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Lenten Fishcakes: From Fasting to Fabulous

February 18, 2009 | Permalink

This year, February 25 marks the beginning of Lent, which
for many Christians means a Lenten sacrifice, designated days for fasting and of course, no eating red
meat, at least on Fridays. With all these food restrictions, the season of Lent has never been particularly known for interesting, innovative cuisine that also fulfills the faithfuls’ fasting obligations. However, one beloved exception is the classic Friday night fish fry, embraced by Wisconsinites everywhere.


For many looking to add some spice to the age-old Lenten practice of fish-on-Fridays, look no further than the savory seafood tradition of Nova Scotian fishcakes. Eaten by many in Nova Scotia as a customary breakfast with brown beans and smoked salmon, fishcakes make a delicious, hearty meal during the last cold wintery weeks before Easter. Best of all, fishcakes can be tailored for many tastes simply by using different types of fish, spices or potatoes in the recipe. Many restaurants feature the traditional crab cake, but other tasty varieties can be prepared with salmon or tuna.


“Fishcakes are a fun twist on the long-standing tradition of a Wisconsin Friday night fish fry,” said Kim Wall, seafood expert and president of Baensch Food Products, the Milwaukee-based company that
makes the popular Ma Baensch herring brand. “In Nova Scotia, where the herring used exclusively by Ma
Baensch is caught, fishcakes are a popular tradition. You can find savory fishcakes of all varieties
served-up in pubs, buffets and community dinners during Lent and throughout the year. Fishcakes are
filling, full of flavor and make a great Lenten meal your whole family will enjoy!”


Think fishcakes are too tough for a weeknight dinner? Try this easy recipe from Wall – it’s a favorite at her house and will surely become one at yours too!




Ma Baensch Salmon Cakes
Makes 4 patties
6 oz. pouch pink salmon
1 T celery, minced
1 T green onion, minced
1 T mayo
3 T crispy bread crumbs
1 t tried dill weed
1 t lime zest
¼ t sea salt
¼ t pepper


Preheat oven to 425° F. In a bowl, combine all ingredients together. Form mixture into patties and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 425° for seven minutes. Serve as a hors d’oeuvre, side dish or on buns with lettuce, tomatoes and tarter or remoulade sauce.

The Kiss of Health

February 9, 2009 | Permalink

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, grocery stores are full of displays for candies, chocolates and other romantic goodies. In the spirit of the season, one local Milwaukee company, Baensch Food Products, which makes the popular Ma Baensch brand of herring, wants you to trade-in chocolate kisses for a kiss of health this Valentine’s Day.


To highlight the many nutritional benefits of herring, Baensch Food Products has introduced a new product label for its 12 and 24 ounce glass jars of Ma Baensch herring. Both the wine sauce and sour cream and chive varieties will feature the updated label, which includes the company’s new tagline, “Ma
Baensch – Kiss of Health Since 1932” and a kissing-lips graphic.


“While herring is a very traditional food for Wisconsin families, it also offers countless health benefits that herring lovers may not even know about,” said Kim Wall, president of Baensch Food Products. “Ma Baensch is naturally low fat, rich in calcium and is an excellent source of Omega 3s, which medical research has shown to be vital in the battle against heart disease. To better educate consumers about these benefits, highlight the company’s long history and give Ma Baensch packaging a fresh look without compromising our brand standards, we added the new tagline and lips to the label. In fact, the lips on our new label are my own!”


Ma Baensch herring can be found in the seafood section of your local grocery store.

Seafood – A Perfect Side Dish

November 25, 2008 | Permalink

Easy on the wallet, great for the waist-line and a fan favorite

…It’s that time of year again – for holiday shopping,
decorating and entertaining. While our wallets may be strained, many of us still plan to host a holiday gettogether for our friends and family. And no matter what’s on the menu, if it’s healthy and fits the budget, it’s a perfect choice.


The holidays are a time when most of us throw our diets out the window, in exchange for over-eating,
over-snacking and over-sweeting. And while all those things are undeniably delicious, the key to not
committing diet suicide this winter is balance.


Seafoods that are high in protein are an added bonus to a balanced holiday-season diet that can be made
with little prep-work and without overloading your budget. Plus they can be a perfect side dish to a family dinner or a holiday-get together. Let’s also not forget that in many cultures, eating some seafood dishes, like herring, throughout the holiday season is believed to bring good luck, which most of us would welcome any day of the year!


“One dish that is often served during the holiday season is the classic steak tartare,” said Kim Wall,
seafood expert and president of Baensch Food Products, the Milwaukee-based company that makes the
popular Ma Baensch herring brand. “As tasty as it is, I like to serve a healthier, seafood-inspired version at my holiday gatherings. Not only are these canapés made with heart-healthy herring instead of beef, but they’re also prepared with affordable ingredients that you can find at most grocery stores, which all of us can appreciate this holiday season when our wallets are feeling a little strained.”




Ma Baensch Holiday Herring Canapés
Each version serves 10 canapés




Ma Baensch Herring Canapés with Horseradish Cream
1 – 12 oz jar Ma Baensch Marinated Herring in Wine Sauce
Remove 20 pieces and pat dry, removing any onion pieces.
Place on plate and refrigerate until assembly
6 T cream cheese, softened
1 T prepared horseradish, without liquid
1 C potato, cooked and diced in ¼” cubes (may used canned, drained and diced)
2 T fresh dill, snipped into small pieces with a scissors
10 slices of cocktail rye bread, 2” x 2” x ¼”


In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and horseradish, set aside. In another small bowl, toss diced potatoes with 1 T fresh dill. To assemble – spread a thin layer of horseradish mixture onto a slice of the bread. Next layer approximately 2 tsp of the potato mixture and top with an even layer of herring (two pieces). Garnish with a small dollop of the cream cheese mixture in center of canapé, and top with a small amount of the fresh dill. Repeat with remaining nine slices. The canapés may be made in advance and kept delicately covered and chilled.




Ma Baensch Herring and Beet Canapés
1 – 12 oz jar Ma Baensch Marinated Herring with Sour Cream & Chives
Remove 20 tidbits, place on plate and keep refrigerated until assembly
6 T natural sour cream
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T butter, softened
1 C beets, cooked and diced in ¼” cubes (may used canned, drained and diced)
2 T fresh chives, snipped into small pieces with a scissors
10 slices of cocktail pumpernickel bread, 2” x 2” x ¼”


In a small bowl, combine sour cream and balsamic vinegar, set aside. To assemble – spread a thin layer of butter onto a slice of the bread. Next spread on a thin layer of the sour cream mixture. Top with a layer of approximately 2 tsp of the beets and then an even layer of herring (two pieces). Sprinkle on a thin layer of chive, garnish with a small dollop of the sour cream mixture in center of canapé and top with a small amount of the fresh chive. Repeat with remaining nine slices. The canapés may be made in advance and kept delicately covered and chilled.




Ma Baensch Stone Ground Mustard Herring Canapés
1 – 12 oz jar Ma Baensch Marinated Herring in Wine Sauce
Remove 20 pieces and pat dry, removing any onion pieces.
Place on plate and refrigerate until assembly
6 T cream cheese, softened
2 T stone ground mustard
½ C capers, prepared in vinegar brine – rinsed in cold water, drained and patted dry
1 T butter, softened
¼ C fresh watercress, clean, remove leaves and discard stems
10 slices of cocktail whole wheat bread, 2” x 2” x ¼”


In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and mustard, set aside. To assemble – spread a thin layer of butter onto a slice of the bread, followed with a thin layer of mustard mixture. Next evenly layer watercress leaves and top sparingly with an even layer of capers. Now place an even layer of herring (two pieces), and garnish with a small dollop of the mustard mixture in center of canapé. Top with a single caper in the center and a small watercress leaf standing next to the caper. Repeat with remaining nine slices. The canapés may be made in advance and kept delicately covered and chilled.

It’s Only the Beginning…Kick-Off the NFL Season in Style

August 27, 2008 | Permalink

In case any of us have forgotten, the official NFL season begins
September 7. And whether you’ve jumped on the Aaron Rodgers bandwagon or your heart still belongs to #4, one thing is for sure – you’ll probably be watching some football during opening weekend. So why not have a tailgate party to kick off the 2008 NFL season in style?


It’s easy. Invite some family and friends. Go out and pick up the essentials – beer, burgers, brats and snacks. And why you’re at the store, don’t forget to pick up a jar of Ma Baensch herring, the Wisconsin favorite that has a special place at many family tables during the football, hunting and holiday seasons.


Not only is herring a fan-favorite, but it’s also a heart-healthy alternative to typical tailgate fare. Herring is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which research has shown to be key in the battle against heart disease. Herring is also an excellent source of protein and calcium, and a tasty alternative to meat and dairy products.


Ma Baensch herring is great right out of the jar with your favorite cracker, but there are many other, inventive ways to serve herring to your guests. Try this recipe for herring salsa, right from the kitchen of Kim Wall, aka “Ma,” president of Baensch Food Products. “The herring salsa is a real crowd-pleaser,” says Wall. “Guests of all ages enjoy it, and there are several ways it can be served. Try it with corn chips, served as a salad, or even as tacos, wrapped in a soft tortilla.”




Ma’s Herring Salsa
1 24 oz jar Ma Baensch Herring Marinated in Wine Sauce
Drain, discard sauce, reserve onions, and cut fillets into quarters
1 C peeled and diced Spanish onion
1 C cleaned, seeded, cored and diced red bell pepper
1 seeded, cored and minced Jalapeno chili, optional
1 C fresh cilantro, minced
Juice of one lemon, freshly squeezed
Reserved onion


Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, toss gently. Place salsa in a large re-sealable container. Seal container and chill 24 hours before serving.


Cold Fish Tacos – Serve Ma Baensch Herring Salsa in soft flour tortillas, garnished with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and shredded Monterey-Jack cheese.


A Cold Appetizer — Serve Ma Baensch Herring Salsa in a small bowl, garnished with fresh cilantro and served with a side of sour cream and corn tortilla chips.


Served as a Salad — Arrange lettuce leaves on a chilled plate, surround leaves with wedges of tomato, slices of cucumber, spoon salsa onto leaves and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Valuable Seafood Shopping, Storage and Preparation Tips for Summer

May 21, 2008 | Permalink

There is something about summer that puts most of us in an “enjoy the great outdoors and grill out every night for dinner” mind set. Summertime is also a season when many Wisconsinites enjoy seafood dishes, but there are some basic guidelines that should be followed when preparing seafood, starting with smart purchasing decisions at the grocery store.


According to Kim Wall, a seafood expert and president of Baensch Food Products, the Milwaukee-based
company that produces the popular Ma Baensch herring, only buy seafood from reputable, commercial
sources – or as Wall does, dine on your own fresh catch!


When selecting a piece of seafood at the store, evaluate its freshness by checking for moist and firm
appearance. “In terms of odor, I always like to say a fresh fish should smell like where it lives,” says Wall. “For example, a salt water fish, such as halibut, should have a clean, ocean breeze odor, and a freshwater fish like catfish or trout should smell like a lake, river, stream or other freshwater source. Another good thing to know is that as a fish passes its ideal freshness, it will begin to take on more of a fishy smell.”


“Ask the grocer to pack the seafood on ice for the trip home from the store, which can help ensure it remains in the ‘safe zone,’ between 32 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Wall. “And never leave seafood in a hot car. It will definitely spoil.”


If you do eat your own catch, the same rules for odor and freshness apply. “It’s also a good idea to keep a cooler of ice on the boat with you so you can put your fish on ice immediately after it’s caught,” says Wall.


So you’ve arrived home, fresh seafood in tow. Now what? For starters, get the fish in the fridge! Be sure to store fresh seafood in leak-proof containers in the coldest part of the refrigerator, which is usually on the lowest shelf or in the meat keeper. “As a general rule, fresh seafood can be stored for up to two days in the refrigerator and maintain its freshness, but every species is different when it comes to shelf-life, so check with your grocer,” says Wall.


If you prefer frozen seafood, try to allow one day of defrosting time in the refrigerator. If pressed for time, place the frozen seafood in a re-sealable plastic bag and submerse in cold water for one or two hours per pound. Never thaw seafood on the counter at room temperature.


When it comes to cooking seafood, there are several options, including baking, broiling or pan-searing, or even cooking it frozen, which is a new trend in seafood preparation. “But of course, my favorite in the summer is grilling,” says Wall. “The grill is easy and versatile, with several options for preparing seafood. With a few basic tools and a fabulous marinade recipe, your grilled seafood meals will leave a lasting impression on your family and friends. And don’t forget, veggies on the grill are a wonderful side dish!”




Grilling 101


Before firing up the grill, make sure you have all the essential tools, including:


• Grill brush
• Spatula
• Skewers
• Tongs
• Basting brush
• Grill mitts
• A seafood grill rack




Marinade Basics


Every good marinade has three essential components: acid, such as citrus fruit juice, white wine or vinegar; oil, like extra-virgin olive oil or grape seed oil; and spices, such as dried or fresh herbs. Marinating can be done overnight or for just a few minutes, but it adds moisture, flavor and tenderness to foods. Another flavorenhancing option is a dry rub of herbs and spices, which creates a wonderful “crust” when coated over seafood or meat.




Vegetable Grilling


Most in-season vegetables, placed directly on the grill, in foil or in a basket, are great grilled. Try artichokes cut into wedges, marinated and grilled over foil, eggplant drizzled with olive oil and grilled in a rack, or corn on the cob with or without husks!




Grilled Halibut with Fresh Lime
2 servings
2 Halibut* fillets (4-6 ounces each and 1” thick), skin removed
Grape seed oil
Cajun seasoning without salt
Seasoned salt, your favorite brand
3 Fresh limes cut into wedges
Fish/vegetable grilling tray (optional)


Prepare grill. Remove fish from refrigerator 15 minutes before grilling. Rub a small amount of grape seed oil on both sides of fillets. Rub Cajun seasoning on flesh side of fillet and seasoned salt on skin side. Rub oil on fish /vegetable grilling tray (may cook directly on grate as well, rub the grate with oil before placing over coals.)


Place cooking tray on grill directly to preheat. When tray is hot, lay fillets, flesh side down, on tray. Grill for 4-5 minutes. With a spatula, loosen fillets and turn over. Squeeze fresh lime juice over fillets. Grill for another 2-4 minutes, until fish is opaque. Remove fillets from grill and place on warm platter. Do not overcook. Fish will continue to cook after removed from the grill. Garnish with wedges of fresh lime and serve immediately.


*When purchasing halibut, try to get fillets that are uniform in thickness so they will take the same length of time to cook. May also substitute haddock, cod or turbot.

Kim Wall Earns Ethics in Business Award from Concordia University

May 14, 2008 | Permalink

Kim Wall, president of Baensch Food Products, the Milwaukee-based company which produces the popular brand Ma Baensch herring, was recognized by Concordia University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with its prestigious Ethical Business Leadership award. The Ethical Business Leadership award recognizes local business owners who demonstrate socially-responsible management practices. As the award’s top recipient, Wall was honored at a ceremony with two other award finalists on April 25, 2008. Wall was recognized for her work with the U.S. Department of Justice and its offender employment programs, as well as for overall community activism.

Wall, a 1979 graduate of Luther College, purchased Baensch Food Products from the Baensch family in 1999. Since taking ownership of the company, Wall has expanded its geographical distribution, introduced a marketing program, updated the product packaging and moved the product’s positioning in grocery stores from the dairy section to the meat and seafood area.