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Posted on May 19, 2011 in Dear Diary, Food, Recipes, Working Out | 0 comments

Baked Caprese Pasta

If any of you were following my tweets yesterday, or saw the end of last night’s Daily Eats post, you may already know that yesterday was not exactly the best of days. Someone managed to get ahold of my credit card info and charged over a thousand dollars at a Giant in Alexandria that I’ve never been to somehow (not quite sure how they managed that though, since I still have the card! Plus, who can spend that much money at the grocery store?!). In addition to that, I popped my knee out of its socket yesterday morning (and yes, subsequently back in, but it still hurts!), and on top of the regular drama that my life normally entails, lately work has been on the, er, not so great side of the spectrum, and it’s really starting to get to me.

So, what with the credit card fraud, extreme body pain, and all the rest of the hubbub going on in my life, things were a bit dim for me. So dim, in fact, that I found myself fighting tooth and nail not to fall right back into my old habits. After the last straw on this camel’s back, I was seriously contemplating hightailing it to the nearest drive-through and shoving the equivalent of, oh, I don’t know, 5 or 6 Baconators into my cakehole. I’ll be honest, today was the lowest point I’ve had in a long time.

But! Trying to draw upon the person that I’ve become, rather than who I used to be, I stuck it out. I persevered, and I resisted the urge to crawl back into (disgusting, nasty, bad for you on soooo many levels) food for comfort. I’m so proud of myself! And after all of that emotional turmoil and temptation-resisting, I still managed to make to the gym to try to bang out my last run before the Fitbloggin‘ 5K on Friday. Unfortunately… the whole aforementioned knee-popping ordeal? Yeah, it didn’t exactly make for an easy ride.

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At first I thought it felt okay, but after about the first .75 miles it started to really twinge and running on it just didn’t seem like an option anymore. However, you should all be very proud of me, because I stayed on that damn treadmill for the entire 30 minutes I had planned on, alternating between walking and some light jogging. I only ended up at just over 2 miles, which isn’t quite what I had been hoping for, but at least I did it with a smile on my face.

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We’ll just have to wait and see if my knee has healed up enough by Friday morning to actually run the 5K. I really hope it does! But I suppose that even if it doesn’t, you’ll see me out there walking up a storm. Perseverance is the lesson of the day, after all. And I think that deserves celebrating. Celebrating in the form of indulgent food that I can feel good about running back to:

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Caprese salad. In pasta form. Inspired by this recipe. This seriously may be the best pasta dish I’ve ever made. Or eaten. Or even tasted. And at less than 400 calories per serving (recipe makes 8 servings), this is the kind of comfort food that the new and improved Gretchen can fully, 100% support.

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There are really no words. So instead, here are lots of pictures of the food. Beautiful, beautiful food.

Italy.
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Baked Caprese Pasta
Print this recipe!

This hearty pasta dish combines the flavors we all know and love from the classic caprese salad: juicy tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and the punch of fresh basil. Bon Appetit!

Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients:
- 1 box whole wheat rigatoni (or pasta of your choice)
- 1 jar marinara sauce of choice
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella (1/2 the log pictured above)
- Small amount of almond milk (optional)
- Salt & pepper, red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cook your pasta according to the directions on the box. While it’s boiling, cube up your cheese, slice your tomatoes (I halved some and left some whole), and shred your basil.

2. Drain your pasta. Put it back into the pot with the whole jar of marinara. Then, you can “wash out” your jar with a little almond milk and add it into the pasta for volume and to enhance creaminess. Add the mozzarella, tomatoes, and most of the basil (leave a little for garnish.)

3. Mix well, and add any additional seasonings of your choice. I added a tiny bit of salt, some pepper, and some red pepper flakes (’cause you know I like a little spice in my life!)

4. Pour the entire mixture into a baking dish or casserole pan and top with the optional shredded mozzarella. If you wanted to be especially gourmet (or didn’t care about the higher amount of calories) you could put more fresh mozzarella, cut into slices, on top instead. Mmmm.

5. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until cheese is melty and bubbly and delicious. Garnish with leftover basil.

WARNING: You will be tempted to stick your face directly into the dish when you remove it from the oven. Yes, that is how good it smells. Please refrain from doing so. I do not want to hear about any burnt faces, even if they are in the name of pure, unadulterated deliciousness.

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Scoop out your portion (this should be enough for 8 servings) and dig in! If you want to up your protein, I bet this would be great with some grilled chicken or maybe even shrimp! I made a totally rando omelette for protein in this particular instance, and it didn’t really go flavor-wise but I was trying to use up some of my huge stockpile of farm-fresh eggs.

Mmmm. So glad I didn’t waste my taste buds or stomach-space on crappy fast food, when this was just around the corner.

Any thoughts about my knee injury issue and running the 5K on Friday? Is there anything in particular I can do to ensure I’m able to run on Friday? Or is it pretty much a lost cause right now? I’ve never been injured before while actively trying to run or do any kind of exercise, hahaha. Either way, I’m just happy to say “sayonara!” to yesterday’s bad day, and to welcome today with open arms. Actually, to welcome tonight specifically, since tonight is the official kick-off of Fitbloggin‘! See you from the road!

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