Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Gift of a New Year: Making a Vow to the MORE

We're not generally makers of New Year’s resolutions.  But this year, we've decided to make at least one.

In 2012, we make a vow to the "More".
And yes, Rebecca, more cowbell.

Because -- in this world of cynicism and anxiety-- where everyone is fighting for their own piece of the pie, and so very few people actually bother to stop and simply give a shit... the fact is, all anyone really wants is a little bit of comfort food and someone to share it with.

And so, we're going to work on giving you that in 2012.

And as for you, our dear readers and compadres, we wish all of the following --
And may 2012 be filled with Good Food, Great Friends, and MUCH to be thankful for!

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Monday, December 26, 2011

New Year Apron Giveaway

Caramel Apple Pie Apron - A crisp bib of caramel-
colored cotton with a gathered skirt descending
from a contrasting tie-waist and pleated detailing
at the bust will be sure to keep your most prized 

silks protected from your favorite sauces.
If you've been reading Burp! for a while, you may remember being virtually introduced to my grandmother, Gladys, back in March of 2010 when I wrote about the cake we made for her 90th birthday party.

Grandma passed away this year -- the Sunday before Christmas -- peacefully, and just the way that she would have wanted.

Although it's been difficult, there is much to celebrate in the life of this woman who lived for almost a century. She lived to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary, and 91 birthdays.  And she left behind myriad children and grandchildren who were inspired and encouraged by her life of faith and strength.

One of the things I'll always remember about my grandmother is that she never wore pants.  In fact, I can think of exactly one occasion when she put on a pair of "trousers" (as she called them) to do some particularly strenuous yard work.

Grandma was always decked out in a blouse and skirt, and almost every piece of her clothing was hand-made.  She acted as her own tailor, so every piece of her clothing fit her to a "t".

Although my grandmother wasn't a particularly adventurous cook, she was a big fan of the waist-apron, which protected her skirts from greasy or floury hands & accidental spills.  Her style was fairly conservative, so most of her aprons were plain and made to go with everything.

I'm a little different from Grandma in that way. I have a major "thing" for cute aprons... and I always feel that the more colorful they are, the better. If I had more space, and ignored my sense of frugality, I would probably own 50 of them.

This year, I was privileged to receive a Caramel Apple Apron like the one pictured above, from Shabby  The apron is just as cute as you would expect, with designer details that make it not only a practical kitchen item, but also an adorable fashion statement. The apron is well constructed, made with sturdy cotton fabric and cute retro detailing, including somewhat unusual cotton rope ties (rather than fabric) at both the neck and waist.  I would have been happy to find a utility pocket or two in the front of the apron, which would have increased the apron's utility; but overall it's a nifty little addition to my collection. And maybe, just maybe, I carry a little piece of my grandmother with me when I'm wearing my apron in the kitchen.

In honor of Gladys, who would have been 92 years old this spring, I'm pleased to offer one lucky reader a Shabby Apple Caramel Apple apron. This giveaway is a big THANK YOU to all of our loyal readers for being with us in 2011, reading and commenting, and reminding us of what's really important.

So, try your hand at winning a Caramel Apple apron.  And usher in all that delicious cooking for 2012 with style.
For your chance to win a Shabby Apple Caramel Apple Apron like the one pictured (a $40 value), please read the instructions below. Be sure to leave a comment for each entry (and leave your email address if you don't have it listed on your blog/contact info).   Please note that this contest is limited to residents of the United States. Contest ends 12/31/11 at NOON (CST).

Mandatory entry 
(must be completed or no other entries will count):   
Extra entries – please leave a comment for each additional entry, letting us know you completed it
  • Visit, take a look at the products on their site and let us know which one is your favorite. 
  • Use the following text to tweet about this giveaway (please leave a link to your tweet in the comments for credit):  
    • Shabby Apple Apron giveaway - #win @Burp_blog:  Ends 12/31 #giveaway
NOTE:  The lucky winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Facebook on January 2, 2012 .  The winner will be emailed separately to arrange for mailing of the prize pack.

Full Disclosure: This giveaway is sponsored by  We were sent a free Caramel Apple Apron for the purpose of this review and giveaway. However, all opinions expressed in this review are our own.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Best of 2011

Difficult to believe we're coming to the end of another great year.  As it gets to be this time, we always find ourselves looking back, reflecting, and planning for what's ahead -- and that includes content for the blog.

We were overwhelmed this year as we looked over our blog stats for the year and realized how much we've grown. Despite the fact that we've been busier than ever (and that has been reflected in the frequency of our posts, particularly lately), we've more than doubled our readership from 2010 to 2011.

We'd like to thank you for your readership, your comments, and your feedback.  Burp! wouldn't couldn't exist without you!

As a thanks to all of you, we figured we'd share the top 11 posts on Burp! from 2011 (in order of popularity) ... just in case you missed them.

Top 11 Posts of 2011
These are in order of popularity, # 1 being the most popular post.
  1. Stout Ice Cream with Irish Whiskey Caramel Sauce: Pure Guinness, er, Genius
  2. Nettle & Garlic Ravioli with Rosemary Browned Butter
  3. Stinging Nettle & Garlic Puree: Putting Up a Bit of Spring
  4. Wisconsin State Fair: Door County Cherry Chutney
  5. Pickled Red Onions: Summer's Prize & Winter's Bounty
  6. Soul Food Fusion: Fried Chicken & Waffle Sandwich
  7. Milwaukee Mardi Gras, Part II: Bananas Foster Bread Pudding
  8. Spring Scallop Tacos with Strawberry Salsa
  9. Going Whole Hog: Our Experience in Pig Butchering Class
  10. Brown Butter Rhubarb Bars - the best & last of spring
  11. You're Not Too Old for Crispy Rice Bars with Browned Butter & Rosemary
Share in the Comments
As always, we're always listening and open to your feedback.  What was YOUR favorite post? What would you like to see more of in 2012?
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bits on Blogging and the Food I Wish I Was Making

I'm impressed with all of you who blog up a storm during this time of the year -- sharing delicious treats and logging all of your holiday baking and meal planning.  It's amazing, really.

Because while you're taking the time to share all the wonderful things you've got cooking (along with adorable anecdotes about your children, crafty ideas for holiday decorating, and plans for the new year), I'm experiencing a moment of not really feeling as if I have anything quality to convey.

Some of it has to do with other obligations, including my new freelancing gig at OnMilwaukee, which I really enjoy.  But, some of it has to do with not wanting to pump out content just for the sake of pumping out content.  When you come over to Burp!  I really want to give you something of value -- something unique and interesting. Original recipes.  Original content.  All the things you've come to expect from us over the past five years.  And right now, that's gotten to be a little bit tough.  

I’ve also been struggling a lot lately with identifying my own voice as a writer. The fact is, now that I've taken some definitive steps to make something more of my writing and cooking (more, that is, than the purely self-indulgent activity that is food blogging), I find myself increasingly constrained. Blogging isn't so fun when there's all that pressure.  And I'm certainly not nearly as amusing.  And yeah, I really need to get over that. Because I really love what I do here on Burp!  And I want to keep sharing it with you guys.  For a very long time.

So, with all that off my chest, let's shift gears and talk a little bit about all the food I wish I was making -- and the food I plan to blog about in the  new year.   Like the homemade sausages we're going to make with the back-fat in our freezer.  And the homemade doughnuts we've been meaning to tackle.  And that recipe for Thai style waffle sundaes that we've been keeping from you for a very long time.  And I'll bet there is plenty of new territory just waiting to be explored in our kitchen.  We just need a little time (and patience) to get there.

Of course, while we're fallow, maybe you'd like to take a look at my "Eat Me" board on Pinterest...?  It's kind of become my wishlist of sorts... All the food I'm NOT currently making -- but hope to tackle in some form, some day.  Pretty delicious stuff, and the pictures are pretty good too.

"Eat Me" Board on Pinterest
You could also do us the favor of leaving a comment (either here or on Facebook or Twitter), and telling us what you'd really like to see more of over here at Burp! during the new year.  We promise to take your suggestions to heart and use them to shape the content for 2012.

And, in the meantime, I'll be working on getting re-energized and inspired to come back here and give you what you really came for.


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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Relax Milwaukee: We're doing your holiday baking for you

There's no denying it, the holidays are here.
I feel the pace of life escalating, the stress mounting.  I see the red and the green. The holly and the ivy.  And I'll admit that it's making me feel just a little crazy.

And so, we're going to slow it down a bit. Take some time for ourselves. And concentrate on what really matters.

The fact is, the holidays are the perfect time of the year to focus on those special people that truly make a difference in our lives.  It's also a great time to think about ways to really make a difference in the lives of others.

Maybe it's through a generous donation to a good cause.  Or a simple expression of thanks to someone who's touched your life in some way this year.  It could be a simple smile to perk up someone's day.  Or a cup of tea with an old friend.

Or maybe you want to do what we're doing... and plan a bake sale!

Yup, we're doing it again.
Thanks to the generosity of the MKEfoodies, we're going to be pulling out all the stops for another amazing MKEfoodies bake sale.  But, this time, it's all about the holidays.

We'll be making our famous chocolate covered cherries to be sold for the event.  And we have it on good authority that there will be a whole lot of other delicious holiday treats. Including free tea from Milwaukee's Rishi Tea, coffee from Stone Creek Coffee, and some really great cookies and treats from Milwaukee area food bloggers like Nicole from OnMyTableBlog, Erin from Hot Dinner Happy Home, Dan & Melissa from Duo of Chefs, Sarah from Food, Fun, and Life in Waukesha and Karis from Karis' Kitchen.

If you're in the area, come on out to support Cookies for Kids' Cancer while picking up holiday treats and gifts for your friends, family, and colleagues.

We'll be doing all the baking -- so you don't have to!

MKEfoodies Holiday Bake Sale
Saturday, December 10, 2011
12p.m. – 4 p.m.
Best Place At The Historic Pabst Brewery
901 W. Juneau Ave.

Invite your Friends via Facebook!
Can't make it to the event? Give to Cookies for Kids' Cancer at our online donation page!

Interested in being a baker, a volunteer, or an event sponsor? Email

All proceeds from the MKEfoodies Holiday Bake Sale will go to Cookies for Kids' Cancer, a 501(c)3 non profit founded by parents inspired by their son Liam's battle with cancer. They were shocked to learn that the main reason over 25% of kids diagnosed with cancer do not survive is because of a lack of effective therapies. And the reason for the lack of therapies was very simple: lack of funding. They pledged to support the development of new and better treatments by giving people a simple way to get involved.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Panini with Goat Cheese & Cherry Chutney

I promised there would be talk of the sandwiches we made with our delicious Maple Brined Cherrywood Smoked Turkey. And I can't leave you in suspense any longer.  After all, these little morsels were so stellar that you're going to want to try them out for yourself just as soon as you have some of your own Thanksgiving turkey leftovers on hand.

Before we get to the details of the sandwiches themselves, I'm going to take the opportunity to put in a plug for this cherry chutney recipe, which is quickly becoming one of our all-time favorite condiments.

Though it might not be quite as traditional as your usual cranberry sauce, I'm going to challenge you to consider making up a batch to put right out there on your Thanksgiving table.  It's tart and delicious.  And it goes perfectly with turkey. And stuffing.  It's also delicious spread on one of those dinner rolls you're bound to have left over.

Which brings me to the sandwich at hand.  These little beauties make use of leftover dinner rolls, one of the holiday staples that seem to get thrown out more than re-heated.  So, I like to think that these sandwiches are born of thrift.  They're also super fast to throw together, which makes them the perfect dinner for one of those busy weeknights that become inevitable as the holidays draw closer.

Since the goal here is to make you hungry, let me give you a quick glimpse into the sort of sandwich I'm talking about.  Just imagine a crisp, warm panini-pressed sprouted grain dinner roll spread with a liberal amount of fresh goat cheese, dolloped with cherry chutney and topped with delicious smoked turkey and fresh arugula.  Sweet-tart, tangy, smoky, peppery -- all of these flavors come together in glorious harmony as you bite into this crisp little slider.
Reminiscent of the holidays, but definitely more than just a repeat, these delicious snack-sized sandwiches are sure to please. The best part  is that, since they're small, you can even gobble up more than one.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Eat well. Enjoy family and friends.  We'll lift our glasses to you at our holiday table!

Post-Thanksgiving Panini with Goat Cheese & Cherry Chutney

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Near Perfection: Maple Brined Cherrywood Smoked Turkey

Since it's never too early to start thinking about what to prepare for the upcoming holidays, we've decided to share our perspectives on the infamous Thanksgiving bird -- the source of much hype, frustration, and experimentation.

When it comes to turkey, it seems everyone is looking for the same thing – a perfectly browned bird with a crisp exterior and a lusciously juicy interior. We want it to taste great and produce collective “ooohs” and “aaahhhs” when it’s taken from the oven. And I'm not sure any of us really want to spend days and days of effort to get those delicious results.  Especially when there are so many delicious side dishes to turn our attention to!

But, the fact remains that turkeys are notoriously easy to overcook and they often come out of the oven dry and tasteless (Admit it, this has happened to you! It's definitely happened to us!). In addition, your typical grocery store turkey is a mass-produced Broad Breasted White Turkey, factory-farmed and injected with a slew of chemical antibiotics and hormones. So, it’s not necessarily the most healthy or sustainable choice.

So, what's a food-loving, perfection-seeking blogger to do?   Well, we think we might have some suggestions.

First, we opt for a locally raised organic turkey. These birds might be more expensive than regular grocery store birds, but they're well worth the cost. Not only are they good for the environment (just an added bonus, in this case), they are more flavorful than your average bird.  To add to the magic, we like to brine our bird for about 24 hours before setting it up to cook in one of our favorite “kitchen” tools, our Orion Convection Cooker, an outdoor barbeque tool that uses indirect heat, generated by charcoal, to cook (and optionally hot smoke) foods.
I should probably clarify before I begin all my raving that we haven’t been paid to talk about this cool gadget. In fact, it was just dumb luck that got us hooked on backyard convection smoking. We got the Orion Cooker a few years back after spending some time reading the entries in the Orion Community forum while looking for a recipe for ribs. After drooling over entries about succulent smoked ribs, brisket, and chicken, we decided we needed one for our very own. So, we splurged on one for our 10th wedding anniversary. And gosh, we’re glad we made the leap.

Not only does the cooker produce stellar smoked ribs and absolutely fabulous smoked summer corn, but it’s an absolute wonder for cooking turkey. Moist, juicy, and delightfully smoky, we’ve never had a bad turkey come out of the Orion. The best part is, we can produce a full cooked, smoked 12lb Thanksgiving turkey in about an hour and a half.

The biggest time investment we now put into making turkey is tied up in the brining process – and even that is pretty minimal. Our favorite brine is made with maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, and freshly grated ginger. It provides the perfect subtle flavor for the turkey, and it ensures that even the breast meat of the bird is ultra-moist.

And, oh my, you should smell it while it’s cooking… To. Die. For.

This bird was smoked with cherrywood for an early Thanksgiving celebration with friends. And trust me when I say that everyone was scrambling for the leftovers. We’ll be blogging about an awesome sandwich we made with some of ours in the next few days.

Since we realize that not everyone has access to a smoker or convection cooker, we’d like to assure you that a maple brined turkey roasted conventionally in the oven is also pretty darned impressive. For crisp skin, be sure you start the bird off at a high temperature (and unplug your smoke detectors for a bit) to get the bird nicely browned. Then proceed for the remainder of the cooking time at 350F.

It will take about an hour, but once your kitchen fills up with the smell of that delicious maple turkey, you will wonder why you ever did it any other way.

Maple Brined Turkey – Smoked or Roasted

And be sure to pay a visit to our friends over at Haute Apple Pie.  They're doing a Thanksgiving recipe round-up that shouldn't be missed (including our turkey recipe!)

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pasta with Creamy Blue Cheese Rosemary Sauce, Roasted Cauliflower and Sausage

Autumn in Wisconsin is a glorious and fickle time of the year.  It generally begins quite mildly with breezy but sunny days and cool evenings. But, as October winds pull the last of the burnt umber leaves from the trees, the weather takes a turn.  Days turn cooler. Evenings become crisp. By November, chilly rains, reminiscent of early spring, bid even the outdoorsy folks among us to seek solace in the warmth of our homes.

I'm a huge fan of this time of the year -- not only of the ever-changing weather, but also the metamorphosis that autumn sets into motion. Plants give off their fruit. Flowers go to seed. Dried leaves crumble beneath our feet. The chlorophyll in our garden plants degrades, revealing stunning yellow and orange pigments.  We marvel at the unexpectedly bright colors of death, as the world enters into its slumber, preparing for the stark silence of winter.

However, despite the beauty and bounty that late summer and autumn brings, I sometimes find myself at a loss in the kitchen. There are no tomatoes littering my counter, needing to be used.  No end-of-season produce from the garden begging to be turned into weeknight meals.  I no longer have to keep up the lively, reactive pace of canning and preserving. And sometimes I find myself uninspired.

Fortunately, there is always something that comes along to pull me out of my cooking funk.  This dish, for instance, was inspired by an unusually brilliant head of freshly picked local organic cauliflower -- stunningly white, with compact florets surrounded by a wreath of green leaves.

While I adore the simplicity of steamed cauliflower -- drizzled with a simple mustard sauce or spritzed with citrus -- I absolutely can't resist the toasted caramelized flavors that roasting brings to the table.  So, after a liberal douse of olive oil, into the oven went the cauliflower.
 Since the sweetness of cauliflower pairs so famously with cheese, and because I was craving something with a strong profile, I decided upon a simple cream sauce flavored with rosemary and gorgonzola. 

Although this dish would be lovely as a vegetarian main, we happened to have a few smoked sausages in the refrigerator that needed to be used.  And they turned out to be a perfectly complementary addition.  Their salty, smoky flavor accentuated the sweetness of the cauliflower and pulled the herbal flavors of the rosemary right to the forefront.

Save this pasta dish for a cool autumn evening when the cold winds beckon you to the warmth of home.

Pasta with Creamy Blue Cheese Rosemary Sauce, Roasted Cauliflower and Sausage

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Spiced Apple Oatmeal: Autumn in a Dish

I'm sitting inside, snuggled on the couch with a cup of Rishi peach oolong tea (which is delicious, in case you were wondering).  And I've just finished one of my favorite autumnal breakfasts, a steaming hot bowl of spiced apple oatmeal.

It's a simple porridge. But, it's warm and hearty and redolent with all the flavors that exemplify the beginnings of autumn.  Spicy ginger and warming cinnamon. A splash of vanilla and a quick grate of nutmeg.  And a pinch of salt to bring everything together. On top of everything, oatmeal is seriously good for you.  But, that's neither here nor there.  It's delicious.  And, on a brisk morning like today, there's really nothing better than a steaming bowl of oatmeal.  Especially when Peef is the one in the kitchen, cooking it up.

But, there are a few tricks to making that perfect bowl of oatmeal. Here's what we like to do.
  1. It helps to start with a good quality whole grain oatmeal (not instant or quick-cooking).  Personally, I love both the texture of steel cut oats and the creamy texture you get from rolled oats.  So, I like to use a mixture of the two. 
  2. Use milk for cooking the oatmeal.  This gives your breakfast more protein, as well as a richer flavor and a super creamy texture.  For two servings, we like to use 1 cup of whole milk and 1/2 cup of water.
  3. Add fruit!  In this case, we added crisp apples.  But, just about any fruit will work.  Try dried fruits like raisins, cranberries, cherries, or pineapple.  Or add fresh fruit like peaches or blueberries toward the end of cooking.
  4. If you'd like a little textural crunch, try adding a handful of chopped nuts. Walnuts are a particular nutritional powerhouse, but almonds offer additional calcium and an amazing sweet  nuttiness.   A dollop of peanut or almond butter is also delicious.
  5. You can microwave your oatmeal... but trust me when I say that it's really better when cooked the old-fashioned way, right on the stovetop.  To cut down on the cooking time, soak the oats in water overnight by bringing the water to a boil, turning off the heat, and adding the oats. Cover the pot and let sit over night. The next morning, reheat the oatmeal  on low heat for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
 And there you have it:  the perfect bowl of oatmeal. Not too watery, not too thick... and it will make your entire house smell like you've been baking an apple pie.

Peef's Spiced Apple Oatmeal

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Pickled Red Onions: Summer's Prize & Winter's Bounty

As I glanced at the pantry shelves in our basement over the weekend, I realized that we canned up a small storm this summer.  And I'm pretty pleased.  We've got a nice selection of items stowed up down there - and every single one of them is going to be a pleasure to crack open in the middle of our Wisconsin winter.

The corn relish we made reminds me of something I'd imagine they made back in the 1950's -- when every summer picnic included deviled eggs, cold-cuts, homemade lemonade, and a small vat of sweet & sour relish.

The pickles, on the other hand, hearken back to my childhood days. Back then, it was my mother who spent her spring and summer making jams and jellies and filling jars with tomatoes and peaches.  She also made these amazing dill pickles. They were spicy and garlicky, and they made your tongue tingle, your eyes water, and your breath smell... well, garlicky.   My pickles this year are pretty close, I think. And I'm pretty excited.

We also managed to put up a boatload of jalapenos.  Nearly 20 pounds this year. From that, we ended up with 14 half-pints of candied jalapenos, and almost double that of pickled slices and spears... which means we'll be all set for making nachos, pulled pork sandwiches, and jalapeno-studded corn bread for the next 8 months!

Interestingly enough, one of the real pleasure of the summer turned out to be pickled red onions.  We found this recipe over at one of my favorite cooking blogs, Voodoo & Sauce.  And, in fact, her description of these pretty much guaranteed we were going to try them out.  Just read this:
The hot brine takes the edge off the onions, and though the natural sweetness of the onions is enhanced, these pickles do not cloy. I boorishly ate half a jar of these with country pâté on a bagel, I admit it. My new favorite lunch is a cheese and sweet onion pickle sandwich on rye, but these are also wonderful on a hot dog or a steak taco. They pair well with salmon and rosé, and not just aesthetically. They are pretty in pink, and a perfect way to kick off any canning season.
Yeah. Really, how can you resist?

We followed Heather's recipe almost exactly on our first try. But, now that we've gotten our hands dirty, we'll be ripe for experimenting with the flavors next time.  And there definitely will be a next time -- probably before the end of the harvest season.
Sweet Onion Pickles c/o Voodoo & Sauce

And just in case you're wondering what to do with a jar of pickled onions, let me give you a short (but delicious) list:
  • Give your tail-gating hot dog a grown-up twist.
  • Add a few to your next grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Make your favorite breakfast sandwich even better - egg, prosciutto, and avocado with pickled onions on rye, maybe?
  •  Pair with smoked salmon for a delicious winter appetizer.
  • Serve alongside pork, or other roasted meats.
  • Eat out of hand - yes, I've done this, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

High End Appetizers: Right from your toaster oven

It's confession time again.  Sometimes it takes me a while to see the usefulness in some types of kitchen equipment.  Take, for instance, the toaster oven.

In years past, I would have railed against the use of a counter-top oven. After all, I can make a pretty awesome pizza right in my regular oven.  And I have a toaster that makes seriously fine toast. And bagels. And English muffins. So, why would I want another gadget to take up valuable counter space?

But, I've recently come around.  The fact is, toaster ovens are actually a great solution for energy-conscious, small-space cooking.  And I'm learning that they can be pretty handy to have around the house.  Having become the lucky owner of a pretty snazzy West Bend 6-slice Convection Toaster Oven, I've started looking for ways to use it to make our lives a little bit easier.  And greener, to boot.  
 So far, we use our toaster oven to:
  1. Save energy - a typical toaster oven uses about half the energy of a regular oven
  2. Keep our kitchen cool on hot days - it doesn't give off nearly as much heat as your oven will.
  3. Prevent stress on holidays, or on other days when you could really use a second oven - you can bake a side dish in the toaster oven while the oven is full of turkey and stuffing.
  4. Dehydrate fruits, veggies, or herbs - many large ovens only go down to 200°F which can be too high. A counter-top oven goes lower, so it's perfect for sensitive items (be sure to rotate them regularly).
  5. Help yeast doughs to rise - since the inside of the toaster oven can be warmed slightly, and is draft free, this is the perfect place to leave that dough.
  6. Re-heat left-overs - so much better than a microwave, especially for items that you want to come out crispy.
Even better, I've started using the toaster oven to whip up small batches of snacks.  

Got the urge to melt a bit of cheese on top of those crackers?  Ouila!  The amazing toaster oven gets it done - often in less time than my beloved gas oven.

Company shows up unexpectedly?  Why not toast up a few dozen slices of French bread for impromptu bruschetta?    

Or how about something a bit fancier?   Sure, we can do that.  In fact, here are three seriously simple appetizers we've created using wonton wrappers.  These delicious nibbles would be pretty perfect for your next cocktail party, but they're also easy enough to whip up for a Sunday afternoon snack -- (dare I say?) especially if you have a toaster oven.
First, take your wonton wrappers and nestle them into a mini muffin pan to give them a cupped shape (note, a half-size muffin pan fits best in your toaster oven). Bake them at 350F for about 7-8 minutes, or until they're browned and crisped.  Once they've cooled, you can fill them with any number of great fillings.

We prepped three different types in honor of the West Bend Company's 100th Anniversary Celebration, which is coming up this weekend (more information below):

Pulled pork with candied jalapeno peppers
Goat cheese with dried sour cherries and sliced almonds
Maple ricotta with crumbled bacon and rosemary

Speaking of Parties, You're Invited: 
For 100 years, The West Bend Company has developed exceptional small electric cooking appliances from the same west bend in the Milwaukee River as when the company first started back in 1911.  In celebration of their centennial,  they’re throwing quite the party. The shindig takes place this Sunday, September 25th and is completely free and open to the public. Start off your day with a free pancake and Klement’s Sausage brunch, take in a family movie (with free popcorn), and be sure to take some time to check out the “Sale of the Century” featuring West Bend and other Focus Products Group items for up to 50% off retail prices. More information about the West Bend Company's 100th Anniversary Celebration is available on Facebook.

And now for the fun part!  We get to give one of our lucky readers the chance to win a West Bend Convection Toaster Oven of his or her very own!!  

For your chance to win, just leave us a comment letting us know how you'd use this handy dandy toaster oven.

Rules:  All comments must be received by Monday evening, September 26th, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. CST  Winners will be announced
on Facebook before the end of the day on Tuesday, September 27th.  Entrants must provide a working email address in their comment or blogger profile to win.  Limited to citizens of the U.S. and Canada. 

Full Disclosure:  Although we were given West Bend Company products free of charge for the purpose of this review and giveaway, all opinions expressed in this review are our own. 
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Soul Food Fusion: Fried Chicken & Waffle Sandwich

It all started with a trip to Roots, one of our favorite Milwaukee restaurants.  We love Roots for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it's got a gorgeous patio, surrounded with herbs and other edible plants, that overlooks one of the best views of the city.  It had been a long week, and we decided to meet a friend of ours for drinks.  While we were chatting, Peef picked up the menu and spied something that would change his (and thereby my) life forever:

Smoky Fried Chicken
Frank's Red Hot waffle, dill ranch, dressed kale

I'll pretty much guarantee that it was the Frank's Red Hot waffle that caught his eye first.  Being a man obsessed with condiments, particularly spicy ones, he automatically has a visceral reaction to words like "grainy mustard," "siracha," and "hot sauce."    And the man's pretty fond of waffles. 

Once he got over the intriguing idea of putting hot sauce into a waffle, I'm quite sure he quickly glossed over the part about the dill ranch and kale, but he definitely saw the fried chicken part.  And then it was all over.

We both ended up ordering the Smoky Fried Chicken.  And it was pretty incredible.

Since, as I've said many times before, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we decided to recreate this delicious sandwich for ourselves at home.  So, a few months later (fast forward to this past weekend), we pulled together a cadre of all the necessary ingredients.

Since we're in the midst of the Milwaukee Eat Local Challenge, we opted for Wisconsin grown Cornish Cross chicken breasts from Angel Acres and a nice bunch of locally grown lacinato kale.  We also subbed out the Frank's Red Hot for a more local option, Off Road Camp Fire Pepper Sauce.

After pounding our chicken breasts flat and dredging them in kefir, and then in a mixture of cornmeal, flour, and seasonings, we fried them up to a golden brown in a bit of oil.  While I was frying the chicken, Peef made up a batch of cornmeal waffles (our favorite pairing with fried chicken).

The best part about making these particular waffles was, of course, the fact that he got to sub in hot sauce for 1/4 cup of the buttermilk.  But, a close second was the fact that he got to make the waffles in our brand new West Bend Belgian waffle maker.

Our former waffle maker was a fancy blue FiestaWare model that I bought Peef for Christmas a number of years back.  Unfortunately, we had some restoration work done on our house this past year, and the poor waffle iron got knocked off of its shelf, shattering into about 5 different pieces.  So, we had been without waffles for quite a while before this handy dandy gadget arrived at our doorstep.

And I do mean handy dandy.  This waffle maker turns out perfectly golden waffles with very little skill needed. Just by gripping the handle, it twists 180 degrees so your waffles bake and brown evenly every time.  I've also been told this rotating action ensures that the batter is more evenly distributed leading to waffles that are are crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
But, I'm no waffle expert.  All I know is that our waffles came out beautifully golden, perfectly tender, and -- whoo! -- just a little spicy from that cayenne pepper sauce we added.

We took those lovely waffles and sidled them up right against pieces of fried chicken, which we then topped with finely shredded kale tossed with a deliciously refreshing dill ranch dressing.  Another waffle on top, and all of a sudden we had a pretty spectacular waffle sandwich.

Just like they make at Roots. And probably even better.

Cornmeal Waffles
Dill Ranch Salad Dressing

And now for the fun part!  We get to give one of our lucky readers the chance to win a West Bend Waffle Maker of his or her very own!!  

For your chance to win, just leave us a comment letting us know about your favorite way to eat waffles.

Rules:  All comments must be received by Monday evening, September 19th, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. CST  Winners will be announced on Facebook before the end of the day on Tuesday, September 13th.  Entrants must provide a working email address in their comment or blogger profile to win.  Limited to citizens of the U.S. and Canada.

Alright, ready...set... go!

Full Disclosure:  Although we were given West Bend Company products free of charge for the purpose of this review and giveaway, all opinions expressed in this review are our own.  
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©BURP! Where Food Happens

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Summer Tomato Sauce: Canning Made Easier

What do you do with 45 lbs of locally grown organic San Marzano tomatoes??  Or maybe the question is better asked, what CAN'T you do?

I've been shying away from canning tomatoes for a very long time.  Most years, when the tomato harvest hits, I spend my time roasting up batches of delicious plum tomatoes and packing them into the freezer. You'll also find me busily dehydrating all of the Principe Borghese tomatoes we've harvested from our garden.  But, canning?

Not sure what it was, but for years I avoided canning.  This year, I took it up out of necessity.

Our chest freezer has been a savior for us when it comes to our ability to eat more locally all winter long.  We pack it full of frozen fruit, vegetables, locally raised meat, soup, and homemade sauces.  And we relish the days when we can pop it open in the middle of February to produce a container of fresh Wisconsin peaches, Door County Cherries, or spicy chili made with garden vegetables.  Unfortunately, we've done a really good job of stowing things away in the freezer.  And our freezer is getting full.  The realization hit me a few weeks ago after clearing away just enough space for a new batch of late summer Amish chickens.

We were out of space.

Fortunately, I had cut my canning teeth on a few easy items last summer.  Pickled & candied jalapenos, a few jars of tomatillo salsa, and a small stash of citrus marmalade gave me some confidence in my ability to create shelf-stable foods that wouldn't inflict us with botulism. So, this year, I decided to tackle tomatoes.  More specifically, pasta sauce.

I love a good homemade pasta sauce as much as anyone.  But, I also have learned to enjoy the convenience of an occasional jar of store-bought pasta sauce for quick weeknight dinners.  So, pasta sauce seemed like a pretty logical investment of our time and tomato money.
Now, washing and coring 45 pounds of fresh tomatoes isn't a big deal once you put your mind to it.  But, peeling and seeding them? Ugh. Not my idea of fun. And that's where a new favorite gadget of mine comes into play -- the West Bend Food Strainer & Sauce Maker.

I should probably clarify that I'm not much of a gadget girl.  I love the feeling of being creative and finding multiple uses for common kitchen tools.  And my kitchen is pretty small -- so I don't have a whole lot of space for single-use tools. But, I'm pretty in love with this tool. This multi-use strainer forces food through a stainless steel screen automatically separating the juice and pulp from the seeds skins and stem.  Best of all, it does it quickly and efficiently.  And I mean quickly.  And efficiently.  

To quote Peef, "I love it when I can seed and peel tomatoes with one hand while drinking a beer with the other."

Once we got all that raw tomato pulp and juice extracted from the tomatoes, it was just a matter of cooking the sauce with a few herbs and spices (namely basil, oregano, thyme, cracked anise seeds, and garlic) and reducing it to the perfect pasta sauce consistency.   Once that was completed, we moved along to the canning and processing phase of things -- which is pretty methodical.  

Canned Pizza or Pasta Sauce ala Burp!

And now for the fun part!  We get to give one of our lucky readers the chance to win a West Bend Food Strainer & Sauce Maker of his or her very own!!  

For your chance to win, just leave us a comment sharing one of your favorite time-saving canning tips.  Or, if you're not a canner, let us know how you'd use your food strainer to make one of your kitchen tasks easier.

Rules:  All comments must be received by Monday evening, September 12th, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. CST  Winners will be announced on Facebook before the end of the day on Tuesday, September 13th.  Entrants must provide a working email address in their comment or blogger profile to win.  Limited to citizens of the U.S. and Canada.

Alright, ready...set... go!

Full Disclosure:  Although we were given West Bend Company products free of charge for the purpose of this review and giveaway, all opinions expressed in this review are our own.  
Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Celebrate September: Eating (and Buying) Locally

I think it was 2008 when we first participated in the Eat Local Challenge. That first year changed the way we looked at our eating habits, and it started us on a brand new journey toward more sustainable living.

In her 2001 memoir, This Organic Life, Columbia University nutritionist Joan Dye Gussow writes that her commitment to eating locally "is probably driven by three things. The first is the taste of live food; the second is my relation to frugality; the third is my deep concern about the state of the planet."

We have to concur with her sentiments -- though probably to greater and lesser degrees.  For us, the primary reason for choosing to eat locally is definitely the flavor quotient.  Food grown close to home simply tastes better.  There's more variety, more diversity, since local food doesn't need to be bred to survive thousands of miles of transport.   

Frugality is certainly a concern when we purchase food products.  But, it's not necessarily a driving force.  When we purchase a locally grown product, we're making a conscious choice to spend our hard-earned money to support a local farmer and his/her farm. Sometimes that's not the cheaper option -- because we're buying from small family-owned farms, not huge corporate agribusinesses.  But, I can always feel good about that decision because it means I'm assisting in preserving farming as a livelihood.  Now, if I'm honest, I'll admit that our decision to spend our money this way means we make some trade-offs.  We don't eat out or go to the movies terribly often.  We spend quite a bit less on clothing and shoes than we used to.  And we don't have cable television.  But, it's worth it to us.

The earth is also a concern of ours -- though primarily from the perspective that it's our obligation to be good custodians of what we've been given.  We have a great deal of confidence in the technology being used to develop alternative energy sources, so we're not pessimistic about the state of our world.   But, it's a nice feeling to know that we're saving on energy & fuel costs, and keeping more money in our local economy, by supporting our local purveyors.

Eating locally is also, in our guesstimation, a safer option. When we get to know the farmers at our local farmer's market, we get a first-hand look into how they farm. We are able to ask them how they view the use of chemicals in agriculture, and we can talk with them about their growing philosophies. That kind of transparency doesn't exist when we buy a package of pre-washed organic spinach at the grocery store.

When we buy locally, we help keep my local farmers in business, and they help keep us well fed.  And, when it all comes down, it's the elegance and sustainability of that exchange that is so very compelling... and certainly far more sensible than gambling on faceless producers who grow produce thousands of miles from my home.

And now... the fun news!

This year, in celebration of our fourth annual Eat Local Challenge, we've partnered up with the West Bend Company, a local kitchenware manufacturer that is celebrating its 100th year anniversary.  For the next three Wednesdays, beginning tomorrow, we'll be giving you insight into some ways we make the most of local foods & food products.  We'll be giving you a first-hand look at the benefit and functionality of some awesome kitchen items made by the West Bend Company.  

Best of all, we'll be hosting three very special giveaways that will allow you to try these products out for yourself!

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©BURP! Where Food Happens