Lunchbox Hack – Edition 7

We’re on a mission to improve break time for the American workforce one lunchbox at a time. From the shop to the warehouse to the field, production is powered by people who are fueled by food. And we’re sure most of us would appreciate something better in our brown bags. If you missed last month’s Lunchbox Hack, check it out on our blog page now. But, if you liked what you learned (or you’re just tired of the same old same old), read on to harvest the fruits of our (admittedly delicious) labor.

This blog normally features tips, tricks, and recipes to perk up mealtime during your workday. However, this month’s Lunchbox Hack will focus on a seasonal treat straight from my family’s own kitchen, in honor of the holiday spirit (and the fact that dessert is a legitimate part of even pre-packed lunches). The good news is it’s not just for you! This tasty gift will keep on giving all season long as you share with family, friends, and co-workers alike! Without further ado, I present to you my personal all-time favorite cookie: The Chocolate Crinkle.

History

New readers may not know, but those who have read my blogs before are well aware, that I’m a lifelong native of the North Country (aka Minnesota). Not coincidentally, so is the Chocolate Crinkle! This staple of the Christmas cookie platter was invented in St. Paul during the early 20th century by Helen Fredell. Mrs. Fredell’s creation was met with so much buzz by the baking community that Betty Crocker herself begged Helen for the recipe when served them at the Fredell home. Betty then famously recounted the scene (and included the recipe, introducing it to the rest of America) in her confectionary classic Cookie Carnival. The acclaim that followed in the almost-century since is simply delicious destiny.

Recipe

The method for making Chocolate Crinkles is simple but notoriously finicky. The secret to success starts with COLD dough, which Momdish.com does a great job highlighting. However, if your baking skills are basic at best, feel free to also review this link to the  Original Betty Crocker recipe too for additional helpful hints. Then get in the kitchen and start cracking on your crinkles!

Tip

This pro-tip comes straight from Minnesota’s resident Chocolate Crinkle maven (my mom, Margaret)! Crinkles are essentially the cookie version of a brownie. As such, they are one of the few cookies that actually improves as they age. This happens because, while the outside gets crunchier with time, the inside stays gooey and moist creating a tasty texture contrast. Over time however, the powdered sugar tends to fall off. To avoid this, Mama Margaret recommends patting your dough balls repeatedly while rolling them in sugar to ensure your toppings don’t end up on the bottom of the tray.

Trick

Did I mention cold dough is critical? Because it is. Thus, the best thing you can do to make sure your cookies turn out is leave your dough in the fridge as long as possible. My mom’s rule of thumb is to go at least twice as long as whatever your particular recipe recommends. If you do this there’s a good chance your Christmas Crinkles will even make Kris Kringle himself come back for seconds!

 

About the Author

Head shot of Josh Erickson

Josh Erickson, ReTool & Technical Solutions Associate

Tips for Winter Driving

Winter and winter driving. We all have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with it. The movies make it look like a magical time while our experiences often say otherwise: roads with no lanes, snow-covered stop signs, black ice, a dead car battery, or accidents. It’s even worse if you’re a first-timer to wintry weather and driving conditions. As a result, we’ve compiled a list of must-dos for winter weather and winter driving.

Pack a Roadside Emergency Kit

Include the following items:

  • Jumper cables
  • Flares, reflective material, or reflectors
  • Kitty litter/salt/sand for traction or ice melt
  • A flash light (and extra batteries)
  • A small snow shovel
  • A first-aid kit

Pack a Personal Emergency Kit

In this kit, you should have:

  • Extra medication
  • Food and snacks such as mixed nuts, crackers, or granola bars
  • A warm blanket
  • Bottle of water
  • A portable phone charger
  • Hat and gloves
  • Hand warmers

Pack an Ice Scraper

  • Snow Pro Tip: scrapers with long handles, a blade, and a brush are most useful!

Get Your Car Tuned-Up

Whether you do this yourself, or you take it to a mechanic, perform the following checks on your vehicle:

  • Tire Tread
    • The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends replacing tires when they reach 2/32” depth of tread at the most. If you’re at this or even close to it, consider replacing your tires.
  • Tire Pressure
    • Maintain your tire pressure at the manufacturer recommended PSI.
  • Vehicle Fluids: Oil, Antifreeze/Coolant, Windshield Wiper Fluid
    • Refill these if they are low and/or perform a fluid change, if needed.
  • Battery
    • Inspect your battery. Is there wear and tear or corrosion? Did you have troubles with it last year? It might be time to clean it or get a new one.
  • Wipers & Wiper Blades
    • Check that the wiper blades are in good condition and work well to clear your window. If not, replace them. Snow and ice are harder to clear than rain.
  • Brakes, Heater, Defroster, Belts, Hoses, Lights
    • A general check of these to ensure they are in good condition and working as they should will go a long way to keeping you free of freezing on the side of the road, wondering what in the world is wrong.

Consider Roadside Assistance

  • Check to see if you already have this through your insurance or secure it through AAA (Triple A). Then put the phone number in your phone to ensure you have easy access to it, if you need it!

Once you’ve done all that and winter hits, keep the following items in mind:

  • Plan ahead. Give yourself more time when traveling somewhere. Rushing is hazardous to yourself as well as the others on the road.
  • Check the weather before you go. Being aware of what you could encounter helps you plan before it happens.
  •  Don’t let your tank go dry. Try to keep at least ½ a tank of gas in your vehicle at all times.
  • Don’t use cruise control.

With all that said, below are helpful links for even more tips & tricks on winter driving:

 

About the Author

Picture of Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach

What Are You Thankful for This Year?

What are you thankful for this year?

That’s what we asked PMG employees, in honor of Thanksgiving. We wanted to understand what they are most thankful for even after all that happened in 2020. You might notice some themes here. I’m thankful I get to share them with you.

I’m thankful for…

  • “Good family, good friends, good health, and a great employer!”
  • “Now more than ever, I am SO thankful for my job. If I was still working in the restaurant business, my life would be a lot different. My employment would never feel steady.”
  • “Really good teachers who have figured out how to engage my kids, have given them individual attention, and have gotten them excited about school through distance learning.”
  • “Streaming services that give me any movie, show, or clip at my fingertips, on demand.”
  • “The health of our family and being able to go on two vacations as a family!”
  • “Having a job.”
  • “The brave people who fight at the battle lines: whether that be our military who defend our country each and every day of every year, or the doctors, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, and EMT’s who maybe didn’t sign up for a global pandemic but have continued to put their own lives on the line to adhere to the promises they made when they entered their professions.”
  • “I know that it’s crazy to say, and may even disrespectful to those who have lost family members because of this virus, but I am thankful for COVID. COVID forced me home, forced me to work remote. It allowed me the chance to visit my grandparents for a full week – good, hardworking people who got to see what I do for a living. I cherish this week I spent with them because a week after I came back home, my grandpa was admitted to the hospital, and sadly, passed away last week. My grandparents worked hard so they could provide good values and virtues for their children and grandchildren and I am forever lucky to have them as my grandparents.”
  • “All the big things; my health, my family, my friends, my coworkers and career, etc. like everyone. But I just want to say I’m also very thankful for clever Internet memes. Closet-heroes of COVID.”
  • “All my friends and family are healthy during this time.”
  • “Weekends! A time to decompress and spend some quality time with friends and family.”
  • “The people in my life who have really shown to be a resource in trying times, who are empathetic and sympathetic, who build me & encourage me, and remind me of just how lucky I am to have the people I have in my life.”
  • “Small things that inspire: like Christmas music, sending a note to brighten someone’s day, or a simple act of kindness like lending a helping hand.”
  • “Living out a lifelong dream of living in a warmer climate and for a company that helped that dream come true.”
  • “Mindfulness podcasts, books, and other resources.”
  • “Not many military wives get the opportunity to continue their careers while moving around so much. Having a company that supports me and the military is so important! Working for PMG is without a doubt what I am most thankful for this year.”
  • “My family, friends, health, and especially a new Grandbaby. My job and co-workers! Oh, and especially a new Grandbaby!”
  • “Home.”
  • “Adoption. Exactly one year ago today, I watched my dad take his last breath. He was my adoptive dad but that doesn’t matter, he was my dad. My step-son was adopted as well and he brings me such joy. We have become buddies as we travel the states in search of Pokémon, watch Korean horror movies together (he claims that it’s reading time because he has to read the subtitles), engage in Nerf gun wars, and plan grand adventures, even if it’s just down to the laundry room. Even though adoption can be painful at times, the blessings are abundant.”
  • “The people working tirelessly to find a cure for COVID-19.”
  • “I’m thankful that neither myself or anyone in my immediate family has contracted COVID-19.”
  • “I have so much to be thankful for despite the challenges each of us have faced this year. I am thankful for my job because it gives me and my family the stability that we have needed and has enabled us to purchase our first home, my wife and family, and the health that each one of us have been blessed with.”
  • “Being employed with a great compensation and opportunities.”
  • “I’m thankful my health is good enough to perform acceptably for PMG clients so I can set up my more and more imminent retirement.”

So much thankfulness. I couldn’t leave anyone out. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

I want to end with a response from PMG’s president. It seems fitting for so many of us.

Silver Linings

  • “It has been an insane year. We faced challenges I never expected. We adjusted to changes that haven’t necessarily been comfortable or ideal. We’ve had more loss than usual this year, and have felt our losses, both small and large, more deeply that we have in the past. We’ve lived with a level of fear and uncertainty over the past 9 months that wears on us after time. Despite all that, this year I have found some silver linings that I’m thankful for.”
  • “At work, I’m thankful for the silver lining of learning that the team of people I work with, who I thought were pretty amazing going already, are stronger and together can accomplish more than my already high beliefs of what we could accomplish were.”
  • “At home, I’m thankful for the silver linings of a slower pace with less planned activities, more time to just be home together, and using our creativity more than we ever have in the past to entertain ourselves and connect with those we love in new ways.”
  • “I am also thankful for the silver lining of knowing that life as we know it can change at any minute, and that we are resilient and will find ways to grow in new and good ways, including loud, crazy Zoom family Thanksgiving get togethers where we will share our thanks virtually until we can all gather in person again.”

I hope that each of you is able to find the silver linings in your world, and reflect on all that you’re thankful for this year. Remember though – Thanksgiving isn’t the only time to be thankful. Start a gratitude journal for all the days. Gratitude Journals are good all year round!

Many thanks to you!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

 

About the Author

Picture of HR Manager, Beth Bangtson

Beth Bangtson, Human Resources Manager 

Lunchbox Hack – Edition 6

From the shop to the warehouse to the field, production is powered by people who are fueled by food. We want to help you work better by helping you eat better. This blog is our effort to do just that. If you missed last month’s lunchbox hack, check it out on our blog page now. But, if you liked what you learned (or you’re just tired of the same old same old), read on to find delicious ways to improve your lunch packing process.

Tip

Snacks aren’t just to help satisfy your cravings. They are an important source of nutrition to maintain your energy between meals. To make sure you have enough fuel to power through your day before or after lunch, choose snacks high in protein and complex carbs. A few handfuls of mixed nuts or trail mix is always a good choice. Packing separately from the rest of your lunch and at the top of your lunchbox, reduces mess and improves access at breaktime too!

Trick

Follow a formula. A lot of the trouble in packing your own lunch comes with deciding what to pack in the first place. The easy way around this is to take the deciding out of it. This is the same reason why Mark Zuckerberg wears the same kind of hoodie and pants every day. The fewer choices available, the less time spent choosing. Pack your lunches according to a formula like the one below and then just choose based on pre-listed options in each category. A great example of this method can be found in this article.

Recipe

A great way to follow a simple lunch formula like PROTEIN + CARB + FRUIT/VEG + SOMETHING FUN is to pack an adult lunchable. They’re easy, healthy, low-mess, and fun to eat so they’re definitely not just for kids. You don’t have to opt for an expensive, pre-packaged version either. Try this recipe for a DIY Starbucks Protein Bistro Box on your next lunch break.

 

About the Author

Head shot of Josh Erickson

Josh Erickson, ReTool & Technical Solutions Associate 

A Trick or a Treat? Halloween During COVID-19.

Trick-or-Treat, Smell My Feet…

Turns out, this fun little saying from my childhood doesn’t work anymore since no one should be getting close enough to smell our feet.  In all seriousness, trick-or-treating presents some new challenges this year due to COVID-19. We wanted to share some tips courtesy of the CDC

  • Trick-or-Treat at home. Hide treats around the house so the little people in your life still get a treat without the potential threat of COVID.
  • If you decide to Trick-or-Treat, incorporate a mask into your costume. Consider going as a doctor or a nurse – they’re the true super heroes this year anyway!
  • Maintain 6 feet of distance from anyone not in your direct household.
  • If you’re handing out treats, consider setting up outside or putting out individually bagged treats for kids to grab (no contact required).
  • Wash hands before handling/eating any treats.

No matter how you celebrate this weekend, have fun and be safe. Take the ‘h’ out of the ‘threat’ of COVID and go with a ‘treat’ instead.

… Gimme something good to eat!

 

About the Author

Picture of HR Manager, Beth Bangtson

Beth Bangtson, HR Manager

Lunchbox Hack – Edition 3

PMG wants to break up the bland monotony of the brown bag by improving break time for the American workforce one lunchbox at a time. No matter where it happens, production is powered by people who are fueled by food. We want you to feed yourself with something that makes you feel better and we have tips, tricks, and recipes to make that possible! If you missed last month’s lunchbox hack, check it out on our blog page now.

Tip

Break time, COVID restrictions in the cafeteria, and questionable cleanliness for the microwave and other communal appliances can cause more complications during lunchtime. With all of this in mind, it’s important to keep your meal prep simple. When cooking dinner at home, make enough to use those ingredients for lunch the next day.

Pro Tip: Pre-cooking meals is even more convenient if you can eat your ingredients without reheating.

Trick

Put it on a stick. Here in Minnesota, home of the largest state fair in America (you heard that right, Texas!) we know that literally anything is better when served on a skinny piece of wood, bamboo, or metal (like these flexible skewers). The same principle applies to your lunchbox. No matter what you ate the night before, we promise it will prep, pack, and eat better from a stick the next day. Just think deconstructed- Taco Tuesday with the family sounds a lot like Southwest Skewers the next day for lunch.

Recipe

If you consider yourself to be a steak and potatoes person, try this easy 3-step kabob recipe \ for dinner. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, consider some meat-less protein alternatives in lieu of steak and also read our How It’s Made blog on plant-based burgers. Either way, be sure to make enough so you can pack some for an all-in-one, no-heat lunch the next day. However, you might get some envious stares from your coworkers. Maybe think about bringing extras!

 

About the Author

Head shot of Josh Erickson

Josh Erickson, ReTool & Technical Solutions Associate

Lunchbox Hack – Edition 2

We’re on a mission to improve break time for the American workforce one lunchbox at a time. From the shop to the warehouse to the field, production is powered by people who are fueled by food. We’re sure most of us would appreciate something better in our brown bags. If you missed last month’s lunchbox hack, check it out on our blog page now. But, if you liked what you learned (or you’re just tired of the same old same old), read on to harvest the fruits of our (admittedly delicious) labor.

Lunch Tip

A balanced meal is important, but so is proper rest. It’s no surprise then that most of us pass on packing a proper lunch in favor of one more press of the snooze button every morning. It doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition though! Pack your lunch the evening before (during other meal prep or clean up) and you’ll always be ready to walk out the door in the morning!

Trick

Freeze your fruits and veggies. Many lunchboxes are insulated (like this classic from Stanley) but most still need something to keep them cool. Ice melts and makes a mess while freezer packs take up space better used for food. If you want to keep your produce fresh, freeze it the night before and use it in lieu of ice. Your lunch will be fresh at break and you won’t have to sacrifice items or eat them soggy.

Recipe

Try this Watermelon, Tomato, and Cheese Salad recipe from Food.com. Watermelon and tomato are both great foods to help you hydrate. This a perfect meal for those looking to beat the summer heat at work too!

 

About the Author

Head shot of Josh Erickson

Josh Erickson, ReTool & Technical Solutions Associate

Beat the Heat!

Heat-related illnesses are a real thing and a big concern both on a personal level and a professional level. If you find yourself working in hot weather or hot environments, whether outside or at your place of employment, the items below are important for you to consider to ensure you stay safe while working.

Symptoms of Heat Stress/Exhaustion/Stroke

  • Extremely high body temperature
  • Hot, dry, skin – an inability to cool the body through perspiration may cause the skin to feel dry
  • Increased heart and respiration rates as blood pressure drops and the heart attempts to maintain adequate circulation
  • Throbbing headache, nausea or vomiting due to dehydration
  • Weakness, fainting, or dizziness – especially if standing position is assumed quickly – due to low blood pressure from dehydration
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dark-colored urine – a sign of dehydration
  • Confused, hostile, or seemingly intoxicated behavior
  • Pale or bluish skin color in advanced cases due to constricted blood vessels
  • Seizures or unconsciousness

If you are experiencing Heat Stress symptoms, follow the steps below:

  1. Notify your supervisor immediately. If he/she is not around, notify a co-worker.
  2. Sit down if you’re standing
  3. Move to a cooler or air-conditioned environment
  4. Loosen clothing
  5. Drink water!
heat 1

How to Avoid Heat Stress/Exhaustion/Stroke

Drink Water

A glass first thing in the morning is great for you. Then drink it frequently throughout the day. If you think you’ve had a lot, you can probably have more!

If water gets boring, try the following:

  • Coconut water
  • Add electrolyte powders
  • Add fruit or cucumber
  • Freeze cubes of no-sugar added juice then add to your water
  • Drink hot tea or ice it down
  • Add water enhancers
  • Look for those with limited to no added sugars, limited to no caffeine, and be careful to consider sodium levels, if needed
  • Mix in sports drinks (like Gatorade) but not too many

Avoid and/or Limit These Beverages

  • Pop or Soda
  • Lemonade
  • Energy Drinks
  • Sweet Tea
  • Too Much Coffee
  • Hot Cocoa
  • Beer, Wine, Liquor
  • Flavored Milk

Eat Water-Rich Foods

  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Bell Peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Celery
  • Plain yogurt
  • Skim Milk
  • Lower Sodium Broths and Soups
  • Cottage Cheese

Get Rest

It is critical that the body rests and receives an appropriate amount of sleep each evening. This includes taking it easy before and after work as well as ensuring you sleep the recommended 6-9 hours of sleep each evening.

Keep in Mind

  • Sweat cools the body when it evaporates. The more you sweat, the more fluids you need.
  • Check your urine – it should be pale yellow and clear. If it’s darker, you are likely dehydrated.
  • Take cool showers if possible. This limits sweating and thus keeps you hydrated.
  • By the time you’re thirsty, you are already 2% hydrated.
  • Drink hydrating fluids frequently and consistently, rather than large amounts at limited times. This maintains consistent hydration.
  • Avoid excessive amounts of sodium/salt. Sodium acts as a binder and maintains fluids within your body but too much sodium/salt can hold excess amounts of fluids which creates a burden on your hear. It also increase your blood pressure and increase risk of stroke.
  • What you do today affects today, tomorrow, and each day. Be consistent at staying hydrated.

 

About the Author

Picture of Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney, Technical Manager & Coach

Safety – Summer Emergency Kit

The temperatures are climbing. You’re driving from one assignment to the next. You feel the need to be prepared, because your Project Manager always says SAFETY FIRST!  But what does that mean?

In honor of National Safety Month, you’ll find a list of 15 must have items below that you should be carrying with you in your car during the summer months:

  1. A well-stocked FIRST AID KIT
  2. An extra bottle of SUNSCREEN
  3. Something to help you or a fellow traveler out – JUMPER CABLES
  4. In case of a simple fix, have a small TOOLKIT (adjustable wrench, duct tape, a couple screwdrivers, pliers)
  5. REFLECTIVE BLANKET to provide shade but also provides warmth on a cool evening
  6. REFLECTIVE TRIANGLES or ROADSIDE FLARES
  7. Non-perishable SNACKS that can stand the heat
  8. WATER will be useful not only if you get thirsty but if your car overheats
  9. For those occasions when you have somewhere to be but can’t get to the tire shop right away – TIRE SEALANT
  10. TIRE JACK that works with your car
  11. A pair of WORK GLOVES for a better grip when you need it
  12. A FLASHLIGHT or LIGHT SOURCE of some kind – something you don’t have to depend on batteries for (or just be sure to check the batteries regularly)
  13. I don’t know the last time I looked at a MAP or a ROAD ATLAS, but keep one handy in case you’re without service and/or don’t have access to GPS (and make sure you know how to read it)
  14. Have a SPARE CHARGER packed for your phone
  15. Get the information you need during a weather emergency with an EMERGENCY RADIO

Safe travels!

 

Interested in reading more about safety? Check out our post on Reinforcing Safety in Your Workplace.

About the Author

Picture of HR Manager, Beth Bangtson

Beth Bangtson, HR Manager

Lunchbox Hack – Edition 1

After decades spent in fields, at shops, and on job sites, I know that food options can be limited for those in the trades trying to fuel themselves through yet another long shift. The reality is that S4L (Sandwich, Soup, Salad, Snack, and Leftovers) can get expensive, unhealthy, and boring quickly. But don’t worry, PMG isn’t just about the work; we’re here for you in regards to food too.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with America’s manufacturing workforce, check out our latest webinar (hosted by yours truly) on the importance of healthy habits for those working in manufacturing to learn more. But, the upshot is, starting today, we will provide a monthly recipe, as well as tips and tricks, to help spice up your lunchbox.

Lunchbox Tip

When trying to make a meal-time masterpiece for your next lunch break, it’s important to remember the four E’s:

Effective (as in cost)

Easy (to make)

Exciting (at least kind of, that is the idea here anyway)

health-E (ok, I know I’m stretching it now, but you get the point).

Trick

Sauce it up. You and I both know those celery sticks got packed because your doctor says you need to mix in more fiber, but that doesn’t mean you have to hate it. A little dipping sauce can go a long way and you don’t have to worry about spilling now either with a handy travel ramekin like this one from Kitchen Dance.

Recipe

Checkout this Crunchy Peanut Butter Wrap recipe from Food.com if you want a modern twist on the brown bag classic PB&J for 2020. You’d be nutty not to!

 

About the Author

Head shot of Josh Erickson

Josh Erickson, ReTool & Technical Solutions Associate