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.)

Mamma Chia’s Clean Energy Drinks Review and Giveaway

Hi everyone! The day after Christmas, I started to get that too familiar tickle in my throat. The next day it got a little worse, until finally, I got a full blown cold. The cold is pretty much over (whew), but then today I woke up with a cough and sore throat….boo. Pretty sure I caught what my friend has. Gah, weakened immune system! Needless to say, my house being the equivalent of the sick bay on a ship isn’t helping me plow through my work day. What is helping is homemade chicken soup and a few well-timed boosts… like the Mamma Chia Clean Energy Drink.

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It is the FIRST beverage that combines the power of chia (remember these gummy, crunchy seeds?) with the clean energy of guayusa (gwhy-you-sa) resulting in a yummy drink. It’s made with organic fruit juices and is lightly sweetened (14g cane sugar). One bottle has:

  • More than an entire day’s worth of Omega-3s (2500 mg)
  • 25 percent of one’s daily fiber (6 grams)
  • 4 grams of complete protein
  • 90 mg of natural caffeine (about as much in an 8 oz. cup of coffee)
  • Twice the antioxidants of a cup of green tea
  • Calcium, powerful antioxidants and valuable minerals
  • 120 calories
  • The filling power to tide you over until your next meal, thanks to those jelly seeds.

These drinks, which come in four flavors, (my favorite is grape!) are Non-GMO Verified, gluten-free, vegan, Kosher and USDA Certified Organic. These will be about $2.99 and can be found at Vons, Whole Foods, Safeway and Target, starting now. Now, what good would it be if I raved about them without giving you a chance to try? Mamma Chia has kindly offered 1 Double Chin Diary reader a whole set of Mamma Chia Energy Drinks (4 drinks), a Mamma Chia Camel Bak Water Bottle, and a week supply of Mamma Chia Chia Squeezes!

Just follow the steps listed on the Rafflecopter to earn entries, and don’t forget to tell your friends. US Only, 18+. Good luck!!!

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The Epic Double Chin Diary Holiday Gift Guide

Ah, the holidays. The smell of chestnuts roasting (really, who does that?), family fighting (now that’s more likely), and the season of sales, sales, and sales, causing us all to stress out about the perfect gift when really it doesn’t matter. However, because gifts are kind of a thing, I’ve rounded up some new favorites for your consideration for those who like relaxing, cooking, fashion, and exercise. All of these gifts were sent to me gratis in exchange for mention (but only if I really liked them – two got the axe!). This post also contains affiliate links, so if you click on something and buy it, I might make four cents (I’m rich!). Enjoy — and be sure to read carefully as you have a few chances to win some of these goodies for yourself!

1) Royal Silk Scarf by World Vision

Looking for the perfect thoughtful gift for your world conscious friend? Consider this royal silk scarf from WorldVision. Vietnam’s Ma Chau villagers weave these traditional silky smooth scarves, helping to provide them with a sustainable income. This scarf is 68″ long, and has the most incredible colors and vibrancy.  Each is unique; size and color may vary slightly. You can make a suggested donation of $95, or enter an amount that’s meaningful to you. Want to see how purchasing from WorldVision works? Click here.

Alyssa rocks the World Vision Royal Silk Scarf

Alyssa rocks the World Vision Royal Silk Scarf

You know you want one of your own… so follow the steps below for your chance to win!
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2) Tiger Tail Classic

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Foam rolling both terrifies me and delights me; the concept of massaging painful, tight muscles is initially scary, mildly painful, and then after it’s sweet relief. When I heard about Tiger Tail, I knew I would need one of these puppies (kitties?) for my post-walk soreness. I packed it along with me on my trip to San Diego, and this thing was passed among my teammates with more enthusiasm than a box of chocolates. The small, compact size and quality build make it perfect for bringing along on trips, or for stashing in your house. Our traditional foam roller is bulky and giant, and this removes a lot of heft but still packs a punch. Plus, look at how adorable the packaging is! I loved this thing post 3-Day, and am super psyched about using it to roll out my muscles post-hike. The Classic is priced at $34.95, is made in the USA, easy to clean, and has a 3 year warranty. The next thing I’ll try out is the Knotty Tiger — I can really see that sorting out the giant knots in my neck!

The cutest sticker on the packaging!

The cutest sticker on the packaging!

3) Creekside Farms Kitchen Herb Wreath

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it’s too bad smellovision doesn’t exist yet on the web!

This is the type of thing that doesn’t come across my inbox too often; a gift that simultaneously makes me go “ooh, pretty” and “Ahhh, it smells good.” While I was initially struck by the photos of how stunning Creekside Farm’s Kitchen Herb Wreath is, when I received it, it was the amazingly lush smell of lavender, dill, oregano, sage, and rosemary that won me over. It looks great outside (away from direct light) and also inside, where you can see the naughty cat that isn’t supposed to be on the table. (She argues that the wreath smelled so good she just HAD to be closer to it.) This wreath would be the perfect gift for the Foodie in your life, and if you want a different style, check out my other favorite, the Sunflower wreath. Creekside Farms grows all of their own herbs, and they dry everything on site, truly making these family-created products artisanal.

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Stunning Kitchen Herb Wreath Scents Up The Kitchen

Visit Creekside Farms on Facebook here, and on Twitter here. Want 15% off your order? Use code CURAN. I know that I personally will be making an order for one of these beauties!

Gorgeous Up Close Shot of the Kitchen Herb Wreath by Creekside Farms

Gorgeous Up Close Shot of the Kitchen Herb Wreath by Creekside Farms

4) Natracure Heated Booties

So what if these are technically for Arthritis – after walking a ton of miles this past weekend in the 3-Day, I couldn’t wait to slip these babies on my feet. With separate microwavable gel inserts, you heat up the pads, stick ’em in the bottom of the super fuzzy velour slippers, slip them on and oooh and ahh your way to toasty relaxation. Better yet, these booties are coated on the inside with a smart gel lining, with 7 botanicals. My feet did actually feel smoother and smelled like a foot that had been freshly scrubbed at a spa. One tip with these: don’t walk in them! Thankfully I Googled it online before I took a step and burst the gel packs, but these booties are meant to be worn 5-10 minutes at a time to heat up your tired tootsies, and they’re worn best when you’re relaxin’ in one spot. These retail for $49.99 and are great for people with foot pain and stiffness, and you can also find a pair designed just for the hands. Time for relaxation!

Cozy and comfy in Natracure's Heated Booties

Cozy and comfy in Natracure’s Heated Booties

5) Goody QuikStyle Brush

Ever since I got my hair cut and colored, I’ve been making an effort to actually style my hair rather than throwing it in a sloppy bun. Part of that means blow drying my hair, and since I’m lazy, I like to exert minimal effort. That’s where the Quikstyle comes in – an awesome, space age looking hair brush that has microfiber tufts between the bristles. I had actually seen this brush in stores and wanted to try it, so when it came through my inbox I figured this would be a fun one to review.

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The awesome Goody Quikstyle

While initially I was skeptical, it does actually dry your hair as you brush through it. And, it’s designed smart, so antimicrobial microfiber keeps the brush fresh and inhibits mold or mildew growth. Seeing is believing, so how about you enter to win one yourself by following the steps below? The Goody Quick Style Paddle Brush is six bucks on Amazon.com, a perfect stocking stuffer for the lady in your life who needs a darling ‘do on the go.

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I hope you’ll consider some of these goodies for the loved ones in your life this holiday season. What’s on your wishlist?

Health Warrior Chia Bars Review and Giveaway

If we were in person together, I’d totally start telling you about these Chia bars by chanting, Ch, Ch, Ch, Chia! Side note: I have had several Chia pets in my lifetime, and they never grow as beautifully lush as the ads made them out to be. Typical. Thankfully, I now have a much more useful application for Chia Seeds in my daily life: as part of my diet! My tentative enchantment began when I started making pudding out of Chia Seeds, like this nommy Peanut Butter Cocoa recipe. Then, I worked briefly for a nutrition bar company, and one of the bars they recommend I try was the Health Warrior Chia Bars. Right away I was intrigued by their small size. I know that sounds weird because usually in America, bigger is better, but I was on the lookout for something I could tuck into my purse or waist pack for on the go. I picked up a mango bar and was blown away at the taste. Immediately, you notice the lovely, chewy texture, the real hunks of mango, and the nutty, toasty taste of the Chia seeds. Each of these bars has 3 grams of protein, 4g of fiber, 4g of sugar and is only 110 calories. Plus, they’re packed with 1,000 mg of Omega-3.

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Health Warrior has kindly sent over a few packages of Mango and Coconut Bars for my 3-Day team, and I know we’re all looking forward to fueling up with them over our 60-mile journey. If tropical delight isn’t your thing, you can also try Chia Bars in Apple Cinnamon, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Banana Nut, Coffee, Acai Berry, and Dark Chocolate Cherry. I’ve had the Banana Nut before as well and it was like delicious banana bread in a tiny, compact bar that’s lots better for you than banana bread. Now, I might say I love this product, but how do we know it’s legit, and I’m not just another rambling blogger? Because Mr. Double Chin Diary has been going through these like crazy, and I actually had to hide the last two boxes from him and remind him that these are for my walking team! Usually he turns his nose up (and usually, rightfully so) at the variety of chalky protein powders and stuff that makes its way into the house.

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Let’s talk about the nutrition stats for a moment. While these bars aren’t 100% organic, they use a bunch of organic ingredients, and there’s NO CRAP in their ingredients. You can pronounce every ingredient, and it’s all stuff that’s, you know, actually made out of food! These bars are dairy free, gluten-free, soy-free, and 100% vegan — and 100% tasty.

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Now! Enough about what I think about them. Let’s get you a chance to try them too. Enter now to win a box of Chia Bars, valued at $23.50 for 15 bars. The only mandatory entry is for you to hit “Easy Entry” on the Rafflecopter below. Then, score extra chances to win by doing the additional steps. This giveaway will end on Monday, 11/17 at 11:59 p.m. PST. GOOD LUCK!

 
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De-stress with Organic India Tea: Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: I received free samples of Organic India Tea in exchange for a review.

Stress. No matter how many downward dogs, deep breaths, or meditation chants I do, stress always finds a way back into my life. It’s kind of just the age we live in; life is chaotic. Cell phones buzzing, emails pinging… the constant connection, though delightful, can also add up. When you think about a de-stressing beverage, you probably think of beer or wine. Oh yes; a nice buzz can sometimes be a great way to de-stress. But! If you’re seeking a de-stressing beverage that is appropriate for the work day, or one you can consume while in a moving vehicle, I think I have a solution.  ORGANIC INDIA has over 18 different flavors of its signature organic Tulsi, Holy Basil herb, that helps reduce stress, aid in digestion, balance metabolism, support anti-aging and overall immune system.

I was sent three types of tea to try; Original Tulsi Teabags, Raspberry Peach Tulsi Loose-Leaf, and Moringa Tulsi Teabags. First of all, I love that these teas are organic, because I recently learned that some big-name tea companies cover their tea with all sorts of pesticides (that sucks – but Organic India doesn’t). Holy Basil itself has a slightly peppery taste to it with a sweetness I really like, and don’t worry — it doesn’t taste like the classic Italian pesto, so you’re not going to feel like you’re sipping a mug of pesto. The Raspberry Peach was my favorite out of this batch, tastewise, for its fruity undertones. However, Moringa takes the cake for the coolest attributes — “Tulsi (Holy Basil) and Moringa (Moringa oleifera) are two of the most unique herbs to come out of India, and together they offer a myriad of health benefits. Tulsi is well known in the west for its adaptogenic benefits and uses in combating stress. The antioxidant activity in Moringa is extremely high, and the easiest way for your body to assimilate them is in tea form. There is one antioxidant in particular that Moringa contains called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, which is twice as powerful resveratrol, one of the most popular anti-aging antioxidant supplements on the market. EGCG has been shown to help maintain healthy LDL cholesterol levels and protect cardiovascular health.” I try and drink a cup of tea daily anyways; can you imagine if I replaced my daily breakfast tea with this one? Cashing in on the health benefits!

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The concept behind Tulsi that I love, besides the organic, non-GMO, sustainible farming side, is that you’re taking the very relaxing act of drinking a cup of tea and turning it into even more of a “chill” moment by using an herb that’s shown to be a mood lifter. Some people think that herbal remedies are hocus pocus, but having had my own garden for years and seeing how cats take to catnip and how aloe soothes burns and how peppermint can cure a gnarly stomach has proven to me that herbs are powerful forms of medicine. One note about Tulsi Looseleaf that’s just good to know: it is a smaller brew of leaf product, so you’ll end up with some sediment at the bottom of your mug (shown above). It won’t harm ya, and you’ll barely notice it, but if you’re a super picky tea drinker, you can brew through a coffee filter or use a french press.

Because I’d rather show you than tell you, let’s get to the good stuff! One lucky reader will win a nice starter pack of Tulsi Teas, in Pomegranate Green tea, Original Tulsi, and India Breakfast. Please use the rafflecopter to enter to win, and note all the extra ways you can score entries! This contest will run until Thursday, July 31 at 11:59 p.m. PST. Winner must be 18 years or older and live in the United States. GOOD LUCK!
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