getting stuff done.

Kevin and I are notorious for starting things and not finishing them…especially when it comes to home projects. We’re always getting distracted by another project or more likely, getting frustrated when something doesn’t work right the first time and resorting to watching netflix instead. I often joke that we need a mediator in order to get any home improvement projects done, no matter how small, but it’s kind of true. Last weekend, Kevin’s mom came to visit us in Omaha and we put her right to work on both mediation and home improvement duty. 

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First up was finishing these distressed shelves in the dining room area. I wish I was joking, but the brackets for one of these shelves have been screwed into the wall since August. Sans shelf. Protruding out from the wall at eye level. I’ve hit my head on them more times than I can count. Occasionally we used them as hooks. But not until our expert mediator showed up were we able to take this project to the finish line. Admittedly I actually stayed mostly out of the way on this one, waiting for my glorious shelves to finally appear. They soon did, and now I have a place for all my cookbooks, and whatever else we decide to put on the top shelf. The cookbooks were previous on a rickety bookshelf in the kitchen, so we were able to get rid of that (actually we put it out on our curb for free, and not 5 minutes later our neighbor took it – everybody wins!), and rearrange the kitchen a bit which I’m really loving.

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Next up was installing a new hinge on our storm door and then rehanging the door. In our defense, this is an at least 3-person job, but it has been on the to-do list since a big windstorm last spring blew the door open and bent it. Since then, we’ve had the storm door inside the house, and have moved it from room to room to get it out of the way, and most recently it’s sat in the stairwell and blocked us from using our side door. (Fire hazard – sorry, Mom!). We figured it was finally time to put this project to rest, and after quite an afternoon, the three of us, with help from a giant stack of books to support the weight of the door while we screwed it in, got it done.

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The third and final weekend project was putting in the last few pieces of laminate in our basement. It’s been at this stage since June and all we needed to do was buy a new jigsaw blade to cut the last few pieces and snap them in. In the approximately 8.5 million times we’ve been to Ace since June, we have failed to buy this new blade approximately 8.5 million of those times. We finally bought one, and put in the last 2.5 pieces in about 30 minutes. Maybe in another year and a half, we’ll be done with the trim.

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We were on a roll so we did a couple other small projects on Sunday afternoon. We needed new hooks in the entryway, so we bought some and got those screwed in.

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We’re always misplacing running gloves, hats, headphones, etc., so we bought a shower caddy, hung it up in the basement, and moved all of our running accessories onto it.

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And lastly, we’re working on a gallery wall for the basement, and finally got frames for a few of the things we plan to hang up. Still a few more to go, and you know, the actual hanging them part, but baby steps, right?

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Feels good to get things done and crossed off our to-do list, especially things that have been on there forever!

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meals / week 3

we had a lot going on this past week, and kevin’s mom was in town for the weekend, so we ate out quite a bit this week, but still got in a couple of yummy meals at home and used up a lot of our CSA ingredients.

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TORTILLA ESPANOLA (SPANISH TORTILLA)

when I studied abroad in spain, we had this dish quite a bit, but i’ve strangely never made it myself. it’s actually very simple to make, and takes only about 30 minutes, most of which is stirring and/or watching time. onions, potatoes, eggs, and olive oil are all you’ll need for this, so it’s easy to pull together on a sunday afternoon with ingredients you likely already have, and enjoy for lunches throughout the week (either let come to room temp or microwave for 20-30 seconds). i used the recipe from this cookbook, but this one is very similar. after the eggs are mostly cooked, i would recommend the extra step of putting the skillet into the broiler for 1-2 minutes to fully set the omelet and crisp things up.

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PORK LETTUCE WRAPS
 
one of the many things I’m loving about our winter CSA is that each week we get an email of what’s going to be in that week’s box, as well as some recipe ideas. since this week’s box included bibb lettuce and ground pork, one of the suggested recipes was for pork lettuce wraps. we browned the pork, boiled a pack of ramen noodles, chopped up some scallions, carrots, and peanuts, picked up some sweet chili sauce, and well within 30 minutes had a healthy, simple weeknight meal. the pound of pork was enough for about 3 lettuce wraps each for 2 nights (12 total).

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SWEET POTATO HASH BROWNS WITH FRIED EGGS (AND CARAMELIZED LEEKS)

you’ll probably start to see a trend in these posts – we do breakfast for dinner at least every couple of weeks, not necessarily on purpose, but because it’s easy and a great meal solution for the end of the week when you’re not feeling motivated and/or there’s not much in your fridge. we typically just dice sweet potatoes or potatoes for more of a hash, but i thought grating them for hash browns would be good and something a little different. turns out, they were delicious, especially with a fried egg and some caramelized leeks (that were on their last leg in the fridge after not getting used for something else) on top.

this week: i didn’t get a good picture of our CSA bag this week, but we got ground beef, pasta, brown rice, spinach, a delicata squash, a couple of acorn squash, dried oyster mushrooms, and bread. we made a squash pasta last night for dinner that will give us a couple of lunches this week, and we’re planning to make up some burger and grill a couple nights this week since we’re still having 50 degree weather.

what are you making this week?

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cunningham lake.

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It’s a common joke that midwesterners are always talking about the weather, and this falls into the funny-because-it’s-true category. Of course, now that I’ve spent the better part of my adult life living in Omaha, I’m guilty of it too. Call me crazy, but I almost wouldn’t have it any other way. Weather here, it’s kind of a way of life. Each season brings with it something new – not good, not bad – but different. Summer is that much sweeter when you’ve had a winter. And winter, with its slower pace, full of lazy weekend mornings and sweatpants, is better welcomed after a summer spent soaking up the good life.

Maybe even better are the rare winter days that feel like spring, the summer nights that feel like fall – that offer a little break in the monotony of the season and a chance to rejuvenate or to slow things down, just for a moment. After an early start to winter this year and a very cold, very windy, very cloudy (but sadly not very snowy) December, a few 50 degree days in January were overdue.

Last weekend, we finally made it out to Cunningham Lake in NW Omaha and took advantage of the amazing weather with an 8-mile hike. It was absolutely beautiful – perfectly blue skies and bright sunshine, two things that have been rarer lately than I’d like. We took lots of snack breaks, selfie breaks, and even got brave and walked out on the ice (ok, like 6 inches). A few photos below…

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meals / week 2

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MINI MEATBALL SANDWICHES ON PRETZEL BUNS

i knew right away i wanted to make meatballs with the ground beef we got from last week’s CSA bag. when we stumbled upon a bag of pretzel slider buns at costco, it was a no-brainer: meatball slider sandwiches. the pioneer woman recipe linked above is an extremely simple but seriously delicious one: 1 lb. of meat will get you about 16 meatballs, enough for 16 sandwiches. we ate these for 2 nights and froze the other half of the meatballs and buns for another time.

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CAMPANELLE WITH SHALLOT PARMESAN CREAM SAUCE

this was almost a very boring bowl of pasta with butter and cheese, but got jazzed up a bit when i threw together a quick cream sauce. to make, heat olive oil in a small saucepan; add minced shallot and cook for a couple minutes. add a few tablespoons of heavy cream, a handful of shaved or shredded parmesan, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and cook until sauce begins to thicken, about 5 minutes, whisking constantly. add cooked, drained pasta to sauce and mix over low heat for 1 minute to finish. garnish with lemon zest. this was a delicious, quick sauce but due to the lack of vegetables and protein in this dish, about an hour later, second dinner happened…

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true life.

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GRILLED BRATS AND POTATOES

when it’s 50 degrees in january in nebraska, not grilling is not an option. brats and potatoes on the grill was the perfect friday night meal to celebrate the end of the week and this unseasonably warm weather. 

this week: this week in our CSA we got live bibb lettuce, more potatoes and carrots, popcorn(!), ground pork, eggs, and cinnamon chip bread. we already used the eggs and potatoes to make a spanish tortilla for lunches this week, and I think lettuce wraps will be on the menu for a couple dinners this week.

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what are you cooking this week?

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meals / week 1

as part of my one little word for 2015, i want to focus on planning ahead for each week’s dinners, creating simple meals throughout the week, and then sharing those ideas here. i’ll share links to recipes when applicable, which i expect will happen some weeks more than others.

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PAN CRISPED SALMON WITH LIGHT DIJON CREAM AND GARLIC BUTTER BREADCRUMBS

we normally just broil our salmon and don’t get too fancy with sauces, so this was a great recipe that jazzed things up a bit. the dijon cream was delicious, but not too heavy. we served this over boxed couscous and baby kale for a great well-rounded sunday night dinner (and monday night leftovers). for sure a keeper.

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ROASTED GREEN POZOLE WITH CHICKEN

we made a double batch of this on sunday and ended up with 6 big servings that we had for lunches throughout the week. there are a few different steps, but there’s still a lot of hands-off time and it’s a fun recipe to spend an afternoon tasting your way through as you build the different flavors. as far as taste, definitely one of the most flavorful and delicious soups i’ve ever made. this one will definitely be staying in the lunch rotation. (btw, i loosely followed martha’s method of poaching the chicken before starting in with the actual recipe).

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MINI SWEET POTATO PIZZAS

we picked up ricotta, sweet potatoes, and mini whole wheat pizza crusts for these, and then just used other veggies that we had in the fridge instead of following the ingredients list. individual pizzas of all types are a weeknight staple around here, so i’m happy to have another quick and easy idea in the repertoire.

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SWEET POTATO + YUKON GOLD HASH WITH FRIED EGG AND TOAST

or what is probably better referred to as, it’s the middle to end of the week and we got home late from working out and had zero desire to cook but too much good food left in the fridge to justify takeout. on these nights, we just throw all of the vegetables into a skillet with some olive oil, and put an egg (and sriracha, obvi) on it. BOOM: dinner.

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CAMPANELLE WITH SUNCHOKES, ITALIAN SAUSAGE, BABY KALE + SHAVED PARMESAN

we fell in love with sunchokes back in tucson after picking them up on a whim one time at the farmer’s market there…i don’t see them often, but when we do i always pick up a few – they’re a great source of fiber, iron, and vitamin c! i usually would just roast them, but i was intrigued by this pasta recipe that had you steam and them saute them. we made a few adaptations to the recipe linked above – campanelle instead of orecchiette, baby kale instead of parsley, the addition of italian sausage and shaved parmesan – but definitely don’t skip the lemon juice. it really helps elevates and brighten up this dish into a special weeknight meal that still only took about 30 minutes to pull together. another keeper.

this week:
starting this past saturday, we’re participating in a winter CSA that we’ll get meat, beans/grains, greens and other veggies, and bread from each week for the next 8 weeks, so i’m looking forward to using what we get in our box each week as a guide for dinner. this first week, we’re getting: 1 lb. grass-fed organic beef, dried pinto beans, carrots, cabbage, beets, and potatoes.

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i’m not sure what we’ll do with the veggies yet, but the beans will be cooked up for lunches with brown rice, and the ground beef will become meatballs on pretzel slider buns!

what are you cooking this week? 

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