I am a lifelong learner. I love to attend seminars and workshops, and read online content about self-improvement, marketing trends, entrepreneurs, business, food, and all sorts of things. And I’m a magazine reader, but for some reason I had gotten out of the habit of reading books.

Actually, I do have a book on my nightstand, but it’s like a sleeping pill. I start reading with great intent, and within five to seven minutes, my eyelids get heavy and I find myself dozing off.

But it has been frustrating for me because I have always liked to read. Actually, my first job when I was 15 was in our local library; I filed the books back onto the shelves when they were returned by the library patrons. I recall checking out two to three books every week; they all looked so interesting.

I even joined a book club about 10 years ago, but found that most months I wasn’t able to read the entire sleeping pill, I mean book, and eventually I quit the club.

But I still love books!

People have always talked about “books on tape,” but since my commute to work is 4.4 miles, I didn’t think they would work for me.

And then I discovered Audible, an audio subscription service from Amazon. My coworker Hazel had mentioned Audible to me, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around listening to books on my short drive each day.

Then, I was taking a class and my instructor assigned a book for us to read. It was only available on Audible as it is out of print. So I went online, subscribed to Audible, and downloaded the app. I was thrilled that my first book was free, and the monthly subscription is less than $15. You can download one book of your choice each month.

I figured that one book a month was more than plenty and perhaps it might help me read the stack of books I have on my list.

Was I wrong! I didn’t realize exactly how much I do drive, and I went through that first book within a day (it was only an hour long). I then downloaded a fiction book I had missed reading in my book club a few years ago, a Pulitzer Prize winner that everyone had raved about. Even though it was more than 10 hours long, I found myself spending a few extra minutes parked in my garage each day listening to the end of the chapter. Finished that book within a week.

Now, I’m hooked! In the last six weeks, I have listened to five books (some fiction, some self-improvement). Whereas I used to dread those long drives by myself to meetings in downtown L.A. or south Orange County, I find I now look forward to having an hour or more to listen to my books.

Occasionally Audible sends me access to free best sellers and other promotions. As I think back to my treks to the local Barnes & Noble bookstore, I recall my great intentions of reigniting my voracious reading habit, only to have that stack of books on my nightstand grow. I also lost interest in lugging those heavy books on business trips (I fall asleep faster on airplanes than I do at home, so it was a lose-lose proposition for me).

If you love to read, or used to love to read, and the thought of not having a crook in your neck—from looking down at a book or a small screen—is appealing, I encourage you to try Audible (or podcasts or Spotify, and there are others). It changed my life. And it may well change yours!

Karen

Plan now for must-have holiday display builders from Frieda’s Specialty Produce

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Pearl Onion Display

Los Alamitos, CA (September 2017) – Prepare for the holiday shopping season by booking all the essential complementary items for your holiday produce sets.

“For your holiday resets and department walk-throughs, include these complementary and specialty items so your shoppers have everything they need in the produce department,” said Alex Jackson Berkley, senior account manager of Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “The top sellers each year are shallots, elephant garlic, specialty onions (pearl, boiler, and cipolline), pine nuts, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, and mulling spices.”

Additionally, there are big sales opportunities on Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, fingerling and baby potatoes, variety hard squash, and sweet crab apples.

“These are all items that consumers use in their holiday menus. It’s important to have them available in store by mid-October to maximize your holiday impulse sales,” said Berkley.

Call your Frieda’s account manager today to pre-book your holiday produce essentials.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families, and food lovers everywhere since 1962. From kiwifruit to dragon fruit and from Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes to habanero peppers, Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 unique fruits and vegetables to the U.S. marketplace. Founded by produce industry trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is 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.

Blue Apron. Hello Fresh. Purple Carrot. Plated (as of this week, now owned by Albertson’s). These are just a few of the meal kit companies that have created a new business model.

What is a meal kit? A meal kit is all the fresh ingredients and seasoning you need to make a meal, all measured out exactly to the recipe provided. Everything is in one box, delivered to your door on a schedule of your choosing. Depending on the service, you can choose the menu you want to cook or you can request a surprise menu.

Basically, you are ordering all the ingredients to make a good tasting “gourmet” meal, except you don’t have to go shopping or even leave your home or office. Every single ingredient is individually packaged with the exact amount the recipe calls for, so there is no buying four ounces of fresh dill when you only need one small sprig. Everything is pre-measured, eliminating the risk of over-seasoning your meal or forgetting a spice.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Blue Apron
A Blue Apron meal kit

It sounds kind of fun, right? I think so too, but I have never ordered any of the meal kits because of my busy travel schedule.

Fortunately, a few weeks ago, I ran into Terri Langhans, a high school pal who is also a world class speaker and author. Terri has tried several of the meal kit services, so I asked her about her experiences so far.

My first meal kit wasn’t mine. It was my neighbor’s, and she dropped it off on her way to the airport to attend a family funeral. Inside the big box were three smaller boxes, about the size of skinny shoe boxes, each containing the ingredients for a meal that would serve two people. It was like unpacking a box of birthday presents from Grandma, before Amazon was invented.

“How great is this!?” I thought.

Answer: Very.

For me, a focus group of one, meal kits aren’t about eating healthy, controlling portion size, discovering new recipes or being able to recycle the packaging. It’s all about less stress and more fun around meal planning and preparation.

After a day of dealing with a never-ending To Do list, I doubt that I’m the only one who dreads having to answer the “what’s for dinner?” question. Even when I’m the one asking. What do I have in the fridge? Something from the freezer? Nah, no time to defrost. Are there any leftovers that haven’t grown fur? I don’t want to stop at the store. Isn’t today Meatless Monday? How much is left of that salad bag from Costco? Popcorn’s a vegetable, isn’t it? I guess I better go to the store. Yikes, I need gas. And wine.

I can certainly relate to that!

Open the box. Read the recipe. Follow the directions which have been simplified for even the newest of cooks can follow. For example, the recipe card doesn’t assume you know what sauté means. It would more likely say, “While the vegetables roast, heat a pan on medium heat. Add olive oil (already pre-measured in a packet). When the oil shimmers, add chopped shallots and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes. Do not let them brown.”

All that detail means that not only does everything come out cooked perfectly, to temperature, but everything comes out at the same time. Again, less stress, more fun.

The next night, I arrived home to find hubby and two of our friends assembled at various “work stations” in our kitchen. They were wielding a spatula, a chef’s knife or parchment paper, according to which section of the two remaining two recipe cards they were assigned. The oven was pre-heating, everything was in its place, including an open bottle of wine.

“Hi, sweetheart!” hubby said, handing me a glass. “We’re having a dinner-making party.”

After the meal, we went online and created two new accounts, ordered our menus and made a date for the next dinner-making party. This time it would be BYOB. As in Bring Your Own Box.

After reading Terri’s comments, I’m seriously planning on ordering a meal kit next time I have a few friends over for dinner. And to make it even more fun, I think I’ll ask them if they want to help cook!

Karen

Save

It’s an auspicious week.

At sundown on Wednesday, September 20, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, will begin. The celebration of the Jewish New Year is observed for 10 days and will culminate with the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, starting at sundown on Friday, September 29, and ending the next day. Right in the middle is the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere on September 22. That is the day that the daylight and night hours are virtually equal.

Several traditions surround the Jewish New Year.

One of my favorites is the tradition to try a new fruit in the new year. That tradition is never more evident than in New York and Los Angeles, where large neighborhoods of Jewish consumers clamor to buy the weirdest and most unusual fruits they can to help bring in the new year. My company, of course, has great fun with this, as we ship huge truckloads of exotic fruits to New York City every year in anticipation of the holiday shopping rush. Last year, the Wall Street Journal even did a story on this, including this video.

This year, some of the top sellers have been:

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Jackfruit
Jackfruit
Frieda's Specialty Produce - Red Dragon Fruit
Dragon Fruit
Frieda's Specialty Produce_Dragon Fruit
Cactus Pear
Frieda's Specialty Produce - Kumquats
Kumquats
Frieda's Specialty Produce - Kiwano - Horned Melon
Kiwano (Horned Melon)
Frieda's Specialty Produce - Cape Gooseberries
Cape Gooseberries

Another tradition is that those 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a time for reflection and forgiveness. I always interpreted it to be the time to reconcile any differences or disagreements and to settle any issues with friends, family, or coworkers. Even if you’re not Jewish, it’s a great time to make peace and settle any issues and make amends.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a day of fasting, so Jews around the world choose to take the time from sundown to sundown to be humbled and appreciate all the suffering and sacrifice that our ancestors went through during difficult times. Even if we are not able to fast completely, many of us spend the day at our temples or in a quiet place. My favorite part of the day is the break-the-fast dinner, usually hosted at a friend’s house. We all bring our favorite dishes and break bread together. It’s the perfect way to finish the celebration of the new year—with close family and friends.

Autumnal equinox is a special time as well. It signals the official beginning of fall, when the leaves outside are turning from green to orange and red. We decorate our homes with dried corn and gourds, and the weather cools down. With cooler weather, we start baking squash in the oven and cooking root vegetables for meals, instead of serving spring and summer asparagus, and cold salads.

Even when you walk into your produce department, you’ll see the difference. Produce managers across the country do their fall resets right after Labor Day, building big displays of hard-shelled squash; peaches and nectarines are replaced with even bigger displays of apples and pears.

As you enjoy this time of year, whether you are officially celebrating the Jewish New Year of 5778 or just want an excuse to try some new fruits, it’s a great time to pause, reflect, and set your intentions for a time of prosperity, peace, and friendship.

L ’Shanah Tova (that’s “for a good year” in Hebrew),

Karen

Prepare your produce department for shoppers looking for stranger things

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Spooky Foods

Los Alamitos, CA (September 2017) – Summon shoppers to the produce department with a “Spooky Foods” display featuring out-of-this-world fruits and vegetables, along with traditional fall pumpkin and squash.

“Halloween is the perfect time to showcase your tropical fruits and specialty vegetables as shoppers will be looking for unique, spooky items for their Halloween celebrations,” said Alex Jackson Berkley, senior account manager of Frieda’s Specialty Produce.

“Build out your ‘spooky foods’ displays with creepy-looking fruits and vegetables on both dry and refrigerated cases, and have fun with it,” added Jackson. “Why should the center aisles have all the Halloween fun?”

New #spookyfoods favorites include jackfruit, organic finger limes, colored cauliflower, and “scary hot” ghost peppers. Other Halloween classics include Buddha’s hand citron, Kiwano® horned melon, dragon fruit, rambutan, red cactus pears, and blood oranges.

Call the spooky foods specialists (aka Frieda’s account managers) today to help you put together a “scare-tastic” product selection.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families, and food lovers everywhere since 1962. From kiwifruit to dragon fruit and from Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes to habanero peppers, Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 unique fruits and vegetables to the U.S. marketplace. Founded by produce industry trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is 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.

Save

A few months ago, I decided I couldn’t be the only person on the planet who is mystified by these two terms: “Bitcoin” and “Blockchain.” So I started doing some research by asking some of the geeks and nerds I meet to explain them to me in layman’s terms.

I’ll start with Blockchain. I was at an AgTech (agriculture technology) conference two months ago and was chatting with a millennial attendee. Seena Amidi of Silicon Valley’s Plug and Play Tech Center, which is billed as the world’s largest startup accelerator and corporate innovation consultancy, seemed pretty savvy, yet down-to-earth. So I asked him, “Can you explain Blockchain to me—in English?”

Without skipping a beat, he explained it like this:

He said Blockchain is a 100-percent secure way to store information (kind of like encryption, but it connects all pieces of related information). Pieces of information are stored in individual blocks; once entered into the block, it cannot be altered. It is time-stamped and linked to the previous block. It’s almost impossible to hack. Multiple people can add related information in a new block.

I asked him what the applications might be.

He gave me the example of a company like mine, storing the names of vendors and the food safety information associated with each individual vendor. As part of a Blockchain, we can share select parts of the information with customers when needed. For example, we can let them access the food safety information on our suppliers, but they can’t access other, proprietary information that is stored in the Blockchain.

Well, that totally makes sense in the business world. All businesses have many types of information to store. Depending on who they need to share the information with (vendors, customers, the government), using Blockchain could save time and prevent redundancies (having to enter information in multiple places).

For non-business users, a perfect application is a person’s medical records. Multiple doctors can enter information into the Blockchain; it is time-stamped and cannot be altered. The patient can access the information, but it is completely secure. An article in Forbes Magazine earlier this year has an excellent explanation of Blockchain.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Zach Copley

Bitcoin is actually a digital currency. I know it’s hard to imagine a currency that does not have paper bills or coins, and exists only on the Internet. But that is the essence of Bitcoin. And a lot of people think it is worth something and could be a big part of the future. I found some pretty interesting articles about it. Here is one of my favorite articles. The value of Bitcoin is determined by how much people are willing to exchange it for. There are already many businesses around the world that accept Bitcoin, including a Subway restaurant in Pennsylvania!

So, how do you buy, track, store, and spend Bitcoin? Blockchain. When Bitcoin was conceived, a secure way to record the transactions on a “ledger” was needed to eliminate the chance of redundancies or double entries. Thus, Blockchain came into being.

So, now you probably know just about enough about Blockchain and Bitcoin to carry on a conversation at a cocktail party. And just in case you are wondering, the way the Bitcoin system was set up, there can never be more than 21 million bitcoins and the current value of one bitcoin is $4,493.99.

There you go!

Karen

Capitalize on the demand for exotic fruits during the September Jewish holiday

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Rosh Hashana 2017

Los Alamitos, CA (September 2017) – Prepare your produce department for the mad dash for exotic fruits as shoppers look for “new fruit” to celebrate Rosh Hashana, aka Jewish New Year, beginning at sundown on September 20.

It is a Jewish tradition to try a new fruit during Rosh Hashana to celebrate a “sweet” new year. From tiny cape gooseberries to the giant jackfruit, shoppers rush the stores during the holiday to purchase the newest, most exotic fruits possible—so much so that it caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal last fall. (Subscription is needed to view full article.)

“Premium pricing on exotic produce is not an issue for shoppers during this holiday,” said Alex Jackson Berkley, senior account manager at Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “Retailers need to make sure they have a wide variety of fruits available for the 10 days leading up to the holiday as shoppers are looking for the newest—and sometimes weirdest—fruit for their celebrations.”

Don’t miss out on this fall tropical-selling opportunity. Call Frieda’s sales team today to prepare for the rush with “weird” favorites such as dragon fruit, kiwi berries, organic finger limes, cherimoya, and Kiwano® horned melon. The team can also help you find out which of your stores have a high percentage of Jewish clientele.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families, and food lovers everywhere since 1962. From kiwifruit to dragon fruit and from Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes to habanero peppers, Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 unique fruits and vegetables to the U.S. marketplace. Founded by produce industry trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is 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.

During this past week, I attended two Farm to Table dinners. After reading about Farm to Table dinners and writing about them and never having the opportunity to attend one, it was interesting to attend two in one week. And they were so completely different.

The genesis of Farm to Table dinners is an extension of the popularity of local farmers markets. Consumers love connecting to the growers of their food. It humanizes the eating experience, which is why consumers will pay more money for produce with a shorter shelf life.

It’s about the experience, not the efficiency or convenience.

My first Farm to Table experience was at a fundraiser at Rancho Los Alamitos, a local historic site in Long Beach, to benefit its educational programs. Several ranchos (or homesteads) in and around the Long Beach area of Southern California have been preserved as historical landmarks. Much like the 21 historic California Missions that span the entire coast from Basilica San Diego de Alcala in San Diego all the way up to Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, the Ranchos are a big part of the history of the early California settlers. As you can see, it was a beautiful evening in a delightful setting.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Rancho Los Alamitos
Photo: Jennifer Herbig

The chef of the evening was Paul Buchanan of Primal Alchemy, who is completely passionate about discovering local farms and foods and creating masterpieces that his clientele can enjoy. Paul has an impressive resume, having worked in some of the best known kitchens in Southern California: Campanile, Wolfgang Puck, Water Grill, and Pascal’s in Orange County, to name a few. As you can see from the photos of the evening, our dinner was set outside on the grounds of Rancho Los Alamitos, where 300 patrons dined at long, glorious tables, draped with white linens, and decorated with bouquets of fresh herbs and russet potatoes with small flags inserted in them as table signs.

Every course was served family style. And between the salad course and dinner, Russ Parsons, former food editor of the Los Angeles Times (whom we refer to as the “Mayor of Long Beach” as he knows E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E), did a quick interview with Chef Buchanan.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Rancho Los Alamitos
Photo: Jennifer Herbig

The food had amazing flavors and it was dazzling to have all this food come out at perfect temperatures arranged perfectly on platters. The long tables were conducive to easygoing conversations and a leisurely pace. Quite different from a normal dinner at a restaurant where we always seem to complain about the pace of the meal, or lack of it.

My second Farm to Table dinner was held at an outdoor restaurant, The Farmhouse in Corona del Mar. It is a new, on-site restaurant at the famous Southern California landmark, Roger’s Gardens. If you enjoy gardening and landscaping, this is the most inspirational place ever.

The occasion for this dinner was because my friend and favorite Southern California chef, Alan Greeley, recently closed his landmark restaurant, The Golden Truffle. All the local Orange County chefs, who were mostly trained and supported by Alan during the last 30 years, got together to have a “Bon Voyage Celebration.” As a testimonial to Chef Alan’s popularity, an email went out to his patron list and within two days, the dinner for 150 was sold out! In fact I had to pull a few strings and text Alan to get a ticket for myself!

When I arrived on Monday evening, it was a who’s who of the Orange County culinary scene with famous chefs, and food writers and journalists.

Alan Greeley dinner
Photo: OC Weekly

Chef Alan’s friends prepared an incredible four-course meal which was more like eight courses since every course included two dishes! Thai goat curry. Grilled Wagyu beef wrapped in gem lettuce and carrot kimchi. Coos Bay silver point oysters. Watermelon radish carpaccio. Seared ahi tuna. And so much more. Dessert was over the top with three options for everyone.

The menu (front and back) from Chef Alan’s celebration dinner at Farmhouse

Just like the first Farm to Table dinner I attended, white linen tablecloths and family-style seating and serving plates abounded. The simplicity of the décor was magical. The Farmhouse overlooks the entire Roger’s Gardens property, so it felt like we were in a forest.

Vegetable carpaccio
Photo: OC Weekly: Vegetable carpaccio

What I learned most about the Farm to Table experience is that it is all about the food and the farms and ranches it comes from. The location, ambience, and décor all contribute to telling the story, connecting you to the foods you eat and the people who lovingly produce them.

And it couldn’t get more farm-to-table than dining al fresco with trees as your awning and a cool evening breeze as your soundtrack.

Even though a Farm to Table dinner might have a heftier price tag than a conventional dinner at a restaurant, and it might take a few hours from start to finish, I would encourage you to put the experience on your bucket list. It certainly made me slow my pace and take in the entire experience.

Bon appetit!

KarenSave