Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

Favorite Winter Beers January 14, 2015

Winter is a great time for excellent beer in the Midwest. Since November Matt and I have been eagerly sampling our favorite holiday seasonals as well as a few standard porters and stouts. Thus fCabin Fever beer, New Glarusar in 2014-2015 here are my favorite 10 winter beers.

If you’re curious about Matt, here are his top 10 winter beers in no particular order:

Did we miss any? Let us know in the comment section what other beers we should try before winter is over!


Mustard Herb Pork Rack December 31, 2014

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 7:26 pm
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Before we were married, Matt and I started a tradition of celebrating our Christmas a day or two before Christmas Eve. This way it could be the two of us and not combined with our families regularly scheduled festivities. The tradition grew to include preparing a meal, presents and then a special breakfast for the morning after.

This year we decided to change up our Christmas meal. For the last three years we have dished up an herb roasted lamb rack with mustard roasted potatoes and asparagus with a hollandaise sauce. Inspiration fell into my mailbox in early December from my butcher. In their weekly newsletter they listed a bunch of holiday dish ideas and one was a pork rack. I told Matt about the idea and he was on board. Since we like having leftovers, I ordered a rack for six people.

I had Matt pick up the rack after work the Monday before Christmas. When I got home, he asked me if I wanted to see the piece of meat. I was a little curious and said sure. He came out with a huge rack featuring 13 ribs! Definitely more than enough for six people.

Now I just needed to find a recipe…good thing we have the Internet. In one of the top five results for roasted pork rack, I found it. A rack of pork with an herb-mustard crust. The recipe called for only a six rib roast, so I cut the rack in half and freezed what was leftover.

We decided to keep our roasted mustard potatoes because they are delicious and rounded out the meal with honey-glazed baby carrots and broccoli. The recipe called for a gravy, but I opted not to make it and Matt and I both thought the roast was just right without it. We liked the meal so much we agreed to make it again today for New Year’s Eve.

Our NYE dinner

Our NYE dinner


Here’s my recipe adapted from Fine Cooking:

  • One 6-rib bone-in pork loin (about 4 lb.)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs (about 2 oz.)
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. Dijon mustard

Heat the oven to 425°F. Season pork with salt and pepper to your tasting. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. If you have a flameproof roasting pan or a large ovenproof skillet, use that. Unfortunately, I don’t have one yet, so I just got my 12-inch All-Clad saucepan dirty.

With your skillet of choosing, brown the fat-covered surface of the pork until it turns a deep golden brown. This took me only five minutes. Then I moved the rack to my roasting pan and turned it so the roast rib side  was facing down in the oven. I basted with the remaining olive oil every ten minutes, for 30 minutes.

While the meat roasted I started on the bread crumb mixture. In a skillet I melted the butter and add the garlic and shallots until they were soft. Then I add the the cumin and smoked paprika and stirred until they were well mixed. Once ready, I removed the mixture from heat and stirred in the parsley and breadcrumbs. My bread crumb coating was ready!

After the pork had roasted for 30 minutes, I brushed the surface with the mustard and coated the roast with breadcrumb topping, pressing down so it adhered. Then I turned the oven down to 375°F and cooked the roast for another 30 minutes. Once my time was up, I took out our meat thermometer to make sure it registered at 145°F and it did!  We let the meat rest for 5 minutes by covering it with foil before we carved it, mostly so I have time to get the side dishes ready!

It’s a great holiday dish and I think this might be a new holiday tradition for us. Now we just have to pick the holiday!


Chicago Holiday Excursions Part 1 December 17, 2014

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 8:23 pm
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Tis the season for tons of holiday events, craft fairs, expos, and holiday lights in Chicago. This week Matt continued to check holiday events off of our list. On Sunday afternoon we accompanied our friends, the Ludwig’s, to the Chicago Botanic Garden for the Wonderland Express exhibit. The exhibit features miniatures of historical buildings and landmarks in Chicago surrounded by poinsettias and other holiday plants with model trains bustling all around you.


It was fun walking through the exhibit and marveling at the construction of the miniatures. Once done inside, we headed outside to walk a few trails. This was only my second time at the Botanic Gardens so it was neat to see all the different types of gardens on the grounds. My favorite were the English and Japanese style gardens. Maybe this spring/summer I’ll go back to see how it looks in full-bloom. To compensate for the lack of outdoor flowers, there were a ton of lights wrapped around trees and plants. As sunset approached, the gardens started to glow white, yellow and red. With the lights and beautiful garden backdrop, a beautiful winter scene was created.

Ready to be refueled after walking around the gardens, we headed to Crisp. Tom and Kim were raving about their twice fried Korean chicken so we had to go! I thought Sunday evening wouldn’t be a busy time, but I was totally wrong. The place was packed with folks dining in at their 4 large communal tables or standing waiting for their take out order. Luckily Matt and I knew what we wanted to get from scoping out the menu on the ride to the restaurant. We ordered one whole chicken with the Crisp BBQ sauce, a side of fries and kimchi. Everything was delicious and yes we had leftovers.


This past Monday Matt and I took a half day off work and traveled to the Christkindl Market in Daley Plaza. We always have the same plan of attack for navigating the busy market. One of us responsible for food and the other for the gluhwein, which is warmed spiced red wine served in cute novelty mugs. We’ve found that if executed properly, we can enjoy eating our food while we wait for our beverages. This year we both got a bratwurst with sauerkraut and split an order of potato pancakes with herbed sour cream and smoked salmon. With happy bellies and our warm gluhwein in hand it was time to find a few ornaments and spiced nuts. As for our ornament haul, we picked up a pickle, a black lab for Porter, a beautiful wood carving of a deer and evergreen trees, as well as a red glass tree-topper.


Our favorite holiday traditions continue this weekend with a stop to Lincoln Square and Zoo Lights at Brookfield Zoo. Can you guess what next week’s blog post might be about? 😉


Gingerbread Extravaganza 2014 December 10, 2014

This weekend I hosted our ninth annual gingerbread extravaganza. In our senior year of college, my roommates Jill and Bethany created a gingerbread house, and somehow it has turned into an annual tradition. Months of planning are now involved since we’re scattered across the Midwest and East Coast. Thankfully since we’ve done this for nine years we know exactly what candy to buy. Our new edition this year was creating a shared Pinterest board so we each could add fun decorating ideas or potential patterns.

Back in October we selected a theme and then scoured the internet for patterns and decorating ideas. This year we decided on a beach theme. Jill usually bakes all of the gingerbread in advance, but since she was traveling from Boston we decided it might be better if I made all of the gingerbread. Luckily a few weekends ago I was able to carve out time to create our three buildings that included a lighthouse, beach yacht club and beach house. Unfortunately I didn’t know that dashed lines meant you were supposed to connect the pieces before you cut out the shape…which lead to an interesting beach house for Jill. I also forgot to make people, but as you’ll see we supplemented by smushing out Starbursts.

Jill flew in Friday night and we got straight to work building the houses. My gingerbread expanded a little so we ended up using a sharp bread knife to help even out some of the connection points. Utilizing our soup and pasta sauce cans for support, our buildings were nice and solid by the next morning.


Bethany arrived on Saturday to begin the best part, the decorating stage!We spent the entire morning and afternoon creating our masterpieces. Since Jill wasn’t going to take her house on the plane, she and I decided to build our houses on the same board. Here’s the finished product.


Even Matt got involved this year! He built an awesome platform for Bethany’s yacht club. As payment he requested lights and or some sort of fireworks on next year’s houses. That might help us to decide on a theme for next year. Guess you’ll have to wait and see what we come up with in 2015!



Christmas Lumberjack December 3, 2014

Christmas Tree ShoppingSaturday’s weather at 50 degrees and sunny was too good not to be outside. So Matt, Porter and I, along with our friends Tom, Kim and their daughter Maddie headed up to Harvard, Illinois to go Christmas tree shopping.

For the last two years we’ve tagged along with Tom and Kim to Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm. Yes, it’s a bit of a hike but it’s well worth the drive. You are able to pick out your own tree, chop it down, enjoy free hot chocolate, sleigh rides with Santa, a petting zoo and have your fresh cut tree tied tightly to you car. Plus, when you have a two-year old girl easily excited by anything Christmas and a two year old black lab who hasn’t seen horses before, you’re going to be in for fun. And we definitely were. Everytime Maddie saw Santa she started waving and saying hi to him. And Porter, well, he was in tree heaven. Plus there were so many other dogs around for him to meet and play with.

When we arrived I was surprised at how much snow was still on the ground. It made for a great wintery backdrop for pictures but made for a sloppy muddy hike with the warming temperatures. All of us walked around for a while trying to find the perfect tree. Matt and I were joking that Porter was going to “pick” our tree by marking it. Luckily for us, all the tree’s Porter picked were not up to my standards so we kept searching.

Tom and Kim found theirs first and shortly thereafter we found our tree. This year I convinced Matt to go a little bigger and I am so happy I did. The tree turned out perfectly! All that’s left is to add Matt’s ornaments and purchase a garland. I can’t wait to show our readers the finished product but this is what we are enjoying for now.


All I Want for Christmas Is A Lumberjack December 11, 2013

A few weeks ago I talked about my family’s holiday tradition of going to Lincoln Square. This week I’m going to tell you about a new Hein tradition, one that Matt and I started last year, and that is cutting down our very own Christmas Tree.

Last year, our friends Tom and Kim recommended Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm in Harvard, Illinois. They went in early December and us, well, it ended up being a week or two later. Matt ended up getting more of a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree for his holidays. But it was a very cute tree for the record. Kelly and I stuck with our go to Home Depot and found compared a nice six foot fraser fur. All I can say is Matt learned his lesson of going earlier in the season if he wanted a nicer tree.

That brings us to this year. We went opening weekend to Ben’s Tree Farm with our friends Tom, Kim and their adorable daughter Maddie. All five of us made the trip back to Ben’s Tree Farm. The two and half hour car ride went a lot quicker with tasty donuts and an entertaining almost two year old.

When we arrived at the tree farm we set off in search for Tom and Kim’s tree first. While maneuvering through lines of trees we caught a glimpse of Santa driving a tractor. Maddie was absolutely mesmerized by this bearded man in a red suite, so of course we waved and said hi from a distance. Santa waved back and asked if he wanted a ride back, but unfortunately we hadn’t picked our tree yet.

We had a perfect day for tree hunting. The weather was warm and clear blue skies with not even a light breeze to give us a chill. Pretty quickly Tom and Kim found their tree.

Tom, Maddie and Kim

Tom, Maddie and Kim

Then it was just left to Matt and I to find ours. And ten minutes later we did!

Matt Cutting Down The Tree

Matt Cutting Down The Tree

Ben’s Farm has quite the selection of trees plus free hot chocolate to warm you up if you need it. You can also see Santa and enjoy a free ride around his tractor or go on a horse drawn carriage ride. Your choice! And don’t forget to stop in by the petting zoo to see some adorable goats.

Once we had our trees bundled and on Tom’s car it was time to head back to the burbs. We broke up the ride a bit with a stop at Culver’s to replenish our stomachs. Even lumberjacks need more than donuts.

That night we got to work decorating our tree and I think it turned out pretty good. What do you think?

Our Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree


Not Ugly But Cute December 10, 2013

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 11:14 pm
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Last week my office had an ugly sweater contest.  I was really excited because I had just pinned this DIY sweater idea not too long ago that I thought would be the perfect Pinspiration!

pinterest insporation

I’m not sure I’d call it ugly as much as I’d call it festive!  As soon as we started talking about doing a sweater contest I immediately went out and bought silver tinsel.  That was probably two weeks ahead of time.  I meant to go get the rest ahead of time but in true Kelly fashion, I waited until the night before. Someone please tell me why can’t I get out of this habit!?  I could not find instructions for the Christmas Tree Sweater so I just had to guess on what to get and how to create it.  I stopped by a thrift shop on the way home from work and found a red mock turtleneck sweater.  I lucked out because everything was half off so I only paid $5.00.  I had some mini ornaments at home, but they were glass and I was afraid I might break them, so I wanted to pick up some plastic ones.  I snagged a package of 20 for $2.50 at Walmart and hurried home to get it all put together.


1. Sweater

2. Tinsel Garland

3. Plastic Ornamanets

4. Hot Glue Gun

5. Glue Sticks

6. Safety Pins {Not Pictured}

7.Yarn {Not Pictured}

8. Scissors {Not Pictured}

9. Tree Topper!

10.  Christmas Light Earrings {Not Pictured}

I unraveled the tinsel garland and put on the sweater.  I took the end of the garland and placed it on my left hip and fastened a safety pin to anchor the end to the sweater.

pin it

I proceeded to wrap the tinsel around my body, stopping to pin when I reached my sides.  I carefully removed the sweater and made sure my hot glue gun was plugged in.  I glued down the tinsel garland so it would be sure to stay in place.  You need to be careful handling the sweater once the glue is on there…it will still be hot!


Once the body of the sweater is done, move onto each of the sleeves.  If you are ambitious you can try to line up the sleeve garland to the body garland.  To tell you the truth, I was under the weather when I was doing this project so perfection wasn’t on my mind.  The next step was to add the ornaments.  I cut a little bit of yarn and threaded it through the ornament top.  Then I tied the yarn to the garland tinsel and cut off the excess yarn.  You might want to add a little hot glue to make sure they stay {I lost a few ornaments the next day with just yarn}.

stepsOnce the ornaments are on the sweater is good to go!  I added some earrings that look like Christmas lights and wore my sweater snow boots to complete the look.  I got a lot of comments at work that my sweater wasn’t ugly but cute.   Needless to say I didn’t win the contest, but I was just happy to be festive and get in the Christmas spirit!

finished sweater


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