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TakeLessons Free Downloadable Holiday Cookbook

By Food and Drink, For Fun No Comments

TakeLessons Holiday Christmas CookBookIn the spirit of the Holidays, the team at TakeLessons put together this awesome cookbook, filled with our favorite recipes. I’d like to give it to you as my gift and to wish you and yours the most joyous Holiday season!


Download the eBook here

“Our team at TakeLessons put together a little something special (and scrumptious!) just for you!

We’d love to bring you a plate of cookies and Grandma’s eggnog, but since we can’t be everywhere at once, we had to get a little more creative to bring our home to you! Below you’ll find the TakeLessons Holiday Cookbook 2014 with our favorite holiday treats. We hope you enjoy these delicious homemade dishes!

From our home to yours, cheers to an incredible year. Here’s looking forward to a delightful 2015!

Warm wishes,
The TakeLessons Team”

Favorite Recipes from the TakeLessons Crew

By Food and Drink No Comments

Chef Once a week, I send a fun question to everyone in the company to help us get to know each other. It’s part of building a great culture.

Last week, we asked, “Do you have any great recipes you want to share with your teammates?”

An here are all the answers. Enjoy these great recipes from the team at TakeLessons!

Smiley Martel

I tossed this together this morning (Saturday.) It’s shredded pork with a Texmex flavor. I intentionally used simple units, and also went light on the spices. If you find that you prefer more flavor then double everything except the meat and salt.

3 to 5 pounds pork shoulder (boneless or bone-in)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 Tablespoon chili powder (I make my own, ask me if you want that recipe)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (or 2 or 3 teaspoons chopped chipotle in adobo)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Place the meat in a slow cooker and cover with all the remaining ingredients, turning the meat over so all sides are covered. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 8 to 10 hours. You can also brown the meat, saute the onions and garlic, stir-in and heat the spices to develop more flavor before adding them all to the slow cooker. Once cooked to the point that the meat will easily shred, serve any way you prefer. I like corn tortillas, shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, and chopped white onions with minced cilantro and lime juice.

You can substitute other meats like beef or chicken. For chicken I’d replace the tomato with the juice (and some pulp) of an orange. For beef I think I’d skip the coriander and add a bay leaf.

I’m sure you can also make this on the stove top or in the oven, but you’ll probably need to add about half to one cup of water with the other ingredients. Use a dutch oven or similar heatsafe pot. In the oven I think I’d cook it for about 3 hours at about 400 degrees. On the stove top I think I’d cook it on low heat for about 3 to 5 hours, turning the meat over occasionally.

Avatar.154 Dana

There’s an awesome, easy to make Bruschetta that I love.

Combine a container of cherry tomatoes with a container of kalamata olives and feta. (You can usually find mixes like this pre-made near the deli section of a grocery store.)

Double check that there are no pits in any of the olives, and make sure all of the oil from the olive/feta mix is included.

Add extra feta, and minced garlic to taste.

Mix it all up and spread it in a pan.

Bake at about 375 until the tomatoes burst and the cheese has browned a little.

Take it out of the oven and sprinkle some balsamic vinegar across the top.

Eat with whatever kind of bread you choose. I like to cut up a baguette and toast it a little.

Avatar.154 Christopher

Best way to make a hot dog
-Toasted bun
-hot dog (jalapeno dog if you can)
-cream cheese

Avatar.154 Amanda

I’m always in charge of bringing the vegetarian dishes for family holidays. I found this recipe a few years ago and now everyone demands it! The only changes I’ve made: watch the oil- you probably won’t use everything they say you will, split the bell peppers between red and green, and add lots of whole garlic cloves.

Avatar.154 Christopher

1 cup flour, 1/4 cup milk, 2 eggs… Mix dough, scrape into boiling water… super easy. Makes me miss Germany

Avatar.154 Michael

Spicy Eggplant

2 Chinese Eggplants Diced
1 Rib Eye Steak – cubed (you can buy cubed beef, but it’s normally from the shoulder of the cow)
1 Yellow Onion Chopped
1 Broccoli “Crown” (I think that’s what it’s called)
1 TBSP Oyster Sauce
1 TBSP Spicy Chili Sauce
1 TBSP Soy Sauce
1 TSP Pepper
1 TBSP Canola Oil
1 TBSP Sesame Oil

1) Brown cubed meat then set aside
2) Cook eggplant thoroughly
3) Add onions broccoli
4) Once onions and broccoli cook, add Oyster sauce, chili sauce, soy sauce and pepper.
5) Add browned meat
6) Cook on med-low for 10 minutes
7) Drizzle sesame oil and serve

Avatar.154 Allen:

Spicy Eggplant

2 Chinese Eggplants Diced
1 Rib Eye Steak – cubed (you can buy cubed beef, but it’s normally from the shoulder of the cow)
1 Yellow Onion Chopped
1 Broccoli “Crown” (I think that’s what it’s called)
1 TBSP Oyster Sauce
1 TBSP Spicy Chili Sauce
1 TBSP Soy Sauce
1 TSP Pepper
1 TBSP Canola Oil
1 TBSP Sesame Oil

1) Brown cubed meat then set aside
2) Cook eggplant thoroughly
3) Add onions broccoli
4) Once onions and broccoli cook, add Oyster sauce, chili sauce, soy sauce and pepper.
5) Add browned meat
6) Cook on med-low for 10 minutes
7) Drizzle sesame oil and serve

Smiley Suzanne

This is my kind of cooking:
Put 4-5 chicken breasts in crockpot. Cover with salsa, any kind. Throw in spices, depending on what you’re feeling like that day. Turn crockpot on. Leave cooking for 6 hours. DONE.

Avatar.154 Steven

Hello Beautiful People,

This recipe comes from one of our early peeps, Lori Wilcox. She now runs a personal chef business called Food Made Fresh (

Here is her recipe for fabulous Chicken Cordon Bleu.

Chicken Cordon Bleu with Roasted Delicata Squash

Serves 4

2 lbs chicken breast, trimmed

½ tsp pepper

¼ tsp salt

6 tbl shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

2 tbl reduced fat cream cheese

¼ cup dry bread crumbs

3 tsp parsley, chopped

1 tbl olive oil

¼ cup ham, diced small


1 lb Delicata squash- sliced

2 medium ripe pears- cored and sliced

2 tsp olive oil

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

2 tbl water

1 tbl brown sugar

1 tsp chili powder

4 slices bacon, microwave until crisp & broken into chunks


Preheat oven to 400°F. Sprinkle chicken with 1/8 teaspoon pepper and salt.

Combine cheese and cream cheese in a bowl. Combine the remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper with breadcrumbs, parsley (or thyme), and 1 teaspoon oil in another bowl.

Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a medium, ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Move the chicken to the center so the pieces are touching. Spread with the cheese mixture, sprinkle with ham, then top with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F, 5 to 7 minutes.

FOR SQUASH – Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut squash in half lengthwise; scoop out the seeds. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Toss in a large bowl with pears, oil, salt, and pepper.

Spread on a large baking sheet. Roast the squash and pears until just tender, stirring once or twice, 20 to 25 minutes. Heat 2 tsp olive oil Over medium heat, stir in water, brown sugar, and chili powder. Add the squash and pears; toss to coat. Crumble the bacon on top.

Smiley Erik

This one comes from the white trash side of my distant ancestry, maybe Missouri.
Sh*t on a Shingle:
1-2 Cups of milk
1/2 – 1 stick of butter
1/2 – 1 cup of flour
Some frozen peas
Some Buddig Beef (thin slice)
Toast, freshly made, 1 slice per person
Salt & pepper to taste

Make the sauce first: mix milk, butter in saucepan till butter melted. Stir in flour to thicken to however thick/thin you like. As it simmers, drop in peas and beef. Simmer maybe 5 mins…just eyeball and taste it to know when it’s ready. Put toast on serving plate, pour sauce over toast, et voila! Dat’s some good eats. Then go see your cardiologist.

Smiley Timothy

Heck yes! Kale Chips are super easy to make and so good for you.

Get some kale. Any kind will do. Wash and dry the leaves and then rip into chip-sized pieces. Lightly coat the leaves with olive oil and salt (and vinegar too if you like that. I do!) and make sure to massage all the oil into the leaves so they’re coated.

Put the leaves on a sheet pan and bake at 325 for 20 or so minutes. They will get super crisp. Take pan out and enjoy. Amazingly healthy, no calories, taste very much like potato chips!

Smiley David

I am not really a “recipe” type guy. I am much more of the “order from a restaurant, put the food in my dishes, and quickly throw away the boxes and pretend you are awesome” type guy.

Avatar.154 Carrie

Black beans and sweet potato fries mixed and fixed any way…over chips w Valentina, in a quesadilla w cheese and guac, rolled in tortillas and baked. SO MANY OPTIONS!! 🙂

Smiley Hanam

-Greek pasta with blue cheese
Everyone so far who’s hated blue cheese really LOVE this dish. I have yet to be proven wrong.

-No-frills oven roasted chicken
Unlike costco/ralphs chicken, this simple oven roasted chicken cooking technique will not make the chicken salty. The skin will crust, and will act like a membrane to keep the juices into the chicken until you cut open the skin (AMAZING).

-Baked Buffalo chicken wings with Baking Powder
Much like the chicken above, the wings will crust, but will leave the inside completely moist. Here’s an in-depth analysis of it:

-Make better burgers
Skip those dry Costco patties, here are some tips on making the next perfect burger:

Avatar.154 Adam

Hmmm, I don’t cook anything too spectacular, but I like to make cocktails so here’s my Old Fashioned recipe:

in an Old Fashioned glass:
-muddle 1 cube of sugar, 1-2 dashes of Angostura bitters, and a slice of orange
-fill the glass with ice
-add a splash of club soda
-top off with bourbon or rye whiskey
-garnish with a cherry

Avatar.154 Maria

FRUIT PIZZA! Oh yeah, I eat fruit.

¾ Cup of Butter softened
½ Cup of Powdered Sugar
1½ Cup flour
Preheat Oven to 300 degrees –
Beat butter & sugar until fluffy.
Blend in flour.
Press Mixture into bottom side of 12” round pizza pan
Bake 20-25 minutes until lightly browned – Cool completely
Spread filling on top
1 8 oz. package of Cream Cheese
½ teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
Cream cream cheese, sugar & vanilla mixing until well blended.
Spread over crust; arrange fruit over cream cheese mixture
¼ Cup sugar
1 TBSP cornstarch
*½ Cup pineapple juice
½ teaspoon Lemon Juice
In small saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch; Stir in juices
Cook over medium heat; stir constantly until thick. Cool.
Pour this Mixture over fruit as a glaze.

Avatar.154 Danae

I have two!!

1. Hollow out apples and bake with cinnamon and sugar inside. After it’s done baking, fill with ice cream and caramel!!

2. Cupcake pizzas!!

What You Need:
Pillsbury Refrigerated Pizza Dough
Pizza Sauce
Shredded Cheese
Cupcake Tin

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (as the package directed) and grease the cupcake pan.
Separate the dough into 5 equal parts. Push the dough into the molds; try to make the dough cover the sides.
Cover dough with pizza sauce, cheese and pepperoni.
Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Avatar.154 Shawn

Yes, You put the lime in the coconut!

Avatar.154 Kristi
Avatar.154 Gina

I don’t cook– any recipes help 🙂

Avatar.154 Joseph

Home Made Surf and Turf burritos. No proportions I just cook as much as I need for the fambam.
Carne Asada (Pan fried with onions and butter)
Shrimp (Tails cut off, pre cooked, heated in Pan)
Sour Cream
Refried Beans
Guacamole (with sour cream)
Pico de Gayo
All thrown into a large Flour Tortilla and enjoy.

Avatar.154 Jon

Avocado, salt and chips. Yum!

Avatar.154 Nicholas
Avatar.154 Kathleen

Green Juice: Persian cucumber, celery, spinach, dino kale, parsley, pink lady apple


Cooling green smoothie: coconut water, cucumber, avocado (+a scoop of spirulina for an extra boost)

My Juice Cleanse Diet Experiment: Cleanse Your Body, Detox Your Habits

By Food and Drink, Health & Fitness One Comment

I have a goal this year to  drop from 198 to 188. At 188, I feel better, my clothes fit a bit better, and I’m generally overall happier. To kick-start the year right, I ordered a 3-day juice cleanse from Catalyst Cleanse – a juicing company on the east coast. Honestly, I can’t remember how I found them, but during the process of getting the juices for the cleanse, I had a chance to converse with one of the owners  – and they were really pleasant.

The juices arrived via Fed Ex and the fridge was stacked with wholesome goodness.



Being the curious guy that I am, I wish the bottles displayed the calorie intake of each juice. I couldn’t find it on the site or in the pamphlets included. I ordered one set of juices for myself and one for Michelle, but as I got to thinking about it, it didn’t make sense that we drank the same amount. Shouldn’t I have more calories just due to the fact that I weigh a lot more than her?

Anyway, the ingredients are all raw, organic, and in it’s purest form. I was looking forward to eating/drinking that way for a few days.

Catalyst Juice Cleanse Ingredients



Juice Cleanse: Day 1

I grab an espresso and I’m in the gym at 6:00 am like normal. Do 45 minutes on the elliptical machine. (Note, the cleanse says no caffeine… um, no – that’s not an option).

Drink the first of six daily cleanse juices at 7:50 AM

9:30 – definite hunger pangs. Not intense, but my belly knows it’s time to eat again. I drink the second juice. This one’s lemon flavored with a cayenne pepper kick. No lie – I somehow feel the cayenne burn in my eyelid. Weird.

By 11:00 am – my body is buzzing. Kind of like a big-ass caffeine jolt. I tingle in my hands and cheeks. I feel like I want to eat, but I can’t tell whether I’m actually hungry, or if it’s more that I’m in the habit of eating at this time. I want to grab something to munch on, but I don’t.

By 2:00 pm, I feel like I’ve gotten into a rhythm. My anxiousness to eat food has subsided. I pop open my next drink and drink it over the course of an hour, instead of 10 minutes (which is what I did last time).

4:00 – Grrrr – My company has their all hands meeting – complete with MEXICAN FOOD. I avoided it.



6:30 – I’m still at work and now finding it hard to concentrate – part hunger, part weirdness – body adapting, I guess. I left my last juice at home, so I’m going to shut down and go home.

Juice Cleanse: Day 2

6:00 AM – Back in the gym. I don’t have as much energy as I’m used to. About half way through, I’m outta gas. That being said, however, my workouts have been switched up and are pretty intense. Ready for some calories.

11:00 AM – I feel weaker today. My body is buzzing again, like yesterday. Concentration is good. Just feel weak.

3:00 PM – I am grumpy, disturbed, nauseous, and feel nervous. Certainly can tell there is a reaction in my body. I really want solid food right now.

4:30 PM – The grumpiness has subsided. I’m back at full speed.

Later tonight, we went to the movies and saw Life of Pi (good movie, by the way). It’s interesting and insightful for me to be aware of my habit cues that lead me to eat. For instance,as I’m walking to my seat, my habit ritual kicked in: “of course, you’re supposed to get something to much on – and a diet coke”. By becoming aware of the habit, I was able to then decide not to follow it. The habits we form – from eating, to how we treat family, to what we do after work each night – are all part of a neural network that we get into. It’s really valuable to be aware of these habits and to question whether they are doing us good.

(Side Note: I just finished a great book on the topic of breaking your routine called The Power of Habit. I recommend it highly.)

Jucie Cleanse: Day 3

Since I haven’t drank alcohol for a while, I was in bed early last night and got up – on a Saturday – at 6:30 AM ready for the gym. This was my grueling long-ass workout I’ve been doing since the beginning of the year, so I knew I needed a bit extra.

Protein to GoBefore the gym, I had my first juice, coupled with a “Protein to Go” – which is a small shot of 28g of liquid protein – that way my body is still just digesting liquids. It certainly helped.

8:00 AM – I made it almost through the entire workout. At the end, I was certainly spent. After the last set of box jumps, I got light-headed and my body got cold. I could feel every little drop of sweat on my body like a cold shower. Yep – that was enough for today.

Noon – Hungry. I want to punch someone.

6:00 PM – Finished my last juice of my 3-day juice cleanse. I can smell VICTORY! Going to weigh myself in the morning.


When I started, I weighed 198. On the morning after my cleanse, I weighed in at 194.4 lbs – a difference of 3.6 pounds in 3 days. More importantly, I became aware of all the snacking I normally do during the day and understood why I had been struggling to drop the weight I wanted to. All of those extra calories here and there added up.

So, I’m going to commit to a few things:

  • Finish eating by 7:00 pm
  • Never finish my plate (as I was taught to do).
  • Substitute a couple meals for shakes or juices.
  • Refuse to develop the snacking habit.

 How About You?

Have you done a juice cleanse? What did you think? Leave your comments below.


This Holiday Season, try this Scotch-Inspired Spiked Eggnog Recipe

By Food and Drink No Comments

From The Macallan Holiday Handbook:

Just a few simple ingredients can create the most indulgent of holiday beverages. The depth of The Macallan’s flavor adds another layer to the richness of traditional eggnog.

12 eggs
3 pints heavy cream
1-cup sugar
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1-cup The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Year Old Whisky
1 cup cognac
½ tsp salt

Separate the eggs. In an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and lemon colored. Slowly add The Macallan Sherry Old 12 Year Old Whisky and cognac, while beating at slow speed. Chill several hours. Add the salt to the egg whites and beat until almost stiff, or until the beaten whites form a peak that bends slightly. Whip the cream until stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the yolk mixture, and then fold in the beaten egg whites. Chill one hour. When ready to serve, sprinkle the top with freshly grated nutmeg.