Summer Pasta Dinner for Runners

Summer on the Farm

Here’s a suggestion for a nice pasta dinner for keeping healthy and refueling in the summer months. This took me about an hour to prepare, and I used a blender for the sauce.

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Menu:

Salad: mixed greens with tomato, mushrooms, avocado and raisins

Main Course: Organic Sprouted Whole Grain Penne Pasta with organic chicken sausage and tomato sauce

Desert: Ben and Jerry’s Liz Lemon Frozen Greek Yogurt with Blueberry Lavender Swirl.

Ingredients:

Salad: mixed organic greens (I like half spinach, half mixed spring greens)
Organic Tomato
Sliced organic mushrooms
1/4 avocado, diced. If you can find organic, go for it.
Organic raisins
Dressing of your choice. Honey mustard or Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil go well with this.

Pasta: organic sprouted whole grain penne pasta. The sprouted grain frees up natural sugars in
the grain, giving it a better flavor than typical whole grain pasta.

Organic Sprouted Whole Grain Penne Pasta

Organic Sprouted Whole Grain Penne Pasta

Sauce:  1 28 oz. can organic whole peeled tomatoes

1 6 oz. can organic tomato paste

organic Italian style chicken sausages, one 12 oz. package

spices to your preference.  I used home grown basil and spicy oregano, dried onion, dried pepper flakes, salt, ground black pepper, and

a touch of garlic powder.  I’m not a big fan of garlic.

Preparation:

Start with the sauce.  A blender is necessary for this step.  Heat the chicken sausages whole in a frying pan.  These usually come precooked, but the addition of a little browning on the skin makes for a tasty sausage.  Add a touch of olive oil or cooking oil spray to the pan, since they don’t have much fat.  Empty the can of tomatoes and the tomato paste into the blender.   Add the spices.  Blend.  You should make a good, thick puree with this method.  Once the sausages are browned, take them from the pan and cut them into half inch slices.  Add them back to the pan and pour in the sauce.  Simmer the sauce while you are making the rest of the meal.

The pasta:  boil water.  Simple, no?  Add the pasta and a pinch of salt.  Boil to preference, but be aware, there is a narrow range of done to al dente for this type of pasta.  Too much cooking and it turns to mush.  Drain.

Salad:  mix greens, tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, avocado and raisins together.  Add a dressing of your choice.

Sit down and enjoy your home made creation.  The salad has the nice touch of the creamy avocado, which I love in a salad.  The pasta was surprisingly tasty for whole wheat pasta.  The meal is relatively low in fat, made from mostly organic sources, and is easy to prepare.  The first time I made this my wife commented the sauce was too bland for her liking, so I spiced it up the second time.  The addition of spicy oregano is unique.  You can make yours as spicy or different as you like, since the sauce is basic and waiting to be customized.  For an accompanying beverage, try Victory Prima Pils, or a dry rose.  Or, just some iced tea.

As a desert in the summer, the Liz Lemon is a perfect blend of sweet and low calories.  I found it delicious.

Ben and Jerry's Greek Frozen Yogurt Liz Lemon with Blueberry Lavender Swirl

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy, but the running isn’t!

This feels like the summer of 2012 all over again.  We had a stretch of rainy days which seemed to go on forever, although it was really only about a 10 days or so.  I had two rather interesting rain-related experiences during this time.  Both were during my Monday run from my hospital in Camden, NJ, over the Ben Franklin bridge to Philadelphia, a loop down to the Race Street pier, then back over the bridge and back to the hospital.  It is a very nice six mile round trip, with the challenge of the bridge, but also with a pleasant breeze on the bridge and very nice views.

The first interesting experience occurred on my way back through Camden.  Dark rain clouds and the rain coming down to the east were illuminated by the setting sun to the west, and a beautiful, full-arc, sharply colored double rainbow could be seen as I was crossing Market Street.  I stopped a local man crossing the street who hadn’t noticed this wonder of nature and pointed it out.  He smiled broadly, and said “yeah, cool.”

The other incident was a little more worrisome.  I was doing the same run again.  It was overcast, but the rain seemed to be off to the east, and usually the direction of travel of the rain clouds is west to east.  As I was cresting the high point on the bridge, large raindrops started to splat the walkway.  I still felt this didn’t seem like much of a problem.  In fact, I was marveling at how the rain on the walkway created an outline of the old-fashioned style lamps along the railing.  My reverie was short lived.  Instead of moving east, the storm was heading right towards me.  I still had about a quarter of the bridge to go as the rain picked up and became torrential.  Worse, lightening was flashing around me.  I don’t know the risk of being on an enormous steel structure during a lightening storm, but my gut feeling was that it was not safe.  I scurried down the ending stairway of the bridge, three sets of wet stairs, to the street.  I made it shortly to a loading dock area on the Rutgers campus, and got out of the storm.  As I waited out the storm, several other runners behind me on the bridge kept running in the storm, and I watched them go by.  I felt a little wimpy, as if I should shake my fear and continue running.  But then, reason took hold and I waited a bit more.  Looking up at the sky, I could see swirling clouds which looked like they were attempting to make a tornado.  Fortunately, it never go to that.  With the storm, and the lightening, having moved on, the thunder now coming more than 10 seconds from the lightening, I ventured out and ran the last mile or so back.  It was still raining, and when I got to the hospital I made sure to allow a little drip time before going back in to change.

Now, though, the rain has been gone for several days and the heat has arrived.  As we all know, running in the heat can be brutal.  One’s body must acclimate to the heat.  This is a complex process, involving changes in the body’s blood volume, hormonal status, immunological changes, sweat composition and response, and other alterations.  All those intricate physiological changes have yet to occur in me.  I ran yesterday for a seven mile run, and today for a 12.5 miler.  While the starting temperatures don’t sound that brutal, around 79 degrees F, the high humidity of 90%, low to non-existent breeze, and sun made for very uncomfortable running.  Both days we started at 7:00 AM.  My friend Brandon, with whom I ran on Saturday, seemed to already have made that jump to summer running, as he was not nearly as affected as I was.  Perhaps it is his incredibly lean, thin body, or the fact that he runs normally more than fifty miles a week, but he cruised without dying.  I, on the other hand, felt like collapsing after a few miles.  Saturday, I mustered on, drinking water from the fountains along our route, and going a very diminished pace.  Sunday, I started out running with two other runners, planning to go 13.5 miles.  I carried a bottle of water with me in one of those handy runner’s bottles, with a strap for my hand, and a protruding enormous nipple-like spigot, allowing a drink on the run.  One of the guys in my group peeled off at four miles, saying he was never going to make the 13.  The other kept with me until his usual turnoff at my six mile mark.  So I was left alone for the rest of the run.  As I steadily, but at a considerably slower pace than normal, made my way around our standard Sunday loop, the sun got higher, cresting the trees and shining down on me.  Other runners came by in the opposite direction, looking pretty bedraggled, with the exception of one young guy.  He had on a gray army-style t-shirt and was running with a backpack.  He looked pretty tough in the heat.  I was drinking steadily to ward off dehydration, and used the amount of sweat on my hands as a guide.  If they were dry, I figured I had stopped sweating from not enough fluid, and took another gulp.  The sweat continued to drench me, and I could feel my feet getting soaked in my shoes.  At around ten miles, I stopped at a water fountain and had the good fortune of meeting a friend running in the other direction.  I hadn’t seen him in a long time, but still we stopped to talk far more than would be normal under milder circumstances.  As I headed for the last leg, I was running now at around a 9’30” to 10 minute per mile pace, not able to go any faster.  I switched sides on the road a few times to take advantage of the bit of shade I could find from the trees.  With two miles left to go, I made the decision to cut this run short, and headed back up the hill for only a one mile return to the start, thinking that lost mile would not be doing me much good anyway.  I made sure to finish strong, though, as I passed my fellow Sunday morning crew who had run shorter and were already hanging out at the Starbucks.  One always should look good at the start and end of a run.  In between, nobody is really watching.  I banged on the sign marking the end of the run, and wobbled over to get my backpack and my extra bottle of sports drink I had stowed for my recovery.  Sitting in the shade, bent over, calf muscles doing their quivering imitation of fireworks going off, I took off my shoes and socks, wrung the sweat from my socks, and slowly felt the heat dissipating.  Once I had cooled to a nearly presentable state, I made my way over to join my friends. I changed to dry clothes, and sitting outside, with a little breeze and in the shade, it didn’t seem so awful.  But, boy, running in the heat can be brutal.  I do look forward to that magical transformation of being acclimated.

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