Citrus Salmon with Kale & Whole-Wheat Couscous

Citrus Salmon with Kale & Whole-Wheat Couscous

Can we just talk about the weather we’ve been having lately? It’s been…well, not miserable! Finally. Okay, so it hasn’t actually been all that bad (yet) compared to other years, but when it’s cold, it’s cold. But the weather the past few days have made going outside almost enjoyable. It was so nice on Sunday (a balmy 40 degrees) — and knowing it wasn’t going to last long — I took the opportunity to drop what I was doing and go for an impromptu run around our new neighborhood. Just what I needed! Cabin fever is a legit thing, I tell ya.

With the great much improved weather and the idea of “fresh starts” still on my mind with the new year, I was craving something other than soups for once. Citrus Salmon with Kale & Whole-Wheat Couscous was the result.

IMG_3406

(continue reading…)

(Philip’s Favorite) Soft & Chewy Snickerdoodles

Soft & Chewy Snickerdoodles

Hello again! It’s the new homeowner here! I’m feeling especially like an adult today because not only am I living in a house that we own now, but because we went furniture shopping yesterday and purchased a new dining room set. A gorgeous, classy, sophisticated, too-good-to-be-mine kind of dining room set. Oh, and a large copper-colored spoon, fork, and knife set to hang on our (bare) walls. It’s debatable whether I’m more excited about my life-size silverware or the new table that I’ll get to eat at in about a week when it’s delivered. Either way, it’s fun to see this house of ours come together. Wheee!!

IMG_3614

Jumping back about a month ago, I was sitting on our floor, surrounded by boxes while we were packing, sifting through old papers and the random things that start to collect in a desk. Well, I came across an old piece of scratch paper that I had started writing on when I first met Philip (okay, it’s only about 2 years old, but it seemed ancient). On the paper was a list of all of his favorite things — so I could remember the important things like his favorite color, candy bar, non-chocolate candy, cake, and season. Of course those are crucial things that I didn’t want to dare forget. But on there were also his favorite flavors like cinnamon, lime, and garlic — which still comes in useful today. Thankfully when I went through the list, I was able to confidently say I knew all of the “favorites” and could throw away the piece of paper (mostly glad so I could get rid of the paper).

On that list were some of his favorite cookies, including snickerdoodles (because of the cinnamon, no doubt). When I was first getting to know Philip, I made these cookies and sent them with his dad when he was going up to Madison to visit Philip. If I hadn’t won Philip over yet, the cookies definitely did it. They were an instant hit with him! They were soft and chewy and extra cinnamon-y.

(continue reading…)

Making a House a Home: Fresh Paint

IMG_3577

It’s back to a normal work week! Whew, doesn’t it seem like forever since there was a normal week of work? I guess it’s been too long for me; I went in to work on Saturday and, embarrassingly, it took me a half hour (no joke!) to log into my computer because I had forgotten my username. Not even my password…just my username.

My guess is it’s a combination of being off work for over a week, being knee deep in house projects and cleaning, and losing brain cells because of all the said cleaning (although I’m finding baking soda and vinegar work wonders when cleaning).

Like I mentioned last week, our project this past week was to put some paint on the walls. It was a rush after getting back from Iowa to make the final decisions on the paint colors and to purchase the paint before Philip’s parents came Monday evening to help, but it all got done and looks pretty darn good, if I don’t say so myself.

IMG_3585

(continue reading…)

Top 10 Most Viewed Posts of the Year + Year Recap

Most Viewed Posts in 2014

Wow, is it really the last week of 2014?! Where has the year gone?

I suppose I should back up first and ask how everybody’s Christmas was. I hope you had a very blessed and merry Christmas full of warmth, cheer…and delicious food! Philip and I continued our (1 year) tradition by going to a Christmas Eve service on Wednesday followed by going out for sushi and sipping on hot chocolate at home. Since we didn’t decorate for Christmas this year and our thoughts have mainly been focused on our new house, it finally felt like Christmas for us.

IMG_3547

Ever since we moved into our new home last Saturday, we have been in mild disarray for the past week; so it was especially nice to get away for a few days and head to Iowa to spend Christmas with my parents. It still felt great to come back home, though. And now begins a few days of painting! I’ll fill you in on that next week.

IMG_3536

Now back to the new realization I had that 2014 is almost over. I feel like the last week of any year is a good time to reflect on everything that happened during the past year and to anticipate what’s to come in the coming year. 2014 has been an exciting year and seemed to be a year of “firsts” for me. I started a new job in January, launched this blog (!!), successfully completed my first triathlon and marathon, celebrated Philip and mine’s one year wedding anniversary, and we bought our first home! I can’t wait to see what next year will bring.

Whatever the year may bring, I know I’ll be bringing you more tasty and healthy recipes for you to try in the coming year (is that a sigh of relief I hear? ;)). In keeping with this year-end reflection time, here are your top 10 favorite posts from 2014.

(continue reading…)

We’re First Time Homeowners! + Chicken Vegetable Chowder with Lemon-Basil Dumplings

Chicken Vegetable Chowder with Lemon-Basil Dumplings

How was everybody’s weekend? Nothing too special here except, ohh you know…

We bought a house!!

I know. I’ve been impatiently waiting to share this exciting news with you once we finally closed on the house and we had the keys in our hands to make it official. Well, it finally happened this past Friday after putting an offer in back in October. Whew, it’s quite the process!

We couldn’t be any happier with our very first home as homeowners (well, besides the fact that our hands are raw with all the cleaning we’re doing). Why do we love it? Well, for one, the kitchen is pretty great (that was high on the “must have” list in our house search). It’s close (as in I can see it from our driveway close) to the running trail I run on almost everyday during the summer. It’s in a great neighborhood (which has awesome Christmas lights, by the way! I was so impressed. I didn’t think people decorated like this anymore. Turns out my drive home from work is not where all the great lights are). And most of all, we love this house because it’s ours. Nuff said.

Friday night we celebrated our new ownership by relaxing in front of the fire, eating pizza, and making a list of short-term and long-term projects and purchases. It’s always fun to dream.

IMG_3513

But Saturday is when the real fun started… We’re knee deep in boxes, cleaning has ensued in full force, and a trip to Menards with a long list in hand has already happened.

Since we’re still in between apartment and house for the week, I quick made Chicken Vegetable Chowder with Lemon-Basil Dumplings on Saturday before we packed up everything in the kitchen that evening. It’ll last us for most of the week and that means no need for the kitchen amongst all of the craziness! Great planning, huh? :)

IMG_3528

(continue reading…)

How Meal Planning Works for Me

How Meal Planning Works for Me_Paprika

Well, I think the holiday season is officially here. I’ve started my holiday baking, attended our first Christmas party of the season, aaaand I’ve come down with a nasty head cold. Just in time for all the holiday cheer. Yesterday all I could bring myself to do was sit on the couch and continue to stare at our fall decorations that are. still. up. Ugh. So, according to Facebook and Instagram, everywhere is looking more like Christmas except for our apartment right now. Because, right now it’s just cluttered with used Kleenexes.

That said, I’m cutting right to the chase today. Last week I talked about how to make meal planning work for you and today I’m going to fill you in on how meal planning works for me. I know you guys were all just dying in suspense as to what I was going to be sharing about today after the cliff hanger I gave last week…right? Humor me a little…I’m not feeling well.

There’s no right or wrong way to go about meal planning, but I’ve found that Paprika, a recipe manager app, works the best for me by far. I’ve been using it well over a year now and I still can’t get over how handy and helpful it is. If you don’t get anything out of this post, I hope I can get across to you how much I love this app! And just to throw this out there — no, I’m not getting any compensation for promoting Paprika and I wasn’t asked to talk about it. I am truly just that excited about it.

(continue reading…)

How to Make Meal Planning Work for You + A Fun Way to Show off your Weekly Menu

How to Make Meal Planning Work for You

Welcome to another week, friends! How was everybody’s Thanksgiving? Filled with family, food, and friends, I hope. Like I mentioned last week, I had an extended visit at the in-laws and, boy, did we pack a lot in! All four siblings were home, so we made it into a Thanksmas holiday.

We had your typical (yet delicious) Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday and followed it with the traditional Hoerr family Christmas on Friday, which always includes a candlelit fondue dinner and the opening of presents (the kiddos barely made it through the day with their eager anticipation). To cap off the night, in keeping with the fondue theme, there’s always chocolate fondue for dessert and we all sat around the fire, sharing highlights from the current year and how we can be praying for each other in the upcoming year.

IMG_3459

Aaannnd (as if that weren’t enough celebrations for one weekend), to top it all off, we had an early celebration for yours truly’s birthday with pizza and cupcakes on Saturday — nice and simple after a couple days of extravagant eating.

I don’t know about you, but after the holidays where food is everywhere — as much as I love the food — it feels so nice to get back to a normal week of eating and routine. My body definitely appreciates it.

One way that helps me stay on track and continuously form a routine with meals is forming a meal plan every week. Seriously, guys. This works. Meal planning/not having time to make meals/not knowing what to make at night/resorting to fast food is one of the biggest concerns I get from clients. Sound familiar? Believe me, you’re not alone. And if you’re already doing some form of meal planning, give yourself a pat on the back because you’re one step ahead of most people!

(continue reading…)

Five Tips for a Tasty and Guilt-Free Holiday Season

Five Tips for a Tasty and Guilt-Free Holiday Season

Can you believe it?! Thanksgiving is this week, you guys! Woohoo! That means a short week at work and an extra long weekend with the in-laws. No really, I’m super excited! Speaking of giving thanks, I’m so thankful for the family I married into. I don’t think I could have asked for any better in-laws and I’m probably just as excited to spend four days with them as I would if I were seeing my own family for Thanksgiving.

But let’s not forget about the food we’ll all be enjoying this week. I mean, who doesn’t love having a table full of great, indulgent food? So much food, you don’t even know what dish to shovel your spoon into first. Thanksgiving is pretty much the start to a month of rich eating from creamy dips and comforting meals to decadent desserts — which is both a good and bad thing, depending on how you look at it and how you handle it.

(continue reading…)

Cheesy Sausage Quiche

Cheesy Sausage Quiche  rdinthemidwest.com

How was everybody’s weekend?! Mine was great. You know why? Because I had no plans! Gasp! I can’t even remember the last time that has happened. Since I work on the weekends on a regular basis, it leaves fewer free weekends — meaning those free weekends fill up quickly with trips and events. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all super fun things, but once in awhile it’s nice to just be free (maybe a little too dramatic?).

Not only was it a free weekend, but it was a free weekend with Philip. It had been a few weekends too many since it was just us…with no agenda but to stay warm. Because I was so giddy about this weekend, I even made a last minute decision on Saturday to call and cancel my eye appointment. It was a big deal for me (Philip can attest to this). I don’t just cancel an appointment for no reason other than I want to have a day with no interruptions. I felt like such a rebel. Yes, I realize that’s pretty pathetic.

But you know what? It was the best decision I could have made. Philip and I had such a fun Saturday and we didn’t look at the clock once all afternoon. To make our day even sweeter (pun intended), we hit up some pretty, darn good chocolate shops in the area that I had been wanting to try out. We had lunch at Chocolaterian Cafe (you know a cafe is good when there’s chocolate in the name) and enjoyed some very rich and wonderful hot chocolate.

(continue reading…)

Kara’s Favorite Soft Sugar Cookies

Soft Sugar Cookies

I get that it’s past Halloween, but it’s still technically fall, right? Right?! I mean, Thanksgiving is the epitome of fall, so therefore, minus the orange and black combo and the carved pumpkins, all fall colors and treats are still allowed for a few more weeks. That’s how my mind justified making my all-time favorite Soft Sugar Cookies this past weekend. Sure, all the colored leaves that were here just a couple weeks ago are completely gone and there may have been people hanging Christmas lights yesterday while Philip and I were out walking, but IT’S STILL FALL! Ahem.

Anyway, if you think it’s time to pull out the garland and Christmas lights, these Soft Sugar Cookies are just as tasty shaped into trees and bells as they are shaped like leaves and acorns. And believe me, I know, because these cookies have been made into everything from pumpkins and hearts to Easter eggs and bells over the years. As far back as I can remember, for every possible holiday, my mom was always making a batch of these cookies for me to decorate with her.

(continue reading…)