Food, Friends & Fun at the Cigna Disneyland Half Marathon Blogger Meet-Up
People run for so many different reasons. For some it’s all about the competition. For others it’s all about the bling. For me, it’s all about the challenge, the friends and the health benefits. That’s why I was extremely excited to be invited to Cigna’s blogger and social media meet-up during runDisney’s Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend.
The meet-up took place right after the Disneyland 5K at Disneyland’s Napa Rose Restaurant. I had just enough time post-race to take a shower and nap then catch up with a super fun group of runners. When we arrived we were greeted by the awesome Cigna staff, then all of the bloggers were randomly shuffled into different groups. My group was the Goofy group! I totally panicked at first because I didn't really know anyone in the Goofy group, and I'm so painfully shy that I tend to just blend into the background rather than make friends. (The right group for me would have definitely been the Bashful group. Or the Dopey group.) Luckily, this was a super group!
First we were introduced to Cigna Dietitan Julee Stand and Laura Flores, co-host of Un Nuevo Dia. Both of them shared the value of taking the time to plan nutritious meals. When we don't plan ahead we tend to make poor choices because we are too pressed for time to eat well. I could really relate to Laura's story about the challenge of watching our family members' heath suffer due to poor food choices. Growing up in a Puerto-Rican household we ate for fun & love - not health. It's easy to make changes that benefit your health and the health of your loved ones while still maintaining your cultural roots. It just takes a little effort.
We met executive chefs who shared healthy recipes we can all make at home. Cooking and prep demonstrations were provided at four stations: smoothies, salads, main course and dessert. By the end of the afternoon we would have the knowledge needed to go home and prepare these (or similar meals) ourselves.
First up was Chef Martin who prepared a Lola Rosa salad with fresh macerated berries and a honey Dijon vinaigrette.
Clean, simple and fresh ingredients with lively and distinct flavors make this salad a stand out. The salad itself was lola rosa and endive greens with berries, while the dressing consisted of apple cider vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, microplaned shallots and garlic and oil, salt and pepper. The plate was decorated with a beautiful herb infused oil.
I make a honey Dijon vinaigrette at home pretty often, but what I learned from Chef Martin was that rather than chop the garlic and shallot, I really need to use a microplane so that the flavors are just as bright but the texture is not overpowering. Watch me in action as I whisk away in the video below while my fellow bloggers take part in the demos as well.
Next, Chef Chris Faulkner taught us how to prepare the main dish, a beautiful Kale and Pepitas Pesto Chicken with Caprese Farro and Garlic Jus. The first thing he taught us was how to do was butcher a whole chicken into an airline breast. Learning how to butcher your own chicken is a huge money saver!
No matter what level of home cook you are, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of mise en place. Literally meaning to "put into place", this is the culinary method of ingredient organization used by chefs throughout their meal preparation. It really helps me at home as well. Cooking is less scary when everything is ready for you!
For this dish the ingredients are as follows:
Chicken breast: seasoned with salt & pepper and pan seared on one side then finished in the oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 165
Kale & Pepitas Peto: 50% kale, 25% Italian parsley, 25% basil, whole cloves of garlic, pumpkin seeds and parmigiano reggianno
Farro: garlic, shallot, salt, pepper, heirloom cherry tomatoes, butter, heavy cream, smoked mozzarella and micro basil to garnish
Veggies: zucchini, asparagus, sunburst squash, carrots (seasoned with salt, pepper, oil and herbs)
The smokiness of the mozzarella in the farro was the perfect touch, and the breast was moist and flavorful. The kale pesto was very tasty and tied the entire dish together. I hope to be able to replicate this dish at home for my love.
Next, Executive Pastry Chef Jorge Sotelo and Assistant Pastry Chef Nubia Renteria took us through a delicious fruit tasting journey into dessert land. Chef Jorge explained that the natural sugars in fruits are what make fruit based desserts a little healthier. Naturally sweetened fruits used in desserts equal YUM as long a you remember to reduce the sugar called for in your recipe when the fruit's sugar content is high.
Chef Jorge meets with a produce vendor every week to purchase the freshest and most unique fruits available for Napa Rose. We were able to sample delicious and unique fruits as well! I tried sugar kissed melons, white chocolate dipped gooseberries, cotton candy grapes, candy striped figs and tree ripened peaches. Amazing.
Tree ripened peaches are allowed to naturally ripen on the trees, so they are wonderfully sweet and perfect for the Peach Crisp recipe shared by the dessert Chefs.
Peach Crip Recipe
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 2 oz. sugar + 3 oz. sugar
- 2 oz. brown sugar + 3 oz. sugar
- 2 oz. butter, cut up and room temperature + 2 oz. melted butter
- 1 ¼ cup old-fashioned oats
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1 cup pecan pieces
Peach Filling Ingredients:
- 6 diced peaches
- 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp corn starch
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- ½ orange zested
- ½ orange juiced
- ½ oz. Grand Marnier
- Handful of blackberries
Pre heat oven to 350°
- In a bowl mix flour, 2 oz. sugar, 2 oz. brown sugar, 2 oz. cut up, room temperature butter until it is crumbly and butter is in small pieces
- In a second bowl add 3 oz. sugar, 3 oz. brown sugar, oats, coconut, and pecan pieces.
- Add ingredients from first bowl to second bowl and slowly pour in melted butter and mix together
- Spread mixture on to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat liner
- Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until golden brown
- Combine all of the peach filling ingredients and toss allowing to macerate for a few minutes.
- Add in a few blueberries to fruit mixture
- Place fruit in ramekins and top with crumble mixture
- Bake for 10 – 15 minutes
The last station for the Goofy group was the smoothie station. Here we learned how to combine more fruits with other ingredients that are high in protein and provide clean burning energy. My favorite was the crunchy coffee cocoa smoothie, but wow that cactus pear was super delicious too!
Pre-Workout Crunchy Coffee Cocoa Smoothie
1 cup ice
half cup coffee (chilled)
2 tsp agave
half cup almond milk
3 tbs unsalted Almonds
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 and a half bananas (freeze these the night before)
Post-Workout Blueberry Cactus Pear Smoothie
2 tsp agave nectar
quarter cup rolled oats
1 tbs ground flax seed
half cup blueberries
quarter cup cactus pear
half cup plain unsweetened Greek yogurt
half cup soy milk
Many thanks to the Cigna team for inviting me to attend the Disneyland Half Marathon Cigna Blogger Meet-Up at Napa Rose. I learned so much from this event about the simplicity of healthy and tasty cooking. I also made a ton of new friends! Sharing wellness tips with my readers and my family is priceless!
Be sure to visit the Preparing to Race section of Cigna's website. You'll find a variety of information on running, nutrition and wellness. As the sponsor runDisney events, they have great tips to share.
Disclosure: I was invited to this event as a guest of Cigna. No compensation, besides a delicious meal, was received and all opinions are my own.