At this time of year, we get kind of crazy in the office and sometimes use “Feeling Lucky?” as the subject line of our emails. While it certainly can get our recipients’ attention (if it doesn’t get spam-blocked), our real reason for this subject is that we sell Blackeyed Peas!

You may know that it is a Southern tradition to eat Blackeyed Peas and “greens” on New Year’s Day to bring good luck and prosperity. The greens — mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens or kale (all cooked in bacon fat, of course) — symbolize “greenbacks” (dollars) and the Blackeyed Peas symbolize coins.

Frieda’s has been selling pre-soaked, quick-cooking Blackeyed Peas for more than 40 years, and every year our warehouse refrigerators are filled to the rafters with boxes of these good luck beans. (We call them BEPs for short.)

I mentioned that it’s a Southern tradition to eat the Blackeyed Peas on New Year’s day. Many years ago, a woman named Cathy Perkins worked at Frieda’s — a true marketing genius. Cathy realized that EVERYONE wants good luck in the New Year, so she decided that Frieda’s should convince supermarket produce buyers to sell them nationwide.

So, if you live in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Atlanta, Houston, Southern California, or anywhere in between, you should be able to find Blackeyed Peas in your local supermarket produce department. I wish I could say that Frieda’s brand BEPs were the only ones you would find, but good news travels fast and we now have dozens of “competitors” all over the United States. That’s OK with us – it’s typical of product life cycles. (By the way, you can also find Blackeyed Peas in the frozen foods and dried bean sections.)

When we first introduced BEPs to non-Southern consumers, we had to provide recipes. The easiest way to make Blackeyed Peas is to boil them until tender and then add butter and salt and pepper to taste (I like them this way). But, the classic recipe for Blackeyed Peas on New Year’s is Hoppin’ John.

Frankly, we found the recipe a little mundane, so about 20 years ago, after we introduced Habanero Chile Peppers (which are 100 times hotter than a Jalapeno Chile), we decided to create a recipe using both Blackeyed Peas and Habanero Chiles – Habanero Chile Chili. This became my all time favorite Frieda’s recipe and is featured in my Purple Kiwi Cookbook.

If you’re in the mood to cook on New Year’s and you like freshly made chili, try this fantastic and flavorful recipe. And thank you to our former recipe developer and long time friend, Marlene Brown Oliphant, for creating this amazing recipe.

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.

So, Happy New Year and I wish you lots of prosperity and good health!


I’m sure you never gave a thought to how you ended up with a piece of lemon in your water when you go out to a restaurant. You probably figured that it was always that way.

Well, guess what? There is actually a person who came up with this idea. And his name is Joe.

Me with Joe Stubbs and Mom (Frieda)

Joe Stubbs. Retired executive in charge of foodservice sales for Sunkist Growers.

I had lunch with Joe last week at our local delicatessen and it was so much fun to hear his story.

He told me that he never finished high school and went into the Navy. When he got out of the Navy, he ended up working as a bellman at a local hotel in Long Beach. He is such a personable guy, I can see why he was successful. He eventually went on to work in sales for a meat company and finally made his way to Sunkist.

Right away, he was put in charge of foodservice sales for Sunkist. I am guessing there weren’t a lot of citrus items they could sell to restaurants and institutions at that time. After all, back in the 1970s, it was basically oranges (for juicing and cut pieces), grapefruit (halves were served for breakfast) and lemons (as an ingredient).

The way Joe told the story was this:

One of the “BIG” hotel chains back then was the Park Hyatt. It was the high-end part of the HYATT HOTEL chain. Joe was visiting them in Chicago and was in the kitchen. (When you are in foodservice sales, in order to talk with the chef – who is the decision maker – you end up spending a lot of time in the kitchen.)

Joe saw this big Globe slicer, which was used for cutting thin slices of potatoes and meat. Joe got an idea. He recognized that the chef of the Park Hyatt chain was looking for ways to make his boutique upscale hotel chain and its restaurants stand out. How about floating a thin slice of fresh lemon in every diner’s water glass? That would look pretty upscale, right?

I’m sure Joe had a bag of lemons with him, and showed the chef how easy it was to slice them using their existing Globe slicer.

The Park Hyatt restaurants were immediately seen as a “cut above” other hotel restaurants.

And that’s how it started!

Not a surprise that this idea caught on. When a chef gets a great food or garnish idea – it is always copied (or built upon) by other chefs. And as chefs move from restaurant to restaurant as they advance in their career, they take their ideas with them.

As a side note, that’s one of the reasons the Kiwifruit caught on. Even though Frieda’s introduced this fuzzy fruit to consumers through supermarkets in 1962, it was not until the 1970s, when chefs like Alice Waters, Wolfgang Puck and Jeremiah Tower, started to garnish their desserts with fresh sliced Kiwifruit. They started a trend, and by the 1980s, Kiwifruit caught on!

Back to Joe and the lemons. Joe’s career at Sunkist lasted 28 years and he retired a few years ago. Just this past summer, he was invited to an industry foodservice conference. It was the 30th anniversary of the conference and Joe was recognized as one of the masterminds of the original conference.

Joe had many stories to share last week at lunch. After the lemon story, he started to tell us about how he got restaurants to serve freshly squeezed orange juice. Can you believe this guy? He’s full of a lot of creative ideas.

Actually, as we were finishing up lunch, he started sharing his thoughts on how we should celebrate our company’s 50th anniversary in 2012. Stay tuned for that one!

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.


This past weekend, I had 30 family members over for our annual Hanukkah Dinner. I always serve homemade latkes (potato pancakes) with applesauce and sour cream as part of the meal. In addition to the latkes, I like to make the applesauce from scratch.

I have found that homemade applesauce is very easy to make. Actually, one of my favorite cookbook authors, and personal friend, is Joan Nathan. Her cookbook, Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook, is my “go-to” reference guide for preparing Hanukkah dinner.

As I began to make her Homemade Applesauce Recipe, I grabbed a couple of lemons out of my refrigerator to add to the pot.

Darn – I had to pick out the seeds.

Then I had an Aha! moment. I realized exactly why Seedless Lemons were invented…for the chef and home cook. You don’t have to stop and remove the seeds before squeezing the juice into a recipe.

Have you heard of Seedless Lemons? They’ve been around for a few years and more and more growers have planted them, so you will probably be seeing them in your local produce department. I predict they will be the “new citrus fruit” this season.

Here is a little known anecdote about them. One of our California State Universities, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, has a very active and world-renowned agriculture business department. Each year, students in the ag-business program participate in the NAMA (National Agri-Marketing Association) competition. Dozens of teams from various ag schools around the country compete each spring by developing and presenting a marketing plan to a stiff panel of judges from the business world.

This past spring, the Cal-Poly NAMA Team submitted a business plan for Seedless Lemons. Actually, they won the national competition (for the 8th time in 22 years)! We are so proud of the team – you can read about the story here.

Interestingly, it was about 30 years ago that this same NAMA team from Cal Poly collaborated with Frieda’s Specialty Produce to put together a marketing plan for a then little-known product: Oriental Stir-Fry Vegetables. And guess what? They won the national competition that year as well, and the product became one of our best-selling produce items.

I will be looking for Seedless Lemons at my local store, as I know it will save me time in the kitchen. They will be in season for about 4 to 5 months.

Tonight, like Jewish families around the world, my family and I will be lighting the Hanukkah candles to commemorate the Festival of Lights. We will do so for eight nights, adding an additional candle each night, until our Menorah (candelabra) is completely filled eight days from now.

We wish you a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, a Happy Kwanzaa and a Healthy New Year!

Most importantly, we wish you a year of Peace.


With only 10 days left until Christmas, many people are struggling to find the “perfect gift” for a family member or close friend.

I don’t like the “mandatory” gift giving. You know what I mean. A friend of yours lets you know that they bought you a gift — putting you on notice that you better get them something too.

Over the years, I have gotten much more pleasure from thoughtfully selecting a gift that reminds me of someone (even if it’s not for a special occasion), than buying a less thoughtful “mandatory” holiday gift.

This is exactly what I did in Texas this past weekend. I walked into a boutique bath shop and was reminded of my friend M. So, for no special reason, I surprised her with a few soaps and bath salts that I knew she would love and matched her “girls only” bathroom at home. My note to her was just “Thinking of you.”

Better yet, when you have friends who really have EVERYTHING, why not celebrate them and your friendship by making a donation to a cause that you both find important.

One of the great things about my mother, Frieda, is that she is an amazing “clipping service” for me. Thanks to the Internet and email, if she reads an article of interest, she can forward it to me with two clicks. Instead of being annoyed with her regular stream of emails saying, “Thought you would find this of interest,” I have actually begun to open her emails with great anticipation and glee as she forwards me so many interesting things.

Last week, she forwarded a December 4th Op-Ed piece from the New York Times entitled: “Gifts That Say You Care,” by Nicholas D. Kristof.

I was intrigued with his opening line:

GIVE Grandma a bit of credit! These holidays, would she rather receive a silly reindeer sweater or help a schoolchild acquire glasses to see the blackboard clearly for the first time? 

You can read the entire article here.

That’s exactly how I feel. No more silly gifts for people who don’t need them. Share a little bit of wealth by significantly improving the quality of life for someone you do not know.

Now, if this seems too impersonal for you, or you just HAVE to bring a gift – try what my good friend Betsy does. This weekend we will be attending her holiday party and each of the guests must bring a “white elephant” item. White Elephant? Yes, we can clean out our closets or garage and find an item or two that is “like new” that we do not want or need. We wrap it up (to disguise it) and do a modified gift exchange.

What a great way to share the love! From my family to yours, have a happy, safe and peaceful holiday season.

A little peace here. A little peace there. And perhaps someday peace everywhere.


I was in San Antonio this past weekend visiting with friends and I was so happy that the hotel we were staying in had a good gym. (The Embassy Suites around Texas are pretty decent.)

So, early Saturday morning, after a swig of coffee, I was down at the gym. There were not too many people working out, but there was one energetic woman running on the treadmill, sweating like crazy.

As I started my treadmill walking-backwards routine, she and I began talking. Turns out, Julie (that’s her name) was in town all week for a national oncology conference. Julie is 35 years old, and a research doctor for a large pharmaceutical company in Boston.

Not sure how we got on this subject, but she told me that she has always been an avid runner. However, about two years ago, she woke up and could not move her lower body.

Turns out she had developed hip dysplasia. (I honestly thought only dogs got this condition. Learn more here.) After more than a dozen surgeries on her left side and one surgery on her right, she was told she would never walk, let alone run again.

But, she told me that one day, she decided she was going to stop believing what her doctors told her and threw her cane out the window! (No, she did not hurt anyone.)

And she started pushing herself to walk, and then finally run. She shared that her normal workout is two hours a day running on the treadmill and one hour of weight-lifting.

I was inspired beyond belief as I talked with this amazing woman. Just two years ago she could not get on a treadmill or do simple things that I take for granted. She just said, “I can.” No matter what obstacle was in front of her – she overcame it.

So I decided right then and there, that, I too, could do what seems impossible to me. Being fit through regular exercise is such an important part of being healthy that I decided if Julie could do it, then I most certainly can.

Will you join me? As we go into the craziness of the holidays and the New Year, I challenge you to make a commitment to your own personal fitness. Make a commitment to a regular exercise regime. I know it is different for each of us, but make a commitment.

And push yourself to go beyond what is comfortable. Just think – Julie did!

Happy Exercising,

The wonderful thing about this time of year is that California-grown citrus is in season and is being harvested daily!

I have so many friends who are growers and I have learned that freshly harvested fruit can taste completely different (and better) from fruit that has been in storage. From November through March I love to try different “new crop” citrus.

Last year I wrote about some wonderful things happening in the orange and mandarin world, and as each week or two goes by, different varieties become available in your local supermarket, and especially at the farmers market. You can find out more about the mandarins and their seasons here.

Well, the same applies to grapefruit. Of course there are the usual white or pink grapefruit varieties. Unfortunately, grapefruit has gotten some bad press in the last few years. Although this doesn’t apply to every person or prescription, there has been a lot of press highlighting the negative interactions grapefruit has with certain cholesterol-lowering medicines.

But for most people, eating grapefruit is just fine. It is refreshing, and of course, almost everyone has heard of the “grapefruit diet,” so if you are trying to lose weight or get in shape, there’s a good chance that you might be eyeing those grapefruits during your shopping trip.

Earlier this week I took a road trip with two colleagues and we ended our day in a grove of Oroblancos. Oroblanco (translation from Spanish: “white gold”) is an amazingly delicious low-acid white grapefruit.

Oroblanco grapefruit

You can see that the outside rind is a pale green – which might lead you to believe that it is not sweet and ready to eat. But I can tell you, the fruit’s flavor was amazing. Juicy. Low acid. Mouth watering. Even though the outside rind is green. Color is not an indicator of ripeness and sweetness. Actually I was reminded yesterday that there are citrus standards for picking fruit, which are regulated by the California Department of Agriculture. Our grower told me that they have to measure the sugar (called brix) before they can even harvest.

As we stood in the citrus grove at dusk, enjoying Oroblancos, I was reminded of my mom. As I told our grower friends, many years ago my mother proclaimed that Oroblanco is her favorite fruit and each year she can’t wait for the season to begin.

So, we grabbed a few empty mesh bags from our grower’s truck and we started harvesting Oroblancos. We put two large bags of them in the trunk of my car. I knew my mom would enjoy them back at the office.

I couldn’t help myself – and decided to harvest a few other samples… I picked some Moro Blood Oranges (Even though they are yellowish orange on the outside, you can see that the inside has the trademark dark red color.), some seedless and variegated lemons and a giant Buddha’s Hand Citron.

Moro Blood Orange
Variegated Lemons on the tree
Buddha’s Hand (Fingered Citron) on tree

As the sun was starting to set, we couldn’t help but stop and enjoy the beautiful view. I recently got a new camera and am enjoying taking photos for our picture library. Here is a view of the orchard at nearly 5 o’clock in the afternoon. It was 50 degrees and you could tell winter was just around the corner.

Well, this city girl sure enjoyed her trek into the country this week. And the best part is that I have plenty of Oroblanco grapefruits to enjoy now that I am back home.

So, when you see Oroblancos in your supermarket produce department or at the farmers market – and you are wondering if that green-tinged skin means they are ripe – take a chance and buy one. You won’t be disappointed.

And – for an easy recipe, try one of my favorites: Oroblanco Sorbet (from my Purple Kiwi Cookbook).


I was giving a tour of the Frieda’s warehouse last week, and as our visitors walked through the refrigerated coolers, opening boxes and asking questions, one of them asked, “What do you do with those cute little things?”

She was referring to our spiky orange Horned Melons.

I explained to her that Horned Melons (aka Kiwanos) taste like a combination of cucumber, lime and banana (but are a little slimy), and they make a great conversation piece. (We actually have a fun little video about these odd fruits on YouTube.)

As I spoke, an idea popped into my head. Wouldn’t these Horned Melons, and many more of our unusual looking fruits, make great centerpieces?!

Voila! Check out this decorative holiday centerpiece!

Can you tell there are half a dozen Zululand Queen Baby Pineapples in this beautiful arrangement? And in between are little Lady Apples with a bright red blush.

In addition to the decorative pine needles, you can also see a few Cinnamon Sticks, which add to the wonderful smell.

And depending on what you use to mount these exotic fruits (you can use bamboo skewers), this is also an edible centerpiece!

As you get your home ready for the holidays, whether you are hosting a party or just sprucing up the place, don’t forget the produce department for some fresh inspiration!



I was giving a tour of our warehouse last week, and as our visitors walked through the refrigerated coolers, opening boxes and asking questions, one of them asked, “What do you do with those cute little things?”

She was referring to our spiky orange Horned Melons.

I explained to her that Horned Melons (aka Kiwanos) taste like a combination of cucumber, lime and banana (but are a little slimy), and they make a great conversation pieced. As I spoke, an idea popped into my head. Wouldn’t these Horned Melons, and many more of our unusual looking fruits, make great centerpieces?!


Check out this decorative holiday centerpiece.

Can you tell there are half a dozen Zululand Queen Baby Pineapples in this beautiful arrangement? And in between are little Lady Apples with a bright red blush.

In addition to the decorative pine needles, you can also see a few Cinnamon Sticks which add to the wonderful smell.

And depending on what you use to mount these exotic fruits (you can use a bamboo skewers, which can be purchased at the grocery store) – this is also an edible centerpiece!

As you get your home ready for the holidays, whether you are hosting a party or just sprucing up the place, don’t forget the produce department for some fresh inspiration!



Yes, I had to pass up the chance to personally meet Diane Keaton earlier this week. It all came about as a result of my last post on Finger Limes (aka Lime Caviar).

Well, I really should start at the beginning of the story, which was about 20 years ago. I forget exactly how I was introduced to Chef June Pagan, but it was through a mutual friend. June ended up cooking at my house several times (20 years ago) and what I liked best about her was her quest to use only the freshest and healthiest ingredients. She calls it “clean cooking.”

You can check out her website here,, and what you’ll see is her personal quest to optimize flavor, health value and cost for those people she personally cooks for.

June and I lost touch with each other (as we were busy having families, etc.) and we somehow reconnected a few years ago. I invited her to our offices, as she had developed some new products and wanted my feedback.

In preparation for her visit, I told my team that she was the personal chef to Hollywood celebrities like Sally Field, Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, and Elizabeth Taylor. Yes, THAT Elizabeth Taylor (RIP).

Actually, June revels (in a very low-key way) about how Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite was the “Fried Chicken” that she created for Ms. Taylor when she needed to lose weight before a movie shoot. (June loves challenges.)

(I have to admit that part of the reason I wanted June to prepare recipes for us was because I thought it would sound amazing to say that she cooked for all those hip and cool celebrities…and my family!)

June and I continue to exchange emails, visit every once in a while, and at the holidays she often sends me samples of her gluten-free, sugar-free holiday goodies. And she subscribes to my blog.

So earlier this week, after she read my blog post on Finger Limes, she wrote to me:

Mmmmm, sounds intriguing, many possibilities.
Where can I find them? I’d love to play around with some.

Hope your holidays are warm and cozy,

I wrote back to her that in her area, she should probably go to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.

She then shared her newest passion, the Urban Survival Kitchen, a program that is in the early stages of development and hopefully, will be incorporated into the CASAA program (Culinary Arts and Sustainable Agriculture Academy) at Venice High School here in So Cal. It’s designed to help teens learn how to access and cook inexpensive but healthy and tasty meals for themselves and their families.

Isn’t that a great idea? Teach teens how to cook healthier meals! I love it!

And now, back to Diane Keaton. Since June used to cook for Diane, she planned to meet up with her at the local bookstore on that particular evening and invited me to tag along. She was going to ask Diane about supporting her new project, The Urban Survival Kitchen.

Unfortunately, I already had other plans for the evening, but it’s always good to know that whether I want to learn how to make healthier recipes (be sure to check out her website) or I want to be introduced to a celebrity, I can always call June.

Don’t I have some interesting friends?