Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Working Out, Dining In

What would you get if you put a half dozen hardcore workout fanatics and fitness freaks in a room together for a dinner party? (No - this isn't the opening line of a joke...) Protein shakes? Egg white omelets with steamed broccoli? Brown rice heaped with lean protein? (Oh wait- maybe that opening line was a joke! Those are all things I eat on a regular basis!)

But no. Not this time around.

Last weekend, my oh-so-fun group of workout partners and their spouses got together for a long-overdue dinner party, and let me tell you: we all know how to appreciate a good meal.

A little background on our group: I have been a devoted member of the Napa Adventure Boot Camp for more than three years (has it really been that long?). Once I signed on for their outdoor boot camp-style fitness program, I never looked back. Buh-bye gym! Working out has always been a priority in my life; a requirement for not only my physical well-being, but my mental health as well. Boot camp just turned the heat up on the intensity of my fitness training, at precisely a time when my body started to betray me and I was having to abandon some of my long-time, much-loved physical pursuits in search of something different. Boot camp has since become my drug, my addiction, my sanity. Along the way, I have met some truly incredible people, and have forged wonderful new friendships - also very much needed, since I scarcely knew a soul in Napa prior to joining the camp. I am an unabashed fan, and can't imagine my life without it.

That being said, about a year or so ago, a small group of us from camp started Kettelbell training twice a week with our fearless leader, Jeff. Read up on Kettelbells if you're not familiar; to say that it is the toughest, most intense, most effective workout I've ever subjected myself to is an understatement. I love it. Our group is there to train rain or shine, every Monday and Wednesday; if one of us is unexpectedly absent, it is cause for concern. I spend more time with these people than anyone, with the exception of coworkers and my husband (we all also attend regular boot camp on the other nights of the week). Lucky for us, we all click. It's a great group of people, and we have entirely too much fun for people who may appear utterly insane (swinging hulking balls of iron around isn't exactly an everyday sight). This group motivates me, challenges me and keeps me striving to do my best (I'm the youngest in the group, but by far the weakest, slowest and most in need of physical improvement. I'm working on it!)

But it's a strange phenomenon: nearly every one of our workout conversations inevitably gets steered toward the topic of food. It seems as though almost everyone there is like me: food is fuel, yes, but it's also one of the great pleasures in life. We all are very conscious of our diets, and do watch what we eat, but we'll work out harder if it means we can earn a cheeseburger from Taylor's.

So after a year of our bonding over intense physical exertion and much talk of our dining habits, we finally made it official and had a dinner party. And what a dinner party it was.

Allison, our gracious hostess, opened her beautiful home to us for the evening, and we all contributed to the meal, pot-luck style. The wine was free-flowing (thanks Rick!), and the appetizers got us off to a delicious start: Rick's wife Terri made decadent cheese-stuffed and bacon-wrapped jalepenos (my version below); Melodie pitched in an amazing artichoke and spinach dip unlike any I've ever had before (if I beg, can I get the recipe?!!).

We sat down to a dinner table resplendent with grilled beef filet topped with homemade chimichurri sauce, courtesy of Alison and Tom; a grilled vegetable pasta salad of Glen's creation (does Dolly get any credit?) that would have fed an Army; my favorite raddichio salad; and a Caprese-style salad that was a bit of a group effort, made with some of the season's last gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. Dessert came in the form of a dozen Kara's Cupcakes, as well as Carmelita Bars from The Model Bakery about which Jeff had been tempting us for weeks.

Calorie and carb counters flew out the window that night. We were just there to enjoy and, of course, make some memories. So we ate and we ate; we talked and we talked. There were many laughs, lots of stories, and plenty of chatter about the detox workout that would inevitably follow sometime this week.

So to Jeff, Tiff, Glen, Dolly, Alison, Rick and Melodie: thank you for the good food and good times. Looking forward to more of the same down the line. Keep on swinging!

As I mentioned, Rick's wife brought along this amazing appetizer to the party. I happened to have reason to bring an appetizer to a mixer the very next afternoon, so I gave my hand at recreating her dish. I used Anaheim chilis, whereas she used jalepenos, but they turned out to be just as decadent and delicious. Clear out your arteries and make way for this snack - it's a keeper!

Cheese Stuffed and Bacon-Wrapped Peppers
  • Anaheim chili peppers, sliced lengthwise, seeds removed
  • Cheddar cheese, cut into long, thin rectangles to fit inside the chili pepper halves
  • Applewood smoked bacon, 1 strip per pepper half
Place the cheese inside the cleaned chile pepper half; wrap with a strip of uncooked bacon. Place on a baking sheet; roast in a preheated 400-degree oven until cheese is melted and bacon is cooked to your preferred crispness (mine went for about 10 minutes).


  1. Great recount of a fun & delicious time.

  2. What an awesome combo: bacon and cheese!