August 30, 2012

Eat Local Challenge

I haven't been cooking lately and I really miss it.  I loved having guests recently, as you might have noticed from all the blog posts on my Milwaukee blog, and it'll be fun to see more people over the long holiday weekend, but I'm also looking forward to getting back into my kitchen on September 4.

Knowing we'll be busy all weekend, I offered my CSA box to Lisa who gladly accepted.  I'll be dropping it off tomorrow on our way out of town.  Everything is chilling in my refrigerator right now, except the basil and tomatoes. 

When I return, I plan to dive right into the Eat Local Challenge, which officially runs September 1st-15th.  I was definitely inspired after the attending the Eat Local Resource Fair this past weekend, such a great event!   

Who else is up for the challenge?  I'd love to hear your tips and advice for eating locally.

August 26: Things to Do in Milwaukee

We woke up to rain on the final day of Chris' sisters' visit. We got off to a slow start, so we debated if we should go out for a late breakfast or an early lunch, since I needed to be at the Pabst Theatre at 1pm.

We ended up at the Milwaukee Public Market and it was an ideal choice. It's one of my favorite places to eat with a group of people because everyone can choose what they like - from seafood to Mexican to vegetarian to Middle Eastern, there's something for everyone.

Chris chose sushi and everyone else choose food from The Green Kitchen. I ordered herbed egg salad and a Red Rooster juice which has apples, beets, limes and strawberries.

Both the sandwich and juice were outstanding, and it felt great to get healthy food in my body after eating so much bar food earlier in the weekend.

The Green Kitchen was a really popular option for food in the market. We waited in a long line to order, and then waited again for our sandwiches and juice to be prepared.

Not that we minded the wait. It was awesome to see the hard-boiled eggs being cracked for my egg salad sandwich and everything prepared fresh. Chris' sisters did shots of wheatgrass while we waited :)

I took the photos below as we sat on the second level of the market eating lunch, and was thinking about what a great place it was to visit during rainy weather. After we finished eating we headed back downstairs to browse the non-food vendors.

From the market, we headed to The Pabst Theatre where I got dropped off for a Blogs & Books meeting. While I discussed The Happiness Project with fellow Milwaukee bloggers, Chris and his sisters headed to the Safe House.

The Pabst Theatre was a cool venue for our book club meeting. It was my first time inside, and now I'd really like to return for a concert.

Sara and Colleen were great hosts. Loved the book they chose, and all the little details of the event such as fresh flowers from Fresh Design, notebooks from Monograham, and spiced pecans from Treat Bake Shop.

Chris and his sisters had a great time at the Safe House, while I was at book club. I resisted when Chris suggested visiting the Safe House last summer, but it's actually a fun little place. Even he enjoyed it the third time around.

Just on the other side of the Safe House is the Bronze Fonz, so we decided to brave the rain and hit the Riverwalk. Sunday was the first time I saw the Fonz "decorated." Someone had left two loaves of bread for him, which was quite amusing.

I have a quite a few photos of our various Milwaukee guests posing with their thumbs up, so I decided to do something different when I posed with the Fonz. Oh, and in case you're wondering...I got my sweet red shades for free from Yelp and we replaced the bread before we left :)

We made our way down the Riverwalk to see Gertie and her ducklings on the Wisconsin Avenue bridge. I've walked by the statue many times, but didn't know the history behind it until taking a Pizza Bus tour.

We ended our Riverwalk tour at John Hawk's Pub, home of the only British phone booth I've seen outside of England. I still find it amusing that we never posed like this while living in England, yet after moving to Milwaukee we have multiple photos with the phone booth :)

We saw quite a bit of Milwaukee over three days, but there's still so much more to explore! I was happy that we got to try some new places, even though some were disappointing (Barnacle Bud's!). We have lived in Milwaukee for four years now, and I feel like we're just starting to get to know the city.

August 29, 2012

August 25: Things to Do in Milwaukee

As I mentioned yesterday, Chris' sisters from Colorado visited this past weekend. Here's a look at the second day of our adventures in Milwaukee.

After visiting the Eat Local Resource Fair in the morning at the Urban Ecology Center, we headed to Brady Street for lunch. Having just recently visited Cempazuchi on a Brady Street food tour, I was anxious to return for a full meal.

We all enjoyed margaritas and great food. I ordered Tinga Tacos (spicy chicken and pork), which everyone liked. I should point out that I typically don't like the taste of meat, but these tacos are really good.

After filling our bellies with delicious Mexican food we headed to SPiN Milwaukee to play ping pong. I visited SPiN for the first time on a Third Ward food tour, and have since been back many times.

This was my first time going in the early afternoon on a weekend, and I was surprised by how many children were there. It felt a bit like Chuck E Cheese, and made me wish we had come later.

Later that night, we headed to Barnacle Bud's for dinner. Multiple people recommended it, talking up it's location on the Kinnickinnic River. After dining there, I'm wishing I had asked for more specific advice, such as do you recommend their food or only drinking at their waterfront location?

I would definitely go back to enjoy a cocktail, but won't be eating there again due to bad food and terrible service. Only the atmosphere of the place made it worth the visit. Love that my sister-in-laws were both sporting souvenir t-shirts on day two of their visit :)

Our final stop for the night was the Horny Goat Hideaway, which is just down the road from Barnacle Bud's. It was crazy busy there, as usual. Chris' sisters commented that it felt like concert parking as we were guided by multiple people directing traffic in the parking lot.

All of the tables were reserved for food service, so we went down to the far end, found some tables not set up and dragged one over to the water. It was the perfect place to relax away from the crowd and live music. This was only my second time at the Hideaway, but both times I've loved their live bands.

August 28, 2012

August 24: Things to Do in Milwaukee

Chris' sisters arrived from Colorado this past Thursday and we hit Milwaukee hard over the weekend, trying some new places and visiting old favorites.

On Friday morning, we picked up two canoes at the Urban Ecology Center and made our way down to the Wisconsin Avenue bridge before turning around. Canoeing was fun, but it was a hassle to haul the canoes around, so I would rent from Laacke and Joys next time.

The vantage point from the river is unique. For example, you wouldn't see this waterslide painting from Milwaukee Riverkeeper while cruising the Riverwalk.

Milwaukee is, of course, famous for beer and cheese, so we took Chris' sisters to Rock Bottom Brewery for a beer flight and cheese curds. The three beer drinkers in the group were wishing the flight was labeled so they could remember their favorites.

Cheese curds weren't quite enough, so we headed to Ian's Pizza for macaroni & cheese pizza. I tried a salad there for the first time and loved it! Chris and I split their spring salad which comes with mixed greens, red onions, candied pecans, dried cranberries, blue cheese and maple balsamic vinaigrette.

Next, we headed back to the water. Riverwalk Boat Tours offers a great deal - for $21 you can cruise the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan on Friday nights, while sipping sangria, beer or rum punch. Oh, and appetizers are included too.

A sightseeing cruise is typically $15, so I assumed the alcohol included in the ticket price would be terrible, but we tried all three types and actually liked them all.

Even better, the early cruise time (5:30-7:00) attracted people mostly in their 30s and 40s. The bartender told us the later cruise times attract a younger crowd that gets plastered from the open bar.

I've been on four boat cruises now, and they all travel the same route, yet I enjoy them each time. Sunset is an especially nice time to be cruising on the water.

After the boat returned to Pere Marquette Park, we headed across the street to the Old German Beer Hall to play Hammerschlagen (aka "the nail game").

I really like the atmosphere of the Old German Beer Hall, but unfortunately they had a rehearsal dinner there on Friday night, so it wasn't nearly as fun as usual. It also appeared the 80-something grandparents of the bride and groom were wishing a different place had been chosen :)

August 27, 2012

Eat Local Resource Fair {Milwaukee}

I was really impressed with the Eat Local Resource Fair at the Urban Ecology Center this past weekend. It was well organized, very informative, had interesting things to buy and really delicious food! I visited the fair with Chris' sisters, and they both agreed it was worth attending.

Wisconsin cheese was, of course, available to sample. We tried three types - Clock Shadow Creamery (love their quark!), Juusto baked cheese and Castle Rock, all of which were fabulous.

We also sampled Potter's Crackers made in Madison, spread with preserves from Quince & Apple. I've been trying to pay closer attention to where local items can be purchased, and I noticed yesterday that Potter's Crackers are sold at the Milwaukee Public Market (from West Allis Cheese Shoppe).

Chris' sisters and I tried kombucha for the first time, and it wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it would be. In fact, I thought it tasted quite good. I've heard many bloggers talk about how they love Nessalla Kombucha, but didn't realize it was made locally in Madison.

Roots Restaurant had a great bruschetta sample. However, my absolute favorite sample was from Fresh, which is located both in Mequon and Grand Avenue Mall.

Their banana, mango, spinach smoothie was fantastic, as was their Greek quinoa salad. I was grateful they brought their smoothie making machines with them because I was able to purchase a full-size smoothie to enjoy after the fair.

I bought a few other things from the fair, including three recipe booklets published by Eat Local Milwaukee. This is the first year that I will be taking the Eat Local Challenge and these booklets looked like a great resource.

The Orchard Street Press booth was also one of my favorites. I purchased a Represent onesie for my soon-to-be niece or nephew in Seattle, and my sister-in-law purchased the shirt shown on the left in the photo below.

I also bought a cookbook from Milwaukee Empty Bowls, which is such a great organization. There are a few locations around Milwaukee that you can purchase a cookbook as listed on their website, if you're interested.

My favorite aspect of the cookbook is that it lists many favorite soup recipes from popular Milwaukee restaurants and markets, such as Roots and Glorioso's. A cookbook like this makes me dread the upcoming cold weather a little less.

In addition to all of the booths setup inside the three levels of the Urban Ecology Center, there were also two food carts outside. Jeppa Joes was selling tasty lunch items and Soup in a Jar had small food samples available.

As we stood near the Soup in a Jar truck, we heard numerous people comment that they were hoping to get soup, but they did seem quite happy with their curry egg salad sandwich sample instead. If you're looking for more information on Milwaukee's food truck scene, this OnMilwaukee article is a good resource.

August 21, 2012

Zucchini-Carrot Muffins

This recipe turned out to be a great way to use both zucchini and carrots from my CSA box.  As I searched online for a recipe, I thought it was funny that many bloggers said something to the effect of "I had the brilliant idea of combining zucchini and carrots in one bread (or muffins)." 

I couldn't help but laugh as I read several blog posts which started that way.  A friend recently told me that she'd like to start a food blog but she is intimidated by the fact that there are so many food blogs out there. 

It's true, even those who think they're coming up with original ideas, obviously are not.  However, I still think it's a really good idea for her to start a food blog.  I'm on my third year now of food blogging and I love it.

Too many recipes I came across were really doctored up.  Perhaps the result of bloggers trying to come up with an "original" recipe so it appeared as though they invented it.  I ended up following a Southern Food recipe on that turned out really well!

The only change I made to the original recipe was to sub wheat flour for half of the all purpose flour.  I debated on whether to add walnuts or pecans, and I'm wishing I'd done half with nuts in order to compare.  Although, these muffins are really, really good without nuts.

The recipe yield states 12 muffins, but I had quite a bit of batter left, so I put it in a mini loaf pan.  It's a nice alternative to muffins, mini loaves just need to cook about 7 minutes longer.

Mini loaves make great gifts.  I know it's common this time of year to give extra zucchini to friends, neighbors and co-workers, but a little loaf of zucchini bread is even better!

Zucchini-Carrot Muffins
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients (15 muffins)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour muffin pan (I use Baker's Joy).
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • Using a stand mixer, beat the oil, eggs, sugars and vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients while mixing on a low speed. Stopping to scrape down the bowl, as needed.
  • Fold in the zucchini and carrots, stirring just until blended. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full (I used a large Oxo scoop). Bake for 20 minutes.
Recipe Source:
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August 19, 2012

Blogger Brunch

I really enjoying spending time with fellow food bloggers.  Luckily, there are quite a few local bloggers, so it's fairly easy to get together.  Today I hosted brunch and was joined by Erica, Lisa and Alysha.  Such a fun group of ladies to chat with!

I intended to take photos of brunch, but got a tad behind cooking this morning, so the two food photos you see below are courtesy of Lisa.  It reminded me a bit of Thanksgiving, in that I had three menus items I needed the oven for, all at different temperatures.

Luckily my dining table is in the kitchen, so I could easily chat with the ladies while I cooked.  I made cinnamon-sugar donuts and a veggie frittata with foil packet potatoes.  In addition, I setup a Greek yogurt bar with various options for toppings.

So what's the difference between breakfast and brunch?  Alcohol, of course.  We sipped mimosas made with Luccio Prosecco. 

Last weekend I tried making bellinis for the first time, which should have been easy, it's just peach puree and prosecco.  While I did not like my homemade bellinis, I did like drinking orange juice with the remaining prosecco, which is why I purchased it again for mimosas today.

Everyone brought thoughtful items with them to brunch today.  In fact, as soon as the ladies left, Chris asked if he could try the Bloody Mary mix that Alysha brought (Murph's Original made here in Milwaukee).

Oil and vinegar from Oro di Oliva always makes an excellent gift.  I have several bottles in my cupboard, and have given many bottles as gifts.   

The best part of a bloody mary are the garnishes.  For Chris' drink, I created a skewer of Alysha's homemade pickles, pearl onions, summer sausage, grape tomatoes, Clock Shadow Creamery cheese curds, olives and a mushroom to cap it off.

After reading a recent review of c.1880 (aka Circa), a new restaurant in Milwaukee, I thought it'd be fun to put together a source list for my brunch ingredients.  It also helped me figure out yesterday what I still needed to buy from the farm stand near my house.

I couldn't help but poke fun at the fact that c.1880 copied L'Etoile's sources, and received a downgraded rating as a result.  When I checked their Sources page today, I received a 404 error, so it appears they are trying to rectify their mistake.

August 19th, 2012 - Blogger Brunch Menu

(actual source list - not copied from L'Etoile)

Baked Maple Cinnamon-Sugar Donuts
·    cake flour - King Arthur Flour
  • egg - Elysium Ranch (delivered with CSA box)
  • vanilla Greek yogurt - Chobani
  • maple syrup - Trader Joe's
  • cinnamon - Penzey's 
Vanilla  Greek Yogurt Parfaits
·         vanilla Greek yogurt - Chobani
·         raspberries and blueberries - Pick n' Save
·         vanilla almond granola, almonds, pecans - Pick n' Save bulk bins 
Veggie Frittata & Foil Packet Potatoes
  • eggs - Elysium Ranch (delivered with CSA box)
  • Fondy Jack goat cheese - LaClare Farms (delivered with CSA box)
  • tarragon and parsley - my container garden
  • salt and black pepper - Penzey's
  • summer squash - Fussville Farm Stand in Menomonee Falls
  • green bell peppers - HighCross Farm CSA box
  • yellow onion - Fussville Farm Stand in Menomonee Falls
  • garlic cloves - HighCross Farm CSA box
  • kale - my container garden
  • potatoes - Fussville Farm Stand in Menomonee Falls
Cantaloupe - Fussville Farm Stand in Menomonee Falls

August 17, 2012

Baked Zucchini Parmesan

I received two beautiful eggplant in my CSA box yesterday, and recently saw a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan on the Art of Natural Living, which is the one eggplant dish I've never tried.

It seemed similar to the oven-fried zucchini I make, which got me wondering what it might be like to make a combination dish.  As it turned out, I didn't care for the eggplant, but the zucchini was fantastic baked with marinara sauce and topped with additional Parmesan cheese.

The eggplant was too chewy prepared the same way as the zucchini.  As Chris said "I feel like a cow chewing its cud."  Next time, I'll make this dish with summer squash only.

This is a pretty simple meal to prepare, especially if you go with zucchini only and skip the eggplant.  Just coat each slice of summer squash in herbed panko bread crumbs, bake for 10 minutes, then cover in marinara sauce, Parmesan cheese and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Baked Zucchini Parmesan
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients (2 main dish servings)
  • 2 medium summer squash, sliced into 1/4" rounds
  • 3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Heat oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a small bowl, combine the panko, cheese, herbs, garlic powder and pepper.
  • In another small bowl, combine the canola oil and water with a fork. Moisten summer squash rounds in this mixture, then dip in the panko mixture, covering both sides.
  • Bake for 7 minutes, or until rounds are lightly browned. Turn zucchini over; bake 3 minutes more.
  • Place summer squash rounds in a shallow baking dish, top with marinara sauce and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on the sauce. Bake for 10 minutes.
Recipe adapted from: From Asparagus to Zucchini
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August 16, 2012

The Yard at The Iron Horse Hotel {Milwaukee}

After visiting the Harley-Davidson Museum this afternoon for a department work outing, a co-worker made the fantastic suggestion of stopping at The Iron Horse Hotel for a drink.

We had heavy rain here this morning, but by 4pm the sun was out and the weather was ideal for sitting in The Yard (their outdoor bar).

The Harley-Davidson Museum is not my idea of a good time, but if you find yourself forced to go there like I was, it is nice that The Iron Horse Hotel is close by. I was surprised to see just how close it was as we crossed a bridge connecting two building in the museum.

Don't get me wrong, the museum is very nice and many people in our group loved the tour. I just have zero interest in motorcycles.

Since we arrived at The Yard around 4pm, I figured we would get to take advantage of some drink specials. Happy Hour is something I rarely make it to since I typically work until 6pm. Sadly, The Yard offers no drink specials...ever.

So I sipped my $13 margarita and enjoyed being outside in the sun on a work day at 4pm :) If you're into beer, bottles were $5. I wish I liked beer, it'd be so much cheaper to go out.

The Yard is known for their Back Yard Pizzas which are made in a wood-burning brick oven. I chose their Makin' Bacon pizza, which was delicious and contains local ingredients.

My pizza choice had Nueske's smoked bacon, caramelized onions, roasted Yukon gold potatoes, Clock Shadow Creamery Quark cheese and fresh herbs.

I love the atmosphere of The Yard. Colorful sail canopies provide shade, and there was a wide choice of comfortable seating on a weekday :)