Memorial Day BBQ – Watermelon Ricotta Starters

Memorial Day BBQ – Watermelon Ricotta Starters

 Since many of us have the day off and the kids are ending their school year, Memorial Day has become the unofficial kickoff to summer, with the scent of back yard BBQ wafting through the air. If BBQ is in the plans for you this Monday, try these refreshing appetizers from Sarah B. Sarah may have gotten a little confused with the west coast lingo, but she knows good BBQ, and she definitely knows good snacks! So, Sarah, give us a little lesson on BBQ and teach us how to make those awesome watermelon bites!

Since moving to California from North Carolina, I’ve come to realize there are tons of cultural differences that I wouldn’t have given a second thought to otherwise, generally when it comes to what things are called.

Here, the big road you drive on is called a freeway, not a highway. If you go to a Mexican restaurant and order a taco, the odds are good it won’t have a hard shell a la Taco Bell. Most importantly, though, is that people here use the word barbeque to refer to a gathering where you grill hot dogs and hamburgers, and not to refer to a meal that involves pulled pork.

In North Carolina, barbeque (or BBQ more often) is something of a religion, and the side of the state you originate from will determine the kind of barbeque you proclaim to be the best. If you’re from Western NC, you’ll likely go for the Lexington Style BBQ, made from pork shoulder and served with a sauce seasoned with ketchup, vinegar, and pepper.

If you’re from Eastern NC, you’ll be more likely to prefer Eastern Style (otherwise known as “the correct choice”). Eastern Style BBQ is vinegar and pepper based and includes no part of a tomato.

It should be noted that it’s next to impossible to find real BBQ around here, so imagine my surprise when I heard a couple of colleagues talking and one mentioned that her Memorial Day plans were to have some people over “for barbeque.”

I got really excited hearing this and jumped into the conversation, thinking at the very least I could procure some leftovers, and at best, I might score an invite.

“You’re having barbeque?” I asked, maybe a smidge too enthusiastically. “I haven’t been able to find barbeque anywhere since I moved here.”

She looked at me oddly for a second, then said, “They don’t have hamburgers near your house?”

After another round or two, we determined that when she said she was having people over “for barbeque,” that meant they were grilling out, having what I would call a barbeque. For me, having people over for barbeque means you’re probably having what they refer to in NC as a “pig pickin’” and would be rewarded with delicious pulled pork.

Needless to say, I’m still on my eternal quest to find some good BBQ west of the Smokies.

So I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend, whether you’re having BBQ sandwiches (yay!) or plain old grilled hamburgers (boo!). If you get invited to a cookout, take along these fun appetizers, made with the quintessential summer fruit: watermelon! They’re super easy and super delicious.

Watermelon Ricotta Starters Memorial Day BBQ

Ingredients

  • 1 watermelon
  • 1 container ricotta cheese
  • Several mint sprigs
  • Olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste

Dice your watermelon into large enough chunks that they won’t fall apart if you take the middle out. Remove the center with a melon baller (or even a small spoon).

Fill the holes with ricotta cheese.

Drizzle olive oil over the cubes and add a dash of salt and pepper (to taste) over the platter.

Garnish each ricotta-filled cube with a mint sprig.

 

Grilling Tips + The Best BBQ Grate Scraper!

Grilling Tips + The Best BBQ Grate Scraper!

Memorial Day is early this year, on Monday May 25th.  That means you have a little more than one week to get ready for your outdoor BBQ.  So now seems the perfect time to share our best BBQ tips with you to make certain that grilling extravaganza is a total success.  One of our best tips this year is this exciting product we discovered at a local art fair, called the Scrapesation BBQ Grate Scraper.  We love it so much, we now sell it on our website, just in time for grilling season!  We think you will love it, too.

ButcherBlockCo BBQ Tips:

  • Season your grill by slowly cooking sausage on it, rendering the fat and letting it coat the grill.
  • Preheat your grill 15 minutes prior to cooking to help sear food, keep it moist, and prevent sticking.
  • Brush off the grill racks with the new Scrapesation BBQ Grate Scraper prior to BBQing.

Preheat your grill, then scrape debris off with the all wood BBQ Grate Scraper.  The heat will burn grooves into the scraper making it conform perfectly to your grates.

Memorial Day Scraper

The Scrapesation BBQ Grate Scraper is Safer than Steel Grill Brushes. Avoid metal pieces on your grates and in your food by using this wood grate scraper. (at www.ButcherBlockCo.com)

 

  •  Don’t cook cold meat.  Bring meat to room temperature before you grill, as this will help it cook evenly, without burning.
  • Oil your food to prevent juices from evaporating. Add extra flavor to grilled food with either a glaze, a rub, or a marinade.
    • A GLAZE is a sugary coating brushed on to grilled food just after it is removed from the grill. Great for fish.
    • A RUB is a blend of herbs, spices and/or oil, gently rubbed into meats a few hours before grilling. Yum.
  • Marinating your meat with acidic liquids, like vinegar or lemon juice, will help tenderize and infuse it with even more flavor.
  • Season food gently. Avoid damaging the meat fibers and overseasoning by rubbing spices in gently.
  • Don’t flip your steaks or burgers more than 2 times. It takes time to develop the caramelized BBQ crust.
  • Don’t squash your hamburgers down on the grill. It forces the juices out and makes for a dry burger.
  • Use a grill basket for small, delicate foods that might otherwise fall through the grill rack,like fish and chopped veggies.
  • Sauce your BBQ ribs during the last 30 minutes to prevent the sugars from burning.
  • Let your cooked meats “rest” on a clean cutting board for at least 10 minutes before carving. It allows the meat to absorb the juices and stay moist.
  • Food Safety Tips:
    • Avoid cross contamination by using separate cutting boards,utensils, and platters for raw (meat,poultry,fish) versus cooked foods.
    • Refrigerate foods while marinating and never baste with a marinating liquid.
    • Use a grilling thermometer to determine if your grilled protein is fully cooked. Measure the internal temperature to confirm.
scraper 900

The Scrapesation BBQ Grill Wood Scraper Makes for a Wonderful Father’s Day Gift! Only $30 plus shipping. (at www.ButcherBlockCo.com)

 

Looking for more grilling tips?  Check out these other great blogs from Butcher Block Co.

BBQ Tips for Memorial Day and  Memorial Day BBQ.

 

 

Mother’s Day Brunch – Stuffed French Toast

Mother’s Day Brunch – Stuffed French Toast

Happy Mother’s Day to all you amazing moms out there! I hope your refrigerators are covered in macaroni art and your kids bring you breakfast in bed! Well, that might be a little strange if you have adult children, so we asked Sarah Weber to update the tradition to something a bit more grown up. Stuffed French Toast can be made ahead and is sure to please Mom and the rest of your guests for a delightful Mother’s Day Brunch. Sarah, tell us how to get stuffed!

Ah, Mother’s Day. I love celebrating my mom, grandma, and mother-in-law, but figuring out something to do and finding a proper gift is getting harder every year.

Is it just me, or as we get older, are more and more problems easily solved with brunch? While panicking about what to do to honor the various mothers in my life this year, I remembered something.

As a kid, my family used to go to the fancy country club where my parents held their wedding reception to have a big fancy brunch with my grandparents. Little did I know that years later, I’d hold my own wedding reception in the same hall. My mom would share stories about working there when she was younger – folding napkins into elaborate designs; bringing home fancy leftovers for my dad; learning to use silverware from the outside in; making a “b” and “d” with your hands to remind yourself which bread plate and drinks were yours (this is still one of my favorite tricks to use at a crowded table). I would watch my blue collar-raised dad put his napkin in his lap before eating, and feel an odd kind of pride in him. My brother and I would raid the desserts table with my grandfather, returning to the table laden with chocolate pudding in glass cups and carrot cake and lemon pie on tiny cream china plates. My grandma would just about burst from beaming like a proud mother duck. She loves having family together. We’d stop at the garden center on the way home to pick new hanging baskets for my mom and grandmother to hang from their porches for the summer.

It’s been years since we’ve been to that brunch, but it was a very strong family tradition growing up. There was always French toast, with lots of maple syrup. Being something of a maple connoisseur, I figured I could work with that memory to make my own brunch. But to fancy it up a little, let’s try stuffed French toast. And let’s make it easy by making it the night before and baking it the day of. We know I love shortcuts!

Two quick discussions:

Bread - Brioche is a wonderful, lovely soft bread to use for this recipe. It soaks up the egg nicely and doesn’t fall apart when you cut into your finished product. Look for a bread that isn’t too dense – a loaf of Italian will do wonderfully, while sourdough isn’t going to absorb your egg mixture as well.

Fruit - You can use any combination of fruit your heart desires. I’ve made this with canned peaches, ricotta, and cinnamon; fresh strawberries, ricotta mixed with cream cheese, and the fruit glaze you put on cheesecake; even pie filling. Some other suggested combos: fresh blueberries slightly macerated with sugar and a touch of Merlot and mascarpone; apple pie filling with extra cinnamon and ricotta; mixed berries glazed with simple syrup and rum with ricotta. There are really no wrong answers here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf bread (unsliced)
  • 1-2 cans fruit filling or fresh fruit, in bite sized pieces
  • 12 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 6-8 eggs
  • Splash of milk
  • Pinch cinnamon/nutmeg, or spices of your choice
  • Maple syrup

Start by slicing your bread pretty thinly and uniformly. Grease a 13×9 pan and line the bottom of the pan evenly with bread. This can lead to some creative cuts in your slicing.

Spread about half of your ricotta cheese evenly over bread. We’re going to cover this up, so it doesn’t need to be perfect!

Top your ricotta with fruit.

Repeat with more bread, ricotta, and fruit. Top with a layer of bread.

Mother's Day

Mix your eggs with a splash of milk and your spices. Pour evenly over bread.

Cover and pop this into the refrigerator overnight. This lets your eggs really soak into the bread. Remove from the fridge 30-45 minutes before you plan to bake this. When you’re ready, heat your oven to about 400 degrees and bake for a minimum of 45 minutes. You can cover with foil for the first half of your cooking time to keep the top from getting too brown.

Slice and serve with a drizzle of maple syrup on top. Adding some bacon and a Bloody Mary is an awfully good idea.

Do you have any Mother’s Day traditions? How are you planning to honor the moms in your life this year? What’s your favorite brunch food?

Printer friendly recipe: Stuffed French Toast

Cinco de Mayo Recipes

Cinco de Mayo Recipes

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture. And like any celebration it is best with food! Are you ready to celebrate? Head out for some authentic Mexican fare or stay home and whip some up yourself. We’ve got you covered in the food and drink department!

Chow down on this fantastic Shrimp Cocktail while sipping a Simple Margarita.

shrimp

Or, if you’re feeling a little fancy, this Hibiscus Margarita is a real winner!

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a Hibiscus Margarita

Here we have a lovely little salsa that makes a great appetizer. Football Food

What’s your favorite dish to make for Cinco de Mayo?

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Wood: An Environmentally-Friendly Choice

Wood: An Environmentally-Friendly Choice

While we always have wood on our minds here at Butcher Block Co., this week we are honoring North American Hardwood trees, as we celebrate both Earth Day and Arbor Day. Because our business revolves around wood, it is important for us to be conscious of the environmental impact this industry has, and to be careful that the manufacturers we support are good stewards of the Earth.

Did you know that most U.S. Hardwood forests are found in the eastern half of the United States? U.S. Hardwood inventory has increased each of the past five decades, and annual new hardwood tree growth exceeds harvest by a margin of two to one! hardwood map 300

We at ButcherBlockCo are proud to sell butcher block products from John Boos, a recognized leader for their responsible “green” manufacturing processes.

John Boos only buys wood from suppliers who are members of the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) that focuses on replenishing forests through reforestation. Individual trees are selected for harvest, encouraging forests to renew and regenerate themselves naturally. And none of the wood used in the manufacturing of butcher block products goes to waste. The short leftover pieces of wood are used to make end-grain boards, and pieces not long enough to repurpose are ground into sawdust that they burn to generate steam for their kilns used to dry the wood. The extra sawdust is also recycled as livestock bedding for local farms.

Twitter Manufacturers Environmentally friendly

Not only are butcher blocks sturdy and beautiful, they’re made of wood…a natural material that’s renewable, sustainable, recyclable, and biodegradable!

  • Durable – Wood furniture lasts for years and years.
  • Renewable – You can cut them down and replant ones in their place.
  • Sustainable – More are planted than are harvested.
  • Recyclable – You can reuse it or repurpose it pretty easily.
  • Biodegradable – Wood is an organic material that will break down naturally.

John Boos has active recycling programs in place with 95% of all wood scrap and sawdust being recycled.

While it may at first seem counterintuitive to consider wood an environmentally-friendly choice, when grown and harvested responsibly, it actually makes a positive impact. We’ve only got one Earth, and we’re set on doing our part to keep its resources abundant. We hope you feel confident choosing butcher block for your home!

 

Breakfast with Spring Produce

Breakfast with Spring Produce

Breakfast is the greatest creation of humanity.  Because I am Breakfast a grownup (ha!), I can have breakfast whenever I want. I can also take a road trip to visit my amazing friend, Claire Hoenke, who just so happens to be the Goddess of All Things Breakfast. The first time I visited Claire, she made the world’s best biscuits and gravy, and I may have proposed marriage. The last time I stayed at Claire’s, I had driven up as a surprise for her birthday (planned by her husband, who is obviously the luckiest man alive), so she didn’t have any special ingredients stocked away to spoil me with.  Somehow Claire managed to whip up an absolutely delightful breakfast feast without waking me up.  I finally stirred when the scent of bacon, potatoes, sautéed veggies, and perfectly fried eggs became so overpowering my brain decided that maybe I could be a morning person. What I am trying to convey to you is that Claire is the best hostess and also the best at breakfast, so you should listen to everything she says. I am so excited that she is sharing some of her delightful self with us today. I think I’ve gone on long enough, so I’ll pass the mic to Claire now.

I love cooking for my friends. Welcoming people to my table gives me a sense of fulfillment like nothing else does.

While I adore hosting dinner parties, anyone who has ever spent the night at my house knows that breakfast is where I really shine.

And why not? What could be better than waking up to the smell of fresh bread and a hot griddle? Starting my morning with a hearty meal is the best way to guarantee a good day. For me, nothing beats bacon and eggs with buttermilk biscuits, or waffles with pools of butter and syrup… until spring rolls around. When the ground starts to warm and the first plants of the growing season start popping up, my appetite shifts and I crave something different.

Breakfast Around this time of the year I find myself flashing back to spring in my childhood home, huddled with my friends in my parents’ vegetable garden. As kids, my sisters and I spent all spring and summer in the back yard, and when we got hungry, we would head for the garden. I can remember the feel of the cold dirt under my bare feet, the smell of the mint, and the sweet crunch of the sugar snap peas between my teeth. There is nothing like fresh veggies right off the stem. Alas, as an adult who seems to have inherited none of her parents’ magical green thumbs, the best I can do is head to the farmers’ market with a basket on my arm.

Waking up the morning after a particularly successful trip to the market, the piles of fresh green things always call to me from my fridge. “Cook me! I’m healthy and tasty and sweet! I’m some kind of crazy gift from the earth!” and I am not one to ignore the food voices in my head. This recipe is perfect because it can be made to order. Whatever fresh produce is at the local market this week is what belongs in this dish, and it’s that kind of simplicity that appeals to the barefoot kid in me. This time, I am using:

  • Half a bunch of asparagus, cut Breakfast on a diagonal into 1” pieces
  • White and pale green parts of 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • A small fistful of watercress
  • ¼ cup of basil, torn into ½” bits
  • ¼ cup mint, torn into ½” bits

Depending on where you call home, you might be lucky enough to find fresh fava beans, ramps, or spring onions at your market, and those would be perfect in this dish. Spring peas are also well worth the work of shelling, and fresh escarole would take this dish to a whole new level.

In addition to your produce, you will need:

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • 2 or 3 ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
  • 4 eggs
  • Good, crusty bread

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium sauté pan. When the oil starts to shimmer, turn the heat down to medium-low and toss in the asparagus and leeks. Cover the pan and cook for about 2 minutes, until the asparagus just starts to get tender. Add the scallions and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Add the mint and basil and cook until the asparagus is very tender. Add the watercress and toss until it’s just slightly wilted. Season with some kosher salt and divide the greens into four bowls. Breakfast

Meanwhile, bring about two inches of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat to bring the water down to a simmer and add the vinegar. Crack an egg into a small bowl, and then gently slide the egg into the water. Once the white is opaque, repeat the process with the next egg, and so on. Poach the eggs for about 3 minutes each until the whites are set, but the yolks are still runny.

Breakfast

Using a slotted spoon, transfer each egg as it finishes onto a bowl of greens. Drizzle each serving with olive oil and some grated or crumbled cheese. Serve with slices of bread and soak in the goodness!

Breakfast

Wait; it gets better…

Breakfast Are you still breathing? Want to meet me at Claire’s for breakfast? If you’re not up for the trip, print off the recipe and give it a go at home using goodies from your own garden or local market!

Printer friendly recipe:  Poached Eggs with Spring Veggies

Feeding Friendships – Festivals and Peanut Butter Maple Fudge

Feeding Friendships – Festivals and Peanut Butter Maple Fudge

Spring is the perfect time to feed your friendships; the weather is starting to cooperate and towns are waking up from the long, cold winter! Now that it is starting to warm up, festival season is kicking into gear, bringing with it a sense of community and friendship to cities and towns across the country. This week, Sarah Weber is back to share memories of her favorite town festival along with a recipe using a local commodity that is sure to score you some friendship points!

I grew up in Chardon, a small town 35 miles east of Cleveland. I don’t know if it’s a huge thing in places other than the Midwest, but spring is festival season around these parts. Smaller than a county fair, with the same terrifyingly-quickly-assembled rides and street food vendors, these festivals usually celebrate a main commodity of the community with several tents, parades, exhibits, and contests to show off that commodity’s products. Not only do these festivals foster a sense of community, they are a great place to feed friendships.

Chardon is host to the oldest maple festival in the country, and having attended since I was a small child living six houses down from the town square, I can tell you it’s big fun. It’s counted as a point of pride that so many maple trees thrive in the community, and every March brings “Tappin’ Sunday,” a ceremonial tapping of a sugar maple on the square with a golden tap. Ubiquitous sap buckets hang from trees all over for the better part of a month, and a small building on the square known as the Sugar Shack starts throwing large clouds of white steam on Sundays as they prepare to serve up super unique maple stirs.

Friendship

This is maple syrup heated to a magic temperature (about 250°), then poured into a little cardboard bowl. You’re handed what looks like a tongue depressor and told to stir. This is where I learned patience as a child and where many friendships blossomed. You stir the thick syrup until slowly it turns into creamy maple candy, which you scrape out and eat with your stir stick as your spoon.

Needless to say, maple is one of my favorite flavors. Maple icing on eclairs, maple barbeque sauce, maple beer (yup), maple cocktails, real maple syrup on waffles. These are some of my favorite little pleasures in life when it comes to my taste buds. One of these favorite indulgences? Maple fudge. With just four ingredients, you can make a great nutty, maple treat that disappears as if by magic from whatever gathering you bring it to. And what better way to feed your friendships than to offer gifts of delicious fudge?

To prep, line a dish or pan with foil, and spray the foil with cooking spray. I used an 8×8 pan here, and thickness of your finished fudge will depend entirely on pan size. One batch comfortably fills an 8×8 pan. If you want thinner pieces, size up.

Tip number two is to use crunchy peanut butter if you want nuts in your finished fudge. It’s actually a pretty genius move (if I do say so myself) because the peanuts are already cut to a small size, and aren’t dense enough to sink to the bottom of your batter/fudge/icing/whatever you’re peanut buttering. One of my favorite shortcuts.

Ingredients

Friendship

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/8-1/4 cup maple syrup

Combine sugar and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir occasionally until the mixture starts to boil. I used a thin rubber spatula so the sugar mixture wouldn’t stick when it came time for clean-up.

Once you’re boiling, stir constantly for 3 minutes.

Friendship Remove your saucepan from the heat, turn off your burner, and add your peanut butter and maple syrup. Stir until the peanut butter is fully incorporated and you have a uniformly-colored creamy mixture. I didn’t measure my maple syrup — eyeballing it, I probably added close to ¼ cup in two good-sized pours straight from the bottle.

Friendship

Pour your fudge into your lined pan and pop it in the fridge. You can cut it into squares or slices in approximately 2 hours. I like squares about an inch all around as a bite-sized treat. Wrap individual pieces in wax paper and add to friendship baskets or tins. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Friendship

Is your area also a festival town? Have you had friendships grow from these fun community gatherings? Have you ever had a maple stir? If you’re in the Northeast Ohio area April 23-26, make your way to Chardon and I might see you there!

Printer friendly recipe: Peanut Butter Maple Fudge

Butcher Block Finish: Natural Oil vs Varnique

Butcher Block Finish: Natural Oil vs Varnique

When ordering butcher block countertops you have the option to choose a Natural Oil Finish or a Varnique Semi-Gloss Finish. The most commonly asked question we get from consumers is “What is the difference between a natural oil and a Varnique finish?” This is a great question and an easy one to answer. All you have to do is think about how you intend to use your butcher block and how much maintenance you are willing to sign up for.

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. All cutting boards and chopping blocks come with a natural oil finish. This finish must be renewed through the reapplication of butcher block oil or board cream about once a month. A stained or discolored natural-oil board can be restored fairly easily by simply sanding the stained area lightly then re-oiling the board.

A natural oil finish does require monthly maintenance.

  • Oil it every 3 to 4 weeks depending upon usage. When it looks dry or lighter in color it is time to oil.
  • Boos Block ® Mystery Oil and the Boos Block ® Board Cream are recommended to be used together.
  • First apply Mystery Oil. The oil and minerals penetrate through the wood surface to increase its longevity. Let dry.
  • Then wipe on Block Cream to seal the top coating of the wood to provide a thick surface protection.
  • Tip – use a plastic grocery bag instead of a cloth to spread the Mystery Oil over a large butcher block surface. This avoids oil absorbing into a cloth or getting on your hands.

VARNIQUE SEMI-GLOSS FINISH

Varnique is a branded, varnish-like product developed by John Boos & Co. Although Varnique provides a fine-furniture look and is perfect for general kitchen chores, it is not to be cut upon, since nicks in this hard-shell coating could leave unprotected the wood beneath. Varnique provides a virtually maintenance-free semi-gloss finish that seals and protects wood. It is the finish of choice among bakers in particular, since it provides a hard, smooth, non-stick surface on which to roll dough. Although not impermeable, a surface finished with Varnique is more resistant to spotting and staining.

Varnique finish is virtually maintenance-free. It is easily cleaned with mild soap and warm water, followed by a towel dry.

Which butcher block finish is best for you?  If you want to cut on your butcher block, you must choose a natural oil finish.

Oil vs Varnique white

Oil vs Varnique.xlsx

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