Ready to Run… Kind of (And also, PASTA!)

So, I started my running plan this week.  (For those of you interested in exactly what I’m doing, check out The Runner’s World 8-Week Beginning Runner’s Training Program)  Monday was my first day and it was… interesting.  After school, I synced (this doesn’t seem like it should be a real word, but spell check is okay with it) my iPod and was ready to go.  I’ve never actually run in town before, so the whole trail system is kind of new to me.  Also, I’ve watched too many episodes of Criminal Minds to really embrace the whole idea of running trails.  The plan suggests a 3 minute walk for a warm up, so I started out just walking down K street.  Well, I kept putting the actual running thing off.  I kept saying to myself, “Oh, I’ll just go at the next stop light.” Then the sidewalk ended at Lincoln High (I realize now, it would have been smarter for me to start on the other side of the street) and I had to walk through the parking lot and then just kept putting off the actual running part.  I finally came up on 27th street (by this point, my 3 minute warm up was about 20 minutes) and couldn’t shake images of the entire Bluth family doing their chicken dances from my head, so I just went for it and started running.  That first minute was hell, but with every interval it got easier.  It was so nice out and the trail was so pretty that I kind of kept going not thinking about the fact that at some point I would have to turn around and head back home.  In fact, I didn’t even think about this until I reached Highway 2.  So then I had to walk all the way back home and a workout that should’ve been about 40 minutes turned into about 2 hours.  Wednesday was a lot better, as far as time efficiency goes.  My thighs hurt like hell (I blame this on the J. Lo leg workout in jazzercise) but I’m confident we will return to a place of peace soon.

Oh!  I almost forgot.  This story will be funny especially (and maybe exclusively) to my middle/high school classmates.  When I was in 9th grade, my science teacher found out some of the kids in my class were into bad things… like alcohol and whippets.  Not me, for real… I was at least 5 years behind my coeds when it came to rebellion.  I remember having to Ask Jeeves what a whippet was, and to be honest with you, I’m still not entirely sure.  Anyway, after our teacher found out about what was happening, he started giving us this long lecture about the choices we make and then went into this long thing about how he doesn’t let anyone drive his car unless he really trusts someone and there were very few of us he would let drive his car and that if we became teachers and he found out there was a possibility of us teaching his kids he would specifically request not to have us as a teacher.  I’m sure that he had very good intentions with all of this.  He was probably concerned, because really, 14-15 year old kids should not be drinking.  So I get it.  At that age, you still shouldn’t be able to understand anything happening in Clueless and your idea of fun should be starting a 2Gether tribute band.  After the car and teacher stuff, I think most of the kids had just kind of tuned him out and written the entire thing off as him being an out of touch “old” person (he was maybe in his early 30’s).  But then… he started talking about we just needed to find another kind of high.  And for him, that high was running in the rain.  And he didn’t leave it at that.  He very poetically talked on and on about the high running in the rain gave him.  To my family and friends who are or are going to be teaching middle/high schoolers:  Do not, I repeat, do NOT tell them that running in the rain gets you high.  You could be the John Keating of your school when it comes to teaching, but all your students will take away from your class is that running in the rain gets you high.  At some point in their college and young adult life they will be walking out of a bar when it will start raining.  They will not be thinking about the time you taught them about why/how it rains.  Instead, they will be running down the street proclaiming “I’m running in the rain and it’s making me so high!”  (These, of course, are only presumptions.  I would NEVER do anything like that…)  Oh right, I suppose I should get to the point of this story.  So, I was walking back down Capitol Parkway/K Street when it started sprinkling.  I panicked a little bit, because I am not at the point where running gets me high.  At best, I’m past the point of checking my watch before 30 seconds have passed in my minute of running.  Again, I was by Lincoln High when I spotted a billboard with a kid listening to his headphones that said, “What’s Your High?”  I was convinced it was going to start pouring by this point.  Luckily, it never did more than sprinkle a few drops but I had a good laugh and then had to call Emily M. to tell her all about it and we had a good laugh about it together.  </pointless story>

In related news, I lost 3 pounds this week!  My mom kept telling me it would show up on the scale eventually, and I’m glad it did.  I tried really hard to eat all the points I’m allowed to eat, and then took a break from exercise over the weekend.  I don’t know if my body just needed a chance to catch up, but hopefully I will keep losing.

A few lessons learned this week:

  1. Rice cakes are not an acquired taste.  They are still as awful as when my mom used to be them for “snacks” when we were little.
  2. Anything (with the exception of Rice cakes, of course) seems like a treat if it’s in a cute little bowl.  For instance, one of my favorite thing is to mix up a package of fat-free, sugar-free pudding then pour it into these adorable green ramekin dishes (see picture below) and put them in the freezer.
  3. Pine nuts are really expensive.
  4. Bottled roasted peppers are kind of amazing.  For real.  They’re my new obsession.
  5. Running trails are not filled with serial killers/sociopaths.  In fact, everyone is pretty nice and politely waves, smiles, or nods as you pass each other.  However, I will trust no one.  Except it would be kind of nice for Emily M. and Emily P. if Dr. Spencer Reid, Derek Morgan and the rest of the BAU had to come to Nebraska to investigate.
  6. Cooking healthy is easy.  I’m not so sure baking will be the same way.  I don’t see myself as being one of those people who bakes with applesauce.  I think when it comes to birthdays and stuff, I’m just going to have to make the real deal and work it into my plan.

Now, onto the pasta!

The Meal. Doesn't that cute little bowl make you want to go out and eat a bunch of baby carrots?

I found this recipe in the March 2011 issue of Cooking Light.  It was okay.  Actually, it was really good just not as good as the Vodka Pasta.  It was also just a completely different type of taste.  I would say it tasted healthier.  That’s not a bad thing at all, it just maybe had more of a pasta salad taste than a pasta entree taste.  It’s supposed to take 20-minutes to make, but it calls for pre-chopped onions.  Pre-chopped onions are a lot more expensive than just buying whole onions.  Now, as someone who has to wear safety goggles when I chop onions, I definitely appreciate the idea of someone else chopping my onions.  It’s just not a luxury I can afford.  I also grilled a chicken breast on the Foreman and cut it up to mix with the pasta.

Mini Farfalle with Roasted Peppers, Onions, Feta, and Mint

8 oz. mini farfalle (bow tie) pasta

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup prechopped onion

1/4 cup golden raisins

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup sliced bottled roasted red bell peppers, rinsed and drained

1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese (I used reduced fat feta.  It only comes in a 3.5 oz container, but I really don’t think that’s a problem.)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1.  Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.  Drain pasta over a bowl; reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

2. While pasta cooks, heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add nuts; cook 4 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add oil; swirl to coat.  Add onion, raisins, and garlic; cook 8 minutes or until onion begins to brown, stirring frequently.  Add bell peppers; cook 4 minutes or until heated, stirring occasionally.  Add pasta and 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid; cook 1 minute, stirring to combine.  REmove from heat; stir in feta, mint, basil, and black pepper.  Sprinkle with nuts.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups pasta and 1 tablespoon nuts).

CALORIES 453; FAT 17.4 g (sat 5.1g, mono 4.1g, poly 3.3g); PROTEIN 16.6g; CARB 59.7; FIBER 4.2; CHOL 25mg; IRON 3.5 mg; SODIUM 558 mg; CALC 131 mg; Weight Watchers Points Plus 12


Hello Again! – Vodka Pasta


You guys, I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve posted anything!  I’ve still been cooking, I just haven’t had a whole lot of time (or, I suppose, desire) to do any writing outside of school.  However, I am back after a nearly two month hiatus so you can expect lots of posts.

About a month ago, I started Weight Watchers so there will probably be more healthy recipes on here.  We’ve been dealing with some pretty stressful health issues in my family, and I decided that I realllly didn’t want to be facing the same stuff in 30 years so I needed to kick it into gear.  I’ve only lost about 5 pounds since I started the program, but I’ve lost over 20 since the last time I tried it a couple years ago. So, I’m pretty proud of that.  I am a little sad that when Jennifer Hudson and I are singing a quartet with our old selves in a WW ad, those first 20 won’t count, but what can you do?  Also, I heard that after Jessica Simpson has her baby, she’s going to be a WW spokesperson.  Maybe then we can do a sextet with our old selves.  It will be epic.  I know that people, including myself, overuse the word “epic.” But truly… it will be epic.  I feel like all my years of singing in the car have been preparing me to sing with Jessica Simpson.

Throughout this whole process, I’ve discovered that I actually really like exercising.  I’ve been going to Jazzercise 5-6 days a week and I’m loving it.  It’s pretty much the only place I can hear Pit Bull in a song and not want to hunt him down and do bad things to him.  And when I say “bad” I don’t mean “dirty,” I’m talking about the kinds of things that will land you on death row.  I guess what Elle Woods says is true, “Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy.  Happy people don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”  I’ve also decided to start running as soon as I find a place that can sell me a cord for my 2nd Generation iPod Shuffle for less than an actual iPod Shuffle.  I’ve made it my goal to run at least the 5k in the A’Ror’N Days Fun Run, which also happens to be my birthday weekend.  I figure it’s good to have a goal that isn’t directly related to the scale.  I have a feeling this is going to be a very interesting project.  I found a plan that starts out as intervals of 1 minute running followed by 2 minutes of walking (which, to be completely honest, sounds a lot like my approach to running in P.E., so starting out should be easy) then gradually adds more running and takes away the walking.  I’ve never really had an interest in running, but one of my favorite hobbies is making playlists, so… at least I have that going for me.  This whole journey is exciting to me.  After a month, I already feel a lot better and my clothes fit a lot better, so hopefully it will start showing up on the scale more.

Anyway… On to the food!

I found this recipe in the April issue of Cooking Light.  Vodka Pasta is one of my favorite meals, and I’ve been looking for a good recipe for years.  There was a Rachael Ray recipe that I kept trying so hard to make work, but it was just lacking something… like flavor.  One time I made it and didn’t let the vodka reduce enough. I should also note that I accidentally doubled the vodka and used really, really cheap  (we’re talking Bartons) vodka.  Not only did it taste awful, but people got tipsy.  However, I was so pleased with this Cooking Light recipe.  The flavoring was amazing and the consistency of the sauce was perfect.  Also, it’s HEALTHY.  Or, at least, it’s not unhealthy.  I made it with chicken instead of shrimp since I’m kind of a hoarder when it comes to chicken breasts.  I’m not kidding, every time I go home, I end up taking a few Schwans chicken breasts back with me.  My freezer looks like one of those milk commercials, only with chicken.

I think this recipe is pretty straight forward.  It’s one of those crazy recipes where when it says it only takes 18 minutes, it actually takes 18 minutes.  I also had Spinach with raspberries, blueberries, and a light raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

Shrimp Vodka Pasta

From Cooking Light, April 2012 

9 ounces refrigerated fettuccine

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

12 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/3 cup vodka

1 1/3 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Marinara sauce, no salt added)

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, divided

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1.  Cook pasta per directions.  Drain.

2. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shrimp; saute for 4 minutes or until done.  Remove shrimp from pan.

3. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and garlic to pan; saute 1 minute.  Carefully add vodka (side note: Every time Paula Dean cooks with alcohol she turns off the burner when she pours it into the pan.  I think this is a good idea for people with gas burners.  Especially if you’re as accident prone as I am); cook 1 minute.  Add marinara, 1/4 cup basil, cream, salt, and pepper; bring to a simmer.  Stir in pasta and shrimp.  Sprinkle with remaining basil.

Bon Appetit!

Nutritional info:

Serves 4 (serving size: 1 1/4 cups)

CALORIES 427; FAT 12.6g (sat 4.9g, mono 4.8g, poly 1.4g); PROTEIN 24.6 g; CARB 60.1 g; FIBER 2.4g; CHOL 184mg; IRON 2.2 mg; SODIUM 632mg; CALC 65 mg; Weight Watchers Points Plus 12