Ricotta Pizza with Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers

I’ve posted more than a few pizza recipes on my blog, but I’m of the opinion that there can never be too much pizza (especially homemade pizza!!) so I am adding to my pizza repertoire with this delicious white pie that Matt and I made last week.  Look at this feast… ricotta, spinach and roasted red peppers covered in mozzarella cheese.  I wish I was eating this right now!!

Ricotta Pizza with Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers

As you’ll see in the instructions below, I find it really challenging to transfer an uncooked pizza with full toppings from the peel to the stone, so my new tactic is to transfer the dough onto the stone in the oven while it’s still “naked” and then add all of the toppings while it’s in the oven.  Maybe not the most efficient use of electricity, but this method ensures that my pizzas end up (mostly) symmetrical without half of the cheese and toppings sliding onto the stone or, worse, the bottom of my oven during the raw dough transfer process.  Works for me!  :-)

Ricotta Pizza with Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers 2

Ricotta Pizza with Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers

You will need…
1 Red Bell Pepper
2 cloves Garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/2 Yellow Onion, halved and sliced into very thin rounds
1/2 cup Frozen Chopped Spinach (or 2 cups fresh spinach steamed and chopped with excess water squeezed out)
approx. 2 cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese
approx. 3/4 cup Ricotta Cheese
Semolina Flour
1 package raw Pizza Dough
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:
Start by roasting the red bell pepper.  There are several ways to roast a pepper, but for this particular pizza Matt sliced the pepper into thirds, removed the seeds and ribs, and placed the pepper pieces on a baking sheet in a preheated 400° oven until the skin was wrinkled and starting to blacken.  Then he peeled off the skin, sliced the peppers into 1/2″ strips, and set the roasted peppers aside until it was time to put them on the pizza.

Preheat the oven (with pizza stone inside) to 425°F.  Since I’m incapable of transferring a fully topped, raw pizza from the peel to the stone I put the naked dough on the stone and quickly add all of the toppings once it’s already in the oven.  To avoid wasting too much heat and energy during this process, I prep all of the toppings in advance and set them next to the oven.  With this in mind, arrange the roasted red peppers, minced garlic, chopped spinach and sliced onions on a plate and make sure that the mozzarella and ricotta are open and ready to go.

Next, prep the pizza dough.  Again, there are many ways to do this, but for this pizza I sprinkled a few tablespoons of semolina flour on a pizza peel and stretched the fresh ball of dough into a 15″ diameter circle.  Carefully transfer the dough onto the preheated pizza stone and use your fingers to quickly spread the minced garlic over the top of the dough, leaving a 1-2″ margin on the edges for the crust.  Close the oven.

Working in quick intervals, open the oven, slide the pizza stone rack out slightly, and start adding your toppings and cheese.  Start with the onions along with a thin layer of mozzarella and close the oven.  After few minutes, add the spinach and 8-9 generous spoonfuls of ricotta.  After another 1-2 minutes spread on the roasted red peppers and top with the remaining mozzarella.  Once all of the toppings have been added allow the pizza to cook for another few minutes until the crust is fully cooked and the cheese is just starting to turn golden brown.

Use a pizza peel to remove the cooked pizza from the oven (working with a cooked pizza is so much easier than raw dough!!) and season with salt and pepper.  Cut the pizza into 6-8 slices and enjoy!

Ricotta Pizza with Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers 3

Cam’s “Moonlight” 5K… in a Thunderstorm!!

Last night I ran Cam’s Moonlight 5K in Exton, PA.  With a 9PM start time, this was my first night race and, with a violent thunderstorm going on during the race, this was also my first race in torrential rain and lightning!  It was a unique experience to say the least.

I arrived at the corporate center where the race was being held at around 8:30pm to pick up my bib.  Although there were storms far to the southwest, the radar overhead was absolutely clear at this point.  I could see some ominous storm clouds on the horizon and it was just starting to drizzle ever so lightly, but I figured this was a passing shower at worst and kept my iPhone and headphones with me as I lined up with the 500 or so runners and walkers for the start of the race.

The start was really disorganized.  I didn’t see a start line and didn’t know which direction we would be running but realized that I was WAY in the back of the crowd when suddenly the pack started off at a jog ahead of me.  After my crowded-start experience at the Media 5 Miler, I was frustrated at the prospect of starting from the extreme rear and I quickly began weaving my way through the slow moving crowd to get into a better position.  After about 0.2 miles of dodging and weaving the crowd suddenly stopped (reminiscent of the doomed Color Out Cancer 5K race earlier this year!), and that’s when I realized that we had all been running TO GET TO the start line.  Crazy!

By the time the race really started from the actual start line, the skies were dark and the rain was falling steadily.  I was significantly closer to the front of the pack and after the real “GO” I set out on the course, happy to get a do-over on my start and ready to put down a good time in my first 5K road race since the Run for Victory.  About a minute into the race the clouds opened up and the torrential rain began.  Bolts of lightning lit up the pitch black sky and the edges of the smooth corporate center roads immediately turned into mini rivers of water rushing towards the nearest storm drain.  It was raining so hard that my headphones stopped working (they got quieter and quieter before dying completely at around 1.5 miles in) and I was taking in so much rainwater with each breath that I found myself consciously working to spit water out of my mouth every time I exhaled.  It was wild!!

If this race had been scheduled for 9:10PM instead of 9, I firmly believe that the race organizers would have cancelled it on the spot, but because the runners had just been released onto the course just as the storm hit it was too late to stop the race.  Luckily, the course was VERY well marked with glow sticks and dozens of volunteers who braved the storm to hold their positions at the various intersections we crossed.  (Thank you, volunteers!!)  Despite the excellent course marking, I quickly discovered that the darkness, rain, and monotony of the corporate center’s identical roads made it extremely difficult to get a feel for where I was on course.  When I hit the 1st mile split I tried to make a mental note of where I was, but by the second lap around the corporate center my headphones were dead and I had no idea if I was 1 mile or .25 miles from the finish.

Cam's Moonlight 5k Runkeeper

After what felt like an eternity of slogging through puddles and spitting out rain water, the finish finally came into sight.  I was thrilled to see that the race clock was still in the sub-25 range and I thankfully crossed the finish line at around the 24:46 mark.  Woohoo!!  A man at the finish line was yelling “RUNNERS, DO NOT STOP!! GO STRAIGHT TO YOUR CARS!!!!” so I got my bearings and marched right to my car, where I promptly soaked the driver’s seat and took this photo.  What a race!

Soaking Wet after the Cam 5K

Matt had driven separately from a lacrosse game to watch the race (he ended up staying in the car!) and he followed me home along Route 30 as the torrential rain continued.  It was raining so hard I could barely see the road and at one point I drove through what Matt said was about 8″ of rushing water.  I could feel the current start to push the car to the left so I stepped on the gas… scary!  (And yes, I know you should never drive across a flooded road, but it was raining so hard I couldn’t even see the river… whoops!)  Long story short, we made it home safe and sound and I was very thankful for dry clothes and a warm bed.

This morning I found myself constantly refreshing the RunCCRS web site, eagerly waiting to see my final time and finish position.  Sadly, I got an email after lunch saying that the extensive rains caused the chip timing system to malfunction and no results would be provided. Boo.  :-(  At least I paid attention to the timing clock as I crossed the finish line so I know my approximately time AND, most importantly, I ran another sub-25 5K!!!!  Forget the rain, lightning, no results, and everything else… I did it again!  Yay!!!  :-)

 

Miles since last post:  93.5
Days since last post:  18
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.81
2014 TOTAL MILES: 916.3

P.S. For anyone wondering what happened to the Swarthmore 5 Miler (7/3/14) and the Firecracker 5K (7/4/14) races that I was supposed to run over the holiday weekend…  BOTH got postponed due to storms (that, by the way, were far less severe than last night’s!).  I missed the make-up date for the Firecracker 5K but I’ll be running the Swat 5 Miler next Friday.

Related Posts:
•  Media 5 Miler (6/20/14)
•  Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1/14)
•  Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30/14)
•  Run for Victory 5K (5/18/14)
•  Elwyn 5K (5/3/14)
•  St. Tim’s 5K (4/26/14)
•  Rick’s Run 5K (4/19/14)
•  Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/14)
•  Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4/14)
•  New Year’s Eve 5K at the YMCA (12/31/13)
•  Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14/13)
•  Turkey Trot 5K (11/28/13)
•  Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2/13)
•  Oy Vey 5K (10/27/13)
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19/13)
•  Run-A-Muck 5K (9/22/13)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Media 5 Miler – My biggest race yet!

On Friday night I ran the 34th annual Media 5 Mile Race in the borough of Media, a walkable (runnable!) little town located 12 miles west of Philadelphia.  Matt and I lived in Media for a few years before buying our house and although we cheered runners on in the past this was my first time actually running in Media’s biggest race of the year.

880 Media 5 Mile Race Start

The race was well organized with bib pick up on Wednesday, port-a-pottys available on random street corners around town, and polite, happy crowds.  The local police closed down the streets that the race course followed well in advance of the start time and the people living along the course set up chairs, signs, water stations and, in a few cases, sprinklers and hoses to prepare for the two 2.5 mile laps that the runners would make through their neighborhoods.

With 1,600 runners, the Media 5 Miler was my largest race to date.  (I know, still not that big compared to say, Broad Street’s 40,000 runners, but it was big for me!)  The sheer number of runners made the start a little difficult.  There were no corrals or pace groups, meaning that all of the runners were gathered in one huge crowd extending back from the starting line.  When the starter said “GO” it took several seconds for the crowd around me to even start moving.  Luckily the race was chipped so my official time didn’t begin until 29 seconds later when I actually crossed the starting line, but all of the runners around me basically shuffle-walked the first quarter mile or so before moving into a slow jog (with constant people-dodging) through the first several turns of the race.

The crowd of runners finally started to thin out when we hit the first big hill around the 1 mile mark.  Matt and I had jogged the course on Wednesday so I knew the hill was coming (and I knew that it kept going up around the next turn!) and I felt mentally ready for it.  I high-fived a runner wearing a giant pickle costume on the way up the hill before finally falling into what felt like a normal pace at the top of the hill.  At the end of the first lap we looped back around to State Street and I spotted Matt on the sidewalk taking photos.  Here I am smiling for the camera.

The second lap felt a lot harder.  Those hills that I had confidently powered up during lap 1 suddenly seemed like mountains and I trudged up them at a slow jog.  Luckily I felt a little better by the time I got to the top and before I knew it there was just a mile left to go.  I told my legs to go faster and somehow that worked (!) and I managed to make my 5th and final mile my fastest split of the race.  Woohoo!

My official chip finish time was 42:57, just 10 seconds off of my PR from March.  I would have really liked to beat my March time, but considering how I was stuck in major foot traffic during the first mile (something I definitely didn’t deal with in March) I think Friday’s race was a better overall performance.  I’m really excited about my last split… 7:54 on Friday vs. March’s 8:36 (!) and I know that I could have comfortably run a much faster first mile if I had had the room to do so.

So guess what this means?  That I’m signing up for another 5 mile race, of course!!  I’ll be running in the Swarthmore Lions Independence Eve 8K on July 3rd, this time with a much smaller crowd and more 5 mile experience to fall back on.

Miles since last post:  101.5
Days since last post:  22
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.79
2014 TOTAL MILES: 822.8

Related Posts:
•  Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1/14)
•  Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30/14)
•  Run for Victory 5K (5/18/14)
•  Elwyn 5K (5/3/14)
•  St. Tim’s 5K (4/26/14)
•  Rick’s Run 5K (4/19/14)
•  Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/14)
•  Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4/14)
•  New Year’s Eve 5K at the YMCA (12/31/13)
•  Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14/13)
•  Turkey Trot 5K (11/28/13)
•  Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2/13)
•  Oy Vey 5K (10/27/13)
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19/13)
•  Run-A-Muck 5K (9/22/13)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Roasted Corn Salsa

Last night I made my third batch of Roasted Corn Salsa in less than a month which can only mean two things…  One, this salsa is awesome and two, it’s high time it makes an appearance on the blog!!

Roasted Corn Relish 1

This bright, flavorful salsa features grilled corn, roasted peppers, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice.  It pairs perfectly with grilled fish and grilled avocado (<– my new favorite way to eat avocados).  We’ve also tried the salsa on shrimp tacos and, although Matt thinks it’s a bit too lime-y for eating straight, I personally really enjoy eating it with tortilla chips.

Last night’s batch of salsa is being refrigerated until we have Matt’s parents over for dinner tomorrow night.  Making it ahead of time will save me prep time on Saturday and the extra hours in the fridge will allow the salsa flavors to fully combine.  I’ll post pictures of the final meal (grilled salmon!) next week.

Roasted Corn Relish 2

Roasted Corn Salsa  (adapted from MyRecipes.com; makes 6-8 servings) 

You will need…
Cooking Spray
4 ears Corn, husked
4 Anaheim Peppers or 4 Cubanelle Peppers (for less heat), or a combination of the 2 types
1 cup diced Tomatoes (from approx. 2-3 Roma Tomatoes)
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed Lime Juice (from approx. 3-4 limes)
1/4 cup chopped Cilantro
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ground Pepper

Directions:

Lightly coat the grates of a grill* set to medium heat with cooking spray.   Place the corn and peppers directly on the grill.  Allow the corn and peppers to cook, turning occasionally, until the corn kernels start to brown slightly and the peppers become soft and dark splotches start to form on the green skins.  Transfer the roasted corn to a plate to cool.  Place the roasted peppers in a large bowl and cover for 10-15 minutes.

Cut each corn ear in half, then place the flat end down on a cutting board and slice the kernels off of the cobs.  When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel and discard the skins and remove the stems, seeds, and membranes.  Slice the peppers into 1/4″ pieces.

Combine the corn, peppers, tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Serve immediately or cover tightly and refrigerate up to 3 days to allow the flavors to intensify before serving.

Serving suggestions:

  • Serve over grilled salmon or another grilled fish (salmon recipe coming soon!)
  • Spoon over grilled avocado (slice avocado lengthwise & remove pit; brush grill with oil and place avocado halves directly on grates for 2-3 minutes until grill marks appear)
  • Serve as a fresh, citrus-y salsa with tortilla chips

Roasted Corn Relish 3

*If you don’t have a grill, use boiled corn on the cob or thawed frozen corn kernels.  The peppers can be roasted in an oven… here are some basic instructions on how to do this from Ina Garten.

Whirlwind Spring Recap

Matt and I have been going non-stop this Spring with yard work, running, family gatherings, weddings and work trips.  As a result, I’ve been pretty bad about blogging (I need to use our rare down time to relax!!).  Nevertheless, I do want to share what we’ve been up to so I’ll attempt to use this post as a catch-all recap of our Spring…

After returning home from California in mid-April, we spent a weekend in New Jersey to celebrate the marriage of two of our college friends, then I raced three weekends in a row (Rick’s, St. Tim’s, and Elwyn) before we embarked on another work trip, this time to Baltimore.  We were in Baltimore for three days and got in some good meals and two nice runs around the Inner Harbor (which is beautiful!!).

After Baltimore we were home for a few weeks during which I ran three more races (Victory, Rocky Run, and Radnor).  We also celebrated Mother’s Day, my mom’s and brother’s birthdays, and Memorial Day, AND started on a major home landscaping project… ripping out and replanting all of the overgrown shrubs along our front walk (more on that in a future post!).  For my mom’s birthday I did a photo shoot of her on her new horse and then Matt and I had my mom and stepfather over for a fancy dinner of grilled salmon and avocado with roasted corn relish and Mexican rice pilaf.  (And don’t worry, that recipe will be up on the blog soon!!).  :-)

After Memorial Day we had the pleasure of taking care of Matt’s parents’ German Shorthair, Bella, for a few weeks.  Bella patiently watched us dig up stumps in the front yard (fun!), went running with me at Ridley Creek State Park, and, best of all, got to come with us to the Hunting Camp where she got to experience the central PA wilderness.  We were at the Hunting Camp for 3 days, during which we hiked and ran over 20 miles.  Matt and I also made a big taco dinner for everyone on Saturday night but we were too busy cooking and eating to take photos of the food, sorry!

Matt and I left the Hunting Camp late Saturday night so that we’d be home for our first wedding anniversary on Sunday.  We celebrated by sleeping in, doing some yard work, then spending the afternoon wine tasting at our wedding venue, Sweetwater Farm and Grace Winery.  The winery recently started hosting dog-friendly tastings so Bella came along and happily flopped on the ground between our chairs as we sipped our wine.  After the tasting we had dinner at La Porta, our favorite local restaurant, and then returned home to — you guessed it — MORE yard work!  :-)  Good thing we both like hauling rocks, compost, and stumps around!

The Tuesday after our anniversary we headed out of town again, this time for a work-related trip to a nuclear power plant to do a nighttime lighting demonstration.  It was a productive visit but between the Hunting Camp (4 hours away) and nuclear power plant (5 1/2 hours away) it meant that we spent close to 20 hours in the car in less than a weeks’ time.  And the road trips weren’t quite over yet…

On Saturday we were on the road again, this time to Avon-by-the-Sea, New Jersey for another fantastic wedding celebration.  The weather was perfect and we spent the night in Asbury Park right next to the boardwalk and the beach.  I loved waking up to the view of the beach and sand right outside our window.  New Jersey is pretty nice!

That’s about it for my whirlwind Spring recap.  Now that our travels are done (until 4th of July, at least), I’m hoping that we might have a little more time to kick back and relax.  First I need to make it through the Media 5 Mile race on Friday night!  :-)

How’s your Spring going so far?  Has it been busy or relaxing?

Double Trail Run Weekend

This weekend I ran TWO 5K trail races and I had a great time!  The first race was the Rocky Run 5K hosted by the Rocky Run YMCA in Media, PA on Friday night.  This race was originally scheduled for May 16th but it had to be postponed due to extremely heavy rainfall (over 2.5″ inches in 8 hours).  Postponing the race was a good call – the extra two weeks gave the winding trails behind the Y time to dry out and Friday’s weather was absolutely perfect.

Annie Rocky Run 5K

The Y’s 5K course started out on a short pavement loop before entering the woods on the Rocky Run Trail.  (This trail is part of a large network of trails in Middletown Township including the Darlington and Linvill Trails… if you’re in the area I’d highly recommend checking them out!)  I’ve spent a lot of time hiking on these trails but I’ve never actually run on them so Friday’s race was a new experience for me.  The first 1 1/2 miles seemed pretty easy and I felt good as I dodged tree roots, mud, and rocks.  At the halfway turnaround I discovered that I was the 2nd place woman (woohoo!) which put some pressure on me to keep up my pace for the second half of the race.  I didn’t know how far behind me the 3rd place woman was, but I do remember the second half of the race feeling MUCH harder than the first half, probably because it was almost entirely uphill!

Rocky Run 5K Runkeeper Stats

The last mile wasn’t pretty, but I held onto my second place spot and finished in 27:40, good enough for 14th overall out of 88 runners, 2nd place female, and 1st in my age group.  The overall female winner was actually also in my age group but I got the AG award since she got the overall award.  :-)  The Rocky Run 5K marked the first time I’ve won an actual prize in a race — a $25 gift certificate to a local running store!! — and also helped me realize that I might REALLY like trail runs!

After my great off-road experience on Friday night, I decided to sign up for another local trail race on Sunday morning.  This race was Radnor Conservancy’s Race for Open Space 5K Trail Run.  It was held at the Willows mansion/park in Villanova, PA which is actually where my parents got married back in 1983!  Despite the Willows only being about 20 minutes from my house I’ve never actually been there, so it was pretty neat to visit the alcove and gardens that I’ve only ever seen in old wedding portraits.  I was surprised to discover that my parents’ wedding ceremony site is now a parking lot… I guess modern-day weddings happen somewhere else on the property??

Much like the Rocky Run 5K, the Race for Open Space started on a short stretch of pavement before entering the woods on winding, hilly trails.  My Runkeeper App couldn’t get a good GPS signal during the race and it reported that I had already run 5 miles after only 7:46 had elapsed.  Whoops!  The Runkeeper app continued to malfunction throughout the race (at one point it told that my mile split was 81 miles per hour!!) but it was useful just to know the race time even if the miles were way off.  I thought that this course seemed harder than the Rocky Run course so I was pleasantly surprised when I finished in 25:49… nearly 2 minutes faster than Friday’s time.  Yay!!

My 25:49 finish was good enough for 31st overall out of 96 runners, 10th place female, and 1st place in my age group.  :-)  Considering that I had not originally been planning to run any races this weekend, I was pretty thrilled with how my two trail races turned out.  Now I really can’t wait to do the Run-A-Muck trail race in September… I have a feeling that I am going to be able to improve significantly on my 35+ minute time from last year!!

My next race is the Media 5 Miler on June 20th.  This is a road race (which should feel easy after tree roots, rocks and mud!) and, with over 1500 runners, it will be the biggest race that I’ve run in so far.  Less than 3 weeks to go!

Miles since last post:  53.8
Days since last post:  13
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.81
2014 TOTAL MILES: 721.3

Related Posts:
•  Run for Victory 5K (5/18/14)
•  Elwyn 5K (5/3/14)
•  St. Tim’s 5K (4/26/14)
•  Rick’s Run 5K (4/19/14)
•  Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/14)
•  Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4/14)
•  New Year’s Eve 5K at the YMCA (12/31/13)
•  Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14/13)
•  Turkey Trot 5K (11/28/13)
•  Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2/13)
•  Oy Vey 5K (10/27/13)
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19/13)
•  Run-A-Muck 5K (9/22/13)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

What’s Cookin’?

I haven’t posted a new recipe on the blog for a while but, rest assured, Matt and I are eating well!  We’ve been re-making a lot of our favorite recipes and, quite frankly, I’m finding less motivation to try new recipes since we know we can throw together a garlicky pasta dish, flavorful stir fry, or quick rotisserie chicken burrito in less than a hour with delicious results.  Here are some of the dishes that we’ve been enjoying this Spring…  (mouse over for a link to each recipe)

This Spring has been pretty hectic with traveling, racing, and LOTS of yard work, but I have a feeling that things will slow down soon and we’ll find ourselves paging through our trusty cook books in search of new recipes to try.  We’d like to try smoking something (ribs? brisket?) this Summer and maybe try a grilled Romaine recipe.  I also definitely want to make Paella and I’d like to start making more desserts (cobblers and crumbles, anyone?).  I better start looking at those cookbooks!!

Do you have any go-to Summer recipes that you love making at this time of year?  Tell me about them (and feel free to link to them) in the comments!