Last summer, I made myself a fitness goal: I would learn to run, and I would get stronger. To help me with this goal, I registered for a Color Run 5K (in October) and the Tinker Bell 10K, which is this Saturday at Disneyland.
With the race just around the corner, I’m doing preparations this week that are MASSIVELY important because I’m a SERIOUS runner who is FIT, FIT, FIT! (I should note that instances of CAPS LOCK in this post should denote sarcasm. Why sarcasm? Because when I’m nervous, I make jokes. And since I’m under-trained and not really prepared to run 6.2 miles, it’s jokey-jokey-joke time.)
How am I preparing? I’ll tell you.
- Training. Okay, I’ve trained some. The thing is, when I ran my 5K, I had not yet ever run 3 miles before. And I managed to run most of the 5K and had no problems. And then that night, I got all dressed up and went to a ball. So, you know, there’s that. At this point, I have run 3 miles. But I’ll be honest, I’ve not run anywhere close to 6. So this week, for “training,” I’m just trying not to do anything stupid to hurt myself before the race, and then I’m banking on adrenaline, Disney characters, the festive spirit of the race, Amanda, and a few friends to help me through the race.
- Costume. When Amanda and I brainstormed our costume ideas for this thing, we decided against princesses and anything that would involve wings or masks. Just not going to happen when we’re sweating and jostling along with other runners. So we settled on Peter Pan (me) and Peter Pan’s shadow (Amanda). And after an eleventh-hour epiphany about the likelihood that we’ll keep hats on during the race (short answer: no), we’re nearly done with our costume. Order a couple sweatbands, get a few feathers, glue gun a-go-go, and we’re in shape.
- Practice Makayla Maroney “not impressed” face. Because I get a medal when I finish the race. And if you’re going to give this girl a medal, I’m doing that face to someone.
- CARBS! Oh, not sarcasm this time. One of the best parts of a race is getting to eat a bowl of pasta the night before.
- Food prep. Here’s the thing. We’re doing this race, and then we’re playing in the park for the rest of the day. By the time we get home, I think it’s safe to say we’ll be exhausted. So I’m prepping some foods to have ready, in the fridge and/or freezer, for when we get home.
And one of the recipes I’m preparing is this, Spinach-Chickpea Stew. It’s one of my favorite dishes that I discovered last year. With partially-mashed chickpeas, wilted spinach, hydrated raisins, chunky tomatoes, and a little kick of spice, this thing is healthy, with lots of iron, protein, and veggies to help us recover from the race.
But the best part of this dish is the way it’s served. Grill or toast a slice of bread, and then cut it into four smaller squares. Place those squares in a bowl, and then ladle this stew over top, and let the bread soak up all that flavor. Seriously, I don’t know why I don’t eat all my soup in bowls lined with bread.
Adapted from Eating Well (March/April 2007)
1 pound baby spinach
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15.5-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Dash (or two) red pepper flakes
1/2 cup golden raisins (regular raisins do fine as well)
1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water (Feel free to add a little extra if you worry it’s cooking too fast and might scorch – that said, it will be a little on the dry side)
2 tomatoes, chopped
Good sturdy bread (French or sourdough, perhaps)
1. Rinse spinach and let it drain slightly. With the leaves still a little wet, add the spinach, a fistful at a time, to a Dutch oven set over medium heat. Toss the spinach with tongs, keeping it moving and adding a handful at a time until all the spinach is wilted. Drain in the colander and let cool slightly. Once cooled, press with paper towels/towel to squeeze out excess water. Coarsely chop and set aside until the end.
2. Wipe out the Dutch oven, place it over medium heat, and pour in olive oil. Add onion and cook 3-5 minutes, until soft. Add garlic, and cook another minute or two, stirring often, until onion is tender and lightly browned. Stir in chickpeas, thyme, oregano, cumin, salt, and red pepper flakes. Mash the chickpeas, using a potato masher, until about half are broken down; you want to maintain some good texture, not make hummus. Cook an additional minute or so, and then add the raisins and broth/water, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
3. Add the chopped spinach and tomato, stir gently, and then remove pan from the heat and set aside. Allow to rest for ten minutes to heat through.
4. To serve, brush both sides of slices of bread with olive oil and then grill in a cast iron skillet (or on a larger grill, whatever suits your needs). Once the bread is browned, cut each slice into four pieces, place those pieces in a bowl, and then spoon the stew over top. Season as you like, and feel free to add shaved Parmesan or Pecorino over top.