Right before Bryan Rust leaves his house to drive to PPG Paints Arena on a game day, he stops in the kitchen to grab one of the Healthy Peanut Butter Cups that his fiancée Kelsey Burton always has on hand.
"It was a little while ago that she just started making them," Rust said. "And me with my sweet tooth, when I get up from my nap and get ready I just grab one as I go out the door. It's basically just peanut butter and almond butter and dark chocolate. It's all pretty good ingredients, so I just kept doing it."
The full recipe is just one of many featured in "Welcome to Our Table," a cookbook created by the Pittsburgh Penguins Wives and Girlfriends, published in conjuction with the Penguins Foundation. With the proceeds, the ladies will establish a new angel fund, gifting all of the money raised to non-profits in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area.
"I think just the fact that it's our own and have control over it, it's coming from our heart and it's just a different kind of feeling to be able to do it together," said Bridget Cullen. "The fund, we named BridgeTogether. There are so many bridges in Pittsburgh, everybody really chipped in their talents for this and we did it together. It was fitting."
They hope to grow BridgeTogether for years to come, so that they can continue giving back to the city of Pittsburgh, which is so special to all of them. And what's unique about BridgeTogether is that the wives and girlfriends will have the ability to contribute in a more direct and timely manner in case of an emergency.
"If we hear about a tragedy or crisis or maybe a non-profit that's new to Pittsburgh and needs start-up money, we'll be able to just give as much as we want, and we'll decide as a group," Bridget said. "That's kind of how it's going to work."
The ladies needed to create a product to sell to establish the fund, so they got together at the beginning of the year and started to brainstorm. They felt like a cookbook was the perfect project for them to undertake and showcase all of their skills.
"Years and years ago, we did a cookbook in Minnesota with the old spiralized binders," Bridget recalled. "The concept behind it was great, it was the guys' favorite recipes. That was good, and it did well. So then we were like, 'We have all these talented women here, so let's step it up a notch.' That's how it came about."
After that was decided, an email was sent around to all of the wives and girlfriends asking them to send around 3-5 recipes. They divided them into six categories: Breakfast, Appetizers, Soups/Salads/Sandwiches, Dinner, Dessert, and Cocktails.
After that, it took about two months to get the book finalized. One of the wives formatted the recipes, one of the girlfriends took all the photos, Bridget wrote the introduction and team chef Geoff Straub wrote the foreword. The Penguins Foundation was there every step of the way throughout the entire process to help it along.
"We're really, really thankful for the Penguins Foundation and what they've done to help us get the book out and promote it and sell it," Bridget said. "A big thank you to everyone involved, but especially them."
Just as the players bond over team meals and dinners, their wives and girlfriends do as well. Putting together the cookbook was a fantastic experience in that regard, especially when they got together to plate the food and take photos.
"At the end we would sample everything, and since it was the best of the best, everything was so good," Bridget said.
They also got to reap the benefits of perfecting the recipes, like when Matt Murray's girlfriend Christina Sirignano brought cinnamon rolls to a game one night because they weren't quite up to standard.
"She didn't think they were good enough and they were the best cinnamon rolls I ever had," Bridget said. "She brought them to the game, so we were all eating cinnamon rolls before the game. They were so good."
The cookbook features recipes from all over the world, along with photos and stories that the wives and girlfriends wanted to share to give Penguins fans a peel into their lives along with the chance to enjoy dishes that they cook for each other and their loved ones.
The cookbook, which is $40 each plus applicable shipping, can be ordered at this link. They are also available for sale in-arena on game days at the Penguins Foundation Stand located behind Section 104. In addition, cookbooks are available for purchase at PensGear locations.
"I looked it through it the other day and I was really impressed," said Matt Cullen. "It was really professionally done, it looks really nice. It's kind of cool they could all showcase their individual talents in putting it together, with the whole goal to make a difference and to make a direct impact on community events and people in the community.
"I think it's a great initiative, and hopefully eventually this is something that can spread throughout the league. I think the more people you can affect with the platform that you're given here the better. It's really admirable what they're doing."
The Penguins' Wives & Girlfriends will be hosting a tasting event in celebration of their cookbook on February 28. Click here for information on how you can attend.