Summer Fun – Remembering the Good Times

Summer Fun – Remembering the Good Times

Oh, Summer… I know I complain about you a lot, but I’m trying to remember the days when I looked forward to seeing you. See, I used to not notice the heat here; I was a clueless kid with a pool and a bunch of siblings. The lazy summer days of my childhood were filled with swimming, running through sprinklers, neighborhood-wide games of Darkness Hide and Seek (my polls tell me this is not an actual thing, so for those who didn’t grow up with me, this is just Hide and Seek, but outside at night), and playing Super Mario Brothers until our eyes bled. My sister was the only one of us kids who had a domestic streak, so she would bring us out trays of microwaved burritos that we would eat in the pool. The theory was that if you ate it in the pool, you didn’t have to wait 30 minutes to start swimming again. Ah, childhood…

My favorite summer game was called “Popsicle.” In Popsicle, which is a night-time game, everyone was a popsicle and we all hung out in the front yard running around, wrestling, etc. There was a large blanket spread out in the middle of the yard, and if a car drove by, all the popsicles had to run to get under the blanket so the headlights wouldn’t “melt” us. If you got melted, you were out; if you got under the blanket but the car didn’t turn down our street, you were out. I don’t know how often we actually played Popsicle, but it feels like it was every summer night for years and years of my childhood. I perfectly remember the big, itchy yellow blanket we hid under, with its excessive pilling and vague campfire scent. It’s funny the things we hold onto from childhood.

The reason I’ve been trying to recall happy summer memories is that I’ve got my son here with me all summer, and he’s decided he doesn’t want to go to day camp this year, so he really is here with me. What is he going to remember from this summer? He somehow managed to not get that normal kid quality of being able to ignore the heat, so he doesn’t play outside much during the day; it’s like he inherited my adult intolerance of heat without the bonus 13 years of blissful ignorance. He probably won’t ever have to experience the pain of playing Lava Monster and falling into actual lava (aka the asphalt during the Arizona summer), so that’s a bonus. I just don’t want him to think back to his childhood summers and only remember video games and cartoons.

It has occurred to me that I might just be overthinking this; there is Summer a very real possibility that my summers growing up were nowhere near as fun-filled as I remember them. What if we only ever played Popsicle once and it was just SO FUN that I’ve let that memory cover up the boring days? Maybe all my son will carry with him are the memories of staying up late for days on end to finish all eight of the Harry Potter DVDs. Or maybe he’ll store up enough fun memories on our trip to visit Claire (of Key Lime Pie fame) next month that he’ll look back fondly on this summer as one of the best ever; five days of beaches and Redwoods and amazing food will definitely help me forget this awful heat, so I’m hopeful my kid will hang onto the good stuff, too.

What are your favorite summer memories from childhood? Do you remember the boring days or just the fun ones? I want to hear all about the games you made up as a kid!

Key Lime Pie – The Perfect Summer Dessert

Key Lime Pie – The Perfect Summer Dessert

Key lime pie is one of my favorite desserts ever, yet I have never made one! My dear friend and food idol, Claire Hoenke, has been talking lately about how good her key lime pie is, so I decided I needed some and picked one up from the store on my way to a Memorial Day BBQ. Big mistake. Big. Huge. The flavor was just okay, but the pie itself was tiny! Who brings a 7″ pie to a BBQ? (I do, obviously.) I had to wait until everyone else had left so I could split it with my parents. There’s not a whole lot worse than disappointing pie, so I hereby vow to never again get my key lime pie fix from a grocery store. Thankfully Claire was around to send me pictures of her gorgeous practice pies to further solidify my resolve. She also made me cry with this post, and because of that, I will never forsake key lime pie again. Claire has inspired me to make a real key lime pie for Father’s Day. Let’s see if she can inspire you, too! Take it away, Claire!

I grew up in west Michigan. There, the summers are short and intense, and the winters are long, and also intense, and they don’t usually let up until June. Luckily for us, my mother’s family all lived in Miami, so every spring, we would pack up and head down there to defrost early.

For our spring trips down, we would make my Nana’s house our home base, and spend the entire vacation bouncing between there and our various favorite swimming holes. Between the beach and my uncle’s pool, though, we ate. We ate Cuban sandwiches from street vendors, black beans and rice and fried sweet plantains from local restaurants, and the mother of all custardy desserts, key lime pie, from every place we could get our hands on it.

That flavor, the tart sweetness of a key lime pie, has stayed with me, and Nana made a fantastic key lime pie. For me, no other food so perfectly embodies not only my memories of Miami, but also of my Nana in particular.

Nana, my mother’s mother, was the most fabulous C 009 ROXY woman I have ever known. Though she lived the majority of her life in Miami, she hailed from New York, and she always maintained her New York accent and sensibilities. In a home movie my mom found of my Nana showing off their first lawn in upstate New York, she pushes a lawn mower around the yard in a mink coat and high heels, a wide grin across her face. Though she was older when I knew her, she still led an active and busy life. She was always glad to see us, but I suspect that she was just as glad to see us go so she could get back to it. She was sassy, brash, and hip. She was the kind of woman I wish I could be.

Claire and Nana She passed suddenly from heart failure not long after her 80th birthday, and when I remember her, it hits me like that first bite of a slice of key lime pie. I close my eyes against it at first – the sour, biting taste that inevitably brings tears. But then I let the sweetness of her love wash over me, and I revel in my memory of her. She led a rich, complex life, and maybe it seems reductive of me to remember her with dessert, but I find it comforting to put my love for her into a rich, complex pie like this.

My Nana was not exactly known for her culinary prowess, but this dessert is so simple to make, even she was able to master it. I like a sweet Italian meringue topping to balance the tart filling, but you can also top the pie with whipped cream, if that is your preference. Or, you could go whole hog and do both!

Key Lime Pie Key Lime Pie

The Crust

  • 10 or 11 graham crackers
  • 7 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 pinches of salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Crush the graham crackers into fine crumbs, either with a food processor or a plastic freezer bag and rolling pin. Mix the dry ingredients together, and then add the butter and stir until it is evenly distributed. Dump the whole thing into a 9″ pie plate and press it down against the bottom and sides. You can use a measuring cup for this, but I like to finish with my hands because it’s easier to feel where the crust seems uneven that way. Pop the crust into the oven and bake it for about 6 minutes, and then set it on a rack to cool while you make the pie filling.

Key Lime Pie

The Filling

  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • ¾ cup key lime juice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Start with your limes. Theoretically, you can use Persian limes for this pie. It’s true that they are an easy shortcut, but they do not produce the same results. For the famously bright, punchy flavor, key lime juice is an absolute must. While bottled key lime juice is available in some places, it’s generally been concentrated and preserved, and it does not taste as good as the fresh stuff. I let my key limes ripen until they start to turn a bit yellow for the best flavor, and I use a Persian lime for a more fragrant zest. My advice is to juice the limes over a fine mesh sieve to avoid going back to pick out the seeds and pulp.

In a medium bowl, gently beat the egg yolks and the lime zest until the yolks are pale and thick. Add in the sweetened condensed milk and beat until the mixture is pale and thick again, about 3 more minutes. Pour the lime juice into the mixture and whisk until it is evenly combined, and then set the bowl aside.

In a separate bowl, and with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until they start to foam up, and then add in the cream of tartar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Key Lime Pie

In a small saucepan, stir the sugar and water together over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup starts to bubble. Continue to heat until the syrup reaches soft ball stage, around 236°F, and then immediately remove it from heat. With the beaters going on their slowest speed, carefully add the syrup to the egg whites in a slow, thin stream until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up and beat on high speed until the outside of the bowl is cool and the mixture is glossy and smooth.

Add about a cup of the meringue mixture to the pie filling and gently fold it in. Pour the filling into your crust and bake it in your 350°F oven for 15 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and spread the rest of the meringue over the top. I like to use a spatula to create a design with peaks in the meringue for extra crunchy bits. Return the pie to the oven for another 5 minutes, and then turn on the broiler to brown the meringue for about 30 seconds to a minute. Once it starts to brown, it goes quickly, so be sure to keep an eye on it, or it will burn!

Key Lime Pie

Cool the pie for at least half an hour, and then pop it into the refrigerator for 4 hours before serving. In my experience, this pie tastes best when it’s served on Nana’s fancy plates.

Key Lime Pie

Printer friendly recipe: Key Lime Pie

The Butcher Block Experts Are on the Lookout for Breakout Artisans in the Southwestern U.S.

Butcher Block Co. Looks to Expand Its Supplier Lineup

Online retailer Butcher Block Co., a leading direct-to-consumer distributor of butcher block countertops, kitchen islands, kitchen carts and cutting boards, announced today that it added two new artisanal woodcrafters to its vendor portfolio during this year’s second quarter, and it continues to search for makers of differentiated, handcrafted kitchen furniture and accessories who are based in the southwestern U.S.

Company president, Mark Shook, proclaimed that the E-commerce company “now distributes on the Butcher Block Co. website (https://butcherblockco.com) the full line of distinctive Cotton and Dust cutting boards and butcher blocks handcrafted by Matthew Harper in his West Texas design studio; as well as the innovative Scrapesation wooden grill scraper, designed and handmade by Sean Ung, based in Central Arizona.”

According to Company Vice President, Kathleen Grodsky, “Cotton and Dust artisan cutting boards and blocks are distinguished by Harper’s unusual designs, combinations of woods, and extensive use of tropical tigerwood that’s native to South America. Adding to their distinctiveness, Harper delivers his boards fully-wrapped and ready to gift, and will custom-engrave any boards, making it an even more sentimental and memorable gift.”

Grodsky described Sean Ung’s Scrapesation grill scraper as “100% maple wood and designed to compete head-to-head with steel wire grill brushes, about which the Center for Disease Control has previously issued warnings.” Specifically, in 2012, the CDC warned consumers who grill they should “be aware of the risk for ingestion of wire bristles from grill-cleaning brushes.”

“This is a great opportunity for talented artisans to get their creations in front of tens of thousands of online shoppers each month,” Shook continued. “Visitors to ButcherBlockCo.com tend to be cooking enthusiasts and at-home entertainers who appreciate fine woodworking,” he concluded.

According to Grodsky, who oversees Operations and Marketing for Butcher Block Co., “I invite Southwest-based craftsmen of distinctive kitchenware to contact me for private and confidential discussions.”

About Butcher Block Co: The Butcher Block Experts at Butcher Block Co. are the number one resource for helpful information on kitchen furniture and accessories, and one of the premier sources of butcher block countertops, kitchen islands, kitchen carts and cutting boards. They continue to offer market leading service standards, and are fortunate and thankful to have sharp, dedicated employees who share a passion for all things butcher block and a commitment to superior customer service. For more information please visit: https://butcherblockco.com

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

The Art of the Cheese Plate

The Art of the Cheese Plate

Cheese is my soulmate, so when Sarah W. sends me photos of her cheese plates (which she does every week or two), my heart speeds up and I get butterflies in my stomach. Then I remember that Sarah lives in Ohio and we can’t share. It’s the worst kind of long distance relationship. I have been enlightened, however, with the knowledge that I’m not the only one who eats cheese for lunch sometimes, and that it’s actually a socially acceptable thing to do as long as you lay it out prettily on a plate before consuming. If I pick myself up one of these gorgeous boards, I may even convince the world that my midnight raid of the cheese drawer is because I’m fancy, and in no way related to, you know, beer consumption. I think we’ve delved into my issues enough for one day, so I’m going to pass the cheese plate to Sarah now. If she can inspire me to be a little more classy, just think what she can do for you! Spread the cheese, Sarah!

I don’t actually have a lot of meaningful memories associated with cheese or cheese plates (besides my mother telling me to never use low-fat or fat-free options because, “What’s the point?”), but I have to say, there are not a lot of things that rank higher than sitting outside on a beautiful day with a bottle of wine, a plate covered in cheeses, crackers, veggies, and fruit, accompanied by my best friend or husband.

Cheese Plate

Two kinds of olives, pickled carrots, fresh cherries on the left. Gouda, pepperjack, 5 county cheddar, cucumber slices, sharp white cheddar, porter-marbled, and crackers. Perfect with white wine.

So let’s talk composition. There are so many kinds of cheese. Washed rinds, soft cheese, goatsmilk, sheepsmilk, bleu cheeses, sharps, extra sharps, mild, layered, studded, alcohol-marbled. Going to the fancy cheese section of your local grocery store with the idea to lay out a bangin’ platter can be intimidating, let alone setting foot in a fancy cheese shop. And then, what if you don’t like your choices?

Real Simple has a nice article on selecting cheeses and all the niceties that go along with that, but I don’t always like following rules. Off the top of my head (and from copious field research), I would have guessed cheese plates are usually grouped bleus, creamy, sharp, and mild, and I wasn’t far off the mark. But I’m bored already discussing textures and types.

So how do you pick winners for your own cheese plate?

Cheese Plate

My winners from last summer – a 5 county cheddar (five cheddars of varying sharpness and softness layered one atop the other) and a porter-marbled

Answer one is to taste everything. Any cheese shop worth its salt and cream will hand you a sample. Taste, ask questions. It’s a lot like wine-tasting in that you’ll eventually find yourself with a few solid staples that are both unique and undeniably suited to you. Which leads us to answer two: know your tastes. Sample a mango-studded cheese if you spend all summer obsessively squeezing mangoes at the grocery store to see if they’re ripe for smoothies. Try a cheese marbled with dark beer if your favorite part of St. Patrick’s Day is drinking your dinner in form of Guinness or other stouts and porters. Be on the lookout for ingredients that you know and love in other preparations — artisans put a lot of things in cheese now!

To address the cheesy elephant in the room, if you have never liked any bleu cheese you’ve ever eaten (like my cheese-heathen husband), then ask your cheese shop associate what they’d recommend as an alternative. You might find yourself with a tasty gorgonzola or feta instead. Your guests will have a pungent cheese, and you won’t feel like you’re forcing yourself to eat mold.

Cheese Plate

Pepperjack, multi-grain crackers, sharp white cheddar, brie with strawberries, swiss, garlic-stuffed green olives, mango-studded, and honest-to-goodness air-popped popcorn.

Once you’ve settled on your cheeses, start thinking about what else you’d like to put on your plate — crackers, fruits, vegetables, meats. Brie with fresh strawberries is a super yum combination that finds its way onto my platters on many occasions. The beef sticks I’ve known my whole life as “smokies” make a great accompaniment sliced into inch-long pieces, while thick slices of fat smoked sausages and summer salamis are also a great standby. I have a little garden, and fresh cucumbers and green beans make their way onto my plates, as well as pickled carrots from the year before. And if you love the taste of salty, pickled things, grab feta- or garlic-stuffed olives as garnish. Fresh berries and cherries make a sweet statement against mild cheeses like jarlsberg and swiss. Multi-grain crackers, cheese crisps, even the humble saltine all make mini cheesy sandwich bites, and one of the most delightful things I’ve put in a cheese assortment has to be popcorn. Because why not?

Cheese Plate

These Vans gluten-free cheddar crackers are one of my favorite finds for cheese plates. Super thin and crunchy! Soppressata and salami picante are great cheese plate additions, and white cheddar cheese curds are the main attraction.

The only real rule I’ve come across in cheese plating is to keep wet things (olives, freshly-washed berries, pickles) away from anything they will get soggy (crackers, popcorn, chips). Other than that? Go nuts! I, personally, am not one for smears and smudges of jams and chutneys on a cheese plate, but you do you. Heap preserves on top of a small wheel of brie and pop it in the oven for about 8 minutes. Absolute heaven.

To prepare your cheese for plating, let it guide you. Firmer cheeses do well in thin slabs that easily stack on crackers. Softer cheeses can be cut into rough cubes with a very sharp knife, or allowed to crumble as they will. Creamy cheeses and spreads need to be accompanied by a knife. Layered cheeses, like my 5 county cheddar favorite, made a cute presentation cut into little matchsticks, but it wasn’t the most stable, and liked to fall apart. You can make your cheese plates as Alice in Wonderland landscape-ish or as neat as you’d like. Fan out slices or make a pile of cubes — it’s all up to you!

A last few recommendations: Slice your cheese reasonably close to when you plan on serving it. After several hours, it can start to get hard around the edges and get that greasy, unappetizing sheen. If you have leftover cheese, the best thing to do is have a leftover cheese plate for lunch the next day! Check out this guide on the best ways to store cheeses based on type. I’ve had good luck wrapping cheese in parchment, then plastic wrap, although sometimes you still need to trim hard edges, which is fine! Using the same cheeses over and over won’t get repetitive provided you add something new each time. Finally, I didn’t address dried fruit or nuts, but those are both excellent cheese plate accompaniments.

So, what’s your favorite kind of cheese? Does talking about cheese texture bore you to death, too? What’s the most unique cheese you’ve ever tried — and was it good?

Repairing Butcher Block

Repairing Butcher Block

As a natural product, butcher block may occasionally remind you of its wild roots by showing off a small crack, wind shake, or split. Your knowledge of repairing butcher block doesn’t need to be vast in order to take care of the most common issues.

In fact, repairing butcher block is pretty simple as long as you have the right information available. Lucky for you, we’ve got just what you need!

infographic. Splits and Cracks No Worries.

 

Not so bad, right? Repairing butcher block is often a much better alternative to replacing it, saving you time and money. And remember, we’re the experts in all things butcher block, so if you’ve got a problem, we’re here to help!

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!