Weekend in Northern Wisconsin

Since international travel has been indefinitely put on hold, this is the best time to plan ROAD TRIPS! We recently went on a weekend trip to Northern Wisconsin. It was a 3 day get away Monday thru Friday, so I added stops along the way to make the drive a bit more entertaining.

For starters, we rented a cabin in Ladysmith Wisconsin– AirBNB was pretty booked out and we ended up 6 hours north because we wanted a house with a hot tub. We happened to find exactly what we were looking for through Vrbo, click here for a link to the property we stayed at- I highly recommend it! It was super cute and remote- we didn’t even have cell phone service while we were out there, but the house had internet.

On the way up to Ladysmith we stopped at Devil’s Lake State Park, for a hike. We hiked up to the Devil’s Doorway and it was absolutely stunning. You have to purchase a parking pass before you go to the state park and print it out to leave on your dashboard- click here to get your parking sticker- good news is the sticker is good for 1 year. We did the East Bluff / Ice Age Trail, when you get on the trail head you want to go RIGHT to take a more adventurous path to the doorway, then coming back down we took the regular gravel path all the way. We hiked for a total of about 2.5 hours. The views were absolutely beautiful! There are longer hikes at the park if you have more time.

When we were done with the hike, we did a quick outfit change in the car. We then headed to a local winery in the area. The winery allows outside food, so we packed a lunch before leaving home in the morning and brought it along. We went to Baraboo Bluff Winery. The views were absolutely amazing!

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As you can see, I can’t make it up, the views were breathtaking. We were literally on the top of the hill looking down at the winery. The wine tasing was defiantly COVID safe, they had small group tastings and everything looked very clean!

We spend a good hour or so at the winery before continuing our 3 hour journey up north! We stopped an hour before our Vrbo in Eau Claire to grab pizza to bring to the house. We got the the house around 7pm, started up the hot tub and enjoyed the rest of the evening at home! The next morning was relaxing, the air was nice and cool and it was perfect weather to make some pancakes. After breakfast and some morning hot tub time we decided to explore the area and do other hike! Some of the Blue Hill Trails were within a 30 minute drive from the house, We decided to check our the Ice Age Trail. It was definitely a great hike BUT we only got about 15-20 mins in before we were eaten alive by mosquitoes- pro tip: BRING BUG SPRAY!

We decided to go back to the house after the traumatic mosquito situation! The house does have a beautifulbonfire pit but we didn’t use it- we even brought starters and s’mores stuff! We had a little family photo shoot at the house that evening- we even brought matching outfits!

The next morning was a lazy morning, the check out wasn’t until 11am so we relaxed and took our time getting out of there. We started the drive back to Chicago, but we had to stop and get Culver’s along the way! The last stop about an hour and half away from home was a sunflower maze at Von Bergen’s Country Market. Unfortunately it rained while we were headed there, so they were closing down right as we arrived! It was still the most beautiful thing!

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Mushroom Ramen

Ingredients:

  • 1 container chicken broth/ veggie broth
  • Assorted mushrooms of choice (3/4 lb)
  • Dried shiitake mushrooms (optional- these are very strong
  • 3-4 ramen packets
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tbs fresh ginger/ ginger paste
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • Garlic powder (unsalted)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Miso paste
  • Soy sauce
  • 4 eggs
  • Green onions/ scallion (garnish)
  • Corn (fresh or frozen)
  • Butter
  • Red chili flakes
  • Sesame oil (optional)

1. Prepare the toppings

Soft boiled eggs→ bring water to a boil, put in the eggs, boil for 6 minutes, take out and put in a ice water bath, peel and cut in half

Chili garlic sesame oil → heat sesame oil (or vegetable oil), add chili flakes, sesame seeds and garlic powder stir (don’t bring it to a boil or it will burn)

Butter corn → heat the corn and add butter

Cook ramen →boil water, put boiling water into a large bowl, add ramen and let sit for 2-3 minutes. Rinse with cold water (you don’t want to overcook the ramen noodles)

2. Prepare the broth

Sauté the garlic, ginger and onion in oil until the onion shrinks. Add the broth of choice, chopped mushrooms, soy sauce (to taste) and miso paste (to taste). Bring to a boil, I cook it on low heat for 20-30 minutes.

3. Assemble and serve

Put the broth in a bowl, add the ramen end with toppings of choice and serve. You don’t want to add the noodles until the end or they will get soggy. You can always modify your toppings and get creative by adding: spicy miso paste, fried shrimp or tofu, meat of choice, takana, spinach, kimchee, bamboo, seaweed, bean sprouts ect.

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Knock off Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Pizza (Lou’s Special)

I used a Lodge Cast Iron pan to make the deep dish pizza

Pizza dough ingredients:

  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbs active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 4 cups all purpose flour (or bread flour)
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 5 tbs vegetable oil

Other ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Colby jack cheese
  • 2 1/2 fresh spinach (chopped up)
  • 5 cloves of garlic (crushed/ minced)
  • 1 cup pizza or pasta sauce (you can also make your own like I did)
  • Butter

1. Prepare the Dough

Mix together 1 1/2 cups of warm water, 2 tbs active dry yeast and 4 tsp sugar and and let it sit for 3-5 minutes until it foams up/bubbles (this means that the yeast has activated- if you don’t get foam/ bubble you will have to repeat this step or your dough will not rise). Once the yeast is activated, add 5 tbs of vegetable oil into the mixture- this is your wet mixture.

Mix the dry ingredients together- 4 cups of flour and 3 tsp salt. Slowly incorporate your wet mixture into your dry mixture until all the ingredients come together. Kneed the dough for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth.

Let the dough rise until the dough doubles in size- you want to place the dough in a warm dry area to rise or in a warmed oven (turn the oven on for a few minutes and turn it off).

2. Assemble the Pizza

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Once the oven is preheated, heat the empty cast iron pan (12″) in the oven for 3 minutes. Once the pan in heated, butter the pan. Take 1/2 of the prepared dough, form a ball and place it in the center of the pan. Slowly press the dough into the pan and up the edges until the dough is uniformly spread. Lightly butter and salt the open face of the dough, and put it back in the over for 3 minutes.

Remove from the oven, put down a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese, top with fresh mozzarella cheese, layer of spinach mixture (sautéed garlic, spinach, salt until the spinach shrinks and squeeze out excess moisture once it cools), add a layer of sauce, top with a mixture of mozzarella and colby jack cheese, at the end add thinly sliced tomatoes (lightly salt the tomato slices).

3. Cook the Pizza

Cook the pizza at 425°F for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Take the pizza out of the oven and let it cool before using a spatula to remove it from the cast iron pan- this should be very easy since he pan was buttered. Optional step: put the pizza back into the oven for 3-5 minutes to become crispy.

Homemade Deep Dish Pizza

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Fluffy Cloud Japanese Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 1/4 cups milk 
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk plus 3 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • PAM- for cooking
  • Maple syrup- for serving
Special equipment:

 four 3-inch-wide-by-2 1/2-inch-high ring molds: you can use any tall ring you have

This was my first time trying homemade Japanese pancakes and I was pleasantly surprised! They turned out amazing! The easiest way to make this pancake, start with THREE BOWLS!

Bowl 1: Mix together the dry ingredients: flour, confectioners’ sugar, baking powder and salt

Bowl 2: Mix together the wet ingredients: milk, melted butter, vanilla and egg yolk

Bowl 3: Mix 3 egg whites with a hand mixture until white peaks form (this takes about 3-5 minutes depending on the hand mixer

Mx together the contents of bowl 1 and bowl 2 in equal proportions, at the end fold in the contents of bowl 3

Heat up a pan on LOW HEAT- I had it on the lowest setting, spray the pan and the ring. Once the pan is heated pour the batter in 1/2 way into the mold, set a timer for 5 mixtures, flip and cook the other side for 5 more minutes.

Once it’s done pop it out of the mold and top with powder sugar ( confectioners’ sugar). Serve with fresh fruits, whipped cream, and maple syrup!

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Air Fryer Zucchini

Ever wish you could have yummy warm fried zucchini without the guilt of eating deep fried food? Now there is a solution! I LOVE my air frier- I can honestly say, most of the things I make in there actually taste fried! I recently upgraded to the GoWise Air Frier and have no complaints.

Ingredients: 

  • Zucchinis (thinly sliced, I use a Nutri Chopper to make long thin slices)
  • 6-8 oz of soda water
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 4 tbs cornstarch
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp garlic
  • ¼ tsp oregano
  • 3-4 cups panko
  • 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp Romano cheese (optional- I don’t always have this cheese on hand)
  • ½ tsp chopped parsley (optional)

The secret ingredient is the soda water- this makes the zucchini very crispy after it comes out of the air frier!

Combine ½ cup flour, 4 tbs cornstarch, ½ tsp kosher salt, ¼ tsp pepper, ¼ tsp oregano, ¼ tsp garlic (I use dry unsalted garlic), and add to 6 oz soda water and whisk together – do not over-mix (you don’t want the soda water to lose all of its carbonation. Batter should be the consistency of thin pancake batter- if it is too thick, soda water can be added.

Next step, dip the zucchini slices in the batter, then into the panko. Lay all the zucchini on a baking sheet until you are ready to air fry it.

Air fry the zucchini at 400F for 10 minutes, or until the zucchini is crispy- I think the cook times depend on the type of air frier used! Garnish the zucchini with the Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese and chopped parsley. I promise they will be the BEST you have ever tried!

Personally, I love to pair the zucchini with lemon aioli sauce.

Ingredients: 

  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup of mayonnaise
  • 1 lemon- juice and zest to taste
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tbs finely chopped chives
  • 2 cloves of chopped garlic
  • ¼ tsp dry mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients together, and serve with the warm air fried zucchini! ENJOY!

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Nashville: A Weekend Travel Guide

Nashville is a great place to spend a weekend. Both times I went, we rented an AirBNB and it was a great experience! I definitely recommend it. We got in on Friday afternoon and headed to The Gluch, a neighborhood near downtown Nashville. Our first stop was The Pub Nashville, a British Pub with an extensive selection of draft beer! I got a seasonal beer: the Wicked Weed Passion Fruit Lychee Burst beer, and it was amazing. Also the home made pretzels were soft and warm, served with beer cheese!

Our next stop that afternoon was Yazoo Brewing Company. I came here the first time I was in Nashville and it is a great place, both with indoor and outdoor seating. The weather was beautiful even though it was April.

At that point we had definitely worked up an appetite so we decided to try Burger Republic for a late meal in the afternoon. They claimed to be one of the best burgers in America. I don’t know if I would necessarily agree with this statement being from Chicago, but it was pretty good. One of the things we quickly recognized was that tater tots were on every menu we saw in Nashville!

Since we traveled that morning, we decided to watch the sunset on the rooftop of our building and call it an early night. We just grabbed a bite to eat at a local bar in East Nashville before going to bed that evening. A lot of our friends told us to go to Biscuit Love while in Nashville, and they are usually not wrong. So we started Saturday morning off in a line for about an hour to wait for a table at one of the most talked about places in Nashville, and it was WELL WORTH IT! While waiting in line, we grabbedd coffee from around the corner at Killebrew, which made the line go a little faster!

After a long wait in line we were finally inside. We decided to get the East Nasty, which was a buttermilk biscuit sandwich with fried boneless chicken thigh, covered in aged cheddar and sausage gravy– fun fact: this was named the best sandwich in America. We also got the Bill Neil, which was cheese grits, gulf rock shrimp, mushrooms, applewood smoked bacon, lemon tabasco sauce and green onion. This was also very good! PSA: get the chai tea latte, comes in both hot and iced!

The weather was beautiful, so we decided to walk to Broadway and wanter down the street until we got to the river. After our long walk, soaking up all the sun we could get, we decided to go to Five Daughters Bakery to eat some 100-layer donuts. YES 100 LAYERS…SO AMAZING AND FLAKY! We then spent the rest of the early afternoon walking around the very hip 12 South area.

We then headed back to our place for the afternoon, to rest and come back out for happy hour. The started our evening on the rooftop at Bourbon Steak. The views were amazing, and we enjoyed the sunset up there.

Our next stop was Milk & Honey, another highly recommended restaurant in Nashville. We decided to head here for dinner and were not disappointed! The dinner was delicious, just what we needed before heading back into Broadway for the night!

After dinner we spent the evening on Broadway barhopping. We started at Honky Tonk Central, then Acme Feed & Seed, and ended the night at Mellow Mushroom. The weather was beautiful so we actually were able to hang out on the rooftops. The last rooftop even had heat lamps. We enjoyed some live music throughout the night and had a great time!

We ended Sunday in East Nashville by our AirBNB. First stop was East Park Donut & Coffee, followed by brunch at Butcher & Bee.

After that we were ready to head to the airport and go home! It was a wonderful weekend!

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I wanted to add a bit in here about my last trip to Nashville. It was for my friend’s Bachelorette party, so the night on Broadway was similar but we did a few things that I wanted to highlight as fun things to do while in Nashville. I highly recommend Arrington Vineyards!

Another fun activity was the Pedal Tavern. We decided to do it mid afternoon, and use it as our “pregame” into the night!

Overall, I definitely recommend Nashville for a weekend trip! Great with your girls, your spouse, or even a big group!

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Thai Salad with Air Fried Shrimp

We just got an air fryer and I was super excited to use it. The first thing we made with it was shrimp which turned out amazing! We have a GoWise air fryer, I linked the exact one we have.

To make the salad use the following ingredients, I just eyeballed how much of each ingredient I wanted to use and chopped everything up:

  • Napa Cabbage
  • Red Cabbage
  • Shredded carrots- I just bought a pre shredded bag to save time
  • Red bell pepper
  • English Cucumber
  • Cooked Shelled Edamame- I bought it frozen and cooked it in a microwave safe bowl for 4.5 minutes
  • Scallions
  • Cilantro
  • Peanuts- I used roasted unsalted peanuts
It almost looks too pretty to eat!!!

After you chop everything up, don’t add the dressing until you are going to serve the salad. You can also store the salad overnight and add dressing the next day. This is a great recipe for meal prep! I paired my salad with homemade peanut dressing. In a blender blend together the following ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

I added some water to dilute the dressing, I also tasted it at the end, and ended up adding a little more ginger and soy sauce. I used the small attachment to my ninja to avoid having to clean the whole blender when I was done.

The last step is to air fry the shrimp. I peeled and cleaned the shrimp, I suggest fresh shrimp as opposed to frozen shrimp. I then breaded the shrimp in the following order: flour–> egg wash –> panko and stuck it in the air fryer. I sprayed the breaded shrimp lightly with avocado oil. The key things are time and temperature when cooking in the air fryer. I cooked it at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. About half way through, I pulled out the bucket and shook the shrimp around. This meal took about 20 minutes to make, the longest part was cutting the vegetables!

As you can see, the shrimp turned out crispy and delicious!

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L’ours Bakery + Eatlay Chicago- Biata

I was off on Valentine’s Day this year and had the perfect day! It started with a coffee at L’OURS BAKERY COFFEE. Definitely a cute coffee shop centrally located in Little Italy. It was pretty large, great work space for those who want to study or work from home.

Later that night I finally got to go to a popup restaurant at Eatlay Chicago called Biata. The restaurant concept was the Italian Alps: MELTED CHEESES AND WARM WINES! I was pretty much in heaven during dinner!

The decor and ambiance was beautiful, super cozy and warm, literally felt like we were in a cabin.

The warm wine was yummy! I didn’t think I would be a fan of warm wine, but I was quiet pleased with it. The cheese/ food was absolutely amazing. It was very rich and CHEESY but that’s my favorite, so I wasn’t complaining.

Desert wasn’t an option after a meal like that, I was way to full to have anything else! Definitely a great experience!

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S.K.Y.

Since it was restaurant week, we wanted to try a new restaurant and S.K.Y. was on the Chicago Top 50 restaurant list. Although they didn’t have a restaurant week menu we wanted to try it anyways.

We started with drinks and appetizers. Everything was family style and we placed our whole order at once and the kitchen timed it out for us. We started with cornbread madeleines and black truffle croquettes.

We then got Maine lobster dumplings, pasta regu which was an off the menu special and organic fried chicken, which seemed to be a crowd favorite when we looked up the menu.

We had saved just enough room for some dessert. We decided to get a green tea dessert served with caramel donuts, some of our favorite things in one dessert.

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etta

While my cousin was in town from Seattle we all decided to have family dinner at etta. I had been wanting to try this place for a while now so I was super excited to go! The restaurant is located in Bucktown, so it’s a further trip for us, but well worth it!

The minute we walked in, we loved it. It was very aesthetically pleasing. We had 9:45pm reservations, but it was packed when we walked in so had to wait. However they were nice enough to give us complimentary champagne while waiting for our table.

We started with the fire-baked focaccia served with ricotta honey & truffle, and the spicy meatballs and ricotta pillows (2 orders) which I would highly recommend! Then we followed up with 3 pastas, 2 pizzas and 2 proteins for the 6 of us. The menu is intended to be family style, so it’s a great place to go with a larger group! I think it was safe to say we ordered too much food.

Everything came out as it was ready, and it was fresh and tasted amazing. They timed it well in the kitchen, we had exactly enough time to enjoy each plate before the next one came out. I think that this may be a summer date night spot in the near future.

Unfortunately, we were too full for dessert but the dessert menu looked very good.

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