What Exactly Is Butcher Block?

What Exactly Is Butcher Block?

Butcher Block is a specialized wood cutting surface, thick and rugged in design, built to sustain heavy blows from meat cleavers.  The name  “butcher’s block” was originally derived from its use by commercial meat cutters in butcher shops and meat processing plants over 125 years ago.  The first butcher blocks were made from Sycamore rounds, which were large sections of Sycamore tree trunks mounted on legs.  However, inherent in this round cut of wood was the problem of the wood splitting, creating unsanitary conditions.  This lead to the invention of the traditional end-grain butcher block, an assembled wood product made from strips of wood which are glued together to create a solid wedge.

traditional-butcher-block

Today, traditional butcher blocks can be found in millions of supermarkets, delis, restaurants and home kitchens around the world.

End-Grain-Butcher-Block

These end-grain boards are made by bonding together short pieces of wood standing side-by-side, creating the traditional “checkerboard” appearance. Their cut ends make an excellent surface for cutting and chopping.  The wood fibers that make up the cutting surface are less susceptible to nicks and gouges, and will absorb the impact of knives.

 

Edge-Grain-Butcher-BlockThese days, the term butcher block is commonly used to refer to edge-grain constructed blocks as well.  Edge-grain blocks are made from laminating wood rails side-by-side, with the edges of wood strips making up the surface of the butcher block.  Many butcher blocks for home use are edge-grain construction because they are perfectly suitable for home use and are more affordable.

 

Edge-grain butcher blocks typically are thinner, lighter and more portable, making them ideal for versatile tableshard-working carts, gorgeous countertops, and  functional cutting boards.

What is your favorite butcher block product?

butcher-block-products
Cedar-planked Salmon – A simply delicious recipe!

Cedar-planked Salmon – A simply delicious recipe!

Today is “International Talk Like A Pirate Day”.  I guess I never knew there was such a day, but as I was browsing the internet I discovered it.  I’m not certain what this has to do with the  ButcherBlockCo Blog, but it did get me thinking about pirate lingo and “walking the plank”.  And then my thoughts led me to cedar-planked salmon!  Salmon is my favorite fish, and grilled cedar-planked salmon is one of my favorite ways to prepare it.  So this week’s blog is loosely dedicated to “Talk Like a Pirate Day” and is a simple, delicious recipe for grilled cedar-planked salmon.

A meal of cedar-planked salmon is high value, meaning little effort produces great results!

The cost is relatively inexpensive, the ingredients are readily available, the prep work is simple, and the taste is fabulous!  Basically you soak the planks, season the salmon, and grill.  That’s about it. We just made this last night and we served it with sautéed asparagus and a quinoa/brown rice blend.
Arrr!
Ingredients:cedar-planked-salmon-prep
  • Salmon fillets, skin on one side
  • Sea Salt
  • Granulated Garlic
  • Crushed Peppercorns
  • Dill seasoning
  • Fresh Tarragon leaves
  • Cedar planks
Avast, ye Mateys!
Directions
  1. Soak cedar planks in a shallow dish, completely submerged for 2 hours.  You can soak in water, or I have heard wine or cider works too.
  2. Place salmon fillet, skin side down on plank
  3. Sprinkle seasonings on top side of salmon
  4. Place plank on 350 degree preheated grill.  Cover and grill for 15 to 20 minutes.  Check after 15 minutes for doneness.  My family prefers salmon well cooked and more firm, so we go the full 20 minutes
  5. Spray water on any flare ups
  6. Remove from grill.  Salmon will separate from the skin nicely with a spatula. Garnish with fresh Tarragon.
cedar-planked-salmon-grilledGrilled Cedar-planked salmon.  Arrr!
Printer friendly recipe: Cedar-planked Salmon Recipe
Kitchen Islands – How to simplify the selection process

Kitchen Islands – How to simplify the selection process

The kitchen is the heart of the home, and a kitchen island can be a great addition to this space, where you cook, entertain, gather and celebrate with family and friends.  Purchasing a kitchen island can be a significant investment, so choosing the right kitchen island for you is critical. While the choices are many, here are some things to consider to make the selection process simpler:
  1. How do you intend to use your kitchen island?  Would you use it for sitting and eating, or more for food prep and serving?
  2. How much floor space do you have?  Kitchen islands range in length from 4 to 5 feet and are often 2 feet wide, so make certain you have space for the island and for good traffic flow. If you don’t have that much space, a butcher block table may be a better option.
  3. What features are most important to you?  Islands are available with one or many features like closed cabinets, extendable cutting boards, drop leaves, open shelves, drawers, or baskets.
  4. Finally, what will best match your décor and personal style? There is a wide array of styles to choose from in a range of colors, finishes and woods.  Pick the style that complements your current kitchen cabinets, countertops and flooring.

ButcherBlockCo offers a wide selection of Kitchen Islands.

  • Classic Kitchen Island Breakfast Sets  expand not only dining space and seating capacity, but serving space.  Many come with bar stools to match.
  • Butcher Block Islands designed to be used as chopping workstations complete with food-safe natural oil finish.  They also double as a food buffet and serving space.  Many butcher block kitchen islands are available with optional casters to make them portable.
  • Butcher Block Islands with food-safe varnish finish are ideal for food prep and serving.  The varnish brings out the wood’s natural beauty and luster.
  • Fine furniture Wood Islands are both beautiful and functional serving islands.
  • Kitchen Island Countertops can also be purchased should you have an existing built in kitchen island you are remodeling.  Custom size countertops and custom edging to match your existing countertops can be ordered.
kitchen islands
The kitchen is the heart of the home, and an island can be the focal point of your kitchen.  To learn more about kitchen island options, watch our YOUTUBE Video.

ButcherBlockCo.com – The Experts In All Things Butcher Block

Butcher Block Countertops Are An Affordable Option

Butcher Block Countertops Are An Affordable Option

If you are considering new countertops as part of  your kitchen remodel, you will find there are many countertop materials to choose from.  The internet is a great place to start researching, with helpful information, facts, trends and most of all, inspiring photos to help you make the right decision.

When choosing the ideal countertop material you should consider the following:

  • Function – Your lifestyle plays an important role in designing your kitchen.  If you are a Cooking Enthusiast you will want countertops that are suitable for chopping and food prep; Kitchen Central families who spend a lot of time in the kitchen doing more than cooking will want durable, stain resistant surfaces; and Entertainers will desire a high degree of style in their countertop and overall kitchen design.
  • Décor – Because the kitchen is the heart of the home, it should reflect your personal style, be that traditional, contemporary or eclectic.  Countertops are one of the more affordable and significant changes you can make to your kitchen that will convey your personal style.
  • Maintenance  – Often an afterthought, countertop maintenance is important to know prior to purchasing.  Be comfortable with the  maintenance required to keep your countertop looking new and protected.  Some maintenance is necessary for all countertops, however, certain materials are more needy.
  • Budget -Your budget can be the deal breaker.  Countertop materials range from very affordable to extremely expensive.  

A helpful resource for cost comparison can be found at www.countertopguides.com, where you can see Butcher Block Countertops are one of the most affordable countertop options available.

Butcher Block Countertops are an affordable option

Butcher Block Countertop an Affordable Choice.xlsx

So if you are looking for a food prep work surface that is beautiful, easy to maintain, and affordable, then butcher block is right for you!  At ButcherBlockCo.com you can choose from 4 different wood species, in 3 grain styles.  It’s easy to compare butcher block prices using our Step-by-Step Order Guide.  And you can get an instant quote or order butcher block countertops online with our Custom Countertop calculator.

Relative Cost Per Square Foot – Butcher Block Countertops

Butcher Block Countertop an Affordable Choice.xlsx

Need more information? Watch our YouTube video to learn more about Butcher Block Countertops.

ButcherBlockCo.com, The Experts In All Things Butcher Block

Ravioli Lasagna Recipe

Ravioli Lasagna Recipe

Recipe Update: To help reduce the moisture that comes from the zucchini, slice it thin, then grill it for 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Let it cool for 10 minutes, then use it to build your layers.

July 29th is National Lasagna Day!  If you love home-made lasagna but find it to be a lot of work, try this wonderful shortcut.  It is called Ravioli Lasagna.  Not only is it easier, but it tastes better than traditional lasagna.  And my added twist….zucchini!

Ravioli Lasagna Ingredients:

  • 2lbs Ground Sweet Italian Pork SausageRavioli-lasagna-herb-board
  • 3lbs Frozen, Pre-cooked, Cheese Ravioli (Ricotta filled).  About  40 large Raviolis
  • 32 oz Swiss Cheese Slices
  • 2- 16oz containers of NonFat Cottage Cheese
  • 5 T chopped fresh Oregano. (Another reason to use my wonderful butcher block herb cutting board and mezzaluna knife!)
  • 5 Zucchini
  • 2 – 32oz Jars Marinara Sauce
  • 1/2 cup of any Red Table Wine

Sauce:

  • Cook the ground pork sausage in large pot, breaking meat up into small pieces
  • Add marinara sauce.  Rinse out the jar with 1/2 cup Red Table Wine and pour into sauce.
  • Simmer.

Cheese:

  • Fold the chopped oregano into the cottage cheese until uniform.
  • Have sliced swiss cheese handy

Zucchini:

  • Wash and peel zucchini
  • Chop on your favorite chopping block into 1/8 ” round slices
  • Split into two piles

Building your 9 layer Ravioli Lasagna is easy and takes about 15 minutes

Choose a very large baking pan, preferably 15″L x 11″ W x 3.5″ deep:

  • Layer 1 – Sauce, just to cover bottom of pan
  • Layer 2 – Ravioli Noodles.  In my pan, it was 5 rows of 4 ravioli or 20 raviolis
  • Layer 3 – Spread all the cottage cheese/oregano onto the ravioli
  • Layer 4 – Place one layer of zucchini to cover entire layer (half of the total zucchini)
  • Layer 5 – Cover with single layer of sliced swiss cheese
  • Layer 6 – Add remaining sauce on this layer
  • Layer 7 – Add another ravioli layer, 20 raviolis
  • Layer 8 – Place a layer of zucchini to cover
  • Layer 9 – Cover with a single layer of sliced swiss cheese

National-Lasagna-Day-Layers

Cover with non-stick aluminum foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.  Uncover.  Then broil for 2 minutes to brown the cheese on top.  Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving to allow it to cool and set.  Serves 12 to 16.

Enjoy your easy Ravioli Lasagna!

Printer Friendly Recipe: Ravioli Lasagna

Our Annual Theme Party!

Our Annual Theme Party!

July 4th, 2003 is when it all began.  The family reunion that year was loosely themed a Hawaiian party. You know, wear your Hawaiian shirt and call it good.  All of our kids were playing outside enjoying the warm, balmy July day, when they came running in the house to show us their “costumes.”  They had raided the neighbors garden, pulling out every green leafy flower in their flower beds, and had pieced together hula skirts for all of the kids…The Annual July 4th Family Reunion Theme Party was born!

This year will be our 10th anniversary, having enjoyed a different theme party each year, without fail. It has brought our extended family closer, with  brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, cousins and neighbors all looking forward to the annual theme party. (Needless to say, the neighbors are forever honorary guests having sacrificed their flower garden year one).  Each year it seems the party gets more extravagant, as we have become pretty efficient at planning, organizing and partying.  What all the theme parties have in common is:

  1. They are held during the July 4th holiday weekend
  2. Awards are given for best costumes in a variety of categories
  3. The house is decorated in theme, inside and out
  4. And best of all, the food must match the theme party!

My brother reveals the “theme” for the party two months in advance, giving the competitive members of the family (namely me) enough time to research, craft or purchase their unique costumes.  Menu planning starts a few weeks in advance as we collaborate, via email, on the various dishes and accompanying delights that fit our theme party.  Decorations are purchased a week in advance. Finally, on the day of the event, we pull it all together including decorating and cooking for up to 45 people!

One of my favorite theme parties was our Bug Party.

If you think about it, you can just imagine how creative the food choices could be.

My sister-n-law created a Caterpillar Cake from two chocolate bunt cakes sliced in half, then pieced together to make an s-shape.  She used frosting to glue it together, alternating chocolate and vanilla frosting for each segment of the caterpillar.  Then we had a blast decorating with dots, candy corn legs, and Oreo eyes (see feature photo above). The buffet table was draped with a table cloth made from red and white picnic pattern with ants on it.  Our centerpiece for the dinner table was a bowl of gummy worm apples.  And finally the hot dog and hamburger buns where garnished with some plastic beetles, spiders and flies.

theme-party-meal

The most visually interesting dish, and the yummiest of all, was the Dirt Cake, complete with gummy worms!

Here is our tried and true Dirt Cake Recipe:

theme-party-dessert2

1 package Oreo cookies

1/3  cup butter or margarine

1- 8 oz container softened Cream Cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

3.5  cups milk

2 – 3.5 oz packages French Vanilla Pudding

1- 12 oz container Cool Whip

 

 

Smash Oreo cookies until very fine.  We use a zip-top bag and a rolling pin to smash.
Mix butter, cream cheese, and sugar in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl combine milk, pudding and Cool Whip and mix together.
Combine pudding mixture and cream cheese mixture.
Layer in glass baking dish starting with cookies, then cream mixture. Repeat layers.
Garnish with gummy worms.
Chill until ready to serve.

I am heading off to our 10th Annual Family Reunion Theme Party now.  The theme this year is “Heroes and Villains.” Stay tuned for more stories.  And enjoy your fourth of July!

Printer Friendly: Dirt Cake

Need some more inspiration for your get-together? Check out these fabulous recipes: Grilled Scallops, Amaretto Spice Cupcakes, Smoked Brisket

Grilled Scallops with Ginger Citrus Salsa Recipe

Grilled Scallops with Ginger Citrus Salsa Recipe

Our own Chef J shares with us his favorite Grilled Scallop recipe for summer!

Good, fresh seafood in Arizona isn’t always easy to come by. But once summer comes around, our back yard get-togethers seem empty without some shrimp skewers or fish tacos. Luckily we have a few frozen options and some rare, fresh finds. Grilled scallops are one of my favorite things to bring to the summer table; scallops can be found frozen or canned, and both can be quite good. Light, but rich and buttery, grilled scallops can be a delightful addition to fajitas, tacos, on their own, or as the surf to your favorite turf. There is always room for these delicious mollusks; even those folks who say “I don’t like fish” will like them. Who invites those people, anyway? Grilled scallops with Ginger Citrus Salsa is one of my favorite dishes to prepare. It is simple and easy, but oh so tasty! Play around with this recipe, use whatever citrus you have growing in your (or your neighbor’s) yard.

Ginger Citrus Grilled Scallops Recipe

2 pounds of large scallops

Ginger Citrus Salsa:

  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 TBS chopped, fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 1 cup finely diced cucumber
  • ¼ cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 small jalapeno, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients (except scallops) and mix well. Let this sit for a while- it’s better the next day.
Bring your grill up to medium-high, around 600 degrees or so. Make sure that the grill is clean, and once hot, give it a rub down with vegetable oil.
Season your scallops with salt & pepper, and arrange flat side down on the grill. Give them about 2 minutes and flip. Grill about another 90 seconds or so and remove from heat.

Top your Grilled Scallops with the Ginger Citrus Salsa and enjoy!

Other recipes from Chef J: BBQ Beef Brisket and Hibiscus Margaritas 

Printer Friendly: Ginger Citrus Grilled Scallops

A Potluck Chopped Challenge Dinner Party

A Potluck Chopped Challenge Dinner Party

Everyone seems to be familiar with the TV show “Chopped” on The Food Network and the concept of a Chopped Challenge. But not everyone gets all excited about actually participating in a Chopped Challenge party.  My husband is a total foodie.  He watches all of the cooking shows on TV, including “Chopped”.  And he loves to cook.  I, on the other hand, don’t watch and don’t cook!  Instead, I am the person who loves to organize, decorate, entertain and socialize.  Oh yes, and eat too!
So when our friends Tom and Cathy invited us to a Chopped Challenge Party, my first reaction was yikes!  I don’t DO cooking.  Maybe I can just drink and watch my husband prepare the entrée!  Fortunately, our friends had a clever twist, a Potluck Chopped Challenge.

A Potluck Chopped Challenge Dinner Party appeals to so many more people.

It is a perfect idea, especially if you are like me:
  • You love food, but don’t like to cook
  • You have limited space in your kitchen
  • Or  limited time to sit around and wait for courses to be prepared
  • You have some awesome neighborhood “chefs” you want to recognize
  • And you enjoy socializing
So here are the “twists” to throwing a Potluck Chopped Challenge Dinner Party:

Twist 1: Instead of cooking at the hosts home, you are assigned your course and  your “mystery ingredients” in advance.

You prepare your course ahead of time and bring it to the Potluck, ready-to-eat.

Twist 2:  Two couples compete against each other in the same course category with the same mystery ingredients.

For example the courses/ingredients could be:

  • Vegetable  – Cheetos, Black Bean Garlic Sauce, Green Beans
  • Soup  – Ginger, Walnuts, Egg
  • Salad – Pomegranate,  Mandarin Oranges, Mint
  • Dessert – Strawberries, White Chocolate, Bacon Bits
  • Cocktail – Coconut Milk, Kiwi, Tuaca

Twist 3:  As you are eating the course, everyone tries to guess the mystery ingredients that are common in the course.

You can make the guessing formal, but we enjoyed just shouting out our answers!

Twist 4:  All of the attendees get to vote a “Winner by Course” and the “Overall Chopped Challenge” Winner.

Criteria is based on Presentation, Taste, and Creativity!

Twist 5:  The Host couple prepares the main course.

As it turned out, my husband and I won the Vegetable category and were the Overall Chopped Challenge Winner that night.  Actually, he won,( real men cook) I just got to steal some credit!  I think my husband’s aoli with black bean garlic sauce, olive oil and mayo really was the key.  Oh, and one more thing I did learn…if you want to win, include BACON!

So try the Chopped Challenge – Potluck Edition, and create your own twist!  Let us know how it goes.

chopped-challenge-potluck-dinner-party

Green Beans, Cheetos and cheese, wrapped in Bacon. Served with Black Bean Garlic Aoli!

My Favorite Amaretto Spice Cupcakes

My Favorite Amaretto Spice Cupcakes

I love cupcakes.  I love Amaretto.  So Amaretto Cupcakes are simply the ultimate indulgence.

It is no secret that I have a fondness for the taste of Amaretto. My go-to drink is Amaretto and Diet Coke. (Diet, because you have to watch your calories somewhere.) Basically, it tastes like a Dr. Pepper with a kick! My close friends know this about me. Heck, even the waitresses at the restaurants we frequent know this is my drink of choice. So when I celebrated my 50th birthday, it was no surprise that I received not one, not two, but six bottles of Disaronno Amaretto!  What wonderful friends I have.

But the ultimate surprise was when my girlfriend, Alicia, baked me Amaretto Spice Cupcakes for my birthday! Alicia is simply the most amazing cupcake maker I know. (That’s Alicia in the feature photo above.)  Her creations are not only “to die for”, but are truly works of art!  For me this was such a thoughtful gift because I cherish homemade gifts, I crave sweets, and I love my Amaretto!

So, here is the recipe. Give it a try. I think you’ll love them too.  And feel free to sip some Amaretto while you eat them!

Kathleen’s Amaretto Spice Birthday Cupcakes

Recipe compliments of Alicia's blog: http://ohmygoshimsoexcited.wordpress.com/

Recipe compliments of Alicia’s blog: http://ohmygoshimsoexcited.wordpress.com/

3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup Amaretto
Cream cheese spice frosting
1 package cream cheese
2 sticks butter
1tbsp vanilla
1-2 tsp allspice (to taste)
Nut & sugar garnish
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pecans
1/3 cup raw brown sugar
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small mixing bowl whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice and ground cloves.  Cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy with an electric mixer. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk alternately beginning and ending with the dry. Add the amaretto.  When the batter is well mixed and smooth, use an ice cream scoop to divide it into paper lined cupcake tins and bake about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
Mix cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until a smooth consistency. Add powdered sugar and allspice. If the mixture is too thick, add milk until smooth. Cool cupcakes completely then pipe on the icing.
Blitz walnuts & pecans in a food processor until a coarse consistency. Mix in raw brown sugar. Pour mixture onto a flat plate. Roll the sides of the cupcake icing in the sugar & nut mixture & serve.
Are you a cupcake lover too?  Here is another recipe we shared earlier.
Contact Alicia for “Cupcakes for Hire”: [email protected]
Butcher Block Countertops – How to choose the right one for your kitchen.

Butcher Block Countertops – How to choose the right one for your kitchen.

Perhaps this summer you’re considering a kitchen remodel and upgrading your kitchen countertops or island top.  There are a number of different countertop materials to choose from, each with its own unique benefit. Butcher block countertops are timeless, having been around for generations and remaining extremely popular today.  Many people migrate to the natural wood grain of butcher block because it fits any kitchen décor style, be it traditional, contemporary, or eclectic.  Butcher block is often chosen for kitchen island tops because of its durability and versatility, doubling as both a chopping surface and serving table. Choosing  butcher block countertops can be daunting and involves a significant investment.  But here are some considerations to help make the process easy! 

Perfect butcher block countertops fit your kitchen décor, your space, and your budget. 

butcher-block-countertops-choose-a-wood-species

Think about how light/dark and cool/warm you want your kitchen to look.

  • Hard Rock Maple is very light in color and uniform in appearance.  It can help brighten a kitchen and make it feel light, airy and cool.
  • Red Oak is of medium tone, with a golden, red tint.  It falls in the middle of the wood species selection with regard to light/dark or warm/cool.
  • American Cherry has a warm, red tint and can add both color and warmth to a kitchen.
  • Black Walnut is naturally a chocolate brown color, and can help darken a kitchen or visually warm a kitchen with its rich tone.
You can match, or you can complement other wood grain in your kitchen.
  • Matching the color of an existing wood can be difficult since many woods darken with age.  But matching a species and a grain pattern is much easier.  If you have Maple cabinets now, you can consider Maple countertops as a nice match.
  • Often it is more interesting to mix and match woods.   Differences in textures and colors, in moderation, can work nicely together.  It is easy to complement woods, especially when they are separated, like a wood floor and wood countertop. Or kitchen cabinets and counter tops separated by a tile backsplash.  Just be mindful;  make it look well thought-out, not like an add-on.
butcher-block-countertops-choose-a-grain-style

Three grain-style choices for butcher block countertops: Blended Grain, Edge Grain and End Grain.

  • Blended Grain will give a wide variety of color and grain pattern.  Rails of varying lengths are finger-jointed together showing much visual texture.  Blended grain  can look “busy” so it is  awesome when paired with a simple kitchen design, regardless of your decorating style.  It is the most affordable grain style.
  • Edge Grain is the end result when full-length rails are bonded side by side giving the appearance of a solid tabletop.  There is some  color and grain variation, therefore it is well suited for matching with other woods or natural stone surfaces in your kitchen.  Edge grain is moderately priced.
  • End Grain countertops provide lots of color and texture variation within the checkerboard pattern.  It has a very upscale appearance and is pricier, but it is the traditional butcher block look that shouts professional gourmet chef!
Your final considerations are a bit easier and they include your DIMENSIONS and FINISHING TOUCHES.  Choose your butcher block countertops now!