Thursday, July 24, 2014

Arugula Spinach Tomato Pesto (ASTP) with Gnocchi & Chickpeas

Aaaaahhhhhhh. The benefit of being (temporarily) unemployed is multifaceted, but one particular bonus is sleeping past 6 am. Every. Day.

Another bonus is having the time to do something other than work, study, or pack boxes. Unpacking.... well that's another story for August. In the meantime, trips to the farmer's market and shoe shopping for one particular upcoming wedding have been a much appreciated change of pace from the daily hospital grind.

Are you ready for another, absolutely delightful permutation of beans n' greens? Not quite to the eat-to-live standards (hello olive oil... and cheese.. and pasta) but full of healthy things nonetheless (arugula-spinach-tomato pesto = ASTP!). The ingredients for the pesto actually make enough for two nights. Use half today and freeze the rest.

The great thing about pesto in general is how forgiving it is. Don't have spinach? Add extra arugula. Prefer less garlic? Reduce it to three cloves. Where the heck to I find pepitas?? Use walnuts.

Arugula-Spinach-Tomato Pesto on Gnocchi & Chickpeas

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 5 min
Servings: 4  servings

3 cups packed fresh arugula
1 cup packed fresh spinach
6 cloves fresh garlic
¼ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or pine nuts
2 chives
6 large basil leaves
¼ cup virgin olive oil
1 – 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)

1 - 14.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 500g package of potato gnocchi
2 oz herbed feta cheese, crumbled (I used tomato basil)

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and prepare a large bowl of ice water. Drop arugula and spinach into boiling water and allow to cook for 20 seconds. Then strain out greens and submerge in ice water. Reserve boiling water for gnocchi (step 5).
2. Peel the garlic and add it along with the basil leaves, pepitas, and chives to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is minced.
3.  Squeeze all of the water from the blanched greens and add them to the food processor along with the tomatoes. Pulse until finely chopped and well incorporated with the garlic mixture.  
4. With the processor running, add olive oil. Blend until well combined. Set half of the pesto aside and freeze for later use.
5. Add garbanzo beans and gnocchi to the reserved boiling water and cook according to gnocchi package directions.
7. Strain gnocchi and beans; scoop into serving bowls immediately. Divide the other half of pesto over gnocchi and sprinkle each serving with feta cheese. 

Calories 436, Total Fat 12.8 g, Cholesterol 12.6 mg, Sodium: 507 mg, Protein 8.7 g, Fiber 4.9 g

This was my first time using gnocchi, which are small, soft, dumpling-like pasta balls. They cook up super quickly, and were easy to find at Trader Joe's and the local grocery store. This ASTP has a great bite from the garlic and arugula, and is lightened up with the tomatoes so that it would be great on any pasta. Or, you can try it one of these other 10 Ways to use Pesto Beyond Pasta from The Kitchn.

Friday, July 4, 2014


The #100bySummer challenge... 

100 miles of cardio in 7 weeks.
Not that hard, right?
It boils down to about 2 miles a day. 

There are all sorts of fitness challenges floating around, particularly in that time of year barreling headlong into summertime. But this particular challenge was inspired by the girls at Tone It Up - you know the ones who have that show on Bravo? Well, maybe you don't know. But Bravo is just about the only channel I watch, so therein lies my current perspective of the world outside of Ames.. whatever. 

The important part is that I did it. Not only that, but I got J to do it too! (He didn't run for a bikini body, but he did run for himself. And maybe a little bit for me, too.) I am so proud of us! Especially since I've never been a good runner. Oh, believe me --- I've given running the ol' college try. Many times. It's always hard. But this time, it was a bit easier for three reasons. 

  1. Other people were doing the exact same thing I was doing. There's a little community of people (mostly women) out there who were posting to Instagram (#bikiniseries #toneitup #100bysummer), documenting their progress, and providing a bit of outside support. It worked. 
  2. I learned to pace myself. With a heart rate monitor (this kind: Polar FT4). It's time to get serious, ya'll. 
  3. Perhaps most importantly, J was willing to go with me. Rain or shine. Hail or humidity. His pace isn't exactly as slow as mine, but he really made an effort to keep with me. I think it was comical at times.. You know how slow I was running? But he didn't laugh. Too much. 

The challenge technically ended on June 21 (the first day of summer!). I posted photos on Instagram throughout the 100 mile challenge to document our progress and thought it would be nice to round them all up here. Enjoy!

Mile 1: We started the challenge the same weekend of Tulip Time in Pella, Iowa and got in our first 4 miles. 
Mile 5: Showing off our Christmas running shoes courtesy of J's parents.

Mile 8: On the way home from Main Street.
Mile 11: Early morning run with the man of the house.

Mile 14: One of the first places I visited in Ames - Olde Main Brewery - with Ian and Tiffany
Mile 17: Started the day off right. That always means a green smoothie. 
Mile 19: Down to the farmer's market on Main.

Mile 23: You just have to get off the couch. The rest is easy. 
Mile 26: Ada Hayden park.
Mile 30: The first of *many* cloudy/rainy days in a row. And a massaged kale salad. That's right. I said massaged.
Mile 34: Minor head trauma due to unexpected hail storm. Whoopsie.
Mile 38: First run with the new toy! Thanks, J!
Mile 42: Lots of good work-outs in the Ozarks! These little beauties live down the street from J's parents. They always come to greet us at the fence.
Mile 46: And these guys.. :) Such troopers!
Mile 58: ....aaaaannnd the blisters that I began taping like a pro.  
Mile 63: A little uphill hiking at Ledges State Park with the boys.
Mile 67: Met this dude at the neighborhood park over Skunk River. 
Mile 70: Made the best roasted garlic and wilted spinach egg pitas after my "passing with a D" mile of the 100 by summer challenge.

Mile 83: Another rainy day in Iowa at the downtown Des Moines farmer's market. 

Mile 88: I ran 5 miles without stopping for the first time ever. I think this hot air balloon in the sky was a visual reward for all my hard work so far. 

Mile 95: Train tracks and green grass in Ames.

Mile 99: Field of dreams. 
Mile 100: My neighborhood for the last 3 years.
"I like my one better than my zero." - Jason
Mile 111: Everything that is good. 

And there you have it. One hundred eleven miles under our belt, and then some (in the weeks that followed).

Have a happy holiday!