Staying Employed Through the Recession

Wherever you turn you’re bound to hear predictions of how bad the economy’s going to get, be they from “experts” or the guy sitting next to you on the bus. Ignore the lot. 2009 will likely be financially difficult, but no one knows to what extent. Sure, some firms will go to the wall, and some workers will get fired. But even in the worst-case scenario these will still be a minority. Chances are your business or job will still be around this time next year.

With things looking somewhat uncertain it’s more important than ever to have some rainy day money in liquid form (ie easy access cash), at least 4-6 months earnings would be prudent.

Recessions are very Darwinian in that the fittest survive while the rest become extinct. So how best to keep working?

This is a time when good enough might not be good enough; to survive you need to be a little better than just adequate. If you have a business, ask yourself how you can get ahead of your competitors. See what those in the same industry are offering and go one step better. Now more than ever is the time to listen – and respond – to customers’ desires.

Employees too need to go the extra mile to show their employers why they’re too valuable to let go. Coming up with ideas for innovation, doing stuff beyond your job description, and not refusing overtime will all help your cause. Adaptability is a positive asset. Show willingness to learn new skills and assume new responsibilities. Volunteer before you’re asked.

At times like these the myth of team-work goes even further out the window. It’s every man for himself in the quest to stay afloat.

Having said that, the next 12 months holds uncertainty for everyone. As such it’s a good idea to start thinking of what you might do should the unthinkable happen and you find yourself without work. Such a setback can even be turned into an opportunity. Perhaps there’s something you’ve always fancied doing but never had the chance; that chance might be now! You might even consider take an evening class or distance learning course to give yourself a head start in the market.

What if you see your employer’s business is in decline? Should you jump ship, or stay loyal to the bitter end? There’s no single right answer, but at least ensure you ask yourself the question. If a window of opportunity arises for something more stable, give it serious consideration; your first loyalty is to your family and yourself. On the other hand, if a generous severance package is likely, you might want to stay put.


How to Plan Your Dinner Party Meal

Throwing a dinner party – whether casual or elaborate – can be daunting. What you will serve as the meal is certainly one of the hardest decisions you’ll have to make with regard to your party (what to serve to drink, how to set the table, and whether you want to provide dinner party favors are just a few of the others you’ll want to take into consideration when planning.) Take some of the stress off yourself by planning ahead. I hope the following tips prove helpful.

1. Appetizers: The size of your party determines how many appetizers you need. If you have 2-6 guests – one appetizer is typically enough. Just make sure that there is enough for everyone to have a generous serving. People often ‘graze’ when it comes to appetizers – they like to nibble a bit here, nibble a bit there…but it adds up. For 7-12 guests I would make sure I had at least two appetizers. 12-24 guests? Three to four appetizers. Remember that the appetizers need not be homemade or elaborate appetizers. One of my all-time favorite appetizers to put out for guests is simply a generous wedge of a good Brie cheese (let it come to room temperature before serving), some fig or raspberry preserves in a pretty bowl, and crackers. Brie and preserves are a delicious combination and this appetizer will only take a couple minutes to prepare.

2. The Entree: Pick a tried-and-true favorite that you know how to make, and that you know you make well. (Your dinner party is not the time to try out a recipe for the first time). You can easily dress up its presentation by including a sprig or two of parsley next to the entrée, or scattering a bit of chopped parsley around the rim of the plate (Restaurants do can you!). If it is something you can make earlier in the day and just reheat – all the better. If you choose a homey entrée such as a pot roast – this can even be made weeks in advance and put in the freezer, well wrapped. Move it to the refrigerator two days before your dinner party and simply reheat it at 300 degrees F for 45 minutes to an hour before you serve it.

3. Sides: You’ll want your sides to provide a colorful contrast to the entrée when plated. I was once watching an interview and when talking about food the interviewee said: “You eat with your eyes first” – and it hit me just how right he was. Green (asparagus, green beans, etc.) or orange vegetables (acorn, butternut, etc.) look beautiful. Again – make the side dishes ahead of time and serve at room temperature or quickly reheat just before dinner in a 300F degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

Starches (potatoes, rice, noodles, etc.) tend to be white or ‘neutral’ in color. If you’d like you can also dress them up a bit (red skin potatoes have great color or you can add chopped bacon pieces and chives to mashed potatoes. Rice looks and taste wonderful with simple additions like chopped red or green peppers. Rolls or an artisan loaf of bread is always a wonderful accompaniment to your meal and require very little work. If you are serving the latter – cut it shortly before you serve the meal to ensure that the slices stay fresh. A stick of butter is the only other thing you need. (You can even ‘fancy up’ up the butter by cutting the stick into 16 even slices and gently fan the first slice to the left, the next to the right, the next to the left, etc.)

If you are serving salad take it from ordinary to extraordinary by choosing a combination of two or three lettuces with different hues. Red and Green Leaf lettuce is available everywhere and a mixture of both look beautiful. Add a little of a lighter color lettuce (Head or Boston, for an example) for more contrast. Grocery stores carry several different varieties of ‘mixed lettuces’ in bags – these are a huge timesaver. Again, choose things you add to based on color: cut red radishes, sliced black olives, croutons, bleu cheese, etc. Now not only will your salad be delicious -but it will be beautiful too! Dress it with a bottled dressing that is not too heavy (raspberry vinaigrette or poppy seed dressings are perfect) if you’d like. One of my favorite dressings is to mix Good Seasons in its cruet but substitute the vinegar it calls for with Balsamic vinegar. You guests will rave about it!

4. Dessert: Although simple desserts (ice cream, sorbet, fresh fruit or cheese) are lovely and work well – the finale of your meal is a great opportunity to ‘wow’ your guests. Fortunately with so many wonderful bakeries, including supermarket bakeries, a sensational looking and tasting dessert is at your fingertips. Of course if you would prefer to serve one of your delicious homemade desserts your guests will not only enjoy it – they will appreciate the fact that you made it especially for them.


Yummy Ways to Have Your Vegetables

Most mothers of school-age children know that a healthy serving of fruits and vegetables each day will do wonders for their children’s health. However, getting them to eat the vegetables is an entirely different story.

Since it will be almost impossible to serve a hefty plate of steamed vegetables to a seven-year-old, moms need to find creative and delicious ways to encourage children into having their vegetables. Here are a few ideas that might help.

Hide Those Veggies in a Little Italian Dish

Thank goodness for pizza and pasta. No child will pass up having them for lunch or dinner any day. They will even agree to have them all day, every day — no questions asked. So this is a good opportunity for you to sneak in a vegetable or two.

Having eggplant in lasagna is a good trick. Eggplant when cooked right actually tastes like meat, especially when drowned in marinara sauce and a generous helping of cheese. You can also throw basil and spinach in there and they wouldn’t really know the difference.

Vegetables are also great pizza toppings, especially if cooked and chopped just right. If you do not want your kids to see the vegetables, buy frozen dough that has been shaped and half-baked as pizza rounds. You can roll out the dough onto a floured surface, pile your sauce, toppings and cheese in the middle and seal it to make a calzone.

Ravioli is also a good way to put in vegetables. You can use frozen wanton wrappers from any Asian grocery store to make quick homemade ravioli. Place chopped spinach or blanched chopped carrots in between wrappers, seal and then boil. Make sure that you have an extra-special sauce with all the yummy beef and cheese. You can even place cheese and meat inside the ravioli to further mask the vegetables.

Bake Them into Dessert

Vegetables such as carrots and squash can be baked into a cake or made into a pie. Even when taken at face value, most kids still love pumpkin pie for thanksgiving, especially when served with a generous topping of whipped cream, chocolate syrup and nuts. Since they are kids, they can still have all these add-ons guilt-free.

Another good way to serve vegetables would be as cakes, bars, cookies and cupcakes. Carrots are a favorite vegetable ingredient for cupcakes and cookies though you can still find delicious cupcake recipes available for desserts that have ingredients such as zucchini, broccoli and bell peppers. Carrot cake is normally baked with cinnamon and frosted with cream cheese frosting. Despite its delicious taste, it actually has more carrots than it does flour, making it really healthy.

Cupcakes are great for ‘hiding’ vegetables, since they can be easily given to kids. With the right frosting, vegetable cupcakes are certainly a tasty treat, great as dessert or as an after-school snack. The carrot cake recipe can also be used for cupcakes, and topped with the same cream cheese frosting.


Spicy and Seductive Indonesian Traditional Food

There is nothing like going for some Indonesian Traditional Food. Once you have filled your week with enough local and fast food, or you have gone a month with eating European and world fairs from the many restaurants located island wide, it would be time to visit one of the authentic Indonesian Traditional Food restaurants in Singapore. I think the word I would use to describe the food would be ‘flavour’.

There is just a burst, and explosion of savoury taste that I experience whenever I bite into a well prepared Indonesian meal. I just cannot say no to a well prepared ‘rendang’ meal, there is nothing like the heavy coconut gravy and the almost melt in your mouth chunks of meat that accompany it, a perfect complement to the bowl of fragrant rice that accompanies it. The meat is tender and the servings are always known to be extremely generous. They are no slouch when it comes to their chicken either, roasted or grilled, they are liberated from their tasteless forms with a whole variety of spices and chillies that make for an excellent dining experience. The meat just melts of the bone and the spices and chilli that they use are simply exquisite, a burst of flavour at every bite. Then how can we forget the ‘tahu telur’, one of the signature dishes of traditional Indonesian dishes.

A skyscraper of tofu deep fired with egg batter, decorated with vegetables and spices and served with a sweet sauces. There is also the ‘Garang Asam’, which is a traditional seafood soup that is made with a collection of spices like lemongrass, chills and condiments like ginger and a whole host of select spices. Look out for the ‘Sate Bebek Bumbu and Babi’, essentially, the Indonesian version of the popular ‘satay’ found all over Singapore. I don’t think there is enough space in this article for me to list all the great Indonesian foods that you can try all in a single day.

From starters, main courses and even deserts like the ‘Kue Pepe’ and the ‘Lapis Surabaya’, there are so many choices for you to choose from. And the best thing is that in all the Indonesian restaurants that I have been to, the service has been impeccable, the staff friendly and attentive and I have had no bad experiences what so ever. If you are looking for a good Indonesian restaurant to go to for lunch or dinner, and want to experience a crash course in Indonesian culture and taste some of their fabulous food, I would recommend going to places in town and areas like Clarke Quay and the River Walk – you will find many traditional Indonesian Restaurants where you can start enjoying their delicacies almost immediately.

Price range starts at $20 a person and can go significantly higher, but you always will get value for your money. With their rich spices, generous helpings and range of foods, you will never be’ not satisfied’ when eating Indonesian traditional food.