back to basics / 04: running gear

We’re currently training for another half marathon, so have been running 4-5 times/week, and unfortunately it’s mostly been in below-freezing temperatures. Consequently I’ve started to amass quite the collection of cold-weather running gear, and thought I would share a few of my favorites here, in case you’re in the market for anything yourself. Happy running!

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shirt | GapFit Breathe long-sleeve tee

These shirts are really soft (like, I’ve worn it as pajamas) and relatively expensive, and bonus: usually on sale online. I think they’re perfect for days where it’s not cold enough for a jacket but you still want a long-sleeve layer, and the thumb holes are another of my favorite features. These tops also work great as a base layer under jackets, etc.

vest | Athleta Stripe Jammin’ Run Vest

I recently got this vest less for an extra layer of warmth and more as something semi-reflective to wear during morning runs in the winter months when it’s pitch black outside. It’s a great top layer and also functions as a light windbreaker because of the material it’s made out of. The side pockets are perfect for my phone, too. And as an added bonus, it’s cute enough to wear around running errands after a workout (or you know, after not working out).

tights | Under Armour ColdGear Qualifier Run Tight

There are a million different kinds of tights out there, ranging from super lightweight to super thermal. I like having something in between that keeps me warm on single-digit runs but that I don’t get super hot in once I’ve warmed up. I have about 5 different pairs and so far, these UA ones are my favorite. They have a light thermal layer inside but still feel really breathable and don’t get too warm. Women’s tights tend to not have pockets so I love that these have one in the back, perfect for carrying a debit card, a few dollars, or some GU.

shoes | Brooks Glycerin 12

Shoes are hard to recommend because the type you buy should be dependent on your gait, pronation, arches, etc. If you’re in the market for new running shoes, as tempting as it can be to buy the $40 pair at DSW (been there), you really should visit a local running store (here in Omaha we love Peak Performance) for a gait analysis and invest in a quality pair of shoes. Your feet will thank you. My last two pairs of shoes have been Brooks Glycerin 12s, so if you’re a neutral pronator with medium-to-high arches then I can’t recommend these enough. Plus they come in obnoxious/amazing colors, like highlighter yellow.

pocket | Roo Sport Magnetic Pocket

I almost always run with my phone, whether for music and/or as a safety precaution, so I usually try to wear something with a pocket that can hold it. That doesn’t always work out, though, so in those times I’m without a pocket, I use the Roo Sport. It’s the perfect size for a phone and has a CRAZY STRONG magnet. That thing isn’t going anywhere once it’s clipped on. It also works well for carrying cash, car/house key, etc. There are a few different sizes available based on what you plan to carry in it.

gloves | Target C9 by Champion Gloves

If you’re running in single digit or below-zero temps, you’ll definitely need some serious gloves. I’ve gotten by with Target ones for a long time, and in really cold temps will usually layer them over a cheap cotton pair for extra warmth. I’m still on the hunt for a really good cold weather pair that doesn’t cost a small fortune, but for now, this works, and it’s almost spring anyways, right?

headband | Target C9 by Champion Striped Twist Headband

I’m sure there are better headbands out there but I have several different versions of these C9 ones from Target, and they’ve served me well. I apparently have a giant head because beanies don’t ever seem to fit over my ears, so I usually opt for headbands. These C9 ones are warm, cover my ears (most importantly), and stay on pretty well. They also usually have a ponytail hole which is nice.

socks | Target C9 by Champion Heel Tab Socks

I’m willing to spend a lot of money on many other running attire components, but socks do not tend to be one of them. Target never seems to have the exact same socks, so I have many different versions of these C9 ones – I look for the ones that are ankle-cut but cover my heel, and that are made of “athletic” material rather than just cotton, but otherwise, they’re a go! Socks, like shoes, are a super important component, so make sure you find something that works for you, and then stock up and be consistent.

fuel | GU Nutrition Energy Gel, Salted Caramel

For long runs (5 miles +) we usually bring some sort of fuel to have during or sometimes right afterwards. We’ve tried lots of different brands and products but our favorite right now is the Salted Caramel GU. Before I tried it, it sounded like the last thing I’d want to eat in the middle of working out, but it’s actually totally delicious and pretty refreshing. I’d legit put this stuff over ice cream. It’s the perfect sugar boost to get you through those last few miles, and super easy to use since you can just rip off the tab, hold in your hand, and squeeze (it’s basically adult Go-Gurt). As with all electrolyte replacement fuels, make sure you wash it down with some water.

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meals / week 8

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HOMEMADE POTATO GNOCCHI WITH SLOW-ROASTED TOMATOES, LONG-COOKED KALE WITH PANCETTA, AND RICOTTA

We more than made up for our failed week of non-meals the week prior by kicking off last Sunday with this amazing trio of dishes. I wrote a more in-depth blog post about this meal last week, so if you’re interested in reading more and/or the recipes, head over here.

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ROASTED CHICKEN AND CARROTS WITH TARRAGON AIOLI

We added Date Night In to our cookbook collection a couple weeks ago and are excited to cook our way through it. I plan to write more about it in the future, but the book is organized by season and into menu for “date nights in,” which usually include a cocktail, salad or side, and entree, and a dessert. While we haven’t made a full menu from this book yet, we did give the roasted chicken a try last week and it was out of this world. Definitely the most crispy-on-the-outside, but moist-on-the-inside chicken I’ve ever had, and definitely will be our go-to roasted chicken recipe in the future. The tarragon aioli and roasted carrots were great compliments to the chicken. Bonus: leftovers for lunches throughout the week!

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CHEESE PIZZA WITH RICOTTA, SLOW-ROASTED TOMATOES, AND BASIL

This pizza wasn’t exactly homemade, but still did the trick. Hy-Vee was having a great FuelSaver deal on their Italian food, so we up a few pizzas and froze some for quick weeknight meals. We fancied up the plain cheese pizza with some ricotta, leftover slow-roasted tomatoes from the gnocchi, and fresh basil. For grocery store pizza, we were pretty impressed. The crust crisped up nicely and tasted pretty fresh!

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CAVATELLI WITH BUTTER, PARMESAN AND LEMON

Clearly these tomatoes really made the rounds last week (can’t wait until fresh from the garden tomatoes again this summer; these roasted tomatoes are going to be a staple around here). We were feeling pretty tempted to go out or grab takeout this night, but stayed strong. I find a simple bowl of pasta is a great antidote to nights like this because it’s easy to make but always very satisfying.

this week:  I’m in Rhode Island most of this week for work, so Kevin will be on his own for making (and photographing) meals. He tells me that another Hy-Vee pizza and brisket are in the plans for this week :)

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sunday suppers: homemade potato gnocchi with slow-roasted tomatoes, long-cooked kale with pancetta, and whole milk ricotta.

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It’s become somewhat of a tradition around here to wind down from the weekend with a big, sometimes kind of fancy Sunday night dinner. These last few fall and winter months, that’s typically meant braising some sort of meat low and slow in the oven all afternoon long. We love things like this that are mostly hands-off but yield delicious results, but last weekend after a long week of total weeknight dinner failure, we were craving some time spent in the kitchen.

Gnocchi is one of my favorite dishes, and even though we have the store-bought kind fairly often and I order it at restaurants every chance I get, we’ve never taken the time to make our own from scratch. Last Sunday seemed like the time to finally give it a shot, so we spent the morning scouring cookbooks for gnocchi techniques and vegetable dishes that would compliment the pasta. I had a gnocchi dish at Modern Love a few weeks ago, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. It was served in a spicy, tomato-y broth with almond ricotta on the side. Taking inspiration from both my and Kevin’s meals that night, our menu started to come together: traditional potato gnocchi with slow-roasted tomatoes, long-cooked kale, and some high-quality whole milk ricotta to top it off.

Making gnocchi, just like any other homemade pasta, is a labor of love. It’s also basically the adult version of play-doh, so there’s that. It’s not exactly a quick process, but it’s not exactly hard either, and (in my mind at least) spending an afternoon learning new cooking technique is 90% of the fun anyway. The dough comes together surprisingly easy; potato ricers are just plain fun; and rolling, cutting, and shaping each piece of gnocchi is basically what my wannabe-chef dreams are made of.

Of course, you will also want some cocktails to accompany your gnocchi-making adventure. The smartest thing we did on this day (and that I can’t believe we haven’t done before) was to make a pitcher of cocktails. We made enough for 6 total, and before you’re like, omg that’s so many cocktails, you should know that gnocchi-making is a long process. We had one while we boiled the potatoes and worked with the dough; one while cooking and plating; and other later on while we watched the Oscars. The sage-grapefruit cocktail that Kevin picked out was a great compliment to our dinner, and it was so nice to be able to just pour the next one when we were ready and top with Cava.

All of the components of this meal turned out amazing. The gnocchi were light and pillowy even though we weren’t super consistent with their sizing. The slow-cooked tomatoes were so sweet after three hours in a low oven, and the kale had such a rich flavor after cooking for over 30 minutes in an oniony-pancetta broth. And let’s just say I’ll never be buying skim milk ricotta again.

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Our afternoon was the perfect way to end a great weekend and kick off the week. Nothing makes me happier than spending time in the kitchen with my favorite person, and nothing is more rewarding than a totally homemade meal.

Should you wish to embark on your own gnocchi-making adventure and have a great date night in (and I highly recommend you do), here’s where you can find all the recipes.

gnocchi: Martha Stewart’s Basic Potato Gnocchi
tomatoes: Smitten Kitchen Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
kale: Long-Cooked Kale (adapted from David Tanis’ One Good Dish) (similar from Mario Batali)
ricotta: whole milk ricotta (such as Bel Gioioso brand)
cocktail: Sage Advice (from Shake) (recipe follows)

SAGE ADVICE COCKTAIL

ingredients

-4.5 oz sage liqueur (3 shots)
-1.5 oz simple syrup (1 shot)
-9 oz ruby red grapefuit juice (6 shots)
-12 sage leaves
-grapefruit peel
-Spanish cava or other dry sparkling wine

directions

Add 6 of the sage leaves and a few pieces of grapefruit peel to a cocktail shaker; muddle. Add a few pieces of ice.

Add the sage liqueur, simple syrup, and grapefruit juice to the shaker.

Shake (ideally) or stir (if your shaker is too full) to mix. Strain contents into a pitcher.

When ready to serve, strain cocktail mixture into chilled coupe glasses, add cava, and garnish each with a sage leaf. Cheers!
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meals / week 7

Well, as you’ll see below, only two meals to report from last week. It was a bit of a chaotic week, between a few stressful days at work and of course, Omaha beer week. Consequently, we got takeout and/or didn’t eat a real dinner more nights than usual. But that’s okay. Starting this meals series was partly about accountability to ourselves and partly about sharing ideas with others, but also about keeping it real. In our social media-driven world where it constantly seems like everyone but you has their shit together, sometimes it’s refreshing to know you’re not the only one having popcorn and wine for dinner…again. So, if anyone out there has ever thought that we have it all figured out and get dinner on the table seven nights a week, let me assure you: sometimes we just have popcorn and wine for dinner. And lots of other times we get burritos, because burritos.

For me, cooking and meal planning have always been in sort of a love-hate battle. I like feeling prepared for the week, I like saving money, and I generally enjoy the cooking process. But taking a week off every now and then, whether it’s intentional or not, can feel like such a relief. I’ve always been a big believer that if you cut yourself a little slack, you’re naturally going to feel and be more successful because you’ve built in a little wiggle room for slipping up. Last week it was so nice to just focus on work and get pizza or burritos or make popcorn and just totally zone out once we were home for the night. But true to form, this week I’m craving real meals and some time spent in the kitchen again.

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BOURBON-MARINATED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH COUSCOUS AND SAUTEED APPLES

We’ve made this recipe from Dinner: A Love Story several times on both the grill and in the oven, and it always turns out well. It’s easy enough for a weeknight meal but is also one of those dishes that tastes so much better than the effort it requires, so it would also work well for a dinner party. We didn’t have any veggies around this night, so I sliced up an apple and sautéed it in a couple tablespoons of butter until softened. Pork and apples are such a great combo, so the veggies were hardly missed. The couscous was from a box, but it does the trick. The pork reheats really well, too, in a low oven or (in a pinch, or at work) in the microwave.

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LEMON HERB TROUT WITH STEAMED BROCCOLI + CAULIFLOWER

This was actually our first time having trout, and I have to admit I was skeptical at first. We got it in our CSA, so I was determined not to let it go to waste, but was expecting it to be very “fishy.” I was sorely mistaken, as this turned out to be one of the fastest and tastiest fish dishes I’ve ever had. We seared the fillets for a couple of minutes on each side, then peeled the skin off, and served alongside a steamed (yep, in the microwave) bag of broccoli and cauliflower. Super healthy and quick, and reminds me that we need to pick up fish for weeknight dinners more often.

this week: This week we’re trying out a new roasted chicken recipe, and might try again on the brisket tacos, since we never got around to them last week. I have an extra pizza dough in the freezer, so that might make its way into the lineup as well.

What have you all been cooking lately? What do you do on weeks/days when you’re just not feelin’ it? 

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meals / week 6

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BUCATINI + MEATBALLS

Where has bucatini been all my life? All the same deliciousness as spaghetti, but with holes going through the noodles so the sauce can get all up in there? Sign me up. This week we started half marathon training, so between getting a 3 mile run in after work, making dinner, and showering, all before The Bachelor comes on, Monday nights are obviously pretty busy. So far this year, we’ve been making bigger batches of things and freezing leftovers to make for easier weeknight meals, so we were able to pull these leftover meatballs (from meatball sliders a few weeks ago) down the night before and repurpose them into a quick, filling meal.

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OIL + VINEGAR LENTILS WITH ROASTED BEETS AND CARROTS

I had some roasted beets and carrots pulled down from the freezer and was searching for recipe when I came across this one from PBS for a lentil salad with root veggies. We picked up a box of steamed lentils in the refrigerated section at the store, heated them for a minute in the microwave, and added olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. I kept the veggies cold and added a little bit of arugula and feta to the salad. I wasn’t expecting this to be especially delicious, but it was actually a really great flavor combo and something I would definitely make again. The addition of oil + vinegar to the lentils really brightens the dish and the feta helps to temper the rooty flavor of the beets. A great, quick vegetarian weeknight meal that I’ll be turning to again.

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SPELT GRAIN PIZZA WITH POTATOES, ARUGULA, FETA AND TRUFFLE OIL

We got a bag of spelt flour in our CSA this week so my first though was to find a pizza dough recipe. We ended up using this recipe (I used AP flour instead of white bean), and it worked wonderfully. I made up the dough in our stand mixer the night before, let it rise for about 2 hours, then halved it and put one half in the fridge and the other in the freezer. On the night we had the pizza, I let the dough rest on the counter while we went for a run (about 35 minutes), then rolled it out, added toppings, and baked at 450 for about 15 minutes (adding arugula for the last 1-2 minutes and truffle oil after baking). I rolled it out thin so it yielded a really crispy crust which we like. I hadn’t ever worked with spelt flour before but I’d definitely get some again, especially for whole grain pizzas!

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OVEN-ROASTED CHICKEN LEGS WITH SWEET POTATO-ARUGULA SALAD
This was one of those nights where we were thiiiiis close to throwing in the towel and getting burritos. It had been a later night at work for both of us and the last thing I wanted to do was good. But I reminded myself that we had thawed this chicken and that a meal wouldn’t be all that difficult to throw together. I was right and ultimately glad we took the high road because this roasted chicken recipe resulted in really tender, juicy meat. I might up the spice next time, now that I know it can take quite a bit without being overpowering, but the butter baste is where it’s at (don’t be alarmed by the 2 sticks the recipe calls for – we made 6 legs and used about 4 tablespoons, which worked out fine). To round out the meal, I chopped up a sweet potato and roasted that with the chicken, then added arugula, feta, and craisins for a yummy salad. Bonus: there were even leftovers for me to take for lunch the next day.

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LOBSTER MAC + CHEESE

We opted to stay in and cook for Valentine’s Day, and I was craving some homemade mac + cheese. When lobster tails were on sale at Whole Foods that day, they were an obvious addition. We used this Ina Garten recipe, which worked out really well (halving it still yielded 5 good servings). The recipe calls for cooked lobster, which you can do a number of ways – I think the easiest way is to butterfly the tails, brush with butter and spices, and broil them in the oven for 7-10 minutes, until opaque. A fairly simple but delicious dish that’s great for a special occasion and tastes even better the next day.

this week: This week we got trout in our CSA so we’ll have that one night, and will be making brisket tacos another couple of nights. And since Lent starts this week, we will most definitely be hitting up a fish fry on Friday night.

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