Tag Archives: pasta

Lots of Good Eats Over Here

Today was another productive day in the kitchen.

I prepared some more dishes for our camping trip, which I will highlight  tomorrow. In order to placate Dirk, I had to produce a dinner that would distract him from the smells and upcoming meals to be.

Anytime I serve him cheese and pasta, it works. He was a happy man.

More details to follow tomorrow! Right now, I have to wrap up some more odds and ends in the kitchen and put us all to bed.

Tomorrow is another day.

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My Pace or Yours?

Half Mary, full of Grace.

Why are the runners naked? No wonder they're blue. They are freezing.

For all of you who know me, you are probably aware that I am going to run my first half marathon on Saturday.

I’m pretty anxious about it, but at the same time I’m trying to remain calm and not obsess about the whole thing. But it’s difficult when the past several months have centered around the training.

There are many training schedules one can follow when preparing for long distance runs and races. They all have a common thread however. Build up mileage slow and steady, week by week. Never increase your distance more than 10% per week. That said, in order to train up to a half marathon which is 13.1 miles, it takes an average of 16 weeks of  runs (5 miles), alternated with walks (2 miles) and rest days (huh?).

The five day run/walk schedule averages 8 miles the first week and after the 12th week, you’ve trained up, and running on average 25 miles per week. After the 16 week period, you’ve put about 400 miles on your body. And soul.

When you put it into logistical terms, 13.1 miles tomorrow is doable. Even sounds pretty tame compared to several hundred miles I’ve already logged. But add an excess of adrenaline, spotty nerves and a buzzing brain, all of a sudden things aren’t so calm and collected.

Which is why on the eve of my first Half, I will try and keep myself busy, but not harried. I will water my garden and sit in the sun. I will pack up a bag for the post race, which Dirk and my Mom will bring up to me after I cross the finish line. I will putz around online and finish up a bit of work. I’ll lay out my favorite running shirt. Nano playlists will be at the ready.

But what I hope will settle me down the most will come later when I head to my cozy kitchen to prepare dinner. After much thought, I decided to make Spaghetti Bolognese, a favorite of mine, and especially Dirk. It’s a familiar dish, one I’ve made dozens of times, and after tweaking the recipe over the last year, I think it is a fine dish indeed. A common dish in Italy, it’s not to be confused with the Americanized version of meat and red sauce. Both are great, but this Bolognese, prepared with tomatoes and meat, is more complex and deep in its flavor, helped along with some surprising add-ins, such as carrots, beef stock, milk and pancetta.

I’ll post the recipe later today and I hope you all give it a go. The meats used traditionally in the recipe are ground beef, pork, veal and pancetta. But in order to keep it a bit lighter on this runner’s belly, I’m using ground turkey. Oh, but don’t you worry. The pancetta stays.

Served with some crusty bread, a bit of red wine (to settle the nerves of course) and a light salad, I think I’ll be ready to face the morning. Fingers crossed and all that.

I love new challenges and adventures in life. It keeps things exciting, different and vibrant. But I also love the familiar, and the comfort it offers. This weekend contains a bit of both which suits me just fine.

I think I can do this.

I picked up my runner’s packet yesterday, which consists of my number tag, a cool t-shirt and a chip which I have to install on the top flap of my running shoe. (Wow, I guess this is official now!) The tag is a GPS system, which tracks my time for the duration of the race.

And the winning number is...

I'm number one! Okay, number 650. Whatever.

When I picked up my package, I couldn’t help but notice the endless files awaiting the participants. I think there may be a thousand plus runners out there this weekend. Yikes! That is another first.

Okay, steady as she goes. Don’t forget to breathe. The course I’m running is stunning. It starts at Leadbetter Beach, and goes north along the coastline, around a lighthouse, back down the coast heading south along West Beach, East Beach, The Santa Barbara Zoo and Bird Sanctuary. A quick pass along Butterfly Beach, home of the world class Biltmore Hotel and Ty Warner’s mega mansion, and then back to Leadbetter we go. A recap of the race will follow this weekend.

I want to take this time to give thanks to all of you, friends and family who have given me endless support during the last several months. I would also like to thank you all for sticking by me when it has taken center stage for most of my time and thoughts. I will take you all along with me on the course, your enthusiasm and well wishes will keep me going, mile after mile. And most of all, I wish to thank my wonderful husband for his endless patience and support as I struggled to train, work and keep things going without becoming a complete and total hag. (I know I failed on multiple occasions, so bless you for sticking by me.) You are the best Dokie. I love you so very, very much.

Life really is a kind of race when I think about it. Sometimes it’s effortless. And other days, it kicks us hard. But if we keep moving, one foot in front of the other, fueling ourselves with the encouragement and strength offered by the ones we love, victory is ours.

Game on.

Noodle Head

I love noodles. Flat, thin, skinny, curly… You get the picture.

When I was a little girl, I have fond memories of my Mom’s buttered egg noodles (even better fried with more butter the next day). I also loved Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. I would sit down to a big bowl, and slurp the broth up with my spoon until the only thing remaining in the bowl would be a mountain of slippery, faintly seasoned noodles. I would spoon those babies on my spoon and savor every bite. I always saved the noodles for last, like a reward for having the restraint to only consume the broth.

Fast forward to the present. I know longer eat Campbell’s Noodle Soup (remember the sodium people!), but I still love me a bowl of noodles. So many cultures serve seriously great noodle dishes. Vietnamese Pho? Man, I could eat that every day. And the Chinese do their fair share of noodles, and Japan is close behind with their wheat Soba. And don’t get me started on the Italians. Mama Mia!

However, pasta seems to be one of those foods that is discouraged among many, mostly for dietary purposes. The no carb craze has made sure that consumption of noodles are only to be done in hiding, replaced with tofu or vegetables, sliced mechanically to resemble pasta, or forever banished altogether. Seriously, I’m not making the ‘tofu noodle’ thing up. I’ve seem them in the ‘health food freezer section’. Bleh.

One of my favorite noodle dishes is the classic Macaroni and Cheese. It is true comfort food for me. I love all kinds. Fancy types with penne, wild mushrooms and gorgonzola, to the Annie’s boxed type. The red box of Stouffer’s on the kitchen counter makes my heart soar. Yes, I am not proud, I love it.

Since my journey toward weight loss, trying to exercise regularly and stay as healthy as possible, I can’t have pasta every night. But I can’t live without noodles! I am a firm believer in eating what you crave, within reason. If I’m really craving mac and cheese, but I eat vegetable sticks instead, I won’t feel satisfied, and the odds that I raid the kitchen later in the day/night are practically guaranteed. Sometimes you just have to honor your mac and cheese voice.

Over the years I have made plenty of macaroni recipes. Most of them are fantastic, but they are also full of saturated fat, heavy cream, half and half, lots of butter and more cheese than we all need. I have created the recipe below, that I hope you will try, and  you really enjoy. It’s made with real ingredients, but the fat and calorie content are a fraction of the traditional recipes.

The longer I’m alive the more I realize moderation is key in life. Depriving ourselves is not something that works long term. Fixing yourself a lovely meal, sharing it with friends and family doesn’t sound like deprivation to me. It sounds like a reward at the end of a long day to sit down with a bowl of this pasta. And the best part is, you don’t have to wait to eat the noodles last!

This recipe will make approximately 4 servings (portion control people!) I have also cut the recipe in half for just me and my husband, and it works very well. If you like, 3 ounces of lean, chopped ham may be added to the pasta and cheese sauce before baking. Team it up with a big salad, and you have a tasty nutritional meal.

Give me my noodles! Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces (2 cups) uncooked pasta of your choice (elbow and small penne are nice)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour or whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 small white or yellow onion, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • a few dashes of hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to your taste
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 cups non-fat milk
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 4 ounces of cheese, grated, your choice (I use a mixture of sharp cheddar, gruyere and parmesan)
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs tossed with 2 tablespoons grated cheese of your choice

Directions

Cook pasta until just al dente, still a bit firm as the pasta will finish cooking in the oven. Drain and set aside.

While pasta is cooking, in a medium sauce pan melt the oil over medium heat. Add the flour, grated onion, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce, whisking to combine. Cook over medium low heat for a couple minutes, careful not to burn the roux. Slowly add the non-fat milk, stirring to incorporate with the roux. Add the hot sauce, nutmeg, black pepper and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir over medium heat until hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat and stir in the 4 ounces of grated cheese and the yogurt. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. (This mixture will not be thick like traditional sauces, because of the lack of heavy fat. The pasta will help that out with its natural starch as it bakes, so don’t panic!)

Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and if using, the chopped ham. Pour into a lightly greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with the panko cheese mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Turn on your broiler, and broil casserole  until the top is brown and bubbly, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand a few minuted before serving. Manja!