Space Saving with Clever Kitchen Carts

Space Saving with Clever Kitchen Carts

Now that it’s spring and you are hopefully starting to defrost, it’s time to throw open the windows, air the place out, and get a fresh start! Getting the kitchen into tip-top shape is a great way to kick off the season.

We’ve got plenty of space saving innovation packed into these clever kitchen carts!

I’m going to start off with what will hopefully be the next addition to my own kitchen: a Microwave Cart! I will most likely end up with this little number form Catskill Craftsmen; it is the perfect size for my petite kitchen and will add some much-needed enclosed storage (keeping my new kittens out of my mixing bowls!) and allow me to bring the microwave down from on top of the fridge.

Space Saving

Another favorite from Catskill is the Grand Island Wine Cart with Drop Leaf. This space saving cart features a deep drawer to store your tools, a 6-bottle wine rack, a towel bar, and a drop leaf that adds 10” of extra work space when you need it. Rolling in on locking casters, this handy cart doubles as a mobile wine and cheese party!

Space Saving

If your space saving needs involve more spice bottles than wine bottles, we’ve got you covered there, too! Several options come with built-in spice racks to keep the flavor at your fingertips. With attached knife blocks, all of your tools can be right at hand.

Space Saving

The Deluxe Culinary Cart from John Boos & Co. is Space Saving the perfect space saving solution for the serious baker or cook. This cart comes with a knife holder, towel peg, tool drawer, and drop leaf. The most impressive part, though, is the attached power strip. On one handy work station, you can prep all your ingredients to throw in your stand mixer, food processor, or blender! When you’re finished being an expert chef, tuck your appliances underneath on the lower shelf and roll the whole setup out of the way!

Chris & Chris utilizes their Chop and Drop system to make food prep and cleanup a breeze! A small hole in the butcher block chopping surface allows you to slide your chopped produce or meat trimmings into a hidden stainless steel pan to keep your work area clutter free. This nifty little system is also great for collecting juices for gravy when you’re carving up your delicious roast! The Chop and Drop system is definitely a unique and incredibly useful feature, but what I really love is how much function they manage to squeeze into these carts! There are shelves, towel bars, spice racks, utensil hooks, drawers, built-in granite pastry slabs, and more. Everything you need to prep your meal from start to finish is right there in one multi-purpose cart!

Space Saving

A post about space saving would never be complete without talking about the Oasis Concepts Flip & Fold carts, tables, and desks. The Flip & Fold system is truly remarkable. In just a few seconds you can go from having a full sized workstation to rolling your compacted cart into that little 6” gap next to the fridge. These carts come fully assembled and ready to use; all you have to do is unfold and get to work! Oasis Concepts doesn’t just focus on kitchen carts, either; they manufacture a full line of affordable dining tables and desks as well. I’m thinking this Cherry Red desk would be an awesome addition to my office for when I’m working on a project with my son. I have several friends and relatives who are into gaming, and one or two of these tables would be the perfect way to make space for having friends over – just unfold and throw the laptops down and you’re ready to go (please don’t actually throw anyone’s laptop – that is a real good way to lose friends).

Space Saving I find our lineup of space saving kitchen carts pretty impressive. What do you think? Do you have any helpful hints for those of us with small kitchens? We’d love to hear them!

March Madness: Recipes & Tips to Make Your Party a Slam Dunk

March Madness: Recipes & Tips to Make Your Party a Slam Dunk

March Madness is upon us! I don’t understand the bracketology or even the enthusiasm, but I’m certainly not going to judge you if you’re into it…mostly because I’m a nice person, but some of it has to do with wanting you to share your game snacks with me. Thankfully, Sarah Buchanan is back and willing to share some tips and recipes to make your March Madness parties successful. I’m going to sit on the sidelines now and pass this to Sarah. (Get it? I crack myself up.)

It’s the time of the year when the madness strikes – March Madness. Fully grown adults will gather around TV sets, scream at refs and at athletes barely out of high school, and feverishly track wins and losses on brackets drawn on huge pieces of paper in the conference room at work.
Before I moved to California, I lived in North Carolina, where college basketball is its own special kind of religion. UNC, NC State, and Duke are the big three, and if you’re a North Carolina native, you probably have a favorite you’re passionate about. Or you could be like me, the fourth kind of NC basketball fan, the ones who may or may not have a preference between State and Duke, but are known as the ABC Fans: Anyone But Carolina.

March Madness games provide a great excuse to get your friends together for sports and food and…more food.

If you’re the host of one of these get-togethers, below are some tips (and recipes!) to make sure your March Madness party is a slam dunk. (Sorry.)

  1. Serve several snacks and appetizers rather than trying to plan and execute a full blown dinner if you’re having more than three people over. You don’t want to be running around, checking the casserole, stirring the beans, and making the salad while the game clock is counting down and everyone else is having fun. Choose some easy to make snacks, and if you really want to have a meal, order some pizzas to go with your snacks!
  2. Make sure that you have everything you need beforehand. Check your stock of drinks, napkins, plates, ice, snacks and ingredients, and cups. You don’t want to have to run out of your own March Madness party to pick up ice in the middle of the game.
  3. Consider making it a potluck. You provide the pizzas and plates and entertainment; your guests provide the apps and drinks. This is a much less stressful way to have a party, and most of the dishes will go home with their owners at the end of the night. Win-win! Just make sure you have your guests let you know what they’re bringing so you don’t end up with 15 cheese plates. (Although, I suppose there are worse things…)
  4. Have fun! Parties are no time to stress out. If you spill a drink on the rug or end up with dip on the armchair or inadvertently give your dog a mohawk in the colors of your favorite team, it’s okay. You’re having a get-together to enjoy your friends and the madness of March, so enjoy yourself, take pictures, and scream at the TV. Have a ball. (Again…sorry.)

Here are a couple of easy recipe ideas for your March Madness party. (Easy is important when you’re whipping up treats for several people!) Feel free to dye the dip the appropriate team color.

Fiesta Ranch Dip

  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Fiesta Ranch Dip (you can use less for a less intense flavor)
  • 1 10-oz. can original Rotel, drained
  • 16-24 oz. sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Tortilla chips and/or crunchy veggies like carrot or celery sticks

In a medium bowl, mix together sour cream, Rotel, and ranch packet (start with half and taste before adding more). Stir in cheese. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. Serve with chips and/or veggies.

March Madness

Nutella Grape Bites

  • One bunch of green grapes (use roughly 50)
  • One container Nutella
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (or almonds, or walnuts, or peanuts, or…)

Wash grapes and dry thoroughly. Dip one end of each grape in the Nutella, then gently roll the grape in the pecans. Spear each grape with a toothpick and serve.

March Madness

What’s your go-to dish for pleasing the crowd on game day?

Printer friendly recipes: March Madness Appetizers

St. Patrick’s Day: Individual Guinness Cheddar Pull-Apart Rolls

St. Patrick’s Day: Individual Guinness Cheddar Pull-Apart Rolls

This St. Patrick’s Day, stay in and treat yourself to some ooey-gooey goodness with these Individual Guinness Cheddar Pull-Apart Rolls. Sarah W. sure knows how to make my mouth water; I knew I was in trouble as soon as I opened the pictures. There’s just something about boozy food that really gets me going…maybe it’s the booze? Anyway, Sarah Weber is my reigning queen of deliciously boozed savory treats, and she does not disappoint with these super easy, intriguingly cheesy pull-apart rolls. Care to join me for St. Patrick’s Day? Let’s have Sarah come, too. Or, at the very least, let’s have her teach us how to make these amazing rolls at home. Sarah, show us your cheesy ways!

St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Tuesday this year. Which, unless you’re very dedicated to partying down on this holiday and are willing to take a vacation day, means probably no big wild parties (or green beer). But it doesn’t have to be a disappointment or no fun.

I’m not a huge fan of crowds, so going out on St. Patrick’s Day to see the parades and drink cheap green beer while being pinched by strangers if I’m not wearing green has never much appealed to me. But I do have a small group of friends from college who get together on the weekend closest to St. Patrick’s Day every year for what we call “Green Weekend.” We watch terrible movies, play games, catch up, and relax, which is MY idea of a great weekend. I’m happy because I get to make a giant crockpot of corned beef and cabbage (which might be my husband’s favorite part of the weekend, too!) and I don’t have to deal with a crushing press of people.

Even if you’re not having a big shindig to celebrate the patron saint of getting drunk, you can make a fancy, satisfying, pint-sized appetizer that’s sure to be a hit. And if you ARE braving the crowds and whatever the weather decides to throw at us this year, these are a quick and easy way to start or segue your day of drinking and being merry (have two).

With a few ingredients you most likely have on-hand and about 25 minutes (including clean-up), you can have a cheesy, beery bite to get you in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit.

St. Patrick's

 

Individual Guinness Cheddar Pull-Apart Rolls

  • 3 large rolls
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 can beer (room temperature)
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Thyme to taste

In honor of the holiday, I’ve chosen to use Guinness and an extra sharp cheddar cheese, but if neither of those is appealing to you, pick a cheese as sharp as you can stand along with a beer as dark as you like. Guinness gives a great caramel taste to the end product here, but is distinctly its own flavor – if you don’t like it, use something else. I can think of plenty of great beer (or wine!) and cheese pairings – Swiss and a mid-dry white wine, goat cheese with a fruit-brewed beer, asiago with a nut brown ale… the options are endless!

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Cut or rip your rolls almost all the way down to the base. The idea here is to get them pretty loosely held together so that once it’s baked with some cheese and beer to soften it up, pieces will pull apart easily in your hands. I chose to use egg knots, and they worked like a charm – they’re basically already marked with perforations to tell you where to rip. I also made rips halfway along the side pieces to give my end result more poof (and more room for cheese!). You want to create as many crevices as possible, while ending up with nice big bites of bread.

Melt your butter. Once melted, add garlic powder and thyme to taste. Add a splash or two (or three) of your Guinness.

Arrange your ripped-up rolls in a dish with sides. These are going to leak a little bit by the nature of what they are, so make sure your dish isn’t too shallow. I used a 9” cake pan, which easily held 3 rolls and could have held more.

Pour half to two-thirds of your butter mixture over your rolls (get those crevices!) and put them in the oven for about 7 minutes.

St. Patrick's

While this is baking, throw your cheese in a bowl (if you have a block of cheese, now is the time to grate it). Pour the rest of your butter mixture over your cheese, and mix in more garlic powder and thyme to taste (a pinch or two of salt wouldn’t go amiss here, but be cautious – the cheese is pretty salty to begin with). Toss your cheese around with clean hands or a fork until your cheese is evenly coated.

Pull your rolls out of the oven and carefully spoon your cheese into those crevices. Load these suckers up – I had juuust enough cheese, so if you have extra, poke around for any crevices you may have missed.

Pop these in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and maybe starting to brown.

This last step is important. Let these babies cool for a few minutes in the pan before you try to plate or move them. That cheese is going to want to ooze in some unhelpful ways unless you give it a minute to set. Use a spatula to transfer to individual plates (or one big plate if you’re doing a big batch for a party).

The result? An oozy, cheesy mouthful of YUM with a deep caramel flavor and a smooth cheese that gives a satisfying melty stringy rip-away from its roll.

St. Patrick's

Pour the rest of your Guinness into a super-chilled glass, and enjoy! These little treats are a quick way to turn up the “special” on this day and can easily be enjoyed while you wait for the corned beef in your crockpot to finish cooking.

What are your St. Patrick’s Day traditions? Do you think the parades and beer specials are worth taking a day off work? What’s your quick-and-easy-sure-to-please recipe? I think everyone should have at least one!

Custom Countertops from Start to Finish

Custom Countertops from Start to Finish

Last week we talked about some of the cool custom projects we have worked on with our customers, so I thought it would be a good time to fill you in on just how to do a custom countertop project of your own.

If you are in the market for a new custom countertop for any room of the house, we have a fairly simple process to get you from design to install.

Step 1: Choose Materials

Your first step is to pick out your materials. We have a nice rundown of your options here, which explains the pros and cons of the different wood species and grain styles and what jobs each type works best for. If you’re having difficulty making a final decision, let us know and we’ll send out some samples for you.

Step 2: Send in Specs

Once you have determined your materials, we need to see your layout and size requirements. You can send a simple sketch of your countertop needs to [email protected], detailing the dimensions and any cutouts. This can (should) be very basic; I don’t need your cabinet plans or blueprints from your contractor – just a simple sketch of the countertops. Because we can’t sit down together in-person, it’s important that I can see what you are visualizing; this occasionally manifests as a cell phone picture of a doodle on a napkin that is emailed to me while I am still on the phone with the customer, and that is perfectly okay! If you are unsure of the best layout for your space, send over what you have and we can talk it through. Sometimes we need to change things around a bit to accommodate extra-large sizes or unique shapes, and I review each project to make sure we are using the method that makes the most sense for design, installation, and budget. As you can see, we work with super simple hand-drawn sketches, professional images, and everything in between.

Custom Countertop

Step 3: Review Your Quote

We will price out your custom countertop project and send you a firm price quote. This can generally be done within about 24 hours, depending on how complicated your design is. Your quote will have a breakdown of the pricing if you have multiple pieces.

Step 4: Place Your Order

After reviewing your quote and finalizing all your details, we can get your order processed and sent over to the Boos factory for manufacturing. I will need the details for any and all appliances, sinks, etc. that will be installed in your tops; you can email me the make and model number of each item.

Step 5: Confirm Specs

At this point, I create a drawing to send over to the engineering team at Boos, who will do all their fancy engineering stuff and work up an approval sketch for you to sign off on. This is the most important step in getting you the perfect custom countertops, so review the details thoroughly and have your contractor (if you are using one) verify all the specifications. If there are any issues, you just need to let me know and I will have them corrected. When everything looks perfect, sign your sketch and send it back to me. With your signed sketch on file, your order is put into the production queue at Boos and manufacturing can begin.

Custom Countertop

Step 6: Patience and Excitement

And now you just need to wait. Custom countertops average about four weeks for production, so make sure you order far enough in advance. Nobody wants a kitchen without countertops! Once your countertops arrive, inspect them thoroughly and then allow them to acclimate for at least 72 hours in the room in which they will be installed. Installation is fairly straightforward and is often done by the homeowner without the aid of a contractor. Just make sure you follow these instructions properly. If at any point in this process you have questions, just let us know! We are here to help!

Custom Countertop

Butcher Block: Unexpected Beauty for Your Whole Home

Butcher Block: Unexpected Beauty for Your Whole Home

Butcher Block is an expected material for cutting boards, island tops, and chopping blocks, but did you know it’s good for so much more? I have the extreme pleasure of working on our custom projects daily, and let me tell you, some of my favorites have started with a customer saying, “This idea is going to sound a little crazy, but…” But nothing! Let’s do it! Besides the amazing kitchen makeovers we’ve done, we also do quite a few non-conventional projects like bathrooms, garages, and even closets. One time I even got to help design a shuffle board table!

Butcher Block makes for an extremely versatile, durable, and beautiful surface for just about any room in the house!

We’ll ease our way out of the kitchen with this gorgeous handcrafted bar one of our talented customers built. He made everything by hand except the butcher block top, which is 12 feet of beautiful Maple.

Butcher Block

Kitchens are, of course, the most common projects I work on, but gaining speed in second place is the home office. You could have a beautifully warm desktop custom made to your specifications to create the perfect workspace. We can even drill the holes for cables and wires to keep your work area sleek and uncluttered. The John Boos Varnique semi-gloss finish creates the perfect surface for an office; it’s polished-looking without being glaringly shiny, holds up well to daily tasks, and cleans up like a breeze. The desktops for the office pictured below are custom Walnut Edge Grain from John Boos & Co. The shape of the top was perfectly and precisely designed to accommodate the computer station, and Boos even custom cut a piece to be used as a leg. It turned out beautifully and is still just as attractive more than two years later.

Butcher Block

We work with quite a few restaurants as well, providing work tables for the kitchen and dining tables for the guests. We have some crossover with the work tables for residential customers, but the John Boos dining tops have really gained in popularity for household use. They are beautiful, durable, and affordable, making them the perfect solution for just about anyone! While there are the traditional restaurant-style black metal bases available, most of our customers are looking to add a custom top to a preexisting base, whether it’s something they found at a flea market, or the legs from the antique dining table passed down by Grandma. These unique dining tops are available in Maple, Cherry, and Walnut.

Butcher Block

Stepping out of the living space, we find ourselves in the garage. You may be wondering what on earth a butcher block would be doing out in a garage, but this is actually quite common. We’ve done some gorgeous Walnut tops to outfit a collector’s garage, Commercial style Maple to accommodate the everyday workbench, and Industrial Maple for those who really get down to business! No matter the purpose, butcher block can add unexpected character and warmth to this often forgotten room. Here you see one customer’s (almost finished!) laundry center in their garage. The sleek Varnique finish makes for an excellent folding and sorting station!

Butcher Block

To a lesser degree, we have also outfitted bathrooms and closets. Can you imagine having a huge walk-in closet with an island for accessories right in the middle? Now picture a gleaming Cherry block atop that island…ahhh, heaven! Something like that would have never occurred to me if I hadn’t had a customer ask for just that. Add a gorgeous Roman Ogee edge, and you’ve got swank to the nth degree! One of my favorite bathroom projects was for a man who was re-figuring the room for his new wife. He had a custom Walnut top made with a curved edge (like a half moon) to expand on the vanity space so she had room for her perfumes, makeup, and hair toys without getting bogged down with “boy stuff” (his words). Because he designed and installed it himself, it was a lovely personal touch and I consider his wife a very lucky lady.

The downside to all of this design fun is that I don’t always get to see the finished product. We LOVE when our customers send photos of their projects so that we can ogle and share. There’s a lot of inspiration out there, and we want to spread it around! So, if you’re planning a butcher block project, take pictures along the way and when you’re done and send them on over to us. You may even end up featured on our blog!

Winter Warmth – Midnight Whiskey Chicken Soup

Winter Warmth – Midnight Whiskey Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup is pretty much a standard in our households throughout the winter. This winter has been brutal for many across the country, and I imagine a lot of you are getting tired of the snow and the boring soup. As a Phoenician, I am not allowed to talk about winter, but I can speak with some authority about food. Sarah W. is back with a killer Chicken Soup recipe that gets its punch from cooking the onions in whiskey. While I haven’t had the honor of trying her “Midnight Whiskey” Chicken Soup, I did use her technique to make an onion and mushroom topping for crostini the other night, and WOW. I can’t wait to make the soup! Sarah is here to commiserate with her fellow snow-bound citizens and provide some much needed warmth. Take it away, Sarah!

April may be the cruelest month, but February sure has to be a close second. New England is in a state of emergency with record snowfalls, and the Midwest is seeing historically low temperatures. Records are being shattered. It really just makes you want to stay holed up inside for days. It’s too cold to play; the roads are too dangerous to navigate.

Being a Clevelander, growing up in the heart of the Snowbelt, I understand the snow gods. Every childhood Halloween costume was loose enough to fit over a snowsuit if the occasion called. After a record snowfall in elementary school, I remember watching the National Guard trucks drive past my house, ready to help dig out the schools and city buildings. I grew up with a big black dog who loved to play in the snow – some winters you could only see the tip of her nose and tail as she cavorted in the drifts. Snow will most likely be a factor in life as early as (late) October through possibly (early) April.

The lesson from this constant threat is to keep your freezer, pantry, and refrigerator well-stocked. All autumn, I buy extra everything and throw it in my freezer like a squirrel hiding nuts for the spring. The goal is to be ahead of the emergency announcements so that you’re not at the grocery store at 6pm on a Friday trying to stock up on necessities. No one wants to wait in line for an hour at the grocery store for canned soup, frozen dinners, and ramen. Nor should those foods be your sole emergency rations. By keeping a few basics on-hand, you can make something really tasty, bust out the candles when the power goes out, and build a pillow fort to occupy yourself when disaster strikes. That sounds more like a fun date night than an emergency, no?

The best food in this kind of weather is chicken soup. There can be no argument – it’s easy to prepare, doesn’t need your constant attention, fills you up, and leaves you noticeably warmer.

This chicken soup has a whiskey onion base, which adds a lot of depth of flavor, even if you shortcut by using boxed stock and pre-cooked chicken. Honestly, I use these shortcuts even when not in a state of emergency. With clever seasoning and a whiskey base, you can build a lot of complexity, and the goal when cooking should be to make something that is impressively good; it doesn’t have to be impressively hard to make or use impressive ingredients.

This soup is easy to throw together after a long day, it’s perfect to prepare early in the day to let simmer while you shovel, and it’s heaven in a bowl when you’re frozen to your core.

Notes on whiskey – I would recommend using a brand you’d enjoy drinking in a cocktail, but wouldn’t prefer to drink straight. In other words, use the whiskey you’d drink at midnight, rather than your first choice.

Midnight Whiskey Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 roasted chicken (or a few chicken breasts, really whatever chicken you have on-hand)
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 4 large carrots
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 1 ½ cups whiskey
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Throw your onions in a stockpot Chicken Soup over medium heat, then cover with a few splashes of whiskey and a drizzle of olive oil. Leave this uncovered as you prep the rest of your ingredients, adding more whiskey as it cooks off. This is going to imbue your onions with a lot of really good, deep flavor and add richness to your soup’s broth.

 

My friend Claire recently showed me this method, and I thought I’d try it out on my carrots. I tried to do quarter-to-half inch pieces. I ended up with something a bit bigger than expected, which is ok. New techniques often seem awkward until you’ve tried them enough times to really get them right.

Set your carrots aside, and get to your chicken. My favorite trick is to use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. If you have frozen chicken in your freezer, fantastic! Thaw them and dice them up. If you have leftover chicken from a previous meal, dice it up. If you have a whole chicken, strip the skin, remove the bones, and dice the meat up.

Chicken Soup

Throw your carrots and chicken into your stockpot, add about half your broth, and season. I am really loving Penzeys French Thyme in everything I make right now, and rosemary is a great poultry herb, so start from there. If your chicken was already cooked, feel free to taste your soup – add salt and pepper, maybe a drizzle of olive oil, maybe some ground chipotle pepper for some kick. If your chicken is raw, let your soup cook at least an hour before you taste (and check the chicken before you taste – raw chicken is the most terrifying kitchen thing).

Chicken Soup

Cover your pot and leave it at a simmer or slow boil for an hour or so, then add the rest of your broth and continue to taste and season. Let that simmer awhile, and voila! Soup!

And if you need a serving suggestion for a cozy evening, may I suggest…

Chicken Soup

 

What’s your favorite deceptively easy delicious dish for a snowed-in night? What are your best kitchen shortcuts and tricks?

Printer friendly recipe: Midnight Whiskey Chicken Soup

Answers to Your Butcher Block Questions

Answers to Your Butcher Block Questions

Whatever your Butcher Block Questions may be, we’re here to help! We maintain close relationships with our suppliers in order to provide the best service to our customers. What does this mean for you? It means that even if we don’t know the answer off the top of our head (not to brag, but that is super unlikely!), we can call or email a representative directly at the manufacturer to find out for you. While we occasionally need to make one of those calls, we mostly get a steady flow of a few different repeated questions. We figured it would be nice to put answers to your most common butcher block questions all in one place. See our most frequently asked questions below, and let us know if you need anything else answered!

Here are the quick answers to your most frequently asked butcher block questions.

1. Can you explain the different wood species, hardness and grain styles?

John Boos Butcher Block is available in four wood species: Maple, Walnut, Cherry and Oak hardwoods. Catskill uses mostly Yellow Birch. Each hardwood species has its own unique coloration and grain pattern.

  • Hard Rock Maple is the most popular wood for butcher block. It is light in color, with a golden hue, a slightly wavy grain, with a fine even texture.
  • Red Oak is not nearly as common. It has a reddish brown color, straight and open grain pattern, with coarse texture.
  • Black Walnut is growing in popularity for butcher block. It is the darkest of the four hardwoods and has the most natural variation in the grain pattern, from dark brown streaks to pale or yellowish brown.
  • American Cherry is known for its pink and red hues. Freshly-hewn, its heartwood presents as a light pinkish brown, but will darken to a golden brown upon exposure to light, since it’s photosensitive.
  • Yellow Birch has very close grain and even texture, making it ideal for butcher block applications and kitchen cabinetry.

Wood Species All of these woods have hardness suitable for butcher block. But in general, Hard Rock Maple is the hardest, followed by Oak and Yellow Birch, and then Walnut and Cherry. Maple is almost 30% harder than Walnut and Cherry. John Boos butcher block is available in three grain styles:

  • End grain – is constructed by fusing together short rails or blocks of wood, each standing on end. Looking down on such an array one would see the ENDS of wood pieces showing the rings of a tree. Melded together, these small rectangles create a checkerboard pattern on the top.
  • Edge grain – the wood slats run the full length of the board. No butt ends or finger joints are seen and the block shows less overall color variation.
  • Blended grain – is jointed-edge grain style. But instead of using uniform-sized wood rails, each spanning the board’s full length, blended-style boards use different sized pieces to span each row of the block. Almost a parquet floor look.

Read our Blog:  “How to Choose the Right Butcher Block for your Kitchen”
Read more:  End Grain vs Edge Grain, and About Yellow Birch

2. What finish should I get, natural oil or Varnique?

Natural Oil Finish Varnique Finish

If you intend to cut on your block, choose a Natural Oil Finish

Most butcher blocks come pre-treated with a food-safe, natural oil finish that moisturizes and protects the wood and makes it safe for food preparation, including cutting. This finish must be renewed through the reapplication of butcher block oil or board cream about once a month. Wipe up spills promptly to lessen the likelihood of staining the butcher block.

Choose a Varnique finish if you want a fine-furniture look and less maintenance.

Varnique is a branded, semi-gloss varnish-like product developed by John Boos & Co. It requires less maintenance than natural oil and serves to seal and protect wood. Varnique is the finish of choice among bakers in particular, since it provides a hard, smooth, non-stick surface on which to roll dough. Although Varnique provides a fine-furniture look and is perfect for general kitchen chores, it is not to be cut upon. While the Varnique finish is more resistant to spotting and staining, as with all butcher block, wipe up liquid spills right away so as not to mar the surface.

Read more: Varnique vs Natural Oil Butcher Block

3. How should I care for my butcher block?

Natural Oil Finish

  • Scrape – Remove any remaining food particles with a scraper or spatula.
  • Wash – Wipe the surface clean with a washcloth dipped in hot water and mild soap (do not soak wood in water). Rinse washcloth and wipe again.
  • Dry – Using a paper towel or dish towel, dry surface thoroughly between uses. Store cutting boards on edge to dry completely and save counter space.
  • Oil the top once a month – It is pretty easy to care for butcher block. But just because it is easy it does not mean it is not important.
  • Use a food grade mineral oil like John Boos Mystery Oil or Board Cream to help prevent board from drying and cracking.
  • Use a plastic grocery store bag, instead of a cloth, to apply the oil. This way you can avoid getting your hand oily and the oil will stay on the block and not absorb into a cloth.

Varnique SemiGloss Finish

  • Wipe – Gently remove any remaining food particles with a sponge.
  • Wash – Wipe the surface clean with a washcloth dipped in hot water and mild soap (do not soak wood in water). Rinse washcloth and wipe again.
  • Dry – Using a paper towel or dish towel, dry surface thoroughly between uses.
  • Always wipe up liquid spills promptly to avoid marring the semi-gloss finish.

Read our Blog: Caring for your Butcher Block
Read more:  Cleaning and Oiling Butcher Block

4. How do I get a quote for a custom butcher block countertop?
Visit our Online Custom Calculator to build your quote. If the options you need are not listed on the calculator, please email us at [email protected] with a simple sketch showing your specifications.

Sink and Stove Cutouts

  • Cutouts for sinks, stoves, faucets, etc. can be done at the Boos factory for an additional charge.
  • Please label your drawing with the dimensions and placement of these cutouts and include the makes/model numbers with your email to us.
  • Please note: Undermount, farm, and apron style sink cutouts will void the factory warranty.
  • Cutouts may be done on site, but will void the warranty. It is not recommended to do on-site cutouts in Blended Grain or End Grain tops.

Custom Order Process

  • Give us a call at 1-877-845-5597 or send an email with a basic description of what you need. We will lead you through a series of questions to get the full details of your project. If you need anything more custom than just a size or edging change, we will have you send us a simple sketch.
  • We work with John Boos & Co. to get a quote for your specifications. Once approved, you can give us a call to place your order.
  • The tech team at John Boos & Co. will create a drawing according to your specifications. You will need to review this carefully, sign it, and send your approval back to us before production begins.

Special Care for Sink Cutouts

  • If you have a sink cutout, it is important to take extra care to ensure the top is protected from water damage. Cutouts done at the factory will be finished along with the rest of your top (either natural oil or Varnique semi-gloss).
  • If you’ll have exposed edges (like with an undermount or farm style sink), you can increase protection by using extra coats of a clear polyurethane finish along the edges and on the underside of the countertop surrounding the sink cutout. For oil-finished tops, beeswax or paraffin wax can be used in the same manner as a moisture barrier.
  • Water spotting or damage needs to be addressed immediately to avoid further issues. Lightly sand the affected area with 220-grit sandpaper and refinish with the appropriate sealant.

Warranties

  • Countertops come standard with a 1-year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship.
  • As noted above, certain sink styles will void this warranty, whether done on-site or at the factory. Any cutouts or other modifications done post-delivery will void the manufacturer’s warranty. If you choose to have your countertops shipped with no finish, they will ship void of warranty.
  • This warranty does not cover damage caused by neglect or regular wear and tear.

5. What are your lead-times?

  • For John Boos butcher block the lead time is approximately 4 weeks on most items. The reason — they are all built to order. The items are not sitting in a warehouse; instead when your order is received it is placed into their production schedule. The wood is chosen, cut, glued and made for you.
  • For Catskill butcher block items the lead time is 1 week because they maintain a small inventory of every item. Because these items are ready-to-assemble they are already packaged and easier to store in inventory.

6. Do you have a store, showroom, or person in my area?

  • We are strictly an on-line store.
  • Our website butcherblockco.com  is our showroom!  And is open to you 24/7 so please browse as much as you like.
  • And our Customer Service Reps are just a phone call away. We can help answer all of your butcher block questions!

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Chocolate Covered Strawberries – How Romantic!

Chocolate Covered Strawberries –
How Romantic!

I have lots of experience with chocolate fondue, but I can honestly say I have never made chocolate covered strawberries. Not certain why, but I decided for Valentine’s Day to step it up and be a bit more romantic. And my hubby, who “owns” our kitchen, wanted to help me, so we made this decadent dessert together. How romantic!

I don’t have a passion for cooking like most of you do, but I do have a passion for arts and crafts. So I approached this as if it were a craft project. And I loved it! It all started with a visit to a cake store. If you are a baker you know what I am talking about, but for the novice cookie and cake maker that I am, I had no idea this store even existed. It was truly like walking into the “Michaels” or “Hobby Lobby” of baking. And the best part – everything is edible! Doesn’t get much better than that. I purchased my very important oil-based pink food coloring and my toppings of pink/white/red nonpareils, red coarse sugar, and tiny multicolored valentine hearts.  Let the chocolate covered strawberry project begin.

There is no creative twist to this chocolate covered strawberry recipe – you can find them all over the internet. But I can share some things I learned while making them. And of course, I will share my finished masterpieces.

I’m hoping to inspire you to be romantic this Valentine’s Day and make some chocolate covered strawberries!
Heck, be romantic any day!

chocolate covered strawberries 5

Ingredients

  • 1-12 oz. bag Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1-12 oz. bag Ghirardelli white chocolate chips
  • 2 T Coconut Oil
  • Oil-based food coloring. Pink for decorating.
  • 2 pounds strawberries
  • Toppings: Almost anything goes. I did colored coarse sugar, nonpareils, candied hearts, crushed candy canes, and some dried pink chocolate flakes.

Recipe and Tips
Wash strawberries first, so they are dry by the time you start.

  • Tip – Don’t wash entire strawberry. Just dip the berry in water, not the leaves. This way the leaves won’t dry up. It is all about presentation with this dessert!
  • Tip – Don’t rush this step. Strawberries must be completely dry before dipping.
  • Tip – Like any good craft project, have a plan and get organized ahead of time. Divide strawberries out into groups to be dipped in chocolate only, white chocolate only, and multi chocolate.  Set up areas for dipping, toppings, and drying.

Melt chocolate either in a small fondue pot or in a small dish in the microwave with a little bit of coconut oil. I did 20 seconds at a time, then stirred and reheat. Don’t overcook. Much easier than a double boiler.

  • Tip – the coconut oil helped prevent the chocolate from setting up, and it gave it a nice glossy sheen.
  • Tip – to make pink chocolate, it takes only a couple drops of food coloring in the white chocolate! I put the pink chocolate in a small squeeze bottle so I could drizzle on my decoration.

Hold the stem of the berry and dip in chocolate, covering the berry almost to the stem. Nice to have some red strawberry showing.

  • Tip – Let excess chocolate drip off for about 1 minute. Touch to side of bowl to get it to release.
  • Tip – If you want to double dip two different chocolates, make certain the first chocolate is dry before you dip in the second colored chocolate.

Dip in toppings. Gently roll the berry in topping or turn it and set it in topping 4 or more times.

  • Tip – I found that “dipping” in toppings did not really work. If the chocolate is too wet, it pushed the chocolate out of shape, or left some chocolate in the toppings.

Place strawberries on parchment paper for drying.
You can store them in the refrigerator for a few days, or eat them immediately. If you put them in refrigerator, let them warm up about 30 minutes prior to eating. The chocolate is less likely to crumble off.  I was so proud of my chocolate covered strawberry “craft project” I took lots of pictures to share with you.  Enjoy.

chocolate covered strawberries 1

chocolate covered strawberries 2

chocolate covered strawberries 3 I found my inspiration on Pinterest at The Yummy Life. Thanks for giving me the courage to try this.

Printer friendly: Chocolate Covered Strawberries

 

Super Bowl Snacks – Oreo Truffle Footballs

Super Bowl Snacks – Oreo Truffle Footballs

The Super Bowl is almost here! I’m in it for the snacks and commercials, but I hear there will be a football game, too. Thankfully, we have Sarah W. back this week — she actually loves football AND knows how to make great snacks! Let’s keep her around. Last year we had Chef J share some awesome savory appetizers, so this year we’re having Sarah treat us to the ultimate sweet indulgence: Oreo Truffle Footballs! Take us to the end zone, Sarah!

In many ways, I’m a really lucky lady. I’m a total foodie, and live in Cleveland, a city where food and drink is a huge, fun deal. Just named to a bunch of travel sites’ top places to visit, it’s really exciting to be living in a city on the rise. A lot of that excitement tends to drain away when the Super Bowl rolls around, however. The Cleveland Browns haven’t won a Super Bowl since before it was even called the Super Bowl. I’m a season ticket holder with a close group of friends, so tailgating is part of my almost-weekly routine September – December (and it gets COLD here!). We fry turkeys every Thanksgiving, make chili in the snow, and practice a firm “beat what you eat” mentality (pierogies when we play Pittsburgh, fish tacos when we play Miami, chicken wings when we play Philadelphia) during the season. It’s one of my dreams to travel to playoff games and maybe, in my lifetime if I’m lucky, to the SUPER BOWL someday!

Football games are a great combination of friends, food, and drink. It’s no wonder the Super Bowl is one of the most-watched televised broadcasts each year.

The energy of cheering for your team brings a natural closeness with the people around you, and a pride in the place you come from. Seattle and New England fans have that to look forward to this year. And I’ve got the perfect, decadent snack to go along with your celebration — Oreo Truffle Footballs. With just a few ingredients, and some fiddly steps, you can serve up a themed treat for your own Super Bowl party. I got this recipe from one of my family’s closest and dearest friends — they’re a staple at any football-related party we have!

Super Bowl

Equipment:

  • food processor
  • wax paper
  • microwave-safe bowl
  • toothpicks
  • baking sheet/tray

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of Oreos (go nuts! Make peanut butter or mint-flavored truffles with flavored Oreos! I’ve used the original ones here)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 12 oz chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp shortening
  • 1 tube white frosting (or red, blue, and green for colored laces)

In your food processor, pulse the Oreos until they are a fine dust. My food processor is a little small, so I did this half a package at a time.

Cut your cream cheese into smallish chunks and add to food processor. Blend until you have a thick, smooth mixture. Make sure the cream cheese is completely incorporated.

Super Bowl

If you have kids who want to help, this is the perfect time — this next step is messy! This is also the moment to remove any rings you may be wearing. Working with small amounts (bigger than your thumb), roll your dough into little balls, then pinch the ends to make them football-shaped. Place them on a wax paper-lined baking sheet or tray. These don’t need to be perfect. The suggestion of a football shape is plenty. If you have an army of kids working for you, have them roll the dough into little oblong shapes and plop them down, then pinch the ends yourself.

Stick your tray(s) in the freezer to let these harden. Once they’re firm, melt the chocolate and shortening in the microwave (about 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between — my chocolate took about a minute and a half all told).

Grab a toothpick, spear a football, and dip them in the chocolate one by one. I used a second toothpick to scrape the bottoms, both to save chocolate (it goes fast!) and to neaten the appearance. If your chocolate starts to get stiff, microwave an additional 10 seconds or so. If your footballs start to get soft and hard to dip, put them back in the freezer to harden up.

Super Bowl

Let the chocolate set a bit, then grab your frosting! You can do plain white laces, or have a little fun and do red and blue or blue and green laces to show some team spirit. Keep these chilled until just before you’re ready to serve them. A great addition to any party spread!

If you happen to have a little extra Super Bowl melted chocolate when you’re done dipping footballs, I highly encourage grabbing a bag of potato chips, and dipping them. You can snack on these as you get everything ready (which I heartily endorse), or put them on a wax paper-lined tray to save for another party treat.

 

Happy Super Bowl party hosting and attending!

Not Your Ordinary Chicken Marsala

Not Your Ordinary Chicken Marsala

This week at ButcherBlockCo we have been talking all about color and texture in the kitchen. We have been tweeting the latest decorating trends and tips; sharing some of our favorite furniture to add color and texture to the heart of your home; and talking about the Pantone Color of the Year – Marsala. A fitting segue to the blog this week…a warm, earthy Chicken Marsala recipe with beautiful texture and flavor. Here is the secret…

One of my favorite go-to meals is Chicken Marsala. It’s a really hearty meal that requires relatively little prep time. My live-in chef, husband Mark, created his own version of Chicken Marsala that is so unique. The twist to this recipe is 1) use Cremini mushrooms for great texture, and 2) add Cayenne pepper for added heat and flavor. Cremini mushrooms are baby Portabello shrooms. Darker in color, these babies have a fuller, earthy flavor, and a firmer texture.

Make ordinary Chicken Marsala taste extraordinary.
Add a dash of Cayenne Pepper!

Chicken Marsala

Flour Dredge
1 cup flour
Season with black pepper, salt , and ground Cayenne

Marsala Ingredients
4 boneless Chicken Breasts, sliced into 1/2″ thick chicken cutlets
Marsala Wine
Unsalted Butter
Olive Oil
12 oz. Sliced Cremini Mushrooms
Garlic
Flour
Black Pepper
Cayenne Pepper
Salt
1/2 Cup Chicken Broth
Condensed Portobello Mushroom Soup

Directions

  1. Instead of pounding your boneless, skinless chicken breasts, slice them into 1/2″ thick cutlets. They ‘re tender and a bit juicier this way.
  2. Sauté mushrooms in a pan with 2T butter, 2T Olive Oil, garlic, and 1/4 cup Marsala wine for about 10 minutes. To add more color and texture to this recipe, sauté red onion with your mushrooms.
  3. In a separate, large skillet, heat 2T butter, 2T Olive Oil, and garlic for browning the chicken.
  4. Dredge chicken in the seasoned flour. Coat one chicken breast at a time, both sides, then place in pan. Work in batches. Cook chicken cutlets, on med-high heat, for 3 minutes, each side. Set golden brown chicken on plate to rest.
  5. Deglaze the skillet – remove from heat, add 1 cup Marsala wine, and stir to make a Marsala glaze. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1 container Condensed Portobello Mushroom Soup and 1 tsp Cayenne pepper. Stir and heat to boil to make the Marsala reduction sauce.
  6. Add the golden brown chicken and sauteed mushrooms to the Marsala sauce. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Then serve.

Chicken Marsala make

Chicken Marsala prep

Chicken marsala recipe Have a secret ingredient for your extraordinary Chicken Marsala?  Let us know!