I’m back for part 2 of my Dole Food & Wellness Blogger Summit recap! If you’re just tuning in, check out part 1 first :)
As our midmorning snack on Thursday, Dole invited us into their kitchen to taste samples of some of their newest products and recipe creations.
First up — salads!
That would be Grilled Romaine with Feta. Yum! I’ve decided everything grilled is amazing. And the dressing was made from yogurt :)
Dole has a couple of new ready-to-eat bagged salad mixes as well. I usually prefer to make my own salads, but these would be great for if you’re in a hurry and want a specific type of salad but don’t want to buy/prepare all the ingredients.
They were tasty — great little meal-in-a-bag type things. Just add some toast on the side and some protein to the salad (beans, meat, whatever) and you’ve got a complete meal!
Next up, showcasing Dole bananas, was this unique Caribbean Black Bean (!) and Fruit Salad.
I NEVER would have thought to mix black beans and banana or oranges, but somehow this really worked! I was impressed :) This would make a great quick vegetarian side dish or lunch!
DOLE Caribbean Black Bean and Fruit Salad
Prep time: 15 min ~ Serves: 4
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy! Serve atop a salad, in a pita, or on its own.
Also showcased for us to taste were salads made with some of their bagged green mixes — arugula, baby spinach, romaine, etc. I love these green mixes and buy them all the time!
I especially enjoyed the arugula salad topped with avocado and fresh mango. YUM!
I also have to give a shout out to my home boy, broccoli slaw. I’m like that old lady in the hot sauce commercials – “I put this sh!t on everything!” Broccoli slaw is great for bulking up sandwiches or wraps with a healthy crunch, making salads more interesting, and of course it can be used to make a healthy (non-mayo based) cole slaw, too!
Oh, and remember how I said grilled everything is good? Grilled banana ROCKS.
Last up was Dole’s packaged products — I’m not as big a fan of these because I think people are better off having the fresh, whole fruit, but if you’re in an area where fresh fruit isn’t available, these would be great options! Better packaged fruit than none at all, of course :) I actually yoinked a couple of the fruit cups (fruit swimming in fruit juice) for the trip home on Friday — I hate paying $28,347,234,872,347 for fruit in the airport.
Fruit everywhere! I was bummed to see their “Real Fruit Bites” contain hydrogenated palm kernel oil. Hydrogenation = trans fat = not good. Boo.
Anyway! Thursday evening, after my sweaty and fun fitness consultation with one of the hotel’s personal trainers (a special post dedicated to me getting a butt kicking workout is coming shortly!) and an incredible massage at the Four Season’s hotel spa (courtesy of Dole — we were spoiled — but as they said, wellness includes relaxation and stress relief too, not just good nutrition!), it was time for our:
IRON CHEF COOKING CHALLENGE!!!
That’s me with one of my teammates, Brooke, who is SO much fun :)
There were 6 pre-selected teams for the cooking challenge. Two faced off in a salad challenge, two in a dessert challenge, and my team faced off another in the entree cooking challenge!
Each of the two teams facing off were provided a bag that included 4 to 5 identical items. All items in the bag had to be used in our dish in some way, and we were also given access to a huge table full of produce, spices, nuts, fruit, oil, etc. to supplement our dishes as we saw fit.
I want to have this set up in my house, heh.
The dream team:
- Maria (on the right below) and her husband, Josh
- Odalis (from Dole — in the middle below)
We had exactly 50 minutes to create a delicious and healthy dish using Dole products for the judges to evaluate. Entries were judged on creativity, use of Dole products, nutrition knowledge portrayed during our presentation to the judges (using what we learned in one of the earlier nutrition sessions), plating presentation, and, of course, taste!
In my group’s bag, we received:
- Baby spinach
- Fresh salmon
- Fresh cranberries
- Dry lentils
We quickly flew into action!
Our competition cooking away — bring it on, ladies ;)
We had SO much fun cooking.
First, we got the lentils simmering in some veggie broth (to which we later added some chopped onions and garlic).
Then, we tackled the salmon. We decided to make Pistachio Encrusted Salmon :)
After rolling the salmon in a mixture of salt, pepper, and crushed pistachios, we debated how to cook it. We thought about baking it… but then decided to sear it in some olive oil in a pan instead!
For our side dishes, we decided the more veggies the better to make the meal super nutritious and therefore impress the judges ;)
Since I was the veggie queen of the group, I took the reigns and suggested sautÃ©ing the spinach in some lemon juice and olive oil with garlic, salt, and pepper. I also suggested we do the same with a bunch of string beans from the produce table!
Here we are cooking madly… time is running out! We had a lot of trouble deciding what to do with the cranberries. We debated making a sauce to top the salmon (before the pistachio idea), but didn’t think it would go with the lentils. Then we tried cooking some of it with the spinach… blech. Finally, it was decided to just make a simple cranberry compote, scented with some orange juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It came out great!
We finished in the nick of time! I was selected as the group’s “plater” — making the meal look pretty on the plate — and also as the person who would present the meal to the judges and explain its nutritional content, considering I’m in school for nutrition right now and all ;)
First up — our Pistachio Encrusted Salmon, set atop a bed of garlic infused lentils. You’ve got your healthy omega-3 fatty acids from the salmon, even more healthy fats from the nuts, and lots of fiber and vegetarian protein from the lentils.
Next — a whole bag of lemony garlic sautÃ©ed spinach. Lots of nutrients packed into dark green veggies (spinach is a great source of iron, too!).
On the other side of the plate, lemony garlic sautÃ©ed string beans! I LOVE string beans — so nutritious and delicious. Filling half your plate with veggies at meals is an awesome way to both get more nutrition AND cut down on calories :)
And, lastly, our Orange and Nutmeg Scented Cranberry Compote, for some color and antioxidant power :)
Our challengers made a cranberry salmon spinach salad with a side of this pretty lentil soup:
After presenting it to the judges, we waited.
And watched while they sampled and discussed our dishes. Ah, the suspense!
And then — guess what? My team won!!!! :) Here we are, victorious, with our fun prizes for winning:
We rule, clearly. Hehe. Here’s a close up of our winner’s prize — two cute dish cloths wrapped around some fun cooking utensils! Yay :)
So fun! We got to sample everyone’s challenge entries when the judging was over, too. Lots of tasty creations! And our meal rocked, not gonna lie. :)
When the competition was over, they served us real dinner! I think they were worried that our dishes wouldn’t come out well enough, heh.
We started with a delicious cauliflower soup infused with truffle oil — yum:
Our main course was a buffet, using a lot of the same ingredients that we did for our chef challenge. Salmon with a spinach sauce:
And salad, roasted veggies, and risotto! Yum. This is definitely the healthiest food I’ve ever had when traveling. Love it!
For dessert, we had a sort of pineapple mousse cake atop thinly sliced pieces of mango. This was really tasty and beautifully displayed, too.
I hope you’ve enjoyed virtually attending the Dole Food and Wellness Blogger Summit with me! :) Stay tuned for one final Dole Summit post — on Monday, I’ll be posting pictures from my fitness workout on Thursday afternoon! If you are in a strength training rut, this should give you some GREAT new ideas. Be sure to check back tomorrow, too — I’ll be sharing my favorite quick, easy, and healthy Thanksgiving recipes.
Have a great Saturday!