At this time of year, I spend a lot of time going to the movies. My daughter Alex and I have had that tradition for many years. It’s like a marathon for us: How many awesome movies can we see between now and New Year’s? It seems that many great movies come out the last month of the year as the rush for the Golden Globes and Oscars begins.

Last week I saw “Rogue One.” (I’m dating a Star Wars geek, so seeing “Rogue One” was mandatory.) Loved it! A few weeks ago, we saw “Doctor Strange”—loved, loved, loved the special effects.

What's on Karen's Plate? - Karen's Blog - Jyn Erso from "Rogue One"
Jyn Erso from “Rogue One”

And last night, Alex and I saw “La La Land,” which was a complete surprise to me. Being from Los Angeles I recognized most of the quintessential L.A. landmarks that were in the film. So that was kind of fun and the music was spellbinding. I found myself downloading the “City of Stars” soundtrack first thing this morning and playing it over and over today. The film reminded me in some ways of Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.”

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But really at this time of year, like most people, I end up reflecting on the year and what I loved and what I didn’t love about my life. And what I want to adjust for the new year.

What I really loved this year was writing this blog. I was told by my astrologer (yes, I have one) that I should write. Write a lot, he told me, advising me not to worry about what people think. And so I have written about things that interest me the most.

The topics seem to resonate with people.

Just in case you missed them, these were my most read posts of the year.

Top 5 blog posts of 2016:

  1. How to Survive your Daughter’s Wedding 
  2. How Do You Open a Young Coconut?
  3. 93 is a Magical Number
  4. What the Heck is Bibimbap?
  5. Jackfruit is the New Meat Substitute

My two favorite all-time posts:

From 2015: Demystifying Shishito and Padron Peppers  

From 2010: What it’s Like Working with my Sister

I would love your suggestions about other things for me to write about. Email me!

In the meantime, I wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and peaceful holiday season!

Karen

What's on Karen's Plate? - Karen's Blog - Holiday sweater
My colleague Ray is “photobombing” me here at our holiday luncheon

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Ahh. The warm scent of cloves, allspice and cinnamon. Cooking with these spices fills up a room with a lovely, comforting aroma that always reminds me of the holidays. There’s no better time to brew up some hot mulled cider!

To make mulled cider or mulled wine, you can use any blend of spices you like, but typically, mulling spices include cloves, allspice, cinnamon and orange peel. Frieda’s mulling spices made it easy for you and pack all of the spices into a 3-ounce bag, ready to go.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Mulled Cider

The ratio of spice to juice is about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of spice to a half-gallon of juice. I didn’t have cheesecloth handy to make a spice sachet, so I just put the loose spices right into the pot with the juice.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Mulled Cider

I heated the cider in my slow cooker for 2 hours on low. The house smelled fabulous!

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Mulled Cider

I just strained the juice to serve. I also strained the remaining cider and refrigerated it for later enjoyment.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Mulled Cider

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Mulled Cider

Yum! If I had cinnamon sticks handy, they would have been perfect in these glasses with a wedge of orange or lemon. The perfect warming winter drink! (If you are feeling more naughty than nice, you can always add a splash of brandy to your mulled cider for a little extra warmth…)

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Mulled Cider

Cheers!

– Hazel

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Two popular mango varieties from Down Under are now available from Frieda’s Specialty Produce

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Australian Mangoes

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (December 2016) — Kensington Pride and R2E2 Australian mango varieties are available now from Frieda’s Specialty Produce in good supply.

These popular Australian varieties are sweeter, juicier, and more aromatic than most mangoes American shoppers are used to. The texture is silky with no stringiness, and they also have a great shelf life with beautiful blush on the skin. The Kensington Pride mango is medium size and oval in shape with a beautiful pink-red blush. The R2E2 is more round and a bit larger with a gorgeous, deep orange blush, and a high flesh-to-seed ratio.

“Shoppers are looking for enjoyable food experiences and many will pay extra for high-flavor produce,” said Alex Jackson, senior account manager at Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “These mango varieties meet the requirements: beautiful color, great flavor and texture. Shoppers will be looking for them.”

The Australian mango growers are excited to increase the volume of their imports to the U.S. this season, so Americans can experience the silky, sweet flavor the Aussies have been raving about.

“There are only a few importers of Australian mangoes and the demand for these varieties is high. It is best to pre-book now for the first of the year,” added Jackson.

Frieda’s will have volume of Australian mango varieties for ads starting January 2, 2017, through the end of March. Call your Frieda’s account manager today, mate.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 54-year legacy of inspiring new food experiences for friends, family, and food lovers everywhere. Credited with introducing more than 200 specialty fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets, Frieda’s has helped launch unique items like kiwi fruits, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, habanero peppers, Sunchokes®, and organic finger limes. Founded in 1962 by produce industry icon Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is now owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in Orange County, California. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

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For many years, when my two daughters were younger and living at home with me, I wanted the three of us to spend Thanksgiving Day helping to feed the homeless or hungry. I remember calling multiple places to volunteer and I could not find a single place that was taking volunteers. (I’m guessing many people chose to do this during the holidays, so they didn’t have a need at that time.)

I didn’t get too discouraged, but it has always been in the back of my mind to do this.

So, when the opportunity presented itself to me a few weeks ago, I quickly signed up to help.

The story really began about five years ago, when Second Harvest, the largest food bank in Orange County, California, contacted our company, wanting to give us some recognition for being the top fresh food donor in our area. Most companies in the fresh produce industry donate unsaleable, but edible, food to a local food bank. It’s just the right thing to do, and all of us do it without any expectation of acknowledgement. If we can’t ship it to a customer, we don’t want it to go to waste.

So that’s how I first got familiar with Second Harvest. And last year, I met CEO Nicole Suydam, an incredibly passionate and driven woman, who spent many years at Goodwill Industries. A few months ago, she approached me about joining the Second Harvest Board of Directors.

secondharvestlogo

Hunger is prevalent in so many neighborhoods, even in Orange County (the home of the happiest place on earth, aka Disneyland), where thousands of children go hungry each day. I was excited to learn more about the organization and in September I attended my first board meeting. I discovered that Second Harvest is a member of the Feeding America organization and has goals about how many meals it will provide during the course of a year (almost 1 million for 2016). I also learned that Second Harvest and Feeding America have a Nutrition Policy—meaning their stated intention is to provide healthy eating options, not foods with high fat or empty calories.

I was intrigued at my second board meeting, when I learned that instead of having a holiday party, the entire board was invited to volunteer at a local church when food would be distributed to neighborhood families on a Saturday morning. This was the brainchild of a Second Harvest staff member and, as it turns out, we had excellent attendance with our board, as well as their family members.

As you can see from the photos, a mobile pantry (a large truck with access to both sides of the vehicle) arrived about 8 a.m., filled with all sorts of fresh produce—oranges, kiwifruit, broccoli, and lots of potatoes (I was in charge of baby potatoes). We fed more than 130 families. The mobile pantry is set up to preserve the dignity of patrons, as they are encouraged to “shop,” choosing the foods they want, like they would in a regular grocery store or farmers market.

karen-2nd-harvest

 

karen-2nd-harves

 

Although it only took about two hours of my time that Saturday morning, it filled up my heart for the entire day. I got to see firsthand the great impact my industry has on helping feed people, even with foods that cannot be sold in grocery stores. These shoppers were trying to fill their bellies and didn’t care if the potatoes were misshapen or the kiwis were a bit overripe.

As I looked around that morning, I was humbled that it took me so many years to find a way to truly give thanks. A way to help those who are hungry and less fortunate. A way to do more than “write a check.”

When I returned to work, I announced that we would be having a canned food drive at our office the following week. I wrote a personal note to all Frieda’s employees so they would know why this was important to me and should be to them too.

In this season of giving and giving thanks, I encourage each of you to consider sharing with those less fortunate. It will fill your heart with joy.

Karen

 

This week I was invited to give a keynote address to over 200 small business owners and entrepreneurs in Long Beach, California. They are all alumnae of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, based in Long Beach and Los Angeles. It is delivered locally and nationally, and coordinated by the very impressive Babson College.

Members of the audience had completed the four-month program, meant to help ignite their businesses. The luncheon and daylong follow-up session was created to continue their development.

Karen's Blog - Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses

I was given only 15 minutes to share my thoughts. So I gave them six ideas to ponder from my own perspective as a longtime business owner:

1. Not telling the truth is hard.

I am occasionally asked about the most difficult thing I have to do as a business owner. And I’ve found that my answer never changes—it’s when I have to not tell the truth.

Such as: When I have to tell my employees, “Everything is going great” or I have to tell my friends, “Business is booming,” when in fact things are pretty crappy. (The audience really chuckled when I said this.)

2. Get involved outside your business.

It is dangerous for a business owner to only work in their business. It’s also important to work on your business. I have found that one way to do that is to work outside your business.

Get involved in some sort of organization outside your company, where your clients or suppliers hang out. You can find out which one is the best by asking your clients: “So what organizations do you belong to? Is there any organization that you belong to that you think I should know about?”

I have a national company, and I have clients all over the country. So I decided early on to get involved in my national trade association. If your business is more local or regional in scope, it may mean getting involved in a local chamber of commerce or a statewide trade group.

One of the most interesting experiences I’ve had that took me outside my business was when I served a term as a director of the Los Angeles branch of the Federal Reserve Bank.

3. Keep your eye on the ball.

While it is important to work on your business, by getting involved in organizations outside of work, be careful to evaluate how relevant they are. It’s easy to really enjoy your outside-of-work involvement. And if you’re like me and get asked to serve in a leadership position, you could easily get distracted from focusing the necessary energy and time on your real business.

And, as with all charity or volunteer work, it’s tempting to overcommit your time or resources. As an entrepreneur and business owner, you should always be doing a mini-ROI in your head. Ask yourself, “How can I leverage this experience to grow my business?” It may even be as simple as mentioning to your co-volunteers that you are always looking for referrals and asking yourself, “Do they have any for me?”

4. Network like crazy.

You can’t just join outside business groups. You need to network when you join, which might mean volunteering for committees (I still volunteer to sell raffle tickets and help out at events in several organizations). That way, people get to know you.

Always carry business cards. Always. You never know when there will be an opportunity to hand one out. For example, last year I was at a special event at a local university. While networking at the cocktail party, I ran into a potential prospect. We exchanged business cards. Within a few weeks, he contacted me and suggested we talk further about a way to do business together! I could not have predicted that happening. But it did, because I hand out my business cards to everyone.

5. Speak, write, publish

Don’t be afraid to accept speaking engagements or requests to be on a panel. No one wants to do it, so why not you? Just think: if you are a speaker, you get your name and your company name out there with tons of free publicity. Also consider producing a newsletter, writing a blog, or writing a guest column for your industry paper. You can gain great credibility by being published.

6. Craft a plan to stay current.

What is your plan to stay current and inspired? There are many CEO and presidents’ organizations around. I belong to Vistage, a global network of over 20,000 CEOs who meet once a month. We actually meet in groups of about 15 in our own area. All groups are made up of CEOs from non-competing businesses and your group serves as your own private advisory board. Over time, other members get to know your business, your challenges, and your strengths, so you can bring your issues to the meeting to discuss and get advice.

I know it’s hard to break away from the daily pressures of running your business. But just like great athletes, we business owners need coaching, practice, more practice, and knowledge about the latest techniques in order to thrive in today’s economy.

Frieda was also in the audience during my talk. (Photo credit @DavePhillipson)
Frieda was also in the audience during my talk. (Photo credit @DavePhillipson)

Karen

Asian holiday promotions help build relationships with growing population of Asian-American shoppers

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Year of the Rooster

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (December 2016) — Retailers should take advantage of Chinese New Year promotions not only to offset winter sales slump, but also to build relationships with Asian-American shoppers, the fastest-growing population segment in the U.S.

Chinese New Year (also known as “Lunar New Year” or “Spring Festival”) is one of the biggest food holidays of the year. In 2017 it will begin on January 28. The holiday is celebrated in communities worldwide and goes on for 15 days. Fresh produce, meat, and seafood are the focus of holiday feasts.

“Asian-Americans are the fastest growing population with significant buying power and Asians of Chinese ancestry represent about 20 percent of the group,” said Karen Caplan, President and CEO of Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “A Chinese New Year promotion is the opportunity for retailers to serve the Asian-American community, so retailers must have these traditional ingredients in store to attract Asian-American shoppers. Working with seafood, meat, and floral departments on Chinese New Year promotions will further boost sales.”

A recent study by Nielsen reports that, currently at 20.5 million strong, the Asian-American population is expected to grow to 25.7 million by 2019. The study also reveals that Asian-Americans purchased 72 percent more fresh vegetables and 29 percent more fresh fruit per household than did the total U.S. population.

“When we first introduced the concept of promoting Chinese New Year in product departments back in the 1970s, we saw it as an opportunity to introduce Asian fruits and vegetables to non-Asian shoppers. Now, promoting Chinese New Year will draw in Asian shoppers,” added Caplan.

Some of the Chinese New Year top sellers include traditional fresh vegetables such as ginger, daikon radishes, bok choy, gailan, Shanghai bok choy, Napa cabbages, snow peas, and sugar snap peas. For fruits, retailers should have a good supply of kumquat, mandarins, pummelo, Oroblanco, Buddha’s Hand citron, and persimmons on hand, to name a few.

For over 43 years, Frieda’s has inspired retailers on their Chinese New Year display programs. Call a Frieda’s account manager to start planning today.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 54-year legacy of inspiring new food experiences for friends, family, and food lovers everywhere. Credited with introducing more than 200 specialty fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets, Frieda’s has helped launch unique items like kiwi fruits, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, habanero peppers, Sunchokes®, and organic finger limes. Founded in 1962 by produce industry icon Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is now owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in Orange County, California. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

You’ve probably passed by this item thousands of times in your supermarket’s produce department or baking aisle. Crystallized ginger – dried slices of natural ginger root, cured and coated in sugar. It sure sounds nice, but what do you use it for? Here we have 10 great ideas for putting this sweet, spicy and comforting ingredient to work in your kitchen:

1. Chop and add to batter for cookies, such as ginger snaps, or quick breads like gingerbread, orange bread or banana bread.

2. Chop and add to at pan with butter, fresh lemon juice and sliced green onions in a saucepan. Heat until melted and spoon over hot rice and serve with chicken or fish.

3. Finely chop and use as a finishing touch on apple pie a la mode or a whipped cream-topped brownie.

4. Chop and combine with nuts, brown sugar and spices for a baked apple or pear filling.

5. Roughly chop and add to a stir-fry for a sweet and spicy bite.

6. Dip pieces in melted chocolate. Let cool and serve as a special after dinner treat.

7. Roughly chop and add to water and sugar mixture to make ginger-infused simple syrup. Strain before adding to drinks, such as iced tea.

8. Finely chop and sprinkle into fruit salad for a spicy, zesty flavor lift.

9. Finely chop and add to a homemade cranberry sauce with orange zest.

10. Just snack on this sweet treat right out of the package. Crystallized ginger is especially helpful for calming the stomach while traveling.

Can’t have enough? Here are some more simple recipes:

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