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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Daylee Public House

Daylee Public House is the brainchild of Simply Irresistible Catering's owner, Megan Day. She was provided an opportunity last summer to lease a space on the west end of Main Street and expand her catering business into a bar and (soon) restaurant. The space is next door to Waukesha Tattoo Company and Megan did an amazing job with the design and decor. Simplistic but unique.
I apologize for my darker images, but I promise you, it's not that dark inside. She has a great combination of seating space and open areas to accommodate large grounds. This expanded space now allows her to host private parties, which is one way her business is growing. She has been a caterer for a few years and now can host functions in her own location--birthdays, retirements, showers, reunions, and more!
The garage door opens up to a pergola covered deck that can accommodate a great sized crowd as well.
She still has her take-n-bake options in a freezer case near the front of the bar. May I recommend the lasagna, meatballs and glazed carrots - totally drool-worthy! And if you plan to stay for a while, Megan can cook up one of these for your group while you enjoy some libations. Or she might just have some treats ready for you to enjoy!

Daylee Public House has a nice selection of tap and bottled beer, liquor, and wine. There is definitely something for everyone.

One of the many things that draws me to this bar is the fact that it sells pitchers of New Age, only the best summer wine. It's a Tincho and you serve it over ice with a lime for a very refreshing beverage. There was no problem that my friend and I were going to polish off this pitcher.

Megan grills out for the Friday Night Live's in downtown Waukesha, so take a walk down to west Main Street and check out her place. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wings Around Waukesha: Club 400 Wings

I am a Carroll University (but back in my day College) alum and one of the places that I frequented on a Thursday night, for a few libations to relax after a stressful week of classes, was Club 400. That bar and Mulligans (now Spurs Saloon) were the closest bars to campus for the Carroll community to enjoy. I never ate food there during my college days, but it was shortly after I graduated and started my "real job" that I found out about the upstairs at Club 400 and spent many Thursday nights up there.

On Thursdays and select weekend nights, the upstairs of Club 400 is open to accommodate the increased number of diners. Though I used to go with my coworker and her family and close friends, many of my fellow Carroll alum would be in attendance as well. It was always great to catch up and I made a few new friends as well.

I hadn't been to Club 400 for quite a few years, but recently my fiance and I were looking for a place to eat and he had never been. We arrived early and took one of the few booths across from the bar on the main level. The building is a historic landmark and the itricate wood detailing of the back bar definitely shows off this fact. I walked up to the bar to see how the wings had changed since I had last been there. They now have order forms and you order by the 1/2 or full pound, pick one of the ten sauces, blue cheese or ranch, and celery.

I ordered a pound of teriyaki wings with bone-in and my fiance ordered a half of each garlic Parmesan and Thai flavored boneless wings. We were feeling glutinous and ordered onion rings and sour cream and chive fries too.
It didn't take long for our food to arrive and our little booth for two was completely covered with baskets. They brought over a bucket for wing bones and the table had napkins on it.
We dug in while the food was hot. My wings were just as good as I remembered. They are a decent size wing and just enough sauce. The sauce had great flavor as well. I was able to finish almost all my wings.

My fiance liked his Thai wings better than the garlic Parmesan. Because of my sensitive buds, I only tried once of the garlic Parmesan--it reminded me of Pizza Hut's garlic breadsticks that they used to sell in the PIT at Carroll. Ahhhh the memories!

The sour cream and chive fries were delicious as always with ranch on the side and the onion rings were really big and yummy.

If you are looking for a great wing place in town, Club 400 is the place to go - and non-wing eaters will find plenty on the menu as well.

Club 400 Rating (Max Score of 5): 4.4

Flavors: 4 Drumsticks (10 flavors - many were too spicy for me)

Size: 4 Drumsticks

Taste: 4 Drumsticks

Price:  2.5 Drumsticks on non-wing night 7.00 / 4.5 Drumsticks on wing night $.35 each

Temp: 4.5 Drumsticks - nice and hot

Sauces: Options are Ranch & Blue Cheese

Veggies: Celery is offered

Wet Naps: Not provided with wing order - didn't ask if they had them available but napkins were right on your table.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Grilling Steaks

Summertime in Wisconsin is when my grill really gets a workout. I am almost embarrassed to say my first gas tank on my grill lasted two years before fizzling out--with burgers on the grill! Maybe I just got lucky and got a super filled one? I really do grill a lot, but when it's just two people (or sometimes one) you don't need a ton of gas. And I have a Kwik Trip really close for exchanges, so those burgers never went to waste--the new tank was on before they could even cool down.

July 4th is a grilling day across this great nation and I partake every year. Obviously July 4th has a much bigger meaning than that, but if grilling out in our backyards definitely says freedom to me. Thank you to all our service folks--past, present, and future-- for this day of celebration. There is always a get-together somewhere and if I'm not "manning" the grill myself, I'm bringing something delicious to grill at someone else's event.

The Wisconsin Whisk group sent out an invite in June to do a BBQ blog hop and I was assigned grilled meat. So many recipes went through my head.

This year, we are fortunate to have two family's providing their grills to us on the holiday weekend. We are spending the 3rd with my guys family in the Appleton area. The adults are all getting steaks and the kiddos get hot dogs (they don't appreciate good meat yet!). On the 4th, we are spending time with my parents and not sure what will be grilled yet, but it will be something awesome.

Last weekend I had my folks over for an impromptu grill out. We marinated some steaks and thawed some 'dogs for the girls. Though steaks don't always need a marinade, when you don't spend top dollar, you can sometimes enhance a steak's flavor with a few key seasonings.

I have become a huge fan of vinegar and read a few years ago that it helps break down meat proteins to make them less tough. I don't want to take away from the grilled meat flavor too much so I keep my marinades simple and only on for a short length of time.

For our steaks, I made a simple marinade from Red Wine Vinegar infused with garlic, minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, EVOO, salt, and pepper. See below for measurements for two small steaks.

I only let the steaks marinate for two hours and then brought them back to room temp before grilling so they would cook evenly. I am still mastering steaks on my gas grill as it has warm and hot spots. I am very cautious with overcooking, so I use a meat thermometer to check internal temp. And I always remember that food continues to cook even after removed from the heat. LET IT REST!

My parents brought over some thick petite fillets and though they only marinaded for a half hour, my parents still tasted the added flavor and were impressed. It added just enough extra to the meat without taking away from the quality that we bought.

On the side we had boiled corn on the cob, shrimp pasta salad, fresh watermelon, and peanut butter frosted chocolate cupcakes for dessert. This was a meal that scream cookout to my fiance and I. We were so happy with the turnout of everything. And yes in Wisconsin, watermelon and corn cobs are ready for the season, so eat up! Happy Independence Day Everyone!

Easy Steak Marinade (for 2 steaks)
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup soy sauce
slightly < 1//8 red wine vinegar (I used a garlic infused)
1 Tbsp. EVOO
dash of salt
dash of pepper

Put all in a Ziploc bag with the steaks (we selected think filets, but it worked well with fat cuts too - about 1 lb meat total). Seal and turn end over end to get the marinade all over the steaks. Place in fridge and flip bag after 1 hour. Marinate 2 hours max. Grill to your liking and enjoy with your favorite side dish recipes.

See all the other participating Wisconsin Whisk bloggers' recipes at the link below.