Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

Raspberry Chicken Salad September 2, 2013

Ever get a craving for a specific food that you can’t get where you are?  That’s been happening to me lately.  I’ve been craving raspberry chicken salad from Casey’s market in Western Springs when I’m living in Denver.  This means that my craving can’t be fulfilled without a trip from my parents to the market, a box full of dry ice, and a hefty shipping fee…unless I decide to re-create it on my own!

Here’s what you need if you want a chicken salad that’s a bit out of the ordinary and feels gourmet when you have to brown bag it to work every day:

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 20 red seedless grapes, quartered
  • a small bag of chopped pecans (can find in the baking section of any grocery store)
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup raspberry vinaigrette (I like Wish Bone or Annie’s, because in order to make this recipe work and not taste too oily or get runny you need a thicker, creamier vinaigrette)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • olive oil
  • parchment paperImage

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prep your chicken breasts on a cookie sheet on top of a piece of parchment paper for each piece of chicken.  Lightly brush them with olive oil, and sprinkle a touch of salt and pepper over them (this is in addition to the amounts measured above, you’ll use those later).  Fold up your parchment paper around the chicken into pouches, and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken breasts.

ImageWhile the chicken is baking, prep your dressing.  Whisk together your mayonnaise, salt, pepper, vinaigrette, pecans, and quartered grapes. ImageWhen the chicken is done, take it out of the oven and let it cool (I usually remove it from the parchment paper pouches when I take it out).  Once cool, cube each chicken breast and add it to your dressing.

I’d say it’s pretty darn close to Casey’s!  I’m going to be one happy craving-free girl this week at lunchtime.Image


Weekend in the Burbs July 24, 2013

Last weekend was an out and about in the Chicago burbs. Saturday afternoon we headed north to Evanston. We met up with my old college friend, her husband and adorable baby girl at Bat 17. Holy cow, you need to go to Bat 17. Amazing food, ambiance and beer selection coupled with massive food portions. We ordered the bruschetta which could have easily feed six (each piece was massive) and topped with delicious tomatoes and cheese. For our main meals, I ordered the turkey burger (delicious) and Matt got the guacamole burger (also delicious). Still needing something sweet, I ordered a chocolate chip cookie to go that was about four times the size of a normal cookie. I was in cookie heaven. We had so much food left over we didn’t stop at Whole Foods before heading to our next spot, Ravinia.

We enjoyed the scenic drive from Evanston to Highland Park. We oo’ed and ah’ed as we followed Ridge Avenue Northbound. Every so often we caught glimpses of the lake and a few parks. Matt and I both decided we’re coming back to check out the parks and swim.

In order to get a good lawn spot for the sold out, “Under the Sun” Ravinia show, we got there right at 4:15PM. The line-up included Fastball, Vertical Horizon, Gin Blossoms, Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth. We headed towards the back of the park and found an excellent space to break camp.

Our Ravinia Set-Up

Our Ravinia Set-Up

All of our wedding shower gifts came in massively handy! We broke in our Uno game, used our table, chairs, wine glasses and picnic basket. All of the bands did a great job playing their greatest hits. We had a blast singing along…until the rain hit. Right before Smash Mouth went on, it started to thunderstorm. Matt and I did bring our rain jackets but naturally left them in the car. We sure did learn our lesson! So, unfortunately we left before Smash Mouth took the stage to head home.

Sunday we hit up the Germanfest in Lombard held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church with our friends the Ludwigs. Our first stop was the air conditioned gym for a few games of bingo. Unfortunately no one won in our group, though we did try! Once we felt sufficiently cool we headed out to the food tent to enjoy the sounds of “HiFi Superstar” an alternative rock band. We grabbed our German beers as well as very reasonably priced bratwurst plates to enjoy the music and people watching. Two beers later and after the band’s set we decided head back.

Lombard’s Germanfest

All in all one great weekend hanging out in the suburbs. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for next weekend!


Portabella Mushroom Cap Pizza May 14, 2013

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 8:57 pm
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I don’t know what it is with me this month, but I’ve been trying lots of new recipes.  Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s finally warm around here and the Farmer’s Markets are opening.  There are always so many vegetables I would never buy at the grocery store that seem much more appealing at the market.   The latest recipe I tried was pizza on a portabella mushroom.  Gasp! No crust!  Believe me you won’t miss it.  Mushrooms are very hardy and more than make up for the missing bread.  Below are all the steps I took along with photos of most every step- I’m a visual learner myself so I always try to take pictures along the way.


Portabella mushrooms
Pizza sauce
Toppings of your choice {I used Tomatoes, green onion, kielbasa sausage}
Cheese of your choice- sliced or shredded { I used provolone cheese slices}
Oven set to 375°F

First things first.  You need to remove the stem and gills from the mushrooms.  Gills are the thin papery like pieces on the underside of the mushroom.  You can leave them there, but they get mushy when you cook them.   I would recommend using a large spoon and scrap the gills off the mushroom while holding it above a garbage can.  It can get a bit messy.  Also be gentle because you can break the mushroom itself if you are too rough and then it will be harder to use for the pizza.


Now place the degilled {yes I made that word up} mushrooms on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray.  You can now add however much sauce you’d like to the top.

photo (1)

Once the sauce is in place, go to town adding all the toppings you’d like to your pizza.  I did tomatoes:

photo (2)

Green Onions:

photo (3)

And Kielbasa sausage {not a traditional topping, but it’s what was in my fridge.  It turned out pretty good!}:

photo (4)

Then I added a slice of provolone cheese.  I find slices give much more coverage and are less messy than shredded cheese.  Plus they work perfectly for a mushroom because they are both round.  You can use whatever you like best.

photo (5)

Sorry its so blurry, its the only cheese picture I took

Throw these in the oven for 20-25 minutes and your dinner is ready!

photo (6)


Southwestern Chopped Salad April 30, 2013

I checked out my 2013 tracking spreadsheet the other day and was reminded that I still had a few goals to take care of for April.  A major one being that I hadn’t yet tried a new recipe.  So Saturday I pulled up my cousin’s blog, ‘Bake Away Girl’ and started perusing.  As the name suggests, she does a lot of baking, but she also likes cooking and since baking isn’t my strong suit I decided to try out a few of her savory dishes and forgo the baked goods.  I like her blog a lot because she is so passionate about baking and cooking.  And take it from someone who has enjoyed some of her creations…they are all made with love which makes them taste that much better!

The one I decided to try and I’ll share with you now is her Southwestern Chopped Salad.  I must say it turned out to be pretty tasty!  I did make a few tweaks, so if you want to use her recipe you can find it here.

1lb steak cut into strips
1 taco packet

1 can yellow corn, drained and rinsed 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
½  green pepper
5-6 chopped green onions
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 fresh avocados, diced
1 head of red lettuce, chopped or shredded

½  cup (6oz container) plain Greek yogurt
¼  cup mayo
½ tablespoon taco seasoning
½ tablespoon ranch seasoning
Spritz lime juice

1.  Take whichever meat you’ve decided to use and cook it along with the taco seasoning according to the directions on the package. {I decided on steak because I am sick of chicken and I planned on trying her Chicken Gyros later in the week.}  Set aside.

2.  Meanwhile you can prepare all the salad items:
Open the corn and beans and rinse these with cold water in a strainer.  Add to a large serving bowl.  Cut up the green pepper, green onions, roma tomatoes, and avocado {I did not use cilantro although her recipe calls for because it makes me feel sick.}  Add all of these to the bowl.

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3.  I spritzed some lime juice in the bowl to stop everything I just cut from browning and stirred it up.  Set aside.

4.  Chop up some lettuce!  { I choose a red leaf lettuce instead of a iceberg head.  It’s just my preference.}  Set aside.

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5.  Measure and add all the dressing ingredients to a separate bowl.  Make sure it is thoroughly mixed and there are no grainy pieces from the two powdered ingredients.

6.  Take the veggie mixture and incorporate the dressing fully.  {After seeing how much dressing was yielded, I decided to only add only half at first.  It ended up being enough dressing for me so I saved the rest for another time.  The ingredients I’ve listed above are halved from my cousin’s recipe because of this change.  By all means do what matches your taste buds!}

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7.  Now you can take the lettuce you set aside and add that to the mixture.

8.  Serve right away with your prepared meat of choice on top.

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Doesn’t this look delicious?  I was even able to save some left overs for lunch the next day and it kept pretty well.  I don’t think you could eat it after that though, it would be too wilted and brown.  All and all I’d say its a pretty healthy meal.  You have a lot of protein {greek yogurt and steak} and a ton of veggies.  The only questionables are the mayo and season packets, but those are mostly just spices.  You could home make those if you don’t like the idea of processed food.  This recipe is definitely a keeper for my line up.  I’ve already added it to a recipe card!


Out and About in Naperville April 17, 2013

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 9:42 pm
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In high school, Naperville was the cool place to go. Probably because we had just gotten our driver’s licenses and our parents wouldn’t let us go into the city.  Fast forward a decade later and Naperville is still cool.

Friday night Matt and I met up with two of his good college friends for a night out. We started at Q BBQ for dinner. Q’s is a favorite of ours in LaGrange and we’ve both been wanting to try out the Naperville location. The food was just as great. And apparently we weren’t the only ones who knew about Q’s. When we walked up, the line was literally out the door. Luckily the Naperville location is at least twice the size of the original in LaGrange. So, we held our ground and waited for about ten minutes in line. It wasn’t so bad and they even gave out free hush-puppies. How can you go wrong with that? Also, for the record I enjoyed the sliders, featuring smoked turkey, pulled chicken and the chopped brisket….can you tell I had a hard time decided what I wanted to get?

Going through our tasting

Going through our tasting

After dinner we ventured over to Solemn Oath Brewery. How anyone can find the place is a mystery. I think even Google Maps is confused. Luckily, Matt had been there before and easily directed us to a nondescript manufacturing area. The brewery is simple and modern. By simple I mean, there is only a bar and you can only get beer on tap. Last call is at 9p.m. and there is a three serving limit. Oh, and be ready to stand because there isn’t a lot of room around the bar. Other fun quirks include they don’t take cash and no tips. However, you can buy a beer for the bartender if you like their service. It’s modern because it’s in a warehouse with plain overhead lights and exposed metal. The place is very unique, fun and has great beer. Matt and I split a sampling and both found favorites. We both liked E-Ville, an American brown ale, no surprise there. But my favorite was the Oxford Comma, a spiced Belgium blonde ale and Matt’s was the Snaggletooth Bandana, an American IPA.

So it looks like I’ll probably be back to Naperville again. With a night full of BBQ and beer, it’ll definitely require repeats.


A Kitchen full of Comfort (Food) January 27, 2013

Everyone knows how stressful the work week can get.  Many evenings, you find yourself speeding home with a grumbling tummy after the reasonable dinner hour has already passed.  So many times since Jonathan and I moved in together a year and a half ago, we would be hungrily running to the grocery store on a weeknight after work, spending too much money on a meal that was poorly planned because we were just, well, starving.

So we decided to start planning better and making better use of my KitchenAid mixer and the 2 (yes 2!) Crockpots we own.  We set a food budget for ourselves, deciding that each month we will not exceed $300 in groceries.  That gives us $75 a week (or less, if we’re being really good and cost-conscious!) for packed lunch items, quick breakfasts, and comforting dinners.

I know I’m really lucky that I found myself a guy who really enjoys cooking, and is often scouring foodie websites and magazines for new recipes to try.  In fact, as I write this he’s in the kitchen trying a new homemade orange chicken recipe!  So between the 2 of us, we always have an arsenal of recipes built up to consider for our grocery list.  We usually try to pick 2 meals each week that will be comforting, (at least relatively) healthy, cost-efficient, and will make good leftovers.  If you’re a household of 2 like us, you know that many recipes create too much food for just one meal for 2 people, so we can usually get 2-3 meals out of some of our weeknight recipes.  And, we always make at least 1 of our meals on Sunday.  That way, it can sit in the Crockpot while we’re out running errands, gone on a hike, or just relaxing at home, and we have a few meals ready for Sunday night and the week!  And when we get home late from work, we have a hearty, tummy-pleasing, and stress-relieving meal to reheat on the stove-top or in the oven.

Here are some of the recipes we’ve tried this winter on our dinner adventures (some of them might look familiar to you Pinterest-users, since several have been found on fellow pinners’ boards):

And here are 2 family recipes that I’ll let you in on, because they make a lot of food, great leftovers, and are both totally comforting!

Black Beans & Rice (from Jonathan’s mom)


– Cooked  white rice
– 2 tablespoons olive oil (I’ve used canola or olive oil)
– 1/2 cup chopped onion (I hate measuring so 1/2 of the onion works)
– 1/4 cup chopped green pepper (1/2 of the pepper works fine)
– 2 cloves minced garlic
– 1 (15 ounce) can black beans (undrained)
– 3/4 cup water
– 1 teaspoon oregano
– 1/4 teaspoon sugar
– 1 package sazon goya (without annato) (*OR, *instead*,* use:  2 tsp.
cumin, 1 tsp. chicken *boullion*, 1/2  tsp. garlic powder)
– 1 tablespoon cooking wine or cider vinegar

Heat oil in medium sauce pan and saute onion, green pepper, and minced
garlic. Saute until tender, approx. 8 – 10 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and stir until boiling; reduce heat and simmer
until sauce is reduced, about 20 minutes.  Smashing some of the beans on the
side of the pot while they simmer adds some flavor and thickens up the sauce
a bit. If too runny, you can always add less water next time.

Serve with the cooked rice.

Chicken Soup with Dumplings (from my Papa)


-1 fryer chicken

-a chopped stalk of celery

-a chopped bag of carrots

-1 large sliced onion

-3 dry bay leaves

-1 tbsp. dry parsley flakes

-small can of light chicken buillon (or 2 cubes buillon)

Wash chicken, put it in a large pot, and cover chicken with water.  Bring to a boil for 10 minutes.  Skim off fat that rises to the surface.

Add celery, carrots, onion, bay leaves, chicken buillon, and sprinkle with parsley flakes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and bring to a boil, turn down heat and cook for 1 hour 15 minutes.  Remove chicken when thoroughly cooked (easy to remove from the bone), cut up, and add after boiling dumplings.



-2 eggs

-1 cup flour


Mix eggs with flour, and add milk to bring mixture to a smooth, soft consistency.  Using a teaspoon, drop spoonful of dumpling mixture into the lightly boiling soup.  Dumplings will rise to the surface when cooked.

Add chicken and enjoy!

I hope you got a few new ideas for delicious weeknight meals!  We’re always looking for new recipes to try, so if you know of any good ones that you think fit our needs, please feel free to reply 🙂


7th Annual Gingerbread Extravaganza December 12, 2012

Last weekend was our annual gingerbread extravaganza. This year’s location was Bethany’s in Indiana. Fortunately the weather cooperated and made for an easy short drive for me!

As you read in last week’s post, I was in charge of making the gingerbread. Which after some practice, actually turned out pretty decent. (Even by Jill’s standards!) We each had to pick up a few candy items as well. As you can see we had just a little candy to decorate all of our houses.

This year was marked by a few interesting hiccups. When I packed for the trip, I placed each house in its own bag because I try to be organized. As we were getting ready to start, we unloaded the bags and low and behold, I totally forgot to make Bethany’s roof. Time for a quick trip to Jewel! We picked up Crisco and molasses and headed back to the house for some backing. Then we also picked up a gingerbread cookie cutter to make some people for the houses since Bethany didn’t have one and Jill and I both forgot ours.

Another hiccup came when we realized that Bethany doesn’t have a Kitchen Aid mixer like Jill and I do, so we were reduced to making the icing using an awesome hand mixer. It was a great workout. The last hiccup was the actual icing. We’re sure it was either the 10-year-old cream of tartar or the fact that we couldn’t get the icing to lose its shine due to tired arms that it wasn’t quite as cement-like as it should have been. But that didn’t stop us.

With the house smelling festive after baking the gingerbread, we finally were ready to start. Bethany got out all of her soup cans for us to begin icing and making sure our buildings wouldn’t collapse. The cans definitely helped since our icing was not solidifying. Luckily, we were still able to get everything done Friday night.
Saturday was dedicated to decorating. Once the Pandora Christmas station was playing and breakfast was over, we worked straight through until about 4PM. Once again I was delegated to tree making and Bethany to the fine decorating of the faces on the gingerbread men. We finished a little earlier than normal because I made smaller houses than Jill had in previous years. I think they all turned out very well.

Despite our hiccups, we managed just fine. Plus we had a great time catching up and thinking of ideas for next year’s extravaganza. What do you think? Check out the gallery below!


Guess I’m a Michigan Fan September 5, 2012

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 9:31 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Since I’ve started dating Matt, my affinity for collegiate athletics has grown to embrace college football.  And this past weekend, quite literally, kicked off the start to the 2012-2013-college football season.  Many of you know I’m fan of college sports so it works out quite well.  Basketball will still be my favorite and when it comes to professional teams, I do follow faithfully the Bears and Cubs for the record.

Unfortunately though, since I’ve started watching college football, it has created a minor rift with my best friend, Jill. Why you may ask? Well, Matt’s favorite team is the University of Michigan. And Jill’s is Michigan State. So yeah, a little rivalry. And I’m in the middle (well maybe be a little closer to the U of M side…). Truth be told, they’re pretty good about playing nicely. And the trash talk is pretty amusing.

One new thing that I’m learning about watching college football is all the preparation to watch the game from your sofa. It starts with the apparel. At least a t-shirt or shorts displaying the school is required. Baseball caps can be worn for additional flare.  Once you’re properly outfitted, it is time to add some flare in the room of which you will be watching the game.  This can be done a few ways. One way is to hang up flags and or pennants.  If that’s not enough, break out your cozies, plastic cups, beer glasses, or shot glasses from your favorite team. They might come in handy later pending on how well they are doing. Once the stage is set, it’s time for the meal.

I’m not going to lie, the food is my favorite thing. Matt had picked up New York strip steak for us. We grilled the steaks and topped them with blue cheese and fried onions. Tasty! For a side we baked sweet potatoes together with brussel sprouts with garlic, thyme and olive oil. Also very tasty. And for dessert we enjoyed New Glarus’s Raspberry Tart over vanilla bean ice cream. This was extremely tasty!

Raspberry Tart Float with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream – Epic! *Photo courtesy of Matt

Even though Michigan was not able to win against Alabama, I had a great meal and learned about the proper preparation for a college football game.  I’m ok spending the rest of my Saturday nights watching college football if it means getting steak and drinking good beer. Oh, and the company is not so bad either.


Tapas and Cupcakes August 22, 2012

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 7:43 pm
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Last Friday a few of Matt’s friends visited for a birthday/engagement dual celebration. Major props to the guys because they mostly planned it minus one twist for dessert (I couldn’t help myself). The festivities began at the Beacon, a local bar in Forest Park. Unfortunately I missed out on the first round due to basketball practice – yep that started again too!

After a quick shower and a change, I met up with the group to head downtown. The weather was perfect for a night out on the town. Next stop was Cafe Iberico, a Spanish tapas restaurant. We ordered a tasty pitcher of red sangria and a few small hot and cold plates. My favorites were the cold red potato with garlic mayonnaise, the spicy potatoes in a tomato sauce and the steamed mussels with marinara sauce. But we didn’t stop there. We also ordered a paella. A paella is a classic dish served in Spain. The contents may vary but typically it’s a baked dish with saffron rice, seafood, peas and other meats like chicken or pork. Our paella was delicious, so delicious that dish was practically licked clean. We did exercise civility though since we were out in a very public location.

Filled with an excellent dinner, we took a walk to “earn” our dessert. Insert my opportunity to steer us to one of my favorite places for sweets downtown – More. Just a half mile walk from Cafe Iberico is More, a fabulous place for cupcakes. Upon walking in Matt and I both zeroed in on the “white Russian”. Our friends picked up the classic red velvet and a cookies and cream. I think this was the first time where I had to make sure Matt equally shared a dessert. And Matt still might be talking about the white Russian…at least that means I might have a return trip to More in the near future!

With our bellies officially now full, it was a good thing we had to walk back to the Green line. I’ve decided tapas and cupcakes definitely make a good mix especially when you have great company! Next time you are in the city and looking for a reasonably priced tapas restaurant check out Cafe Iberico. Plus, I can never give too many plugs to More cupcakes on the off chance that one day they’ll read my blog and decide to give me a cupcake a week for the rest of my life. Here’s to dreaming!


Growing A Garden June 13, 2012

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 9:22 pm
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As a child, I grew up helping my mom with our family garden. Each spring we would pick out different vegetables to plant. We always had the usual staples: tomatoes, radishes, carrots, lettuce, pumpkins, raspberries and strawberries. I have so many great memories of spending time in the side yard with both of my parents. I never had a problem getting my hands dirty and helping my mom dig neat rows for the vegetables. And of course I would volunteer to help water the plants with my dad…but sometimes I think we watered each other more than the plants.

Over the last three years since Kelly and I have been in the apartment, we’ve basically kept to potted flowers. Last year we tried our hands on one tomato plant. I think we got one tomato from the plant and the alley squirrel took the rest! We haven’t had time to go get our flowers/plants for this year due to Kel’s surgery and me being a little busy. We’re holding out for some excellent end of season sales. 🙂

So until Kelly and I go shopping for our plants, I did receive an opportunity to expand from pots. Matt offered a strip of already open dirt for planting in his backyard. And of course I took him up on his offer. When Jill was in town a few weeks ago, she helped me pick out a few herbs and vegetables at the Oak Park farmer’s market. I ended up getting three tomato plants (two “beefeaters” and one roma), one yellow pepper plant, oregano, basil, chives and french thyme.

I was a little worried about the plants because I didn’t have the chance to get them in the ground right away. I think the oregano died, but amazingly the rest of the plants are doing great since they’ve been officially grounded. It’s amazing how they can bounce back with a little water, some fertilizer and a lot of love.

The mini garden

I’m really looking forward to how the garden does this summer and fall. Keep your eye out for posts on the first tomato and pepper from the garden. I might also do a few recipe posts using ingredients from the garden or even from the CSA. Stay tuned!


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