Tag Archives: Dole Foods

What we ate this summer.

Boy, did we eat well this summer! We may have consumed more than our fair share of fresh veggies in a wide variety of simple yet flavorful dishes. What is summer for, after all, if not the consumption of goodies from the farmers market and excuse to work on your tan? Here’s a peek at what we ate this summer.

Chicken Stir-Fry - My Bowl

It started with this chicken stir-fry over rice. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but The Complete Package and I love rice. Like L-O-V-E it. You could put a bowl of plain rice in front of us and we’d be happy, but smothering it with this zesty stir-fry made us really happy campers. The recipe came from the Weber’s New Real Grilling Cookbook. Seen it yet? Well, you should. Holy smokes (yes, that’s a grill joke) – it’s exceptional.

When I brought this book home from the BlogHer Food Conference in Austin (Thank you, Dole!), we immediately decided to jump in and try as many recipes as we could as quickly as possible. Here’s another winner from the book.

Weber  - Avocado, Red Onion & Sun-Dried Tomato Quesadillas

This beauty is an avocado, red onion and sun-dried tomato quesadilla. It’s ooey, gooey, crispy and crunchy. It was meat-free, but it still had it all, and in an easy to eat portable package, too. So much flavor!

This next one came from an internet search TCP did for smoked chicken. Now that he has officially conquered brisket and ribs (his are to die for), he decided to tackle smoked chicken. The recipe he found was for a ‘competition grade’ chicken, and while I don’t think he’ll be competing anywhere, this bird deserves a blue ribbon. Isn’t it gorgeous? Smokey, juicy poultry in motion.

A Smoked Chicken

Next was our pizza phase – where we attempted to live out our “More Is More” motto to the fullest. This one was grilled chicken with a smokey BBQ sauce, red onion, sliced jalapenos and a blend of cheddar and monterrey jack cheese.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Think that one was loaded? You ain’t seen nothing yet. THIS baby was loaded. I call it “All The Veggies” pizza, and it was an exercise in excess. Instead of a tomato sauce, I smeared a whole wheat dough with basil pesto, then layered on oodles of veggies – artichoke hearts, mushrooms, orange & yellow bell peppers, roasted piquillo peppers, fresh spinach, kalamata olives, and red onions – then topped it with ricotta, toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil. We could hardly pick it up, but the flavors were over-the-top fabulous.

DeLallo Veggie Pizza

Speaking of flavor, this simple dish from the Weber’s grilling book blew our minds. It is deceptive in that it doesn’t look like much, but practically explodes in your mouth. Yummy is an understatement. It starts with eggplant grilled over charcoal, which is then topped with a sun-dried tomato, shallot & garlic relish dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette. Wow. Just wow.

Grilled Eggplant with Sun-Dried Tomato Topping

Next up was a Cuban Sandwich made with leftover smoked pork tenderloin (also from the Weber book), but the star of this show was the tostones we made on the side. Ever had tostones? It’s hard to describe them, but if you ever have an opportunity to try them (or even make them), take it. They’re like thick chips made from plantains. Now, if you think plantains are just fat bananas, you are mistaken. They’re actually starchy like a potato, and unless you let them over-ripen, they are not sweet. Think of them as a potato substitute.

Cuban Sandwiches from Grilling Book - July10, 2013

To make tostones, peel and slice plantains and fry them in a little canola oil until they just start to crisp a little. Remove them from the oil, drain on paper towels, and flatten them with a metal spatula. Then, and I know this sounds strange, throw them BACK into the oil until they are a golden, crispy brown. Sprinkled with kosher salt & served with your favorite salsa, I promise you will never reach for corn chips again.

All this talk of chips and pizza is making me thirsty, which brings me to my last treat of the summer. The fine folks at Double Decker were kind enough to ask if I’d like to try their wine. I don’t think I could have said “Heck yes!” any faster. To my surprise, they sent two full-size bottles – Pinot Grigio (white) and their Red Blend. The red was opened first. We drank half the bottle with a nice steak dinner and used the last half the bottle for Blackberry Sangria. Mmm…. I can still smell and taste it just looking at this photo. My friend Beka pointed out that it appears the ice is giving a fist-bump. Wildly appropriate; it rocked!

Double Decker Blackberry Sangria - Inside NanaBread's Head

Blackberry Sangria is my new ‘must have’ for summer. To make, muddle one pint of fresh blackberries with 1/3 cup of sugar and add to a bottle of Double Decker Red Blend. Cap it and put in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours so the berries & wine can fall in love. Then strain and serve over ice with a few fresh berries for garnish. So good, and so refreshing. This would also work with red plums or raspberries. The pinot grigio is superb and crisp on its own, but also makes a great summer sangria with the addition of peaches, apples, orange slices and a handful of white grapes. If you lika de’ bubbles, top it with a splash of champagne, club soda or lemon-lime soda. Then sit back and reflect on a summer worthy of the record books.

Did you try anything this summer that knocked your socks off? Do tell!

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Filed under Food & Recipes, Miscellaneous Thoughts, Things I Love

BlogHer Food Conference 2013

If total sensory overload is the purpose of any good blogging conference, then BlogHer Food last weekend in Austin can be declared a raging success. In fact, I think it will probably take the next few weeks for me to totally absorb it all. My synopsis right now is that there was just SO MUCH to take in.

For now, I’ll just say that I met some truly fabulous people (both bloggers and sponsors), picked up great tips on food writing & photography, and basically had the time of my life. Hopefully, you will start to see some of that information reflected in future posts, but for now I’m going to focus on some of the events I attended. Here is but a fraction of last weekend’s activities.

Bites & Bloggers ATX Event at Whole Foods Market
sponsored by the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance & Whole Foods

Clockwise: Party on the rooftop terrace, Becker Vineyards wine tasting, Foreign & Domestic food sampling & Katie the Hill Country Cook

Clockwise: Party on the Whole Foods rooftop terrace, Becker Vineyards wine tasting, Foreign & Domestic food sampling & Katie the Hill Country Cook

The party on the roof at Whole Food’s flagship store was fun, blazing hot and super windy but the food provided by local chefs was fabulous and the people were warm & friendly. One stand-out was Becker Vineyards (including Richard Shelton, Assistant Winemaker & Enologist) who took the time to really speak to us about the wines and the science behind them. Do I remember all the chemistry mentioned? No, I do not. But I can tell you that Richard loves what he does and it shows in the wine. We sampled a Claret, Viognier, and rosy Provencal – all of which were spectacular.

For me, the best bite of the night went to the ladies from Foreign & Domestic (including chef & co-owner Jodi Elliott), who put together a creamy custard parfait topped with peaches, honey, thyme & a graham cracker crumble. So simple, yet rich and bursting with peach flavor. It was amazing.

Foreign & Domestic's Peach Parfait - I could have eaten the entire tray!

Foreign & Domestic’s Peach Parfait – I could have eaten the entire tray!

To see more great photos from this event, click here.

Between sessions on food writing, photography and social issues, I was fortunate enough to be invited to some truly special off-property events. The first of these was the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Dinner held at Springdale Farm in east Austin. Aside from being surprised to find such a large farm inside the city, I was stunned at the oasis they had created.

U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance Dinner at Springdale Farm
sponsored by USFRA, held at Springdale Farm, emceed by Chef Danny Boome

Springdale Farms in Austin, Texas - farm, produce stand & Eden East restaurant

Springdale Farms in Austin, Texas – farm tour provided by Glenn Foore, owner

As part of the event, we were treated to a tour of Springdale Farm as well as a dinner with local farmers and ranchers where we were given the opportunity to discuss issues around food sourcing, organic vs non-organic foods, and the importance of supporting local farms and ranches. Our group was fortunate to be paired with Jason Peeler, a cattle rancher from Floresville, Texas who attended with his lovely wife, Marianna. He raises cattle, she raises free-range chickens, and together they raise their children with a focus on quality over quantity. While our conversation became fairly spirited debating corn-fed vs grain-fed beef, Jason was open and honest and made the evening as informative as it was fun. Speaking of fun, our host chef Danny Boome was charming, despite struggling to pull off a Texas drawl with his British accent. A heartfelt thanks to our hosts and owners of Springdale Farm, Glenn & Paula Foore and the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance. It was a magical evening.

Clockwise - rustic place settings, rancher Jason Peeler & guest, host Danny Boome of the Food Network, and our lovely outdoor dining tables

Clockwise – rustic place settings, rancher Jason Peeler & guest, host Danny Boome of the Food Network, and our lovely outdoor dining tables

Private Dole Luncheon
sponsored by Dole Foods & hosted by Susan of Doughmesstic.com

Saturday afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon with Dole Foods hosted by Susan of Doughmesstic.com. A bus picked us up from the Hilton and whisked us away to a modern mansion in the hills overlooking Austin. The house and views were amazing, but the focus was on Dole’s line of fabulously fresh foods, which were served for lunch. The meal was anchored by last year’s Taste of Dole California Cook-Off contest winner – Island Pork Sliders (so moist & juicy). We were also treated to a cooking demo by Chef Ben Ford, who has again partnered with Dole for this year’s cook-off competition.

Lunch with Dole Foods, including a blind food challenge, food demonstration with Chef Ben Ford, and a fabulously fresh lunch from the Taste of Dole California Cook-Off

Lunch with Dole Foods, including a blind food challenge, food demonstration with Chef Ben Ford, and a fabulously fresh lunch from the Taste of Dole California Cook-Off

In a surprising twist, we were treated to a blind tasting of a date-topped appetizer and challenged to name as many ingredients as possible. The blogger who came closest to identifying all of the ingredients would be flown to California in late June to sit on the judges panel for this year’s Dole California Cook-Off. And the winner was…. Liz from The Lemon Bowl. Congratulations, Liz!

BlogHer Food 2013 Closing Party at Stubbs Bar-B-Q
hosted by The Pioneer Woman, Steamy Kitchen & Simply Recipes

Lastly, the conference was capped with a closing party at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q in downtown Austin, hosted by Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman), Jaden Hair (Steamy Kitchen) and Elise Bauer (Simply Recipes). There was barbecue, live music, cold beer and dancing and despite the oppressive heat, a good time was had by all. It was a perfect end to an exhausting but exhilarating weekend.

The sun sets on the BlogHerFood'13 Closing party at Stubb's Bar-B-Q

The sun sets on the BlogHer Food’13 Closing party at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q

One last peek at the week’s excess: the swag. I’ve heard tales of bloggers coming home from conferences with bags full of freebies from vendors and sponsors, but I really had no idea. No baseline, so to speak. Now that I’ve seen it in action, I am stunned. Here is just a portion of what I received over the weekend.

Swag Aftermath – this is only two-thirds of what I received at BlogHerFood.

Swag Aftermath – this is only two-thirds of what I received at BlogHerFood.

And that’s part of what was left after I gave some away. The most surprising thing is it’s REALLY NICE STUFF! Kitchen utensils, glasses, cookbooks, you name it. There was so much food, I actually gave the valet guys at the hotel a bag of snacks when I checked out. I was one of the lucky ones who drove home. I cannot even begin to imagine trying to get all of this on an airplane. But I guess I’ll have to figure it out because I’ve got the bug now and really hope to attend BlogHerFood again next year, wherever it may be. I figure I’ve got one year to plan, scheme, save & beg… but I think I can do it. Who’s with me?!? One thing is for certain – I can always count on my homegirls!

Megan (Country Cleaver), Katie (Hill Country Cook) & Lauren (Grier Mountain) at the closing party

Megan (Country Cleaver), Katie (Hill Country Cook) & Lauren (Grier Mountain) at the BlogHer Food 2013 closing party

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Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Food & Recipes, Travel Tales