Chippewa Valley Food Tours

Steak, cocktails, wine, coffee and ice cream along with a little history and a stroll through downtown–can you think of a better way to spend a Saturday? Yeah, me neither. This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend Eau Claire’s premiere food and history tour presented by Chippewa Valley Tours. And let me tell you, this weekly escapade is not something you want to miss. With tours scheduled every Saturday from 1:30-4:30pm throughout the summer, there’s sure to be one that will jive with your schedule. And if you’re hosting any out of town guests this is definitely the number one way to show them what this great city has to offer. $65 gets you a three hour guided historical walking tour through downtown Eau Claire with leisurely stops at 6 local businesses where you’ll sample their signature dishes and drinks and talk with the head chefs and owners. This tour really showcases all of the amazing cuisine that Eau Claire has to offer and is a great preview of the city for out of town guests but equally as exciting for locals as well.

I should begin by giving a huge thanks to Chippewa Valley Tours for hosting Midwest Foodie on their tour. Obviously as a born and raised Eau Clairian and self-proclaimed foodie, I have been dying to go on this tour since I first heard about it. I was thoroughly impressed with the amount of work and coordination they have put into this comprehensive tour. Even after living here all my life I learned things about the city I had never known. I also enjoyed meeting the chefs and owners of these businesses; getting to see the passion they have for their craft and for this city was very inspiring.

Tour Kick Off – The Local Store

We kicked off the tour by meeting at The Local Store (and Volume One Headquarters). I’d recommend arriving at least a half hour before your departure time so you can peruse the store and take in all of the local art they’ve got hanging in the gallery.

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First Stop – The Lakely

After a quick history of the Volume One building and surrounding areas, we were off! The first stop on our tour was The Lakely¬†which is housed inside the iconic Oxbow Hotel. We stopped in for a cold cocktail and a koldtboard presented by Chef Nathan Berg. To say that he is a favorite chef among locals would be understatement. To say that he is an amazingly humble culinary legend in this region would be more accurate. If it weren’t for the recording setting heat, I can only imagine we would have shared the bountiful koltboards on the cedar patio and pergola located just outside the main dining area. For locals and out-of-towners alike, The Lakely is a must see location in Eau Claire.

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Second Stop – Northbound Supply Company

The second stop on our tour was Northbound Supply Company. With everything from specialty coffee drinks to hiking gear this spot has become a fast favorite among locals. I could not have been more delighted to see a big lineup of iced beverages waiting for us on the counter as we walked in to seek refuge from the 93 degree heat. We chose the Double Bogey (cold brew, tonic water, mint simple syrup–very inventive and delicious) and the Kombucha. We had enough time to look around, chat with one of the owners, Matt, who is also the mastermind behind all of their extremely unique caffeinated beverages, and then it was off to Phoenix Park with a bit of historical background sprinkled along the way.

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A few more tidbits of history as we relaxed in Phoenix Park and lots of interesting info about the current remodel of the riverfront area.

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Third Stop – The Informalist

Then we ventured into the heart of downtown, walking on the shady side of the street to avoid overheating to our third stop of the day, The Informalist.¬†Head Chef Joey Sieg gave us the run down of what we’d be sampling–spicy beef with bok choy and a carrot and red pepper salad with citrus dressing–while Alex, the Food and Beverage Manager answered questions and chatted with us as well. As with all the stops on our tour, the cocktails were on point and the food was outrageously delicious.

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Fourth Stop – The Rev

The fourth, and easily my favorite stop on the tour, was the wine tasting at The Rev. With much anticipation from local wine drinkers, The Rev (short for The Revolutionary) is set to open this summer and is a relaxed wine bar serving beer and liquor as well. They will also have house-made charcuterie boards and alcohol available off sale until midnight. Owned by Ben and Kate Haas, The Rev is aiming to take the snootiness out of wine drinking and allow it’s guests to sample wines in a comfortable, non-judgemental environment. I am already planning to stop by every Thursday night for a bottle of wine and a cheeseboard before Music in the Park!

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Fifth Stop – Houligan’s

Another hometown favorite, the fifth stop on our tour was Houligan’s. Their classic steak and seafood menu has gained quite a following over the years which has made them a popular place among locals. Owner, John presented us with one of their signature dishes–steak bites with Gorgonzola and balsamic drizzle. Just the right amount of food before we were back hitting the pavement on the way to our last destination.

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Sixth Stop – Ramone’s Ice Cream Parlor

The sixth and final stop on our tour was a local favorite, Ramone’s. If you’ve driven downtown on a warm summer day, you’ve no doubt seen the line of people out the door and around the corner waiting to get a homemade waffle cone, with a malted milk ball in the bottom, piled high with The Chocolate Shoppe ice cream from Madison, Wisconsin. As soon as we arrived we were each greeted by not one, not two, but three dishes of ice cream. Exhausted Parent (chocolate chunks in coffee ice cream) was easily my favorite, and not just because I am one. As we finished our ice cream each guest received an envelope filled with coupons to tons of local downtown businesses as well.

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Be sure to check out Chippewa Valley Tours Facebook and Instagram pages for more tours being added. Future tours include a Chippewa Falls food tour (coming in August), as well as a tour of local farms in the area, ending at Autumn Harvest Winery with food provided by Amy of Locavore Mobile Kitchen, made with ingredients from all the local farms. They’ve also got an overnight family tour in the works that includes 3 different children’s museums and water parks in the area. Chippewa Valley Tours is going to do great things for the Eau Claire area and local businesses; this is definitely one business you want to keep an eye on.

Better Than Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

I know it’s quite a statement to say that these are better than Reese’s. But they are. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good ol’ commercially produced peanut butter cup as much as the next gal. But when you make your own, they just taste way better! I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. But I would take these over a mini Reese’s cup in a heartbeat.

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Personally, I am always reaching for a sweet treat after I finish lunch. And dinner. And then usually before bed too. It needs to have chocolate and it needs to be tasty. The cups fit the bill on both accounts. And the best part is they are healthy(ish)!

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Filled with peanut butter, old fashioned rolled oats, honey, a pinch of salt, chocolate and coconut oil you can feel good about serving these treats to your kiddos (and indulging in a couple yourself). They also couldn’t be easier to makes; no baking or fancy equipment required.

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Better Than Reese's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

  • Servings: 24
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • pinch Kosher salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (dark, milk, whatever you want)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

Directions

In a bowl combine peanut butter, oats, honey and salt. Place mixture in the fridge to harden.

Add chocolate chips and coconut oil to a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second increments, stirring until it’s melted and smooth. Line mini cupcake pans with 24 mini cupcake liners. Scoop about half a teaspoon of chocolate into the bottom of each liner and use the back of the spoon to spread chocolate across the bottom and slightly up the sides a well.

Using a teaspoon cookie scoop, scoop balls of the peanut butter mixture then use your palm to flatten them into discs. Press the discs into the chocolate coated cupcake liners and top them about a teaspoon or so of chocolate. Use the back of the spoon to smooth out the chocolate on top and make sure it meets the chocolate from the bottom, sealing the peanut butter inside.

Refrigerate for about 20 minutes or until set. Keep them in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

I have tried this with regular Jif peanut butter and natural peanut butter. I find that the Jif works better as the natural seems to be a little too stiff and doesn’t give you that same creamy texture.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (3)

Spinach Manicotti with Creamy Tomato Sauce

Let’s talk about the five main food groups. Carbs, cheese, sauce, wine and dessert. Pair this delicious manicotti with a big glass of wine and you’ve got 4 out of the 5 covered! My husband always jokes that the only thing I ever want to eat is bread, sauce and cheese. And he’s not wrong. Pizza is my one true love and melted brie with fig jam and sliced French baguette is a close second. I mean I do eat plenty of fruits and veggies and I love a nice big salad loaded with all kinds of toppings, but if I’m going to indulge, I’m having some kinda of carb topped with lots of sauce and lots of cheese. And this is my indulgence for the week.

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I can guarantee this will quickly become one of your family’s favorite meals. My toddler gobbled this stuff up. Like I think she ate two whole manicotti by herself. With a fork ya’ll. She’s getting so big.

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Have you tried baking uncooked noodles in sauce before? I remember the first time I ever heard of such a thing. It was a few years ago now. I was diving head first into a pan of my mother-in-law’s lasagna and when I came up for air she told me she did not boil the noodles before she baked the lasagna. Whaaaaa?????? I could NOT believe it. It was definitely an “aha” moment for me and I’ve never boiled a lasagna noodle since.

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I find that the lasagna (and manicotti in this case) holds together better when the noodles are not boiled before baking. I’m sure it has something to do with the starches being released during the cooking process or something. But I’m not into all that science stuff. That’s what I’m not much of a baker. Too much science and exact measurements.

Spinach Manicotti with Sausage and Creamy Tomato Sauce

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

  • 5 cups of my Secret Family Recipe Spaghetti Sauce¬†(or your favorite brand)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1 (16 oz.) box of uncooked manicotti noodles
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 (16 oz.) container park skim ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley + more for garnish
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl combine chopped spinach, ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 2 cups mozzarella, parsley, egg yolks, a large pinch of pepper and a couple large pinches of salt. Transfer to a piping bag (a gallon Ziploc baggy works well too).

Spread 1 cup of spaghetti sauce evenly in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Cut the tip off your piping bag about the width of the mancotti noodles. You’ll want a large opening so you can easily pipe the filling into the noodles. No need to cook them before you bake. They will do their magic in the oven and hold together much better. Pipe the filling into one end of the noodle, then flip the noodle and fill the other side. This technique will ensure that the entire inside of the noodle is filled. I was able to fill all 14 noodles.

Place filled manicotti in the baking dish so they are touching but not too smooshed together as they will expand during the cooking process. Pour remaining sauce in an even layer on top of the noodles. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for 50 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over top of the noodles and bake for another 5 minutes uncovered. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and enjoy!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (7)

Bacon & Leek Pizza with Dill Pesto

Do you have a Woodman’s where you live? Have you tried ordering your groceries online? You literally pick out exactly what you want (including back ups in case they are out of something) and pick the date/time you want to pick them up. They text you a reminder when your groceries are ready and you text them back when you have arrived. They wheel the groceries right out to your car and even help you load it up. It literally could not be easier! It¬†has saved us so much time it’s ridiculous! There is a $4.95 charge if your order is $50-$99.99 but get your order over $100 and it’s free! In the long run I’m convinced it’s also saved us money too, because there’s no impulse purchases as you’re navigating the aisles.

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The biggest plus for me is the not having to deal with the anxiety and annoyance of grocery shopping. I hate dealing with the aisle blockers, slow walkers, dilly dalliers, loud talkers, yelling parents, screaming children (mostly my own) and worst of all those shoppers who act like they are literally the only people in the entire store. You know the ones, blocking the entire dairy aisle with their perpendicular cart only to leave it in the middle of the aisle and wander down 10 feet to look at the sour cream. Meanwhile a line of 8 people is waiting to get around her. I may have lost my temper a bit and after politely saying, “Excuse me” also muttered under my breath, “Not like there’s a line of 10 people behind you.” This lady got super pissed and started yelling at me. Admittedly, I was being a bit snippy and I probably deserved the words she said to me. But damn lady, get outta the freakin’ way! We all have places to go and no one wants to stand here and watch you spend 20 minutes debating sour cream brands.

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So now it’s click, click, click, pick up my groceries and I’m done. No more starting shit at the grocery store for me!

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I do have one complaint though…I hate all the plastic bags! I have tried writing “paper bags only, no plastic bags please” in the notes section of every single order, and I still get everything in plastic bags. I could probably bring my own canvas grocery bags and switch them out, but you know they are just going to throw away those plastic bags and no reuse them, so what’s the point? At least when I get them home, I can recycle them. But, come on Eau Claire, let’s get on this “plastic bag ban” bandwagon please!

Rant over. This pizza is delicious and you need to make it now. It easy, it tastes great and your family will love you for putting this delicious creation on the dinner table.

Bacon and Leek Pizza with Dill Pesto

  • Servings: 2-3
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Ingredients

  • 1 (12-14 inch) pizza crust (1/4 of my no knead pizza dough recipe)
  • 1/2 recipe of my homemade dill pesto (or 1/2 cup of your fave pesto)
  • 1 medium leek, thinly sliced
  • 4 strips crispy bacon, crumbled
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Garnish: fresh chopped dill

Directions

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. If you’re using my no knead pizza dough recipe, line a pizza pan or baking sheet with foil and and sprinkle a thin layer of corn meal to prevent the crust from sticking. Turn the dough ball out onto a floured work surface. Gently shape it into a disc, then carefully working in a clockwise motion, gently press and stretch the dough into a 12 inch circle. Don‚Äôt overwork the dough; the less you touch it the better. If you’re using a pre-baked store bought crust you can skip these steps and just place your crust on a foil lined pan.

Spread pesto in an even layer across the pizza, leaving about a half inch of crust. Then add, leeks, bacon, mozzarella and Parmesan, spreading everything in an even layer across the crust. Bake for 15 minute or until the edges are dark golden brown and the cheese starts to brown as well. Garnish with fresh dill and serve!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (7)

The Best Ever Crispy Baked Fries

Spoiler Alert: If you just want the recipe keep scrolling because Olivia’s about to get real. I can’t say for sure what it is, but there’s a certain quiet loneliness about the late winter months that I just can’t seem to shake. The warmth of the holidays has worn off, the sun is out for like 3 hours and I’m not much of a cold weather person so I don’t really get anytime quality time with mother nature. Did anyone else feel the seasonal anxiety and depression that comes along with winters in Wisconsin this year? I honestly have never realized it before. But looking back, the last few years I’ve been buried pretty deep in those mid-winter blues. As the sun starts shining, the temps warm up and I come out on the other side now, I noticed that I have quite a distinctive pattern around the same time every year.¬†Usually it’s late January or early February, but sometimes it even rolls into March. I start to feel really out of it and melancholy and start contemplating life and how crazy it all is. Which prompts me to schedule a visit with a doctor, who of course tells me everything is fine and then spring comes and I forget all about it. One year it was a few trips to the ER, a few EKGs and finally an echo-cardiogram because I was having palpitations and chest pains (which I later realized were actually panic attacks). A couple years in a row it’s just triggered me to schedule my annual exam and have some labs drawn; I can’t tell you the number of times they’ve tested my thyroid levels. This year it was some delightful rectal bleeding and lower abdominal CT, followed by a colonoscopy. Oh, and there’s usually a drastic hair cut or color thrown in there somewhere.¬†How have I never noticed this about myself before? But with this realization comes the ability to do something about it!

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Move to a warmer climate, right?! JUST KIDDING. I do love Wisconsin; mostly because it’s where my family lives, but I also appreciate the seasons. Even if I go a little crazy for half the year. Every season has it’s pros and cons, but I like living somewhere where you get to experience each season so distinctly. Plus I hate big spiders, snakes and scorpions. So climates where it’s warm all year are out of the question for me. I need that deep freeze to make sure the spiders only get pretty big and not gigantic.

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This past winter my anxiety actually got so bad and constant that I considered adding some sort of prescription pharmaceutical to my daily routine. Which if you know me at all, is quite a surprising thing to hear (see my latest post regarding a sedation free colonoscopy) because I am someone who hates to even take Excedrin when I have a raging migraine with aura. But, almost like clockwork, the seasons have begun to change and I am feeling good again. Certainly not anxiety free, but leaps and bounds better than I had been feeling even just a month ago.

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*Just to clarify: I am in no way putting down those who take prescriptions for anything. I realize it is very necessary for many and might even be for me some day. I just really hate to put any medication of any kind into my body so when I started to consider it, it was a sign that my anxiety was really starting to take a toll on me.¬†It’s so important to listen to your body and take it’s queues.

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The Best Crispy Baked Fries

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. russet potatoes
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice each potato into 1/2 inch slices, then cut each slice into 1/2 inch wide sticks. So basically, cut the potatoes into french fries. Then add potatoes, oil, garlic powder, thyme and paprika to a large bowl. Add a couple generous pinches of salt and large pinch of pepper. Stir until seasoning is well distributed and fries are well coated.

Spread fries in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the fries so all sides get nice and crispy. Bake for another 15 minutes.

Then crank the heat to 500 and bake for 15 minutes. Flip fries and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until desired crispiness is reached. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce. I’m not going to pretend like mine isn’t Heinz ketchup, because it is.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (8)

The Best Roasted Breakfast Potatoes

I can guarantee these will be the best breakfast potatoes you have ever eaten. They are golden brown and crispy on the outside, while perfectly tender and soft on the inside. They are seasoned but not too salty or too herbaceous. These are the perfect accompaniment to a sunny side up egg with a buttered piece of toast a few slices of ripe avocado.

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I have never before cooked breakfast potatoes with such ease and grace and I owe it all to Ree Drunmond over at a little blog called The Pioneer Woman. Ever heard of it? I thought you might have. My recipe was adapted from her’s and I think we can all agree that Ree takes the cake when it comes to any sort of comfort food.

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These potatoes do all of their work in the oven, leaving you free to prepare other food on your stove top or just kick back and relax with a cup of tea. I used to dice my potatoes, boil them, drain them, saute them in oil and spices and every single time I’d end up with soggy, overcooked potatoes and still somehow never managed to get golden brown on the outside.

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Then while laying in bed on Sunday morning, I scrolled across this recipe from The Pioneer Woman. And I thought, hell yeah! This is worth trying. The potatoes are roasted at 425 for about 25 minutes to get them nice and tender, then you crank the heat to 500 for another 20 minutes to give them that golden brown color and crispiness on the outside. It’s genius. And if you’ve ever used any of Ree’s recipes before, I’m sure you’re not surprised. Her recipes are always spot on and super tasty.

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The Best Breakfast Potatoes

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs. baby red potatoes, large diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt
  • large pinch Kosher salt
  • pinch fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Start by heating your oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Add all ingredients to a medium sized bowl and stir until potatoes are thoroughly coated. Spread potatoes in a single layer across the pan. Spread them out as much as possible to promote even cooking.

Bake for 25 minutes, stirring potatoes halfway through. Crank the heat up to 500 and bake for another 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve! Does it get any easier than that?

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (1)

 

No Knead Pizza Dough

This recipe is Midwest Foodie’s twist on the famous no knead pizza dough recipe by Jim Lahey. I have made his pizza dough several times and while it is out of this world delicious, I couldn’t help but tweak things just a bit. My only changes are increasing the amount of yeast and adding olive oil to the dough. These may be cardinal sins in some people eye’s but when I make food I’m not really focused on traditional methods or “rules”. I usually just make things the way I like them.

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We eat pizza about once a week. I think we’ve tried every take out pizza restaurant in town and honestly I am not in love with any of them. The only pizza that gets me truly excited is Tutto Bene¬†and they’re portable wood fired pizza oven can only be found during the summer months. So what am I supposed to do for the other 9 months of the year?! Make my own, obviously. Next to Tutto Bene, this crust is the best. And the best part of this pizza dough is the complete lack of effort it takes to make it! Stir your ingredients until the dough comes together and then let it rise for 24 hours.

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Could it be any easier than that? I mean I guess you could buy the dough, that might be easier. But then you’d have to go to the store. So that would not be easier than hanging around in your jammies, sipping a glass of wine and stirring dough for one minute.

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Also, did I mention that I hate pizza crust?? Yeah, I hate it. I eat the part with cheese and sauce and toss the rest–except for this crust. This is the only crust that makes me want to eat the whole entire thing. So all you crust haters, this pizza is for you!

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This recipe makes enough dough for (4) 12 inch pizzas so you can make one now and freeze the rest for another day! Again, some people might say you can’t freeze this dough, but I will tell you that you can and I,¬† in fact,¬† have done it before! When you’re ready for another homemade pizza next week, let the frozen dough thaw in the fridge for 24 hours and then let it rest on your counter for about an hour before shaping and making.

No Knead Pizza Dough

  • Servings: 4 (12 inch) pies
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 500 grams all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + more for oiling the bowl
  • 350 grams lukewarm water

Directions

Add flour, yeast and salt to a large bowl. Stir with a fork to combine. Add oil and water. Stir just until the dough comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Gently drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over the dough ball and roll it around in the oil to coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and place in the warmest part of your kitchen to rise for 24 hours. True story, the warmest part of our kitchen is in one of our lower cupboards right by the heating vent. Some people let the dough rise in their oven, I lock it away in my cupboard.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Divide it into four balls. Working with the first ball, gently shape it into a disc, then carefully working¬† in a clockwise motion, gently press and stretch the dough into a 12 inch circle. Don’t overwork the dough; the less you touch it the better.

Continue the above steps with remaining 3 dough balls if you are baking them right away. If you are not baking them right away, place them into separate airtight containers¬†(so they don’t stick together) and freeze for up to 2 months. When you’re ready for pizza, allow the frozen dough to thaw in your fridge for 24 hours. Then allow the dough to rest on your counter for about an hour before making.

Sprinkle a thin layer of cornmeal down on your pizza pan to prevent the pizza from sticking and place crust on pan. Partially bake your crust for 5 minutes. Then add desired toppings, just be sure not to go overboard or the pizza will get soggy.

Bake at 500 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the crust are golden brown and the toppings are warmed through. For an extra crispy crust, bake it without a pizza pan underneath.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (6)

My Favorite Chicken Burrito Bowl

Do you ever just have “one of those days”? One of those days where you’re so frustrated you just want to scream and pull your hair out at the same time? One of those days where nothing is really actually wrong, yet somehow everything is wrong? One of those days where every drawer in the kitchen that you try to open is jammed so full of stuff you can’t open it and when you do finally get it open you can’t find what you were looking for because there’s so much damn stuff in the drawer?! One of those days when your toddler is cranky and screaming and might be teething and you’re hungry and you don’t want to cook dinner but you’re seriously starving? And you just want to sit on the couch with a glass of wine and shut off all electronics and screaming babies and sit quietly for just a moment.

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Yeah, me neither. My life is perfect. Every day is a gift and nothing is ever wrong and my kitchen drawers are neatly organized and my toddler is never grumpy and I always love making dinner and I never want to sit on the couch and have a glass of wine in the quiet.

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Right… Now, all kidding aside…I had “one of those days” just yesterday. My husband was at work so I had no reinforcement, every drawer in my kitchen was filled with crap and jammed shut, I hadn’t meal prepped for the week so I had no dinner, and my toddler literally screamed for an hour about nothing. So amidst it all, I poured myself a glass of wine, turned off the TV and sat down on the couch. I pulled my daughter up on my lap and started very loudly exhaling. Then inhaling. Then exhaling. And you know what my daughter did? She started mimicking me! Breathing in and out, loudly through her mouth. It looked almost comical when she did it. And I couldn’t help but smile and laugh.

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All I needed was a moment of relaxation a little bit of joy and I felt immensely better! I left the chores for tomorrow and we both went to bed early and got a good night’s sleep and I woke up this morning ready to concur the world–or at least ready to clean out the drawers in my kitchen.

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I am trying to get better and taking things one moment at a time. Sometimes I get so preoccupied with the future and getting things done that I forget to enjoy the little moments that are happening right now. So for the time being, my kitchen drawers are clean and I am taking time to meal prep this delicious recipe and enjoy a healthy lunch!

My Favorite Burrito Bowl

  • Servings: 5
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. chicken breast, thinly sliced widthwise
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 green pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 (15 oz.) can corn, drained
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 1 cup pico de gallo
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • optional: fresh guacamole for topping

Directions

First, start by cooking your rice according to package directions. We have this awesome rice cooker so it takes about 20-25 minutes to cook 2 cups (which makes 4 cups when cooked). While the rice is cooking, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Combine chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and  onion powder in a small bowl along with a large pinch of salt and pepper. Use about 2/3 of your spice mixture to season both sides of the chicken breast. Saute chicken breast for 3-4 minutes on each side or until each side is dark golden brown and the chicken is cooked through. If the pan seems to be getting to dry/burnt before the chicken is cooked, add a splash of chicken broth or water, cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and allow the chicken to finish cooking. I find that this method works well without adding additional oil or drying out the chicken. Transfer chicken to a cutting board to rest.

Heat the last teaspoon of olive oil in the same large saute pan over medium heat. Add green pepper, onion and a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute for 3-4 minutes and add the remaining seasoning mixture. Add a splash of water and stir to evenly coat veggies in seasoning. Remove from heat and set aside.

Time to assemble! I divided this recipe into 5 lunches but you could easily adjust the serving size to fit your needs. Start with a bed of brown rice, then divide beans, corn, veggies, chicken, pico de gallo and cilantro evenly between each serving. Top with a heap of guacamole just before serving if you’d like. Now you can enjoy healthy burrito bowls in a moment’s notice all week long!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (10)

 

My Favorite Veggie Enchiladas

Resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something. Have you started making your New Year’s resolutions yet? Or at least started thinking about them? I don’t usually make resolutions anyway, but this year I decided I am going to set my intentions for the year. They are your typical resolution-ish type intentions but there is nothing firm or concrete about them. They are more like goals. Long term goals that I have a year to work towards. That sounds way better than resolutions, right?

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What are my intentions for 2018 you might ask? Well, let¬†me share a few with you! Probably the most common resolution people make is to cut back on drinking. Well that’s number one on my list! I have been trying (with¬†very little¬†success) to lose weight (for the last…10 years¬†maybe?)¬†and I think that my daily glass (or two on the weekend!) of vino¬†could definitely be hindering my journey. But seriously, this time of year a glass of malbec is my favorite way to unwind after a long day… So my new night cap? Tea! I am trying all kinds of new decaf teas to cozy up with this season.

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Next on my list is spending more time being present at home. It’s¬†so easy to get sucked into our hand held devices and I¬†am guilty of spending too much time with my face in front of my phone instead of in front of the people I love. So this year, I am trying oh so hard to put that phone down and limit the time I spend looking at everyone else’s delish food. Which is kind of ironic if you think about it, because I’m posting my food photos hoping that everyone else will spend their time looking at them…

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Another big intention of mine this year is to take more time for self-care. I spend a large majority of my time thinking about everyone else in my life and I¬†don’t often take time for myself to unwind, relax, re-group or just chill. This intention actually goes hand in hand with another intention…to wake up earlier! Mornings will be “me time” from now on. No more hitting the snooze button; I will be setting my alarm 1 hour earlier and plan to use this extra time to make breakfast, enjoy a¬†cup of coffee, blog, do yoga; whatever my heart desires!

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Lastly, I also intend to continue meal prepping like crazy this year and filling my house with delicious food. Like this recipe. Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season!

My Favorite Veggie Enchiladas

  • Servings: 12 enchiladas
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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon + 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 3¬†cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans
  • 1 (15 oz.) can corn
  • 1 small can diced green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon diced chiles in adobo
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onion + more for garnish
  • 12 fajita size tortillas
  • 1 (15 oz.) can of your favorite enchilada sauce
  • sour cream for garnish
  • avocado for garnish
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper

Directions

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, pepper and a pinch of salt and pepper and sauté for about 4 minutes. Then add garlic and sauté for another minute. Then add cumin, chili powder, beans, corn, green chiles, chiles in adobo and another pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine until everything is well coated in seasoning. Then add cream cheese and stir until melted. Remove pan from heat and stir in 2 cups of cheddar and 1/2 cup of sliced green onion.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Time to fill and roll the enchiladas! Each enchilada will get about 1/2 a cup of filling. It’s easiest to spread¬†the filling in an even layer on¬†one¬†half of the tortilla. Then with the filling side closest to you, roll the tortilla away from yourself until the¬†enchilada is rolled into a tight cylinder. Place seam side down on the lined baking sheet.

Use a brush to coat the outside of each enchilada using the remaining olive oil. You may not use the entire 1/4 cup of olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and use a spoon (or brush if you prefer) to coat the outside of each enchilada with enchilada sauce. Reserve the rest of the sauce for serving. Divide the rest of the cheddar cheese evenly between the enchiladas and bake for another 5-8 minutes or until the cheese is warm and melty.

Heat remaining enchilada sauce over medium heat until warm.

Then remove enchiladas from the oven and garnish with sour cream, avocado and sliced green onion. Serve with warm enchilada sauce and enjoy!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (1)

 

Creamy Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

This is my most favorite soup I have ever made!¬†It¬†is so hearty and creamy–perfect for the single digit¬†temps and windy nights we’ve been experiencing up here in the Midwest.¬†My husband made a delicious potato soup last week (maybe you saw it on Insta?) so we still had broth, carrots, celery and onion waiting¬†to be transformed into something delicious.

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I debated long and hard about whether it would benefit from the addition of chicken breast and in the end, I’m glad I decided to skip it and add mushrooms instead.

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It has just enough cream to make it feel indulgent, but it’s also loaded with veggies so you can feel good about eating and serving it to your family. A big loaf of crusty bread and a side salad of mixed greens would¬†round out this dish into the perfect winter¬†meal!

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Creamy Wild Rice & Mushroom Soup

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2¬†large onion, diced
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 16¬†ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups veggie broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3¬†tablespoons corn starch
  • 3 teaspoons dried sage + 3 sprigs fresh sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Start by heating olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms, thyme, rosemary, onion powder, garlic powder and a large pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add garlic and cook for another minute.

Add veggie broth and wine to the pot. Then dissolve cornstarch in 3 tablespoons water and add the slurry to the pot as well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer on medium high for 50 minutes.

Then stir in cream and parsley, add more salt and pepper to taste and serve!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets

Secret Family Recipe Falafel and Tzatziki

If you follow me on Insta then you saw this epic grain bowl I had at Forage a couple weeks back. It honestly was life changing. I know I know, you might think that sounds crazy. But it was seriously loaded with so much flavor and healthy ingredients; I’ve just had grain bowls on the brain ever since I ate it. So this weekend I turned to another grain bowl for my weekly meal prep menu.

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I fell in love with falafel at first bite down at Water Street Deli many years ago when I was a broke college student living downtown. It was cheap and the portions were huge.¬†And I had never had anything like it before. Growing up in the Midwest in a mostly “meat and potatoes” home the flavors my taste buds were experiencing were life changing. And ever since I have had a great¬†fondness for falafel.

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Oh and tzatziki. Don’t even get me started on my love for that sauce–I can’t get enough of the stuff. I have a weakness for sauces and condiments in general, but then add fresh dill and lemon. Game over.

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Secret Family Recipe Falafel

  • Servings: a million, actually like 50 depending on their size
  • Print

Ingredients

For the falafel:

  • 3 (15 oz.) cans garbanzo beans, drained (but not rinsed)
  • 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • olive oil for frying

For the tzatziki:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed dill
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Start by adding the onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper to a food processor. Process for about a minute or so, scraping the sides as needed, until everything is finely minced. Add one can of garbanzo beans and process for another minute or two until the beans are finely minced, but not quite hummus consistency. Transfer herb and garbanzo mixture to a large bowl.

Add remaining two cans of garbanzo beans to the food processor and pulse until the beans are chopped, but still in pretty large pieces. This will give your falafel some texture. If you don’t want texture, process them a bit more. Add them to the large bowl and sprinkle the flour over the mixture. Stir until flour is well combined. Then add egg and stir until egg is well combined. Refrigerate for about one hour.

While the falafel are chilling, get the tzatziki made. Add ingredients to a food processor and process until everything is finely minced and a sauce forms. Add water to thin if your sauce seems too thick. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil or enough to coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer. Using a tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop falafel into equal size balls and then using slightly oiled hands, gently form them into discs. Cook them in batches of about 7-8 at a time depending on the size of your pan. Be sure to leave about an inch between each falafel so as not to crowd the pan.

Cook each side for about 3-4 minutes or until a dark golden brown crust forms. Transfer to a paper towel lined baking sheet and continue cooking remaining falafel. Serve with tabbouleh, hummus, sliced cucumber, sliced tomato, sliced red onion, green olive and of course loads of tzatziki. Or wrap them up in some fresh pita bread!

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (2)

 

Caramel Pecan Oatmeal Cookie Bars

While I am technically a “millennial”¬†I don’t identify with a lot of the qualities commonly associated with them. I don’t take selfies. Well, I should¬†rephrase that, I¬†very rarely take selfies and when¬†I do it’s of me and my daughter or husband. I’m also¬†not technologically savvy in the least and often learn about the latest tech news from my father (I realize this should be the other way around but I have accepted that it is not and never will be).

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However one millennial quality that I can identify with is the expectation of¬†instant gratification. I am not someone who¬†can sit down and spend 30 hours quilting little tiny squares of fabric together. While¬†I can appreciate the beauty of the art,¬†I do not have the patience to complete it. I will spend 1-2 hours crocheting a scarf, but even that is cutting it close to my limit and I’ve got to be watching something on TV or have something going on around me. I don’t have the patience for things that take a long time. I want things done and I want them done yesterday. Even waiting for things to ship in two days from Amazon Prime can sometimes be agonizing for me.

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So when I look back on my childhood and all the hours my grandma spent in the kitchen with me teaching me how to bake, and all the hours in the living room teaching me how to knit and crochet, I wonder how she had so much damn patience??!! Obviously I grew up in a different time where constant stimulation and instant gratification were not as readily available as they are today. But still, my grandma had some real patience with 8 year old me. She sparked my interest in creating (food and scarves alike) and allowed me to explore my creative side. I am thankful everyday for her patience with me in the kitchen and I sometimes have to remind myself that I need to have that same patience as I pass these traditions down to my family.

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One of those traditions is our family cookie exchange. Which¬†is actually¬†a new tradition we are starting this year, so maybe¬†I can’t really call it a tradition yet then…?¬†It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never got around to. However this year the stars have aligned–or more accurately, I remembered to ask my family if they wanted to¬†do¬†it before Christmas¬†had come and gone.¬†My little sisters are¬†always asking to¬†bake and love to help in the kitchen whenever they can so I will try to channel my late grandmother’s patience as we embark on this new family tradition.

If you need a new recipe for your cookie exchange this year…here you go! They are just the right amount of sweet with a hint of cinnamon, perfectly chewy¬†with just enough oatmeal to almost seem healthy¬†and they’ve¬†got chunks of chewy caramel and my favorite nut¬†in the world, toasted pecans.

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Caramel Pecan Oatmeal Cookie Bars

  • Servings: 12-16 bars
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter, melted then cooled slightly
  • 1/2 cup granulate sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 1 cup diced caramels

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix butter and both sugars until well combined. Add egg and vanilla and mix until well combined. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add dry ingredients to the large bowl of wet ingredients. Stir until just combined, then fold in oats, pecans and caramels until well distributed.

Grease an 8×8 or 9×9 pan with butter or oil (you could also use a 9×13 if you want thinner cookie bars). Transfer dough to the pan and use your hands to smoosh it into¬†an even layer. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cooked through and the edges start to pull away from the side. The top of the cookie bars won’t get too dark, but the bottom will brown up nicely. They will also harden as they cool giving you the perfect chewy oatmeal¬†cookie bar. Slice into 12-16 bars and serve slightly warm.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (4)

 

Beer Braised Pork Carnitas

Try as I might, I am not a morning person. I never have been. I‚Äôm definitely not a night owl either. I‚Äôm more of a¬†‚Äúneeds 9 hours of sleep to function properly or I‚Äôll be super grumpy‚ÄĚ kind of person. When I was younger my parents used to call me Margaret whenever I was tired and grumpy. Or hungry and grumpy. Looking back on it now, I realize it was their polite way of telling me to quit being a grouch. I shared this fond memory with my husband years ago¬†and he has carried on the tradition of calling me Margaret since he takes the brunt of her grumpiness. Lucky him…

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And so, Margaret has kind of become my alter ego. I try not to let her out, but sometimes it just happens. It‚Äôs usually when I‚Äôm woken up any time between 10pm and 8am. Or whenever I go more than 3 hours without eating. But seriously other than that, I’m pretty easy going, I swear.¬†Every once in a while I forget about¬†Margaret and¬†I get this crazy idea that I‚Äôm going to start being a morning person. Not just a morning person, but a morning person who works out. In the¬†morning. Before I go to work.¬†In the morning. Even as I type the words, I realize how crazy it sounds.

But¬†without fail, every few months¬†I try for a week to wake up at 6am and get my sweat on. And without fail, when¬†my alarm goes off at 6am, I shut¬†it off, reset it for 730am and go back to bed. Then at some point¬†I feel frustrated and Margaret probably makes an appearance and nobody is happy and I’m still not a morning person.¬†So just like last week, when I came to terms with not being a gardener, now I am admitting that I will never be a morning person.

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To minimize the appearance of Margaret and let myself sleep in as much as possible, I have been getting really into meal prep on Sundays. My goal each Sunday is to create two meals that we can eat throughout the week that are healthy and satisfying at the same time. This week, it was Beer Braised Pork Carnitas (which I mixed with brown rice, black beans and veggies to make burrito bowls) and Turkey Meatball Gyros. I find that my mornings run so much smoother when I can just grab my lunch from the fridge and go. And I’m less tempted to eat crap when I get home from work if I have dinner made already.

This recipe makes a ton of carnitas because no matter what I always find myself wishing there were more. These would be great to make and then freeze too if you’re just cooking for one or if you don’t like to eat the same thing multiple times in a row. However, once you taste these carnitas, chances are pretty good you’ll want to just eat them until they’re gone. They are juicy and tender, but also crisp and filled with flavor. And best of all, they are SUPER easy to make. 20 minutes of prep and the rest is just inactive cooking time. Alternately you could make these carnitas in a slow cooker too. I’d cook¬†the pork on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours, checking about halfway through to see how¬†tender and shreddable they’ve gotten. I usually just want to eat them as soon as possible, so I make them on the stove. My favorite new dressing/dipping sauce for anything Mexican is equal parts¬†full fat Greek yogurt mixed with Taco Bell hot sauce. It might sounds weird, but it’s really good and mostly healthy.

Beer Braised Pork Carnitas

  • Servings: 10
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons¬†+¬†3-4 teaspoons¬†olive oil, divided
  • 4 lb. pork shoulder/butt roast
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz. bottle of your favorite beer
  • 32 oz. chicken stock
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. In a small bowl combine cumin, oregano, chili powder, paprika, cayenne and a couple large pinches of salt and pepper. Rub spice mixture all over the surface of the pork roast. Place roast into the pot and cook each side for about 1-2 minutes or until the entire outside of the roast is seared nice and dark golden brown. Remove roast from the pot and set aside for the moment. Add onion to the pot and turn heat to medium. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute, stirring often. Put roast back into the pot.

Add beer, chicken stock and orange zest and juice to the pot. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer on medium low for about 2 hours or until pork shreds easily with two forks.

Transfer pork to a large bowl. Heat the same pot you cooked the pork in over medium high heat. Working in batches, add one teaspoon olive oil and then an even layer of pork. Sauté the shredded pork for about 1-2 minutes, then flip it over and let the other side get nice and crisp. The goal here is to have tender, juicy shredded pork with dark golden brown crispy bits on the ends.

And seriously, don’t skip that last step. It makes the dish.

Serve in a burrito bowl with brown rice, beans and veggies or in a warm corn tortilla with chopped raw onion and fresh cilantro.

Fig Jam, Pear and Grogonzola Tartlets (12)

Grass-fed Beef at Together Farms

On a seasonably warm Friday evening in June I had the pleasure of enjoying the first grass-fed beef grilling class and dinner out at Together Farms in Mondovi, Wisconsin. Located just 30 minutes south of Eau Claire, this beautiful farm is home to many happy hogs and piglets, as well as grass-fed cows and sheep along with a crew of quietly clucky chickens. Much to my delight, upon arrival we were greeted with a complimentary beverage ‚Äď wine, beer, Wisco Pop or water ‚Äď and the wagging tails of four furry doggos. True to form, I chose a nice chilled glass of Pinot Gris and tried to win over the copper colored weiner dog, Winnie.

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Wine in hand, we wandered around the farm, followed by our furry friends, and checked things out while waiting for the other guests to arrive. We walked along the edge of the pond and admired the beautiful rolling hills that sometimes go unappreciated. We said hello to the chickens and visited the piggies in their large pen. The cows were in a pasture too far away to see since they move them frequently to graze in different areas, but if you stood still enough you could almost hear them mooing in the distance. We grabbed a seat around the fire pit, sipped our beverages and just took it all in. The sun was shining, there was a slight breeze keeping all of the gnats away and time seemed to slow down for a bit. I wasn’t checking my phone or thinking about all the errands I had to run. I was able to relax and enjoy the beauty of this Wisconsin family farm.

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Together Farms owners, Stephanie and Andy Schneider, welcomed about 10 guests on this evening, which made for an intimate dining experience and farm tour. They invited chef Luke Bilda to prepare the appetizers and main course, and his creations did not disappoint. We kicked the night off with wasabi bacon deviled eggs–the perfect hand-held snack to take along on the farm tour. Stephanie led us around the property showing us the different livestock while foraging for wild greens to add to our salad for dinner. She explained that when they purchased the farm it was the typical industrial style with soy and corn. They revamped everything creating their own self-sustaining ecosystem and decided to farm the way it was done years ago. When we circled back from the tour there were grilled slices of French baguette and fresh-made tomato bruschetta waiting for us. We nibbled on bruschetta, refreshed our beverages and gathered around the grill for the main event. Chef Luke gave us the basics of grilling with charcoal and propane while he sliced up the tenderloin steaks. We discussed the different cuts of beef offered by Together Farms and how to prepare them. Chef Luke welcomed questions and shared with us the secret to knowing when your steak is done. While the steak was cooking we took a seat around the table and enjoyed a fresh salad with homemade vinaigrette, homemade coleslaw and another helping of bruschetta. Shortly after that, dinner was served! We feasted on Together Farms grass-fed beef tenderloin steaks grilled to perfection, baby red potatoes with fresh dill and grilled portabella mushroom caps. There was no fancy steak seasoning or A1 steak sauce. The beef was so phenomenal that just a hearty sprinkle of salt and pepper was enough. For dessert we enjoyed a rhubarb shrub ‚Äď a delicious drink made from fresh picked rhubarb, gin and simple syrup. We thanked our hosts, said our goodbyes and left feeling full and happy.

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If you’re looking for something a little different for date night, or a new place to go with a group of friends, I would highly recommend taking the short drive out to Together Farms. They have many events coming up this summer including two more grilling nights and several burger nights. The farm is welcoming and relaxing. The owners are kind and inviting and raise their livestock in a humane, loving way. This is a small Wisconsin business that you can feel good about supporting.

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