Baconfest: Redemption

Andrew, like most Americans, loves bacon.  I like it by itself, but I generally don’t want it cooked into something I am eating because it makes the whole dish taste like bacon (“Um… exactly.” Andrew)  However, after our disappointing experience at the Bacon Festival on Sunday, I wanted to give Andrew the bacon-filled feast he’d been hoping for.  Plus, I had my heart set on some bacon-wrapped scallops.  😀

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I had two goals: 1. Incorporate bacon into every dish.  2. Make those dishes as healthy as possible, considering they contain bacon. 😉

Here’s the menu (with links to the recipes we used) :

Bacon-wrapped Scallops

Braised Brussels Sprouts & Bacon

Wilted Arugula Salad with Asparagus, Bacon, and Sherry Vinaigrette

Bacon Quinoa with Almonds and Herbs

As usual, we didn’t follow the recipes exactly, making adjustments according to our dietary needs and what we had on hand (the only ingredients I purchased yesterday were bacon, scallops, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus.)  All we did for the scallops was wrap them in bacon and put them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

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As you probably know, bacon is a very fatty food.  Some of these recipes called for vegetable oil in addition to using the bacon fat to cook.  In order to minimize the artery clogging, we left out most of the added oils and removed some of the bacon fat from the pan so that we were getting the bacon flavor but not deep frying the vegetables. We also didn’t use as much bacon as the recipes called for;  I think we put 2.5 slices in the in quinoa, 2.5 slices in the Brussels sprouts, 3 slices in the arugula salad, and wrapped each scallop with 1/2 slice.  We used a pound of traditional-cut bacon, but have leftovers of everything. 🙂

DSCN8356Despite what the photo above suggests, I did not consume any bacon by itself.  Andrew cannot honestly make the same claim. 🙂

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Every dish was so, so delicious.  By the time I ate that last scallop though, my stomach felt a little crazy.  Andrew agreed.  It wasn’t that we ate too much in terms of volume and were stuffed; all the bacon grease was just so heavy. I had to stand out on the back deck for a few minutes because I felt nauseous from the smell lingering in our house.  Hah.

As much fun as it was to create our own Baconfest, and as delicious as those bacon-wrapped scallops were, last night confirmed what I wholeheartedly believe and regularly proclaim on this blog and otherwise:

You just feel better when you eat real food.  

Whole food.  From the earth.  More plants, less animals.

Bacon does not fall among these foods.  😉

The Bacon Festival and Parking Deck Prison

This weekend Richmond held its first ever Bacon Festival.  I typically enjoy festivals–and our city holds a lot of them: Greek Food, Folk, Wine, Vegetarian, etc.–so when we saw ads for the Bacon Festival (basically Andrew’s dream come true,) we decided to attend.  Admission was free, food and drink tickets were relatively cheap, and who doesn’t love an afternoon of people-watching?

Well, from start to finish, the afternoon was a disaster (though admittedly, many of our complaints were completely out of the hands of the event organizers.)

The festival was held at the 17th Street Farmer’s Market downtown.  Street parking in the area is tough when the aroma of bacon is not luring people in, so we decided to pay to park in a parking garage a few blocks away.  We pulled in, grabbed our ticket, and noticed the line of cars backed up at the exit gate.  The festival had been happening for a few hours at this point, so I assumed there was a wave of people who were leaving around the same time.  This assumption was quickly put to rest when I saw that our line (those entering the garage) had stopped, and people were getting out of their cars.  We asked a man walking by what was happening:  the exit gate to the garage had broken, and despite calls to the owners over the last hour (yes, people had been sitting there for an hour at this point,) no one had come to fix it.  Plus, because no one could exit, there were very few parking spaces available or accessible to those who had driven in, so everyone was just waiting in their cars.  I could feel my blood pressure rising.  There were three parking spaces very close to us, but they were blocked off with caution tape and paint buckets.  After about twenty minutes of sitting, the girls in the car in front of us got out and moved the buckets.  The spots looked fine, and we decided that any ticket we might receive for parking there would be worth not being trapped in the garage for another minute.  As we walked down the stairs to the street we said, “Okay, we’ll go get some good food, probably a drink at this point, and by the time we are ready to leave, the gate will be fixed.”  After all, many calls had been placed notifying those in charge that the gate was broken.  Surely, help was on its way.

Now, in fairness to the organizers of the festival, we were already irritated when we finally arrived, and as I previously stated, many of our complaints were not things they could control.  The parking garage incident.  The fact that it was 90 degrees, but felt hotter because people were so packed in to the Farmer’s Market.  The crowds: the event was so well attended that we could see lines of people wrapping around the perimeter like bacon around a scallop, but could not actually see the front or end of any line due to its length.  Step one was finding where to purchase food and drink tickets.  We saw signs, we followed them, we reached the other end of the market (after saying, “Excuse me… excuse me…” to push through the aforementioned lines,) and saw no tickets.  We ran into a few friends who also could not find the tickets.  I was sweating, hungry, still worked up from the parking garage (and now more worked up from the chaos,) and looked up at Andrew and said, “This sucks.”  He responded, “Yeah.  Want to leave and just walk up back up to Shockoe Slip?”

So we left…  baconless.  On our walk we passed our parking garage and saw one car exit.  Hooray!  That put our minds at ease, and we continued walking, stopping in a bookstore for AC and a bit of browsing entertainment.  A little while later, when we were ready to head home, we walked back to the parking deck and, looking up at the second and third levels, saw tail lights and people standing around outside their cars.  (Not a good sign.)  We arrived at the entrance/exit and saw, once again, a line of cars backed up, unable to exit.  A few people were standing there with their cell phones, calling the number listed at the booth. (As a side note, that’s great that you have an automated payment system, but when there is a large event happening, and you know that deck is going to be a popular parking option, pay someone to work in the freaking booth!!)

At this point people were angry; some had been waiting for hours, with no response from anyone who might be able to help.  Andrew and another man decided there was only one option:  free the people.  Using nothing but brute strength, they lifted the gate and directed people out.

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Drivers were flying out of there like it was a jailbreak at Alcatraz (and cars were boats, of course ;-)), and people sitting on the patio of the restaurant across the street cheered.  Someone called the parking deck’s helpline again and said, “Hey, don’t worry about coming down here.  We’re lifting the gate and letting people out.”  And you know what happened after that call?  They finally sent someone to help!  When the man arrived he walked up to Andrew, and said in a very stern voice, “Sir, put the gate down.”  Andrew, riled up from the injustice of the whole situation, said, “Sir, OPEN the gate.  People have been trapped in here for hours, and NO ONE has come to help.  You can’t do that.”  No argument.

We returned to our car and still had to wait almost thirty minutes to actually get out of the garage (and if I believed in karma, I’d say the fact that my debit card didn’t work at the gate, so he let us out for free was good karma for Andrew rescuing the oppressed… but I don’t believe in karma.)

On the drive home, we had a very stimulating conversation:

“That was a complete waste of an afternoon.”

“I hate bacon.”

To redeem the day, we parked ourselves on the couch and watched a few episodes of Parks and Recreation, went out for sushi, then watched a few more episodes of P & R.

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Cucumber rolls and Leslie Knope to the rescue.

Have you ever been trapped in a parking garage?

Richmonders: what did you think of the Bacon Festival?  Was anyone else in that parking garage?

First Softball Game

In anticipation of our softball game Tuesday night,  Andrew insisted that we visit the batting cages.  (Is he a little bit competitive?  What gave it away? ;-))  Earlier that day my dad reminded me that when I was a kid and we’d play in the cul de sac, I batted much better left handed than I did right (I am right handed.)  I decided to give both a try.  At the cages, I was able to hit the ball both ways, but felt stronger with the right, so I made the decision to bat righty that night.

We arrived at the field, met our teammates, and before long the game began.  We played two games, and the first was truly a practice game–we followed most rules, but for the sake of batting practice, everyone swung until they hit the ball.  Prior to this game, I thought that concept sounded fantastic.  Who doesn’t want to keep batting until they get a hit?  What if that fourth pitch is yours?  For my first at-bat, I chose a bat, walked to the plate, and positioned myself to hit the ball right handed.  The first ball was pitched, I swung and missed.  Then the second.  And the third.  No contact.  My face was burning.  Can I please sit down?  That was three.  Then the fourth (nothing,) fifth (nothing,) and sixth (nothing.)  I was mortified.  I decided to switch sides and give my left hand a try;  it couldn’t be any worse.

Amazingly, I hit that first pitch left handed!  For the rest of the game, I hit everything I swung at.  During the first game I played right field, and in the second game I played second base.  While I didn’t have any outstanding plays, I don’t think I made anything on the field worse.  That must count for something, right?  😀  At second base, I stopped more balls with my shins than my glove, but I stopped them!  And before you think that I am exaggerating and no balls came my way, please allow me to say that I now have two serious bruises on my left leg, one on my right, one on my left foot, and one on my right elbow.  I heard someone on the other team call me a “brick wall.”

bruisesLots of icing happened that night.

Bruises aside, I really enjoyed playing.  I still stand by my statement that, had I played softball as a kid, I could have been pretty good.  With a little practice, there might be hope for me yet (assuming I can learn to catch the ball with my glove rather than my legs. ;-))

 

Softball, Fresh Produce, and Unrealized Dreams

Tonight… I play softball.  I have never before played, with the exception of a few intramural games in college and, of course, gym class, but I have always suspected that had I played growing up, I could have been pretty good.  Just a hunch.  (A few years ago when I told Andrew about that hunch, he said, “I don’t know if you have the size necessary to be really good at any sport.” Dream crusher.)

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Yesterday my friend Evan from work asked if Andrew and I would be interested in playing on our church’s team.  In light of my unrealized dreams mentioned above, I gave him an immediate yes.  Our first game is tonight, so last night Andrew and I headed to a local high school field to play catch–or, as Andrew probably thought of it: give Catherine a crash course in fundamentals so she doesn’t embarrass me tomorrow. 😉

But first, dinner:

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Baked salmon with a Dijon mustard/soy sauce glaze, steamed broccoli, and brown rice.  Quick, simple, delicious… and eaten outside on our new deck furniture, which made it taste even better!

During dinner we spotted a rabbit munching on weeds around the garden.  We see them out there daily, and so far they haven’t touched anything in the garden;  we are hoping the weeds will be enough to satisfy them!

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Hey, bunny… get away from those tomatoes!

Speaking of tomatoes…

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Ours are growing like crazy!  In the photo above, the tomato plants make up the jungle on the left.  Most have flowers on them, and the cherry tomatoes are starting to come out!

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We also picked our second strawberry last night;  last week we put netting around the plants to keep the birds out, so hopefully we will be able to harvest more than one berry at a time now 🙂

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As we split the single berry in half I thought, “Vegetable gardening really does make you appreciate the work it takes to produce food.”  You may be wondering at this point, “Is she going to post a picture of each individual fruit or vegetable they pick?”  The answer is: possibly, leaning towards likely. 😉

After dinner and bunny-watching and strawberry-picking, we grabbed our gloves and a softball and worked on some fundamentals.  As I suspected, I wasn’t terrible:  I caught the ball far more than I missed it, I threw it fairly accurately, and I was only hit in the shin once by a close-range grounder… And once in the knee, at which point I immediately fell to the ground in pain.  I now have a lovely bruise and pain to the touch. 🙂

“If that happens tomorrow during the game, you have to throw the ball before you can think about the pain.”  -Andrew

Thanks, coach.

I am excited to play tonight and hope I don’t embarrass the team too badly 😀

Any last minute advice from you softball or baseball players out there?

 

Staying Active Without a Gym + Weekend Stuff

Last week I did not go to the gym.  Not once.  And yet it’s Monday morning, and my legs are still a bit sore from the week’s activities.  When we joined a gym a few months ago, part of me thought, “Why are we doing this?  We don’t need a gym…”  While the gym is very helpful in staying healthy, it is far from necessary, especially now that the weather is warmer.  Here’s how we stayed in shape last week, outside the gym:

Monday:  Rest

Tuesday: Weight circuits in living room (AM,)  Spikeball with friends Michael and Lisa (PM)

Wednesday:  Running- 30 minutes, intervals

Thursday:  Weight circuits in living room (AM,) Ultimate Frisbee (PM)

Friday:  Running-60 minutes

Saturday: Shopping with Andrew (his legs are twice as long as mine… I practically have to run to keep up with him ;-))

Sunday:  Frisbee Golf

It was a week full of Andrew’s ideal workouts–those in which you play.  I have grown to really enjoy playing Ultimate Frisbee;  it’s like a sneaky speed workout with lots of sprints over the course of ninety minutes.  Plus, the game itself is a lot of fun, running aside.  When I woke up Friday morning, my legs felt good, despite lots of prolonged sprinting the night before, so I decided to proceed as planned with my long run.  I am trying to be disciplined about building up my mileage, and I did not want to change my plans for potential soreness.  The run was a success, but as the day went on, my legs became sorer and sorer  (<–is that a word?  More sore?)  Saturday, it was just embarrassing 😉

Friday night we went to dinner and played putt-putt with our friends Amanda and Diron.  Andrew won, I lost by a long shot (or I guess, a series of short shots ;-),) and Amanda and Diron landed somewhere in between.  We had a great time!

putt puttSorry for the blurry iphone photo…

On Saturday we went on a quest;  we’d been feeling the need for deck furniture ever since this happened back in April:

DSCN7829Kitchen chairs and TV trays… classy 😉

We checked a few stores before finally finding what we wanted at Target.  (Is there anyone out there who does not love Target?  I have yet to walk in the store and walk back out without spending at least $50.  It’s a beautiful place.)

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Aren’t those chairs fun??  Andrew was so excited to find a tall set.  That evening, he went to a baseball game with a friend, so I had the night to myself and was eager to use the new patio furniture.  Every now and then it’s good to have some “me-time.”  For dinner I made bruschetta with french bread, fresh mozzarella, tomato slices, and basil from  our garden, all heated in the toaster oven.

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I have since decided I might live on this food combination for the remainder of the summer. 🙂

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Dinner + new magazine + Mike’s Hard Cherry Lemonade in a wine glass to look more sophisticated (hah!)… excellent 🙂

Sunday afternoon we played Frisbee/disc golf at the University of Richmond.  I’d played once before, but determined yesterday that this game is an excellent compromise for Andrew and me:  it’s essentially taking a walk with a competitive objective.  I don’t know the history of the game (and for the sake of what I’m about to say, I’m not going to take five seconds to research it ;-)), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it started when a wife dragged her husband on a long walk through a park;  suspecting he might be bored, he brought a frisbee, throwing it as they walked.  From there, the only step is adding a few targets.

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We had a great time until a thunderstorm rolled in and ended our game early.

And, as usual, Monday arrived too soon.  Have a great day!

How do you stay in shape without a gym?  Do you ever incorporate “playing” into our workout routine?