Happy National Popcorn Day!

When someone asks me the “If you got stranded on a dessert island…” question, one of the foods in my top three foods I’d like to be stuck with is POPCORN. Besides being delicious, it would be kind of a useful thing; I mean, think about it, you could plant the seeds, use them as tiny bullets for a slingshot, and have something to do because you’d eternally be picking hulls out of your teeth. Win win win. Today is National Popcorn Day, and I wanted to celebrate this fine day by sharing a few of my favorite popcorny things.

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First of all, I’m a popcorn purist, meaning no microwave crap here unless I’m in a time crunch. (Heh, crunch. Get it?) I like to make my popcorn the unhealthy way; with one tablespoon of olive oil (or avocado oil if I’m feeling ritzy) in a sauce pan on high, with Orville Redenbacher seeds. I’ve tried so many gizmos and gadgets to make popcorn including air poppers, a borosilicate glass beaker thing, microwaveable bowls, and I keep going back to the old school method. It works for a reason. I find that air poppers make your popcorn have a stale sort of crunch to it, and I want that delicious, squeaky stryofoamy feeling that my teeth sink into.

Here are my favorite popcorn related things!

1) Morton’s Popcorn Salt.

It’s like .99 and super fine salt, ideal for making your own popcorn. The link goes to a big size which explains the $5.99 price tag, but this stuff is the ideal in popcornology.

2) THIS recipe for copycat Garret’s style popcorn. I had a wicked popcorn craving when I was pregnant, and you can only get this stuff in Chicago. Thankfully for me the kind lady at A Spicy Perspective had this recipe waiting.  (Side note: I purchased the cheese powder, and while real foodies among you might go “Cheese POWDER?!”, fear not, it’s actually real Wisconsin cheddar that’s been dehydrated and pulverized. This stuff is delicious for other recipes, like mac n’ cheese, cheesey broccoli, or anything else that would benefit from cheese. That’s most things in life.)

3) As for ready made popcorn, I’m a big fan of the Trader Joe’s Herb Popcorn and Gaslamp’s Cinnamon Caramel Popcorn. Gaslamp sent me a few bags to try, and I had some major problems keeping my hands out of the bag. I served it when some guests were over and we all agreed it had the perfect crunchiness, and the sweetness wasn’t overly cloying. I really liked it and now will be hunting it down. PS – It’s made in California and you can tell it comes to you FRESH. Holla! Give this popcorn a try when you’re in the mood for something sweet. Their white cheddar was also phenomenal! (Keep reading for a chance to try it yourself!)

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I also tried some Boom Chicka Pop Dark Chocolate Caramel Popcorn over Christmas, and man oh man, I can’t have that in the house. That just makes it like crack. As long as I don’t douse popcorn in tons of butter, I don’t feel too guilty having a reasonable serving size of it. (Cough… I mean, I would NEVER eat just a massive bowl of popcorn for dinner. I’m an ADULT! Cough)

Tell me how you feel about popcorn – one of my friends says it smells like feet to him! I almost stopped being his friend. Do you love, like, or loathe the miraculous corny goodness of popcorn? Want to win a three pack from my friends at Gaslamp? Comment with the type of their popcorn you’d like to try most! If you want extra entries, “Like” them on Facebook or Follow them on twitter. Be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry. Giveaway ends 1/26 at 10:00 p.m. 18+ and USA Only. Good luck!

 

 

Smile, because it’s July 1!

Holy cow – how is it July?! ALREADY?! I just got back from Fitbloggin in Denver and am looking forward to sharing photos from that adventure later, but first I wanted to update you on a few things!

1) Tomorrow we get confirmation of our little one’s gender! I’ll be sharing on the blog, so keep your eyes peeled for an announcement. If you’re curious how my pregnancy has been going, I post bumpdates on LaLaLyssa.com when I can.

2) I didn’t get to ride my Pedego as much as I would have liked last week because 1) I was gone and 2) It’s been over 96 degrees here every. freakin. day., but I am squeezing in small rides when I can. Yesterday it was awesome because I realized at 4:45 my rent check was due the next day (OOPS), and I zipped onto my bike to race it over to the post office. Our post office is under construction so the parking is notoriously bad, so I considered it a major win win to avoid parking AND get some exercise. I also got to scope out the crazy dark gray skies brewing in tandem with the 98 degree heat. Tornado weather, anyone?

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Speaking of Pedego, would you guys mind taking ten seconds and VOTING for them to win a Superbowl Commercial? It seriously takes just a second and you don’t have to enter anything like your email or anything. Just click the pretty green button and that’s it! Easy as pie, right? (mmm, pie.) (reminder ‘cuz I like to be upfront and it’s just the good thing to do: I’m a Pedego ambassador and received a bike in exchange for my discussion and promotion of it.)

3) I occasionally get to write for my friends at DietToGo.com, and this week, I shared some summer grilling tips. It was fun playing with new tricks like lemon slices on the grill for fish, and as usual, I enjoyed doing some food photography outside. (PS: Kebabs? One of my favorite things to eat. So light and delicious.) Check it out here, will ya? Use lemon slices directly on the grill to cook your fish!

4) You should watch this video of puppies getting their dinner as they grow over the course of a year. Because it’s adorable, and that’s a good enough reason.

 

Dunkin Donuts comes to Encino… and a Giveaway!

A few days ago I was trollin’ FB as I do, when a post caught my eye. My friend Melissa had posted about a grand opening for Dunkin Donuts in ENCINO! Encino is about 6 minutes from my house. Color me excited! Now, I’m not a huge donut lover (that’s the hubby), even though there’s a donut in the DCD logo. However, I am a huge lover of the occasional delicious treat, and the Dunkin Donuts Chocolate Kreme donut fits the bill! Also, growing up in Chicago, Dunkin Donuts became a landmark of weekends – whenever a dozen donuts showed up at our house, it officially signified the start of a special weekend.

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Dunkin Donuts is now open from 5 AM to 11 pm in Encino, at the intersection of Balboa and Ventura.

I headed over today for the grand opening and got myself some delicious donuts and lunch. For lunch I chose the egg and bacon sandwich on a pretzel roll. Super yummy! I loved the crunch of salt against the chewy pretzel roll. I also got a massive unsweetened iced tea ($1.99, holla), because DD knows their beverages – no watered down tea concentrates here. (Hubby is a fan of the DD coffee). I loved how all of the staff at the Encino DD were friendly, smiling, and hustlin’. It felt like a taste of the Midwest here in LA!

Bacon and Egg Sandwich on Pretzel Roll with Large Iced Tea - yum!

Bacon and Egg Sandwich on Pretzel Roll with Large Iced Tea – yum!

To celebrate the grand opening of Dunkin Donuts Encino, you have a chance to win a $20 Dunkin Donuts Gift Card! You can use this gift card at any location in the United States – hooray! To enter, use Rafflecopter to submit your entries. The give away starts at 12:00 a.m. on 6/10 (Early birds reading this on 6/9: sorry for the delay!). I’ll choose a winner next Wednesday, June 17th. United States only, must be 18+. Good luck – and if you win, get a Chocolate Kreme (or Blueberry Cake!) donut in my honor 😉

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Are you a fan of Dunkin? Visit DunkinDonuts.com to find a location near you :)

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Disclosure: I was offered a $10 giftcard for writing this post and the $20 gift card for giveaway. All opinions are my own and I wanted to share as a Midwesterner happy to see some Midwestern food love coming to California :)

 

Alyssa’s California Avocado Adventure: Rancho Rodoro and Mission Packing Plant

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Stuff my lawyer made me say: Holy guacamole! The California Avocado Commission provided me free lodging, transportation, meals, and awesome avocado swag. I am not under any obligation to write or share about my trip.

After our first tour of the day at the avocado nursery, Brokaw Nursery, we boarded the bus and headed out to Rancho Rodoro — a beautiful avocado farm nestled in Santa Paula, Calif. Rancho Rodoro is named after the farmer Randy Axell’s parents, a combination of their names Ross and Dorothy. Randy has been growing California Avocados for over 40 years, and he grows Hass and Lamb Hass avocados. It was really interesting to hear him talk about how avocado farming works; how precise the weather, soil, water, and nutrients need to be to produce a bountiful avocado crop. The photo below shows buds of soon to be avocado babies.

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We were given the opportunity to pick some of our own avocados, and that was a blast. I spotted this beauty and knew it had to be mine!

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Did you know that avocados don’t ripen on the tree? Avocados only ripen once you pick them. Once we all  harvested to our heart’s content, we headed into Randy’s awesome barn, where Chef Pink from Bacon and Brine of Solvang was preparing us a delicious lunch.

Farmer Randy, Jan, the VP of Marketing for California Avocado Commission, and Chef Pink of Bacon and Brine share a laugh in Randy's barn

Farmer Randy, Jan, the VP of Marketing for California Avocado Commission, and Chef Pink of Bacon and Brine share a laugh in Randy’s barn

To start, Chef Pink prepared avocado gazpacho, bacon and kim-chi sliders with avocado, and while I unfortunately can’t remember the name, this delicious appetizer that was a very thick, wheaty slice of bread with avocado and crushed almonds and peanuts with Korean seasoning. It was like eating a grilled cheese — the flavor had the savory intensity of amazing cheese, yet there was no cheese at all.

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All of this deliciousness clearly only whet our appetite, as our main course was a slow cooked pulled pork with avocado apple relish. This sandwich was just the hearty meal I needed to pull me out of my mid-day slump. It was served alongside mixed greens with ruby red grapefruit slices and avocado (of course)! Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of it (I wolfed it down too fast to stop and snap… whoops), but trust me when I say we ate some amazing food that weekend, and the pulled pork was my favorite!

Once we all wrapped up our lunch, we said our thank yous to Randy and his wife, and were back on the bus for our last stop of the day, the Mission Avocado Packing Plant in Oxnard, California. Mission Packing had just moved into their new facility, which was formerly a post office! While we weren’t able to snap photos at all points during the tour, I did get a few photos of the packing process. It was mind-blowing to see pretty much all of the state’s avocados rolling through conveyor belts, being weighed, and then being bagged up in variously colored mesh nets.

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We got a great tour by Mission Packing’s Project Manager, and you can bet we rocked our sexy hair nets. Don’t we look great?

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Several of the rooms in this plant were ice cold to keep the avocados a consistent temperature, but what I was most impressed with were two things: 1) the cleanliness of the facility and 2) the efficiency. This facility was squeaky clean, spotless, and it felt VERY secure in terms of being a place where food comes from. I’ve been in other food facilities before and this one felt immaculate! Also, the efficiency here couldn’t be debated. From the machinery to the employees, you could tell Mission has productivity and packing down-pat. Those avocados were preparing for their journey from machine to mouth in a highly-effective fashion.

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It was really cool to see the exact same kinds of avocados I buy (from Costco) get bagged up and ready to go to the store. Did you know that stores can specify a ripeness of avocados when they order them wholesale? There is something called a ripening room that releases the gas ethylene, which causes ripening (you can do this for free in your house by placing an avocado in a brown paper bag with an apple).

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We left with our own sack of avocados and headed back to the Four Seasons Westlake, where our last avocado treat was an amazing dinner full of avocado goodness. Before dinner, we got to hear from R.D. Katie Ferraro (in green) (standing next to Jan, VP of Marketing for CAC), who told us about some of the nutritional benefits of avocados and showed us her go-to method for avocado toast (hint: mash the avocado before you put it on the bread. I always did it after and would end up tearing a hole in my toast!). Another thing she told us that I tried this weekend with rave results was how to store a fresh cut avocado: sprinkle the fruit with lemon juice, lime juice, or white vinegar and place it in an air tight container. Your avocado will remain springy green! Also, if you have an abundance of ripe avocados, consider freezing them. Pureed avocado freezes very well and can be used on sandwiches and in dips, if you use it within four months.

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What are some of the nutritional benefits of California avocados? Let’s discuss!

  • One fifth of a medium avocado has 50 calories and nearly 20 vitamins and minerals.
  • California avocados contribute 11 beneficial carotenoids to one’s diet, including lutein, zeaxanthin, and alpha and beta carotene. In California avocados, the greatest concentration of carotenoids is in the dark green fruit of the avocado closest to the peel.
  • Avocados contain 23 mg of beta-sitosterol, which may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

After Katie’s informative sesh, we headed into the beautiful Four Seasons dining room for our last avo-amazing feast. Here’s the menu from our feast!

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This avocado adventure was totally amazing, and just one more rad opportunity made possible by this lil’ old blog over here! Big thanks to the California Avocado Commission and Golin Harris for hosting an action-packed, informative, and delicious weekend in Ventura County. Now: because I’m sure you guys love avocados too, leave me a comment telling me your favorite way to eat avocado for a chance to win a California Avocado Commission avocado masher. This stainless steel gadget looks like a mini-potato masher, but makes mashing your avocados (for toast, guac, baking, you name it) a breeze! US only, must comment to win.

(Need some avo-inspiration? Check out my grand prize winning recipe, California Avocado Mascarpone Tartlets with Nectarine and Strawberry, or Guacahummus.)

Alyssa’s Avocado Adventure, Part 1: Brokaw Nursery

Stuff my lawyer made me say: Holy guacamole! The California Avocado Commission provided me free lodging, transportation, meals, and awesome avocado swag. I am not under any obligation to write or share about my trip.

Oh, avocados. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I was thrilled to be invited to the California Avocado Grove Tour last weekend with my friends from the California Avocado Commission. We’re in the heart of California Avocado season, and we celebrated this green-hued fruit with a delicious dinner at Salt in Calabasas on Friday night. We sampled delicious noms like Ruby Red Grapefruit and Avocado Salad, Kalua Pork and Avocado Egg Rolls, and my favorite, Short Rib with Avocado Smashed Potatoes. After our bellies were full, we headed to sleep, knowing that we’d be up early the next morning for an avo-amazing breakfast and on our way to our first stop, the Brokaw Nursery in Ventura, Calif.

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Those of you who’ve stuck with the DCD for awhile know that I’m a big ol’ plant nerd. I love digging in the dirt, smelling tomato vines, and planting pretty flowers around my front steps. When I found out we’d be seeing the growth process of avocado trees from their very start, I knew it would be right up my alley. Avocado trees were first planted in Ventura in 1871. During the next 100 years, growers planted avocado seeds and grafted the seedlings with clippings from avocado trees known to have good fruit. William “Hank” Brokaw was born in 1927, to a family of citrus and avocado growers. Initially a math teacher, in 1956 he borrowed $200 from his in-laws and planted 500 avocado seedlings in his backyard.

Connie grafts avocado trees, preparing for a new generation of delicious fruit-bearing goodness.

Connie grafts avocado trees, preparing for a new generation of delicious fruit-bearing goodness.

Brokaw spent 20 years refining a method of growing avocado trees. A clipping from a disease-resistant root is granted onto a seedling from an avocado seed. The plant is grown in the dark for a short period and the clipping grows roots. The original seedling dies, and the stem of the new plant is then grafted with a clipping from a tree with the variety of fruit desired. By the 1970’s, Brokaw’s method was practical, cost efficient, and catching on. Avocado production soared, and Brokaw is currently the state’s largest avocado tree grower. Brokaw has sold more than 10,000,000 avocado trees.

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California produces 90% of the nation’s avocado crop, and avocados are grown by hand on nearly 5,000 small family-owned farms. Most of the avocados in the state of California grow in Central and Southern California, where warm sunshine, rich soil, and cool coastal breezes result in strong trees and delicious fruit.

While at Brokaw Nursery, it was so cool to see the beginning stages of an avocado tree’s life cycle. As you can see from the pictures above, the sheer volume of seedlings, plants, and trees was simply amazing. Now that I had seen how avocado trees are made, it was time to see where these trees graduate to when they’re big enough: an avocado farm! Stay tuned for part two of my avocado adventure, where I share with your our wonderful lunch and grove tour from Rancho Rodoro.

Review: Great Low Carb Bread Company

Hi DCDers! Told ya I’d be back, just in limited capacity. I hope you’ve stopped by to check out my new haunts at LaLaLyssa.com. I’ve been going strong with a low-carb eating plan the past month (no white rice, potatoes, bread, sugar, muffins, pasta, etc), and when the Great Low Carb Bread Company reached out to me with an offer to try their breads in exchange for review, I immediately said yes. When you’re following a low-carb plan, you get to a point where maybe you don’t care so much about sugar (in my case), but you’d gnaw the case off your laptop if it would taste like freshly baked bread.

Cinnamon Bagel with Strawberry Cream Cheese. So Delicious!

Cinnamon Bagel with Strawberry Cream Cheese. So Delicious!

GLCB sent me four items of my choice, and I opted for Everything Bagels, Cinnamon Bagels, Pumpkin Spice Bread, and Sourdough Bread. The minute the goodies arrived at my door, I cracked open the Everything Bagels and popped one in the toaster. You’ll notice these products feel more dense than traditional breads and bagels, and that’s because instead of carb-arific flour that does nothing for you nutritionally, these are made out of ground flaxseed, almond flour, and oat fiber. The bagel toasted up beautifully and received a hearty schmear of cream cheese. I took one bite and was so glad that I was eating a BAGEL. Now, the texture was good, how about the taste? If you bite into this expecting a Noah’s bagel, you’ll be disappointed. But if you bite into this knowing that it’s low carb, good for you, and only 120 calories and 2g net carbs? You’ll be very pleased. The taste is good, slightly nutty, with a nice chewy, finish. I loved the flavored breads most – pumpkin spice bread and the Everything bagel were my favorites out of the bunch. It’s certainly light years ahead of some other low-carb “bread” products — for example, the low carb tortilla that my friend recently said “was so bad that I felt like I was eating the bath mat.” You won’t have that problem with GLCB.

Peanut butter porn, courtesy of natural peanut butter, cacao nibs, and the Great Low Carb Bread Company

Peanut butter porn, courtesy of natural peanut butter, cacao nibs, and the Great Low Carb Bread Company

I’ve actually been having their breads for breakfast every day for nearly a week and a half, and my favorite combo is the Pumpkin Spice Bread (above) with peanut butter and cacao nibs, or the Cinnamon bagel with strawberry cream cheese. One nice thing about being on a lower carb eating plan is that you can be a little bit more liberal with dietary fat, so you’re free to top these yummy breads with delicious spreads and butters.

Let’s talk shop now, nutritionally. Sure, they taste good — but are they good for you? Let’s take a look at the nutritional stats for my fav, the Pumpkin Spice Bread.

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I’m no nutritionist, but my vote would be yes. There’s no nasty chemicals in these — no malitol, no isotols, no aspartame, no splenda – just stuff you can actually pronounce, for only 3g fat and 1 net carb per serving. I’m sold.

You can purchase these breads, bagels, and even pretzels, cakes, muffins, hot dog buns, and paleo breads online at the Great Low Carb Shop. The breads and bagels run around $7.99 per package, which might seem spendy to someone used to dropping $3 on a loaf of bread — but this is a specialty product and is worth it if you miss bread! If you try them, drop me a note and let me know what you liked best. I noticed that their bakery is a mere 7 miles from my house, so I learned I can pick up, since I’m local! Love it when companies let you do that. If you’re not local? Don’t fret — their shipping is affordable considering they’re shipping you super fresh baked goods. (PS: Don’t forget to freeze these right upon receipt. All this deliciousness holds up best in the arctic breeze of your freezer (and it thaws easily in the toaster)).

Have a lovely low-carby day!

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