It’s a big day tomorrow for a special group of friends. It’s RACE day! A few months ago, I made a simple pledge to myself to eat better, lose some weight and get in shape. In my adventures to try and be more healthy, I was able to find an amazing group called Strong Women In Fitness Together, a women’s running club near my home town of Philadelphia. I hesitated - they would probably be these amazing athletes. In my mind, the ladies would actually run fast and LOVE to work out... UGH. What I found was full time moms, career girls, out of shape and in shape women in all body sizes as well as athletic abilities. Most important to me was finding a great group of brilliant, fun and supportive friends! It has been inspiring for me to be in better shape at 40 years old (gulp) - and achieve my goal distance (which was initially along the lines of "run for 10 minutes without passing out or dying"). Now on the eve of a race that a group of us are participating in, I have learned how important it is to take care of my body, and eat ‘real’ food. A carb based meal is usually a great choice for athletes before an event (I’m giddy - I called myself an athlete!). Several of us are getting together tonight to review some tips for race day and share some last minute encouragement. I thought the Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato & Spinach Penne would be a perfect pre-race meal. It’s quick and simple so I thought I would share it with you all!
We took 8 ounces of penne pasta and cooked it according to package directions. The pasta was drained, set aside to keep it warm. The recipe says that this meal only takes 25 minutes total to prepare and cook. I actually found that it took a little less time as we were able to multi-task some of the directions.
Melt 2 tablespoons of Land O Lakes butter in a 2 quart saucepan. Everything is just plain better with butter!
Add in 1/4 teaspoon of salt, you could probably even go with just a dash if you are watching your sodium, but with running tomorrow I am ok with the amount I put in this recipe. A 1/4 teaspoon of pepper is next to go in the saucepan. 1/2 teaspoon of chicken bouillon granules gets thrown in there too for a little bit of flavor.
1 tablespoon of flour helped thicken the sauce up a bit when it was put into the mixture.
I was a little bit unsure of how the 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg was going to taste in a pasta dish. But it turned out great and I really liked how the nutmeg made the kitchen smell when I was making the dish.
Add in 1 1/2 cups of Land O Lakes Fat Free Half and Half. Another reason why I chose this recipe is that it called for the fat free version of the half and half. With trying to lose a few pounds, I have been really conscious of the calories and fat contents in my food (I know some fat is good for me, but I thought this was extremely helpful that the recipe called for the fat free version so I didn’t have to substitute it on my own). Stir until mixture comes to a boil and starts to thicken - it will only take 4 to 6 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in 4 ounces of pre-sliced Land O Lakes Deli Swiss Cheese. Stir cheese until it melts. Recipe calls for the cheese to be cut into quarters before placing in the sauce mixture. The quarters made it easier for the cheese to melt instead of having ‘globs’ that you need work on helping melt!
We had so much fun with everyone helping to make this recipe, we decided to toss in the cooked pasta.
Take 1 10 ounce package of frozen chopped spinach - thaw, drain well. I defrosted this a bit in the microwave at 1/2 power to help the thaw process along. Only took a few minutes - I’m all about the quick and easy!
Next, add in spinach to the mixture.
Drain 1/2 cup of sun dried tomatoes in oil with herbs.
Rough chop up like this - I found that if I chopped them up a little finer, they were able to be more ‘spread out’ throughout the pasta.
Add the sundried tomatoes into the pan next - they smell incredible!
Mix well with our other tasty ingredients.
Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
To serve, spoon onto serving platter, sprinkle with parsley if you like.
I never thought I would be a ‘runner’ (I still use that term loosely!). However I am most proud of the fact that I have turned into a Strong Woman who is able to raise a family, have a career AND take care of myself through exercising. I won‘t lie- there are days that it is hard to juggle everything. It’s hard work that takes balance and communication as a family. However, my goal to be in better shape for my family has helped me make healthy lifestyle choices and to create meals we can eat together is just as important.
How did we do at the race? Awesome! But I have to be honest, I had just as much fun making a meal to share with my friends! The best news about this meal? It’s simple and quick to put together for when your whole family is on the go and you want to feed them a ‘real’ meal.
Give Creamy Sundried Tomato and Spinach Penne for your family, and make sure to come back and rate and review the recipe.
Check back in a few days when Mallory will share a great holiday cookie recipe.
Alex is paid to write for the Land O’Lakes Recipe Buzz® Blog.