Sunday, August 13, 2017

Flatbreads - My Favorite Food

"Flatbreads - Like Pizza But Annoying"   :)

Bacon Cheeseburger Flatbread
That sentence couldn't be any further from the truth for me, but my friends use it to talk about my obsession with flatbreads. It comes from stand up comedian Iliza Shlesinger discussing the way girls share appetizers, use Groupons, and then split the bill twelve ways.

In all honesty, flatbreads are a favorite food of mine. If it's on a menu, I'm most likely going to order it. And then I'm going to try and make it at home. I have tried to replicate a few that I have eaten and have come pretty close. I like flatbreads because they are full of flavor, have excellent crust, and aren't over greasy and messy like pizza. And you can get them so many different ways.

My all-time favorite in downtown Waukesha has to be the Duck Confit flatbread from Bernie's Tap Room. Some of my friends and I tried it on a whim during the Christmas Parade and I have been hooked ever since. It came to our saving grace on St. Patty's Day a few years ago when the bar we were at forgot to put in our order and we left starving and in need of food in a hurry.

I have written about flatbreads a few times on my blog, from restaurants in Waukesha, Milwaukee, and making them myself.  It's a quick easy dinner and customize-able so everyone can get what they like.

I had my friends over for a girls night and planning our annual trip to Door County. I offered to supply the main course and asked everyone to bring a side. When I said I was making flatbreads, a few friends thought I was joking--joke was on them when they arrived.

I cooked up some chicken breasts two ways and supplied many topping choices.

I had BBQ sauce, red onion, tomatoes, cilantro, fresh mozzarella, basil, parsley, shredded cheese, and balsamic reduction. I found small flatbreads and everyone was able to make their own.

It was a huge hit with everyone as were all the yummy homemade sides.

We munched, talked about life, did a little Door County planning, and just enjoyed each other's company.
And just tonight, I made Bacon Cheeseburger Flatbreads for Jake and I for dinner.

We had some ground beef that needed to be cooked up. So I seasoned the meat, fried some bacon until well done, picked some fresh tomatoes from my garden, and covered it all in cheese. The sauce was put on after cooking and was a combo of ketchup and mayo (and mustard for the hubby).

Hubby said I killed it with dinner and he would eat this again and again. #WINNING

Flatbreads have so many options and make a quick and easy dinner for anyone that doesn't want to spend a long time prepping. What topping would you put on yours?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Waukesha Floral

Kara Reese Photography
When I started at Image Makers fourteen years ago, I became aware of Waukesha Floral & Greenhouse. The company is a client of Image Makers and also provides floral and decor for the office. If you drive down North Street in Waukesha heading to downtown, you might notice the brightly colored, fun decor in front of our building. Waukesha Floral does an amazing job and we have even had people stop in and ask about it. 

Marty and Jane are genuinely fun people and experts in their field--it was a no-brainer when it came time for floral for my wedding. 
Kara Reese Photography

The floral arrangements that Michelle, WF's wedding specialist, came up with for my day were the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen. Though I gave input on the types of flowers that would make up the bouquet, I had no idea how gorgeous it would turn out. 

Kara Reese Photography

As I shared before, Tom Kaupp, the president of Image Makers, passed away in November. Before he passed, we had a conversation in his office and he offered to purchase my bridal bouquet. He shared this wish with others before passing on and so the least I could do on my wedding day was let everyone else know how special he is to me and my family. The bouquet that Waukesha Floral put together for me was absolutely stunning -- I know Tom was with me on my day. 

Kara Reese Photography
I received so many compliments on how the floral really pulled the room together and weeks after the wedding, many friends and family still had roses and succulents still alive. I am trying to save some and grow them in my yard.
When it came time to find annual plants for our new home and add some color to the yard, we selected Waukesha Floral. There were so many plants to choose from and we let the girlies pick out whatever they wanted.

After we picked plants from the outdoor area, the cashier told us to check out the greenhouse and see how beautiful everything was coming in. The girlies were mesmerized by the beautiful colors and how many plants were in the greenhouse. It really is something to see.

This was the girlies first time really getting in the dirt and planting all on their own and they did any amazing job. The hardy plants from WF have survived my absent-mindedness to water them and bounce right back.

It's no wonder why Waukesha Floral has been around for over a century -- their amazing flowers stand the test of time and I have no doubt who I will turn to in the future for any of my floral needs.

PS - they have an amazing shop with home decor, candles, purses, jewelry and more - definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

North Carolina Honeymoon - Through Our Bellies Part 1

I married my dream guy on April 29--Fiance has been upgraded to Hubby on the blog. Though it was typical of Wisconsin weather to be gorgeous the week prior to our wedding, we indeed had a rainy, unseasonably cold day. But that didn't stop us from having an amazing party. From what I can tell and have heard, everyone had a great time and the rain didn't get any of us down.

On the Monday after, Hubby and I left for North Carolina on our honeymoon. We are non-traditional and kept that pattern up when we planned where to go for a week. To say Hubby is a "Duke fan" is an understatement. He knows crazy facts and stats about players that would lead you to believe he and Coach K talk every day. So we started the vacation in Durham and by the end of the week, ended up in Asheville, North Carolina.

Though there is a ton we can share about NC as a whole, maybe another blog post will be for that. This post is going to be all about the amazing eats that we had while in tobacco country. Land of vinegar BBQ'd meats and homestyle eats, we never went hungry and every meal was superb. It's like comparing fantastic and spectacular.

Because of Hubby's Duke-love, his Facebook group of Duke fans provided us many options for meals in Durham. Though we couldn't go to all of them, we did enjoy a few and no one lead us foul (see what I did there).

Our first night  in Durham we checked out a restaurant called The Pit. It is known for it's full-hog BBQ options. The place was decently busy--we found a table by the windows and watched a rain storm come in. Our server was extremely informative and told us about their sauces and popular menu items. I went with the choice favorite on the menu, pork shoulder with a Lexington sauce. Hubby went with ribs--he even ordered us an appetizer of Pumpkin Corn Bread.
Welcome to heaven - the pumpkin corn bread with maple butter was sooooo good. Cooked in a cast iron pan, the bread had a crisp crust, but was warm and soft in the middle. The dollop of butter melted over the top and into the bread. I saved a piece for the end of my meal where as Hubby ate his portion right away.
 This meal goes down as my favorite of the vacation. I know.....right out of the gate????  But truly the shoulder was pull-apart perfect and the flavor was on point. The creamed corn and the mashed taters weren't too shabby either. For me this was honestly a perfect meal.
Hubby's ribs were quite delicious too....fell right off the bone. His potato salad had a bit too much mustard in it for me, but he loves his mustard.

And just when we thought we couldn't eat another bite, our server offered us dessert on the house for our honeymoon. How could we pass that up? Pecan Pie with caramel drizzle......I don't know if it was the food comma we were both already in, or if truly food is better in the south, but this pie was excellent. Clean plate club for us on that as well.

Across the street from this restaurant was this 'daughter of a mechanic's' ideal bar----Parts and Labor. It is actually an old repair shop and showroom that has been transformed into a very vintage, rustic bar and music hall. If it wasn't down pouring, I would have definitely stopped for a beer or two. Speaking of, I did enjoy quite a few local beers and wines while in town. That will be in another blog.

My aunt recently visited Asheville and gave us some pointers on great places to eat. It just so happens one of the places she recommended had a Durham location, Another Broken Egg Cafe. We stopped for breakfast on Tuesday morning before continuing our Duke campus tour. It's a cute place with tea cups and rustic decor on the walls.

I love all things "carbs" so when I saw specialty pancakes, I knew what I was going to have. And to this foodies' delight, they offered a trio (pick any three of their gourmet pancakes and get one of each.). Peach Cobbler was a no-brainer; my goat cheese obsession brought me to the blueberry lemon cheese option; and Bananas Foster was just filler. Who would have thought the bananas foster would win first in my belly....I loved this so much. The caramelized sauce soaked into the pancake and made it so decadent. Second would be the blueberry lemon--refreshing flavors. The peach cobbler was good, but needed more butter to bring flavor to it.
Hubby chose the caramelized pecan french toast. His was delicious as well and there was sooooo much food that we couldn't finish.

These monstrous breakfasts kept us full well past lunch, so what else would I get to tide me over until dinner except ice cream!
We managed to find the cafe while waiting for our tour of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. The cafe offered pre-packaged sandwiches and snacks, bottled waters and sodas, and dishes of ice cream. Butter Pecan was a perfect treat for an 80 degree day.

We worked up quite an appetite walking around the gardens, so we headed back to the Inn and got ready for dinner. Hubby suggested Italian, so we went through the provided suggestions and picked The Boot.

This place was rustic but with an Italian vibe. It smelled absolutely amazing when we walked in. What caught my attention was the cork wall they were in the process of building. I had much envy as I have a cork project of my own I want to complete and an only imagine how many corks they needed.

While we decided on our entrees, Hubby ordered us calamari and it was THE BEST I have ever had. The batter was light and flaky and the marinara was definitely homemade. We both joked about how the mini octopus calamari freak us out, but there wasn't a bite to eat left on the plate.

Hubby is a sucker for spaghetti and meatballs and tries it everywhere. He wasn't disappointed and enjoyed the meal. I ordered the oriechette pasta with Italian sausage, broccoli raab and pecorino. Though this had a little spice kick, it was very appeasing to my palette. I enjoyed watching other entrees come out of the kitchen and hearing satisfied diners rave about their food. Again, another solid choice.
The next day was our last in Durham before we started the trek to Winston-Salem. We had heard great things about the American Tobacco Campus area and decided to check it out. "When in tobacco country, go where things are named after it...right?"  Parking was a bit of a struggle, but once we found a garage, it was a pretty cool experience. The old Lucky Strike factory has been revamped into the entertainment district of downtown Durham. From where we entered the area, you wouldn't even know the Durham Bull Stadium was a part of it.

We ate at Tobacco Road Sports Cafe--it reminded me of TGI Friday's at Miller Park because its attached to the stadium. We again ordered an appetizer and were extremely impressed with the Fried Green Tomatoes. I had never had them but they were fried to perfection and the pesto salad went very well with it. Again....completely gone.

Hubby ordered the tacos for lunch and I chose the fried chicken sandwich. I didn't realize I ordered the food challenge portion (not really)--look at the size of that beast!!!! It was two very large chicken breasts with extra crispy coating. I don't know who could possibly finish that. Huge but so so so good again. I took one of the breasts off the sandwich and hubby snacked on it after his tacos were gone. I still couldn't even come close to finishing the sandwich.

So that's our experience in Durham--I would definitely go back and tour more of the city, and eat more BBQ! The area is so green and lush with vegetation and no mosquitoes!!!! Stay tuned for Winston-Salem and Asheville eats coming soon!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Wedding Favors - Cookies of Course

This weekend, I marry my best friend and love of my life--Fiance becomes Hubby on the blog.

Being the foodie that I am, I wanted to create wedding favors based on a food theme. I looked through many ideas on Pinterest, researched and priced out options, and finally settled on heart-shaped puzzle cookies to follow our theme.

I bounced the idea off my mom and we decided to bake, frost, and package all the cookies ourselves. This was quite the undertaking when realizing that it's two cookies per person so they get both sides of the puzzle.

I originally bought a cutter online that was 2" X 2.5" when complete--way too small to try to cut out and frost. I eventually found a larger one online that made a nice sized complete cookie.

Now it came time for the dough and baking. My mom made a few test recipes and we finally settled on a recipe from my favorite blogger, Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. The hint of orange zest sets these apart from any of the others that we tried.

For the frosting, we experimented with color and flavor and finally settled on white almond frosting with white and silver sprinkles. This is modified based off of many we found online.

Each batch of dough was made separately as we didn't want to double the batch and run into any issues. Then each batch was split in half and flattened into a disc to chill for about an hour. This made rolling the dough out much easier, but also resulted in many, many batches of dough. My mom, having a background in teaching engineering, used two 1/8" dowels to help roll the dough out consistently.

Easter Sunday, my maid of honor and I helped making dough, rolling, cutting out, and baking. My mom and dad did the majority of the frosting, outlining each cookie first and then flooding the middle. I helped with the sprinkles.

As for packaging, we wanted to make sure everyone saw the final design, so we found a way to lay them out and then seal with a cute ribbon and favor card that told people to come here for the recipe.

This was definitely quite the undertaking for my family, but we got them done and I think they look and taste better than anything that could have come from a store. I can't thank my family enough for all their help with these favors, and hope everyone enjoys them.

And now for the recipe:

2/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla. 
1 egg
4 tsp. milk
2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Cream together shortening, sugar, orange zest and vanilla until fluffy. Add egg and beat until fluffy. Add milk and beat until fluffy. Sift dry ingredients together and add in parts until all combined. Divide dough in half and shape each into a flattened disc and place in a Ziploc bag. Chill for at least two hours or over night. 

Roll cookies about 1/8 inch thick.  Bake on parchment paper lined cookie sheets at 375° for 7-8 minutes. Let completely cool before frosting.

Outline or border icing
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. milk
1/3 tsp. almond flavoring
1 1/2 Tbsp. corn syrup
Mix together powdered sugar and milk.  Whisk in almond flavoring and corn syrup.  Whisk until well blended.  (If it is not thick enough to stay on the outer edge of the cookie, add an additional 1-2 T of powdered sugar.

Flood icing
Same as above, but use only 1 cup powdered sugar.  If it seems too thin, then add an additional 1 T powdered sugar. 

Using plastic bottles (similar to the picnic style for ketchup and mustard) will make the frosting process a bit easier.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Fish Fry Season is Upon Us

Today is the beginning of Lent and for many of us in Wisconsin, it's the unofficial kickoff to fish fry season. I enjoy fish fries year-round, but many restaurants up the ante during Lent and offer their fish fries more often or have more offerings. I want to share with you a few of my fave places around the area that I have enjoyed a fish fry.
Thunder Bay Grille Fish Fry

Spring City Restaurant/The Rox Bar - They have a full menu full of Fish Fry specials. I recommend the cod and the perch. The restaurant is a traditional family place, but if you want a more lively atmosphere, head to the bar side and enjoy it there.

Thunder Bay Grille - They do offer specials on Friday in addition to their regular menu items. I love the Fish and Chips - Atlantic cod, farmhouse ale beer batter, fries, house made tartar sauce, house slaw - 13.99

Tally's Tap - They offer an AYCE Fish Fry among other specialties and they have really good potato pancakes :) They recently went through a remodel--I haven't been there to check it out, but it's a sports bar with bar games and such.

Cue Club of Wisconsin - This is probably my fiance's and my favorite fish fry in town, and not just because we lived close by. They have a menu exclusive for their fish fry. The portions are great (they offer a smaller portion too for those that don't need a lot). The breading is good, fish is flaky, and waffle fries--need I say more.

Delafield Brewhaus - This place is known for their fish fry and it's a year-round tradition. Portions are large and delicious. I left stuffed with a happy belly--where as my friend who is usually on seconds when we are just taking our first bites--was considering adding on the clam chowder!

Albanese's Roadhouse - This offers bar room dining or a dining room depending on which atmosphere you are in for. The fish fry has an Italian breading that I really enjoyed.

Murf's Custard - This one takes me back. In the early 2000s, my friends and I roller-bladed here and pooled our money together for a bucket of fish and fries. We ate it outside on a gorgeous evening and then roller-bladed all over downtown and around the city. The scariest part was rollerblading on the boardwalk late at night (yes we probably shouldn't have, but we were young and it was fun!)  I still remember the fish and it was great!

People's Park - My parents and I have enjoyed this fish fry many times. They have a fish sandwich as well. And I love that I can get the cucumber salad instead of fries. My mom always opts for the sweet potato fries!

In addition to the places that I have shared, there is a website dedicated to fish fry's in the Milwaukee area--with a page just for Waukesha. Check it out and maybe find your favorite.

And please feel free to share your favorite place with me - I'm always up to try new places and new foods!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2017 - The Best Year of My Life

My company's 30th Anniversary trip to Las Vegas (Tom is in the yellow hat)
Two months have flown by since my last post, though it doesn't feel like that to me. At the end of September, I found out some devastating news about my boss Tom--he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He was given a diagnosis of one to three months and this turned my world upside down. My boss, mentor, and friend of 13+ years wasn't going to take treatment and would instead spend his remaining days surrounded with family and friends. His faith in God is like no other that I have witnessed.

Just two months and one day into his diagnosis Tom took his last breath surround by his family. During his service, the priest said some words that struck quite a few of us. "Strive to live your life in order to have as many people at your funeral as Tom had." I have never attended a wake or service with so many people at it--over 1400 people attended the wake and there wasn't a seat available at St. Gabriel's Church. There were so many other sides to my boss' life that I was unaware of his impact. 

So needless to say, my end of 2016 wasn't ideal, but I have learned some really important lessons that I'm carrying into 2017. 1) Life is unpredictable - live every moment like it's your last. 2) Being the nice guy does pay off.  3) Every moment is a moment to remember, no matter how big or small. 4) Do the things that bring you joy. 

So as part of living out these lessons, I am dedicating myself back to my love of writing, including writing about the city that I love, Waukesha. And 2017 is a year that holds big things for me and I plan to bring you along for the ride. It's truly going to be the best year of my life and full of so many amazing events.

1) I marry the love of my life in April and we begin the next chapter of our life together. 
2) The purchase of a new home that is larger for all of us. 
3) A hiking trip with my ladies to Colorado in June
4) And of course all of my ventures around the city. 

Though I didn't make many formal resolutions this year like I have in past years, I did make one to be more organized. This will help my life in so many ways. I plan to get on a more routine schedule, keep my desk organized at work and keep my household clean. This will help us be prepared for selling, and by doing these things, I will make more time for ME! 

See you soon! 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Playing Catch Up

Yikes- August 24 was my last post to you guys - I'm sooooooo sorry. This year has been flying by and wedding planning has taken a forefront to my personal writing and downtime lately. But don't worry, I have still gone out and enjoyed many places downtown with friends and family.

Let's start with some upcoming fun, then a quick recap of what I have been up to. And then I PROMISE that I will get more thorough blogs out on each of these topics below before November is over!!!

First off - can you believe we are less than two months away from Christmas! The season is upon us. I recently wrote about the downtown Waukesha happenings for the holidays for the Waukesha Pewaukee Convention and Visitors Bureau. Check out the post here.

Ok - here's a brief recap of what I have been doing.

Salsa Chicken - super simple dinner!
1. I have been experimenting with new recipes and family favorites. I try to cook one new dish a week -- sometimes they are kiddo friendly and other times, they are for more advanced palettes. I also recently completed a 10-day cleanse and it taught me a lot about my food choices and what I should be eating. I would say I haven't had any cooking "fails" lately, so that is always a plus. Meals include chicken salad (two ways), chicken cordon blue pasta, "crack" brownies (seriously so good), salsa chicken and z'paghetti noodles with shrimp.

2. I have enjoyed a few meals out and about with friends and my fiance. Gyros West, Bernie's Tap Room, Meli and Tofte's Table top the list of places I have visited late.

Lighthouse Events Pumpkin Run in Oconomowoc
3. I am really trying to get myself into a fitness schedule in addition to eating better. The wedding is coming up in less than six months and I have some work to do before the big day. I signed up again for the Winter Run Series with Lighthouse Events and just completed my first of the five. I also have been trail run/walking with my friend Tory.
Nature Trails at Retzer Nature Center, Waukesha

White Gull Inn Fish Boil
4. I recently had my bachelorette party up in Door County. We did it early because we wanted to make sure things would be open while we were up there. My MOH picked the perfect weekend and we really lucked out with weather. I ate plenty of cherry items and partook in the famous Fish Boil at White Gull Inn. Upon returning, I checked out Raised Grain's Door County Cherry IPA to reminisce on the amazing weekend. I won't be sharing all the details of that weekend, but it was a great time and we actually hope to make it an annual trip.
Raised Grain beer flight

Oscar H. Hanson Bed & Breakfast - Breakfast
5. My fiance and I just returned from a quick weekend trip to Cambridge and stayed at the amazing Oscar H. Hanson House B&B. The service was stellar and we found plenty to do in the neighboring cities to keep up entertained for a few days. We definitely will return to the B&B and maybe venture deeper into Madison next time.

Ok - so before November is over, I promise my readers will see at least four new posts. I am making a commitment with my fitness to also give myself more person time. Typing, doing crafts, or reading gives me less time to snack and more time for creative outlets.