I recently participated in my first ever 5k race! This is a big deal for me, and I’ll explain why.
Up until January of this year, I never ran. Ever. Zumba, yoga, weight lifting, walking…those were my exercises of choice. I did not WANT to run, but more importantly, I did not THINK I could run. It sounded scary: I’d hurt myself, look stupid, or just plain fail. In elementary school when we were forced to run “the mile,” I’d always finish last, huffing and puffing and bright red in the face.
But something got me onto a treadmill in January (a machine I previously loathed). I tried it out – admittedly there was more walking than running at first. I still didn’t enjoy it, but also didn’t quit. I had no idea what I was doing – I knew nothing of form, appropriate pace or use of inclines. I slowly increased my distance, while also trying to increase speed.
There was finally a day nice enough to run outside, which was a totally different experience than being in the gym. By this point, I began not only enjoying the sport, but also looking forward to the day’s run. I’d diligently check the weather forecast, and realized I was bummed whenever conditions were not nice enough for an outdoor run, forcing me back to the gym.
Then I signed up for a 5k. The Summerfest Big Gig 5k. By now, I had become accustomed to running outside and taking different routes. I learned it’s best to mix it up when training, or your body becomes complacent.
The experience was something brand new to me! It was cold and rainy for a June morning…not ideal and certainly nothing I had chosen to run in before. I didn’t know exactly where the start line was and quickly became nervous as the race start neared. Chris came with to watch (thankfully) so I wasn’t totally alone. Well, with 1400 people running a total of three races in this event, there’s no way I could be alone. I took my place at the starting corral, waited for the signal to begin, and was off!
The run was a hard one for me. The route was rather flat, but with all the newness of this experience, I felt figuratively lost. I didn’t have my best time. I didn’t run for the entire distance. I didn’t have a smile pasted to my face for the whole 3.1 miles. But I did enjoy it: the challenge of something new, the obstacle of crappy weather, and being surrounded by complete strangers all looking to achieve the same end. I did the best I could and was damn proud when I crossed the finish line.
I want to now train for a half marathon on November 1, sprinkled with another 5k and 10k in between. This is a challenge I want to conquer, so here’s to more running! If you have any tips, tricks, or words of encouragement, I’d greatly appreciate it! As singular a sport as running is, I need all the help I can get :)
So, onto a tasty recipe. This Mac & Cheese is loaded with all things healthy! Tons of veggies, healthy pasta, and a sauce made primarily from Greek yogurt and milk, this dish is only made better with the addition of some cheese. It’s a perfect dinner post-race, or any day of your busy week.
Use whatever veggies you have on hand. The cheeses don’t have to be Edam and aged cheddar, but I do suggest you use a combination of mild and sharp flavors. The creaminess of the Edam adds to the texture of the mac overall, while the sharpness of the cheddar gives it an insane flavor punch – without using too much!
Southwestern Veggie Mac and Cheese
- 12 oz whole wheat or other healthy rotini or penne pasta
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 jalapeño, diced
- 1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
- 1 C plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 C skim or nondairy milk
- 6 oz Edam cheese, cubed
- 2 oz aged cheddar cheese, cubed (I prefer 5-year aged)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/8 tsp hot chili powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 4 green onions, sliced, to garnish
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9×13 glass casserole dish.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return cooked pasta back to the pot. Set aside.
While pasta cooks, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high and saute all the veggies and black beans, 7-10 minutes.
In the meantime, make the sauce. Combine yogurt, milk, cubed cheeses and spices into a blender. Puree until smooth. This will essentially create a cheese milkshake, which is the texture you’re looking for (gross, right?). Taste it and adjust seasoning as desired.
Once veggies are sauteed, add them to the cooked & drained pasta. Pour the prepared sauce on top and stir to coat everything. Stir in the raw chopped tomatoes.
Transfer mac and cheese to prepared glass pan. Spread out evenly. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with sliced green onions, if desired.