknowledge it can certainly test the strength of the relationship!

My background is in the freight industry. Over the years I have had my share of customers who have not had their freight arrive on time, their freight arrive damaged, their freight did not arrive at all. I am happy to say this was not a regular occurrence but it has happened.

Not knowing how a client will react to you delivering the 'news' you know they don't want to hear can create a little anxiety to say the least!

Empathise.  And, as best you can, manage their expectations. 

This is all done through communication.

These days emails are often considered the way to go because everything is in writing and cannot be mistaken in the 'he said, she said' game.

When a situation has turned sour however, face to face communication - where applicable - or a phone call, instead of or in addition to an email, can do wonders.

Speak in a calm voice, hear what the customer has to say and by that I mean really listen to them.  What you think is important and what the client thinks is important, could be different.  

You will often find that a disgruntled customer simply wants to vent.  So let them.  If this turns to blatant abuse and outrage, firmly but calmly remind them you will not accept that tone or behaviour.  Do not move to that level with them. It can be difficult, but remain calm and in control.

Often, this is not about you personally.  The worst thing you can do is argue back with the customer.  Dealing with a difficult customer is still a form of customer service and arguing is NOT endearing you to ongoing business.

Be mindful of what you say but more importantly HOW you say it.  As I said earlier, empathise.  Acknowledge how and why the situation is not what the client wanted.

Dependent upon circumstances, ask the client how they would like the matter resolved or let the client know how it will be resolved. I am one for exceeding expectations, however now is not the time to over-promise unless you absolutely know you can deliver.  So know your boundaries.

If you have told the client you will get back to them in an hour, make sure it is in an hour.  If you do not have the answer by then, call them and let them know you are still working on it and offer another timeframe to call them back in.  And stick to that timeframe.

This is all part of managing their expectations.  And re-instating credibility with you and/or your company.

When the client knows you are in their corner, the heightened emotional state softens.

A great place to learn about dealing with difficult customers is at the airport.   

Airports are places of peak emotions: from extreme happiness and excitement to sadness, frustration or even anxiety.  

This can make for an interesting time for the staff who work there.  

From the passenger who has missed their flight, is running late for their flight, wants to change their flight to the "don't you know who I am" passenger.  (Yes, they're out there).

Next time you are at an airport, watch the transactions at the check in counters and you will see how dealing with difficult customers is really handled.  When dealing with customers who are often operating at these peak emotions, the staff must be trained masters at negotiating and delivering information in order to keep the customers happy and the airline rolling.

The absolute bottom line is, it is the customer who is really paying our wages so it pays to know how to handle difficult situations when they arise and to keep the customers as someone who continues to support our business.

Do you have an example of handling a difficult customer?  Do you have a situation you'd like to know how to handle or handle differently?  Feel free to leave a comment below.