Friday, January 31, 2014

It's time to apply for the 2014 NYC Marathon...#TCSNYCMarathonApply

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of New York Road Runners.

In the Spring of 2013, I took a chance and applied for the New York City Marathon. The chances of getting in were slim but I knew the second I hit submit that my name would somehow magically appear in the acceptance group. I received notification on May 31, 2013 that I would be running the NYC Marathon.

The New York City Marathon was my first full marathon and I am here to tell you that from the moment I started in Staten Island to the time I crossed the finish line in Central Park, I had a huge smile on my face. It was cold, windy and challenging but I loved every single moment. I sit here today reflecting on these memories. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I think it was an out of body experience - but I have the medal, photos and apparel to prove I was there! You can read my full race recap here.
I truly loved the experience of running through the 5 boroughs. While I am a born and raised FL girl, New York is my second home. From age 16 on, there hasn't been a year where I haven't visited NYC weather for business or pleasure. Most of my frequent miles are dedicated to the Big Apple.
Running through this beloved city, being cheered on for 26.2 miles, seeing church gospel choirs singing for us, getting high fives from people of all ages, strangers passing out pizza, gummy bears, beer, pretzels, water, you name it. Starting with NY NY by Frank Sinatra while being saluted by NYC firemen, making new friends, seeing friends on the course - all while ending with a huge smile and life moment no one could ever take from you.

One thing that will remain in my mind is hearing over and over again how "lucky" I was that I got in. This struck me as odd - as most of these people who said this never applied to get in the race. How is it luck if they never tried themselves?
Run New York. Five Boroughs. One City. And You
There are a few ways to get the opportunity to run the NYC Marathon:
  1. Guaranteed entry by time - my age group (18-39) Women: 3:10:00 full marathon or 1:30:00 half marathon. Men: 2:45:00 full marathon or 1:19:00 half marathon. 
  2. Guaranteed entry by eligibility - read here for more information and note that some of these change after 2014. 
  3. Lottery selection on "NYC-metro area" applicants (i.e., residents in and within 60 miles of New York City) 
  4. Lottery selection on "National" applicants (i.e., United States residents outside of the tri-state area)
  5. Lottery selection on "International" applicants (i.e., non–United States residents, including Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories). 
Those who called me lucky in 2013 could get truly lucky themselves - In 2014, the TCS New York City Marathon is making it a little easier for 60 runners who apply for the lottery. There will be 6 weekly sweepstakes drawings that pull (1) winner from each of the 5 boroughs and 5 National and International runners from the Marathon Applicant database who will win a non-complimentary, guaranteed entry into the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon! That's 10 winners each week for a total of 60 total. Drawings every Monday from February 3-March 10 and the earlier you register, the more chances to get picked. Click here for more information.

For those considering the TCS New York City Marathon, I urge you to join NYRR and FitFluential for a twitter chat on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 9 pm EST. Follow the Hashtag: #TCSNYCMarathonApply and be sure you are following both New York City Marathon (@NYCMarathon) and FitFluential (@FitFluential). During this chat, you will have a chance to engage with Coach John Honerkamp who has coached runners of all ages and abilities for 15 years.

The 2013 New York City Marathon changed my life and I hope every runner gets the chance to experience it too.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Daring Pairing - Pork Buns and Alamos Malbec

Do you dare to pair? I was given a challenge to pair a bottle of Alamos Malbec with an adventurous recipe.

One of my absolute favorite things to eat is "stinky buns". This isn't the correct term for this delicious pillow filled with savory and spicy meats but it is how I learned to know it from a food truck in Tampa a few years ago. A few years later, I was reintroduced to a new kind of bun - at Epcot Food and Wine Festival - the Mongolian Beef Bun in China's pavilion.

I luckily live close to an Ethnic market which carries everything needed for this recipe - including the steamed buns. So - I guess I cheated using previously made buns but I am an awful baker and these turned out perfect. Now the frozen steamed buns are a staple in our freezer. This recipe turned out better than I could have expected and the Alamos Malbec was a perfect companion.

For the filling: Slow Cooker Char Siu (Chinese BBQ pulled pork)
Ingredients
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tablespoons honey
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed
1/2 cup low sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions
Combine all ingredients except beef broth and cornstarch in your slow cooker pot and place in the refrigerator - marinating overnight. The following morning, remove from fridge and turn slow cooker on low for 8-10 hours. Without removing any of the juices, remove pork from slow cooker and wrap in alluminum foil. Meanwhile, combine beef broth and cornstarch in the liquid marinade, turn slow cooker on high. Bring to a boil and add pork to the mixture. Shred with two forks.

Pork Buns
Here is the brand I found in my local ethnic market. I used a steamer pot for 15 minutes and they came out perfect. I couldn't tell you what the brand is called but see below for what to look for. Make sure you use parchment paper to prevent from sticking to the steamer basket.
Topping
Equal parts of Sriracha and Mayonnaise

Find Alamos on Facebook Here
Click here for a ton of Daring Paring recipes by Alamos Wine

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bungalow 23 Mixers - Craft cocktails at home and a #giveaway

My fiance and I are both former bartenders. We often have "cocktail night" at home where we will try to outdo each other with a made up signature drink. We take our cocktails seriously and never agree as to who the winner is. With that said, until recently, you would never find a pre-made cocktail mixer in our house.
Rick Ferrone and Chris Henderson, two entrepreneurs out of Orlando, recently launched a line of craft cocktail mixers called Bungalow 23, "The cocktail mixer hand crafted for premium spirits". These mixers make it simple to enjoy a hand crafted cocktail at home. What sets these mixers apart from all the others is the word fresh. No concentrates and nothing artificial found here. Bungalow 23 is made from fresh fruit purees, real fruit juices, and homemade extracts using fresh cut herbs.

Within weeks of it's product launch, Bungalow 23 hit the Central Florida market like a wildfire. Bungalow 23 is available to purchase at multiple bars, restaurants and retail locations. We had our first encounter with the product at our corporate holiday party last month. To say we were pleasantly surprised is putting it mildly. Bungalow 23 currently has three flavors on the market; Prickly Pear Margarita, Blueberry Lemon Drop and my personal favorite - Pear Ginger Martini.

Bungalow 23 Blueberry Lemon Drop
I brought a bottle of Bungalow 23 Blueberry Lemon Drop to my family Christmas Eve party this year. While I was happy to share with my relatives, this bottle went way too fast. This mixer makes an excellent martini (or shot) with a sugar rimmed glass. The Blueberry Lemon Drop mixer is made blueberries from Oregon's Willamette Valley, fresh lemons, lemongrass, lavender and pure cane sugar.

Bungalow 23 Pear Ginger Martini
Bungalow 23's Pear Ginger Martini uses the finest Washington's Wenatchee Valley Pears with a kick of spice offered up by fresh ginger, lemons and lemongrass. This is a perfect cocktail for those who prefer a little spice in their lives. It was no surprise to me that I loved this drink - as my favorite cocktail is a Moscow Mule. If you are a fellow Moscow Mule (or Dark and Stormy) fan, this mixer is for you.

Bungalow 23 Prickly Pear Margarita
Now I bring you to my mothers favorite Bungalow 23 flavor, Prickly Pear Margarita. This mixer was created using Prickly Pears from California's Salinas Valley, fresh limes and oranges, blue agave nectar and a hint of cilantro. While visiting home for the holiday's, we made Prickly Pear Margaritas using my Blendtec blender. I am not a fan of frozen margaritas but this was unlike any other and we quickly went for refills. While we knew Prickly Pear was delicious with tequila, Mom decided to make it with pineapple rum. She stated it was her favorite drink ever and decided at that moment not to return the Bunglaow 23 Prickly Pear Margarita mixer to me.

So how did Bungalow 23 come about? Rick Ferrone was ordering a cocktail at the bar when the idea came to him. Ferrone doesn't mind spending a few extra dollars for an expensive call brand of liquor. Yet the thought of putting sugary concentrated mixers in his cocktail made him realize there wasn't a fresh mixer out on the market. Nearly 100 taste testers put their thoughts on how to make the first stage of the mixres better. Ferrone and Henderson took their comments into account and tweaked their recipes until they were perfected – and they are just that – Perfect. Then it was time to distribute the first three flavors which are available in 750-ml bottles. One thing that I love about the labels on these bottles is that they provide tasting notes along with showcasing the region of each drink’s feature ingredient.

You can find Bungalow 23: Online | Facebook | Instagram | In stores

I am giving away one set of Bungalow 23 Cocktail mixers to one lucky reader! Let me know in a comment below what flavor of Bungalow 23 you are most excited to try. Don't forget to submit your entries through the rafflecopter widget below.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon and Dumbo Double Dare Registration Opens

UPDATE: This event is sold out. You can still participate in 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon through one of runDisney charity program groups. Click here for more information

Set your calendar reminder: Registration opens tomorrow for Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend: 1/28/2014 12pm EST. If you are interested in running this race, I strongly encourage you to sign up at Noon - it will sell out. 

Disneyland Marathon Weekend will take place on Labor Day weekend, August 29-31 in Anaheim California. The race weekend has multiple events including Disneyland Half Marathon, Disneyland 10K, Dumbo Double Dare, Disneyland Family Fun Run 5K and runDisney Kids Races. Dumbo Double Dare is a two race challenge (completing the 10K and Half Marathon). I missed out on Dumbo Double Dare registration last year due to not pre-registering during Disney Marathon Weekend. When registration was released to the public, I couldn't get my purchase to go through and it sold out within an hour. I had multiple friends who went out and ran the Double Double Dare and loved it while I sat home, cheering them on while pouting.
photo rights: runDisney Facebook
2014 will not be a Dumbo Double Dare resurrection year for me...but for a good reason. Gabe and I get married 3 weeks after the race weekend!!! He would never prevent me from going out there for Dumbo Double Dare but I do not want to be selfish and we need that money for our Honeymoon. Maybe I can run somewhere outside of Disneyland Paris to make up for it!

Since it's all about the bling: Dumbo Double Dare finishing participants will receive a medal for the 10K, Half Marathon and a special challengers medal. Those who completed a runDisney Half Marathon or Full Marathon in Orlando this year will also receive a Coast to Coast Medal.
photo rights: runDisney Facebook
runDisney offers a great course for both the 10K and Half Marathon, taking runners through Disneyland theme parks and the city of Anaheim, including Angels Stadium.
photo rights: runDisney Facebook
Last year, many celebrities came out to run the races including but not limited to, Joey Fatone, Sean Astin and Biggest Loser winner Ali Vincent.
photo rights: runDisney Facebook
They even had some fun on the course:
photo rights: runDisney Facebook
photo rights: runDisney Facebook
Here is the pricing and the links for registration:

Disneyland Half Marathon 
$195 by February 18, 2014
$210 between February 19 and March 11, 2014
$225 on or after March 12, 2014
Disneyland 10K 
$105 by February 18, 2014
$120 between February 19 and March 11, 2014
$135 on or after March 12, 2014
Dumbo Double Dare 
$320 by February 18, 2014
$345 between February 19 and March 11, 2014
$370 on or after March 12, 2014
Disneyland® Family Fun Run 5K
$70 by June 24, 2014
$80 on or after June 25, 2014
runDisney Kids Races 
 $20 by June 24, 2014
$25 on or after June 25, 2014
Pasta in the Park Party (theme park admission required)
With a Theme Park Ticket
$135.00 for Adults (ages 10 and up)
$115.00 for Children (ages 3-9)
Without a Theme Park Ticket 
$89.00 for Adults (ages 10 and up)
$69 .00 for Children (ages 3-9)
ChEAR Squad (Half Marathon Only)
Bronze – No Charge per package
Silver – $45 per package
Gold – $49 per package
Platinum – $99 per package

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Buffalo Chicken Taquitos and Wholly Guacamole dip for Super Bowl #HOMEGATING #giveaway

I grew up in a household where watching football was our second nature. Every Saturday and Sunday during the fall meant huge feasts of grilled burgers, hot dogs, bbq and always a great time. We loved both tailgating and having parties at home, also known as #HOMEGATING. Those are some of my favorite memories to date. Super Bowl Sunday was all that and much more.We would have a huge homegating party with the entire family.
One of my favorite football foods is perfectly cooked chicken wings. I crave the flavor combination of spicy buffalo wing sauce, cooled down by a creamy ranch. This year, I decided to try something a little different out and make a dish seen all over pinterest - Baked Buffalo Chicken Taquitos. Instead of a traditional ranch dipping sauce, I combined Wholly Guacamole and light ranch. Make sure you enter the #HOMEGATING giveaway below for a cooler full of Wholly Guacamole goodness!

Gabe freaked out over this dish. He also thought they were fried and didn't believe me when I explained that they were baked. I modified the original recipe I found online a bit and this is now a keeper recipe in our house.

Buffalo Chicken Taquitos 
(adapted from Real Women of Philadelphia)
Ingredients
4 cups chicken, cooked and shredded (I used shredded rotisserie chicken)
12 soft taco, flour tortillas
2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
4 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese
1/3 cup Frank's hot sauce
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Cavenders greek seasoning
1 teaspoon cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Canola Oil Spray

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a small sauce pot over medium low heat, melt butter. Add Cavenders, garlic powder and Cajun seasoning. Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute. Add cream cheese and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Stir until melted and completely combined with butter and spices, add a tablespoon of milk if needed. Whisk in hot sauce and milk and simmer for 5 – 8 minutes. Add salt to taste. Combine chicken and sauce. Lay out a tortilla; fill with about 1/4 cup chicken and 2 tablespoons of mozzarella cheese. Tightly roll up taquito and place on a greased baking sheet; repeat until chicken is gone. Spray taquitos with oil on all sides. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes; rotate them every 5 minutes, until golden brown.

Wholly Guacamole Ranch Dip
1 package of traditional Wholly Guacamole
1/8 cup ranch (or more as preferred)
1/8 cup sour cream (or more as preferred)
Combine and serve instantly

Now for the giveaway! Wholly Guacamole wants to help you with #HOMEGATING by giving one of my lucky readers a cooler full of Wholly Guacamole products, a wholly guacamole t-shirt and various promotional items. Leave a comment below letting me know what your favorite food to eat while watching football. Make sure you enter via the rafflecopter widget below.
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

What we ate during runDisney Dopey weekend

Planning a weekend around one race is always difficult with food. You need to make sure you start your carb and water intake early enough without overdoing it. When you plan for four consecutive days like I did for the runDisney Dopey Challenge, you find this task near impossible.

Although we have been Annual Passholders for ages, I still find new dining experiences on every trip to the parks. That is the fun of Disney - there are many secrets to uncover and on this trip, we found one big one. Here are a few of the meals we ate on property in Walt Disney World. I am leaving out the Auntie Anne's pretzel wrapped hot dog :)

Tony's Town Square - Magic Kingdom
Tony's Town Square Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Mom and I started off our runDisney Marathon eats on Wednesday night with a reservation at Tony's Town Square located inside of the Magic Kingdom. This sit down restaurant is themed after Lady and the Tramp. I realized after being sat that this was the first sit down restaurant I have dined at inside of Magic Kingdom.
inside of Tony's Town Square, photo from Disney World.
Mom and I started off with an order of calamari with olive relish. At first glance, I gave the calamari the evil eye as it was perfectly rounded. It was delicious though, not sure if it was the light breading and the olive relish but we devoured this appetizer.
I couldn't possibly eat at Tony's without getting Spaghetti and Meatballs but I modified my dish a bit getting the pappardelle noodles instead of traditional spaghetti noodles. The sauce and meatballs were perfect. If I were to dine here again, I would order regular noodles as the pappardelle stuck together (and I cannot complain about something I requested).
Mom ordered the Shrimp Scampi, Linguini with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Asparagus tossed in a Garlic Sauce. If you love garlic, this dish is for you. She really liked this dish but she stunk so bad afterwards that I made her sit opposite of me in the monorail.
We decided against dessert this night, only because we were already looking at a $50+ dinner without alcohol. Plus I didn't want to stay up too late thanks to a sugar high. We headed back to our hotel room, rented a movie and didn't get much sleep prior to our 5K the next morning.

Captain Cooks - Polynesian Resort
Captain Cook's Snack Company on Urbanspoon
My favorite breakfast inside of Disney Parks is hands down Kona Cafe, a sit down restaurant located inside of the Polynesian. We always order the same thing, a coffee press of Kona coffee and Tonga Toast (banana stuffed french toast, fried and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar). While this meal is always something I look forward to, it usually sets us back a pretty penny at the start of our day. When we stayed at Polynesian a few months ago, we came across Captain Cooks, a quick service restaurant which had a decent and cheap menu.
inside of Captain Cooks, photo from Disney World
Now it is time to reveal the big secret mentioned at the start of this post. I found out that Captain Cooks serves the exact same Tonga Toast as Kona Cafe for less than half the price. Meaning you can get Tonga Toast for $5.99 vs. $12.99. Following the Familiy Fun Run 5K on Thursday, we headed to Captain Cooks to test this out for ourselves and was very impressed. Not to fear, all that butter was not mine - I was being nice and grabbed some for the whole table.
The sides offered with the Tonga Toast were either sausage or bacon, both of which were exact to what you receive upstairs at Kona. The only difference was the side of strawberries - downstairs it was literally a side of strawberries in syrup, meanwhile upstairs you get amazing strawberry compote. At less than half the price, I can deal without the compote.
My fried Nicole ordered a Mickey Waffle and sausage. This is one of my go-to favorites inside of Disney World. Our breakfast for three people cost less than $20, so in my mind, this is one of the best breakfast finds inside of Disney Parks and Resorts.
California Grill - Contemporary Resort
California Grill on Urbanspoon

I have been dying to try California Grill since they had their remodel in 2013. Every time we go to Disney, reservations are impossible. I luckily scored an early reservation on Thursday night for a party of two. I also noticed that you can eat at their bar without a reservation, first come first serve, which may be an option for Gabe and I in the future. Besides an amazing menu and world class wine list, California Grill offers the best view inside of Walt Disney World. Panoramic floor to ceiling windows give you a view of the park unlike any other location. This is also the prime location for Fireworks. If you have an early reservation like we did, you can come back that night to watch fireworks. I strongly suggest a visit to California Grill.
photo from wdwmagic.com
Mom and I decided to have a nice dinner and order two higher end glasses of wine. Their wine by the glass menu excited me greatly. I happily ordered a glass of Cakebread Chardonnay while she got a glass of Pinot Noir. We had a difficult time deciding on our entrees, so we split two courses. California Grill is widely known for their sushi and we ordered Tuna Four Ways, which consisted of Tuna Poke, Tuna Tartare, Tuna Maki and Tuna Nigir. Of the four, my favorite was the Tuna Poke (bottom left) with a close second of Tuna Tartare (top left).
We also ordered the Pork two ways, pretty funny we ended up with two dishes with multiple offerings. Pork two ways is a delicious sampling of grilled pork tenderloin, lacquered pork belly, goat cheese polenta, applesauce and mushrooms. This was an stunning meal both in presentation and flavor. I hate that my photos turned out so dark and grainy. Next time, I will bring in my big girl camera!
We had many other meals outside the park but these were the notables for those traveling to Disney World to keep on their list for resort dining.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wedding Wednesday - being cost efficient, the upside and downside of a year plus engagement

I cannot believe our wedding is a little more than 7 months away. When Gabe proposed on my birthday (June 17), we decided on a fall wedding in New Orleans. My friend Darlynn got married last May and had a very short engagement (6 months to be exact). She stressed her concerns about me making impulse purchases and spending more money than I need to. She knows me very well.....but while I am absolutely buying stuff I do not need, I am making smart purchases while keeping track of my spending.

Although I will be a first time bride at 35 years old when I say "I do", my Mom is still graciously providing a large chunk towards the wedding. At first the amount was $10k, then it went up to $12k - to cover the reception costs and a few odds and ends. This is one of the reasons I bought my own wedding gown and have been scouring the internet for best possible pricing on every possible item.

While I am big about saving money, I buy stuff I will never use just because it is 90% off. It gives me a shoppers high unlike any other because I saved so much money (yet I have to spend to buy). This wedding has turned into a Megan bargin shopping extravaganza. I have spent more money in the past few months impulse buying for the big day.

For instance:
Swarvorski Crystalline Toasting Flutes (set of 2)
Le-Sigh.....So I have always dreamed of having these champagne flutes on my wedding day. Yet spending $400 on two glasses was not happening. Ever. Lenox had a similar set out a few years back but were sued by Swarvorski. I ventured off to eBay last week to see if any of the Lenox were available only to find said Swarvorski $400 glasses in it's original box and packaging with no reserve. On eBay, if it is a bid vs. buy it now, you can usually save a great deal of money. I set my final price for these glasses, which was still WAY higher than I normally would have spent at $175. I ended up winning them for $155 and I couldn't be happier. Although I do want to drink out of them every night.
Thoughts: This is an item that I absolutely did not need but have dreamed about since I first saw them in person. I couldn't walk away from the price.

Centerpieces
A major plus about having a long engagement is being able to get a true vision of what you want for your big day and then patiently waiting to find it at the right cost. I was very fortunate with our centerpieces and found someone selling exactly what I was looking for in South Florida. The photo above was from her wedding and the difference will be, my flowers are red roses and my chargers are silver. I got 15 candelabras, 32 rhinestone square candle holders and a few other items for $250. If I were to purchase these items alone, I would have spent well over $500.
Thoughts: I found out after the purchase that my hotel offers centerpieces but they did not fit my concept. For $250, I am happy with the purchase but as a lesson to other brides to be - find out if your reception venue offers centerpieces. Apparently, this is quite common.

Wedding Shoes, Tory Burch Chelsea Flats:
No, I did not need Tory Burch wedding flats but I really wanted them and my Mom very happily bought them for me. These match the bridesmaid dresses and are amazing in person. Not to mention, Tory Burch is my favorite designer. We got them on sale after Christmas when Tory was having an additional 20% off already marked down items. The shoes were originally $275 and we got them for $150.
Thoughts: Again, these were shoes I did not need. Yes, we could have gone cheaper but I would never wear them again. These shoes, I will wear time and time again.

The dress(es):
Bead work on the long dress
I bought both of my dresses online. The formal one is a Maggie Sottero purchased via Wedding Bee classifieds for $250 (orig $1600) and the shorter one is a Allure purchased via eBay for $320 (orig $999). I bought both without trying them on and prayed they would work for me. All along, I knew worst case scenario was they would look awful and I could easily resell them on eBay. I got very fortunate with both and have two dresses for less than $600.
Thoughts: Still my best purchase to date. I don't think anything will top these two purchases. This is one of the very fortunate things about having an extended engagement. You can take chances with dresses and other big ticketed items.

To date, everything purchased and contracted for our wedding has been done online. We went into contract for our ceremony via email. Our reception was located via the internet (we did see it in person before signing contract). Bridesmaid dresses, my dresses, shoes, centerpieces, flowers, etc. was all decided upon online. Thanks to the powers of pinterest for keeping me organized, I will have the wedding of my dreams at a fraction of the price (and stress!).

The downside to extended engagements are watching people who have been engaged shorter than you are getting married. I went from always being the bridesmaid to always being the bride to be. How long were you engaged before you said I do?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The best fried chicken on earth - Willie Mae's Restaurant, New Orleans

I have a confession - ever since running the runDisney Dopey challenge last week, I have been an endless pit of consuming any unhealthy foods I can put in my body. While I am by no means a person who follows a strict diet, I do tend to eat healthy 75% of the time, allowing myself cheat meals when I want them.  Yet last week was a total debauchery. I craved and ate everything from fried chicken, cheeseburgers, whole pizzas, ice cream sundaes, brownies, cheese fries - you name it, I probably consumed it last week.
Speaking of fried chicken, those two words bring me back to an incredible meal I had two months ago in New Orleans at the iconic Willie Mae's Scotch House. Willie Mae's is located off the beaten path, around a 10 minute drive from the French Quarter. If you are an outsider looking at the establishment, you would think this place is a typical Mom and Pop restaurant you find in the south. Not so much friends....
Upon walking inside, you felt right at home. Greeted by multiple staff members, who I later found out many are related to Willie Mae herself. This is a true family ran southern gem, and if you have dined here - you know where I am going with this. This was by far the best fried chicken I have ever had in my life. My family is from the South and knows their way around fried chicken. Yet this meal scarred me in a way that I can never eat fried chicken without comparing it to Willie Mae's. Better than my Grandmothers prize recipe.....sorry Gran....
We all ordered sweet teas and a fried chicken platter. Corn bread muffins were offered (which are an added cost) and we happily obliged. Perfect savory and sweet corn bread muffins which you know were cooked in a cast iron muffin pan.
Then the fried chicken came out. The skin was unlike any other fried chicken I have encountered. I read where other patrons explained it as tempura skin, which I disagree with although it is light and crispy. It is much more complex than tempura. Yet you will not find yourself wiping grease off of your hands. It had the perfect crunch full of the right amount of flavor. A skin this crispy would make you think your chicken would be dry - not the case. The chicken was so juicy and although I despise this word - moist. No other word to describe it.
For our side, each of us ordered red beans and rice with the exception of Gabe's Mom, who ordered Butter Beans. I cannot choose between the two which I liked better - every bite I changed my mind. Either way, you cannot go wrong. I strongly suggest either of the beans and rice dishes as your side if you dine at Willie Mae's. I wanted to eat everything on the table, and we did just that.
Willie Mae's fried chicken recipe may as well be locked up in fort knox. Upon googling the term, you will find countless blogs and articles like this one raving about the fried chicken. It is a known fact that they use a wet batter and the photo above shows that. Check out how thick this batter was - oh and I have tried a Willie Mae's copycat recipe I found online. The skin was very familiar but not the same. Also my chicken was under cooked and didn't have the same flavor.

If you find yourself in New Orleans, do yourself a favor and make sure you visit Willie Mae's. It is only open for lunch and is very busy with both locals and tourists so plan your day accordingly. I know in our household, Willie Mae's will make be an establishment we visit on every trip to the Big Easy....well maybe not our wedding weekend :)

Here's a bit of history on this historic establishment.

Willie Mae Seaton, the restaurant’s namesake and proprietress for most of its long history, originally opened the famous business in 1956 as a bar on Treme St. A year later, however, the young business moved to the corner of St. Ann and North Tonti St., where it has been ever since. For several years, this space held not only Willie Mae’s, but also a barbershop and beauty salon. When the latter businesses closed in 1972, Willie Mae’s expanded in to their former space. This expansion allowed Willie Mae’s to begin offering restaurant service, and the modern incarnation of Willie Mae’s was born.

By 2005, Willie Mae’s was locally and nationally famous for its exquisite fried chicken, smothered pork chops, butter beans and other southern specialties. In May of the same year, the small, family owned restaurant achieved what most other eateries can only dream about—it was honored by the James Beard Foundation, dubbed the ‘Oscars of the Food World’ by Time magazine, with the American Icon award for the Southern Region. Willie Mae Seaton was also honored at city hall for her contributions to the city of New Orleans. Yet, only 3 months later, Hurricane Katrina flooded the restaurant, kitchen and bar with 4 feet of water, throwing the institution’s future into doubt. Help came in the form of the Southern Foodways Alliance, which assisted in raising $200,000 and mobilized volunteers from all over the country to help the Seaton family rebuild. Due in a large part to their efforts, Willie Mae’s Scotch House reopened in April of 2007.

Willie Mae's Scotch House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Chorizo Filled Dates Wrapped in Bacon for #SundaySupper Tapas Party!

I must start this post off with : I cannot believe this is the first time I have posted on #SundaySupper since October.....BUT I have reasons for my nearly three month absence. Since you have last heard from me, I have ran two full marathons, three half marathons, two national holiday's and a two vacation. While my blog changed focus during that lag, I am trying to refocus for 2014 and one thing I would like to do is pair a wine with every recipe I post, regardless if it is casual or formal!

I am super excited to be back on board participating in #SundaySupper. Not only do I miss posting here every Sunday, I miss my friends! What better week to kick it back off than Tapas week. I love going out to dinner for Tapas. It's a great time to share small plates and eat multiple dishes with friends, trying new unexpected things. Whenever we are out for Tapas, I always order on Chorizo dish - it is hands down our  favorite. I prefer to pair red wine with most chorizo dishes and one of my new favorites is a blend that has become a bit too familiar in our household, Graffigna Elevation Red Blend.

This weeks #SundaySupper is brought to you by Connie at Foodie Army Wife and this is one lineup of recipes that you will surely want to bookmark!
This week, I decided to make one of my new favorites - chorizo stuffed dates wrapped in bacon. I had this dish for the first time at an event I threw 2 months ago and I have made it for multiple gatherings since. I found a recipe on Food Network which was very easy to follow and pretty much fool proof.

Bacon Wrapped Dates adapted from Food Network
Ingredients
15 Medjool pitted dates
1 pound chorizo, casing removed
5 slices bacon, cut into thirds
1/2 cup maple syrup
Directions 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Line a sheet tray with silicone baking mat or parchment. Make an incision on one side of each date and insert a chorizo to fill the date.
Squeeze the date shut in your hand to secure. Wrap each date with a bacon strip and secure with a toothpick. Place all the dates on the prepared sheet tray. Roast the dates in the oven until the bacon on top is starting to crisp, 5 to 6 minutes.
Turn the dates over and repeat the process.
Remove the dates from the oven and brush both sides with the maple syrup. Return the dates to the oven until the dates are really crackly and sticky, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve hot.

Stuffed Green Queen Olives with Garlic Infused Olive Oil from MarocMama
Cheesy, Tortellini Tapas & Spicy Bacon Ranch Dip from Daily Dish Recipes
Black-Eyed Pea Cowboy Caviar from Shockingly Delicious
Goan Beef Croquettes from Masala Herb
Giardiniera Salad from Peanut Butter and Peppers
Bacon Wrapped Calamari from Jane's Adventures in Dinner
Patatas Bravas from Supper for a Steal
Caramelized Onion & Gruyere Bites from The Foodie Army Wife
Agave Truffles from Killer Bunnies, Inc
Pear, Brie, and Honey Crostini from Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks
Tomato Bread from girlichef
Clams in Green Sauce (Almejas en Salsa Verde) from The Little Ferraro Kitchen
Roasted Tomato-Basil Flatbread from Take A Bite Out of Boca
Herb and Citrus Marinated Olives from Magnolia Days
Smoky Paprika Peppers from Small Wallet, Big Appetite
Balsamic Raspberries with Mascarpone Cream from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Gambas al Ajillo from Manu's Menu
Squid in Garlic Chili Olive Oil from Food Lust People Love
Tortilla Española from The Not So Cheesy Kitchen
Croquetas de Pollo from Cookin' Mimi
Low-Carb Salmon Croquettes from Yours And Mine Are Ours
Bruschetta Topping from What Smells So Good?
Herb Roasted Almonds from Curious Cuisiniere
Artichoke Heart and Manchego Spread on Fried Garlic Bread from The Wimpy Vegetarian
Tortillita de Camarones from Cindy's Recipes and Writings
Patatas A La Riojana (Rioja-Style Potato & Chorizo Stew) from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Gambas al Ajillo y Clementina (Shrimp with Garlic and Clementines) from FoodieTots
Tortillas De Papa y Atun (Tuna and Potatoes Tortilla) from Basic N Delicious
Pocky Cake Pops from NinjaBaking.com
Chorizo Filled Dates Wrapped in Bacon from I Run For Wine
Manchego-Stuffed Spanish Meatballs from The Weekend Gourmet
Roast Onions with Blue Cheese and Pine Nuts from Healthy. Delicious
Shrimp and Chorizo Tapas from The Texan New Yorker
Blueberry and Lemon Yogurt Quesada from In The Kitchen With KP
Chorizo with Spicy Sweet Potato Tapas from Soni's Food
Chorizo and Manchego Toast Tapas from Family Foodie
Roasted Bone Marrow with Citrus Salad from The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
Mushroom Chevre Crostini from A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures
Serrano Ham and Manchego Croquetas with Smoked Pimenton Aioli from My Other City By The Bay Krab Filled Avocado Tapas from from Hot Momma's Kitchen Chaos
Polenta Crostini Bites with Caramelized Mushrooms: Cicchetti - A Venetian Tapas Tradition from La Bella Vita Cucina
Best Wines To Pair With Tapas from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
 Sunday Supper Movement
Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter every Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy! You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement. « Last Edit: Today at 11:03:36 AM by Constance Smith »

A New Superfood - Camu Camu #Amacari discount code and a #giveaway

It seems about once a year, a new Superfood hits the market. Before superfood's became a trend, I have always been one to lean towards foods which can help naturally with various health needs. Dr. Oz recently blogged about a new Superfood called Camu Camu Amacari, calling it the "missing fountain of youth". Camu Camu helps with energy, focus, Vitamin C, Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant and Anti-aging.
camu camu Amacari from Dr. Oz blog
What is Camu Camu? Besides being the most vitamin rich C berry on earth, it is also full of amino acids, betulinic acid, phosphorus, beta-carotene, ellagic acid, B vitamins and impressive levels of phytonutrients. It has been used for everything from pain reduction to looking younger. Since the Camu Camu berry is highly acidic and tart, it is mostly consumed in jams, ice cream and through powdered supplements.
What makes Amacari different? It is made with 100% wildcrafted and sustainably harvested camu camu, with no fillers, additives or artificial ingredients added. 

In terms of Vitamin C, it trumps the next fruit source in mg. Vitamin C benefits include: protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems and eye diseases. It also works as a natural anti-aging nutrient! Amaçari contains 243% of the daily value of Vitamin C per serving. Vitamin C is just the beginning of outstanding comparisons to other fruit sources....

You can learn more about Camu Camu Amacari:
Online | Facebook | Instagram | Hashtag #Amacari

I am giving away one bottle of Camu Camu Amacari. Leave a comment below letting me know why you want to try this new Superfood. Also, make sure you tweet for extra daily entries (@irun4wine has a @AmazonOrigins #giveaway #Amacari #SuperFood). You can purchase Camu Camu Amacari by clicking here and save 30% off a bottle with code LOVEAMACARI OR begin get a free trial and find out for yourself how much you love it. Make sure you post pictures and tag your superfood journey with hashtag #Amacari

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Blisters are no joke and Cellulitis is not Cellulite

What a week. I arrived home Sunday evening from 5 days at Disney for the Dopey Challenge. I survived with what I thought was very minimal damage to my body. I was able to drive myself home from Orlando to Tampa, hobble upstairs, pour a glass of Perrier Jouet Grand Brut and pass out with my medals close by.
Around 4am Monday morning, I woke up with intense pain in the foot that was bothering me the last two days of the Dopey Challenge. When I got out of bed and stepped on my foot, I screamed, knowing for sure I broke something. I cannot explain the pain I was in other than someone putting a 2,000lb 500 degree weight on my foot. When I saw my foot in light, I Knew something was very wrong.

I'm about to share some ugly feet photo with you. I have very bony feet - you always can see my veins and bones sticking out. This was from the waiting room of urgent care and the photo doesn't show the true redness of my foot, which actually went up past my ankle. You can see how the right foot is swollen vs. the left one.
After the X-Rays showed there were not major breaks, the Physicians Assistant came in to talk with me. Within minutes, she diagnosed me with Cellulitis. I instantly thought she told me I had cellulite in my foot. Cellulitis is a bacterial infection which is inflammation of subcutaneous connective tissue. In english: Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin and tissues beneath the skin including the deeper layers. When red areas begin to enlarge, the affected person may develop a fever, sometimes with chills and sweats, tenderness, and swollen lymph nodes near the area of infected skin. The affected area is also very hot and tight due to skin stretching.

She drew a line around my foot and if the red spread past that area, I was to go to the ER instantly for a IV antibiotic and to be monitored overnight. Oh and the blister on my toe......she's pretty huh? Just wait, it gets better.
My foot still hurts to the touch today. I went for my follow up this morning and the Cellulitis is much better than it was on Monday. I was put on another medicine but thankfully cleared for runDisney Princess weekend. This was my blister last night......
And today, it has a marking on it just like my foot. Meaning, if that red layer continues to spread, I have to call my Dr. instantly. Just from the photo, you can see how much it improved from the night before. AND you can see my bony feet again!
I never heard of Cellulitis prior to this and certain cases, if not caught, it can be fatal. I realize my case wasn't that severe but when you go in thinking you broke something, to be told you have a severe bacterial infection, you start to panic.

I also have stress fractures and posterior tendinitis but he said I can wait on both of those until after Princess weekend. I have a book worth of exercises I have to do for strength training and recovery. Princess is my last race on the books for the rest of the year. With the wedding coming in September, I wanted to take some time off of distance running. I will most likely only do 5K, 10K & 15K events for the remainder of the year so I can let my body heal from the torture I put it through over the past two months.

My Dr. even warned me - he told me they shoot horses like me :)