Spread the Love

When Natasha and I were discussing how we wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day we both liked the idea of performing random acts of kindness.  Why not?  Instead of only showing love and affection to each other, we should spread the love.  There are many types, love between friends, the love of a parent, and even love shown to a perfect stranger- that is what makes the world go round.  Sing it with me now: “All you need is love!”

On a day that traditionally celebrates romantic love, we agreed that we wanted to celebrate all forms and colors of love. But what did that look like? Handing out roses on the street corner? Free kid-sitting for parents without a sitter on date night? Buying dinner for the couple at the next table? Our hearts were in the right place, however, we knew that we wanted something a little more touching.

It wasn’t long before the idea of hug coupons came up (some people find the idea of being hugged by a complete stranger creepy) and with that, a cookie pairing was inevitable. 20 heart shaped sugar cookies with “hug me” pressed into them along with 2 kisses were packaged and tied with care.  Our precious cargo was delivered to a community resource center where we knew the visitors could use some extra love. With it, we offered instructions that each package is redeemable for one hug and 2 kisses (one for each check). At that point, the cookie could be eaten or maybe even continued to be circulated for more hugs and kisses!

We knew that these cookies would put a smile in someone’s heart on Valentine’s Day and that was our main goal, but creating from our hearts together was an experience that made this day very special for us. Successful love spreading had been achieved!!

Story,Photo’s, and food styling by Dan Trefz


When I dip you dip we dip- Romanoff

Once upon a time, a long 10 years ago, I was a college student, and Ben was cooking full-time behind the line and carrying the title of Pastry Chef. It was at that time that Ben had made acquaintances with a colleague’s parents that were interested in stepping out of the (Hamburger Helper) box and trying some new things in the kitchen. So, said couple arranged to have 3 other couples over to their home and Ben and I would be demonstrating the cooking of a 5 course meal in the privacy of their home. Sounds fancy right? Well, that was our goal- to create an experience that would travel through the Mission Hills, and our private dining would be in demand. We ran around the city buying groceries and wines to accompany each course purchasing the best of the best. We learned some things that night. It turns out that the wine wasn’t necessary because apparently their self-supplied Behringer White Zin goes with everything (yes- everything); the lump crab meat was worth the money and ended up being a real treat for McKenzie, our cat; and the dazzle of the made from scratch champagne bread couldn’t break through the Beringer “buzz” that had overtaken our clients. Long story short, I completed my bachelor’s degree, and Ben quasi left he kitchen to obtain his photography degree. Unfortunately or fortunately, however you want to look at it, the Pieper Private dining business began and ended that night. What didn’t was this awesome romanoff sauce that goes great with or without a (Beringer) buzz.

Rice Pudding

One of my favorite memories from my childhood is my mother making noodles from scratch.  I can recall many times when coming home from school and my mother would have noodles hanging and drying all over the kitchen.  I thought it might be fun to recreate a memory from her past.  When I asked my mother what food takes her back to her childhood, her response was rice pudding.  She described it as having a creamy texture with a sweet finish and has tried to recreate this dish with little success.  I thought that we would try of honor her memory with my version of rice pudding.

Apple Tart

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

A few years ago, Ben and I were introduced to a great couple whose lives are food- Tom & Shelly. We obviously we clicked right away with our love of good food, good wine, and family. They own & operate the Louisburg Cider Mill, located about 45 minutes south of Kansas City. Over the course of the past few years we heard about their operation. During the fall they cater to those from near and far with a pumpkin patch, a hay ride, and a corn maze while continuing their production of the many products that they sell year round including their apple cider and Lost Trail Soda- both products have been featured on The Food Network. When Oliver, Ben and I finally made it out to the Cider Mill our trip coincided with CiderFest. It was an overwhelming experience considering we didn’t realize the magnitude of the operation that Tom & Shelly have. The only disappointment was not getting to sample their famed doughnuts that bring locals to the Mill weekly. We didn’t walk away empty handed though. We took with us a bag of apples that create their famed products to make an apple tart that we feel is worthy of the Cider Mill apple.

Louisburg Cider Mill Specialty Foods and Gifts

Strawberry Balsamic Reduction

This is a rich summer treat that will satisfy the adult pallet- it’s sweet, tart, and fresh. We served this a few weeks ago for a 6 course dinner party that we hosted for some friends that are very near and dear to us- Joe, Gail, Dave, Jay, Brian, and our fellow Foodie contributors Mark and Jane.

First it needs to be stated that cooking a multiple course dinner for 9 in our petite house isn’t typical. It was a night that was way overdue as each of our guests have hosted wonderful meals in their homes for us, so we pulled out all the stops serving Pieper sweet corn shooters, homemade goat cheese beet ravioli, warm halibut salad, gnocchi with a Maytag bacon sauce, grilled herb encrusted beef tenderloin, and last but not least, homemade ice cream with the strawberry balsamic reduction and fresh berries.

Ben has been making this sauce for years, and every time someone new tries it they love it. It is a concoction of simple ingredients that you wouldn’t typically put together that creates complex flavors that are complimented by a sweet vanilla ice cream. This isn’t a recipe to be intimidated by, and store bought ice cream works just as well. We just happened to have broadened our kitchen arsenal with the ice cream attachment for our Kitchen Aid and have been putting it to good use. This strawberry balsamic reduction is truly an explosion of flavors that your taste buds will love, and we’re proud to say that we knocked our guests’ socks off with this sweet treat.

Balloon Whisk / Fresh Whipped Cream

Number 6 on the list of essential tools.  For your custom vinaigrettes, hollandaise sauce, and fresh whipped cream everyone needs a balloon whisk.  This tool will aerate (combine air), emulsify (blend unblendable liquids), and simply mix. A balloon whisk is a modest investment that’ll run you $5-12 and will provide functionality for many years to come.  We chose one of the simplest, yet most rewarding recipes-  fresh whipped cream.  3 ingredients, and a couple tips and you will never buy Cool Whip again.


Sheet Pan / Steve’s oatmeal cookies

A sheet pan is essential for cooking pizzas, roasting root vegetables, making creamy apple phyllo roll up, toasting pumpkin seeds, and baking cookies. The one that we have is actually a jelly roll model which is a standard- 18” x 26” with a 1” lip. The lip serves a couple of purposes- it will contain any oils, juices, or cookies when transporting from oven to cooling rack, and it also provides a sturdy “handle” that’s great for gripping when removing from the oven. A good sheet pan will run anywhere from $10-20, and is a small investment considering the copious amounts of wonderful things that you’ll be able to cook and bake on it.

For this kitchen essential we decided to feature my dad’s (Kim) oatmeal cookies. Ben and I have been enjoying these for years now, and not only are they a scrumptious treat- they’ve got a good health element to them as well. So enjoy this recipe and fight cholesterol with these cookies.


Blueberry Fields Forever

Good things come from Michigan- specifically blueberries. Ben’s parents made a trip up to the great state to visit some friends this past summer.  Paul & Sharon went to an organic farm where they saw the fields and harvesting of this super food and brought back the inspiration for this entry. Now, we love sweets, and have managed to perfect what we believe to be the key into the hearts of 99.9% of foodies with, a beautiful blueberry cobbler.

Celebrating All Things Pumpkin

This is somewhat of a hindsight entry meaning that the recipes to come would have been great with a Thanksgiving brunch, lunch, or dinner, but there is still one more big day to celebrate in 2009. Fall and winter brings good tidings of pumpkin in the form of pumpkin pies, pumpkin spiced coffees and lattes, pumpkin custard, pumpkin bars, pumpkin martinis, pumpkin muffins…needless to say there’s many. With all of the pumpkin treats that become abundantly available this time of year, we decided to get ourselves a pumpkin to see what kind of convivial eats we could come up with to share with our loved ones really using all of the elements of the pumpkin. Two very safe, yet adventurous ideas came to mind- the toasted pumpkin seed- done three ways, and a very fresh take on the always a winner cheesecake- you know where that one’s going. Read on to see how you can add a little something to your next holiday get together.

Four Foodies, Four Courses, $40

This video represents a series of 2600 photos edited down from the 6400 we captured that day.

It all started with a bet. Ben and I were at Mark & Jane’s house enjoying the typical weekend together with cooking, dogs, wine, jousting, cards, and crafting  (not necessarily in that order). Ben was helping Jane load the dishwasher- Mark and I were a) pouring another glass of wine and getting our glue sticks ready to scrapbook b) giving Oliver & Sobe (The Dogs) their gourmet doggy kibble or c) putting our helmets on or d) all of thee above, and Ben made The Bet. Which movie had the scene with the timed dishwasher loading scene in it? Dan in Real Life or Rachel Getting Married? As soon as Ben named the stakes and asked me which one it was, I start jumping up and down with Jane screaming that we won, and once again Ben realized that he shouldn’t bet against the “Steel Trap.” Rachel Getting Married was what brought sweet, tasty, victorious, satisfaction in the form of four courses, for four foodies, for under $40.

So the following is the menu that was prepared for the victors of the bet. Now, we love food. We love good food, and Ben and Mark came up with the idea to do this gourmet meal on a budget. Based our experiences dining out, we figured that this meal could easily be $40/person, so the challenge was set and the menu was written. We do have copies of receipts with our purchases minus any pantry staples i.e. salt, pepper, flour, water, etc. Keep in mind that the bubbly and any wine consumed with the meal was not budgeted with good reason- had that been the case, we would’ve been drinking our dinner : )