Running and Eating: Disney 5K and the Food and Wine Festival

At the 2009, Food And Wine Food Festival

Kurt and Cristina at the 2009 Food and Wine Festival

We have been running for about three months. We are proud of what we have accomplished because this is actually the third time we have tried the C25K program. To make sure we stayed on course this time, we signed up for a race even before we started. And we made sure it was one that we had to run because the amount of money we would be spending: The Halloween 5K at Walt Disney World.

We have had some setbacks. It was nearly impossible to run during the week of the smoke monster (aka the marsh fire) and tropical storm Lee. Also, Cristina’s flu episode postponed any running we tried in the last two weeks. We ran yesterday, which was the first time for Cristina since her illness. We might not set any records but finishing will be a victory in itself.

Now, we are also going to treat ourselves while we are there due to the fact it is the kickoff of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We attended this a couple of years ago and literally tried to eat our way around the world. There are plenty of booths each representing a country or a specific region of a country selling tasting plates along with a couple of small glasses of wines. The plates are not very expensive, so if you go to spend as if you are eating in a fine dine restaurant, you can get tons of great tasting food. During the day, there are cooking demonstrations and wine tastings. Knowing that we are going to be tired after our run and will be in need of a nap, we decided to buy tickets for the special Half-Marathon party that ends in Epcot. Hopefully, watching people run the half-Marathon will inspire us to run it next year.

We will try to have a complete report when we get back!

Cooking: The Chew

Mario Batali, American chef and restaurateur.

Mario Batali, My Favorite TV Chef (Image via Wikipedia)

“Imagine the View, but with food,” must have been the pitch producers for the awfully named The Chew must have thrown at ABC executives. The show premiered Monday and stars Top Chef’s Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly, Daphne Oz (Dr. Oz’s daughter), as well as Iron Chef’s Mario Batali and Michael Symon.

Since I watch Multo Mario every morning on the Cooking channel before we head out to work, Cristina thought it would be a good idea to tape the show. It was. It’s lightweight, especially compared to Multo Mario, but it is good for coming up with simple ideas. Both Batali and Symon have cooking segments that feature much simpler recipes than their own cooking shows which is good considered the target audience is more soccer moms than food nerds. Each of the recipes they have done in the last two days were easy recipes that really could be done in a home kitchen by a novice cook. Carla Hall food segments are truly easy and are closer to the Rachel Ray type of cooking. She did dip some apples in pancake batter and grilled them which looked interesting.

What amazes me is that there is a plethora of cooking shows on television and most of them are doing well in the ratings yet people seem to cook less and less. As I stated in an earlier post, it’s not that difficult and, if you plan right, it’s cheaper. In the time it takes me to pick up Wendy’s, I can usually cook something better tasting. I’m not opposed to eating out especially if you are supporting a local business (we just had Phil’s Grill, in fact). I guess most of the audience for these shows just enjoy food porn.

Traveling: Honeymoon Cruise aboard the Carnival Freedom

Last December, Cristina went on a cruise with her mom, sisters, and a certain boy band. Before the ship even set sail, I knew that we were going on a cruise for our honeymoon. I didn’t object too much because our previous plan of doing a road trip through the southeast would be way too expensive with the rising gas prices of the spring. When she returned from her trip, we looked at various cruises. We settled on a Carnival Cruise that would make stops in Cozumel, Costa Rica, and the Panama Canal. For shore excursions we picked Mayan ruins, a tour of a rain forest, and ferry through the Pacific side of the canal. The cruise was out of Ft. Lauderdale, which wasn’t a problem due to the fact that Cristina’s family lives along the way.

Leaving Ft. Lauderdale

Leaving Ft. Lauderdale for our Honeymoon!

After a brief stop in Universal (butterbeer!), we headed to the ship. Being that it was my first cruise, I really didn’t know what to expect except it to be a floating hotel. I was slightly worried I would get really bored due to this being a 8 day/7 night trip. I was never bored once.

So what did we do with our time? Well, Cristina is a Bingo fanatic; thus, we played lots of Bingo. I had quite a few waits but no wins. We did a scavenger hunt. We read a lot either on the deck or on the balcony of our room (which we got as a very affordable upgrade the day before we set sail; and they called us because they knew we were on our honeymoon).

Waiting for Bingo!

Waiting for Bingo!

Shaving for Scavenger Hunt

Pretending to shave for our scavenger hunt

Lounging and reading on deck

Lounging and reading on deck

Some of the best moments were the unexpected moments. On a whim, we attended a cooking demonstration. The theme for the menu was mushrooms something Cristina didn’t like. However, the first course, a mushroom cappuccinos served in an espresso cup, won her over completely. Ever since the trip, mushrooms have become a staple of our diet. One night after dinner we were on way to see the show when we to upper deck to just see the stars. Despicable Me, a movie we hadn’t seen, started to play. Here we were, off the coast of Cuba, under the stars and moon watching a kids movie and gorging on popcorn.

Speaking of gorging, I’m pretty sure it’s required on these ships. Everything before dinner is really just Golden Corral quality but it’s included so we ate up. The best thing I ate during the day was zucchini fritters with shrimp and mussels which easily could have been sold at any festival in the area. Dinner, however, always ranged from very good to nearly great. The best dishes, for my money, were the cold soups. However, the best part of dinner was meeting new friends. The ship did a really good job of matching us up to people near our age. We really hit it off — and if any of you four are reading this let us know if you are ever in the neighborhood!

Some of the yummy Golden Corral quality food

Some of the yummy Golden Corral quality food... not a bad thing!

Dining room on Carnival Freedom

The formal dining room on Carnival Freedom

The only downside was that I decided to catch a summer cold right in the middle of the cruise…actually in the rain forest to be exact. I tried to be a trooper, but in all honesty I was miserable the last couple of days. Yet, the cruise even met that challenge. It’s real easy to be lazy on a cruise.

Will we ever do another one? Well, we already put down a deposit.

Enjoying the Carnival Freedom cruise

Enjoying our honeymoon on the Carnival Freedom cruise

Cooking: How Cooking Benefits Us

Yesterday, in the Sunday Review of the New York Times, Mark Bittman wrote an Op-Ed piece on how junk food is not actually cheaper than regular food (if you want to read it, go ahead, we’ll be here when you get back). He talks about how families can really cook healthy food for cheaper. He buys all of his groceries at regular supermarkets and doesn’t buy organic or shop at stores such as Whole Foods. It argues that if you have time to sit in front of the tv, you have time to cook (especially, even though he doesn’t say this, now most kitchens have TVs in them).

Why am I right about this? Well, cooking at home has made a very positive impact on both Cristina and me. We both lose weight when we cook at home even though a meal we make at home often is chicken nachos. My blood pressure has reduced dramatically even though I apply salt to almost everything since cooking, by my definitions, doesn’t include boxed items that are loaded with sodium.

What’s amazing too about cooking at home is what happens when we eat out. Yesterday, we went to the Alligator Festival to sample the food. What normally would have been a first course at a festival for us quickly filled us up. It also increases my self-esteem because I know I cook better than almost all fast-food and chain restaurants, not because I am a better cook then the guys and girls on the line, but because I work with better ingredients.

Finally, it is cheaper if you do some planning. We try to cook only what we are going to eat which multiplies the number of meals we get from something. Also we try to apply the principle of amortization to our food (Example: I made baked chicken legs with potatoes and carrots.  When you figure out the unit prices it came to right about five dollars for the total meal.  Wendy’s usually runs me for sixteen dollars). Also, and this may be the weirdest thing I say to some people, but we really don’t need to eat meat every meal. Lentils, for example, have ten grams of protein per serving plus a good amount of fiber, both of which will make you feel full faster. In fact, it is rare that you will see Cristina and I eat meat more than once a day.

Sorry if this blog comes off a little preachy but it is a blog. Cooking and eating better is something we feel passionate about. Also, cooking is not hard especially since I can do it. Trust me, I’m clumsy and three women who love me the most (Cristina, my mom, and sister) can attest to how much little common sense I have. In fact, I still haven’t learned that it is a good idea to close the microwave door when I’m finished with it. Mark Bittman didn’t say it in his article, but I will for him. If you really don’t have any idea of how to cook, he did write a book called How to Cook Everything.

Watching: Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Joe Cross, Director and Star of Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Joe Cross, Director and Star of Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (picture from the official movie website. Click picture to see website)

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead is a movie made by an Australian business man on how going on a juice fast changed his life for the better. However, it really isn’t about that.

The plot is simple. An overweight man who takes way too much prescribed medication due to obesity related problems decides to do a sixty day juice fast while driving across america. No food; only juice made from plants and fruit. He succeeds. By the end of the movie he is no longer obese and off all of his medications. While on the road, he befriends a truck drive who is in a similar, but probably worse, predicament. When the director gets his life in check due to his juice fast, the truck calls asking for help. The director sets the truck driver on the same juicing path. He too has amazing success by juicing for sixty days (he does check with a doctor before doing this). However, this isn’t a film about juicing.

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Watching: The Addams Family

Addams Family Poster

Addams Family Poster at the Mahalia Jackson Theater

This year we decided to buy tickets to the Broadway Across America series at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. The first play on slate was the Addams Family. I have to admit taht I didn’t expect much. I have never really been a fan of either the television show nor the movies. In fact, I warned Cristina to wake me up once I started to snore.

And then something unexpected happened. I found that I was enjoying myself.

Now, West Side Story this is not. But unlike, say, Cats, this show has a plot. And the music, while not truly as memorable as Wicked, moved the plot along more than Wicked’s did. It was also something I didn’t expect it to be…funny.

The production was as good as any I’ve seen live (granted that is the aforementioned musicals in New Orleans as well as a horrible production of Footloose on Broadway). The timing of the actors was nearly perfect, and they camped it up for maximum laughs.

Would I spend a lot of money on the Addams Family? No. However, the cheap seats (around $15-20) at the Mahalia Jackson Theater are actually good seats. Having cheap seats means that maybe we can do Ralph’s on the Park pre-theater dinner menu for our next play. Speaking of the next play, I hear it is a representative of the horror genre. How else could you explain a play that features the music of Journey?

Traveling: Brussels, then Home

Eglise Sainte-Catherine

Eglise Sainte-Catherine

Our last city in Europe, Brussels, is just a short three hour train ride from Amsterdam. It took a little time to figure out their public transportation system especially since we had to make sure that it covered transportation to the airport.

Brussels doesn’t really have a lot of must do things that aren’t food related. This made it a perfect last city for our trip. We could just relax. Our hotel was right outside of the city center in a charming little neighborhood. An old church with grimy rustic appeal (and I mean that as a compliment) was right next to our church. The square next to us was full of restaurants and apparently a large Spanish population.

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