Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quesadillas for Kiddos

Cooking meals for kiddos is something newer for me. They have less complex palates and like things a little more plain than I do. Nothing wrong with that - they will grow to love food later in life. Believe it or not, I was an extremely picky eater as a child. I would only eat a baked potato or noodles with butter and Parmesan cheese when we went out. I disliked marinara sauce and ketchup, and it wasn't until high school that I started to really enjoy what I was eating and experimented with flavors. I have never and will never like McDonald's hamburgers (I have had one in my whole life with a bun soaked in ketchup and mustard and never wanted one again!)

I asked my mom recently what some of the go-to meals were in our house once my brother and I were a little less picky. She told me that we loved tacos, spaghetti, grilled cheese, pizza casserole, broccoli chicken rollups and quesadillas. I ran these ideas past my guy and he told me quesadillas would be a home run with the kiddos.

I started by seasoning up some chicken breasts with cumin, cilantro, onion powder, salt and pepper. I chopped them up and put them in a pan to cook through.

Then I shredded the meat and put it back in the pan with Wildtree Taco Seasoning and water, and simmered for 15 minutes. The kiddos weren't crazy about the idea of chicken in their quesadillas but I knew that my guy and I would love it.
The kiddos chose just cheese in theirs and my guy and I went a little more complex. I chopped up some black olives, red pepper, added some salsa and the chicken and we were set.
I put the oven on broil and in just 5 minutes, the quesadillas were done, flipping once to crisp each side of the tortilla a bit. The kiddos selected sour cream and salsa on the side to dip. They both ate  their entire quesadillas and I got two thumbs up on the meal. That isn't the easiest to get from the kids, so I added this meal to the staple list.
My guy and I enjoyed sliced avocado and sour cream with ours. The avocados were perfectly ripe -- so buttery and rich.
In a matter of a half hour, I had dinner on the table and then a half hour later, there were happy bellies all around.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Salami Antipasto Bites

My cousin's birthday is in May and typically during the weekend of the Sole Burner 5K run/walk for cancer. I have run this with them a few times and this year because I was recovering still I decided to walk it. It was a cloudy and cool morning but over 6,000 people showed up and supported a great cause.

After the run, we relax in the afternoon and then she typically invites people over for a birthday cookout. She will supply the meat and a side dish and just asks that everyone bring a dish to pass. This is where my creative juices start flowing and I come up with something fun and different to make.

I jumped to Pinterest to scope out some recipes. I went to my Snack Attack page and realized I had so many pins on there that I haven't tried yet. I'm really going to try to make something once a week from my boards. I spent all the time pinning so I might as well see if they are good or not.

I selected Antipasto Bites from my board. I knew the flavor would be something everyone would enjoy but making the salami cups intrigued me. 


 I used a muffin pan and put the salami in each spot. The first batch was a little tricky to get the salami to stay down and form a cup. In the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and you have crispy cups. After the first batch, I lowered the time to 7 minutes so the salami was still a little soft. The second batch worked much easier because the cups had some grease in the bottoms of them for the salami to stick too.

While the salami was baking, I mixed up the middles. I used artichokes, cherry tomatoes, black olives, mozzarella balls, Italian seasoning and cooking spray. Originally I was going to use Olive Oil, but with the artichokes and tomatoes having moisture already, I didn't think I needed the extra oil.

Chop up everything into small 1/2" pieces. I quartered the tomatoes and olives and bought small mozzarella balls and cut those in half.

Once the salami was cooled, I spooned in the toppings. I tried to make sure each cup had a little of everything. These were a bit hit at the party.
I quite enjoyed them myself. It's an interesting take on the salad and makes it bite size. People didn't wait for the brats to be done and were snacking on these before the meal. These would be a great Memorial Day cookout take-along. 
All of the food was a huge hit at the party. I even have two new recipes that I want to try from the party. Texas Caviar and Chocolate cupcakes make with beets. The Texas Caviar was my absolute favorite thing and I couldn't stop eating it. I got the recipe and can't wait to make it myself. The beet cupcakes weren't as sweet as a regular cupcake but the frosting made up for that. I will definitely make these soon and share those recipes.

My cousin's birthday party was a great success. She started a fire for the adults to sit around and enjoy some libations while the children played ladder golf, jumbo Jenga, and other yard games. Everyone had a great time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

People's Park Roof Top Dining

People's Park has been a staple in downtown Waukesha for over 7 years, and I really enjoy the atmosphere and quality of food. After a fire in February of 2011, the restaurant expanded to include a second floor bar and eating area and rooftop dining. I have been on the roof a few times and the views of downtown are really cool. In addition to tables with umbrellas, they have heaters for cooler summer nights and a full bar with stool seating.
Last week, my coworker and I decided to grab lunch outside because the temps would be in the high 70s. We knew that People's was going to be a great destination because they have the rooftop tables, sidewalk tables and they open the windows throughout the restaurant for fresh air. It was a rather windy day, but as we walked to lunch, we saw customers already on the roof and hoped one table for two would be left for us.
We were in luck and got the last table on the roof in the corner. It was pretty windy but the temps were perfect for us to enjoy our lunch and get out of the office for an hour. There were two servers managing both the diners and the bar. One had a radio walkie-talkie to let the hostess know if tables were available or if they needed anything - very smart!

Our server was really friendly and brought our lemonades over to us right away. Lunchtime can always be a little hectic for restaurants because everyone comes at the same time and needs to get in and out quickly. My coworker and I just ordered salads so we know our food wouldn't take too long.

We sat back and enjoyed the atmosphere while chatting about work and non-work things. Our salads arrived pretty quickly and they looked excellent. I ordered Frankie's Garden because of the goat cheese that I love so much. My coworker ordered the Caesar salad and it looked amazing. The only problem I was having was that the wind was launching my lettuce at the patrons at the table next to us. Whoops! They didn't notice luckily.

I did my best to tame the salad and block it from the wind but a few did still manage to take flight. The breeze felt amazing and the sun was out our entire lunch. I got a little tan (OK more like a burn as I barely ever tan) on the back of my neck -- my first color of the season! It was absolutely gorgeous and I didn't want to go back to work.


We really enjoyed our quick lunch break from the office and definitely will make this a regular stop with the warmer weather. (Hey Wisconsin, bring back that warmer weather please!). The salads were nice and refreshing and just the perfect size. We were both able to finish them and didn't feel overly full.

My coworker told me she was recently at People's for brunch and it was really good. I told her of a few other spots to check out for brunch but I too agree that People's is really good.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Happy Mother's Day Mom

Mother's Day is this Sunday and though I won't be spending the actual day with my mom, I will be thinking of her and definitely talking to her on the phone. We have always had a pretty close relationship and although we haven't always agreed on everything, our bond is strong and deep. My friends used to say that I sound like my mom or act like my mom and I didn't like it, but now I take it as a compliment.

My mom has one of the biggest hearts out of anyone I know and is always willing to help. In the last year and a half, she has been an instrumental part in making my condo the livable space it is today. My dad and mom both have helped me so much that I will never be able to repay them for everything.

My mom and I do a lot of things together. I got her to run her first 5k ever at the Miller Park Color Run. She was so proud of herself for doing it. And I am so proud of her too!
 My mom is always someone willing to go to food events with me - like Wine & Dine or trying out a new restaurant.
And she is the one that taught me a lot of what I know when it comes to food. She is a much better baker than myself, but we pull together and make a terrific team when putting out a spread for a party.
And she has even passed down some of the family recipes to me so I can pass them on to the next generation.

 My mom is also an amazing grandmother to my niece and nephew.
Happy Mother's Day! I love you!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Spring in Waukesha

Spring has officially sprung in Waukesha and even though the Mega Weekend has passed, there are so many great things to look forward to in the coming weeks and months in Waukesha.

 

I'm very excited for the Farmer's Market. Although I wasn't able to attend it this weekend, I drove by on my way out of town and saw that it was hopping with people. It looked like there were a lot more booths and booths closer to Barstow than before. The area where the Salvation Army/Antique store resided that is now a grassy area had booths which is new for this year.

I will be out of town next weekend too, but hope to attend the following weekend.

High Roller Fun Rentals is now open later in the evenings at Frame Park. Rent a fun bike or boat and enjoy some time at the Fox River. I plan to do this with my guy and his girls this summer. Not sure which one we will do, I'll leave that up to the girls, but it's going to be a blast.

I also look forward to returning to both Crush Wine Bar and Two Brothers Wines. Crush is having some tastings that interest me in the near future and I hope to help bottle some with with the brothers. I had such a great time at both places. Check out my experience on the VisitWaukesha.org blog.

I also need to introduce my guy to the rooftop of People's Park. He is a fan of their fish fry so I think a Friday night on the roof is in our near future!

Friday Night Live doesn't start until June and I'm curious how it's going to work with the road construction this year. But it's a great event to attend with friends and family and get them to downtown Waukesha and listen to some tunes while we wander from shop to shop.

I see a new popcorn store is opening on Main Street in June. Seeing as Poppin' on Broadway is going through a transition, I'm excited to see what this new place will offer. Hopefully Poppin reopens soon as I just love the Broadway mix and my dad wants me to pick up some cheddar caramel corn for him. The new website looks great!

Waterski shows start up later this month--Badgerland on the Fox River and Pewaukee Lake Water Ski Club on Pewaukee Lake. I think this is another great event to take my guy and his girls to.

Classic Car Shows on Wednesday nights at the Gasthaus look to be a big hit. I could hear the music from my backyard last year but never made it over for a show.

I'm sure I will get great use out of my State Park permit and head to Lapham and a few other parks this summer. Lapham has great trails for walking and running and the tower always has great views!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Build Your Own Cheesecakes

A coworker has decided that she is fulfilling a lifelong dream and moving to Alaska. She has been with the company for over 18 years and was instrumental in my original training. We worked closely together on almost a daily basis and she will truly be missed.

She doesn't like big celebrations or fusses made for her, but my boss still wanted to send her away in style (her style), so we had a luncheon. She chose Jimmy John's for lunch and I coordinated the sub order. My boss picked up chips and I offered to make the dessert as I do for almost all celebrations.

My thinking cap went into high gear last week trying to figure out the logistics of making Baked Alaska treats for the group. Without having a kitchen torch at my disposal and not sure how I would get them to work in one piece, I pitched that idea to the side and chose mini cheesecakes instead.

Margaret (the Alaska-bound coworker) and I had a discussion just last week about how amazing cheesecake is and how you can just never say no when someone offers you some. Not to mention how many different kinds there are. This got me thinking and I came up with a Top-Your-Own-Cheesecake Bar.

I have learned over the past ten years that if you bring in a sheet cake or pie and it's not cut up, my coworkers are less likely to eat it. So I decided to make individual cheesecake cupcakes. I found a recipe on KraftRecipes.com, but I made some substitutions.

I subbed crushed vanilla wafer cookies in place of the graham crackers. You may want to use 1.5 cups instead of 1 cup as I felt each cup could have used a little more in the bottom. I used 3 packages of 1/3 less fat cream cheese to lessen the fat content of the cheesecake a bit, but not sacrificing flavor.

I didn't use the whipping cream in this recipe because I bought a can of cool whip for my coworkers to use.

I made the cupcakes as the directions said and they took 25 minutes in my oven.

In the meantime, I got the toppings ready. I went to Dollar Tree and picked up some of the ingredients. They had Apple Pie Filling, frozen mixed fruit and blueberries and Butterfinger Bites. I also picked up some containers to put the fruits in because I didn't have enough at home. The store sells 3-packs of 2-cup Betty Crocker containers for $1 each. These are a perfect size container. I then stopped at the grocery store and picked up Cherry Pie Filling and Cool Whip.

So in all, I had five toppings and Cool Whip for my coworkers to create their own cheesecake desserts. I would recommend cutting the apples in half as they were quite large and I coarsely chopped the Butterfinger Bites.

The lunch was a great success. We shared stories and reminisced on her years at Image Makers. She thanked us and wished us luck and plans to keep in touch.

And my dessert was a huge hit! Everyone said the cheesecakes were great and loved the variety of toppings. There were even a few leftover in the fridge after the party, but I'm sure they won't last long!


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mega Weekend in Waukesha

This weekend is going to be a big one for Waukesha. There is so much going on and the weather is looking to cooperate as well (knocking on wood as I type this).

First and foremost is the rescheduled Spring Clean Up. The weather looked uncooperative last weekend and a decision was made to reschedule it until May 2. Some groups still braved the chilly weather and cleaned up some last weekend. But this weekend, is the main cleanup.

Next up is the first Waukesha Farmer's Market in downtown Waukesha and it opens at 8 am. The market is located on Riverfront Plaza and could possibly stretch to the other side of the river on the Riverwalk if space is needed. The market has the following when seasonally available:

● In-season fresh vegetables  ● Fruits   ● Cut flowers, annuals and perennials
● Dried flowers   ●Baked goods   ● Oils   ● Herbs   ● Jams   ● Salad dressings
● Cheeses   ● Locally raised meats including lamb, beef and pork
● Locally-made art and craft items.

 I hope that Key Westconsin is planning to have their breakfast again this season!

Next up is the Riverwalk for Cancer in Frame Park. People begin congregating at 8 am but the walk doesn't start until 10 am. The kickoff is near the baseball diamonds. Take a nice walk around Frame Park and support a great cause, raising money that stays locally for cancer research. Then after the walk, check out the Farmer's Market.

And if you stay long enough in downtown, the 86th Art Crawl is in downtown Waukesha beginning at 4 pm. In the past, I know that if you had on your Riverwalk for Cancer shirt special promotions were made available. I don't see anything on this, but if you participate in the walk, it might not hurt to keep the shirt on and continue showing your support that evening.


The Waukesha Choral Union presents "The World's A Stage" at 7:30 pm on Saturday at Humphrey Memorial Chapel at Carroll University. 

Other events going on this weekend include:

Thursday - Crush Wine Bar - a tasting with "Mr. Napa" Frank Mirenda

Friday - Sunday - Waukesha Civic Theater - Les Miserable

I hope People's Park's Rooftop dining will be open with the great weather this week. Not to mention all the patio dining in the city. With the influx of people coming for all these great events, we are going to need the extra space this weekend!

And there is some road construction going on, but I'm sure the sidewalks will be available for travel and there are plenty of parking options in and around downtown. Come see all that Waukesha has to offer and stroll around downtown checking out all the new and long-standing businesses.