Friday, April 29, 2016

Mother's Day & Gifts

Mother's Day is right around the corner. I am not one to buy my mom the typical run of the mill gifts and always look for ways to get my mom something unique but that is totally her to show her how much I care.

I was emailed by Uncommon Goods recently and asked if I wanted to partner with them for a post. After a quick gander through their site, I saw many great gift ideas for my mom as well as for anyone when you are looking for that great gift that you won't find anywhere else.

Then I spent time learning the story behind the company. Back in 1999, the founder visited a craft show and was captivated by the unique handmade goods and the talented people behind the art. This gave him the idea of an online marketplace to help these amazing goods get in front of more people.

Uncommongoods offers unique handmade goods and shares the stories behind the artists. I had a hard time slimming down what to get my mom for Mother's Day as there are just so many options. Click here to see some of the great things they have available for mothers.  There are so many things that fit her taste and called out to me. Mother's Day Ideas

While searching for those goods, I put a few things down in my memory for future gifts when it gets closer to my friends' birthdays.

I found just the right gifts from some suggested links on their page for Mother's Day.  Though I can't share what they are just yet (gotta keep it a surprise from my mom who is an avid reader of my blog), I do plan to share after Mother's Day.

If you are looking for just the right gift, I urge you to consider a gift from Uncommongoods. I know there is something for everyone on the site.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Qdoba Loaded Tortilla Soup

I don't often get many packages on my front porch, but when I do, they are boxes full of awesome from Qdoba.

One of my fiance's little ladies brought in a large box from the front stoop and I was baffled as to what could be inside. To my very happy surprise, it was a promo box from Qdoba all about their new Loaded Tortilla Soup. The box contained a flyer, jump drive, canteen, hat, and Qdoba card loaded with two soups and drinks.

My guy found a perfectly chilly night to go try this out. I am always a fan of deep fried tortilla taco shells and it seems that every place has their own way of doing it.

Basically you build this just like any other item on their menu and customize it with what ingredients you want inside. The only difference is the broth that they add to all your ingredients.
My guy and I had our made identically with chicken and all sorts of yummy veggies, etc added.
Of course top it with cheese and sour cream and we were ready to enjoy.
Because the shells are holding liquid, I would recommend this is something you eat right away. I started by breaking off pieces of the shell and scooping up some of the thicker soup with it. It definitely had a kick, but I could manage.
I really didn't think at first that there was much food in the shell, but by the time I made it half way through, I was feeling quite full. It was very delicious and I would order it again but with more sour cream for my sensitive buds!
I really enjoy that Qdoba is branching out in many different directions from their original burrito menu. Their chips and cheese is still my fave in town and you can see me once every other week leaving Qdoba with a three cheese nachos on my lunch. 

If you don't want soup, definitely try the nachos or the girls' favorite, the quesadilla. And the chips, you must get their chips. The lime salt blend on them makes them irresistible for me.

However, with our lack of "late Spring temps" lately, this soup would be a perfect warm up meal to get you thinking of summer heat!  Or have it for Cinco de Mayo next week!

Thank you Qdoba for supplying me with this opportunity to learn more about your latest menu creation and be able to try it. I can't wait to see what you have in store next!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Zymbiotics for your health

I have known about Zymbiotics for about a year -- first hearing about the company from my friends in the #mkefoodies group. After reading about it, I was a bit intrigued. Then I saw the products at Good Harvest Market and my interest peaked even more. I still wasn't 100% sure what it was, but I knew the products were supposed to be good for you.

I recently reached out to the owner Jeff after he introduced himself to the Wisconsin Whisk group that I am a member. I asked him more about his products, and he suggested that we meet up so that I could try them and ask anything that I wanted to know about them.

Here's a bit about the company from the website: "Zymbiotics are fine naturally fermented foods including Jeff’s Zauerkraut, Jeff’s Ginger Zarrots, Jeff Zimchi, and Jeff’s Vegan Zimchi.  These prebiotic and probiotic ferments are delicious and nutritious. We strive to use locally sourced produce for our products to reduce the environmental impact wherever possible.  Educating our community  on the health benefits of fermentation is a fundamental part of our mission."

Jeff and I met at Good Harvest Market and sat down in the cafe area. Did you know that Good Harvest Market has a full cafe, smoothie bar, and beer on tap? You can enjoy these treats while shopping or take a meal home. There is even a loft area above the cafe to get a better view of the store while you dine.

Jeff told me a bit about his products, Zymbiotics. The product are kept in the cooler case because they aren't pasteurized and are fresh. The products will last over a year opened or unopened if kept refrigerated. On your first time opening them, its recommended to open them over the sink--the CO2 builds up and could cause a little spill.

The company recommends at least two tablespoons of the products a day for maximum results. Here are more of the benefits of these products.

Jeff's Zauerkraut
Zymbiotics Zauerkraut
I tried the Zauerkraut first - a bright, beautiful purple color. It was delicious and puts the kraut at Miller Park and the green can(Franks?) to shame. I want to only have this with my brats and hot dogs in the future. However, I was told to not get it over 104 degrees or it will lose the good bacteria and health benefits.
Jeff's Ginger Zarrots
Zymbiotics Ginger Zarrots
Next I tried the Ginger Zarrots. I was a little hesitant as I didn't believe these flavors would go together at all. I was very pleasantly surprised - this was a great combination. I could eat this as a between-meal snack for sure. Or have them with a nice grilled chicken breast. Two tablespoons of this daily will be no problem. And there are some great recipes for this product on their website.

Jeff's Zimchi
Zymbiotics Zimchi
Next up was the Zimchi - As someone that has never had Kimchi, I wasn't sure what to expect except Asian flavors. It has beautiful color and a great variety of products in it. There is a kick of spice, but if I had some rice with dinner, it would be just fine for my palette. I didn't try the Vegan Zimchi, but I was told the flavor is very similar, just doesn't have the fish sauce in it.

Jeff was nice enough to send me home with the Zauerkraut, Ginger Zarrots, and Zimchi. I have had Ginger Zarrots a few times and can't wait to make a few of the recipes from the website. Stay tuned for posts on that.

Jeff's wife has her masters in nutrition and culinary arts and she oversees the recipes to make sure they are healthy and that the prebiotic and probiotic dignity of the products are in tact.

Zymbiotics can be found at Good Harvest Market, Woodman's, Albrechts Sentry, B&K  Sentry, and the Sendik's on Capitol in Brookfield. The local food stores have welcomed his products and really supported his mission. I love seeing local work together.

I recommend you try these products for improved digestion and quality bacteria in your gut. In just a couple weeks, you will notice a change. Eating fermented foods increases the vitamin content and helps us absorb the vitamins.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wine Tastings at Spring City Wine House

I have now attended two wine tastings at Spring City Wine House. I have to say that they are very well run and provide you enough knowledge on the wines in addition to yummy bites to eat and time to talk with others in the class about the wines.

Here's a bit of a breakdown on how the classes are run. Three tables are set up in the back area of Spring City Wine House. This is an area that can be reserved for card nights, book clubs, and private parties--or it can be a quieter area to sit in the shop.

The first wine tasting we attended was all on Red Blend wines. The tasting was run by a wine distributor that Spring City brought in. I knew him from my former Fox Run Sentry Liquor days. Tom, Spring City's owner, was also around and helped describe the foods that came out throughout the tasting as well as provide some extra insight on the wines.

In front of each seat is four wine glasses with the first four wines in them, a glass for water, and a sheet describing the wines with places to take notes. On each table is a charcuterie plate to start and carafe of water to help clear our palettes between wines.

The wines are described one at a time in order for the participants to smell, taste, and swirl and then discuss what they like or didn't like about it. Two small bites made by staff at Spring House are provided for the first four wines and then two more for the last four wines. These bites are well thought out to pair well with the wines.

Each class lasts a little over an hour and after the class, the bottles are available to purchase after, while supplies last. I do believe that the favorites might also be spotted in rotation in the machines at Spring City.

I really enjoy these classes, and not just because I really enjoy wine. You have the opportunity to learn something new, meet new people, try new foods, and overall have a great time. I recommend that you check out their events page or follow them on Facebook to see when the classes are held. And they do tend to fill up quickly so strike while the iron is hot and sign up!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Tomato, Basil, and Brie Pasta

As part of the Wisconsin Whisk group, I willingly participate in the "All Whisked Up" blog challenge. How this works is that I am sent another Wisconsin Whisk member's blog, spend a little time getting to know them and their style and select a recipe to recreate. You can see my previous challenges here and here.

For February, I was provided the Wisconsin From Scratch blog. Sarah is actually one of the founders of Wisconsin Whisk and I have tried a few of her recipes before. She focuses on using fresh, local ingredients in her recipe creations and she also loves the science behind the food, being an engineer. In her more recent posts, she made many Asian inspired dishes. They look great and I hope to make some of them in the future.

But being an absolute pasta fanatic, I selected Tomato, Basil & Brie Pasta as my recipe to recreate. I love all of these ingredients but have never tried Brie in a dinner. My main experience with the creamy cheese is a Brie en Croute that my sister-in-law makes for holidays.

The recipe seemed simple to prepare, which is perfect for my busy schedule lately. Though it was easy to put together, I knew it was going to have great flavor. I chopped up the basil and tomatoes and got those marinating.

The toughest part of this entire recipe is removing the rind from the cheese. I didn't want to lose too much of the cheese so I had to be careful to slice thin. And then just chop it up and add it to the tomato mixture.

I popped a bottle of Rare Red to enjoy with this meal and took a sip or two while the noodles boiled. It was really good for an under $10 bottle of a red blend.

I purchased a loaf of asiago foccacia bread and warmed that up in the oven to serve with the dish. It smelled heavenly when I pulled it out of the oven.

Once the noodles were done, I added the tomato mixture and stirred until the brie was melted by the heat of the noodles. I realized I should have chopped the cheese a little smaller as it took some time to melt, but soon enough it became nice and creamy.

I served up a plate for both myself and my fiance and we sat down to enjoy. Though the cheese flavor was light at first, the tomatoes slightly blistered in the heat and brought great flavor. The basil added a freshness that I long for in winter. I can't wait to either grow my own plants this summer or pick up fresh ones from the farmers market and make this again. It will be even better!
This will definitely go on my "to cook again" list - it was even better as leftovers when the flavors had a little longer to meld. I didn't realize it at the time, but I did purchase light brie cheese--it was all they had at the store. I'm not sure if that affected the flavor, but it can only get better with full fat brie, right?
Wisconsin From Scratch has provided me another successful meal and I can't wait to try more of her recipes soon.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Tom + Chee

My fiance and I are huge fans of the show Shark Tank. Last season, we saw the episode that featured Tom + Chee, a grilled cheese and soup shop that wanted to franchise the business. I fell in love with the concept and from what I saw, the food looked terrific.

They were given an offer on the show and a few months later, the first Tom + Chee opened in the Fox Valley Area. I have family in that area so I told them all about it and hoped we could check it out together. A few months later, I found out a Tom + Chee was opening in Elm Grove--so much easier for me to get to.

My guy and I finally found time after the holidays and made a lunch date to check the place out. The shop is in a great location between Brookfield Square Mall and HWY 100, making it a very popular destination for many. The parking lot is a little struggle as it doesn't have many spots. But I was able to get in a spot without too much difficulty.

When we walked in, the place was pretty packed. Long tables were set up to eat banquet/family-style and guests were waiting with numbers for their food. I was glad there was a little bit of a line so I had time to decide what I wanted to eat.

Everything sounded really good--I decided to be glutinous and go for a donut grilled cheese. I had one this summer in Wisconsin Dells that was heavenly so I just had to compare. They also had some great sounding salads so I went with a donut grilled cheese and green salad (it's sort of the Big Mac and Diet Coke mentality!)

We decided to take our food to go because the place was pretty packed. It only took a few minutes to get ready and then we were out the door and headed home.

Everything comes in a labels cardboard box. They didn't skimp on the salad and it was layered with fresh lettuce, a ton of goat cheese, crasins, nuts and more. The dressing was light and delicious. I didn't leave a single piece of that salad behind.

The donut grilled cheese was amazing. This is going to be my new go-to YOLO meal. I probably shouldn't be eating grilled cheese donuts all the time but it will be my splurge or You Only Live Once meal.

I had a bite of my guys BLT and the bread had the perfect crust. It held up to the 20 minute car ride home which was impressive. And the ingredients were fresh -- one of the best BLT bites I have had.

We are definitely big fans and we will be back again as soon as we can to try other great things on their menu.

I don't think either of us will ever try this challenge but it doesn't sound intriguing. I figure I could eat four of those before I would be full.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Valentine's Day in Downtown Waukesha

Whether you have been struck by cupid's arrow or not, this weekend in downtown Waukesha will be great to wine and dine. Here are just a few of the many Valentine's Day specials going on. I hope to enjoy one of these with my fiance!

Yes, he is no longer just "my guy" as he surprised me on New Year's Eve and proposed in front of all of our friends at our NYE Party. I cried happy tears and then we really celebrated the night!

So here are some places to enjoy with the loves in your life this weekend.
225 South - Mia Famiglia is offering Valentine's Specials Friday - Sunday with entrees from Italy, France and Mexico, in addition to great live music. Make a reservation to get yourself a spot and they would like to remind guests that there is a parking structure with plenty of spaces just three doors down from them right on South Street.

Meli is also putting together a Valentine's Menu and I'm waiting to see the details of that.

Spring City Wine House has a full weekend of live music:
(From their Facebook Page)
 Friday, February 12th: Rebecca & The Grey Notes will be playing from 7-11.
Saturday, February 13th: Keith Pulvermacher will be playing from 7-11.
Please come support the local musicians, drink some wine.. and you never know, they may play some love songs just in time for Valentine's Day!

Crush Wine Bar will be having a magician on Friday night and live music throughout the weekend. Enjoy chocolates from Fazio's or a lava cake with your wine!

Pick up a sweet treat to enjoy this weekend from Periwinkle's Bakery on Broadway. February is the month of love and they have all sorts of treats to help you indulge your sweet tooth.

Eric's Porter Haus - Featuring Fish Frys on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent and also New York Strip for $38.95, 8oz. Filet and a 8oz.Lobster Tail, w/2 sides and dessert for $56.95, 16oz. New York Strip w/2 sides and dessert for $38.95 and finally Prime Rib Dinner King and Queen Cut w/2 Sides. King Cut $30.95 and Queen Cut $25.95

Key WestconsinWe will be featuring our Surf and Turf (a 5oz Steer filet and a 5oz lobster tail) for $19.99.

Bernie's Tap Room - From their FB Page: Whether your Drinking Partner is Hot or Sweet we have the perfect Dragon's Milk Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout beer for you - New Holland Dragon’s Milk Reserve with Raspberries -or- New Holland Dragon’s Milk Reserve with Toasted Chilies (Chili de arbol peppers have earthy hotness but not totally crazy) - or the Original Dragons Milk with just the Bourbon - Try it with any of our Pizza's especially our new Bacon Pizza! Live Music Friday at 8:00 PM - Kevin Patrick and Greg Gerard (May I also recommend the Duck Confit flatbread!)

Other hot spots that you can check out for a great meal with your loved ones that I recommend include.

Magellan's on Main Street for a great 'za - try one of their 40 options or make your own

Mia's for Italian

The Clarke Hotel is decked to the nines for Valentine's Day - enjoy their great fish fry on Friday or their great Irish entrees.

La Estacion for some Mexican dishes and Margaritas

No matter where you go and what you do on Valentine's Day - remember it's an all around day of love. Enjoy it!