Squash Casserole with Feta, Lemon, and Oregano

15-Mile Run

To cap off Week 2 of my training for Wineglass (14 weeks left!), I did my 15-miler today. I had planned to do it yesterday at a really flat trail near school, but a meeting with my thesis advisor ran way long and by the time I finished I was too mentally exhausted to get psyched up for a long run. So I did it this morning, which throws off my schedule just a bit, but I have a race this weekend so I’ll need to juggle it anyway.

Worse than the scheduling issue, though, is that I did this run near home, which means (as always) that it was very hilly. I managed to maintain the scheduled 8:00 per-mile pace for 13 miles; the hills caught up with me on the last two and I lost about a minute between them. So I finished in 2:01 rather than two hours flat, but I’m sure that the difficult course more than compensates for that lost minute. I do worry a little about training on hills so much though, just because I know that harder workouts mean greater chance of injury. Since my marathon isn’t hilly, I’m going to make an effort to ensure that anything longer than 15 miles is run on flat terrain.

By the way, as I write this I’m wearing a pair of compression Recovery Socks that the company sent me to try out. People say they’ve worked wonders for them, so I’m really interested to see how I feel tomorrow. I’ll fill you in tomorrow and give you some more details about the socks, in case you haven’t heard of them yet. Stylish huh?

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Squash Casserole with Lemon and Feta

We scored some beautiful yellow squash and zucchini this week at the farmers market, which prompted a search for some way to actually use the stuff. For whatever reason, maybe the texture, I’ve never really cooked very much with squash. So I found a recipe in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook for this squash casserole. As an aside, I love this book. Not so much for the recipes as for the reference material. Whenever I need to look up a substitution or how to prepare or cook with a new ingredient, this is where I go. Sometimes even before I head to the Google/Twitter-machine.

squash casserole photo 300x225I was worried that the recipe would be a little boring (“casserole” makes me want to take a nap), but the feta and lemon zest seemed interesting enough, so we gave it a whirl. And I must say we were pleasantly surprised. The baked, browned feta worked really nicely with the squash, and the carmelized onion was my favorite part. This isn’t a mind-blowing, so-good-you-stuff-yourself-and-induce-a-food-coma meal, but for what it is, it was really nice. A light summery meal made from local, seasonal ingredients, with a little bit of flair (three pieces of flair, if you count the fresh oregano).  We served it with quinoa to get some protein and more complex carbs, and it was a pretty good match.  Here ya go, knock yourself out. Note that it takes 45 minutes in the oven, so leave yourself some time.

Yellow Squash Casserole Recipe (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

Ingredients (for 6 servings)

  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (we used elephant garlic from the market)
  • 1/2 C dry white wine
  • 1/2 C vegetable stock or broth
  • Fresh oregano leaves from one large sprig, minced
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 4 small yellow squash, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • salt
  • pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 C crumbled feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 Tbsp canola oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion with a few pinches of salt and a small pinch of crushed red pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring once in a while, so that it gets some nice dark carmelization. After the onion is nicely browned, spread it in a single layer in a 9×13 baking pan.

Add the rest of the oil and garlic to the pan. Once it’s fragrant (don’t let it burn), add the wine, vegetable broth, oregano, and lemon zest. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Lay the squash and zucchini nicely on top of the onion, pour the contents of the pan on top, and top with crumbled feta. Bake for about 45 minutes, until just starting to brown.

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A Case of the Runs

whole wheat pizza photo 300x225No new recipe today, so this post is all about runs!  I did make some pizza from scratch over the weekend, but I’ve already posted a pizza recipe so that’s nothing new.  I used the same stone-ground whole wheat flour that gave us trouble with fresh pasta; luckily there were no disasters with the pizza.  Still, the crust was a little more rustic than I like, so I’ll opt for the finely-ground stuff for now on.  And we made a Giada de Laurentiis pasta dish with roasted peppers last night that I was hoping to post today, but it needs some work before it becomes blog-worthy (too dry).

The Baltimore Women’s Classic 5k

Erin ran the Baltimore Women’s Classic 5k yesterday, finishing in 27:41, almost two minutes faster than in the Bel Air Town Run three weeks ago!  I was there to cheer her on and got this great photo just before the finish:

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(Note: No Meat Athlete does not endorse the pile of vomit that Royal Farms calls food.)  When asked by an NMA staff reporter about how she took two minutes off her 5k time in only three weeks, Erin was stumped.  She hasn’t done any running in that time, only biking, so how she got so much faster is anyone’s guess.  It was a flatter course, so maybe that had something to do with it, but I attribute it to staying up until 2 am and having a few beers at a wedding the night before the race.  Will she take more minutes off her time this weekend, when we run a 5k at the beach?

Marathon Training Week 2

My tempo run over the weekend went really well.  It was sweltering hot out, and I accidentally gmapped a really hilly route (lesson learned), but in the face of such oppression I threw myself a Boston Tea Party (or is it a Boston Q Party?).  The target was to run five miles at 7:15, my Boston qualifying pace, in addition to the warmup and cooldown miles.  I was able to manage a 7:05, 7:15, 7:10, 7:20, and 7:25.  Given the heat and hills, I was extremely happy with this pace.

The hill issue is becoming something of a problem with my training program.  The difficulty stems from the fact that every run I do near my house is hilly, and Run Less, Run Faster doesn’t even mention hill workouts in the training schedule.  And I’d rather have my fingernails yanked out than run seven miles on a track or treadmill.  I wish, at the very least, that there were some sort of hill-adjustment to the paces they want me to hit.  Does anyone else have this problem, and a good way to deal with it?  How much time should I add to my per-mile pace when I’m running on rolling hills with some big steep ones mixed in?

There is one flat trail about 45 minutes from me, and that’s where I’m headed this afternoon to knock out my long run, 15 miles at 8-minute pace.  I’m going there mainly because of the water issue–my plan is to do about three miles at a time, then turn around so that I can get a quick drink from my car after each six miles.  I’ll let you know how it works out tomorrow.

By the way, Atlantic City went well.  I won a little money, which is always better than losing a lot (my usual routine).  And my high-rolling friend Chris has a great hookup that landed us in a sweet sweet suite with plenty of free food and drink.  So if it turns out that I do in fact have a gambling problem (as my father suspected of me when I was very much underage), it will soon be exposed by many imminent returns to America’s Playground.

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Brendan Brazier’s Thrive

thrive vega photo 300x225The Thrive Diet

As I’ve started to learn more about vegetarian endurance athletes and their diets, I’ve noticed something interesting.  First, there is a disproportionate number of them; that is, the percentage of well-known endurance athletes who are vegetarian is much higher than the percentage of vegetarians in the general population.  While there could be other factors at work (perhaps being vegetarian makes one’s story more interesting and fame more likely), I tend to count this as evidence that this type of diet offers significant advantages to athletes.  What’s more, almost all of the vegetarian athletes are in fact vegan.

Brendan Brazier is one such example.  When I found about his book Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life, I knew it was one that I wanted to read, even though I have no intention of becoming a full-blown vegan.  My “to-read” list, however, is extremely difficult to tame, and it probably would have been a while before I got around to reading it, had Kelly from Sequel Naturals not sent me a copy to review.  Thanks Kelly!

(Update: I wrote this post when I first received Brendan’s products to review.  See my later complete review of Thrive, with sample recipes here.)

So far I’ve read only the introduction, but it’s gotten me so excited to read the rest.  Here’s what I love about it: the whole premise is that by eating plant-based, raw, alkalizing foods, you drastically reduce the emotional and physical stress that hinders your body’s ability to recover from exercise.  According to the intro, this way of eating can reduce stress levels by 40 percent!  Ever since learning at Tony Robbins’ seminar that what we eat plays an enormous role in our emotional state, I’ve been really intrigued by the idea of eating foods that reduce acid in the body to maximize energy, reduce stress, and improve mood.


When I think about this stuff, I become completely inspired by this vision of myself taking in only the food that energizes me and totally supports an active lifestyle.  Lots of raw food, almost no dairy, little or no alcohol and caffeine.  This is truly an ideal, another level of healthy eating to be attained.  I also realize, however, that if one thinks of life as a web, then pulling too hard on one string throws the rest out of whack.  And I know that if I were to try to become vegan right now or make no-drinking rules, the strings labeled “social life” and “love of cooking” would be made very crooked.  As an immediately at-hand example, I’m pretty sure that going to Atlantic City, starting the night with shots, and carousing ’til the second cock (Shakespeare’s words, I swear) only serve to increase the stress on my body, but that kind of fun with friends is something that I’m not yet willing to give up.

Nonetheless, I can’t wait to learn more about the Thrive diet, and the book is absolutely going to be my beach read during my upcoming vacation.  My hope is to introduce many more raw and vegan meals into my diet but stay flexible in my approach to eating and cooking.  This is sounds dangerously close to moderation, something that doesn’t tend to work for me, so only time will tell if I can make this strategy work.

Vega Smoothie Infusion

Kelly also sent me a few packets of Smoothie Infusion from Brendan’s Vega product line, plus a sweet Vega reusable bag that Erin is totally digging on.  Check her out using it at the farmers market this morning!

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What’s great about Smoothie Infusion is that in addition to containing greens, organic superfoods, fiber, and Omega-3’s, it’s mainly a protein powder that is made from neither soy nor dairy (whey).  I’ve been having some trouble deciding which of these two is less evil as a daily supplement, and Smoothie Infusion eliminates the need to choose one, instead deriving its protein from yellow peas, hemp, and brown rice.


The instructions on the package say to add Smoothie Infusion to your basic smoothie or to make the Basic Vega Smoothie.  We tried it both ways.  We didn’t really love the Basic Vega Smoothie because it was just too watery compared to what we’re used to.  Its only ingredients besides Smoothie Infusion are a banana, frozen blueberries, orange juice, water, and ice, so there’s really nothing to thicken it.  Still, the taste was good.

Today we went back to our regular smoothie (which has yogurt, so of course it’s non-vegan), and replaced the protein powder with Smoothie Infusion.  This one was a big hit!  We both really liked the taste, and it’s nice that with Smoothie Infusion you don’t have to add flaxseed or greens.  Here’s Erin again, this time with the smoothie and the bag:

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Look forward to lots of updates about Thrive as I read more of it!

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Homemade Energy Bars

Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday!   This is Christine again, so get your ovens revved up for some Athletic baking!  Instead of dessert, this week I’m tackling home-baked Energy Bars!  Most “healthy” bars on the market are fairly expensive and fall into one of two categories; they have enough sugar and processing to qualify as candy or they just flat out taste like cardboard.  The challenge was clear: create a healthy bar that is both enjoyable to eat and chock full of whole foods.  You’re not going to believe how yummy these are!

A Better Way to Bar

energy bar plate photo 300x200When my brother suggested baking a protein/energy bar, my first question was “What’s the difference?”  It turns out that energy bars are used mainly as recovery in endurance training, and can be eaten before, during or after a workout.  They are calorie-dense so they can be used as a quick breakfast or something to keep you going until that late lunch.  Protein bars are more for body-builders looking for bulk muscle.  We decided to go for an energy bar, but one that included some protein since vegetarians don’t always get a lot in their diets.

I read a lot of different recipes for home-baked bars, trying to find one with the ideal balance of ingredients.  They included everything from silken tofu to protein powder to peanut butter to corn syrup.  Like the packaged energy bars, a lot of the recipes included way too much sweeteners and fake stuff.  I finally stumbled across a promising recipe from the Idaho Bean Commission.  Yep, the same site that inspired last week’s elegant apple tart.  (big shout out to the No Meat Athlete readers in Idaho for providing the tax dollars to this sweet commission!)

energy bar ingredients photo 300x200Their recipe for Beananza bars included a full cup and a half of white beans, plus grape nuts cereal, coconut, cinnamon and dates.   Those are some great ingredients that can be hard to include in your diet each day, so it is exciting to roll them into a more convenient form.   (Did you know that dates have as much or more potassium than bananas?!)  However, there were a couple of elements I wanted to change to make this bar marathon-ready.

The first easy swap was whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour.   Then by subbing in canola oil and applesauce, I was able to eliminate the 7 tablespoons of margarine in the recipe.  I figured the applesauce was naturally sweet enough on it’s own so I axed the added sugar as well.  There’s also a lot of sweetness from the dates, so I brought the half cup of honey called for down to just 2 tablespoons, then added some flax-water paste to fill in the gaps.

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Homemade Vegan Energy Bar Recipe

The “dry” Ingredients:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup oats
1 cup Grape Nuts cereal
3/4 cup raisins (I used golden)
1 cup shredded coconut (I could only find sweetened)
1/3 cup unsalted almonds, chopped
1/3 cup unsalted cashews, chopped
1 cinnamon stick, ground (or 2 tsp ground, but I totally recommend the taste of freshly ground!)

The “wet” ingredients:
2 tbs flax seed
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups cooked Great Northern Beans (or 1 15 oz can)
15 dates, seeds removed and chopped (about 1 cup or 1/2 a lb)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs honey
1 tbs canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce (I made mine on the stove by cooking two peeled and diced apples for about 30 minutes with 1/4 cup of water, 2 tbs pomegranate molasses, and 1 tbs maple syrup)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

If starting with dry beans, soak a half pound over night, then simmer for about one hour or until soft.  If starting with canned, rinse well to remove saltiness.  Chop the beans roughly either by hand or in a food processor.  They don’t need to be processed into a puree, just tiny pieces.

Grind the flax seed and mix it with the water, set aside to thicken.

Combine the dry ingredients together first and mix well.  Add the wet ingredients and mix until uniformly incorporated.  Press into a greased 9×13 pan or casserole dish.  Bake for a total of 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan half way through.  (Mine were finished at about 23 minutes).  Cool completely, then cut into 24 bars.   I cut a line down the middle of the pan lengthwise then 12 cuts across.  Leave unwrapped for harder bars; put in airtight container for softer bars.  Toast cut bars in the toaster oven for a crispy outside.  If keeping longer than one week, wrap and freeze.

Nutrition facts for whole pan / one bar

calories from fat: 919 / 38.3
calories: 3779.3 / 157
fat: 105 / 4.4
sat fat: 30 / 1.25
protein: 109.2 / 4.6
sodium: 1584.3 / 66
total carbs: 713 / 29.7
sugar: 333 / 13.9
fiber: 178.2 / 7.4

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Ok I hope you enjoy the benefits of baking your own energy bars!  They really turned out great!  Compare the nutrition info to your current favorite bar and you are sure to be pleasantly surprised…

That’s it for this week- keep your energy up and stay sweet!

xoxo Christine

P.S.  These energy bars were vegan before I squiggled them with white chocolate, and it’s not accounted for in the nutrition facts.  What can I say, decorating baked goods is a compulsion!

For more natural sports nutrition posts and recipes, check out the Running Fuel page.

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Running, Eating, Gamblin’

Running

Yesterday’s track workout was noticeably easier than the previous week’s, and how could it not have been?  Four half-mile repeats with two minutes of rest after each, as opposed to three one-mile repeats with only a minute rest after each.  And accordingly, I came much closer to the goal time.  The half-miles were supposed to be run in 2:52 each; I managed 2:52 for the first, 2:53 for the second, and 2:56 for the final two.  Not perfect, but darn close.  Definitely exhausting.  It seems like I can actually feel my lungs stretching out and getting stronger during these workouts, though I’m sure I’m making that one up.

The fact that I’m just a little bit short of hitting the goal time for each track workout makes me wonder if I would be better off with a slower workout (say, the track workout from the 3:15 marathon program instead of 3:10).  If I were to do that, I could complete each workout perfectly.  This would make me happy during workouts and immediately after, but here’s the problem.  If I’m hitting the target on every workout, then there’s no way to objectively measure the improvements in my fitness level.  I could consider how I’m feeling after each, but I think I prefer to measure my progress with numbers, specifically with how far off I am from the target pace.  And most importantly, my goal isn’t to run a 3:15 marathon.  It’s to qualify for Boston, and that takes a 3:10.  End of argument.

With a little prodding from my cousin who is just starting to enjoy running races, Erin and I signed up a few days ago to run a 5k with her next weekend, July 5th.  It’s at the beach, which means two good things: no hills, and beer at the end.  Of course, this means our 4th of July carousing with have to be reigned in a little, but I’m really looking forward to the race.  And it will be interesting to see if I can PR, having just established a decent one a few weeks ago.

Eating

No new recipe to share today; last night we ate whole wheat linguine with fire-roasted tomatoes and chickpeas, from the early days of my blog.   So I guess if you’re new to my blog, then it is a new recipe.  I think it turned out even more prettier than last time:

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Delicious again, though I wasn’t entirely happy with the tomatoes I got from the grocery store.  Yet another argument for seasonal eating.  I’ll have to wait until midsummer when they’re in season here to make this again.

Before we ate that, we had an arugula salad with some of the leftover dressing from Tuesday’s chickpea, carrot and parsley salad.  It was an arugula kind of night, which is just fine by me, since if I were to power-rank my leafy greens, arugula would come in numero uno.

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But don’t be fooled into thinking that we eat like angels all the time.  This week we’ve done some serious damage to a tub of wildberry gelato that we bought for Father’s Day dinner.  Linus seems a bit indignant, doesn’t he?  Along with the gelato, we had some incredibly tasty Bittersweetness FEED granola.

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Gamblin’

And with that I am off to my second favorite place in the country, fabulous Atlantic City, NJ! Ok, maybe fabulous is a stretch.  But as a lover of all things random, I’m never happier than when I’m gambling (except on my wedding day, Erin).

It’s just a quick trip, but for tomorrow’s post you’ll again be in the flour-dusted hands of Christine for Sweet-Tooth Friday.  And it’s a good one; my favorite STF post yet.  All week, Erin and I have been eating a plateful of the goodies that she brought for us to sample, and I can tell you they’re awesome!  But you’ll have to check back tomorrow to find out what they are.

Wish me luck in A.C., Papa needs a new pair of Brooks!

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Thai-ing One On

Sorry for the late post today; recently I’ve been writing them during my office hour at school.  But get this–today a student actually came to office hour to learn something.  The nerve!

30-Day Challenge Check-In

It has been 28 complete days since I last drank caffeinated coffee, the wonder drug that makes me extremely happy for no good reason.  Even though it was caffeinated coffee that I gave up–not caffeine–I’ve actually stopped drinking caffeine as well.  True, there’s a tiny amount in decaf coffee, which I drink a few times a week, but not nearly the amount that you’ll find in black or even green tea.  I drank tea for a few days, but it just didn’t do it for me.

But I’m unequivocally looking forward to drinking real coffee again.  I’ve proven to myself that I don’t need it.  Erin doesn’t seem too impressed by this; she says that if I still want it, it just means 30 days wasn’t a long enough commitment.  But my intention, I remind her, was not to never drink coffee again.  Those kinds of commitments never seem to last.  The point of 30 days is that it’s enough to break the habit so that you can reevaluate your priorities at the end of it.  That’s what I’m doing, and I really think a little bit of coffee in my life is a net good.  What do you think; if I start drinking coffee again, will the challenge have been a failure?  If you took a 30-day challenge with me, how’s it going?  How strictly are you going to stick with your change after the 30 days are up?

Thai Lemongrass Soup

lemongrass soup 1 300x225A few months ago, I went to a Thai restaurant with Erin and my sister.  It was one of the first times I’d eaten out since going vegetarian, and I was so excited when I realized how many wonderful food options there are that I didn’t even consider before.  The highlight of the meal (other than the company, of course) was a lemongrass soup with mushrooms, unlike anything I’d ever eaten before and something I just had to try at home.

I did a Google search for “Thai lemongrass soup vegetarian” and came up with this recipe.  And last night I finally made it, having fruitlessly visited three grocery stores before Erin was able to find some lemongrass at Whole Foods.

The recipe is a good bit different from the soup that I enjoyed so much, but the flavor is very similar.  Whereas the other was only broth and mushrooms, this one includes red and green bell pepper, tomatoes, and tofu.  More suitable for dinner perhaps, but I think having all that stuff in there takes away from the soup a little bit.

I had never cooked with lemongrass before, here’s what it looks like:

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A few other notes about the recipe:

  • There’s a link on the recipe for how to prepare lemongrass; it involves chopping it and processing it to make the pieces small enough to become edible after some time in the boiling soup.  Still, I think the soup would benefit from straining the lemongrass pieces out of the soup after an initial 10-15 minutes of boiling.  They’re just too tough.
  • I didn’t use the optional coconut milk; that flavor was definitely not in the soup I was hoping to replicate.
  • I didn’t use the kaffir lime leaves; I just threw in some extra lemongrass.
  • The recipe calls for 1-2 red chili peppers.  I used one green jalapeno, and actually only needed three-quarters of it.  There’s a chance midway through the recipe to test the soup for spiciness, so use less than you think at first and add more at this point if needed.

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I really enjoyed the flavor of this soup; it was very much what I had been craving.  But really I think it’s best suited as a simple broth with mushrooms, as an appetizer.  Erin wasn’t a big fan.  She thought there was a lot of spice and lemony flavor but not enough other flavors.  So we can only give it three cows out of five.  Average, in many ways.  Anyone have a recipe for this soup that they really like?

That’s all for today!  I have a track workout tonight that seems easier than the previous: four 800-meter repeats at 2:52 with a two-minute rest after each.  Sounds pretty doable, but I believe I struggled with this one earlier in year.  That was, of course, before I was veggie-powered!

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Chickpea, Carrot and Parsley Salad

chickpea salad photo 300x225You know how when you’re cooking something, you start to get a gut feeling about whether it’s going to be any good or not, even without having tasted any of it?  This sixth sense is remarkably accurate; usually when I tell Erin “I don’t have high hopes for this one,” it does indeed pretty much suck.  I think this sense uses lots of small clues that we don’t consciously think about, like the source of the recipe, the way the recipe is written, and of course, the ingredients and how they look and smell in the dish.

Well this is one time when the sense betrayed me.  As I was making this salad, lots of factors started to pile up to make me think it would be just another bland, boring salad.  The name of this recipe doesn’t sound overly exciting.  Uncooked chickpeas just don’t sound appealing to me, as much as I like them cooked.  The dressing is nothing but oil, lemon juice, and coriander.  And what kind of salad doesn’t have any leafy greens in it except parsley?

When I told Erin as I set this dish on the table that I didn’t think it would be any good, she reminded me that Fine Cooking recipes are always good (here’s the recipe, by the way).  My sixth sense had overlooked the source, probably because I was using a printed-out recipe rather than the magazine!  After one bite, it was clear that this salad was a keeper.  The dressing was bright and fresh, and the toasted pine nuts and feta just brought everything together in glorious summery harmony.  My other fear, that the salad wouldn’t be filling at all, was completely off base as well.  Half the chickpeas are mashed up and mixed with the vegetables, giving the salad some serious oomph (and protein) in a small package.

Perhaps best of all, this thing was SIMPLE to make.  Chop a few vegetables, toast the pine nuts, mash some chickpeas, whisk the dressing, and you’re done.  Twenty minutes, max.

We had the salad with some grilled honey wheat bread from the farmers market.  The recipe suggests toasted pita; that would have been good as well.  My only problem with this recipe is the amount that it yielded.  It claims to serve “four to six as a vegetarian main dish,” but we got only three moderate-sized portions from it.  And of course, being the wonderful husband I am, I gave Erin the third to take for lunch today.  Grape Nuts for lunch, anyone?  If you’re going to make this one, definitely consider doubling it.

Has your sixth cooking sense ever betrayed you?

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I’m feeling great after yesterday’s 13-miler, considering that I didn’t feel so good during the run because of not bringing water.  I’m not sore anywhere, not even in my quads or calves.  I really can’t help thinking that Boston is going to happen this year!  Of course, I think that every year… Injury is still my biggest fear, but more and more I’m beginning to think that my body will hold up through this training and I’ll be able to go low at Wineglass.  Less than 15 weeks left!

Today is an easy run and foam rolling day.  And with any luck, I’ll find some lemongrass at the store and be able to make a Thai soup I’ve been craving ever since I tasted it in a restaurant a few weeks back.  Look for that one tomorrow!

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Bowtie Pasta with Summer Squash and Tomatoes

13 Miles, Lots of Sweating, No Water

Ok, I’m back from the run.  13 miles in an hour and 50 minutes, about an 8:27 pace.  This is a good bit slower than the 7:45 pace I had hoped for, but I don’t feel too badly about it because I recently ran the half marathon at a much faster pace than this.  When I run on roads, it’s hard to keep a pace because of having to stop at intersections, and I end up running extra from crossing the road so many times to run on the side with a sidewalk.  Plus, the run was much hillier than I’d imagined when I plotted it on Gmaps Pedometer.  There is a flat (incredibly boring) trail not too far away that I’ll have to go to every once in a while to hit the paces exactly to make sure I’m on schedule with the training, but I’m satisfied with today’s effort, given the circumstances.  And I remembered to lube up beforehand, so I really have nothing to complain about.

That said, I was definitely feeling fatigued during the last few miles today; more fatigued, perhaps, than I should have been.  I think part of the problem is a bad habit I’ve gotten into.  You see, I hate carrying anything with me on the run because the extra weight becomes all I can think about and I drive myself crazy.  So I haven’t been bringing water with me on long runs, and today was no different.  I could stop at a store or something, but that would totally kill the pace.  I could wear a fuel belt, but I just don’t like to because it shakes too much.  Until today, this hasn’t really affected my runs, but I’m starting to think that there’s no getting around bringing something with me.  Any other ideas?  When does this become dangerous?

Father’s Day Dinner

squash pasta in bowl 300x225Erin and I made dinner for my dad and his wife Margaret yesterday, our gift to him in addition to a book about no-knead breadmaking that I expect will start paying dividends soon.  We got some beautiful yellow squash at the farmers market this weekend and decided to make a pasta dish with it.

Local, seasonal eating is something I’m still trying to do more of.  It’s so great because it forces you to eat what’s available; I would never independently say “Hey Erin, let’s buy some squash at the store today to use for dinner.”  It’s just not an ingredient I think about when I’m planning meals.  But when you see something that’s fresh and ripe at the farmers market and you buy it because there’s still not much else there, you end up making some really interesting and comforting food that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.

And this pasta dish was no exception.  It was really delicious; Margaret wondered aloud why you couldn’t get this kind of stuff in a restaurant.  When you order veggie pasta, you get bland, white-flour pasta with some limp, steamed or sauteed vegetables, if you’re lucky.  This meal was nothing like that.  Each ingredient was so flavorful and it all came together to make a near-perfect early summer meal.  We didn’t vote on how many cows to give it, but I’m sure it would have been worthy of no less than four out of five.

We also used arugula from Erin’s garden to make my favorite salad, which is quickly becoming Erin and my dad’s favorite as well:

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The recipe that I used for the pasta is from Cooks Illustrated.  I made a few changes and eyeballed a lot of the measurements, so I’ll give you my adapted version here.

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Bowtie Pasta with Yellow Squash and Tomatoes Recipe

Ingredients (for 4 huge servings):

  • 1 lb whole wheat bowtie pasta (I used Barilla Plus)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3-4 small yellow squash, halved lengthwise and cut into half-inch chunks
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced (I used the elephant garlic I got from the farmers market)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • grated parmesan cheese, optional

Toss the squash with a tablespoon of kosher salt, then set in a colander over a large bowl for 30 minutes so that some water will be released into the bowl.  Once the time is up, dry the squash with paper towels and brush off excess salt.

Boil water for the pasta, add salt until it tastes like sea water.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

While the pasta cooks, heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Once it’s shimmering, add the squash and saute for about 5 minutes.  The goal is to get some nice color on the squash, so just move it around often enough to keep it from burning.  Move the squash to a large plate.

Add another 1 Tbsp of oil to the pan, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for a few seconds, until aromatic.  Don’t let it burn!  Add the squash back in and stir it in with the garlic and red pepper over medium-low heat to keep it warm while the pasta finishes.

Drain the pasta, combine with the squash mixture, balsamic vinegar, remaining 1 Tbsp oil, tomatoes, and basil.  Mix well, adjust seasoning, and serve topped with cheese.

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