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Category: healthy eats

  1. Tuesday, April 22

    Call for Recipes: Kale!

    One of my most favorite things is when I get an email from someone requesting a Call for Recipes. I love the Call for Recipes posts myself, so it makes me happy that you guys like them, too!

    call for recipes: kale recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    I received an email from reader Lisa two weeks ago asking if I could ask you all for some kale recipes. She said she’s gotten so many great recipes from other commenters on the blog before. She’s in a kale rut and is hoping you all can help, which I’m certain you can!

    So, that’s the theme for today’s Call for Recipes: KALE! Share your favorite kale recipes, tips for cooking and working with kale, whatever! Feel free to type out recipes or just link to recipes, it’s all fair game.

    call for recipes: kale recipe roundup from @janemaynard | kale salad from costco

    Here is what I have to add to the conversation:

    • To kick us off I’ll share the best kale recipe I’ve ever made. It’s really simple. You go to Costco and buy their kale salad mix. It’s delicious and foolproof. 😉 Seriously, though, we had it for Easter and loved it!
    • I recently wrote an article on Cosmopolitan.com about kale, with tips for how to cook it and a roundup of kale recipes from a bunch of great food bloggers. Click here for the kale Cosmo fun!
    • I’ve decided the world is full of LIARS because I recently had kale chips for the first time and they are absolutely not as good as potato chips. In fact, they’re disgusting. Nate agrees with me, by the way. And, before you ask, we had beautifully-cooked kale chips at a fabulous restaurant, so if we were going to like kale chips, those would have been the ones. So, the next time someones says, “No, really, kale chips are awesome!” I’m going to throw a pie in their face. Kale pie. Also, please don’t let my obviously-strong opinion keep you from sharing your kale chip recipes because, apparently, some people actually do like this healthy snack!
    • Hansen’s makes kale soda now. Yeah, yeah, I’m sure it’s delicious. Just like kale chips.

    call for recipes: kale recipe roundup from @janemaynard | hansen's kale soda

    Your turn! Share all your kale magic!


  2. Wednesday, February 19

    Maple Soy Glazed Salmon

    Confession: Our family hardly ever eats fish. I cook it once every few years or so and that’s about it. There are a few reasons for this. First, Nate does not like fish, which is shocking since he comes from a long line of seafood-loving New Englanders. The second reason is I just don’t know the best ways to prepare seafood since I never do it. Practice makes perfect and there just isn’t any practice going on in my kitchen!

    maple soy glazed salmon from @janemaynardmaple soy glazed salmon from @janemaynard

    The Salmon Council reached out to me recently about doing a salmon recipe in support of American Heart Month (which is right now!) and I thought it would be a good opportunity to get some fish going on in our house. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fish because it’s a good source of protein and high in omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is at the top of their fish list and the AHA recommends eating two servings of heart-healthy fish TWICE A WEEK, which can reduce your risk of dying from a heart attack by up to one-third. I guess my twice a decade isn’t quite up to snuff!

    maple soy glazed salmon from @janemaynardmaple soy glazed salmon from @janemaynard

    I decided it would be fun to throw together a simple and delicious salmon recipe, in the hopes that my kids would go for it. As I was making dinner last night, Cate walked in and asked what we were having. I told her salmon, to which she replied, “I don’t like fish.” I asked her, “Well, what fish have you had?” She didn’t have an answer, so she said she would give it a try and as soon as the salmon came out of the oven, she asked for a bite. She was immediately converted. In fact she had three servings for dinner and exclaimed that it was “AWESOME.” She also said that the “salmon people” would be happy with my blog post because I could tell everyone kids love it. It was super, duper, crazy cute. She also asked if we can have salmon more often. Success! Anna wasn’t quite as enthusiastic, but she did like dinner and cleared her plate no problem! Nate is still on the fence – he said the recipe is good, but…you know, fish. But he promised he would never voice those opinions out loud in front of the kids since they like are really liking fish and it’s so healthy!

    maple soy glazed salmon from @janemaynardmaple soy glazed salmon from @janemaynard

    This recipe is so incredibly simple it’s surprising. Even if you’ve never cooked fish before you’ll have success! The leftovers were pretty good, but honestly, when the salmon is fresh out of the oven it is IRRESISTIBLE. So flavorful and moist with great texture, Cate and I were swooning!

    Also, Cate told me I should take a picture of she and Anna enjoying their salmon. I obliged. How could I not?

    my kids enjoying heart-healthy maple soy glazed salmon for dinner (from @janemaynardIn celebration of American Heart Month, the Salmon Council is giving away a fun salmon starter package! One randomly-selected winner will receive a $30 Visa gift card (to get your salmon!), a Hooked on Salmon Thermo-tote, and  1 pack of Weber Firespice cedar planks (visit Weber.com for recipes and tips including this step-by-step guide for perfect salmon planking). Here’s how to enter the giveaway! (Comments must be posted by Midnight PT on Tuesday 2/25. Winner must have a U.S. address.)

    • Leave a comment on this post – any comment! Easy peasy!
    • Bonus entry: Leave an additional comment with your favorite salmon recipe (either share the recipe or a link!)
    • Bonus entry: Follow The Salmon Council on Facebook! (leave a separate comment indicating you’ve done so)
    • Bonus entry: Follow This Week for Dinner on Facebook! (leave a separate comment indicating you’ve done so)

    The giveaway winner was comment #77, Natahsa P. Congratulations, Natasha!

    Without further ado, the super easy, even more scrumptious recipe for Maple Soy Glazed Salmon!

    (>> Find out more…)


  3. Thursday, January 23

    A Pot of Beans {How to Cook Dried Beans}

    Over the years I have been lucky enough to have several close friends who are Mexican and they have all introduced me to various wonderful foods. Those friends are all also really good at cooking beans. And, for whatever reason, no matter how many times they have told me how to cook beans and assured me that it’s easy, I had a mental block. Every time I would go to cook a bag of dried beans, I would freeze. Seriously, total mental block. I just could never remember exactly how to do it and felt dumb always asking “one more time” how to cook beans!

    how to cook dried beans from @janemaynard (it's easy peasy!)

    Well, I have finally broken down my bean barriers. One of my neighbors is Mexican and I finally just sucked up my pride and asked her (multiple times) how to cook dried beans. And then I actually did it. I cooked beans! And, surprise surprise, they were easy to make and mighty delicious!

    how to cook dried beans from @janemaynard (it's easy peasy!)

    For real, it’s easy. You’ll need to be home for a few hours to check on them occasionally while they cook, but that is seriously the hardest part of the recipe. I like to cook a big pot of beans at one time and then freeze the leftovers into 2-cup containers. The beans are easy to defrost and I love having them on hand. And they really do taste better than canned beans.

    How to Cook Dried Beans
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • Bag of dried beans (Black, pinto, peruan, whatever variety you like! Peruan is the variety you see in these photos.)
    • Water
    • Big pot
    • ¼ of an onion
    • Salt
    Instructions
    1. Ari (my neighbor) will sometimes soak the beans overnight, but it's not necessary. If you forget, no worries!
    2. Place the beans in a big pot (I use my french oven). Add water to cover the beans (if you soaked the beans prior, drain that water and add new water to the pot). Place ¼ of an onion (large pieces is fine) in the pot along with some salt (maybe about a teaspoon or so). Bring to a simmer over medium to medium-high heat, then cook over medium-low to medium heat for 2-3 hours (longer if you didn't soak the beans before hand). Stir the beans occasionally throughout the entire cooking process. You may need to add more water at some point if the water is running low but the beans are still not cooked through. The beans are done when they are soft and yummy!
    3. Remove the onion and add more salt if needed. If you want them to be more like refried beans, just mash them up a bit!


  4. Thursday, January 16

    My Iceberg Lettuce Substitute

    This is one of those posts where half of you will say, “Uh, duh, Jane!” and the other half of you will say, “Duh! Why haven’t I thought of this before?” For those of you in category 1, just move on and have a lovely, iceberg lettuce-free day. For those of you in category 2, I’m glad I’m not alone. Okay, so, let’s move on with the issue at hand, shall we?

    simple iceberg lettuce substitute from @janemaynard

    Iceberg lettuce. I pretty much hate it. I loved it as a kid and, with every year I walk on this earth, I like the stuff less and less. I think it tastes like water and it isn’t as nutrient rich as other lettuces and greens, so what’s the point? It’s only positive attribute is the texture. Sometimes you just need the extra crunch that iceberg lettuce can provide.

    Well, yesterday, I was making myself a turkey sandwich on a roll leftover from our dinner of sausage subs. The roll reminded me of this place (Nielsen’s Frozen Custard in Utah) that makes a simple turkey sandwich that sometimes just hits the spot. I wanted to replicate the sandwich but needed iceberg lettuce, which I did not have because, well, I never buy it unless I have to. I did, however, have a head of romaine lettuce.

    simple iceberg lettuce substitute from @janemaynard

    So, I grabbed my knife and sliced the romaine nice and skinny, just like I would have with iceberg. Sure, it’s not quite as crunchy as iceberg, but it has a good balance of leafy and crunchy to fit the bill. It worked like a charm on my sandwich. It would also be perfect on tacos and other foods where you often find iceberg lettuce lurking.

    There you have it. Romaine is now my iceberg lettuce substitute. It’s healthier and tastes better. And it’s got a good bite. Life is good. Adios, iceberg. It’s been nice known’ ya.


  5. Tuesday, December 10

    Park and Main, Homemade Yogurt and a Giveaway!

    This giveaway is now closed, but keep reading to learn about a cool website, my new yogurt maker, and the winner of the giveaway!

    holiday gifts & giveaways on thisweekfordinner.com

    Gifts & Giveaways marches on! Today I’m sharing a whole website with you with all kinds of wonderful gift possibilities.

    homemade greek yogurt from @janemaynard

    In all honesty I had never heard of Park and Main until about a month or so ago, but I am happy to have been introduced! Park and Main carries all kinds of wonderful products for the home and, I must admit, I’ve spent quite a bit of time (too much time?) window shopping on their site! Everything just looks so pretty and inviting!

    homemade greek yogurt from @janemaynard

    Park and Main sent me a really fun product that they carry, the Dash Greek Yogurt Maker. (Ours is pink because, well, my little sous chef Anna wouldn’t have it any other way. They do carry a blue version as well.) We go through a lot of yogurt in our house. A LOT. I was really excited to try making my own yogurt and, surprisingly, my girls were just as excited! I know you can make yogurt without a specific machine, but without the machine, I never actually gave it a try. Plus I trust this process, there’s a built-in timer and straining basket, and they have a chart with the cooking times for all the different types of yogurts you can make. I also love that you can completely control the type of yogurt you make (low-fat, no-fat, soy-based, coconut milk-based, etc), you can make the yogurt more tart by cooking it longer, you know exactly what ingredients are going into your yogurt (so you control the sugar, can omit allergy ingredients, etc.), and you can control how thick you want your yogurt to be (you can make straight-up yogurt that is thinner or you can strain it to make Greek yogurt and, depending on how long you strain, you control the thickness). Basically you have SO MUCH CONTROL over your yogurt. It’s awesome!

    homemade greek yogurt from @janemaynard

    The best part? The yogurt tastes wonderful! We ate our first batch this week and it is seriously soooo good. We just mix in a little jam and the yogurt is divine!

    UPDATE 3/16/16: I love this little appliance and it works great, and I even made our own yogurt for quite a while. But I recently learned that a lot of pressure cookers/Instant Pots out there have a yogurt setting. If I were to do it over again, I would get the Instant Pot. Multitaskers are always a good idea.

    dash greek yogurt maker review and giveaway from @janemaynard

    Park and Main is giving away a Dash yogurt maker to one of you lucky people!

    Here is how to enter the giveaway (comments must be posted by Midnight PT on Monday, 12/16/13. Prize must be shipped to a U.S. address):

    Be sure to check out the Park and Main website, especially as you are shopping for the holidays. They have pages for gifts under $25gifts under $50gifts under $100, and gifts over $100. They also sell the Breville Smart Oven, which is hands down my favorite kitchen appliance.

    Good luck and happy shopping!

    The randomly-selected winner was comment #218 Becca, who said, “I’ve made homemade yogurt before, but honestly, it’s quite a bit of work. I’d love a handy little machine like this one!” You’ll love the simplicity of this machine, Becca! Congrats!

    Park and Main provided me with a yogurt maker for this post. All opinions are 100% my own, of course!


  6. Tuesday, November 12

    Pumpkin Chili Recipe from Snack Girl

    A few weeks ago I went to a 1-day conference put on by Ladies Home Journal in New York. I learned some great stuff but, more importantly, I connected with people in person. That’s always the best part of an event! One of those people was Lisa Cain from Snack Girl. Lisa is great – I could talk to her for hours! Her blog is all about eating healthy food and she breaks down the nutritional content of all the recipes on her blog. Since you totally don’t get that from me, I thought it would be fun to share a bit of Lisa with you today with a guest post! Enjoy and be sure to check out her blog!

    ***

    snack girl's pumpkin chili recipe | thisweekfordinner.com

    Snack Girl posted this chili recipe with pumpkin last year and people are still talking about it. Yes, it was a hit.

    Why add pumpkin to your chili?

    It’s cheap, easy, and has 763% of your daily value of vitamin A in one cup (and only 83 calories). You can sneak a bunch of nutrition into food by adding pumpkin.

    After creating a no-bake pumpkin cookie and a pumpkin smoothie, I decided to try a savory dish. This chili recipe below is the healthiest chili (with meat) that I have ever made. It boasts 28% of your daily value of iron, 45% of your daily value of vitamin C, and 293% of your daily value of vitamin A per serving.

    This is like a nutritional “rock star” chili. I used ground turkey breast because it is low in saturated fat, and beans, corn, and tomatoes to up the vegetable content.

    I did think the flavor was nice, but missing the depth of a beef chili. I might sneak a wee bit of cheese on top of mine to make it taste a bit more luxurious. The pumpkin made it a great color and added a creaminess to the chili.

    As we greet fall, it is time to stock up on cans of nutritious pumpkin.

    Pumpkin Chili Recipe from Snack Girl
     
    Author:
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Soup
    Serves: 6
    Ingredients
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (such as canola, sunflower, etc.)
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 pound ground turkey breast meat
    • 2 tablespoons chili powder
    • 1 tablespoon cumin
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • 1 small can diced green chili peppers
    • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 cup corn kernels, frozen or fresh
    • 1 28 ounce can tomatoes
    • 1 can cooked pumpkin
    • salt and pepper to taste
    Instructions
    1. In a large saucepan, heat oil and add onion. When onion has softened add turkey and cook until cooked through (should look white). Add the rest of the ingredients and taste to adjust seasonings. Simmer for 10 minutes and seve.
    2. For one serving = 268 calories, 4.7 g fat, 32 g carbohydrates, 8.7 g sugar, 26.3 g protein, 10.2 g fiber, 399 mg sodium, 6 Points+
    3. Points+ values are calculated by Snack Girl and are provided for information only.

     


  7. Tuesday, October 22

    Easy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup (a.k.a. Homemade Ramen)

    Today I have a super fast and easy dinner recipe for you that is also delicious and healthy. That’s the best kind of recipe, right?

    easy asian chicken noodle soup aka homemade ramen | from @janemaynard at thisweekfordinner.com

    But first, a confession. I love ramen noodle packs. You know, the 89-cent packages of ramen noodles paired with the sodium-rich broth that is oh-so-good. But…but. The sodium. Ah, the sodium. I haven’t bought ramen in years and years because of that darn sodium. Happily, today’s recipe will let us have our ramen and eat it, too!

    easy asian chicken noodle soup aka homemade ramen | from @janemaynard at thisweekfordinner.com

    You will need to buy one of those cheap-o packages of ramen for this recipe, but you’re going to throw the flavor packet in the trash where it belongs. Instead, we’ll use healthy, natural ingredients and just a bit of salt to create a yummy meal that’s perfect for kids, adults and college-kids alike!

    This recipe is fast to prepare and should be eaten immediately, so plan accordingly!

    easy asian chicken noodle soup aka homemade ramen | from @janemaynard at thisweekfordinner.com

    Easy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup (a.k.a. Homemade Ramen)
     
    Cook time
    Total time
     
    Adapted from a recipe in America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook
    Author:
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Soup, Poultry
    Cuisine: Asian
    Serves: 4
    Ingredients
    • ½ tablespoon vegetable oil
    • ½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded*
    • 2 green onions, sliced thin with greens separated from whites
    • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1 garlic clove, minced (I use my garlic press)
    • 3½ cups low-sodium or sodium-free chicken broth
    • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus extra as needed (a commenter mentioned that soy sauce can be high in sodium, so if you really want to cut back, try using low-sodium soy sauce or reducing the amount used)
    • 1 3-ounce package ramen noodles, flavor packet discarded
    • 1½ cups shredded coleslaw mix (I used a coleslaw mix made only with green cabbage)
    • 1½ cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
    • ½ tablespoon sesame oil, plus extra as needed
    • salt and pepper
    Instructions
    1. Heat vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add chopped white green onions (reserving the greens for later), ginger and garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
    2. Stir in chicken broth and soy sauce and bring to a simmer (you’ll want to turn the heat up to get it boiling gently, then reduce the heat to medium or so to maintain the simmer).
    3. Stir in ramen noodles and coleslaw and cook for 4 minutes.
    4. Add chicken and spinach and cook for 1 minute.
    5. Stir in the rest of the green onions and sesame oil. Mix together, taste, then add salt, pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil to taste. Serve immediately.
    Notes
    *Cook the chicken however is easiest for you – grill, sauté, boil, whatever!

     


  8. Monday, August 5

    Back to School Lunch Ideas

    I hate to use the words “Back to School” right now because it just reminds me that summer is ending in a few short weeks. But, alas, we are nearing that time of year and it’s time to get ready!

    lunch-ebookcover-1 (1)

    One of my least favorite things about the school year is packing lunches. For me the biggest challenges are providing variety as well as a balance of healthy food with what my kids will actually eat. It’s oh-so-fun! 😉

    Attune Foods recently asked me to contribute to a Back to School Lunch Ideas E-Book, using either their Uncle Sam cereal, Erewhon cereal or grahams. Chocolate-covered raisins ended up being my inspiration and I came up with a recipe that Cate could not stop eating. This new wholesome treat will definitely be making an appearance in her lunchbox this coming school year!

    Click here to download the free cookbook and see what recipe I created! Plus, you want to check out all the recipes as they were created by a group of food bloggers that I love!


  9. Friday, July 19

    Blueberry Breakfast Salad and Why Alison Sweeney and I Should Be Besties

    A month or so ago, a company reached out to see if I could attend a fun event in Los Angeles, where I would have the chance to meet and interview Alison Sweeney. Because of the move I couldn’t go to the event. And then, the very day of that event, I received an email from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council to see if I would like to interview (you guessed it) Alison Sweeney! For real, the gods want us to be besties. Hopefully Alison gets the memo, too!

    blueberry breakfast salad | thisweekfordinner.com

    Our family loves blueberries, especially Miss Cate, so I was more than happy to work with the Blueberry Council and ask Alison a few questions! July is National Blueberry Month. (I think we should all eat lots of muffins to celebrate.) The council and Alison Sweeney are spreading the word about how dynamic blueberries are and how they can add energy and flavor to our daily routine. To find out more about these Little Blue Dynamos, click here to visit their website!

    blueberry breakfast salad | thisweekfordinner.com

    As I was poking around the blueberry website myself, I came across a recipe for a Blueberry Breakfast Salad. I was intrigued by the idea of getting greens into our breakfast routine and clicked through. The recipe for the salad dressing caught my eye and I knew I had to give it a try. People, this dressing is SO GOOD. The salad was good, too – I loved the sweet crunch of granola mixed in. However, the dressing is the real find here. It is surprisingly savory, with just a hint of sweetness from the blueberries. Nate and I had several salads this week! (See recipe below!)

    Back to my new best friend Alison. Here is our interview!

    Jane: What is your favorite savory dish that uses blueberries?

    Alison: Hands down – Blueberry Turkey Burgers! My kids love the tangy blueberry surprise, such a burst of flavor in the burger. Plus, you feel very “Master Chef” preparing them – blueberries are the secret ingredient!

    Jane: How do you fit in exercise as a busy, working mom? (I know that question seems so cliché, but I really am so curious what your techniques are!)

    Alison: You must make it a priority to take care of yourself. Put your workouts on the calendar to ensure you make time to work out. Sometimes I’ll have time for a quick run, other times I’ll be able to take a spin or yoga class. If I can’t work out, I make sure I adjust my nutrition accordingly.

    Jane: Kids will be kids…how do make sure they eat their healthy foods? (Again, sort of cliché, but would love your insight!)

    Alison: Getting my kids involved in the kitchen is really important to me because eating habits form at a young age. One of our favorite hot-summer-day activities is making smoothies. Not only are they nutritious, they’re also easy and fun. Here’s a quick and easy blueberry smoothie recipe we love.

    Here are a few more tips from Alison about kid-friendly recipes (something I am always thinking about!):

    Now, for real, go eat some muffins and put this recipe in your recipe box!

    blueberry breakfast salad | thisweekfordinner.com

     

    Blueberry Breakfast Salad
     
    Author:
    Recipe type: Side Dish, Salad
    Ingredients
    • Mixed, torn salad greens: 2 pounds
    • Blueberry Vinaigrette: Recipe follows
    • Fresh blueberries: 4 cups
    • Fresh orange sections or canned mandarin oranges, drained: 4 cups
    • Granola : 2 cups
    Instructions
    1. Toss salad greens with 1½ cups of the Blueberry Vinaigrette. Divide the dressed greens among eight large plates. Arrange ½ cup orange sections and ½ cup blueberries on top of each salad. Sprinkle each salad with ¼ cup granola. Drizzle remaining dressing on top and serve immediately.

    Blueberry Vinaigrette
     
    Author:
    Recipe type: Salad Dressing
    Ingredients
    • 1 cup olive oil
    • 1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed
    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 2 teaspoons minced shallot
    • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
    • ½ teaspoon paprika
    Instructions
    1. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and process until mixture is smooth. Chill at least 30 minutes to blend flavors. Makes 2 cups.

    Please visit the Blueberry Council on FacebookTwitterYouTube and Pinterest for more inspiration and feel free to share how you plan to #BeDynamic this month!
    Thank you to the Blueberry Council for sponsoring this post. I was compensated for my work but, as always, all opinions are my own.


  10. Wednesday, July 10

    Dole Taste of Spain Salad Summit

    One of my favorite places on earth is the coast between Big Sur and Monterey. When we lived in the Bay Area, the Monterey/Carmel area was our go-to weekend getaway spot and we have many fond family memories from those trips. Both towns are quaint and fun, but the coastline is what we really love. It is, quite simply, breathtaking. About a month or so ago I was invited by the team at Dole Salads to visit beautiful Carmel and attend the Taste of Spain Salad Summit with a great group of bloggers. Of course I had to go!

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com

    The trip was really wonderful. I had the chance to connect and re-connect with some really lovely bloggers (see list here!), the Dole Salads team was wonderful to work with, and it was very interesting getting a peak into how Dole produces their food (more on that in a moment). Dole put us up at the Carmel Valley Ranch hotel (which was AMAZING) and fed us an abundance of Spanish-inspired food. It was heavenly!

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com

    As I often mention, I am constantly thinking about how food production and food consumption impact Mother Earth. My new year’s resolution each year is always focused on that theme. When I say I’m constantly thinking about environmental issues, I’m not exaggerating. It’s maybe kind of an obsession.

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com

    Over the years we’ve modified and cut back on our meat consumption in order to make a positive environmental impact. As a result, I’m always on board with getting people to eat more fruits and vegetables, no matter where the produce comes from. Produce always requires less water and energy for production than meat does, so by eating more of those foods we are automatically using less valuable resources.

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com

    But I am still also concerned about industrialized farming and the increased use of monoculture over the past few decades. The concern with monoculture is that by growing one particular crop over a large area, the plants are more susceptible to disease, which in turns necessitates the use of pesticides (bad for our bodies and the environment) or GMO plants (which are engineered to be resistent to bugs – the jury is still out on the impact of GMOs on our health and the environment).

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com

    Needless to say, I was very happy that Dole invited me on the trip and I couldn’t wait to see their farms and talk with them about how Dole produces food.

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com | farmer

    We started our day driving to the beautiful Salinas Valley, where more than 80% of our country’s salad greens are grown. First we met one of the Dole growers (a.k.a. farmers). He was kind, humble and obviously loved his job. This particular farmer was growing iceberg lettuce. We learned that the crops are constantly rotated and that any food left behind during harvest is tilled back into the soil. We also learned the Dole does not use GMO plants but that they do use some pesticides. When we talked with the farmer about this, he mentioned how he lives on the farm and is raising his children there, so obviously he uses as little as he possibly can. He also said that if there was more business/demand for organic, he would gladly switch to that type of farming. It was really great meeting and talking with him and seeing the passion he has for his job.

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com | harvest

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com | harvest

     

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com | harvest

     

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com | harvest

    Once the lettuce is grown, Dole hires harvesters to pick the produce. The farmer actually has no part in the harvest of the food. His job is to grow the food and keep the soil healthy. We watched a crew of harvesters picking lettuce and sending it up the conveyer belt, to be delivered to the packaging plant nearby. There were tanks of chlorinated water nearby, which is sprayed on the lettuce was soon as it is harvested. (More on the chlorinated water in a moment!)

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com | packaging

    Once the lettuce reaches the packaging plant, it is washed several times (in chlorinated and non-chlorinated water), cut, and packaged in super duper high-tech packaging that is designed to keep the lettuce fresh.

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com | hairnets

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com

    My big takeaways were as follows:

    • Safety is of the utmost importance to Dole. All along the process the food is kept safe with different rules and procedures, including hairnets for everyone at the farm!
    • Freshness is right up there with safety. From the way the food is handled to the packaging, every effort is made to deliver tasty, good-looking food to the consumer.
    • We asked specifically about the use of chlorinated water and were told that it is food-grade and used to keep the food safe. As a person who tries to eat produce as locally as possible and mostly organic, I must admit that the use of chlorinated water gave me pause. The thing is, there are a LOT of people to feed and we are demanding large amounts of the same types of foods, which necessitates these safety measures. I don’t think the chlorinated water used on this particular iceberg lettuce is necessarily hurting any of us on its own (and testing shows that it is safe), but I can’t help but wonder what the cumulative effect of all of the food we eat that is produced in this way has on our bodies and health, not to mention the environment. And I don’t know what the solution is. GMOs have not yet been proven to be harmful, but there are still big questions about their true impact. We know pesticides are no good, but if we aren’t using GMOs, we need the pesticides to produce large quantities of food. It really is a catch 22 and we just keep circling around and around. We need to feed people, that’s the bottom line. Right now, this is how it is done for the most part.
    • Dole tries to grow food as locally as possible. Obviously pineapples can’t be grown everywhere, but when they can,  Dole does grow food as close to the place where it will be bought as possible. Yes, it’s not true local farming, but it is a start and I appreciate a large corporation making that effort.
    • Dole also produces organic products. Let’s demand more of it so we can start to shift how our food is produced! We hold the keys to change!

    The trip provided a great deal of food for thought (pun intended!) for me. I’m really glad I had the chance to talk with Dole and see first-hand what they are all about. The company has a really positive vibe and I walked away from the weekend feeling good, even with the bigger questions about our food system bumping about my brain.

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com

    Thank you to Dole for inviting me to attend the Taste of Spain Salad Summit. I am so happy they included me on the trip! Now, everyone go eat some salad!

    For Dole recipes and to enter the Taste of Spain giveaway (you could win a $40,000 trip to Spain!), please visit www.dolesalads.com.