Monday, September 1, 2014

Overheard - Vol. 2

Not sure if it's really bad ping pong game  or beer pong going on, but the ladies are laughing and cheering no matter what. And sounds like everyone is having fun.  Labor Day should be a day for relaxing but I hope these folks have off tomorrow from what I'm hearing. Lol. Must be my old age but I'm only awake for other reasons. The clock crows too early for me to be at a bar at this hours  No negativity tonight just hearing fun in the wee hours of a Tuesday morning and slightly jealous. 

Extra props the brave soul/subdivision neighbor that lit off quite the firework. I almost had a heart attack but it was really pretty to see that gold sphere light up north Waukesha's sky tonight. I don't recommend doing it on the regular but keep the neighbors guessing and do a few more throughout the year!  Please! 

I also want to take a second to recognize the real meaning of today and thank everyone that labors no matter what your skill set. Blue collar, white collar, retail, moms, dads, families and everyone in between--thank you for your skills and making America what it is today. I am proud of the country that I live in and hope that everyone feels the same about the opportunities provided to us.

Happy Labor Day Everyone! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Simply Irresistible Catering: Italian Sausage Lasagna

A few weeks ago, I told you about Simply Irresistible Catering and their Take 'n Bake meals. I finally had time to make the Italian Sausage Lasagna and it did not disappoint.

The lasagna is very tall in the pan and could easily feed 4 people if not more. This is the half portion that feeds 2 - 3 typically. I didn't have anything on the side with my first piece and was pretty full after. It's loaded with food.

It did take a bit longer in my oven than the required time, but it had been in my freezer for quite some time, so it could have been super frozen. I still took the cover off at the hour mark and then saw the edges browning up nicely in 45 minutes.

It started to get a bit dark around the edges when the middle still wasn't changing, so I did cover it with foil for the last 15 minutes I cooked it for. I left it in for another 10 minutes and pulled it out piping hot.

The top gets nice and crispy with a cheese and herb crust. This was fabulous and probably my favorite layer of the lasagna. I want to know her combination :)

There was plenty of Italian sausage, cheese and sauce in the layers, but not overwhelming and it held it's form. Sometimes lasagnas end up a little runny from too much sauce or cheese (too much cheese, I know - it's a sin I said that). But this lasagna was excellent.

Great flavors in the Italian Sausage too - not too spicy, just the right amount of spice.

I would recommend some garlic bread or steamed vegetable on the side if you wanted to make the pan stretch farther. And it warms up just great in the microwave and satisfies those late night cravings after a night of dancing and drinking at your friends' wedding!

For just $10 for the half pan, this is a steal! I got some Blue Apron meals sent to me in the last week and although the flavors are great, $20 a dinner (10 per person) is a bit much for my wallet. And I don't know where the products are from or who makes them. Using Simply Irresistible, I have met the owner and had a great conversation with her and know that her meals are made right here in her downtown Waukesha shop and made with love!

I highly recommend you check her out and try a meal. I only have the carrots left and have a pork tenderloin with those carrot's name on it for later this week. And then I'm going to have to restock from her selections :)

What a perfect, easy meal to make for your family now that kids are going back to school. Or you just want to have something delicious and not tear apart your kitchen to make it. Her meals are worth it folks!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Splashin' on a Patio

A few of my friends live out in the Lake Country area so to keep it fair, occasionally we head out in their direction for a night of fun because they come to Waukesha so often. Recently, we met up in downtown Oconomowoc at Splash Martini Bar on a Friday night. I have been here before and I love the martini selections, but they have beer, wine and cocktails too if you aren't a martini fan.

This time we were lucky enough to score a few tables on their patio that overlooks Lac La Belle. The weather was perfect as my friend nicely captured the sunset and posted on Instagram.

I saw a post on Facebook a few weeks earlier from Splash that if you signed up for its mailing list, you would get a free drink at your next visit. The signup isn't mobile friendly currently so you have to use a real computer to get on the list. Of course I signed up and encouraged my friends to as well. I got my voucher in time to use that evening, but we found out that the manager does updates to the list in batches so it's not an instant reward and my friends didn't get theirs in time. No worries, it just means we have to come back. And the drinks and atmosphere are still totally worth the price point.

I wanted to start with a martini that had St. Germaine liquor in it because it's a new favorite flavor for me, but unfortunately they were out of the liquor. Have no fear, there are so many more martinis to chose from, I easily picked one with peach in it. It was nice and refreshing.

My friends ordered other drinks, such as the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Martini, a dirty martini, a Flirtini made X-Rated liquor and champagne, Moscow Mules and Hacker-Pschorr and Spotted Cow beers.

If you have never had a Moscow Mule, they are served in a copper mug and some bars hold your license or charge a deposit so they ensure they the cup back. Splash does not instill these policies but they have a limited number of glasses so it could be a wait for the drink. A moscow mule is created with vodka, ginger beer, lime and mint that is refreshing with a nice kick from the ginger. Some of my friends enjoy it without the mint and others with it but either way they are yummy.

We chatted and enjoyed the free Juke Box that is provided every Friday. The music was all over the board - death metal rock to country to very sexually suggestive R&B. It made us laugh a lot at the randomness. 

My second drink was a raspberry martini - called something like "Kiss Me After Dark." It was very sweet with cherries in the bottom but it was still really good.

My final drink was White Peach Sangria (sorry no photo) - the bar's summer special. It was really delicious. The peach tasted fresh and delightful and a little kick of the whiskey or brandy they added to it. I highly recommend getting this before summer is over.

We enjoyed the patio well into the evening and even switched to a table that had a heat lamp over it, as this summer hasn't been known for it's heat in Wisconsin. A nice breeze came off the lake to keep the bugs at bay too.

It seems that Splash's website is in the middle of updates, but the Facebook page has plenty of information and if you sign up for the mailing list, you are sent occasional messages with specials inside.

For example - Mondays - Saturday (excluding Thursdays) they are now offering a late night menu of specials. From 11 pm - close, enjoy a $5 Martini Menu, $3.50 rail cocktails, $3.50 tap/imported beers, $3 domestic beers

Specials going on other nights of the week:
Monday - Industry Night - take 20% off your bill if you work in the hospitality industry
Thursday - Ladies Night - Buy one, get one 50% off (per person, ladies only - sorry guys)
Friday - Free Juke Box
Sunday - Fun Day - Open at 2 pm - Get 10% off all food and $5 drink specials (I couldn't find their food menu but Facebook says in-house appetizers)

I definitely recommend you check this place out the next time you are in Lake Country.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mushroom Risotto

A few weeks ago I bought a frozen meal of Mushroom Risotto by Amy's and it was really good. I couldn't believe something from a box could taste that good, but when it uses quality ingredients, the outcome has to be that good!

I found a recipe via Pinterest from Good Dinner Mom for an easy risotto and modified it to my liking. 

It's perfect that I made this entree on #MeatlessMonday which I have been wanting to do for a while. If you aren't aware, meatless Monday is something I found on Twitter that is a trend since 2003 to get people to cut meat from their diet one day a week and see that vegetarian eatin' ain't all that bad and actually good for you! 

I have never made Risotto before or cooked Arborio rice but after reading the recipe, it seemed easy enough. I must confess I used canned mushrooms because my fresh ones went bad before I could use them. (sad day) Honestly the flavor was still there. I drained and cooked them in the pan for a bit to rid more of the water and let them brown a bit.

I didn't have shallots but I did cut fresh chives from my flower garden (thank you previous owner for leaving those for me!) and used a small amount of sweet onion.

I used vegetable boullion stock to make the risotto but I'm sure chicken would work just as well. I had a local wine from Staller Estates Winery in Delavan/Whitewater that was used to cook the rice and drink with the meal. I highly recommend the Horizon Cuvée for this recipe. It's my second favorite, Estate Blanc is number one and is divine!

Ok - back to the risotto. It takes some time to add a little bit of the stock to the rice and wait for it to absorb and repeat until the stock is all gone but it's completely worth it. The flavor really makes the risotto flavorful.

I added some peas for additional flavor. The bag of peas exploded on me when I went to open it and my kitchen was polka-dotted green! Luckily I could salvage enough to use in the risotto.
Then it was time to add the butter and cheese. I didn't have fresh Parmesan so I used my pre-grated container that is usually exclusive for my popcorn snacks. But I decided I could spare some for this recipe.

Regardless of my frugal product choices (canned mushrooms, pre-grated parmesan and sweet onion) it was absolutely fabulous and I will make this again and again.

Please share your risotto recipes with me or good places in southeastern Wisconsin to try it. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Greek Lettuce Wraps

While I'm trying to keep with the healthy eating and cut out unnecessary calories where I can, I find that lettuce wraps work great as a replacement for bread in certain types of sandwiches. I don't think a PB&J would taste so good on one, but chicken salad like the curry one from Sprizzo's, tuna salad (Like Steaming Cup has) and other chunkier sandwiches would work.

Lately I have come across an abundance of cucumbers and although I love making my cucumber salsa, it doesn't fair to well after making it (as in you need to eat it that day or the next or it gets squishy) and I don't want to get burned out on it.

So I decided to go Greek and made some lettuce wraps and Tzatziki sauce. 

This chicken is something I will never make the same way again as I just thew ingredients in the pan and hoped for the best. It was so juicy and flavorful...not necessarily Greek in flavor, but still delicious. 

Then I made Tzatziki sauce for the first time. I grabbed cucumbers, dill, yogurt, lemon juice, onion and garlic powders salt and pepper and put it all in my food processor. This is something I'll need to keep working at. The flavor was there but the consistency was a little too thin for my liking and I think I needed to process it longer.

I had a huge head if iceberg lettuce that I got on a great deal so I chopped up some more cucumbers, kalamata olives, tomatoes, a few slices of onion and the chicken and drizzled the Tzatziki over it all in a lettuce leaf. Then I just folded up the lettuce and bit in.

It was really delicious and even after eating 3 wraps, I felt contently full but not stuffed. I think the removal of the pita really helped me enjoy more of the fresh flavors and not get full so quickly.

The gyro I got at the Waukesha County Fair and Gyros West were way better but I'm not comparing apples to apples. Those were with lamb meat and on a pita. I would say for an easy option at home that saves a few calories, I made a solid meal, but I definitely would prefer lamb and both their Tzatziki sauces over mine. 

I have a great recipe from a friend for crockpot gyros combining lamb and ground turkey and forming it into a loaf. It's amazing and I can't wait to make that soon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Busy Weekend in Wisconsin

If you tell me that you can't find anything to do this weekend, you are insane because there is so much going on. This weekend is looking to be one of the busiest weekends for events in Wisconsin.

Irish Fest - at the Lakefront

Indy Fest - at State Fair Park

Zoo a la Carte - at Milwaukee County Zoo

Bristol Renaissance Faire 

I'm sure there is a church festival or two as well. 

And then right in our own neck of the woods:

FRIDAY, August 15

6 pm - Run from the Cops 5k 

6:30 - 9 pm-  Waukesha Friday Night Live

SATURDAY, August 16

8 am - noon - Farmers Market

All Day - Dirty Girl Mud Run (Sunday too!) - County Expo Grounds

noon - 2 am 1st Annual Taco Fest at The Blue Ribbon

I'm sure there are plenty more but this is what I came across to post. 

A few other notes: 
Sweet Perfections had their last day this week in their downtown location. But have no fear, they will be opening soon enough in Waukesha on Paramount Drive. 

Sad to hear about Copacetic's closing as well as they were a unique shop in downtown. They carried the Life is Good shirts that my mom loves. 

The hotel bar and restaurant should be opening very soon and I'm so excited to check it out! 

Hoping for more great new places to go in downtown and keep it packed down there. 

Hope you have a great weekend! 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Healthy Living & Setting Goals

My weight hasn't always been an easy topic to talk about. In grade school I wasn't overweight, but I was an "athletic girl" and even throughout high school dancing on the very competitive Poms Squad, I was known for my powerful legs. Those legs did bring us a first place ribbon for an 'all-kick routine.'

I have never aspired to be a skinny super model but I always wanted to be comfy in my own skin. 

In my early 20s this came pretty easy and living with my cousin that was my same size proved beneficial. We ate the same meals and did workouts together so ultimately we had helped each other (and gained an additional closet of clothes!)

Soon my metabolism and laziness slowed down and I wasn't able to keep my weight so steady. I began to enjoy the bar scene lifestyle and eating out a bit too much. It's amazing how quickly those pounds can come on but they definitely don't come off that easy! 

I realized that hardwork and watching what I ate was the only way I would get back to where I felt good in my skin again. I joined Weight Watchers a few times and considered trying South Beach or the 48 Hour Hollywood diet, but in the end never committed to either of those. I joined a gym or two and never went regularly. Weight Watchers proved extremely beneficial when I was focused and worked at it.  But I will again blame laziness and a busy schedule in not being able to really make it work for me.
Weight is just a number provided by a scale, and regardless of it's accuracy, I am someone that tends to step on it regularly to see where I'm at. Sure this is a horrible habit, but I don't get mad when I'm up a bit, because I know, especially in females, weight can fluctuate a lot.

My main test is how my clothes fit; seeing the number on the scale go down is just a bonus. 

After traveling to Las Vegas in June (in which I had plenty of time to prep for the trip and didn't) and not being comfortable laying by the pool, I realized I really needed to do something before I was standing up in a wedding a few months later. Not only that, but even if I wasn't going to be in a million wedding photos, I still wanted to feel better in summer clothes and not embarrassed by my legs, butt and belly. 

I will 100% admit that I'm really good at planning things out on paper but my execution sucks. And I decided that needs to change.

I decided to take small steps and set really small goals. You always feel better when you can cross off more things on a list. For instance instead of writing a note that says Clean House, to me I feel more accomplished to break down the cleaning areas of the house that need to be done - kitchen, toilets, sweeping, and cross it off when each is complete.

My list started with a good day on the scale and realizing I was in a new weight decade (WW friends, you know what this means). I made a simple vow to myself to never see that decade again! (unless I am pregnant) That goal was started on June 25 and I am still holding to it and getting closer to another decade. 

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins - no oil or butter added!
Besides just stepping on the scale and hoping for the best, my next small goals are to walk more (when I can't go for a run) and watch my portion sizes.
Sausage Run 2014

I have been really good at watching the junk that I take in and literally don't take in much at all anymore. I don't feel good after eating junky food, so I don't really crave it much anymore. However, I will overindulge in a portion size of something healthier and that can add up too if you aren't careful.
Simply Irresistible Catering - Take n Bake meals

This is something that I am going to work at for the rest of my life, but I am lucky that I am not too picky of an eater and can enjoy just about anything, so I shouldn't get stuck in a food rut. But I think that before the time I am 35, I want to run a half marathon and not finish last. That is a mighty goal, that I understand is very intimidating, but I think that I have plenty of time to get myself ready for this and really get going.
Greek Chicken Salad

"It takes 4 weeks for you to notice your body changing, 8 weeks for your friends and 12 weeks for the rest of the world. Give it 12 weeks. Don't Quit!"

I'm not sure who came up with that quote, but it has definitely come true for me. My mom complimented me, my bridal dress was big and needed to be taken in again and I felt comfortable at the wedding celebrating with everyone and not feeling like the "fat" bridesmaid there to ruin all the pictures. 

With the Bride - Aug, 2014
The best compliment came from my boyfriend when after not seeing me for a few days said "You look like you have lost a sh*t ton of weight!" Sure not the classiest sentence that can come out as a compliment, but no guy is perfect as we all know ladies. 
The lovely Bridesmaids enjoying the fire after the wedding!

All of these things tell me that what I am doing is working and getting to where I thought I never could be again weight and fitness-wise is definitely possible.