One of my favorite ways of doing this was tweaking recipes at the restaurant where I worked. Every time I ordered something I added special notes about how I wanted it made (which I'm sure all of the cooks loved): Put pepper jack cheese on my sandwich instead of colby jack. And instead of ranch I want ranch and salsa mixed together. Oh, and throw some onion rings on top for the heck of it! And things like, What would happen if you fried a blintz? Or my personal favorite, Ignore whatever I just rang in, I really want you to make *insert something completely different and not on the menu but with more or less the same ingredients*. While I was being a total pain in the ass, pretty much everything I tweaked came out awesome. I converted my co-workers to order my creations and sometimes I'd even recommend them to a customer (Key Lime Pie with a cup of strawberries, anyone?).
Another thing I often do is try to recreate menu items at home. This is how my awesome Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich was born. Way back when I first started working at the restaurant, we had an amazing Philly sandwich on Parmesan-crusted sourdough bread on the menu and eventually took it off for reasons unbeknown to me. So one day I made it at home and it might be even better than the original:
Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich
Sliced roast beef
Sliced green pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Butter one side of each slice of bread then sprinkle buttered side with Parmesan cheese. Put roast beef, onion, and green pepper on one side of a skillet at medium-low heat and bread on the other side (butter-side down). Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top of bread. Stir meat and veggies until warm, then place on half the bread slices. Top with other bread slices with Parmesan cheese on the outside. The whole process should take less than 10 minutes total, with probably 5-6 minutes cook time. It doesn't take long to heat up the meat and veggies and takes even less time to grill the bread, so work quickly!
End result: Awesome-ness
So that's a pretty typical conversion to awesome. Today, however, I took things to a new level: Elvis Cookies.
As everyone should know, Elvis Presley was known for his peanut butter, banana, honey, and bacon sandwiches. I'm not yet brave enough the throw the bacon in yet, but the combination of the other three is like the supreme trifecta of win in any context. Peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich—Check. Peanut butter, banana and honey on a bagel—Check. Banana pancakes topped with peanut butter and honey—Check.
So I've known for a while that you can use honey and a substitute for sugar, and recently I learned that you can use a banana (among other things) instead of eggs in certain recipes, so I thought to myself, I could make peanut butter cookies with a banana instead of eggs and honey instead of sugar and they would be Elvis Cookies. So I found a basic peanut butter cookie recipe and went to work:
1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup peanut butter (could probably add more, if desired)
2/3 cup honey1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
I might just go crazy and add bacon bits next time
Mix butter and peanut butter until creamy. Add honey, baking powder, and baking soda. Add vanilla and banana. Add flour. For the riskier bakers, throw in some bacon bits right about now. If it is too sticky (and it probably will be), put it in the fridge for an hour or two. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, coat with sugar and place on baking sheet 2 inches apart from one another. Smash cookie balls down with a fork. Bake at 375°F for about 9 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Elvis Cookies have left the oven!
Voìla! I was pretty impressed that they actually looked just like regular cookies when they came out of the oven. They were soft and chewy and tasted very banana-y, which is kind of weird for a cookie, but still delicious. I think next time I will add more peanut butter and/or less banana because I feel like the peanut butter was a little overshadowed by the banana. Also, I kind of want to go completely crazy and put bacon in a cookie. I was telling my mom about this idea tonight and she told me that once I put bacon in them, they aren't cookies anymore. Instead, she said, they were hors d'oeuvres. I disagree on the basis that I would still serve them for dessert and not as appetizers.
I told my husband about my Elvis Cookie project and he's pretty skeptical of the whole thing, but I think when he comes home tomorrow he'll understand. I think the real issue is that he doesn't like fruit. Because he's a freak of nature. But he likes banana bread, so I think he'll love them once he tries them.
I just can't tell him about the bacon next time.