Announcing 12 New John Boos Products With More Modern Style

Announcing 12 New John Boos Products With More Modern Style

New John Boos Products – 129 Years After Its Founding, Iconic Maker of Boos Blocks Still Relevant
Even though the company was founded more than a century ago, the John Boos name remains one of the best-recognized brands in the home and commercial kitchen furniture and equipment space. Ted Gravenhorst, Boos’ VP of Sales and Marketing, explained the company’s focus on new product development: “One way to keep a brand top of mind with consumers is by continuously refreshing your product line – adding on-trend features to best-selling items and introducing all-new products that tap into emerging tastes and trends.” A full slate of new John Boos products were previewed with customers during the 2016 International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago. Designs were refined based on feedback they received, and one dozen new products were just announced for immediate availability. The new slate includes:

  • 5 distinctly different butcher block tables, in maple, cherry and walnut, and in edge-grain, end-grain and blended grain construction styles
  • 4 carving boards that incorporate full-perimeter juice grooves plus handle grips holes or wing extensions
  • 3 cutting board designs, including maple and cherry boards with walnut end rails; Mezzaluna herb boards; and chopping blocks elevated on stylized, wooden pedestal-and-ball legs

john boos products

According to Gravenhorst of Boos & Co., “The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Boos dealers seem pleased with the breadth of this year’s new product line-up, as well as the magnitude of the tweaks.” His sentiment was echoed by Kathleen Grodsky, Marketing VP at Butcher Block Co. (website: https://butcherblockco.com), the leading online seller of Boos Blocks:

“These new John Boos products incorporate bigger shifts in design than seen in past years. These sorts of changes position Boos to appeal to consumers who seek the heritage of traditional butcher blocks but prefer a more contemporary style for modern or urban settings.”

About John Boos: Boos & Co., headquartered in Effingham, IL, manufactures wood and steel products designed principally for residential and commercial kitchens.
Butcher Block Co.: BBC is a leading online seller of butcher block countertops; kitchen islands, tables and carts; plus cutting boards, knives and knife blocks.
For more information please visit: http://johnboos.com and https://butcherblockco.com.

Contact:
Kathleen Grodsky
[email protected]
website: https://butcherblockco.com
phone: (877) 845-5597

New Countertops You’ll Love – Let Us Count the Ways!

New Countertops You’ll Love – Let Us Count the Ways!

As you have probably noticed, we recently introduced a new line of countertops. Butcher Block Co. countertops are available in 15 different species, providing you with a wide range of aesthetic choices and expanded sizing options. The variety of wood species, size, edging, and finish options means you are sure to find something that will work for your project!

As more homeowners are choosing to take on remodeling and renovation projects, the introduction of Butcher Block Co. countertops has come at the perfect time.

According to Consumer Affairs, spending on home remodeling projects is expected to increase by 9.7% by early next year, and one of the best opportunities for return on investment is updating the kitchen.

countertops

We love our John Boos countertops in Blended, Edge, and End Grain, but we know our customers are sometimes looking for something a little different. With expanded sizing options in length, width, and thickness, Butcher Block Co. countertops offer solutions for very small and very large projects that we previously could not accommodate, and with faster turn-around times, too. Sometimes our customers are simply looking for a beautiful wood countertop and are not interested in using it as butcher block. Our large selection of species provides choices for heavy use (Maple, Hickory, Mahogany) to light use (Knotty Pine, Alder, Spanish Cedar), so you can find a beautiful countertop no matter your needs.

While Butcher Block Co. countertops are also available in the traditional butcher block styles of Edge Grain and End Grain, our most popular has been the Plank Style. With face-grain boards ranging in width from three to six inches, Plank Style countertops offer more of the natural character of the tree. The last several years have seen a boom in natural elements being used in the kitchen to bring warmth to modern design. The addition of plank style countertops has come with a new set of customers who appreciate the broader visual picture of the grain pattern and natural color variation offered by these tops.

countertops

Customers who are seeking an even more rustic look can opt for a hand-scraped finish on either plank style or edge grain countertops. The hand-scraped finish is achieved by running a scraper along the length of the top, creating slight variations in the surface. In Red and White Oak, you may also choose a quarter-sawn option, which showcases the rings of the source tree and provides a unique look and superior stability. Further customization can be found in our eight different edge options ranging from a sanded square edge to the classic small or large Roman Ogee.

countertops

Butcher Block Co countertops are made-to-order and take 2-3 weeks for production, depending on your choice of finish. Unfinished tops ship more quickly, and will need to be finished on-site right away. This is a great option should you elect to stain the top to your liking. Oil and varnish finished tops will arrive ready for install.

We are delighted to offer these new options to our customers! If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at [email protected] or give us a call at 877-845-5597.

Can Planting More Trees Save Us from Climate Change?

Can Planting More Trees Save Us from Climate Change?

“The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” – John Muir

“But what have trees done for us lately?” you ask. 

For starters, trees provide us wood used in the buildings that shelter us and the furniture on which we work and rest. Forests are home to two-thirds of the planet’s land species. They help capture, store and purify water passed on to cities and towns downstream. By some estimates they even supply nearly half of the ingredients found in medicines we rely on to keep us healthy. But more topical this week, as we celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day and contemplate the state of our planet, forests are effectively the lungs of the Earth. They absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release the oxygen we need to survive.

If you were paying attention in school you learned that carbon dioxide – the major greenhouse gas driving climate change – is in essence, plant food.

Through the process of photosynthesis, trees absorb sunlight (thanks to the presence of a pigment found in all green plants) and suck up water and carbon dioxide to produce carbohydrates and oxygen.

photosynthesis_equation

Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/57561701462135038/

Photosynthesis is the most effective means for removing carbon from the atmosphere.

The carbon captured is converted into tree roots, trunks, branches and leaves (collectively, “biomass”). The process absorbs nearly 30 percent of mankind’s annual carbon dioxide emissions (released principally through the combustion of fossil fuels), prompting the curious mind to ask, “is it possible to minimize, if not altogether eliminate, the threat of climate change by planting more trees?”

Here’s the short answer: Planting more trees – in and of itself – will not solve global warming. After all, it’s called the carbon cycle for a reason. Carbon sequestered in biomass must someday return back to the atmosphere, either through natural decay or human interference. Newly planted or regenerating forests can continue to absorb carbon for 50 years or more, however, it is hypothesized that even if tree-planting were executed on a massive scale, the incremental trees would capture only 2 to 3% of total annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Link: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/nov/29/planting-trees-climate-change

Make no mistake, deforestation contributes to global warming.

In fact, it’s the second leading cause. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that tropical deforestation (e.g., in the Amazon, the Congo and Indonesia) causes as much as 10% of the world’s heat-trapping emissions to go unabsorbed each year. [source: http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/stop-deforestation/deforestation-global-warming-carbon-emissions.html#.Vxp1i2NZsy5] That’s why it’s important that the trees we do use come only from well-managed forests where sustainable practices are rigorously employed, such as North America’s hardwood forests.

Whereas the Kyoto Protocol encourages tree planting and reforestation, experimental projects to date have identified a number of hurdles, including the high input costs (principally land and labor) and the cost of protecting young trees from natural threats. One other interesting learning is that we must plant the right trees in the right places. Tropical forests benefit the planet by lowering overall temperature, whereas forests far from the equator are more likely to trap heat in their dense canopies, thereby raising temperatures. [source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory].

So while planting more trees cannot reverse global warming, you simply can’t go wrong by greening up your neighborhood and your planet, and by buying lumber and finished goods made of wood harvested from woodlands that are managed in a sustainable fashion so they are sure to absorb the maximum amount of carbon possible.

John Boos’ Wood Plant Site Expansion Plan Approved

John Boos’ Wood Plant Site Expansion Plan Approved

The World-Famous Maker of Boos Blocks Doubles Down on its “Made in America” Heritage

John Boos & Co. has reported that the Planning Commission of the town of Effingham, Illinois has approved the site plan presented by Boos calling for a new wood plant and retail showroom to be built in the small Midwestern town it has called home for more than 125 years. Boos is a world-renowned manufacturer of butcher blocks and butcher block tables, kitchen islands and carts, cutting boards and chopping blocks.

Joe Emmerich, president and CEO of Boos & Co., explained the company’s strategy is to consolidate under one roof multiple wood manufacturing buildings plus a retail outlet. The project is expected to improve productivity and to expand the company’s wood furniture and cutting board manufacturing capabilities.In 2012 Boos made a similar massive investment in a facility of 87,000 square feet. That structure houses corporate offices and the company’s metal fabricating plant. Boos is also a leading manufacturer of stainless steel tables, base cabinets and compartment sinks sold principally in food service channels.

“At 122,000 square feet, the scale of this new wood plant relative to the town of Effingham is simply astounding,” declared Mark Shook, owner of Butcher Block Co., John Boos’ largest online dealer (website: https://butcherblockco.com). “You could allot almost 10 square feet to each of Effingham’s 12,500 residents and fit all of them comfortably inside the building.”

“This level of corporate commitment to keeping and expanding manufacturing jobs in small-town America sets a great example other captains of U.S. industry should strive to emulate,” Shook observed.

About Butcher Block Co. – BBC, which operates exclusively online, sells a wide range of kitchen furniture, equipment and accessories made of wood and/or metal, including butcher block countertops, islands, tables, carts, cutting boards and chopping blocks.

For more information please visit: http://johnboos.com and https://butcherblockco.com.

Contact:
Kathleen Grodsky
[email protected]
website: https://butcherblockco.com
phone: (877) 845-5597

Microwave Oven Sales in U.S. Finally Back to Pre-Recession Levels

Microwave Oven Sales in U.S. Finally Back to Pre-Recession Levels

According to the data aggregating company, Statista, annual U.S. shipments of microwave ovens, which totaled nearly 14 million units in 2005 and 2006, languished between 9 and 10 million units from 2009 to 2014. This caused anthropologists to question whether Americans’ infatuation with this modern marvel was on the wane. Healthcare professionals held out hope that the decline signaled a shift toward healthier, fresher foods. Appliance industry experts pointed to a slowdown in technical innovation, coupled with improved reliability and longer useful lives for nearly all appliances. Construction experts attributed the decline in microwave oven sales to the significant drop in new home construction during the protracted recession and slow recovery. Their assessment is likely spot on.

But in 2015, microwave oven shipments jumped more than 20% in the U.S., to just below 12 million, prompting the question whether it was a one-time blip or a longer-term firming of demand. Statista’s projections suggest the latter, as the firm expects U.S. shipments will range between 11.5 and 12 million in 2016 and 2017 – in line with 2007 and 2008. New home construction will drive sales of built-in units; whereas innovations in smart appliance and wireless technologies are expected to drive sales of countertop models.

According to the International Houseware Association, a microwave oven can be found in more U.S. households (96%) than can any other home appliance.

IHA reports only two other items rank above 90% in household penetration: clothes irons (95%) and ironing boards (91%). Electric coffee makers (84%) and blenders (82%) round out the Appliance Top 5.

Since over half of the microwave ovens sold each year are countertop models, kitchen carts are also experiencing higher demand. Butcher Block Co. (website: https://butcherblockco.com), a leading e-tailer of kitchen furniture and accessories, indicates sales of microwave oven carts, in particular, are on the rise. Butcher Block Co.’s VP of Marketing and Operations, Kathleen Grodsky, says “John Boos butcher block carts and Catskill Craftsmen hutch-style microwave oven carts are top sellers. A cart proves most valuable when you don’t have space on kitchen counters to store small appliances such as microwave ovens. Drop-leaf carts are also perennial favorites. Homemakers love their versatility. They don’t take up much floor space day in and day out, yet they provide valuable extra work space whenever it’s needed.”

About Butcher Block Co. – BBC sells countertops, plus kitchen carts, islands and tables, as well as butcher block cutting boards, kitchen knives and knife blocks. Its top-selling kitchen cart brands include John Boos, Catskill Craftsmen, Chris & Chris and Oasis Concepts.

For more information please visit: https://butcherblockco.com

Contact:
Kathleen Grodsky
[email protected]
website: https://butcherblockco.com
phone: (877) 845-5597

Favorite Breakfast Recipe – Biscuits and Gravy

Favorite Breakfast Recipe – Biscuits and Gravy

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then you better be paying attention, because Claire is about to share the most important recipe of your life! I sing Claire’s praises a lot around here, so it’s about dang time she gives up the recipe for my favorite breakfast of all time – BISCUITS AND GRAVY! She has made these for me every time I’ve gone to visit, and even my picky kid likes them. I have had biscuits and gravy from (at least) a dozen different restaurants, even in a couple in the South, but nobody makes them as good as Claire. Looking over this recipe, I’m a little surprised by how easy this is. I could actually do this, and if I can summon a little of that special Claire Hoenke magic, I bet mine will come out at least half as good (and that would be good enough for me!). Ok, let’s get moving along. Claire, enlighten us, please.

Last year around this time, I made a beautiful and nutritious breakfast for you using beautiful and nutritious spring produce. This is not that post.

This morning I had to take my kids to the doctor. They both needed to have procedures done, and they were going to be under anesthesia so the doctor told me to go home and wait for them to call me. When I got home, I didn’t have to use my purse to block the kids from running out the door. I sat down on the couch, and I didn’t have to worry about my youngest climbing onto my chest and burrowing into my hair. I decided to make breakfast, and I didn’t have to worry about my oldest jumping onto the counter and eating the ingredients. Oh, wait, did I say, “my kids”? I meant my cats, though for real, they are my kids, and it is really weird when they’re not here. I don’t like it.

Breakfast

(His name is Bacon. He is perfect.)

To deal with the discomfort of my weird, empty house, I decided I needed to curl up in the cocoon of some rich, creamy, easy-to-make, unhealthy comfort food. I mean real, serious business comfort food. The thing you always want to order in a breakfast cafe, but maybe you don’t think you should, or you don’t want to be seen eating it in public because you’re already a fat lady eating in public and you already have your own weird food issues and you don’t need that kind of judgement from strangers… ahem… Maybe that last one is just me. Anyway, that forbidden thing for me is biscuits and gravy. Luckily, sausage gravy is so easy to make at home, you never need to order it at a restaurant, which is actually good because it saves you from a lot of disappointing gravies that are really never as good as the recipe I am about to share with you.

Since I’m going for ease and speed, I am going to opt for a simple drop biscuit today. Combine your dry ingredients, cut in the butter, add the milk, drop on the pan, and bake. Bing bang boom. I’m also adding cheese to my biscuits because it’s my party and dammit, I love cheese. I really only make my fancy buttermilk biscuits for company, because they’re always going to play second fiddle to the gravy anyway. Honestly, you could put any bready thing under it and call it a success.

These Biscuits and Gravy make the perfect breakfast – delicious, fulfilling, and surprisingly easy.

Biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (one stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup milk or half and half

Gravy

  • 1 lb pork sausage
  • 1/3 cup flour, divided
  • 4-5 cups milk
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Seasoned salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients, and then use your fingers or a pastry cutter to cut in the butter. If you want to add in any additional ingredients (cheese, bacon, herbs, etc.), now is the time. Stir in the milk and use two spoons to drop the biscuits in semi-freeform lumps onto the baking sheet. I like mine to be king of rounded, but with craggy edges so the finished biscuit has a little crunch to it. Bake until they’re golden brown with crunchy bits, about 15 to 20 minutes, and then serve.

Breakfast

While the biscuits are baking, make your gravy. Put the sausage into a heavy pan or skillet and brown it over medium high heat, using a wooden spoon to break the sausage into bits. When it is cooked through, add the flour in two phases, stirring until it is absorbed. Use the spoon to stir the sausage around and cook the flour, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan, for about a minute or two. Add the milk, and stir, stir, stir while the gravy thickens. If it gets too thick, just add a little more milk. When the texture is right, season with hot sauce, black pepper, and seasoned salt, and spoon it over your biscuits.

breakfast

And just like that, you have a lovely, indulgent bowl of comfort right there to pet your tummy and remind you that your cats are just fine and they’ll be home tonight, and they’ll probably be all goofy and extra-snuggly while the anesthesia wears off. In the meantime, you don’t have to worry about Bacon trying to steal a bite of that sweet, sweet gravy. Sausage gravy brings out the truth in us, as evidenced today by my outing myself as a fat cat lady who eats her feelings. So who does the gravy reveal in you?

Printer-friendly recipe: Biscuits and Gravy

Hostess Gifting Etiquette

Hostess Gifting Etiquette

Do you often find yourself wondering what to take along for hostess gifts? Well, Sarah has all the answers and then some regarding hostess gifting etiquette, plus lots of ideas for different occasions. Someone invite me to a party so I can use all this new-found knowledge. Sarah, teach us all how to be the best guests!

By this point, we’ve basically mastered the art of throwing a good party. But how do we become the best, most thoughtful guests? Host/hostess gifts are a great way to make a good impression on new acquaintances or show a friend your appreciation for throwing and inviting you to a great party. Parties can be expensive, from elaborately decorated Halloween parties to rare wine tasting get-togethers — between offering food, beverages, and entertainment, the costs can add up! Even if everything is already on-hand, the effort of cleaning and preparing to have people over carries a cost as well, an investment of time and effort into providing a great experience for friends and family.

Today, let’s talk about hostess gifts, and when it’s ok to bring something home with you after the party is over.

I grew up in a tight-knit family that often holds parties, and I noticed that my mom and dad usually had something extra packed in the car to bring to the host as a way to say thanks. An extra bottle of wine, a bar sign for the basement, a stack of printed photos, really anything that could be extended with the words, “I thought you might like this.” I internalized the gesture to the point where I almost always have an extra “something” on-hand when I hit the door of a party.

What to Bring

Hostess gifts can fall into two categories. One is something you bring with the intention to share it with everyone at the party (separate from a dish if you’re attending a potluck). The other type of hostess gift is something you select with your host in mind, something they’ll enjoy but that might not be used at that party. It’s important to know your host while selecting a gift — if he’s not a whiskey aficionado, whiskey stones may not be a perfect choice. I belong to a few subscription box clubs, and when I receive something that’s not to my taste – blush, Dr. Who jewelry – I save it without opening it to be used as a gift in the future. Some of these become hostess gifts.

A great many of my friends enjoy wine, so when I see decorated wine glasses in colors or patterns that make me think of them, I pick those up to be used as hostess gifts. My brother and his fiancé recently brought me a functional Underwood typewriter they had picked up at an antique shop because they know I collect old typewriters. I was delighted at something so thoughtful to show they’d been thinking of me. A guest at a party I recently threw brought a box of Keurig coffee, which I thought was particularly thoughtful. He a) knew I owned a Keurig and b) knew people would be drinking coffee the morning after. Even if we didn’t open his box of coffee, it would help replenish what we provided.

  • If you want to be extra thoughtful, bringing a bottle of Irish whiskey to a St. Patrick’s Day party, or another themed gift is a great idea.
  • Gift ideas for the barflies can be wine glasses, whiskey stones, a new flavor of bitters to experiment with, a bottle of something you think they’d enjoy, fancy cherries, a drinking game with any necessary equipment.
  • Cheese boards makes great hostess gifts for your friends who loves to entertain.
  • Gift ideas for bookworms are new journals, pretty pens, fandom-themed accessories or decorations, a book by an author you know they enjoy.
  • Gift ideas for almost anyone include a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers, fancy candy, a framed photo or new picture frame, scented candles, Girl Scout cookies.

When to Take It Home/What About Consumables?

So you brought your host/hostess a nice, consumable gift and the party is over. What now? There are a few ways to go from here when it comes to the territory of do you take the rest home? I tend to fall on the side of leaving everything I brought besides my own belongings and whatever cookware was used to transport my dish. I know these things belong to me; I selected and brought them with the intention of taking them home again.

Unless pressed by the host, anything that has been opened stays at the party house. Several things are going to be inconvenient to transport back home anyway (ice cream, half a bottle of wine), and the point of a gift is that it’s given for keeps. Anything unopened depends on how well you know your host, and sometimes, the size of the party. If I bring Girl Scout cookies to a dinner with friends and there is half a box left, I’ll insist on leaving them unless my hostess tells me to take them home. If I bring a nice bottle of port to my best friend’s house and we don’t end up opening it, I’m probably going to take it home. If I bring bags of chips to a big house party that don’t end up opened, I’ll leave them there. I’ll also leave leftover beer in the fridge, and the rest of the bottle of wine. I’ll take home the bottle of gin I brought to make myself (and my friends) cocktails.

As you can see, this leaves a somewhat grey area. Generally, if you don’t know the host very well, bring absolutely nothing that you have designs on taking home. If you know the host very well, don’t just take your unopened whatever and leave — mention that you’ll bring it back next time, or offer to leave it if you don’t mind parting with it. Having a brief discussion can remove any residual guilt of, should I have taken that home?

Presentation also has a lot to do with what’s ok to take home with you. If you wrap a hostess gift in a bag, or hand it to your hostess upon arrival, it’s officially a gift you’re not taking home. If you bring out a bottle of something in the middle of the party for everyone to share, it leans more toward the area of something you take home at the end of the night. These are social cues, and every circle of friends and family is different. Learn to read the parties you attend, as well as the people you’re partying with, to best navigate these situations in the future. Remember that a thoughtful, fun guest is one who gets invited back!

What are your go-to hostess gifts? What are the most thoughtful hostess gifts you’ve received? Who wouldn’t like whiskey stones, right?

Butcher Block Co. Launching Its Own Line of Wood Countertops

Butcher Block Co. Launching Its Own Line of Wood Countertops

Custom Butcher Block and Plank-Style Countertops in 15 Species of Wood

Since its inception, Butcher Block Co. has focused on selling other manufacturers’ branded kitchen goods on its high-traffic website (https://butcherblockco.com), most notably, kitchen countertops, furniture and cutting boards made of butcher block and manufactured by longtime industry leader, John Boos & Co. But the online store announced today that for the first time, it will offer products for kitchens under the Butcher Block Co. brand name.

Mark Shook, President of Kitchen Enthusiasts, Inc., who acquired Butcher Block Co. in 2012, announced the company has added to its catalog butcher block and plank-style custom countertops in 15 different species of wood: American Cherry, Ash, Beech, Birch, Brazilian Cherry, Hickory, Knotty Alder, Knotty Pine, Mahogany, Maple, Poplar, Red Oak, Spanish Cedar, Walnut and White Oak. Shook explained the change in company strategy. “Consumers absolutely love and trust the John Boos brand,” he said. “Boos makes fantastic countertops, but only in maple, cherry, red oak and walnut. Many visitors to our site are looking for another type of butcher block countertop or plank-style counters. There’s nothing that frustrates shoppers more than realizing that the product he or she is looking for is not in fact available on the site.”

Asked if company plans call for more product launches under the Butcher Block Co. brand name, Kathleen Grodsky, BBC’s VP of Marketing, shared that, “Butcher Block Co. is becoming recognized and trusted by enough American consumers, online shoppers in particular, that it makes good business sense to offer “store-brand” products, just as leading big-box retailers do, especially if they complement our current offerings.” According to Shopper Approved, a third-party collector of online shoppers’ store reviews, verified purchasers have given ButcherBlockCo.com an overall satisfaction rating of 4.9 out of 5.

About the company: Butcher Block Co., an online seller of kitchen furniture and cooking and serving accessories, is an authorized dealer for such leading manufacturers as John Boos & Co., Catskill Craftsmen, Oasis Concepts, Chris and Chris, Artelegno and Chroma. The company’s primary lines include butcher block countertops; kitchen islands, carts and tables; and wood cutting boards.

For more information please visit: https://butcherblockco.com

Contact:
Kathleen Grodsky
[email protected]
website: https://butcherblockco.com
phone: (877) 845-5597

March Madness Snack – Bacon Wrapped Dates

March Madness Snack – Bacon Wrapped Dates

March Madness is taking over the world, and while I don’t really care about the sports part, I am HERE for the snacks! I will pretend to watch college basketball all day if you keep a steady flow of appetizers coming my way. Thankfully I have friends who love to feed people. Friends like Sarah, always ready with a tray of delicious treats. Today’s treats are wrapped in bacon, so you don’t need to worry about anyone not liking them. They’ll surely be a slam dunk! Okay, Sarah, the ball’s in your court!

Greetings, foodies! I understand there’s some sort of holiday going on, but I CAN’T HEAR YOU – it’s March Madness time!

I am really a one-sport woman, and NFL football has my heart, but I am also very competitive and enjoy beating my friends in basically anything that can be made into a game. My brother, the super-athlete that he is, first introduced me to the joy of winning, and as I grew up, I made friends who would invent new card games with me and run races and play backyard sports. As a bona fide adult, I am really, really drawn to fantasy football, but do you know what the worst part is? Changing your lineup every week! Figuring out when you’re allowed to drop and pick up players off the waivers! I took second place in a league this year without making any roster moves, which had the added bonus of annoying my friends to no end, but was mainly because I couldn’t figure out the waivers.

Do you know what the best part is about NCAA March Madness? You fill out your bracket(s) once, just ONCE, and you’re set for the rest of the tournament! It’s the ultimate set it and forget it, and then watch your wins roll in. I appreciate the risk that your entire bracket can be busted in a few short nights when upsets take place… which inevitably happens to me every year. But if I can take a few other players in my pool down with me, then it’s worth it. (I am not a NICE competitor.)

So when do you host your March Madness bash? How do you theme it up? Tiny basketballs everywhere are a plus, but if you want to delight in seeing others bust their brackets while you conquer all, and have some tasty snacks while you’re at it, I’m advising a Mouth Madness party either during the final Sweet Sixteen games, or during the Elite Eight round. Have your friends bring a dish and face off in your own brackets for favorite bite of the evening.

And if you want to… you know, win? Try these. Traditionally known as Devils on Horseback, these delicious things are easy to make (requiring just three main ingredients) and, if it’s possible, are even easier to eat. Also, the fanciest tools you need here are a baking dish and toothpicks.

These Bacon Wrapped Dates are the perfect treat for your March Madness party!

Bacon Wrapped Dates

  • Bacon (I prefer thick-sliced, however, there are very few instances where I don’t)
  • Dates
  • Cheese (optional)
  • Balsamic Vinegar (optional)
  • Maple Syrup (optional)

March Madness

Preheat your oven to 375°.

Cut your dates in half length-wise. Dates have pits in the middle that need to be removed anyway, and half a date is a much more manageable bite. Remove and discard your pits.

Optional – Stuff a small block of cheese in each half-date. [Editor’s note: Cheese is never optional. Use the cheese!]

Roll half a slice of bacon around your half-date and cheese. Spear it with a toothpick to keep the bacon secure.

March Madness

Line these up in a baking dish (no need to spray it with cooking spray – bacon is GREASY!).

Optional – Once you’re out of bacon or dates, or your dish is full, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup (a little more vinegar than syrup), and pop in the oven at 375° for 40-45 minutes.

Check these often in the oven! Depending on your bacon thickness, these could cook more quickly, and once you’ve burned bacon, it’s burned.

March Madness

Toothpicks are extra handy to move these things to a plate and serve while hot.

Who’s in your Final Four? What’s your favorite March Madness match-up this year? Would you make these with turkey bacon, or nah?

Corned Beef Recipes – Just in Time for St. Patrick’s Day

Corned Beef Recipes – Just in Time for St. Patrick’s Day

CORNED BEEF! I feel like that’s a good enough introduction to today’s topic. I’m going to let Claire jump right in here, because if I have to talk about corned beef any longer, I might skip out of work early to head to the deli. Take it away, Claire!

I’m not Irish – at least, not that I know of – but I am Jewish, which means that, while most Americans associate corned beef with traditional Irish fare, for me, it’s always been more closely tied with the Jewish American culinary tradition. I have a very distinct picture in my mind of my mother, closing her eyes and savoring the first bite of a piece of toasted rye bread piled high with corned beef and mustard. As a kid, I was pretty sure I didn’t care for corned beef. I assumed that corned beef was just like pastrami, and I hated getting pastrami in my lunch at school, with that peppery crust on the outside; all the other kids thought I was so weird with my weird meat sandwich. When my mom would take us to the Jewish deli after Sunday School, I would always skip right over the meats and go right for the blintzes. Kids are so dumb sometimes.

Now, of course, I know better. Not only have I changed my mind about pastrami, but I have also learned that, aside from the animal of origin, pastrami and corned beef have basically nothing in common. If someone promises me a Reuben sandwich and instead gives me a pastrami sandwich with Swiss cheese, Thousand Island, and sauerkraut on rye, I will calmly inform them that replacing the corned beef in a Reuben with some other kind of deli meat immediately and irreversibly nullifies the sandwich’s Reuben-ness, because nothing in the world compares with corned beef. It would be like replacing the jelly in a PB&J with Nutella. It might still be good, but it ain’t no PB&J. I mean, I’ll still eat the pastrami sandwich, but I’ll be thinking about corned beef the whole time.

Every time March rolls around, I think I should make my own corned beef from scratch.

I always look up recipes for brining my own brisket, and then I write a grocery list with things like saltpeter on it. And then I realize that I’m never going to actually brine my own brisket, and I’ll just scratch out the saltpeter because, seriously, who even has the time? I still want corned beef, though, and with St. Patty’s Day right around the corner, all the grocery stores have stocked up on corned beef, already brined, just waiting to be cooked. So this year I went to the store and bought two. Hey, if I have to celebrate a Catholic saint to get easy access to a corned beef, I am willing to put on a green dress and down a Guinness or two. I just really love corned beef.

When I got home with my two corned beef briskets, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to boil them the traditional way or slow roast them to change it up, so I did one of each, because I guess I also just really love doing dishes. We did a side-by-side taste test, and they were both equally good, so I don’t even have a clear recommendation. Corned beef, man. It’s the best.

For the roasted one, put the brisket fat-side up in a ceramic dish and preheat the oven to 325°. I used the spice packet that came with it, plus some more ground pepper and dry mustard to make a nice flavorful crust on top of the meat, but if there’s no spice packet, just pepper and dry mustard will work great. Cover the pan with foil and pop it in the oven. Slow and low is the theme here, so set the timer for two and a half hours. When the timer goes off, remove the foil and let it roast for another 45 minutes. Test the texture with a fork; it should slide right into the center of the brisket with no resistance. If it feels even a little bit firm, let it cook for another 15 minutes. Repeat fork testing and cooking until the fork goes in easily. When it’s tender, take it out of the oven and tent with the foil to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Corned Beef

For the boiled one, just place the meat into a large pot. Cut a couple of onions and some carrots into chunks and throw those in the pot. Bundle some fresh herbs together – I used thyme and sage because that’s what was still fresh in my fridge – and throw those into the pot. Add the seasoning packet, ground pepper, and a tablespoon or so of dry mustard. Cover the meat by one inch with cold water. Gently bring the water to a boil and then drop it to a simmer. Cover the pot and let it simmer for 2 hours. Cut a head of cabbage into quarters and add it to the pot. Simmer another hour or two more, until the meat is fork tender.

Corned Beef

For either cooking method, when the meat is ready, put it on your cutting board and identify the grain. For the most tender serving, you want to slice across the grain. I sliced the meat on the thicker side and served it with some of the cabbage and broth for dinner. Just for kicks, I also cut a second head of cabbage into eighths and pan cooked it in some extra virgin olive oil while the roast brisket was resting. It added a nice crunch to the meal and it would make a nice alternative if I didn’t feel like boiling anything. After dinner, I sliced the leftover meat very thin for sandwiches.

Corned Beef

If you love corned beef like I do, I recommend making way more than you need and buying a loaf of rye bread ahead of time. That way, the leftovers will keep you in lunch heaven for the rest of the week. I’m telling you, a pre-corned brisket is so easy to cook, I think I’ll even do another one next week because we’re already running out, and I’m not ready for it to be gone yet.

Do you have a Saint Patrick’s Day tradition? Do you serve your corned beef with Irish soda bread? May I have some of your soda bread?