Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Off Plan Running & Creamy Portobello Spinach Pasta

Not Following Plans
Today I wasn't sure if I was going to do spin or perhaps run at lunch or after work. Now that it's not 100 degrees outside, I can run mid-day without becoming one with the melted pavement. I am sort of off schedule with my half marathon training plan since I did my speed work on Monday instead of today. So today should have been 2 miles and tomorrow 3 miles.

My mood made the decision basically. I need to get outside, in the fresh air and sunshine and just run. You can't run away from problems, but man a run can certainly make you feel better.

I decided to do 5 miles (combining today and tomorrow). Yes, again, not what the plan says to do, but I have my reasons. I think they make sense at least. So here's how my mind worked: If I ran the 5 miles today, then tomorrow I could hit the gym for triceps, chest, and legs. Then I would have a rest day before my long run.

With my long run on Saturday and another run on Monday, doing legs on Sundays doesn't sound like the smartest move on my part. And I don't need to stop working legs. In fact, for the time being, I am going to work legs differently. My focus will be less on building and more on over-coming a few weaknesses (like hamstrings) and working on endurance and power. So runners - what are your favorite, must-do leg exercises?

Anyway, now that you understand how my mind works, this is why I ran 5 miles (actually 5.3) today. I needed to run those miles though to be flat out honest. The moment I started moving, any worries, stresses, blues, seemed to just slip away. It was like I was just leaving it all behind me as I moved forward.

With ever step, every breath, I felt lighter and more like myself. Very re-energizing. So I finished off the day with a clear head and a runner's high.

Do you strictly follow plans or do you allow for flexibility depending on scheduling, mental or physical states, etc? I think the best thing I can do for myself is not be too rigid. I must make a plan personal, for me, not for anyone else.


Cashew Cream Dream
I decided to try and get a little creative with dinner tonight. Maybe the run cleared my head too much ;-) We have had some sweet potato orzo that we bought while in Seattle from Pappardelle's Pasta, but haven't really tried to figure out a proper sauce for it.

I also had a package of baby portobellos on hand that really should be used sooner than later along with an extra bag of spinach. So I decided to try to go with a creamy mushroom sauce for the orzo pasta. I didn't have any silken tofu on hand, or I probably would have used that to create the "cream" sauce. Instead, I went with another great faux cream option - cashew cream. And you know what, I'm glad I did.

Creamy Portobello Spinach Pasta
Ingredients:
1 large or 4 small portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
White wine or vegetable broth - for steaming- approximately 1/2 cup or just under

1 tbsp minced garlic
1 recipe for basic cashew cream* 
5-6 sundried tomatoes, rehydrated and chopped
To taste: salt, pepper, parsley
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flake
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained 
Fresh spinach, as much or as little as you prefer
Pasta of choice - or spaghetti squash

Directions:
In a large skillet, saute onions and garlic until onions begin to soften then add in the mushrooms along with splash of white wine or vegetable broth. Cover and allow the mushrooms to cook until soft and onions translucent.

Uncover and add in the remaining ingredients up to the spinach. Let simmer for just a couple of minutes, turn off heat and add in spinach. Toss ingredients and heat will wilt spinach. If sauce becomes to thick, add in some of the pasta water. Remove from heat and either add in pasta and toss or simply spoon it over the pasta.

Basic Cashew Cream
In a blender, add 1/3 cup cashews (either soaked several hours or ground), 1 tbsp nutritional yeast flake, and enough water or almond milk (or a combination - I used 1/4 cup almond milk + 1/8 cup water) and a splash of apple cider vinegar to just cover the cashews. Puree until smooth (this makes a looser sauce so start with less liquid if desired). Season with salt and pepper.
 

This turned out so well, very rich and creamy. My only change would be to make more of the cream sauce ;-) I think it would be fantastic to also use shiitake or other wild mushrooms. Definite keeper. Even better, it only took about 30 minutes to cook. So definitely a great week-night meal that feels much more indulgent (glass of wine worthy).

Daily To-Enjoy List:
  • Spin - nixed that for a much-needed run
  • Being creative in the kitchen
  • Sunshine
  • Cooler temperatures