Before I make my New Year’s resolutions for the coming year, I wanted to take a look back at a few of my favorite blog posts from 2010.

This is the QR code for my blog!

Business Cards was one of my first posts. I received a lot of great feedback from people who found it helpful because they were not in the habit of always carrying a business card. (Now they are!) For 2011, we are adding a QR (quick response) code to all our company business cards that links directly to this blog! QR codes have been a big trend this year. They are basically a barcode that smart phones can “scan” and it takes you to a website or video or whatever virtual space you designate.

What’s it like working with my sister was kind of cathartic for me. Many of us know families in business and sorting out those “work” relationships from the “personal” relationships can be a challenge.

Teaching your kids about money gives you some ideas and tools to make better consumers out of your kids. I have taken some of my own advice, too!

Time is a precious thing reminds me to make the time to spend with family and friends. At the end of each year, I find myself putting more lunches and coffees with friends on my calendar because I get a little more sentimental.

A salad bar in every school is about a great program launched in the produce industry to encourage our youngest consumers (school-age children) to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. I think every one of us should find some way to help change the consumption patterns of the young.

I was afraid of Kale was a great excuse for me to introduce myself to a new veggie! I had never eaten a raw kale salad before, but once I tried it I was hooked! Recently I stir-fried some kale for dinner…and, although chewy, it was a nice break from the spinach I eat so much of!

Just last night, my good friend, Tina, sent me a text asking me why Pine Nuts are so high priced right now! I immediately called her and told her I would write my next blog about Pine Nuts! Also, I asked her to send me a story idea at least once a month, because it’s always a challenge to make sure my blog posts are relevant.

If there’s a produce item you have a question about (any question), please let me know here.

Happy New Year!

Several months ago, I shared success stories about our summer interns. Our fourth intern joined the company in September and his last day was December 17. This particular intern was special in many ways.

Rolff Vladimir Mitton, a native of Haiti, is a third year student at EARTH University in Costa Rica, and as part of his mandatory studies, he applied to 15 different organizations (companies, universities, etc.) before deciding to join Frieda’s for his three-month internship. EARTH requires all third year students to go out into the “real world” and start to apply the principles they have been studying.

Rolff’s interests are in the area of plant genetics, but he was fascinated with a specialty produce company and we were thrilled that he decided to join us.

Almost a dozen EARTH students applied for the Frieda’s internship this year, so choosing the ideal candidate was a challenge. We were not able to meet the applicants in person in Costa Rica, so we chose to interview them via SKYPE. Technology can be an amazing enabler!

For those of you who are considering having an intern — whether a U.S. or international student — here are some of the little things we did to make Rolff feel welcome:

During my first lunch with Rolff, I found out that he is the National Badminton Champion of Costa Rica for 2009 and 2010, for both men’s doubles and mixed doubles!

Before he left, I asked him to share with us his feelings about his internship:

“During these 13 weeks I was able to be part of the Business Development team and work on many projects that helped me learn the true values of professionalism. My final project, the customer relationship management (CRM) assessment, taught me how important it is in the business world to relate efficiently with customers. I was able to complete this project, along with a PowerPoint presentation on my final day, with recommendations for a new CRM for Frieda’s. On a personal side, I got to live with two Frieda’s employees and enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with the Caplan family. I will definitely miss my Frieda’s Inc. family.”

I sincerely recommend that every company and organization consider giving back and have an intern. The key to success is two-fold: Make sure the work they do is meaningful to the company. And be sure a senior level person at the company is committed to their success and stays in touch with them.

Paying it forward will definitely pay off!


Have you ever noticed that small tubs or bags of Blackeyed Peas suddenly become available in your local produce department this time of year? There is a good reason!

There is a Southern tradition which says that to ensure good luck and prosperity in the New Year, you should eat Blackeyed Peas and greens on New Year’s Day. (The peas symbolize coins and the greens represent “greenbacks” or dollars.) That’s why recipes for Hoppin’ John — a Blackeyed Pea and rice dish — are so prevalent at this time.

So, our company saw this as a great marketing opportunity more than 45 years ago! Frieda was approached by a young man, Rollo Miller, who had found a way to soak dried Blackeyed Peas in water and salts (in a secret process) that allowed the beans to become “quick cooking.” Miller’s pre-soaked peas could be cooked up in 10 to 12 minutes, instead of in the 2 to 3 hour soaking and cooking process needed for dry peas. Maybe it was the original “convenience food” in the produce department.

Frieda started offering these fast-cooking Blackeyed Peas to all her customers around the country. No one else was doing this at the time. She figured that everyone was interested in good luck and prosperity, so she was able to convince retailers from Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles (and of course in Atlanta and all over the South) to stock them!

Each December, our warehouse fills up with thousands of cases of Blackeyed Peas and we ship them out to supermarket produce departments across the country. Over the years, many other companies have figured out the process to produce these quick-cooking peas, so you may see other brands.

Some people still like to start from scratch by soaking the dried Blackeyed Peas, and others try the frozen or canned versions. We think it’s all good…as prosperity and good luck comes in many packages.

My family always cooks up Blackeyed Peas to enjoy for New Year’s. Even though we aren’t from the South, we partake in this tradition.

Almost 20 years ago, we developed one of our most popular recipes in our test kitchen using Blackeyed Peas. (It’s actually one of my personal favorites from my Purple Kiwi Cookbook.) We combined the rich flavor of the peas with spicy Habanero chiles. I highly recommend you try it!

Habanero Chile Chili
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. lean round steak, cubed
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped red and/or green bell peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 16-oz. can kidney beans
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 16-oz. can tomato sauce – low sodium
1 cup beef broth
1 11-oz. tub Frieda’s Fast Cooking Blackeyed Peas (or 2 6.5-oz. pkgs. Frieda’s Dried Blackeyed Peas, cooked according to package directions and drained)
1-2 Frieda’s Dried Habanero Chiles, rehydrated, seeded and minced
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Frieda’s Bay Leaf
1 cup niblet corn – low sodium
Salt to taste
Shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Warm tortillas

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven. Brown the steak in the oil on all sides. Remove form the pan with a slotted spoon. Drain the drippings. Heat 2 tablespoons oil. Sauté the onion, bell pepper and garlic in the oil for 3 minutes. Stir in the beef, undrained kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, Blackeyed Peas, Habanero chiles, cilantro, basil, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaf.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat. Simmer, partially covered, for 35 to 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the corn and salt. Cook for 5 minutes longer. Discard the bay leaf. Ladle the chili into bowls. Top with shredded cheese. Serve with warm tortillas. Makes 8 servings.

Wishing you lots of good luck in the New Year!


Is it just me, or does it seem that everyone has a close friend or family member who is ill or in the hospital? It could be the time of year. Or it could just be life.

It used to be that computers and social networking (Facebook, email, texting) were seen as intrusions into our privacy. However, I want to share a short email I received last week from a dear lifelong friend who is stuck in a Pittsburgh hospital.

My friend Jan lives in Chicago. She was diagnosed with an illness and it turns out that the best treatment was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. So she and her husband Tim, relocated temporarily so she could get treatment.

I’ve been very worried about Jan, and of course did not want to burden her husband with phone calls. I took a chance and sent an email to Jan, hoping that someone was checking her email.

Within a day, I got an email response from Jan herself! All that worry I was harboring subsided. It was as if I could hear Jan’s cheerful, measured voice each time I read her emails.

Now I am getting an email update daily from her husband and it feels like I am right there as Jan gets better. Occasionally, Jan sends me a personal email. This is what she wrote to me last week:

Thanks for all the kind words and prayers. I’m keeping current on what’s happening on “Karen’s Plate” and enjoying that. I do think computers are one of the most under-recognized medicinal treatments. Once I was hooked in, I definitely had a lift in my spirits.


Hmmm…Computers as medicinal treatment. What a concept!

Next time your kid is home sick from school, you or your spouse is home ill from work, or if you have a loved one in the hospital, make sure they have access to a computer (a net book or iPad works just fine and is so much more portable) and their email. I bet they would get well quicker because they can feel connected to their friends, family and the world!

Stay connected!

I realize that grapefruit has gotten a lot of bad press in the past few years, mostly because they have been linked to potential medication interactions. Since the main consumers of grapefruit and grapefruit juice have traditionally been those who take medicines (and are over 50 years of age), it’s no surprise that consumption of grapefruit has declined. However, some sources say that the grapefruit drug interaction is limited and a bit overblown by the media, causing grapefruit farmers a lot of trouble.

I still love grapefruit. And since winter is citrus season in the U.S., I’ve started eating grapefruits again, particularly a special grapefruit hybrid called the Oroblanco. This variety is so delicious and low-acid, I have to tell you about it.

Oroblanco (translation: white gold) is a cross developed at the University of California-Riverside in 1958. It’s actually a hybrid between a white grapefruit and a pummelo (the giant Chinese citrus fruit). The amazing thing about the Oroblanco is there is no bitterness! Yes, you read that correctly: a grapefruit that is not bitter!

Russ Parsons, the food editor at the Los Angeles Times, has written several articles about Oroblancos over the years. (here, here and here.) Every once in a while I run into Russ at the local mall or at a dinner at a mutual friends’ house. Just last month, Russ and my mother, Frieda, were emailing back and forth about the virtues of Oroblancos:

Frieda: Russ, one of the first times we ever met — at a Rare Fruit gathering — you and I both agreed that one of the best citrus we had ever come across was the Oroblanco. I remember “sticking my neck out” when people kept asking me what the next kiwifruit would be. I was so firmly convinced that it would be the Oroblanco because of the taste and excellent shelf life — two of the qualities that made Kiwifruit easy to promote.

What happened? In your travels around the country, have you seen any signs of life on the Oroblanco? I have not changed my mind about its qualities and I still think there is an important place for it.

Russ: I’m with you 100 percent. As you know, I’ve been banging that drum myself:

1993: The oro blanco grapefruit, on the other hand, is appreciated mostly for its sweetness. Think of it as a white “pink” grapefruit, though the taste is a bit more complex. It too has a thicker-than-normal rind.

2007: Oroblancos: With an almost ideal balance of sweet and tart and a delicious piney flavor, the Oroblanco is a favorite grapefruit of many farmers market shoppers. Except that technically it’s not a grapefruit but a cross between a grapefruit and a pummelo. Introduced in the 1980s, the Oroblanco has had a checkered history commercially. At first it was praised as being California’s answer to Texas’ ruby and pink grapefruits (it was developed at UC Riverside). But it turned out that in the early part of its season, even though the fruit was ripe, it could still have a deep green peel. This turned off buyers, and gradually farmers stopped planting the trees. But then a funny thing happened: Israeli farmers starting putting in Oroblancos, calling them “Sweeties” and making that green color a selling point. And they started exporting them to Japan, where the sweet fruit found an eager audience. Now, plantings in California are again on the upswing.

Well, Oroblanco is back in season. They do have a green-tinged outside skin, but the inside flesh is pale yellow. They are so sweet and juicy. I have seen them at all my local supermarkets. I encourage you to try one, as I think you’ll enjoy the sweet flavor and the boost of Vitamin C.

I love Oroblancos so much that I featured this Oroblanco Sorbet recipe in my cookbook (The Purple Kiwi Cookbook):

Oroblanco Sorbet
This sorbet is incredibly delicious due to the low acidity of the fruit. You don’t need and ice cream maker to prepare it — a metal pan works fine.

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
3 Frieda’s Oroblanco grapefruit, cut into halves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes, or until mixture is close to room temperature.

Grate 1 teaspoon of grapefruit peel from 1 of the grapefruit. Cut all the grapefruit into halves and squeeze the juice. Pour the juice through a strainer into a large bowl. You should have about 13/4 cups juice. Stir in the cooled sugar syrup, grapefruit peel and lemon juice.

Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Serve, or freeze in a tightly sealed freezer container until serving time. Makes 4 servings.

Tip: To make this ice cream without an ice cream maker, freeze the fruit purée in a shallow metal pan until firm. Break up the frozen mixture with a fork. Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Cover the mixture and freeze again until firm. You may repeat the freezing and beating steps for a smoother, finer texture. Let stand 15 to 20 minutes to soften before serving.


Or you can spell it Chanukah… Jews around the world spell it many different ways, but it’s always the same 8-day-long holiday that falls in either late November or December each year.

So why do the dates of Hanukkah change each year? Because according to the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah falls on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. The Jewish calendar is different from the solar calendar we use in our daily lives. Each of the 12 months on the Jewish calendar are either 29 to 30 days long, and every two to three years, an extra month is added in the spring — much like our leap year adds a day every four years.

As with all Jewish holidays, Hanukkah — the Festival of Lights — commemorates an important historical event. This event was the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt in 2nd century B.C. You can find out more details here.

You may not know this, but because the Festival of Lights was about there being enough oil left in the Temple to burn for eight days, it’s part of the Hanukkah ritual to eat foods fried in oil. So, our family fries the traditional latkes, which are potato pancakes, and we serve fried jelly doughnuts for dessert. (We get the doughnuts at Krispy Kreme).

We call our dinner the “Latke Party,” and it’s a whole family event. We start at about one in the afternoon when my daughters Alex and Sophia grate the potatoes and onions. My husband Garry makes sure the potatoes are well-drained because it’s his job to fry to latkes. He gets two big skillets and fries them for hours. His son Chad comes in from Houston and spends the afternoon supervising Garry’s work.

Around 5 p.m., the family begins to arrive. This year our family Hanukkah dinner will not be until December 19 (after Hanukkah is officially over), because we want our college-aged students home for this important family gathering.

All of our individual families bring our own menorah (the candelabra with nine candles — more details here.) We read the same Hanukkah story that Jackie and I read as children. Then one by one, we light about seven different menorahs, and our kitchen is suddenly filled with light and joy.

Then we feast on latkes and other traditional Hanukkah foods. We exchange gifts, but that is a small part of our Hanukkah ritual. It’s really about honoring our family history, enjoying culinary traditions and spending time together.

Hanukkah this year started at sundown on Wednesday, December 1. (All Jewish holidays start at sundown the night before.) Our family will gather around the menorah and light candles and say the traditional prayers each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.

No matter what your family tradition is at this time of year, I hope you will pause to honor those traditions and be grateful for those you have around you. It is a wonderful time to show appreciation and love!

Happy Holidays!

This is not a Yam!

I hope each of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your family and friends. We had our usual group of about 25 people, including the immediate family plus a few close friends who are “like family” to us.

Although I didn’t serve them at this year’s dinner, there always seems to be a debate about “Yams vs. Sweet potatoes.”

Are they really the same thing?

Do they have the same taste and texture?

Why are they often confused?

So I did a little research, because frankly, I was a bit confused. What I found out was very interesting.

First of all, I would recommend you NOT use the word YAMS…because I seriously doubt that what you’ll find in the supermarket during the holidays are true YAMS. (Even though they are often labeled as “yams.”) The name YAM probably came from the African word NYAMI referring to the edible root of the Dioscorea species and they are a tuber, and originated in about 50,000 BC. They are scaly skinned and have a kind of dry mouth feel and starchy taste. They are actually LOW in Vitamin A. (There are, however, parts of the country that sell Latin roots which are part of the yam family.)

In contrast, there are many varieties of SWEET POTATOES…with different outside skin colors, flesh colors and degrees of moisture and sweetness. I am guessing that North Carolina is the “sweet potato capital of the United States,” as that’s where I found the most detailed information.

SWEET POTATOES are actually from the Morning Glory plant family and the orange-fleshed varieties ARE high in Vitamin A. They were discovered in prehistoric times! The mouth feel is moist and the taste is sweet.

Can you tell the difference now?

Check out the photos here of the top nine produced varieties of sweet potatoes in North Carolina. Orange fleshed, white fleshed and purple fleshed — they are all true sweet potatoes.

My brother-in-law Doug always talks about the “Garnet” variety with extra enthusiasm because of its taste, but is always frustrated that they aren’t widely available. So I did a little bit of research and it was interesting to find out there is a producer in Florida who grows Garnet “Yams” (which are really Garnet Sweet Potatoes), but clearly it is not so easy to get them here in California. Maybe next year I will mail order some for him!

So, now that I have cleared up the confusion on Sweet Potatoes, I have some encouraging news! Many grocery stores are now stocking pre-cut sticks of fresh sweet potatoes for healthy sweet potato fries (baked or steamed). I’ve found them in all my local stores. They are a flavorful alternative when you want to serve a new veggie to your family. Sometimes I include them in my lunch and just micro-cook them for 2-3 minutes. Yum!

Hope you enjoy your holidays!