It felt so good to squeeze in a week of vacation. I asked my husband, Garry, to find a relaxing destination within driving distance since I am constantly traveling by plane.
Hello Scottsdale, Arizona!
I was pleasantly surprised to find some great restaurants here that allowed me to indulge my inner foodie. With food being my passion, I always challenge myself to have a new food experience wherever I go. But I was determined to maintain a healthy diet during 7 days of eating out.
Our first find, Blanco Tacos + Tequila, caught our eye while driving down Scottsdale Road. We both love Mexican food and the parking lot was filled with cars at 2 p.m. so we had a hunch it was going to be good.
Blanco was amazing! We tried their homemade guacamole and I ordered celery and carrot sticks for dipping (the server didn’t even flinch) instead of tortilla chips.
Going through the menu, the Grilled Shrimp salad caught my eye. This photo doesn’t do it justice, but you can see all the healthy and fresh ingredients: cabbage, lettuce, jicama, celery, cucumber, cilantro and radish with a light lime vinaigrette! Seriously, I couldn’t even finish all of the shrimp, there were so many vegetables!
When the check came, there was a clever postcard asking if we were “Jonesing for our Fox fix?” Turns out Blanco is one of several restaurant concepts owned and operated by Sam Fox, a serial restaurant entrepreneur from Arizona. Not only did I sign up, I was now on the hunt to experience some of his other concepts while in town.
The next night we tried North, which bills itself as an Italian Trattoria. With pasta and pizza off limits for me, I was curious to see if they had lighter options that would satisfy my appetite (in 108 degree heat, I tend to eat light).
OMG! When I read the ingredients in their Farmer’s Market Salad, I was in heaven: Tuscan kale, dried cranberries, chopped dates, faro, thick shreds of carrots, paper thin slices of watermelon radish and candy cane beets, Marcona almonds and a light white balsamic dressing.
The night manager, Jamie, was so helpful when I inquired about where they purchased their produce. He also gave me the photo their chef took of my salad!
Turns out he studied hospitality and restaurant management at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, and had a short stint with Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. But Jamie prides himself on working for Sam Fox (who he said is amazing!). I told Jamie how nice it was to be able to order salad as a main course at both Blanco and North.
When you are dining out, don’t feel obligated to order a heavy main course. Check out the salad offerings on the menu. I think there may be a trend happening: Not only are some restaurant chefs using a variety of fresh and interesting veggies in their salads, they are making the salads appealing as a lighter main course while providing flavor and taste.
And remember, when you order a salad as your main course, you can truly enjoy their fresh baked breads and wine selections, guilt-free. I sure did!
I was in my local Ralphs produce department, picking up my fresh fruits and veggies for the week, when I overheard someone ask, “Which one is a sweet potato?”
Here is the photo of what they were looking at:
As you can see, there are two kinds of sweet potatoes: one with dark pink skin (on the left) and one with blond skin (on the right).
So, what’s the difference?
It turns out that there are more than 6,500 different varieties of sweet potatoes around the world! The skin can range from dark red to light pink to blond to brown. The flesh can be dark orange to a pale yellow to almost white. There are even varieties that are purple inside and out! Sweet potatoes are produced in dozens of states, including North Carolina, Mississippi and California. But, all are from the same plant that belongs to the family Convolvulaceae. Click here to find out more about the different varieties.
Doug, my brother-in-law, is quite the sweet potato aficionado but has recently complained that his favorite variety, the Garnet Yam, is no longer grown commercially. He loves the sweet and creamy flavor and is frustrated that many farmers are growing varieties that are not as flavorful.
If you purchase sweet potatoes and are disappointed in the flavor, you’re probably on to something. Make a note of the variety, or ask your produce manager, so you know which sweet potatoes you prefer. You can also ask your produce manager the name of the grower and where they are grown!
If you think sweet potatoes are only for Thanksgiving, here is a recipe sent to me by my good friend Vicky. It’s from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and it’s great year-round, especially for a summer potluck!
Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Red Pepper Vinaigrette
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 45 minutes
The red pepper dressing is tart, sweet, and spicy, with a touch of cumin. This is best served warm or at room temperature, though of course you can refrigerate and serve it up to a day later, as long as you take it out of the refrigerator beforehand to take the chill off.
4 large sweet potatoes
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and ¬ quartered
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (optional)
1/2 cup sliced scallion
1/2 cup minced fresh mint or parsley leaves
1 or 2 fresh minced chiles (jalapeño, Thai, serrano, or habanero), or to taste
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Put them on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast, turning occasionally, until crisp and brown outside and just tender inside, about 30 minutes. Remove and keep on the pan until ready to dress.
2. Make the dressing while the potatoes cook. Put the remaining 6 tablespoons oil in a blender, along with the vinegar, bell pepper, cumin, and zest if you’re using it. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Purée until smooth.
3. Toss the warm potatoes with the scallion, mint, chiles, and raisins if you’re using them. Add 1/2 cup of the dressing and toss to coat, adding more if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
Source: Mark Bittman; How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
P.S. Did you know that sweet potatoes are technically not “yams”? Read my previous post about this.
Watermelon is very popular at my house. Living with two picky eaters (husband Garry and daughter Sophia) keeps me on the lookout for ripe watermelon as they both love it.
Sophia always reminds me that watermelons only taste good when it is “peak of season,” which is late spring, early summer. Every time I buy them outside that window, we are all disappointed with the flavor.
A few weeks ago, I was eyeing the “personal-sized watermelons” from Dulcinea. Since I know the folks at Dulcinea, I am aware of the hard work they put into finding the best seed, growing areas and farmers to grow the melons. And their watermelons are ALWAYS ripe.
|Dulcinea’s PureHeart® Mini-Seedless Watermelons. Photo: Dulcinea Farms|
I know the produce personnel at my store are great resources, so I asked one of the guys, “How do the watermelons taste?” I was so excited when he nodded and said, “Good.” But he did tell me that the cantaloupes were not sweet yet (I appreciate his honesty).
When I got home, I immediately put them in the refrigerator since watermelon seems to taste best cold. If they sit for too long on my counter, they become mushy rather than crisp.
Since these mini watermelons are easy to cut and yield the perfect amount for my three-person household, I always cut up the entire melon into 1-inch chunks and store them in a Tupperware® container. Since the watermelon is so good, it barely lasts us two days!
At Frieda’s, we are now receiving yellow watermelons! They have been around for over 40 years, and when my mom started selling them, produce buyers were in disbelief that they existed! But with all the colorful produce you can find these days, yellow watermelon isn’t so strange anymore.
|Frieda’s Yellow Seedless Watermelon|
Yellow watermelons will be available closer to July in your upscale supermarkets. Orange watermelons won’t be available this season due to problems with the seed variety, but wouldn’t it be fun to serve all three colors of watermelon for dessert?
Remember, your produce manager is a great resource. Don’t be afraid to ask if it is “peak of season” for watermelons or any other melon.
Read my blog post for a refresher course on how to pick a good melon!
By the way, July is “National Watermelon Month” and there are Watermelon Queens crowned in many states, as well as a National Watermelon Queen. It is also the 100th birthday of the National Watermelon Association!
|Katelyn Kelly, National Watermelon Queen 2012.
Photo: National Watermelon Association
And, of course, there are still watermelon seed spitting contests!
No wonder people believe that the watermelon should be the official fruit of the USA. I would vote for that!
I did not always feel that my mother, famed entrepreneur Frieda Rapoport Caplan, was the perfect mother. I found I was willing to share why I felt this way when the opportunity arose in the beginning of 2011.
Maureen Ford had called and said she was putting together a collection of more than 100 stories from successful women about things that changed their lives. She was co-authoring the book with my longtime friend, Patty De Dominic, and all proceeds would benefit the Women’s Foundation of California.
Patty is one of the first women who taught me the importance of philanthropy. In 1979, she helped set up the Women’s Foundation of California, a foundation that invests in women to strategically create an economically secure California. I donated all my honorariums from speaking events to the foundation when I first became President of Frieda’s.
After expressing their interest in including my story in their collection, I agreed and we arranged a phone interview. I had written down a few moments that I thought would be appropriate to share with their readers, but Maureen was fascinated by my struggle to accept my mother for who she was, and how I finally found a way to realize that she is the perfect mother for me.
Just last month, “Life Moments for Women” was published and I was pleasantly surprised to find my photo on the cover of the book!
And last week, Maureen emailed me to tell me that my story was featured on their blog!
You can read my story, called “A Watershed Moment.”
Earlier this week, I brought the book to my CEO group where I am the only woman out of 15 entrepreneurs. I passed the book around and one of my colleagues read my two-page story. He commented that the last paragraph really rang true to him: “Accept your parents, family and friends for who they are. No one is perfect.”
As we get ready for Mother’s Day this weekend, I encourage you to accept your mother for who she is. She truly is the PERFECT mother for you!
P.S. Consider ordering a copy of the book to inspire yourself! It’s an easy read and very inspiring.
I spent the last four days in Dallas at the United Fresh Produce Association’s annual convention. I was a junior in college the first time I attended a United Convention (in 1976) and I have seen a huge increase in the number of women attending and, more importantly, employed in significant roles in our industry. In 2003, I was honored to be the first woman chairman of United Fresh in 100 years.
On the last day of the convention, there was a brand new workshop called “Women in Produce: Inspiring the Next Generation.”
The panel was lead by an executive from Costco Wholesale Corporation, Heather Shavey, and included three major women leaders: Dan’l Mackey Almy, owner of DMA Solutions; Steffanie Smith, board member and former CEO of River Point Farms; and Cuban native Mayda Satomayor, CEO of Seald Sweet International.
Heather masterfully asked how each woman navigated through their careers, used mentors to grow professionally and faced challenges. The discussion ended with a question about work-life balance.
That seems to be the common question I am asked by young women getting into business: How do you balance the demands of professional growth while wanting a happy and satisfying personal life? I never seem to have the perfect answer and, frankly, it is something I struggle with on a regular basis.
Read how these four women create a work-life balance:
“Balancing my entire life is just too much. I try to take it a week at a time. This week I will be balanced in this way. Next week I will have a different strategy.” I thought this was the most brilliant approach ever: Break it down into manageable parts.
“Marry the right guy. Meaning – you need to marry someone who understands the pressures and responsibilities of a career and is supportive, understanding and is willing to help.” I agree and feel that I am so lucky to have such a supportive husband.
“Be present, wherever you are. When you are at work – be fully at work, and not feeling like you are missing things at home. And when you are at home, have no regrets about being fully present and involved with your family.” I call this compartmentalizing – and I have found it to be my secret to maintaining my sanity!
When I was heading to the airport to go back home to Orange County, this panel was still top of mind. As I settled into my seat, I struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me.
Will, only a few years younger than me, is the managing editor of over 40 editorial offices across the country, holds 3-hour daily conference calls with all his writers AND actually edits columns for The Huffington Post! He and his wife, a graphic artist, have two teenage kids.
Of course, I brought up the workshop and he almost jumped out of his seat when he said, “Work-life balance is a challenge for men, too!” He feels both men and women struggle with the pressures that double income households face, as compared to older times when the man worked and the woman was home to take care of the children and household duties.
Will told me that it’s difficult for him and his wife to come home after a full work day and figure out who will make dinner, interact with the kids, pack lunches and do laundry. Who wants to even talk about the day they just had?
That’s when it dawned on me. Work-life balance is now a universal issue, not just a women’s issue.
If you are struggling with this, realize you cannot do it all 100% of the time, and that it’s okay to ask for help. Take a break, admit you’re human and take a few things off your plate, or you will be relegated to a stressful life that will frustrate you and those around you.
One thing not mentioned in the panel was the importance of communication with all of your partners. Whether it’s at work or at home, we all have partners and sometimes need to talk with them about our needs in the area of work-life balance.
Being Superwoman or Superman is not reality, nor is it necessary.
Fortunately, there are more and more companies who do value the importance of work-life balance. As an employee, sometimes it’s a little scary to speak up and let your boss know what your needs are. But, as demonstrated above, today’s leaders recognize that there are many ways to have work-life balance.
So, don’t be afraid to ask for it…