memorial day weekend

How was everyone’s long weekend? Memorial Day to me always seems to mark the unofficial start of summer, so we were pretty bummed that both Saturday and Sunday were cloudy, rainy and kind of cold. After an uneventful Saturday spent whining about the weather, we decided it was #sundayfunday or bust. That morning, we headed to Railcar for brunch, because three-day weekends demand day drinking. Bloody Mary’s have slowly been growing on me, and I really liked Railcar’s — it had a great smoky flavor. Our food was great, too; there was even “bread service” in the form of a croissant with butter. Yes please.

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We spent the rest of Sunday morning and afternoon in a brunch coma, but recovered enough to mix up a pitcher of Strawberry Pimm’s Cups, which were super delicious and I’d highly recommend if you’re looking for a light and fruity summer cocktail (which should be everyone?). Fueled by our cocktails, we went on a closet clean out and organizing rampage and got rid of and donated tons of old magazines and clothes. Downsizing is my love language.

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Once we’d finally worked up an appetite again, we made this Mango & Red Pepper Orzo Salad for dinner. It’s full of tons of spring and summer veggies, plus some mango and mint for sweetness, and chickpeas for protein. We skipped the dressing in the recipe and just used a goddess dressing we had in the fridge. A really great combo and a salad we’ll be making on repeat this summer. It’s held up well over the last few days, too, and made great lunch leftovers with some grilled chicken mixed in.

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On Sunday we woke up and made coffee and had bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon, which we picked up at Costco the day before. I’ve always enjoyed smoked salmon at restaurants but wasn’t sure how the quality of the Costco version would be — we were super impressed and will definitely buy it again as it makes for a great breakfast!

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While we had breakfast, we baked a loaf of bread that had been proofing and rising since the night before. We used Jim Lahey’s no-knead method, letting it rise for about 15 hours, then forming it into a ball, and then letting it rise again for another 2 hours right before baking. It’s a foolproof method that just requires a little bit of planning ahead to pull off. I love how hands-off it is for how delicious the bread tastes. Now that I know how easy it is, we’ll definitely be making our own bread more often and experimenting with different additions to the dough.

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Once our bread finished baking and we let it cool long enough to sneak a quick taste, we noticed the sun was coming out and decided to enjoy some time outside while it lasted. We headed out to Lake Zorinsky and walked/ran the loops around both sides of the lake, about 8 miles total. It was unexpectedly sunny the entire time and we did not wear sunscreen. I’ve been feeling pretty sad lately with all the clouds so the vitamin D and endorphins were great therapy. The trail itself was prettier than I remember it being the couple times we’ve been out there, and I think it’ll be a great place for some long runs during marathon training.

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We were pretty hungry after our run so we made a quick stop at the store for burgers and pretzel buns and cooked those up for lunch once we got home. It’s also not officially summer until you have a giant watermelon taking up approximately one fourth of your fridge. Also, the Steigl Grapefruit Radler is everything.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon doing yard work – we were able to get both the front and back yards mowed and raked and some weeds taken care of. Yard work is decidedly not my favorite part about being a homeowner, but it also feels so rewarding to have it done, and makes sitting outside on cool summer nights that much more appealing. We were able to get everything done in time to enjoy a couple more hours of warmth and sunshine outside while we read and had dessert.

Hope everyone had a nice weekend!

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homaha

Photo May 19, 8 06 40 AM

Three years ago we packed up nearly everything we owned into exactly twenty boxes, weighed down our Corolla with clothes for a week and a few essentials, and drove halfway across the country, from Tucson to Omaha. It took a long time – a really long time – for this move to feel like anything remotely close to the right decision for our little family. That first year here brought some of the lowest lows and made us question why we’d left everything behind like we had – wonderful friends, stable jobs, 350 days of sunshine. But slowly but surely, things started to turn a corner. One by one, things have fallen into place – which is to say, we worked hard and were patient. New jobs that were the right fit for both of us. A house, a space that is all our own. New friendships. Things have been looking up for awhile now, and I’m so glad we stuck it out and that we’re here. I have no idea where life will take us, or if we’ll be here forever, but for now, it feels good to call this home.

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meals / week 18 & 19

It’s been a few weeks since a weekly meals post! The week of our half marathon, a couple of weeks ago now, we literally ate out or had some sort of dinnertime event every night that week, so this post is from the past two weeks since then. We were hoping that life would calm down a little bit after our race, but it’s still feeling pretty crazy around here. I think an important lesson that we’re learning is that not everything has to be a perfect meal to be dinner-worthy. Sometimes I feel defeated if we don’t have all the ingredients for a particular recipe, or when there’s a bunch of random things in the fridge that don’t seem to go together – it can be easier to resort to take-out on those nights, but when I stick it out and make something from what’s already there, it’s infinitely more rewarding.

Here are a few things we’ve put together over the last two weeks: 

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EGG AND CHEESE BURRITOS
Otherwise pretty basic and boring, but with these tortillas, kind of amazing. These are the next best thing to homemade, are restaurant-quality good, and get that good crispiness that is hard to achieve with other store-bought soft tortillas. If you live near a Costco or Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, give these guys a try next time. Oh, and yes, that’s beef jerky on our burritos. Sometimes you gotta get creative.

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GREEN GODDESS SPINACH SALAD WITH SWEET POTATOES, CHICKPEAS, AND JERKY
We’ve made a few different versions of this salad recently. I’m not good at eating salads as an entree unless they are filled with delicious things. Leftover baked sweet potato, a can of chickpeas, some sliced up beef jerky (again!), and yummy green goddess dressing definitely made this worth eating.

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PASTA WITH TOMATOES AND ASPARAGUS
Nothin’ special. Except that it’s asparagus season, which is obviously very special.

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BAKED SWEET POTATO WITH BBQ CHICKEN
I actually really like baked sweet potatoes, and they are easy to make in a big batch, so I’m not sure why we don’t make them more often. I rubbed these with some olive oil and coarse sea salt, baked for about an hour on 400, then added some shredded rotisserie chicken with BBQ sauce, plus scallions and shredded cheese. A pretty hands-off, hearty, healthy meal that we’ve been having for lunches a lot lately as well and has become a new fave.

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ASPARAGUS AND RICOTTA TARTINES WITH LEMON ZEST
We needed something quick and easy for Friday dinner last week, so we stopped on our way home for bread and ricotta and whipped up these tartines, which I gather is just a fancy word for things on toast. They were really good, especially with the addition of lemon zest. They would be a great appetizer for bigger meal or for a dinner party, but worked out pretty well for us since I made several of them and since I knew we’d likely be eating something else later that evening.

this week: This week we’re determined to get a bunch of yard work done and our garden planted, which means we should be home most nights and making dinner. There are a bunch of random things in the freezer and cabinet that I’m hoping to make use of before we go on vacation in a few weeks, so there might be some, uh, creative, meals this week.

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lincoln half marathon weekend and race recap

This past Sunday we ran the Lincoln Half Marathon, our 7th 1/2 and our 2nd annual Lincoln. Lincoln is only about 45-60 minutes from Omaha, so perfectly drive-able on the morning of, but since we had decided to rent out our house on Airbnb for the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder’s Meeting, we had to make a full weekend of it in Lincoln. We headed down Friday after work, and after much hullabaloo checking it at our classy hotel, the Super 8, went to dinner at Momo Pizzeria. Here we had a delicious cocktail, a really yummy pizza and a couple of appetizers, and seriously crappy service. 2/3; it’ll do.

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We watched a little bit of Netflix back at our hotel and tried to crash early, as sleep the night before the night before a race is extra important. We slept decent, and awoke early to the news of the newest royal baby. We proceeded to watch Good Morning America for an embarrassingly long time, then meandered down to the free breakfast and entertained ourselves with the waffle maker for awhile. There was no way we were drinking motel coffee, so off to Cultiva we went. Their new location near East Campus is bright and spacious, and we loved our cappuccinos as usual. We even bumped into a barista who used to work at our favorite Omaha coffee shop.

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Next it was off to the expo and packet pickup. Lincoln is a fairly large race (for the area) – 12,500 – but they somehow make packet pickup super simple and painless. After getting our packets and examining all the goodies inside, it was picture time.

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After a few too many selfies as usual, we headed up to the expo, where booth after booth proceeded to take all of my money. And by that I mean I gave them all my money in the form of gear purchases. The deals were too good; we couldn’t be helped! I even managed to score a Brooks winter running jacket I’d been eyeing for awhile for only $50! I won’t be able to wear it for another six months, but it’ll sure be handy come November. Among all of the other absolute necessities I bought were these runderpants (which I actually ended up wearing for the race and were very comfortable). I mean, come on! I had to.

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Post-expo we walked a few blocks down to the Haymarket and meandered around the farmer’s market, which is exciting if you’re a Nebraskan because this was its first weekend back since October. We had our fair share of samples, then met up with my sister for paninis at a really neat underground cafe, Crescent Moon Coffee. Our sandwiches were fantastic and the staff were very friendly; we’ll definitely be back here on a future trip, and if I was still in school this would totally be a place I’d study at (or pretend to study while drinking lattes). After lunch Hannah took Kevin and I on our inaugural trip to Ivanna Cone. Now that I’m writing this ivannanother one.

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We walked around a bit more and then parted ways with Hannah so we could go relax at our hotel for awhile. Once back we completed several very important tasks, including spending a good hour overanalyzing what outfit to wear for race day. Since it was expected to be warm, we both decided on shorts, short sleeves (a tank for me), and hats. Then, in night-before-race tradition, we laid out Flat Hollyanne and Flat Kevin for their photo op. There’s my runderpants again!

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After a few hours of resting, we went back downtown for the pre-race pastathon. We met up with my coworker Teresa and her friend Sydney at the dinner and just hung out and hydrated for awhile. It probably goes against all good training advice, but it’s become somewhat common for us to have a beer the night before a race – both to calm the nerves and because we love checking out breweries in cities we’re running in. We’d been wanting to check out Blue Blood for awhile so there we went. We both had their wheat beer which was light and refreshing, and had a good (weird?) conversation with the bartender.

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We were back to our hotel by 7:30 or so and read for awhile before our 9:00pm bed time. I never, ever, ever sleep well the night before a race (or really any special event), but I actually managed to fall asleep pretty fast and only wake up once before the 5:00am alarm. WOOT. At 5, we got up and got dressed, pinned on our bibs, ate a banana, and packed up the car and checked out of our hotel by 5:45 so we could be on campus where the race started by 6.

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Once on campus, we did the bathroom things before the lines got too long, dropped off our gear-check bags, and ate a mini bagel with peanut butter. We usually just have a banana before long runs but on race day those extra carbs about an hour beforehand come in handy. We took a very tired-looking selfie and also met up for a photo with a couple of other Omaha runners. Shout out to Vanessa and Rachel!

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A couple of nervous pees and a few minutes later, it was time to line up! There was a new system this year where you lined up based on the color of your bib, which corresponded to your expected finish time. I was in the green section, about halfway back, and Kevin was orange, a few corrals back from me. We said our goodbyes and good lucks, parted ways, and got in our respective waves. Temperature at the start of the race was around 60, with approximately 1000% humidity.

Now for a brief race recap from each of us:

H: Going into the race I was hoping to PR and break 1:50, but also possibly come closer to 1:45 depending on how I felt. Right away I felt HOT and THIRSTY and like even 1:50 might be a struggle. The first half or so I felt solid but was stopping at every aid station for water, and drinking most of the 6-8 ounces each time. I’m not used to drinking anywhere near that much water during long runs, so while I knew it was important to stay hydrated on this unseasonably warm and humid day, all that water sloshing around caught up to me at about mile 8. I ended up taking several walking breaks – another thing I don’t normally do – over the last 4-5 miles, secretly hoping my paces would be so bad that I couldn’t possibly meet my goals and could maybe just jog really slow and/or walk and get this thing over with. With about 5k left I knew I had just enough time to break 1:50 and so I went for it – aka, I felt like I was sprinting the entire time but was really doing 9:00 minute miles. It got a little dicey at the end, but seeing my sister and her roommate at 12.5ish really helped me kick things up a notch and finish strong with a new PR and my first sub 1:50: 1:49.31. They were even so kind to take a few photos as I passed.

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Hey, I don’t look so bad here. Probably because it’s kind of far away. Let’s get closer.

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Ah, that’s more like it. I like to call this one, “Will somebody please high five me already?!” As you have just seen, I am not someone who produces good-looking race photos. I like to think it’s because I’m working real hard. People who take cute race photos, you’re my hero and I also hate you a lot.

K: Going into the race, I was hoping to break the 2:30 barrier (finally).  I knew that my training had been solid, and that given ideal race conditions, it would be more than possible to do.  With the starting temperature being what it was, though, I knew that I needed to make sure not to start off too quick, or I would fade away down the stretch.  I spent most of the first 5K navigating around slower runners/walkers, which, while annoying, helped me from not going too fast.  About mile 4 I started to realize that the weather was warming up, and my body wasn’t reacting well.  I still continued on, walking for one minute every half mile (this was the plan all along).  Right around mile 5, there was a guy spraying runners with his garden hose.  God bless that man, it felt outstanding.  I hit the 10K point about an hour and 9 minutes in, and began to realize that it was going to be VERY difficult to hit 2:30 with the heat.  My pace had already slowed down more than it should have, and I wasn’t going to be getting any faster.  When I got to the water station at mile 7, it was clear that my strategy was going to be about just finishing.  I fully stopped for ice and water at each of the last 3 aid stations, and took as many walk breaks the rest of the way to the finish.  I saw Holl, my sister-in-law, and my sister-in-law’s roommate at about 12 and a half, and I think the only words I could muster were “It’s really F*%#ing hot.”  Anyhow, I made it to the finish in 2:39.29.  Not my fastest time, and not my slowest time, but on a day like that, I’ll definitely take it!

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Kevin takes way better race photos than I do. WHY ARE YOU SO HAPPY? Knock it off.

All things considered, a pretty great weekend. I’m so proud of both of us for our strong training during this cycle, getting out there and getting it done, and most of all – finishing. There were several medical transports and hospitalizations due to the heat, etc., so as always, having a healthy body that can finish a race is something we’re so grateful for. I’ve enjoyed all of the half marathons we’ve done, but so far, Lincoln is my most favorite – not just because I’ve set PRs here two years in a row (though that helps), but mostly because of the outpouring of amazing volunteers who help make the race possible and the support offered by spectators (many of whom don’t know anyone racing, and are just out there!) along the entirety of the course. To the people who handed out kleenex/orange slices/gummy bears/vaseline, God bless you.

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We take recovery pretty seriously around here, so once we were back home that meant breakfast burritos from a south Omaha taco shop, ice cold margaritas, and compression socks.

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What’s next? Stay tuned; we’re both signed up for our first full marathons this fall and we’ll be talking running around here way more often.

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sunday suppers | braised short rib ravioli with red wine reduction

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Ever since we got our stand mixer and the pasta roller attachment a couple of years ago, it’s been on my bucket list to try homemade ravioli. Last weekend marked our seven year dating anniversary and we miraculously had a free Sunday so in celebration we decided to give it a go. Since this was our first try at this, we probably could have (should have?) gone with something simple like a basic cheese-filled ravioli, BUT, last summer on a trip to Locanda in San Francisco, we had a life-changing meal of The Best Pasta Ever, which happened to be short rib ravioli in a deep, rich braising sauce. I routinely dream about this meal and it’s been on my mind to attempt recreating it ever since, so when we decided to do ravioli, I knew it had to be this.

I googled around for recipes a bit and found quite a few that looked good, but ultimately thought this one looked the most similar to what I was going for, and also had good, thorough directions. We more or less followed this recipe verbatim (rare for me!), except that we didn’t have a ravioli pan so we used a mason jar lid to cut out our pasta instead, which worked well once we got the hang of it (lots of flour). The short ribs braise on the stove uninterrupted for three hours, so there’s quite a bit of hands-off time, but I will say – things got a little stressful at the end, because you’ll have one skillet with boiling water for the pasta, another skillet with an obscene amount of melted butter (just let it happen) to coat the pasta in once its done cooking, and the reduced sauce staying warm on another burner. (Anytime there are more than two things going at once on my stove, it gets a little dicey). But it’s only chaotic for a short few minutes and then you get to pour yourself some wine (probably not Rose, like we did – I got distracted by the pretty bottle) and sit down to an amazing meal.

My worst fear with ravioli making has always been that they’ll fall apart, but I’m happy to report they stayed together very nicely (I recommend an egg or ice water wash for sealing unless you have a ravioli pan). Next time, I’d probably roll the dough even thinner, or cook them for an extra minute or two. But the butter sauce with mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery) and the reduced braising sauce? Wouldn’t change a damn thing. If we’re talking deep, rich flavor, this sauce is probably the single most delicious thing we’ve ever made, and it totally “makes” the dish. Don’t skip it, and be patient while it reduces and thickens up.

If you’ve been thinking about making some ravioli yourself, I highly recommend this version.

for the meat, sauce, and overall recipe: Braised Short Rib Ravioli from Kev Cooks
for fresh pasta dough: Homemade Pasta from Spoon Fork Bacon

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