Qualify for the Boston Marathon

My blog is getting a lot of traffic from people looking for Boston Marathon qualifying information, with searches like “How fast do I have to run to qualify for Boston Marathon” and “Boston Marathon training plan.”  They are landing on bostonmarathonmy previous post How I Plan to Qualify for the Boston Marathon, which was geared toward my specific training to qualify for Boston 2010.  I’m writing this continuation in order to compile some more general Boston Marathon qualifying information which might be useful for others looking to qualify.

What Pace Do You Have to Run?

Most importantly, here’s a chart of the qualifying times, depending on age group, that the Boston Athletic Association requires for participation in the marathon.  You can run each of these up to 59 seconds slower and still qualify, but let’s hope it doesn’t come down to that!  For me the qualifying time is 3:10, and I still have seven years before it increases, so looks like I’ll have to get faster if I want to do it anytime soon.  These have to be run on a certified course, so don’t get any crazy ideas about designing your own easy one.  But certified courses are easy to find; see below for the fastest.

AGE GROUP MEN WOMEN
18-34 3hrs 10min 3hrs 40min
35-39 3hrs 15min 3hrs 45min
40-44 3hrs 20min 3hrs 50min
45-49 3hrs 30min 4hrs 00min
50-54 3hrs 35min 4hrs 05min
55-59 3hrs 45min 4hrs 15min
60-64 4hrs 00min 4hrs 30min
65-69 4hrs 15min 4hrs 45min
70-74 4hrs 30min 5hrs 00min
75-79 4hrs 45min 5hrs 15min
80 and over 5hrs 00min 5hrs 30mi

Source: Boston Athletic Association

What Races Are Best for Qualifying?

Now that you know what time you need to run, choose a race.  Runners in this year’s race had to qualify on or after September 29, 2007, so it looks like qualification is good for about a year and a half.  If you know the specific rule on this, leave a comment and let me know, because I can’t find anything more specific on the Boston Athletic Assocation’s website.  But which race to run?  There are a few races which appear to make qualifying significantly easier, judging from the percentage of runners in such races that run times fast enough to qualify.  The fastest, based on percentage of runners that qualify, seem to be smaller races like the Bay State Marathon (MA), the Steamtown Marathon (PA), and the one I’ll be running this October, the Wineglass Marathon (NY).  Some of the large popular qualifiers are the New York City Marathon, the Chicago Marathon, the California International Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon (DC) and the Philadelphia Marathon.  You can find the complete lists here.

Training Programs

Ok, so now you’ve figured out your goal time and you’ve picked a race.  You’re envisioning yourself crossing the finish line with arms raised, then sitting down and toasting the accomplishment with the best-tasting beer you’ve ever had.  large marathon 300x244Now what?  The hard part–  training.  The reason so many who want to run Boston don’t.  But hey, if it were easy, everyone would do it, and what fun would that be?  So you’ve got to pick a training program, and if your marathon times have reached a plateau, then chances are you need to do something different from what you’ve been doing.  Maybe you need more speedwork, hills, crosstraining, or even a new approach to your running mindset.  I’d love to say that I had a program guaranteed to get you qualified, but since I haven’t qualified yet, that might seem pretty foolish.  But I can give you a list of the programs I’ve used to improve my marathon times from 4:53 to 3:20, and let you know what I think about them.

Daniels’ Running Formula- My first serious running program.  Previously I had done only free internet programs that just specified mileage.  This book satisfies the anal mathematician in me, providing exact paces and heart rates to train at for each quality workout.  I also like that it specifies mileage for each workout in terms of the peak weekly mileage that you choose.  Lots of lessons in the science of running as well.  This book got me down to a 3:36 at the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, but I did get a knee injury which prevented me from training in the week leading up to the race.  I think it was probably a result of too much training without having enough of a base before starting the program.

Core Performance Endurance- This book completely revolutionized running for me.  The focus is on strengthening core muscles through exercises you can do at home or in the gym, to enable you to run more efficiently and injury-free.  The program specifies hill and interval running workouts, which are great, but no long runs, since the program is designed to be done on top of another program.  I just made up my own long run distances and got great results.  Went from 3:36 to 3:24 (Baltimore Marathon), then down to 3:20 (Disney Marathon).  But I did not get injured while on this program, which is saying a lot, as you know if you’ve trained for a marathon before.  I think the regeneration foam rolling and stretching routines are to thank for this.  It also has some stuff about diet, and it’s vegetarian-friendly.

Run Less, Run Faster- The program I was doing most recently, when I got a knee injury.  Not the greatest endorsement, I know, but I was astounded at the gains I was making on this program before getting injured.  I’ve never been much of a short distance runner (I think my mile run in middle school always took around 7:30), but with this program I ran my first sub-6-minute mile and first sub-20-minute 5k.  Huge improvements over what I had been doing previously.  The other thing I love about this program is that it has you cross-training three days a week instead of doing easy runs, which allowed me to become a better swimmer and cyclist and start thinking about a triathlon.  I’m going to be using this program again to train for Wineglass in October, keeping an eye on my knee of course.

ChiRunning- I just got this book and started reading it after a friend (who, oh by the way, just ran a sub-3-hour Boston Marathon) highly recommended it.  It’s about improving running form and mental focus to make training more enjoyable and injury free.  I don’t know much more than that yet, but I’m really excited to incorporate this into my training.

Chris Carmichael’s Food For Fitness: Eat Right To Train Right- A nutrition book (obviously) that introduced me to the concept of periodization.  Very specific guidelines for eating, and very vegetarian-friendly owing to the huge amounts of carbohydrates in the suggested diet.  All I can remember about my time on this diet is eating piles of beans and lots of Post Grape Nuts.  I still eat the Grape Nuts, but I must admit that I haven’t followed this diet in a while.  I just can’t eat the amount of food he tells you to!  But there are some good keys that I still incorporate into my diet, and I’ve been meaning to revisit this book soon.

That’s what I have to offer.  I’m no expert, since in my opinion an expert is someone who has qualified.  I hope to get some more advice from those who have done just that, and I’d especially like to hear from those who are in the same boat as I am, doing everything they can to not let another Boston Marathon go by without being there!

This post is part of 7-part series on qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  Check out the rest!

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Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Finally, the one I’ve been hyping up all week!  And the hype must have worked, since at least one person I know soaked her black beans last night in anticipation of this recipe’s posting, only to lose her (pirated) internet connection shortly thereafter.  Looks like someone will be eating black bean burgers again, unless I’m nice enough to phone in the recipe!

This recipe was given to me by Michelle (@micaindetroit) on Twitter.  I sent out a tweet asking for vegetarian recipe 037 300x225submissions, and you can bet that I was a happy tweeter when the first one I got back was for black bean and sweet potato enchiladas.  (UPDATE: That’s a link, by the way; I need to change the color.)  Latin food is one of Erin’s and my favorites, so it didn’t take too much cajoling for us to pop in some Buena Vista Social Club and have ourselves a culinary fiesta!

Hers is a family recipe, but since Twitter limits posts to 140 characters, Michelle just linked me to a similar one.  She recommends using corn tortillas instead of flour (which I did, since corn are my favorite) and Suiza sauce instead of salsa (which I didn’t, but should have).  Thanks Michelle!

Nutritionally, this meal is a real winner;  sweet potatoes are one of the best vegetables you can eat (come on Atkins people, it’s time to move into the 2000’s).  There’s lots of protein and more quality carbs from the black beans, and you can do a lot better than white flour tortillas by using whole wheat or corn, which are made from many fewer ingredients.  Additionally, tomatoes, jalapeno, garlic, and salsa provide for way more vegetable power than most people get all day!

These enchiladas turned out really well!  They had a flavor unlike that of other enchiladas, which are often smothered in cheese (you’ll notice there’s none in these).  The sweetness from the potato was a nice surprise in enchiladas, and it went great against the heat of the jalapeno and the salsa, of which I used a smoky organic-chipotle variety.  I mentioned above that Michelle uses Suiza, a creamy spicy sauce, instead of salsa for hers.  This would have done a lot to help moisten the enchiladas, about which our only real complaint was that they were a little dry on the inside.  I think rather than use salsa or Suiza (to avoid the cream), next time I’ll find a red enchilada sauce to use on top.  In a flash of kitchen brilliance, Erin got the idea to puree some of the sweet potatoes with enchilada sauce to moisten the filling!  Unfortunately this flash wasn’t very timely, so we’ll have to give this a try next time.  But make no mistake, there will be a next time.  We loved these!

If you decide to make these No-Meat-Athlete-approved enchiladas, then in addition to doing something to moisten the filling, you’ll want to soften the corn tortillas so they don’t crack.  Erin microwaved ours for a few seconds with a damp paper towel covering them, and that worked out pretty well.  There are other methods involving ovens and frying pans, so shop around for your favorite.  And if you want to make the enchiladas really special, sprinkle a little cheese on top before baking.  Finally, after you’ve cleaned your meat-free plate, be sure to send @micaindetroit a muchas gracias tweet!

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Giving Up Coffee, and Other Nonrandom Sunday Thoughts

As you already know if you follow me on Twitter, on Thursday I made the decision to stop drinking coffee!  Writing I Can’t Quit You, Coffee (and reading your mostly unsympathetic comments about it) motivated me to make the change.  Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is one of the most important personal goals I have, and I believe that coffee main full 300x300drinking coffee every day is not supportive of that goal.  When I’ve tried in the past to completely give up coffee, it hasn’t worked because I enjoy it so much.  Life isn’t all about getting yourself in shape to run 26.2 miles, and I have lots of intellectual needs and goals as well.  Going to Barnes & Noble on a Saturday and getting a cup of (caffeinated) coffee while I browse the new math, science, and gambling books is just too perfect an experience to never have again.  So that’s why with this new commitment to give up coffee, I’m allowing myself one morning of caffeinated bliss each week.  It’s so much more blissful when it’s just once a week anyway.

So that’s the plan, and I expect you to hold me to it.  One great thing about writing this blog is that my commitments are broadcast to everyone I know, and to many that I don’t!  So breaking them makes me look like a real horse’s ass.  If you need to get leverage to make some changes in your life, just start a blog!

The Joy of Vegetarian Grocery Shopping

I went grocery shopping today and bought ingredients for the week’s meals, and as I was standing in the checkout line it occurred to me just how different our diet is than what most people are eating.  The woman behind me had some frozen fried jalapeno poppers, Kool-Aid popsicles, and lots of other processed stuff, the healthiest of which was some prepackaged deli turkey slices.  The most disturbing part to me is that her kids have to eat this way, and to grow up believing that it’s the “normal” way to eat.  I’m not criticizing, because it wasn’t all that long ago that my grocery basket looked like this (ok, save for the popsicles).  But something about standing in that line made crystal-clear the enormous discrepancy between these two ways of eating week in and week out.  If our bodies literally become what we put into them, then it should be no surprise that hers has become a pile of s***.

But eating this way is, of course, much more expensive than an ordinary diet.  Wrong!  Stop buying meat and your wallet will get swoll’ !  I spent 90 dollars at the store today and got enough food to feed myself and Erin for the entire week, buying mostly high-quality and organic groceries.  And it would be easy to make it even cheaper by skipping the organics, if thriftiness were your primary goal.  I realize that a grocery list isn’t exactly riveting blog content, but just this once I want to list every item I bought today, just to give those of you eating the “normal” diet a little extra boost:

  • carrotsvegetable market
  • red onions
  • oranges
  • apples
  • bananas
  • lemons
  • jalapeno
  • garlic
  • sweet potatoes
  • zucchini
  • portobello caps
  • cilantro
  • rosemary
  • frozen blueberries
  • frozen strawberries
  • frozen cherries
  • Trop 50 orange juice
  • chipotle salsa
  • organic popcorn
  • oat bran
  • Post Grape-Nuts
  • whole wheat couscous
  • organic rolled oats
  • La Brea whole grain bread
  • small-batch roasted decaf coffee
  • Wasa multigrain crispbreads
  • organic whole wheat fusilli pasta
  • lentils
  • Kitchen Basics vegetable stock
  • almonds
  • diced tomatoes
  • chickpeas
  • black beans

That’s it; nothing more, nothing less.  No fish this week, but that wasn’t by design.  We just happened not to pick any fish recipes.  In fact, it looks like this week’s diet is actually vegan.  Who knew?  And before you say that we can’t possibly making anything resembling a decent meal out of those ingredients, keep an open mind and check back during the week.  The black bean and sweet potato enchiladas I’ve been salivating about are up tonight!  And yesterday I made Patatas Bravas, a Spanish tapas-style dish, so one day this week I’ll put up two posts to make up for yesterday’s gaping hole in the post calender.

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Falafel with Tahini Mint Sauce

Falafel, to me, has always meant “strange Greek food that nobody ever buys at fairs and festivals.”  But I suppose when turkey legs and Polish sausages are no longer a viable option, there aren’t all that many meals you can get at fairs, so I 0031 300x225might have little choice in the future.  How I will miss barbarically eating a turkey leg at a Renaissance fair!  But even during the Renaissance, people like Leonardo da Vinci were vegetarian, so just because I go to the fair doesn’t mean I can eat like Attila the Hun for the day.  And before your anachronism sensor goes haywire, I know Attila wasn’t from the Renaissance.  He’s just the first historical figure that came to mind when I thought about someone brutally devouring a turkey leg.

Hmm, strange start to this post.  Luckily there’s not too much to say about falafel.  After eating it, I see why fair-goers don’t buy it.  I mean it wasn’t fal-awful, just sort of dry and uninteresting.  The yogurt-tahini sauce helped with that a bit.  What would have really made it much better is if I had put the impromtu cucumber-tomato salad into the pita, but for some reason I didn’t think of that until both pita and salad were in the depths of my stomach.

Nutritionally, the meal was excellent.  Complex carbs from the whole grains, more good carbs and protein from the beans, digestion help and superfood-power from the yogurt, healthy fat in the tahini and canola oil.  And some nice 001 300x225fresh veggies in the side salad.  I know that falafel is a staple of some vegetarian diets, and from a health standpoint, I can see why.  But there must be something more to falafel than is evident from my experience with these.

Erin and I can’t give this meal any more than 2 cows out of 5 and keep a clear conscience.  But note that I say this meal, not necessarily falafel in general.  Partly it might have been my fault.  I forgot to add oil to the patty mixture, attempting to make up for it by rubbing the outsides of the patties instead.  And our pitas seemed a little dry to begin with, so lightly toasting them on the grill only made them drier.  This all added up to a really dry dinner.  I do think that there is some potential for correctly-made falafel, but I’ll probably need to have a good one from the old county fair before I get the itch to make it again.

Check back over the weekend, I’m going to be making (and posting) a recipe that I’m really excited about.  Black bean and sweet potato enchiladas, submitted to me on Twitter by @micaindetroit.  Halloween-colored Mexican food, how can you beat it?

Falafel with Tahini Mint Sauce Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 14-oz cans garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 scallions
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 6 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 Tbsp tahini paste
  • 4 whole wheat pitas
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • salt and pepper

In a food processor, pulse the garbanzo beans, bread crumbs, celery, scallions, garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric, canola oil until smooth, adding salt to taste.  Form 8 small patties from the mixture and refrigerate 15 minutes.
While the patties are chilling, preheat grill to high.  Combine the tahini, yogurt, and mint in a bowl.  Mix well, season with salt and pepper.
Grill the patties for about 3 minutes per side until golden and marked.  Lightly rub oil on the pitas and heat them on the grill, they only take a minute or two to get warm so don’t burn them!  Spread yogurt sauce on patties or in pita, and stuff each pita with 2 patties.

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A Little Housekeeping

077dark 150x150077 150x150The drab photo of risotto yesterday inspired me to get Picasa and learn how to brighten photos, something I’ve needed to do for a while since the lighting in our kitchen just doesn’t do justice to most of the food I’ve posted about.  I don’t think anything could save the risotto shot, but I brightened up all the photos that looked a little dull and yellow.  As you can see from the curried tofu photo, the difference is enormous.  I’m hoping it will do a lot to motivate readers to actually cook this great stuff!

I’ve made a few other improvements recently.  I’ve added the “Contact Me!” page with some links where you can find me by email or on Facebook, Twitter, and StumbleUpon.  Speaking of  the social networking sites, you’ll now find “Share” buttons under each post and in the sidebar.  If you roll your cursor over these, you’ll see a dropdown menu with options to print or bookmark posts and to share posts by email, Facebook, Twitter, and lots of other sites.  If you are enjoying the content that I post every day and know a few others who could use it, I can’t tell you how much I’d appreciate it if you would use these links!

Many readers have requested the ability to receive emails when new comments are posted, so I’ve updated that feature.  Now when you post a comment, there’s a box you can check in order to receive notification of followup comments by email.

If you discovered this blog by Twitter, then you’ll be interested to know about a new idea I have.  I’m hoping to receive recipe submissions from fellow Twitter users, either as links or a string of tweets, and then I’ll choose one or two to make and feature on the blog each week.  I’ll credit you for submitting it, of course, and post your Twitter name or website address on the blog for all my readers and Twitter followers to see.  And if you’re not on Twitter, get on it!  It’s the best part of Facebook and instant messaging, the “what are you doing now?” message, without everything else.  The first recipe I’m going to do from a Twitter user is Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas, which was given to me by @micaindetroit.  I can’t wait to make it next week.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the end of your week!

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Chinese Five-Spice Halibut with Pickled Red Pepper and Ginger

Not too fond of the risotto picture, eh?  Well, today’s meal is definitely a little bit nicer-looking.  Also, I finally did get Picasa.  That took about five seconds, well worth procrastinating for two weeks.  So I’m going to go back and brighten up some of the photos from previous posts that could use it.  Which of course includes that putrid-looking risotto (I swear it was delicious).  So get ready for some serious food porn!

004 300x225We’re eating fish about once per week, much less than when we started this diet a month ago today (big ups to us).  I really feel like I could go completely vegetarian, but I think we’ll keep eating fish for a few more months just to grease the wheels of change a little bit.  And by the way, if this blog has gotten you thinking about trying a reduced-meat diet, I highly recommend it.  I’ve felt so much better since I’ve started eating this way, feeling especially great in the evenings after dinner when I used to be so full and tired.  I’m staying up later and getting up earlier, and feeling completely rested.  The changes have been immense, and I even considered myself a healthy eater before this.  So if you’ve been reading each day, thinking this food looks good but not actually doing anything, then just go for it!  Commit to something like the 10-Day Challenge and decide what parts to keep after it’s over.  Jumping into to the deep end is so much easier than slowly easing your way into the pool!

Ok, so here’s todays recipe. (UPDATE: FineCooking.com now requires you to sign up for a free trial membership in order to view this recipe, so if you want to make it, you’ll have to do that.)  Back to the trusty Fine Cooking.  Not too much to say about this recipe, except that it was really good!  Simple to make too; just leave time for the red pepper and ginger to pickle for half an hour or so.  The fish is cooked by pan-roasting, a method that I love to use.  But again, if you do this, don’t burn your hand!  Leave a towel or potholder on the handle  after you take the pan out of the oven.  It’s so easy to forget, grab it, and burn your entire palm.  The first time I did it was just after I spent a few hours making this awesome Bobby Flay chicken with blackberry sauce, and I couldn’t enjoy the meal because my hand hurt so bad that I kept checking to make sure it hadn’t fallen off.

There aren’t a whole lot of veggies in this meal, but it’s still pretty good nutritionally and is a good way to get some variety in your diet.  Sesame oil, peanut oil, raw ginger, raw garlic, and Chinese five-spice just don’t show up in most recipes.  I had to substitute for the mirin since I couldn’t find it in the store.  I just used dry sherry, but I read that you could also use a soy sauce and sugar mixture.

This is a fun one.  Give it a try!  Portions are a little small, so you might consider using larger halibut fillets or serving a vegetable and rice on the side.  But it’s a great dish.  If I waited an hour to get a seat at Bonefish and then they brought me this when I ordered, I’d be a pretty happy pescetarian.  Unless I had ordered a burger.  Erin and I agreed that this is a definite 4 out of 5 cows.  I think she might have even had a “5” dancing around in her head, but I’m just not ready to take that step in my relationship with this blog.

4 Comments

 

Risotto with Sundried Tomatoes, Asparagus, and Mushrooms

Risotto is one of those simple, humble meals that can elevate a few good ingredients to mythical heights.  It’s my definition of comfort food.  Usually comfort food is heart-attack food, but not the No Meat Athlete kind!

meals 0071 300x225Risotto is made from a special rice grain (Arborio or Carnaroli) which is simmered in the cooking liquid long enough to release a lot of its starch.  The result, when done right, is a creamy, chewy but just al dente pasta-like rice, with a heavenly consistency somewhere well between mashed potatoes and soup.  When done wrong and at one of these extremes or the other, it’s pretty much awful.  But that doesn’t mean it’s hard to make; if you a follow a few simple directions and are willing to stand at the stove for 25 or 30 minutes, then it’s pretty easy to make a great risotto.

I know the picture isn’t the most appetizing thing in the world.  Besides the fact that I need to get on Picasa to start brightening photos, this risotto just isn’t a looker.  But the funny thing is, I think the fact that it tasted so great is the reason it looks just ok.  Why?  The vegetable stock!  I used a brand called Kitchen Basics, something I’ve seen before but never used.  A little more expensive than the Swanson, but the color is much darker and the aroma reminded me of the great smell that comes out of barley steeping in water that eventually becomes beer.  I believe that the dark color is a by-product of great taste, and that color is what makes the finished risotto look pretty dull.

meals 008 225x300When people make bad risotto, it’s usually for one of two reasons.  Either they add the liquid to the rice all at once and make rice soup, or they stir the whole time and make ricey mashed potatoes.  The trick is to add the liquid a little bit at a time and let it absorb, and to only do a lot of stirring at the beginning to start releasing the starch.  Do those two things and it will be good.  I’ll even slap the No Meat Athlete guarantee on that.

The ingredient list I used is similar to that from a recipe I found in a Vegetarian Times cookbook.  But I didn’t like their cooking method, so I used my own.  I’ve specified imported Arborio; if you can only find domestic it’s ok, but try to find imported at an Italian foods store for the best results.  I know white rice isn’t the greatest carbohydrate you can have, so this isn’t an everyday meal, but it does use a lot of vegetables and some healthy fats. And if you’re exercising a lot then some simple carbs won’t kill you; in fact, if you eat them immediately post-workout, they’re the best!  I did a little research and found out that there is such a thing as brown arborio rice though, and supposedly the finished product is a little chewier, better for more rustic, pumpkiny-type dishes.  My guess is you’d have to order it online if you wanted to use it.

So here you go!  I really encourage you to give it a try.  A lot of people are intimidated by risotto, but it’s pretty easy, and if you make it for someone, they will love you forever (they’ll really love you if you stir in some butter at the end, but I can’t put my stamp on that one).  And if you want to try something a little different, look for a butternut squash risotta recipe and prepare to be blown away.  And I almost forgot: 4 cows out of 5.  The butternut squash version with butter would be a “5”!

Vegetarian Risotto Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large leek, halved, cleaned, and thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp finely minced garlic
  • 2 cups imported Arborio rice
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 12 sun dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup thinly sliced asparagus
  • 1.5 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup torn or chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Heat the vegetable stock in a saucepan over medium heat.  Once it’s boiling, reduce to a simmer and keep it there.

Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, leek, and garlic; stir frequently for about 3 minutes until just softened.  Add the rice and a pinch of pepper, and stir frequently to toast the rice without letting it get brown.  After about 5 minutes, you should hear the rice quietly squeek or whistle, your signal to begin adding liquid. Add about 1.5-2 cups of the stock and stir constantly for a few minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed.  You know it’s time to add more when you can run your spoon through the rice and see the bottom of the pan for a few seconds before the rice covers it again.  Add 1 cup of the stock, stir for about 30 seconds, then only often enough to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan.  Once the liquid is absorbed, add another cup, stir for 30 seconds, and repeat the process until there’s only about 1 cup of stock left or the rice is nearly al dente.

After the rice has been cooking for about 5 minutes (say, after the initial amount of liquid is absorbed), steam the asparagus, mushrooms, and basil until crisp-tender (about 5 minutes) in a saucepan or microwave (I actually steamed them over the simmering vegetable stock).  When the rice seems almost done or there’s only a cup of stock left, add all the vegetables to the rice mixture with a cup of the stock (if the stock isn’t all used up, it’s ok).  Stir the rice and vegetables together for just a few minutes until the rice is al dente.  Stir in the Parmesan, if using, and enjoy!

Makes 5 servings.

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Fire Roasted Tomato Pasta with Chickpeas and Arugula

I’m back, healthy foodies, with the promised roasted tomato pasta recipe! Over the weekend I found a fun recipe in a magazine, then Erin saw a different one on TV, and we decided to combine the two to form one super-recipe.

0231 300x225We Americans have grown so accustomed to the pasta-with-grilled-chicken (or some other meat) dish that pasta without meat seems like only half a meal. And in Italy, it’s just that, since a (usually meatless) pasta course is often served before the meat course. But there’s something so wonderfully humble about that meatless pasta course made with just a few choice ingredients. It’s the difference between the simple, perfect Google homepage and Yahoo’s site, cluttered with useful stuff that nobody really needs. Less is often more. Especially if “less” is served with a glass of Chianti.

The problem with meatless pasta, of course, is that it’s often not filling enough, especially for marathon training. This was my big complaint about Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Arugula.  You can use Barilla Plus pasta to make it a little more substantial, but the difference is small.  Instead, we added chickpeas to boost the protein and healthy calorie content.  A lot of people think adding beans, potatoes, or anything else starchy to pasta is weird, but they do it in Italy all the time.  Even in classics like Trenette with Pesto, Beans, and Potatoes.  Try it; nothing will happen to you!

019 300x225This meal is fantastic.  Using fresh plum tomatoes and fresh lemon zest makes the sauce taste, well, really fresh.  The tomatoes are roasted in the oven with garlic, Italian seasoning, and some crushed red pepper for just the perfect amount of hot damn! And the acidity of the tomatoes nicely balances the bitterness of the arugula, which we got fresh-picked from the first farmers’ market of the season (if you haven’t discovered the joy of the farmers’ market yet, use the Local Harvest link in my Blogroll to find one near you).

Erin and I unquestionably gave this meal 4 cows out of 5.  A first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.  That fact that it’s not a “5” is no knock on it; we just can’t be giving those out like Halloween candy.  If a “5” is a meal 325px standard deviation diagramsvg 300x150two standard deviations better than the mean, and we assume meal quality is distributed normally with mean 3, then only about 2.5 percent should be getting a “5”!  I can think of plenty of good arguments against my assumptions, like the fact that almost all the meals have been rated “3” or higher, so I’ll just stop.  Here’s the recipe.

Roasted Tomato Pasta with Chickpeas Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb medium plum tomatoes
  • 14.5-ounce can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 4 cups lightly packed arugula
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • zest of one lemon
  • 10 ounces whole-wheat pasta, any shape
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise, spread out on a foil lined backing pan.  Mix together the garlic, Italian seasoning, red pepper, 1/4 cup of canola oil, and few pinches of salt and pepper; pour mixture evenly over tomatoes.  Drizzle with another 1/4 cup of canola oil.  Roast until soft and lightly browned, about 45 minutes.  Crush half of the roasted tomatoes in a large bowl with a fork.

Boil the pasta water, salt until it tastes like seawater (this is what they do in Italy!), and cook the pasta until al dente.  Reserve a little pasta water to loosen the sauce, if needed.  While pasta is cooking, heat remaining tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat.  Add chickpeas and arugula to the pan.  Once chickpeas are heated through and arugula is wilted, add to the crushed tomato bowl with pasta and lemon zest; toss to mix.  Add reserved pasta water as needed.

Divide pasta among 4 plates, top with remaining roasted tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.  Eat it up!

Serves 4.

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