Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sun-dried Tomato RIcotta Penne

My photos aren't very good because of no decent lighting but the dish really was tasty, easy, and should please everyone in the family.

8-10 chicken tenderloins or two chicken breasts (I used frozen tenders and defrosted them 3/4way by allowing them to sit out)
1 box of penne (whole wheat will work very nicely)
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes in oil (mostly drained), thinly sliced
1 small container of part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup of regular cream
1 bag of pre-washed spinach
3 zucchinis (cut in half and either very thinly sliced or sliced with a mandolin slicer)
1 tbs of olive oil
1 tbs of butter (I use Smart Balance)
salt and pepper to taste
pecorino romano or parmesan cheese

Start pot of boiling water for penne.

In a very large skillet with olive oil,  saute the chicken on high heat. Make sure you salt and pepper the chicken before adding to the skillet. Brown each side for a few minutes. Remove from heat. Don't worry about chicken not being cooked through totally.

Decrease heat to low and saute garlic for a minute or two. Be careful not to burn the garlic and remove from the heat for a minute if necessary.  Add sun-dried tomatoes. Then, zucchini. Add butter, cream, and ricotta cheese. Mix thoroughly and heat through on low to medium heat.

Add penne to boiling water and follow directions on box.

Chop chicken into bite size pieces and add back into the skillet. Then add the spinach and heat on low. If the mixture becomes too dry, feel free to add some pasta cooking liquid. Once the pasta is al dente, drain and add it into the skillet. Salt and and pepper to taste.

When serving, add grated pecorino romano or parmesan.

**Note-If you want added flavor, lemon zest or juice, more sun-dried tomatoes, or red pepper flakes would be a nice addition. I made this dish to accommodate Grant who is quite picky. Also, this dish makes A LOT.  I see this as a good thing because I love leftovers. Sometimes I need to re-heat the recipe the next day in order to decide if I like it or not (I know, kind of strange).

I served a side salad with this dish but honestly, most of your major food groups are already covered so by itself, it's perfect to me.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fueling for Recovery

I've been taking a little break from posting recipes for a few weeks for a few reasons. 1) Holiday season has been busy and running a 100 mile race added to that and 2) I needed some time to regroup and think about how I want to approach my recovery from this 100 mile race from a standpoint of eating foods that will help me feel better. I will explain why.

Sometimes I'm so focused on pre-race fueling: Don't eat this. Watch out for that. Don't eat too much, or too little. And, also fueling during the race: What to eat. How often. How much.

What about after the race? To be honest, I've always just eaten whatever I feel like eating and to a point, I still believe this is the way to go. But after Ancient Oaks 100, a very tough 100 mile race for me, I'm re-thinking my post-race fueling strategy or lack thereof.

In 2011, I ran 28 races. Two of them were 5ks, one was a half marathon, and the rest were marathons or ultra marathons. 25 of my events were a marathon or more. In fact, three of the 25 races were 100 miles. 2011 was the year of setting ultra marathon personal records: Strolling Jim 40m, Nashville 50m, and a 100 mile PR of 20:38. It was a great year of running, meeting new friends and spending time with old friends, and seeing new places. In fact, in my running life, 2011 has been one big adventure. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

However, along with a lot of races (yes, I know some readers would think TOO MANY races), comes some physical and mental burn-out. It was Peachtree City 50K in November that I realized my body had been beaten up. I was running an 8ish minute mile from the start, was in the lead for women, and gradually started to fade. An 8ish minute mile normally would be something that I could hold so I knew something was wrong.

I backed off considerably from running and even pulled out of the Flying Monkey Marathon scheduled for a few weeks later. I ran a half marathon a week before Ancient Oaks 100 and ran a surprisingly fast time for me (1:38). Still, I felt like my lower legs and feet were not right but naturally I followed through with running Ancient Oaks. There was no real reason why I should pull out.

I wasn't really nervous about Ancient Oaks 100. It felt like a relatively safe 100 mile race that I could probably finish. I had no particular finish time in mind, nor did I care about winning for the females. My one and only goal was to have a good experience. Now, we all know that with a lot of fun comes a lot of struggle. 100s aren't easy and no matter how experienced or talented you are, 100s can be just painful.

At the 50k mark, I knew that something wasn't right. Why were my lower legs and feet already hurting so much? I usually don't feel this way until I'm closer to 70 or 80 miles. Things became worse and worse to the point of no longer being able to run. No matter how much my mind wanted me to run, my legs would not cooperate.

The following nine minute video was on mile 95 of Ancient Oaks 100. I just needed someone to talk to and used my iphone as that person.

Ancient Oaks 100, Final 5 Miles

I was able to finish Ancient Oaks in a little under 26 hours by walking the last 20 miles. Overcoming the urge to not finish was difficult. I can't describe how glad that I am that I didn't quit.

Before I even had my shoes off at the finish of 100 miles, I was reaching for a McDonald's Egg McMuffin (ham removed). Fast food is nasty to me and especially McDonalds's food. But, this was the best darn fast food I had ever eaten!

Upon arriving home (and yes, I also had a Wendy's Frosty and two 7 layer burritos from Taco Bell on the nearly 9 hour drive home), I new it was important to focus on my eating as a large part of my recovery. I needed to get my legs to feeling better for 2012. By Monday night, I was already back to cooking and getting some healthy nutrients back into my body. This was the list that I considered in my meal preparation.


Eggs & Low-Fat Dairy

Beans & Legumes

Poultry & Lean Meats
Nuts, Seeds & Oils
Spices & Herbs
Natural Sweeteners
maple syrup

Sometimes it helps me to look at a list of healthy foods because at times, I neglect nuts, grains, and some herbs. Having a well-rounded diet, in my opinion is very important and even though I may not be a big fan of walnuts, for example, I try to incorporate them into my diet. Chances are that when a food that you may not be a big fan of is prepared to your own liking, you will end up enjoying it.

About 10 days post 100 mile race, I'm feeling pretty good. Each day gets better and better and I look forward to feeling 100% by next week. I also plan on having some tasty new HEALTHY recipes on the way and will continue to try to work on more recipes involving grains.