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 takes on New York in 36 hours!

Hello hello! I’ve just returned from a beautiful wedding in Northern California that I’ll tell you about soon, but first, I have to share photos from my whirlwind trip to New York. I was on business in Philadelphia and decided when my trip ended that I had to go to New York. I’d never been, and NY is just an easy 1.25 hour train ride from Philadelphia. Matt and I packed up our stuff on a Monday morning, and arrived to New York at noon. When I first got out of the train and was greeted by sky-high buildings, honking yellow taxis, and people in business suits swarming around the train station, I instantly knew I would love this city. It felt like a more urban version of Los Angeles, with the frantic pace and bustling energy I see so often around me in my city of Angels. Matt and I checked into our tiny, overpriced hotel and headed off to Shake Shack to have lunch with our dear friend Sarah, a Los Angeles transplant. After an awesome burger, we went off to the Met, where I geeked out over the Egyptology room. Did you know the artwork behind me is from approximately 15 BC? Incredible!

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After the Met, we walked through Central Park. This park was so incredibly calming; and I learned that Central Park is basically just reserved land to keep some of New York’s natural elements intact. It was so green and lush and at points really did feel just like you were walking in a forest. We stopped near this fountain to hear a cello player and violinist fill the air with famous classical pieces, and I just wanted to soak up all of the beauty around me.

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Then, we headed over to Times Square to check it out and also get some dinner. Times Square was one of those things that was cool to see, but a brief walk through was more than enough for me. I’m not a huge fan of tons of light and noise and people, and at night time after a crazy jetlagged weekend, all I wanted to do was eat some pizza and head to bed. We hit up a tiny little corner shop, I don’t even remember the name, and got our first New York pizza. We really lucked out, because it was AMAZING. We started with a slice of white pizza and veggie supreme, and then decided to really go for it and share a piece of pepperoni. This deep-dish, sauce on top, Chicago girl was impressed.

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Then, it was off to bed, and the next morning, we had brunch with another awesome friend, Nick. After brunch, we went to Greenwich Village for a food walking tour! A coworker of mine recommended Foods of NY tours, and I’m so glad I took her recommendation. For just over $50, we got to walk and talk with our awesome tour guide Bari on the beautiful streets of Greenwich Village, learning about history, and tasting nine different foods of New York, including pizza, herbed olive oils and truffle butter, arancini, meatballs, cookies, eggplant rollatini, fresh foccacia, cheese, and cannoli. Arancini are stuffed rice balls which are coated with breadcrumbs and fried. They were traditionally known as a peasant food because most people had rice, and it was a new way to eat rice, and we all know that variety is the spice of life.

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My favorite tasting of the tour was this miniature cannoli. Holy smokes was it delicious! The crackly “shell” was the perfect complement to the light and fluffy cream inside, with just a hint of lemon zest and studded with chocolate chips. I could go for one of these right now..

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We also stopped by a beautiful little restaurant called Palma that was pretty much a real-life display of everything I love in design. Palma had fresh flowers and rustic wood everywhere, book cases loaded with old books, sparkling glass trinkets, and fragrant herbs tucked into tarnished old pewter. The room shown below was actually the family’s original home and is 200 years old. The restaurant is directly in front of this building, and one day, they had to open Palma up  for a dignitary as they were out of space in the main dining room. (My memory on this is fuzzy, so apologies if I’m making anything up.) Basically, word got out that people could eat in the family’s kitchen, and it became so popular they eventually had to move out, build a house upstairs, and let their original home become an extension of the kitchen. Howard Stern is a big fan. Can you see how wonderful it would be to be with your friends and a great bottle of red in this cozy little carriage house? I definitely need to make reservations to eat here when I go back to New York.

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For this foodie, the tour was an awesome way to get to know one of New York’s neighborhoods and get some walk-training in at the same time! I’ll definitely be trying out some of their other tours when I head back to New York, which I hope I can do in the near future. 36 hours in NYC was enough to let me know that I need to take a proper vacation there one day, probably at least a week, to really get a feel for the city. There’s SO MUCH more I wanted to see and do; like a broadway show, checking out the High Line, walking the Brooklyn Bridge, seeing Lady Liberty, visiting Ground Zero, going to the Natural History Museum, etc. I can’t wait to experience the Big Apple when I have more time on my side. For now, I’m so glad I got the chance to experience another amazing city. Have you been to NYC? What did you think?

Family Fun and Kitsch: My Favorite Things


Hey everybody, happy Friday! This is a non-weight-loss related post but I got to thinking about KITSCH the past few days. This weekend I’m super excited because on Saturday I have an action-packed day filled with fun, at the Hollywood Wax Museum and at the Los Angeles Dia De Los Muertos festival. One of the things I always try to do when I’m in my home city and when I’m traveling, is to see places packed with Kitsch. What is Kitsch, exactly? Some people define Kitsch as “pleasantly distasteful” but I actually prefer to think of it as the things that don’t *quite* fit in but are fun, unusual and things you don’t see everyday. Maybe this is why I love browsing flea markets 🙂 I was thinking about how I always go out of my way to find kitsch when I travel, and these few examples popped up…

Fish Pedicure in Thailand with hubby and the Running Jewess. Eeeeek!

Fish Pedicure in Thailand with hubby and the Running Jewess. Eeeeek!

 

One of my favorite “kitschy” things we did in Thailand was the garrah fish pedicure. I had read about it in magazines and was at first horrified, but after a friend posted that she did it, I had one of those “Well, when in Rome…” type reactions. It cost a few dollars and the sensation was WEIRD. It wasn’t so much that I was worried about it hurting or being gross, what creeped me out more was like, what if I somehow step on a fishy and kill it?! (Yes, I’m the weirdo that always goes to the worst case scenario, in this case, worrying about fish safety!) My feet were actually noticeably softer afterwards, and man, is it a great story. I’m so glad I did it!

 

Dia de Los Muertos bride and Alyssa!

Dia de Los Muertos bride and Alyssa!

In Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, I always love the cultural art. They have some fantastic iconographic images of plus-sized ladies that are adorable, as well as all of Frida and Diego’s amazing work. I especially love the wooden skulls like the one above. I’m excited to see more of these at the Dia De Los Muertos festival tomorrow. I think it’s really important to step outside our bounds of what’s “normal” in regards to art; for example, this skeleton lady would creep a lot of people out, but I thought it was COOL. Again, kitsch!

Kitschy Pea Soup Andersen's in Santa Nella, Calif. Photo from Simply Junebug's Instagram.

Kitschy Pea Soup Andersen’s in Santa Nella, Calif. Photo from Simply Junebug’s Instagram.

Another kitsch classic? Pea Soup Andersen’s. When I stopped here on the way to Fitcation, I was amazed that I had never been. They have a delightful little store loaded with kitsch Tchotchkes, mugs, magnets, candles, food items, imported spices. I LOVED it and could have easily spent $300 on all the various bric-a-brac. Thinking about all of this, it’s no wonder I love the decorating style of country clutter and those restaurants that have stuff ALL OVER the walls – guitars, trophies, pictures, t-shirts, money. I guess being a visual person it just delights me to look around and read a little bit of everything 🙂

So there’s just a few examples of KITSCH that rock my world. I can’t wait to share pictures with you from the Hollywood Wax Museum – a place I can’t believe I’ve never been to considering I’ve lived 20 minutes from Hollywood for the past eight years! It’s actually the longest running wax museum in the United States. I’m curious which waxy celebs I’ll pose with 😉 Another place I really adore is the Cheese Castle in Wisconsin, the Bean in Chicago, and the giant dinosaurs along the freeway on the way to Palm Springs. If there’s a giant ball of twine, I’m there! When you travel, do you find yourself going out of your way to see the weird and unusual or do you stick to standard tourist attractions? Or do you skip both of those things and explore the uncovered parts of cities you’re visiting, maybe local digs? Would you do a fish pedicure?!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Fitcation Highlights Part 1, Thursday: Paso Robles, SIP The Good Life

Happy Monday, friends! I’m returning to work today feeling refreshed and relaxed after a wonderful weekend meeting many inspirational women at Fitcation! I drove up to Paso Robles on Thursday with my new friend June from Savannah. We quickly broke the ice and were gabbing like old friends within minutes of meeting. I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with my new travel buddy and seeing her next year in Savannah for FitBloggin’! Here we are being silly bloggers on a lunch stop at Pea Soup Andersen’s, a kitschy place you definitely need to stop at!

Bloggers take pictures of EVERYTHING. Photo from Simply Junebug's Instagram.

Bloggers take pictures of EVERYTHING. Photo from Simply Junebug’s Instagram.

We arrived in Paso Robles in the nick of time to check in, get our awesome swag bags, and then head out in a van to downtown Paso Robles. The TravelPaso team had set up some amazing things for us to see and do, including sampling local wine and homemade soda at Pithy Little Wine Company, chowing down on delicious Brown Butter Cookies at the Brown Butter Cookie Company (Salty AND sweet), and then browsing unique knicknacks and goods at the Paso Robles General Store. One of the things I loved about Paso Robles was the friendly, small-town feel. Everybody was so friendly and gracious to have us, which is impressive considering 30 female bloggers can be quite chatty and a little overwhelming with our constant tweeting and picture taking 🙂 . I especially enjoyed meeting two of the owners of the Paso General Store, as they own the shop along with another female friend. Girl power! As someone who’s new to owning her own business, I love chatting with ladies who have been there, done that, and are kickin’ ass and takin’ names. They had some really unique artisanal goods in their shop, and I left with a tin of gourmet ghost pepper salt for a Christmas gift, a hand-poured honey beeswax candle and a metal reusable straw. I could have easily spent a whole paycheck in that store!

Alyssa with two awesome women business owners of the Paso Robles General Store.

Alyssa with two awesome women business owners of the Paso Robles General Store.

After doing some shopping and exploring, we headed to Studios on the Park, an awesome community art space. Once we got there, we kicked off our festivity with a certain drink that would be making a recurring theme during the whole Fitcation…. SIP Certified WINE! Because nothing says “fun” like gal pals and vino, the lovely people at SIP, which stands for sustainability in Practice, helped coordinate many different wineries supplying their grown-up grape juice for our pleasure. What is sustainability in practice? SIP says, “SIP is a sustainability certification for California winegrape growers. The program looks at the farm in its entirety addressing water conservation, energy efficiency, air quality, habitat conservation, business stability and social responsibility. Each applicant is audited by a third party inspector to confirm that they meet the strict eligibility requirements.”

Community Art Space Studios On The Park, Paso Robles

Community Art Space Studios On The Park, Paso Robles

The whole SIP concept is cool on so many levels – not only are you putting the most premium ingredients in your body, but when you buy wine that has the SIP Seal on it, you’re helping to support viticulturists who truly care about the environment. When you look at the beauty that abounds in any wine country, it makes sense that we’d do everything we can to help protect it. Now that I’m educated in SIP, I’m going to make sure all of my wine purchases moving forward are SIP approved. It’s the least I can do to help save our environment while catching a nice little buzz at the same time. CHEERS to that, right?!

Paso Robles Wineries Help Loosen Up Travel-Tired Bloggers with Delicious SIP Certified Wines!

Paso Robles Wineries Help Loosen Up Travel-Tired Bloggers with Delicious SIP Certified Wines!

In addition to grapey goodness, we had a super yummy and healthy locally sourced meal from FIG Good Foods of Atascadero. One of my favorite dishes they served was a wonderful Indian spiced roasted vegetable medley. It may have been Morroccan, but you ate it with a fig and olive chutney on top and it was GOOOOOD. It also was something I wouldn’t regularly make for myself, so this signaled the start of a vacation beginning. As y’all know, I’m all about the yum-yums, so here’s a snap of me looking tickled pink with such a fancy and tasty meal!

Yummy Fig Good Foods catering from Atascadero/Paso Robles

Yummy Fig Good Foods catering from Atascadero/Paso Robles

After imbibing in yummy food and wines, it was either back to the hotel or out to a bar. I chose to go back to the hotel, knowing that our early start time the next day would have me yawning if I didn’t get some shut-eye. It was the perfect way to start a fabulous, fun-filled Fitcation. Come back tomorrow to find out what we did on Friday, and what wine tasting has to do with this friendly little beaver!

So now, tell me. Have you ever been to a wine country, and if so, which one?!

A Dam Fine Wheelbarrow. What do beavers have to do with wine? Find out tomorrow!

A Dam Fine Wheelbarrow. What do beavers have to do with wine? Find out tomorrow!

 

Fitbloggin’ Day One: New Friends, Pop Chips and Stickers!

Hi everybody! I safely made it to Baltimore for FitBloggin’, and while I feel a little bit like a zombie after a brutal red eye flight and the three hour time difference, I had a great first day! I started out by decorating my badge. Notice the gray cat, watermelon slice, bumble bee, strawberry, seahorse and sugar snap pea. I was very impressed with the sticker selection!

Then, I attend some awesome sessions, where I got to meet weight loss blogger role models like the hilarious Jack Shit Gettin’ Fit (who later put mentos inside a bottle of coke as part of his speech on creativity – this guy is rad. Anyone who enjoys creating harmless artificial explosions is A-OK with me.)

Alyssa from DoubleChinDiary.com with Jack Shit Gettin' Fit

I also watched a great social media tutorial by Skinny Emmie. She’s super cute and funny, so it was neat to hear her present as a real person and not just through a computer! She has this adorable southern belle accent, too.

SkinnyEmmie.com at FitBloggin'

I definitely had to have a snack, so I was thrilled to try out PopChips new tortilla chips! The ranch flavor is super yummy, albeit a little stinky breath-ish (in a good way)! Can’t wait to try out more flavors tomorrow.

Thanks for sponsoring FitBloggin, PopChips!

I’ve also met all kinds of wonderful people – tomorrow I’ll snap some photos and share! I was a little camera shy today given that I’m running on one hour of sleep, but tomorrow after my morning Zumba workout with Mrs. FatAss, I’m sure I’ll be glowing.

Have you ever gone to an industry related or personal hobby convention? What was your favorite thing? (Not gonna lie – free stuff (schwag!) is awesome!)

My new jet setter life style

Hello everyone! I’m currently on my way back to Los Angeles after a week working on site in San Francisco. I’m sardine canned between two lovely people- one reading the wall street journal and the other snoring with his mouth hanging open. It’s exciting.

I get home for a couple hours to re-pack, grab my hubby, and then we’re both off to Baltimore for Fitbloggin, where I’ll be meeting up with people who’ve already completed their weight loss journey and those like me who are just starting. I can’t wait to sweat in the mini trampoline fitness class, try out my new shoes from Reebok, hear speakers like Skinny Emmie and enjoy evenings with my hubby, who will be exploring DC in the daytime.

Here’s a quick update for the week- my weight is holding steady at 11 pounds down, and while I didn’t exercise this week, I did make lots of solid lunch choices like these: salads, veggie tortilla-less burrito, veggie enchiladas, and fresh fruit for snacks.

Next week will calm down for a couple days and then it’s back on the road for a few days to celebrate hubby’s birthday. I’m looking forward to getting back into the gym routine next week and sleeping in my own bed! Watch for a new update tomorrow about Fitbloggin’!

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