Monday, July 21, 2008

Pain, Suffering and Marinara Sauce

So, this morning, my friend and I decided to attend a "Cardio Dance" class in lieu of our usual swim ... and, no, I wasn't dressed like an extra from the "Let's Get Physical" video. I left the leg warmers and headband back in the 80's where they belong. And, fortunately, no one else was dressed like that either - otherwise I'd have been laughing too hard to keep up. I could barely keep up as it was. It all looked so simple when we were watching a few minutes of the class last week - but doing it is another story. There was much pain and suffering, and that was just during the warm up! I hurt in places I didn't even know I had. It remains to be seen whether or not this was a good idea, given the state of my knees. If I don't end up crippled, we might try it again next week.

Suffering aside, I'm glad we went. Its just as easy to fall into an exercise rut as it is a dinner rut. I've been swimming for so long now, its not really much of a challenge. It seemed like a good idea to shake things up a bit and try something new. I'll swim normally for the rest of the week and if my knees can take it, I'll give the dance class another shot next Monday. If not, then hopefully I'll be no worse for trying. Stay tuned - and let's hope tomorrow won't find me surfing for a picture of some crutches to post on here!

The heat is still oppressive here and its likely that I'll be shopping my freezer for dinner options - and I don't mean TV dinners. I like to keep a well stocked freezer for nights such as this and I almost always have some version of a homemade pasta sauce on hand and ready to thaw.

Marinara Sauce:

  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large stalk of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • one 28 to 32 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • one 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry, red wine
  • 1 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
  • 6 to 8 leaves of fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 pound of whole wheat linguini
  • freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • chopped fresh parsley
Heat the olive oil in a large, non-reactive, pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sautée until the onions are just translucent and not browned, @ 5 minutes or so. Add the celery, carrots, salt and crushed red pepper flakes, stir to combine, and continue sautéeing until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and the red wine and stir to combine. Add the fresh oregano and simmer the sauce, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently, until it has thickened slightly. When the sauce is done, add the fresh basil, and taste to adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and some freshly ground black pepper if necessary.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions, drain, toss with the sauce to coat and serve topped with the fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

*Notes: This sauce will freeze beautifully, so if you like to batch-cook feel free to double it and freeze the extra. Since I'm cooking for two we always have plenty left-over. I've discovered a new, and really acceptable, whole wheat pasta: "Gia Russa 100% Whole Wheat Pasta" - its delicious and I do recommend it. You can certainly round out the meal with some chicken or turkey sausage if need to feed your inner carnivore - but typically I just serve the pasta Marinara with a big, healthy salad and call it a night. Enjoy!


pixelgal said...

Another atta girl for trying the dance class. It's fun and maybe you can use a knee brace to soften the blow and complete the 80s outfit. It's all good!

Deb said...

The class sounds like fun (not). I am so uncoordinated I look like a fish outta water in a class like this. I stick to more structured forms of exercise like yoga and pilates (okay so I like torture) but at least I'm not falling all over myself. LOL

On the saucy side - I would crank up my food processor next time for all the veggies and garlic and saute in some olive oil until dried out and browned - makes for a yummy base - I used this technique gleaned from Secrets of a Restaurant Chef on FoodNetwork and it was fabulous! Happy browning!


HJDinny said...

I'm learning a lot about exercise right now, while I train for a triathlon. The key to changing your body is understanding your heart rate and your heart rate zones. Exercising in the various zones will help your body burn not just carbs but also fat. The good new is by taking this approach, you don't have to stop swimming to change your body. The bad news is you have to learn how to swim at a % of your maximum heart rate over a period of time. To do this you need to wear a heart rate monitor while you swim. They cost about $75. Small price to pay to continue to do the exercise that you love. The arobics class is very 83' and not very diva like. My post is a very simplistic explanation. To learn more about heart zone training check out

The Diva on a Diet said...

Deb - what a great idea about letting the veggies brown up for the sauce. I'll def. try that next time. It sounds supper yummy and rich! Thanks! Btw, I'm with you on the yoga and pilates. I just tried pilates for the first time this month and liked it.

hjdinny in the house! You're right, the cardo dance is NOT very Diva-like at all. Good point about the heart zone training - I've been doing something similar with the swimming, called interval training. Swim at maximum capacity for a period of time, then slow down, then back up, repeat, etc. Its excellent - though given the traffic in the pool, its not always possible for me to swim at my maximum. Its too crowded. I have yet to get the monitor, but I do the same thing on the stationary bike when I'm in the gym - and that has a built in monitor. Nice!