Sweat the Small Stuff; Next Race; No-Recipe Pasta Recipes

Sweat the Small Stuff
And by “sweat” I mean “celebrate” because you should always celebrate your victories, no matter how miniscule. On my first ever 5:30am run, I ran into a runner acquaintance out with his neighbor. I asked him how far they were running – he said 4 miles and I thought, wow, that’s a lot. At the time, I was aiming just to run 20 minutes straight, regardless of how many miles that was, so 4 miles was a distant image wafting behind a wave of impossibility. Well, on Sunday I ran 5 miles.

What’s up, buttercup! Who’s afraid of 4 miles now?? You ain’t so scary!

Honestly, it wasn’t even that hard. As I increase my mileage I’m trying to get my brain to understand that walk breaks aren’t bad and told myself I could take as many as I needed. Even so, I only took one 30-second break and finished with a totally respectable (for me) 9:56 per mile pace. Through those 50 minutes of running, I surprisingly didn’t feel like dying any more than I normally do (which is to say, I did not feel like dying and vomiting and crying simultaneously, just dying). I took a cool down walk, came home, ate the best egg burrito ever, then drank water like they were going to stop making it. It was awesome.

Mile 6: you’re officially on notice.

Next race: The Electric Run
Not the Electric Slide or Electric Company, but the Electric Run, wherein we will run around Soldier Field at night, lit up by all manner of neon LED displays. I’m really looking forward to seeing it all come together and I think it’ll go better than the Color Me Rad run because, you know, things won’t be flying at my face. (Did I mention I got pelted in the head with a rock at one point? Either that or a congealed mass of powder. I did not like that.) This is another untimed 5K and while I’m itching to see how well I can do in a timed run, I think that doing a couple fun runs first is good practice for getting adjusted to the whole racing scheme. At Color Me Rad I had no idea how fast or slow I was going, so in fear of hitting it too hard right away, I ended up running slower than I might have. Hopefully I’ll figure out how to pace myself a little bit better the second time around.

Recipes without Recipes
Whenever I go to a cooking class or meet other people similarly interested in food, there’s always the question of whether you “cook” or “bake,” as if there is this great divide in the food world. My answer is always, “Um…both?” because I don’t see why one has to negate the other. I’ve said many times that I could cook, but with only with recipes, which is perhaps why baking has never been intimidating to me. I can follow instructions with the best of ‘em. (I can also put together Ikea furniture.) But while I love baking, I am and always will be a salty girl at heart, which means that cooking is just as appealing to me and I’ve found that the more I cook, the less I need recipes to guide me. I still use recipes as guidelines a lot of the time, but I frequently change them up, adding herbs for flavor or adapting the cooking method to suit my tiny kitchen.

Where I rarely use a recipe is when I cook pasta. Pasta needs little more than some browned meat, a few sautéed veggies, and a sauce. Add whatever combination of the above you prefer and you’ve got yourself a hearty meal. It’s so easy to throw together a single serving on a weekday night – no huge quantities of leftovers to worry about packing up and minimal dishes to do afterward. Here are two non-recipe recipes for ridiculously good pasta dishes, one of which I made up after having a less than satisfying work lunch and another based on a stupidly simple magazine recipe. I added things that I liked – don’t be afraid to the do same.

No-Recipe Linguine with Lemon, Proscuitto, & Arugula

Linguine w-Proscuitto & LemonSometimes when we go out to lunch we patronize a certain local restaurant named for a beloved Chicago icon. We go there due mostly to its proximity, but to be honest, the food usually ain’t half bad either. Unfortunately, the latest dish I had there – Linguine with Lemon, Chicken, & Arugula – did not uphold that assertion. The pasta was cooked okay, but the chicken was tough and the overall flavor of the dish was sorely lacking. It was a pretty simple mix, so I was positive that I could make my own version of it, only much better.

The first thing I did was ditch the chicken. Sure, I could have cut up and sautéed some chicken, but I had some prosciutto leftover from some salads I was bringing to work and why use chicken when you can use a cured pork product, am I right? The next was to add highly flavorful, aromatic ingredients. Chopped garlic and capers served these purpose here. I substituted walnuts for the pine nuts in the original dish simply due to cost. With significantly more arugula, a good squeeze of lemon, and a little bit of olive oil to finish, the final product was infinitely better than the bland pasta that served as my lunch. Here’s what I did:

Cook desired amount of linguine in a pot of salted boiling water for 8 minutes. In the meantime, sauté proscuitto in ½ tablespoon of olive oil until browned. Add 1-2 cloves of chopped garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 2 tablespoons toasted walnuts and 1 teaspoon drained capers. Add cooked pasta (reserving water) and season with black pepper and fresh lemon juice. Toss to marry ingredients; add a little bit of the pasta water to loosen up the sauce. Add 1-2 generous handfuls of arugula (trust me, it may seem like a lot but it’ll cook down to nothing, so it’s better to add more than less) and turn off the heat. Toss pasta and arugula – the residual heat will gently wilt the greens. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and enjoy.

Makes 1 serving.

No-Recipe Linguine with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Linguine w-Fresh Tomato SauceThis recipe came from the issue of Men’s Health featuring my favorite lycanthrope. I happened to flip open to the page one day and thought, wow, that is stupidly simple. I had some garden fresh tomatoes ripening on my counter, which made this an obvious choice for dinner that night. Since then I’ve made it several ways – once with fresh mozzarella, once with shrimp, and once with anchovies. I added capers to all of them because I just love salty, briny things. All three variations were equally easy and delicious.

Get your pasta going in a pot of salted water and boil for 8 minutes. Chop up a garlic clove or two and let that sauté (with shrimp or anchovies, if using) for about 30 seconds or until fragrant, then add a chopped medium-sized tomato. Let that cook for about 5 minutes or until it break down and starts to get saucy. If you’re using shrimp, this will be sufficient time for them to cook. Add a tablespoon or so of the cooking pasta water if the pan starts to get dry. When the pasta is done, add it to the sauce along with another tablespoon of the cooking water. Cook together for a couple of minutes; add about a teaspoon of butter, capers, and salt and pepper to taste. Add in your cheese of choice (if using). Top with fresh torn basil leaves, a little drizzle of olive oil, and eat while enjoying embarrassingly bad shows about werewolves and vampires. Feel awesome that you just made a pasta sauce from scratch and it only took you 10 minutes.

Makes 1 serving.

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