Natural Delights Medjool Date Summit

With a quick hop, skip, and a jump, I boarded a plane from LAX en route to YUM. Yes, that is the actual abbreviation for Yuma International Airport. YUM couldn’t be any more perfect for a food blogger summit! Even better, the mountains surrounding the Yuma area are called the Chocolate Mountains. Uh-mazing. As you can already tell, this was a food filled adventure! After my previous collaborations working with Natural Delights Medjool Dates I was invited to attend their first ever blogger summit in Yuma, Arizona. It was nothing but delightful. ha. ha. pun definitely intended.

Let’s start off with why I LOVE Medjool Dates so much:

  • They are naturally sweet – Medjool dates are naturally sweet and contain no added sugar, making them an ideal alternative to artificial and processed sweeteners.
  • They help protect against cancer – Medjool dates are filled with polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that help protect the body against the oxidation and inflammation of cells that can lead to cancer. Medjool dates contain more antioxidants than blackberries, plums and apples.
  • They help stabilize blood sugar levels – Medjool dates rate low to low/medium on the Glycemic Index (GI). A low-GI carb diet keeps glucose and insulin levels stable, helping maintain sustained energy and a healthy weight.
  • They make you feel fuller for longer – Medjool dates are loaded with dietary fiber. Just one-quarter cup of Medjools provides 12 percent of the daily requirement of fiber and helps satisfy between-meal cravings.
  • They can reenergize – Rich in potassium, manganese and other important minerals, Medjools help balance blood sodium levels and release energy from protein, fat and carbohydrates.
  • They are a healthy snack – Medjool dates are a no-fat and no-cholesterol treat, making them ideal for snacking.
  • They help fight against “bad” cholesterol – Medjool dates help lower LDL cholesterol levels, which decreases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
  • They can ease labor and deliveries in pregnant women – A study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology indicated that pregnant women who consumed six Medjool dates for four weeks prior to their estimated delivery date had easier labors with fewer complications.
  • They help lower blood pressure – Medjool dates are also dense in copper, Vitamin B6, niacin, calcium, iron and Vitamin K, making it the perfect addition to the DASH diet, which is proven to lower blood pressure.
  • They have a long shelf life – Medjool dates have a shelf life of 30 days when stored at room temperature – making them ideal for travel and enjoying at work, home or play.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-41In attendance were these fineeeee bloggers:
Very front: Beth Atkinson from DGWB – thanks for the pic, girl!
Second Row (from left): Cynthia David – Cynthia David Blog, Caroline Edwards – Chocolate and Carrots, Me!
Third Row: Theresa Albert – My Friend in Food, Nicole Hamaker – Pinch My Salt, Kim Nguyen – Lovin’ From The Oven
Back row : Alyssa Brantley – Everyday Maven, Jackie Bruchez – The Seaside Baker

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-3I arrived in Yuma to sunny skies at a warm 103 degrees and tons of Natural Delights goodies in my air conditioned  hotel room!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-6Night one started with a happy hour full of Medjool date appetizers like mascarpone stuffed dates, and sweet Medjool date salsa.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-37After happy hour we made our way to Glen Vandervoort’s house for a beautiful dinner with other Bard Valley Medjool Date growers and their families. The Medjool date appetizers continued with prosciutto wrapped dates, and an olive date tapenade that was to die for. Just think, salty sweet deliciousness. I will be sharing the original recipe with you this week!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-4I came home from dinner to turndown and a box of Bard Date Company chocolate covered dates from Dave & Debbie Mansheim’s shop Basket Creations and More. They are like chocolate covered raisins, but better. Much better! Want to make some chocolate covered dates similar to these? Try this recipe for Medjool Date Pecan Chocolate Truffles!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-7The next morning, we all met in the conference room for breakfast, history of Natural Delights Medjool Dates, and a rundown of their current and upcoming products.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-38Natural Delights is now offering Snack Packs of Medjool dates and their super popular date rolls. I love the convenience of these mini bags. They make for a great healthy on the go snack! I actually wish these would be in the check out lines at Whole Foods and other grocery stores. I would definitely grab mini bags of fresh Medjool dates versus a bag of candy any day!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-24Glen Vandervoort brought us freshly harvested medjool dates straight off of his tree for us to try during breakfast. Words cannot even describe how divine fresh dates are. They literally taste like caramel. For the rest of the day, all we (the bloggers) could talk about was how insanely amazing the fresh dates were!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-33After breakfast we visited the medjool date gardens!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-26We had the opportunity to go up in the cherry picker and harvest dates from a 30ft tree.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-25Safety First! Andrew Costanza: Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers Association’s Director of Compliance and Standards got us in our sweet harnesses before going up in the trees. How fab do Alyssa (Everyday Maven) and Kim (Lovin’ From The Oven) look?!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-28When dates are growing, they are covered in cloth bags to prevent birds from eating them, and any from falling to the ground. In order to harvest dates we shook the bags, untied the string holding the bag together at the bottom, and then let the ripened dates fall out of the bag and onto a tray.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-31Once the dates fall onto the trays, they are checked and sorted depending on their ripeness. As you can see the yellow date closest to the front is not yet ripe, the date in the center is only partly ripe, and the  last one is just perfect.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-30Theresa (My Friend in Food) sorting through her pile of harvested Medjool dates.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-29Beth from DGWB harvesting dates with the bloggers!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-32“The Big Six”
Did you know that Medjool dates are one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world? I bet you wouldn’t have guessed they have been around for 8,000 years! In 1927, eleven Medjool date trees were brought over from Morocco to escape disease. Of these 11 trees, nine were brought to Bard Valley and six still remain today. All 250,000+ Medjool date trees in Bard Valley can be traced back to “The Big Six.” Kind of amazing if you ask me!
Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-34Me standing with one of “The Big Six” Medjool date trees. As you can tell, they are soooo tallll!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-23After frolicking in the date gardens, we arrived at Datepac, LLC., where all of Natural Delights Medjool Dates are packaged for you! I loved the vase of pens in their front office with non other than date pits! Who needs rice or beans, right? Hilarious!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-1Health and safety required us to wear these super chic hairnets and visitor passes while inside. #lunchladychic

IMG_7859 While at Datepac, we watched the dates make their way from being washed to sealed up in their packages.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-21After being washed, the dates go one by one down a conveyer belt which takes individual photos of each date with a fancy shmancy state of the art camera. Once the computer system receives each image, it determines the date’s size. A brief puff of air then blows each date onto next next conveyer belt according to it’s size. So high tech!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-19The packing grade scale doesn’t just go by size. It actually goes from highest quality and largest date, down to lowest quality and smallest date. The quality is determined by how tight or puffy the skin of the date is.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-36It was amazing to see how much of the process was actually done by hand. In order to sort the dates, it must be done by (extremely clean) bare hands to feel the skin’s texture.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-16We even got a chance to sort the dates and see if we could tell the difference between jumbo, large, extra fancy, fancy, mini, and confection.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-18After dates are sorted, they go to the packaging area.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-20Dates on dates on dates.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-17 Another fun part of Datepac that we got to explore was the Date Roll area! We watched them make some fresh pistachio date rolls. The lower quality (not so pretty, but still tasty) dates are ground up (kind of like sausage), rolled in their topping, and then sliced up and packaged.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-15After our tour of Datepac, we had a beautful lunch at River City Grill. The restaurant made us a special lunch filled with, you guessed it: Natural Delights Medjool Dates! Lunch started with Bacon Wrapped Dates and Vietnamese Spring Rolls. Next up was a fresh Salad with Juicy Pears and Chopped Medjool Dates. For the main course, I chose a Medjool Date & Pesto Pasta. Our decadent lunch concluded with Date Caramelized Crème Brulée. Ohh my tummy was so happy!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-14Once we got back to the hotel from lunch, we had a social media break for a couple of hours before our next event. Andrew (Director of Compliance and Standards) asked if any of us wanted to go on a spontaneous trip to the sand dunes in California. Funny because we were staying in Arizona! Five of us we’re up for the adventure, and away we went!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-9The sand dunes were absolutely gorgeous.

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-8On our little adventure, we also made a quick stop in Mexico. Just kidding! Kind of…

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-13We were so close to the border. No joke! We were in Arizona, California, and Mexico all within 15 minutes! Andrew dared us to go and poke our fingers between the border fence, but none of us took the dare, haha! The sign was a bit intimidating!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-12Kim from Lovin’ From The Oven!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-11Cynthia (Cynthia David Blog), Kim (Lovin’ From The Oven), Theresa (My Friend in Food), Me, and  Caroline (Chocolate and Carrots).

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-39After our trip to Mexico (ha) it was time for a Date Shake Competition! All of the bloggers were randomly paired into groups of two and we had a huge variety of ingredients to use. Nicole (Pinch My Salt) and I made a “Bananaccino” with 10 different ingredients. Not exaggerating, there were actually 10 odd ingredients in there! It was…interesting to say the least! Unfortunately, Nicole and I didn’t win, but we had a great time anyways!

Natural-Delights-Medjool-Date-Summit-2013-5After our wild adventure to Mexico and Date Shake Competition, we had our final fiesta at  Tina’s Cocina with Private Chef Alex Trujillo. Our extravagant dinner was made table side in the back of a historic church. We got to sip on Prickly Pear Margaritas and enjoy each other’s company while watching Chef Trujillo prepare our dinner! The endless courses started off with Baked Brie and Medjool Date Jam on crostini and five courses later ended with a Sweet Medjool Date Tamale with Coconut Rum Sorbet. It was a fabulous ending to a delicious summit.

Medjool Date Summit, Yuma, AZ | -3108The next morning a few of us who had later flights went on a tour of the Yuma Territorial Prison. 3:10 To Yuma, anyone?
Me, Caroline (Chocolate and Carrots), Kim (Lovin’ From The Oven), Nicole (Pinch My Salt), and Beth (DGWB) behind bars! Ahhh!

I had the absolute best time at the Natural Delights Medjool Date Summit. Every little detail of the summit was perfectly thought out and planned for us. Thank you so much to Erin Hanagan for finding all of the amazing venus in Yuma, to Dave Anderson for getting us everywhere promptly and keeping us with the schedule down to the second, to Glen Vandervoort and family for opening up your home to us, to Andrew Costanza for taking us to Mexico and back in one piece, to Dave & Debbie Mansheim for the Chocolate Covered Dates, to Ed O’Malley for the perfect tour of Datepac (and for remembering me from the PBH Conference!), to Jim Freimuth and Chris Nielsen for teaching us about organic dates, Steve for all of the great photos, and last but not least, thank you to Beth Atkinson from DGWB for organizing this incredible summit and having an answer to EVERY question! You guys are all Natural Delights! This is near the top of my list of favorite blogger summits I have ever attended. Of course it would not be the same without all of the hilarious, sweet, brilliant, creative bloggers that were a part of it. So many delightfully tasty memories!

Show Natural Delights Medjool Dates some Love!
Twitter: @NDmedjooldates
Get a $2 off printable coupon!

RFFMBT Goes to Holland!

Hi bunnies!
I have two little announcements:

1. Today is my birthday! YAYYY!

2. Sooooo, some of you may have noticed that my RFFMBT store is completely empty. Welllll that’s because I’m in Holland visiting one of my best friends, Tammy! I had been planning a surprise trip (with the help of her fiancé Luc) for months and couldn’t say anything on my blog in fear of her finding out! Since I will be here until the 27th, I decided it would be best to put my store on hold until I’m home. I would feel terrible if anyone placed an order and I couldn’t ship it for weeks. The shop will resume when I return to the US around August 27th!

I also wanted to say thank you to everyone who purchased RFFMBT shirts! I shipped out hundreds of shirts to bunnies all over the world. I was so excited to see shirts going to Australia, UK, France, Germany, Turkey, Portugal, Canada, and all over the states! You guys are amazing! Huge thank you to my mom and Brett for helping me pack and ship everything!

Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 2.17.52 PMFirst day of orders!

Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 2.18.02 PMDay two of orders!

I had to completely refrain from Instagramming photos during my travel day, so I would’t give the surprise away to Tammy! Here is a photo update on my birthday and trip to Holland!

photo 1After I landed, Luc picked me up at the airport and we took the train home to surprise Tammy. I wish we filmed her reaction, it was priceless and something I will never forget! I walked into her house and she was photographing her sugar flowers and started SCREAMING! It was sooooo cute. I totally bawled my eyes out since I hadn’t seen her for an entire year!Reunited and it feels so goooood!

Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 2.18.16 PMI woke up in Holland to flowers and a gift from Tammy!

photo 5About 5 lbs of Haribo gummies from The Netherlands! The flavors are sooo much better than the American Haribo bears! Trust me, I’m a gummy expert haha.

photo 2This morning, Tammy and I walked to breakfast in Breda, Holland.

photo 4
Birthday massage from a Dutch stranger! There was a group of students from a Physical Therapy school who were offering shoulder massages for practice hours. I suggest they do this everyday!

photo 3
photo 3 copyI thought this was hilarious! Luckily Tammy can translate menus for me!

photo 4 copyBirthday matcha green tea latte with soy milk!

photo 5 copyBirthday bagel: Sun dried tomato bagel with pesto and sun dried tomato cream cheese. omg. I. love. tomatoes. Favorite fruitveggie! I have to learn how to make this spread!

photo copyOn our way home from breakfast, Tammy and I stopped by the grocery store and guess what? I found Dutch almond milk! SCORE!

photo 2 copyTammy is the owner of Sugarlips Cakes, so she is busy building cakes and custom sugar flowers for a wedding this weekend! I’m the taste tester. Such a bummer. ha!

More updates to come from my trip! I’m so excited I could finally update you guys on what I’m doing!

Since I wasn’t able to say anything until now, I wanted to let you guys know that I will be taking a few guest blog submissions during my vacation.
If you are interested, please contact me using the “advertise” tab at the top of my blog!

For guest post submissions please include:
1. Your name
2. Blog URL
3. A little bit about yourself & your blog
4. Post subject/idea
5. How long you have been blogging

Dole Taste of Spain Salad Summit

Happy Monday bunnies!

To start things off, here is your Monday motivation!
Motivation Monday:What you eat in private you wear in public.

Thank you so much to my beautiful bunnies who bought shirts from United Luv. Ryan’s family and I are so overwhelmed with your support and I cannot thank you enough. For those of you who purchased shirts, I will be putting something special in the mail for you this week!

This week is one of the first in months that I will actually be home for more than 5 days! I have been traveling all over the US for my blog and am finally home snuggled up in my own bed. I have been blessed with so many incredible opportunities because of my blog. Sometimes I find myself in (happy) tears because I just can’t believe what RFFMBT has become. Thank you to all of my readers for reading, commenting, tweeting, pinning, re-gramming, sharing, and most importantly supporting me. You have changed my life!

Last week I went on an amazing trip to Carmel, CA for Dole’s Taste of Spain Salad Summit!

DAY 1: Travel, Dole dinner, and s’mores!
I left early Monday morning from Orange County with a connection at San Francisco International Airport before arriving in Monterey, CA. The weather was gorgeous, but I somehow ended up with a 3 hour delay in SF. In between switching gates multiple times I found two other Dole Salad Summit Bloggers: Nikki from Chef in Training and Marie from Make and Takes! When our mysteriously delayed/missing plane arrived we couldn’t help but laugh at how tiny it was! We weren’t expecting a little propellor plane haha. Nikki was in the very first seat on the plane in her own row. Photo op was a must. Safe to say I actually payed attention to the safety briefing!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad Summit There’s Nikki in her own row! VIP chef haha.

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitWhen we finally arrived in Monterey, we were greeted by our driver with a Dole sign and got into our escalade. It felt like a scene out of Gossip Girl! Away we went to Carmel Valley Ranch.

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitWe arrived at Carmel Valley Ranch and checked into our gorgeous rooms. CVR is absolutely stunning! The hotel has a natural rustic look that is relaxing and upscale without being over the top. I definitely enjoyed my wraparound balcony and two fireplaces! Besides the gorgeous decor and tranquil views of my room, I was impressed my Carmel Valley Ranch’s dedication to energy saving. My suite was equipped with many simple and sophisticated energy efficient and environmental friendly features. When entering the room, you simply place your hotel keycard into a slot by the door to turn on the power to the fans, air conditioning, lights, etc.  When leaving the suite, all you need to do is simply remove the room keycard and all lights and A/C are turned off to conserve energy. No need to run around turning all of the lights off each time you leave. The top outlet plugs can run without the card, so you can still charge your electronics when you leave, too. It’s pretty remarkable and so simple! I have so much appreciation for a stunning hotel with great service that is also eco-friendly. It just goes to show that hotels can still have wonderful 5 star accommodations while contributing to our environmentally friendly efforts.

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitGorgeous view of Carmel Valley from my room. Each morning I woke up to deer and wild turkey’s roaming around the fog covered hills.

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitAfter getting settled into my room I changed out of my plane clothes and joined everyone for dinner at the hotel. I loved meeting new friends from Dole and talking with Lisa Gosselin from Eating Well Magazine at dinner. My bunny cell phone case was a huge hit at the table every time I got it out to take a photo!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitDinner was a gorgeous mix of fresh salad greens from Dole’s local farms and perfectly cooked veggies (not photographed because I ate it so quickly!) followed by none other than a decadent Dole Pineapple Upside Down Cake!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitAfter dinner some of the other bloggers and I headed over to the pool area for s’mores! Carmel Valley Ranch has a s’more bar open for guests every night! How cute is this? They even had wipes to clean off sticky s’more hands!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitOur little helper Roxy (a permanent Carmel Valley Ranch Resident) joined for s’more roasting!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad Summit

S’more roastin’!

DAY 2: Touring the lettuce fields!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitTuesday morning started off with a delicious breakfast incorporating Dole salad greens! Dole prepared an Asparagus Salad Topped with Poached Eggs that was to die for! I LOVE my greens, especially in smoothies, so I was super excited to see a green smoothie created by Dole!

Good Green Tea Smoothie
Visit for nutrition and serving size information

3 cups frozen white grapes
2 packed cups DOLE® Baby Spinach
1 1/2 cups strong brewed green tea, cooled
1 medium ripe avocado
2 teaspoons honey

Combine grapes, spinach, green tea, avocado and honey in a blender; blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitAfter breakfast, we headed to Salinas to visit a Iceberg Lettuce field. For those of you who haven’t driven through Salinas, California, this is the famous Lettuce Man. So awkwardly amazing! hahaha. Every time I drive to Carmel, I always laugh at this huge cutout in Salinas. I was really talking up Lettuce Man to my fellow bloggers during the car ride, so I secretly asked the bus driver if he would drive by the cutout so we could get photos. Everyone was cracking up when they saw Lettuce Man! SO worth it!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitLettuce fields forever!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitHow gorgeous is this lettuce? It literally looks like someone perfectly placed it there!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitThe owner of this specific field, farmer Mark Pisoni, grows multiple types of lettuce for Dole. Right after we hopped off of the bus he took a huge head of lettuce from the ground, chopped off the end, and took a big bite! We all got to take bites of the fresh lettuce straight from the field. It was crisp and seriously juicy!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitA member of Mark’s team and Kelly from Dole with big ol’ heads of fresh lettuce! No one can pull off a hairnet quite like Kelly! For those of you who are wondering, we were required to wear hairnets while on the field because of FDA guidelines that are set for Dole.

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitGetting a briefing on the harvesting process on the field.

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitIt was incredible to see Mark and his team harvesting lettuce by hand up close and personal in the fields. It still shocks me that Iceberg Lettuce is so affordable (around $2 per head) after seeing all of the manual labor that goes into harvesting it. The harvesting team puts lots of love into that lettuce, so make sure to thank your farmers! I have so much appreciation and respect for farmers!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitThe Dole team and bloggers knee deep in lettuce.

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitLettuce to my knees!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitKristin from Iowa Girl Eats (and her adorable baby bump!) and Stacy Fraser from Eating Well Magazine walking through the field!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitFrolicking through the field in my Eat More Rabbit Food hoodie! Rabbit. Food. Heaven. Is this real life?!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitOur next stop of the day was to the Dole Packaging Plant. After lettuce is harvested from the field, it is immediately transported to here to be triple washed, cut, packed, and shipped to a grocery store near you! Sorry folks, no photos were allowed during this part of the tour.

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitAfter touring the packaging plant, we made our way to the lab with Emilio! While at the lab, we were given a Lettuce 101 test! Probably my favorite test of all times! It reminded me of bio tests in high school much way better, because it consisted of lettuce. lots o’ lettuce! Emilio and the Dole team displayed 25 different types of lettuce and fresh vegetables marked with numbers for us to identify! Saldy team RFFMBT could only match 16 correctly! I need to study up!!! Don’t worry, I DEFINITELY identified kale and baby kale correctly! haha.

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitA look at Dole’s new Taste of Spain inspired promotional packaging! Look closely at the bottom left of select lettuce bags, you could win a 40,000 trip to Spain! Yes, it’s confirmed, Dole is the best!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitAfter visiting the plant, we made our way to Paraiso Vineyards for some wine and lunch!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad Summit
Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitThe view of Salinas was stunning! Lettuce fields for days!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitDole roasted veggies and cheese with some white wine.

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitFresh Dole Arugula and Quinoa Salad tossed with grape tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, smoked almonds, fets cheese, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitOnce we finished lunch, we headed back to Carmel Valley ranch for a Global Trends Seminar with Lisa Gosselin from Eating Well! It was fun learning what foods are trending all over the world and what meal is gaining the most popularity. I was shocked to learn that only 1 in 100 eat the recommended serving of fruits and veggies per day. WOW. That NEEDS to change! We should all be filling our plates with fruits and veggies at every meal!

My best advice to help incorporate veggies into your meals easier is to start with vegetables as your base. Growing up, I always remember my parents starting our meals with a meat. I would come home from school and my mom would tell me “tonight we’re having chicken with rice and steamed broccoli.” Dinner would be served with a large piece of chicken, generous helping of rice, and  small (almost minuscule) side of broccoli. I think we have been building our meals wrong all along. The main star should be the produce! Why not start your meal with a vegetable? Say… Broccoli, and then add your desired protein, whole grain, and serving of fat from there. This way you will end up with a full serving of veggies from the start! It’s a simple and easy way to add more vegetables without running your family out of the kitchen!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitOnce the Global Trends Seminar concluded, Executive Chef Brandon Miller from Mundaka taught a healthy tapas cooking class!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitWe numbered off into groups for a tapas competition! There’s Jane from This Week for Dinner chopping away!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitExecutive Chef Brandom Miller and Mundaka owner Gabe Georis took the tapas competition judging very seriously!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitTeam 2! We won “Best Presentation” and “Most Authentic!” From Left: Executive Chef Brandon Miller, ME!, Mundaka owner Gabe Georis, Ali from Gimme Some Oven, Tessa from Handle the Heat, and Jane from This Week for Dinner!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitNext on the itinerary was dinner at Mundaka in Carmel-By-the-Sea for some Spanish tapas!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitI squealed over the bull salt and pepper shakers, they’re so cute!!! I’m a dork!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitGabe Georis demonstrating how to drink wine out of the Porron. As you can see, most of us couldn’t figure it out and resorted to pouring it straight into a glass! There was lots of wine splashing everywhere, and everyone was having a great time!

Dole Taste of Spain Salad SummitWe ate an unbelievable amount of tapas at Mundaka that night! Some of the highlights were the Seafood Paella and rich chocolate with toast for dessert! I loved how excited Gabe Georis to have us for dinner. His restaurant has a family vibe as he is always walking around from table to table greeting his dinner guests. You can tell how much he loves his restaurant and guests! If you love seafood, you should definitely stop by Mundaka if you are in the area!

DAY 3:
homeThe next morning I sat down for a bite to eat at breakfast during our last seminar with Stacy Fraser from Eating Well before heading to Monterey Airport for my flight home. As soon as I got to the airport I grabbed a fresh cup of java from my favorite local coffee roasting company in Carmel and boarded my plane. While flying on the big bird I began writing my post for Ryan + United Luv to celebrate his birthday.  It was hard leaving all of my new blogger friends, beautiful suite, and freshly prepared dole meals, but I’m having so much fun spreading the salad love with all of my bunnies! I have some fun events and giveaways coming up, but before then I promise I will post some new recipes for you guys! I know you have been patiently waiting while I traveled the country, but the recipes will be worth it!

For more information and exciting Dole recipes, please visit them at

Health & Happiness xo

Ryan + United Luv

Today is a very special day. Ryan’s birthday!

My first day of Design class at FIDM, I walked into the computer lab to see this tall dark and handsome angel that I would soon call my best friend. Every day I looked forward to my 8am class because I got to sit next to Ryan, my favorite goofball. Since day one, I was dubbed “Catherine Cardelooooochi-gucci-hoochi” and the name never went away! Ryan lived down the street from me in downtown LA so we spent pretty much every day together during and after class. A likely day for Ryan and Catherine would consist of design, draw, Lakers, Kings, and eat. PIZZA. Tons of pizza! My other best friend in LA, Shelby started FIDM the very next semester and of course was given the beautiful name “SHOOOOBZ” by Ryan. The three of us became inseparable as we decided to plan our schedules together and get all of the same “GD” graphic design classes. My thoughts on school changed from my memories of being made fun of in high school to being upset when classes were cancelled because I wouldn’t get to see Ryan and Shoobz. There is nothing that compared to being in school with my two loves every single day!

Every day with Ryan was like a box office hit comedy. I don’t think there was a time that I didn’t laugh when I was with him. He was a natural comedian that would turn your worst day around into your most memorable. My favorite memories of Ryan were the countless Lakers games we went to together. We both shared a passion (probably better described as; obsession) for the Lakers. We could both list the entire active roster in under 10 seconds, and when we mentioned Kobe, you knew we weren’t talking about beef. We went to SO many games together. It was our happy place!

Ryan and Catherine United Luv
While on a ski trip in Colorado in December of 2011, Ryan told me the news that he was diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma. Leave it to Ryan to be in great spirits and joke about the c word. Like I said before, he could take any situation and turn it into something either hilarious or amazing. Ryan is hands down THE MOST positive and optimistic person I have ever met. His spirits were always high as he continued to fight his battle with Synovial Sarcoma for over a year. Having spent a great deal of time in hospitals and cancer treatment centers, Ryan quickly learned that there were limited options to pass the time. Since a laptop was too bulky, his parents Sheldon and Vicki bought him an iPad so he could use Skype and Facebook to stay connected with his friends and family. Ryan wanted to provide other patients going through treatment with iPads to serve as a distraction to what was going on around them, and with the collaboration of Ryan’s graphic design talent and his brother Dallas’ business skills, United Luv was born.

United Luv logo

United LuvDallas (left) and Ryan (right)!

United Luv’s first mission is to provide iPads and tablets to the Oncology floors in the Medical community in his hometown. In order to put the United Luv Project into action, Ryan and Dallas decided to give 10% of the proceeds back to the medical community. Ryan designed the United Luv logo and shirts himself, and the first batch arrived in January. At this time, Ryan who was on oxygen and in a wheelchair got to try on his first United Luv shirt.

The Billings Gazette

Amazing article about United Luv in The Billings Gazette! How adorable is the Eaton family?!

Since February, United Luv has already donated 9 iPads to Billings Clinic and 9 to St. Vincent’s. Both hospitals in Montana (where Ryan is from) were generous enough to match their donation for a total of 36 iPads, which are going into the hands of patients! Such an incredible gift just in time for Ryan’s birthday!

United Luv  St. Vincent Healthcare - Billings, Montana

Dallas presenting 9 iPads from United Luv to  St. Vincent Healthcare – Billings, Montana!

United Luv  St. Vincent Healthcare - Billings, Montana

St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, MT decided to match United Luv’s donation bring a total of 18 iPads into the hands of patients!


United Luv  St. Vincent Healthcare - Billings, MontanaiPad donated by United Luv displaying Ryan’s design in the background!

In honor of Ryan’s birthday, let’s spread the Luv!
To celebrate his birthday, 100% of proceeds from sales today are going directly to purchase iPads for patients to use.

It would mean the world to me if you would support this cause by ordering a shirt from Ryan and Dallas’ company United Luv.

Even if you don’t have the budget for a shirt today, please please please spread the word about United Luv to your friends and give them a shout out on Facebook or Instagram! The power of social media is unmatched! #1ThousandLikesForRyansBirthday

This is a cause that is truly dear to my heart, so even if you could take a couple of seconds out of your day to like their Facebook page it would be very special and appreciated.

For each RFFMBT reader that purchases a United Luv shirt, I will personally send you a note and special recipe that will not be posted on the blog! After you purchase a shirt, leave a comment on this post using the same email as your purchase (will not be shown to the public) and I will contact you for your address!

Katie United Luv

Ryan’s beautiful fiancé Katie! The kindest most selfless girl I have ever met. She is such a strong incredible woman. Truly empowering and inspiring!

Happy birthday Ryan, your dream is coming true!
I love you forever and always!

Disney Magic of Healthy Living

I hope everyone is having a magical week!
Congratulations to the winner of my BeckleyByMelissa Scarf Giveaway: Celina!

Yesterdays delayed Monday Motivation: “To change your body, you must change your mind.”

Ahhh Disneyland. The worlds biggest human trap operated by a mouse!
A magical land of discovery, dreams, and really unhealthy food!
I’m quite spoiled, living only a short drive from the Disneyland resort in California. My best friends and I all have annual passes and love going as much as we can, even if it’s just for one ride a fireworks. See, I told you. Very spoiled living so close… I LOVE Disneyland. I’m a total kid at heart and am in awe of it’s magic every time I go. One small problem I’ve always had with Disneyland is that it’s not so easy to eat healthy there.

A quick flashback story: When I was trying to lose weight, I never wanted to go to disneyland with my friends. I basically cut one of my favorite things to do out of my life because I had a fear of the sugary fatty temptations that were at the park. I thought that if I went to Disneyland, I wouldn’t be strong enough to avoid the temptation and go on a crazy sugar binge of churros and Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Sandwiches and gain 20 lbs overnight. We all know that isn’t true… but at the time, my disordered mind told me that it would happen. So ya, you read that right. I was basically scared of Disneyland! Who is scared of Disneyland? Speaking of wanting to stay “healthy” and only eat “healthy foods” I should’ve known how unhealthy I actually was at that point. After I was able to get back on my feet and recover from my eating disorder, I started going to Disneyland with friends again. I was in a much better place where I didn’t fear food or the house of mouse, and allowed myself to have fun and enjoy a churro. It’s all about balance!

RFFMBT DisneylandToning my arms on the Teacups! haha just kidding!


For a company who promotes the “Disney Magic of Healthy living,” there are not many healthy options for us at Disneyland. Or at least not advertised around the park! I did some super detective work to find the best options to stay healthy while having fun at Disneyland. Call me Catherine: Mouse Detective! During my exploration at Disneyland for healthier foods, I discovered some excellent options!

Disney Magic of Healthy Living
Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” – Walt Disney
Enter Tomorrowland: bringing inspiration, ingenuity, and ideas of building a better tomorrow.

Did you know that Tomorrowland is home of the only all-healthy-food cart at Disneyland, CA?
The Tomorrowland Fruit Cart is the only cart that strictly sells healthy foods. You won’t find any tempting chips or sodas at this cart! Just 100% healthy, wholesome foods to nourish your body during a long day at the happiest place on earth. Here’s what the Tomorrowland Fruit Cart has to offer!

Red and green apples, bananas, oranges, sliced pineapple, sliced mango, grapes, apple slices, strawberries & blueberries, pickles, veggie sticks with ranch dip, Sabra Hummus & Pretzel Pods, Disney Freeze Dried Fuji Apple Crisps, OceanSpray Craisins, and OceanSpray Craisin Trail Mix! They also sell Vitamin Water Zero, Powerade Zero, Honest Tea, Smart Water, and Dasani.

Disney Magic of Healthy Living
Disney Magic of Healthy Living
Disney Magic of Healthy Living
Disney Magic of Healthy Living
Disney Magic of Healthy Living
Disney Magic of Healthy Living
Disney Magic of Healthy Living
Did you know that all of the plants in Tomorrowland are edible?
The visionary landscaping doubles as a potential farm, projecting an ecologically astute future, where humanity makes the most of its resources. It’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, in Tomorrowland! I absolutely love this idea of an agrifuture. I never noticed the gorgeous display of veggies until now.Look how gorg that red kale & rainbow chard is? Umm inspiration for my future house’s landscaping! I would take a kale bouquet over flowers any day!
* I wouldn’t recommend eating the Kale landscaping at Disneyland! haha

Disney Magic of Healthy Living
Disney Magic of Healthy Living
At Frontierland in Disneyland, CA there is a pretty good Mexican restaurant by Thunder Mountain called Rancho de Zocalo. The restaurant has different stations for tacos, burritos, and tostadas. There is a great vegetarian option for tacos called Soft Tacos Monterrey which contains two tacos with sautéed vegetables, rice, and beans in a flour tortilla along with a side of spanish rice and beans, guacamole, salsa and shredded lettuce. This huge plate of deliciousness is $10 (annual pass discounts available here, score!)
*You can make these tacos vegan by requesting no cheese and no sour cream.

My order: Soft Tacos Monterey without cheese or sour cream.
* This meal is big enough to split with someone!

The Rabbit Food Pyramid Breakdown
Produce: sautéed vegetables
Whole Grain: flour tortillas & rice (two servings of grains, but very filling)
Protein: beans
Plant Based Fat: oil that the veggies are sautéed in

Soft Tacos Monterey
I’ve also found a pretty healthy vegetarian option at California Adventure. The Lucky Fortune Cookery in the Pacific Wharf area at Disney’s California Adventure Park has a variety of Asian Rice Bowls with your choice of protein and sauce over sautéed Asian vegetables and steamed rice for about $9 (annual pass discounts available here too, wooo!).
*All of the sauces are vegan except for the Thai Coconut Curry sauce!

My order: Asian Rice Bowl with tofu and sautéed veggies and some teriyaki sauce on the side.

The Rabbit Food Pyramid Breakdown
Produce: sautéed vegetables
Whole Grain: rice
Protein: tofu
Plant Based Fat: avocado (guacamole), and oil (that the veggies are sautéed in)

Asian rice bowl
With a little bit of faith trust, and pixie dust, you can stay on track with your healthy eating while visiting Disneyland! Balance is key. Healthy produce for snacks all day, a well balanced meal, and a little something special like a churro to indulge in!

RFFMBT DisneylandWith my main squeezes Boo & Kitty a.k.a. Sully!

Health & Happiness xo

1 2 3 4 5