Monday, January 30, 2012

Free HR Advice: Evaluate Your Email

I set up my first Yahoo email address when I was in college.   I still have that email address today.   Pre-Facebook, friends knew that they could find me at that address even if they didn't know where I lived or what my number was.  That email address was based off a nickname.  It's fine for friends, it's fine for me to get notifications from my vet or offers from Groupon.   I wouldn't put it on my resume.

Most applications are all done online.  You will get notifications of openings via email.  You will get "sorry you weren't selected" notices via email.  You will take assessments and surveys via email.   You have a great interview and they love you and offer you a job?  You may get an offer letter via email.

Email addresses are free.   It's ok to sign up for a new one just for your job search.

Your ringtone can be a first impression once you've gotten past the application stage.   Your email address will probably be seen first.  On a resume, most people put their email address right below their name.  

Imagine seeing this on a resume:

First Name Last Name
123 Maple Street  Denver, CO

How's that for a first impression?

Go ahead, be judgemental.   What's your first impression based on these made up email addresses?

Yahoo.  Gmail.  MSN.  Whatever.   Setup an email address that is some variation of your name.

Don't shoot yourself in the foot in your job search.  You don't want something this simple to give a recruiter the idea that you aren't serious about your career.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Recipe: Spicy Thai Tuna Salad

Volunteering in Thailand

I love Thailand.  

In the summer of 2008, I had a master plan.   I wanted to take a month off work to travel and do international volunteer work.   I proposed it to my manager - I had 3 weeks of paid vacation and would take another week unpaid.  His response?  Check with my co-workers since they would cover my work while I was away.   They gave me the go ahead and I never looked back.    I chose to volunteer with Cross Cultural Solutions for three weeks in southern Thailand and I had some time for travel before, after, and on the weekends.   If you want more information, click the Traveler Abroad page above and scroll down to Thailand 2009.   

Part of loving Thailand is loving the food.   I ate non-stop for a month and came home 7 pounds lighter.  I'm going to say it was the heat, combined with eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and very limited processed food (although garlic soft-shell crab potato chips are pretty good).    When I came back from Thailand, I gave the H-Mart, the "big box" Asian grocery store here, a more thorough exploration.   The pricing on fruits, vegetables and spices is very reasonable.    You can find a bunch of fresh basil or mint for 50 cents.  

I have a fantastic Thai cookbook, Quick And Easy Thai, by Nancie McDermott - and adapted today's lunch from that cookbook:  Spicy Tuna Salad with Chilies and Lime.  Next time, I'll have to make a bigger batch.

2 5oz cans of tuna in water, drained
3 tablespoons fish sauce (this is what adds the salt to this recipe, you can always start with less and add to taste)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1-2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallots (I didn't really measure)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped roasted, salted peanuts
1 teaspoon Asian chili paste (to taste)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.   Mix gently to season the tuna and break it into smaller chunks.   Cover and chill until ready to serve (then garnish with cilantro, lime wedges and more peanuts if you'd like).   I enjoyed mine on an Orowheat Whole Wheat Sandwich Thin.  

Chili Paste from the H-Mart - the label is all in Korean.  
Thankfully, the prices on the shelves had a little English.

Spicy Tuna Salad on a Sandwich Thin

Free HR Advice: Use Caller ID to Your Advantage

You're out at happy hour with your friends.   Your phone rings or vibrates and you see it's your Mom.   You make the executive decision that this is not the right time to talk about your goals, aspirations, love life, dog, roommates, health, or what you want to be when you grow up.   You ignore the call and let it roll into voicemail.

The same way that you use caller ID to your advantage in your personal life, do it in your job searching life. 

Your phone rings.  You don't recognize the number.  If you've been submitting applications or resumes, it could be your potential next employer (hooray!).   Think first.  Answer the phone second. 

How should you answer the phone?
a)  "'Sup?"
b) "J-dogg here"
c) "Who's this?"
d) "Hello.  This is _________ (insert your real first name here)"

If you choose to answer the phone and it is your potential next employer, you've just made your first impression.  Answer your phone wisely.   If it's not a good time to talk or you want to know who's calling first, let it go into your voicemail.  Then you can check the message at your convenience and return the call when you are prepared.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Chili

Yesterday I saw an awesome recipe for Triple Chocolate Brownie Pie.  There is no way that I can justify making least right now.   So I've been scouting for entree recipes that incorporate more fruits and veggies (and an occasional whole grain if I'm feeling particularly nutritious).    I'm on the Betty Crocker email list and they sent a link to their Best of 2011 recipes.    Not surprisingly they are mostly desserts.   But I found this recipe in the mix.

I love buffalo chicken in almost any form.   Chicken wings have too much wing and not enough chicken for me, but boneless wings (an oxymoron if there ever was) or buffalo chicken sandwiches/wraps....mmmm.    Buffalo chicken doesn't have to be a calorie killer, if you focus more on the hot sauce and less on frying and mad quantities of blue cheese or ranch.    This is an crockpot recipe.   If you do it overnight, you'd better like the smell of chicken chili in the morning. 

Adapted from Betty Crocker

Spray your 5 to 6 quart crockpot with cooking spray.   Combine all ingredients below and then cook on low for 8-10 hours. 

5 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 medium stalks celery, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained
1 15oz can of black beans, drained
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
sea salt and seasoning salt to taste
1/4 cup hot sauce or wing sauce (I added it in the beginning, the original recipe has you stirring it in just before serving)
1 teaspoon white vinegar (added in the last few hours just to balance the flavor)

Light ranch dressing, blue cheese crumbles, and celery sticks for garnish.   The blue cheese crumbles really tied the whole thing together.   Enjoy!

Recipe: Cinnamon Toffee Blondies

First, a shout out to my co-workers who gave me a gift of colored plates for my birthday.   So many more options for my food photography.   And possibly more treats for them too.  

This recipe is courtesy of Lauren from her blog Keep It Sweet and it was featured as a guest post on A Culinary Journey with Chef Dennis.    I followed the original recipe as posted...except for some modifications due to a lack of cinnamon chips. 

Where have all the cinnamon chips gone?  (You can sing this Peter, Paul & Mary style.  Go ahead, try)  This recipe calls for cinnamon chips and my local King Soopers doesn't have them.   In talking to a friend about this baking crisis, she said that she would see them in the stores when she lived on the East Coast.   She also said she has a hookup in the ability to get any Hershey's product she wants.  Including these.   I admit that I didn't check more than one grocery store, so it could be that there are cinnamon chips in Denver, but that I didn't look hard enough.    So I doubled the amount of cinnamon in the recipe from 1/2 teaspoon to a full teaspoon and was not disappointed.   

The other ingredient of question was toffee bits.   Now, sometimes I see the bags of Heath or Skor bits, but I don't know if that's what was originally intended.  And I couldn't find them the day I was at the store.  Can you buy toffee bits without chocolate?  So instead I bought a bag of Heath miniatures (actually cheaper per ounce than buying a 6 pack of regular size bars) and chopped up 20 of them which provided about a cup of toffee bits. 

Are they really Chewy Gooey?  Yes.  So much so that gettting them out of the pan, even lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray, took a little effort.  And I was impatient, wanting to try them while they were still warm.   Lots of love from my friends on the ski trip for these.   And when I left Breck on Sunday afternoon I left the remainder for the crew staying until Monday.   Why?  Keeping them out of my kitchen so that I don't sabotage my attempt at healthier eating more than I already have.

Cinnamon Toffee Blondies - Second Batch
My sister scoured a couple different grocery stores, finally finding both cinnamon chips and Hershey's Bit O' Brickle at an Albertsons on Mississippi.   I made a second batch, partially as a bribe to one of her friends and the other for her office (not bringing any to my office, since we're just one month in to a three month weight loss challenge).   These were even better than the first batch.  I baked them for about 40 minutes and WOW!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Free HR Advice: Check Your Voicemail

My sister blatantly admits that if I leave her a voicemail she does not listen to it.  Rather she calls me back to see what's going on.  If it's important enough for me to leave a message, she figures it's important enough to call back.  She should be thankful she's not applying to work for me.  

Assuming that you have gotten far enough in your job search that a recruiter has gotten past your ringtone and left you a message, it is time for you to take that crucial step.   Yes.  You must listen to your voicemail.   Who called?  Where does he/she work?   What do they want you to do?  What number should you call?  Who should you ask for?

In our smart phone world of just hitting the most recent missed call, take the time to listen.   Your recruiter or hiring manager will not be impressed with, "Hi, this is Sally.   I just got a call from someone at this number?"    I have a proper name...I'm not just someone at this number.  And if that isn't bad enough, imagine the employee, possibly the recruiter that you're hoping to interview with, answering the phone asking "Did the person who called you leave a message?" and you having to say "Well...I....uh didn't listen to it." Or you lie, claiming that you did not receive a message and hope that the person on the other end was not the person who called you.  Either way, those are not the responses of a winning candidate. 

Remember the job description?  It may have included words like professional, attention to detail, thoroughness, responsibility and personalized service.   

When a recruiter leaves you a message you have the luxury of returning the call at a time that works for you.   You're not in the car, you're not in the bathroom, you're not in the line at the grocery store.   You're prepared to sell yourself and answer his/her questions.     You have just ruined your first impression if you haven't taken the time to call the right number and ask for the right person.    That whole attention to detail thing?   We're not kidding.     The lack of attention to detail on your part may lead to a lack of interview on our part.

*Please take this as a fun and common sense approach to navigating the mysterious world of HR and not formal professional advice. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Recipe: Saltine Toffee

This is not me falling off the wagon, I promise.  I'm still committed to the 95 Days of Glory (although the past two days have made that the 93 days...).   I used the ski trip this weekend as my excuse to try some new sweet recipes that are not part of my healthy eating plan.   But I didn't have more than a sample, and today left the remainder in the mountains for my friends staying over until tomorrow.   So selfless. 

I've tried saltine toffee once or twice, but never really looked into how to make it.    Inspired by a recipe that I saw in Taste of Home, I made it for ski trip snacking.

Take your 15x10 inch jelly roll pan and line with foil.    Preheat your oven to 350. 

40 saltines - pretty much a whole sleeve
1 cup butter/margarine
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 - 2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, chopped

What to Do and When to Do It:
Arrange saltines in a single layer on the foil.   I ended up breaking the crackers in half to fit the last spaces.   In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Stir in sugar and bring to a boil.  Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes until sugar is dissolved.  Pour evenly over crackers.   I can tell my pan was a little bowed, because I needed to tilt the pan a little bit to get all crackers evenly covered.    Bake for 8-10 minutes (next time, I'll probably go a little longer...that whole bowed pan meant that sugary, buttery goodness didn't cook as evenly as it should have).   Once pan is removed from the oven sprinkle chocolate chips and allow them to melt.  Use a spatula to smooth melted chocolate and then sprinkle with chopped pecans.    Allow to chill in the fridge for at least an hour (longer is better for us bowed pan girls) and then break into pieces and store in an airtight container until every last morsel is consumed.

I need more ski trips to justify my baking habit.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Free HR Advice: Mind Your Ringtone

"So what we get drunk,  so what we smoke weed.....we don't care who sees..."
Prompted by spending my Friday at an all day HR conference, learning and earning my PHR recertification credits, I feel compelled to use my break between sessions providing some common sense advice.   As everyone who has drawn breath knows:  common sense is more uncommon than it should be.   Working in HR, we've got what people want both for applicants and current employees.  Jobs.  Benefits.  Training.  Promotions.  Information.  The discount code to buy zoo tickets.  The scale for the weight loss challenge.  Your W2.
When you're looking for a job, first impressions are key.   I review your application and if I think you might be a good fit,  I pick up the phone.
Think about it.  Your friends might love the song by Wiz Khalifa (the lyrics at the start of this post).  You might "like big butts,"  "wasting away in Margaritaville" and "pimpin all over the world."
But I can guarantee that if the ringback tone on your phone plays a song that's about getting drunk, riding dirty or dropping it low, I won't be leaving a message about your application.  And I won't call back.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Birthday Coupon Bonanza

If you plan ahead you can eat free, or at least 50% free, with the bogos, for your birthday month at the max and the two weeks around your birthday at a minimum.   The key?  Sign up for the birthday clubs or email lists for your favorites.   It's definitely more chains than independent local restaurants, though last year, just by the virtue of celebrating my birthday in their establishment I got a free pancake at Snooze and cheesecake at Katie Mullens.  

Papa Murphy's Pizza - Free cookie dough with the purchase of a pizza...and I managed to use a free cheese bread coupon too!
Betty Crocker (online) - Free Cake make my own birthday cake, I guess
Baskin Robbins - Free scoop coupon
Dairy Queen - Bogo birthday Blizzard coupon
Sonic - Free creamslush, medium drink or tater tots
Rubios - Free entree ($7 value)
Noodles and Co - Free noodle bowl
Starbucks -  Free drink of your choice.  You need to have a registered Starbucks card.  They sent me a
postcard that must be "cheerfully submitted" when I claim my drink.
Bd's Mongolian BBQ - Free stirfry meal
Goodtimes - Bogo Spoonbender.  (Another reason to love Goodtimes?  I can walk from my house with my dog.  Get a Spoonbender for myself and a Pawbender for Chey.)
Arby's -  Free 12oz shake with purchase
Buffalo Wild Wings -  Free chocolate cake or ice cream
Red Robin - They used to email a free birthday burger.  Now you need to have their loyalty card.  I should be getting one in the mail, but haven't seen it yet. 
Panera -  A special treat has been loaded onto my card...I have no idea what it is.   I was pleasantly surprised in December when I had a free coffee drink...added bonus!
Dave & Busters - $10 in game play
Tokyo Joe's -  Rather than getting free food on your birthday,  they surprise you with a freebie on your half birthday.  In July. I'll be ready.
If I get more this week,  I'll add them to the list.   If your birthday is in February you'd best get crackin'.

Recommendations for other birthday coupons?  Post them in the comments.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chicken & Tortellini Soup

This whole trying to eat healthier goal is already challenging, and it's only day 5 (of the 95 days of glory, that is).   Just minutes ago I found a recipe for Cinnamon Toffee Blondies.   They look delicious and I can't wait to try them.   In April, that is.   In the meantime, I'm trying to steer my love of cooking from the channel of chocolate to the sea of salad.   So I'm looking for recipes and dishes that I won't be ashamed to put in my food journal.   

6 cups of water
5 chicken bouillon cubes
25 baby carrots cut into smaller pieces
2 cups frozen cheese tortellini
1 1/2 cups of shredded cooked chicken
1 can cannellini beans (rinsed)
salt, pepper, sage, thyme, and parsley to taste

In a large saucepan simmer the water and bouillon until dissolved.    Add the carrots and simmer for 12-15 minutes until tender.     Add the tortellini and simmer until tender 4-5 minutes.   Add the chicken, beans and spices and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.     Enjoy!

adapted from Real Simple

Random Small Victory:
Today at the gym I told my trainer that I bought smoked almonds.   He told me that I should return them because they have high fructose corn syrup.   I said no.   When I got home I checked the label.  No HFCS in sight.   Jenni - 1point.  Trainer - 0.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Favorite Fruit Dip

After my first year of college, I had a summer internship with a local university working in food service and catering.    I don't remember anything else from that experience (other than the stylish red and blue polo shirts) other than this fruit dip.     Three ingredients and it's a winner each time.    And now that I'm trying to commit to healthy eating as a part of the 95 days to glory (1 day down, 94 to go) this recipe helps me keep my sweet tooth in check without jumping off the deep end....into a vat of cookie dough, for instance.   

1  8oz block of reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all three ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat with a hand mixer until smooth.    Spoon into a bowl or a hollowed out piece pineapple (or grapefuit, or orange) and dip all those nutrition-packed fruits you love.  In moderation of course. 

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Santa Fe Cookie Company

There are some things in life that should really be this simple.   A friend introduced me to the Santa Fe Cookie Company in the fall.  The shop is on 16th and Tremont (Republic Plaza) in downtown Denver.   The business model is simple.  One dollar.   That's it.  One dollar for three freshly baked cookies.    Three cookies to a bag and they are sorted by flavor.   You put your one dollar bill or four quarters or twenty nickels in the plastic bottle and leave.   You can say hi to the Cookie Lady or just sneak out quietly.   Brilliant.

95 Days to Glory

Tis the season for setting up goals, ambitions, plots and plans for 2012.   I recently saw an Agnes & Phil cartoon where the answer to "What is a New Year's Resolution?" was "A to-do list for the first week of January."  That's not my plan for this year. 

On Afford Anything, a personal finance blog that I enjoy reading, Paula recently wrote a post entitled Pick a New Year's Resolution That Won't Fail.   The key point with any goal (or resolution) is that you have to pick something that you want enough.   She writes about her time traveling the world - that experience was non-negotiable, so she focused her time, energy and money towards that goal.   There's a reason that I travel for fun so often.   It is more important than a new car, a flatscreen TV, or expensive clothes.   It's my priority and that's where my focus lies.  

The other thing about goals is that you have to pick some that are attainable sooner than others.    If every goal you have will manifest itself in 2014, you're going to have a long wait over the next two years.   A balance of long and short term goals helps keep you motivated because you'll see some results sooner.

So what's with the paper chains?  The short green one is the count down to my birthday, courtesy of my sister.    The long yellow and gold one is the count down to our family vacation to Greece.   The wait is easier with a visible way to count down to the fun. 

The nickname for the countdown to Greece chain is 95 days to glory.  Aka, our short-term goal for this spring.  We have committed to ramped up fitness, food journals and streamlined nutrition (as our trainer would say) with the goal of getting into Greece shape.  This is a short-term goal.   I can resist cookies in the employee cafeteria for 95 days.    I can commit to getting exercise 4-5 days per week for 95 days.   I can focus on making healthy dinners instead of decadent desserts for 95 days.  

I will try to keep you posted on our progress towards glory.   All I know is that when I'm relaxing on the islands in April I want to be rocking sundresses like I mean it.   And......go!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Euclid Hall, Take 2

In late November I ate at Euclid Hall for the first time.   In mid-December, I went back again and took my sister for some "crafted" food before hitting the DCPA for the Broadway revival of West Side Story (which was awesome....I was mentally singing along the whole time!).    The food does not disappoint, and this time, it was light enough for me to take pictures.

Hello appetizer!  Growing up in the fine state of Wisconsin, we take our cheese curds seriously! 
A lame frozen mozzarella stick is not the same.   
Served with buffalo ranch for dipping.

My first time ever having Chicken & Waffles.  
The chicken was pounded flat and had a light crispy savory
in contrast to the waffles and maple syrup.

And when cheese curds and chicken and waffles aren't enough, I ended this culinary
adventure with the Bacon Sticky Bun.   I'm struggling with the proper
adjectives to describe the caramel sauce studded with bacon.  
Just do it.


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