Friday, November 13, 2015

The Modern Wedge Salad + "Dole Fresh Fest" Highlights

I am enjoying the distinct honor of being chosen as one of eleven DOLE Brand Ambassadors for 2015 and being part of their campaign – Get Up and Grow.  DOLE is one of those iconic brands that I am proud to represent amd believe in their products and company mission and values.  One of the many perks to being an Ambassador was being invited to the “Dole Fresh Fest” which was held in North Carolina. 

After a long day of travel, the hand selected group of bloggers, nutritionists and registered dietitians were shuttled to the historic Dunhill Hotel in downtown Charlotte. A traditional hotel with a splash of modern touches that is rumored to be haunted, had once been the home for a few days to Elvis before he performed at the iconic Carolina Theatre across the street.

It was fabulous to see Heather and Brenda again.  We all attended the Dole Salad Summit a few years ago and were buddies during this summit.  After we freshened up, we all walked as a group to Blue Restaurant & Bar a few blocks away.  The chef created a menu that was both healthy and met everyone’s dietary requirements.  We enjoyed good wine, food, conversation and laughs. Being that is was a long travel day for most, the majority retired to their rooms to rest up for the fun and long day ahead.

We had a very special day at the Dole Nutrition Institute in Kannapolis North Carolina, since this was an inaugural visit for bloggers. We suited up in our work out gear, enjoyed a healthy breakfast and loaded into the bus for our trip to the North Carolina Research Campus that includes the Dole Nutrition Institute.  After about an hour ride, we arrived.

The campus was immense and possessed stunning architecture.  We entered the expansive lobby that was several levels tall and when you looked up, an impressive fresco of fruits and vegetables was painted on the dome.  We enjoyed a presentation by Nicholas Gillitt Ph.D. who is the VP of Nutrition Research and provides scientific support to the Dole divisions regarding new product development, coordinating with the Dole Nutrition Institute in publishing new scientific discoveries.

The Dole Nutrition Institute (DNI) was founded by David H. Murdock in 2003 as a research and education foundation within Dole Food Company. Now in his 90's, Mr. Murdock is an ardent practitioner of a nutrient-dense, plant-based diet and a true believer in the power of a variety of fruits and vegetables to promote health and longevity. The DNI is comprised of scientists who conduct cutting-edge, nutrition-based research at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, North Carolina.

Mr. Murdock loves poetry and his Mom instilled in him that if you try, is the key to life and since he has a competitive spirit, he tried things.  He left school at 14 years old and by the age of 25 he became a multi-millionaire by building houses. He loved the community of Kannapolis and decided to build at the nutrition campus to put the people of Kannapolis back to work and teach people about nutrition.  It was an opportunity to create science and nutrition.  There are 8 universities represented on the campus with 300 scientists and Dole has 4 of them employed.  They have one of two machines in the world that discover chemical structure and determine why it is important in health and how to improve health and longevity. Studies show if you have good DNA, you gain longevity.  

Fruits and vegetables help to stop bad DNA.  It is important to maintain a good diet, eat nutritiously, exercise and be healthy. Many studies have shown the health benefits of berries and bananas.  The skins contain 5 times more nutrients due to the sun having direct access. Mr. Murdock enjoys a couple smoothies a day and adds the peels. I need to try that next time I make my smoothies. 

By now we were all hungry and headed over to Forty Six Restaurant which is owned by Mr. Murdock.  It was rustic and charming.  The menu was healthy yet full of flavor dishes.  It was great to sit down and chat with everyone.  After lunch the folks at Dole presented new products that are coming to the marketplace soon.  Dole introduced the Take Away Salad which is designed for the busy person on the run – the package is the bowl, includes a fork and a towelette. There are four flavors:  Santa Fe, Harvest Chicken, Mediterranean Feast and Chicken Caesar. I absolutely LOVED the Harvest Chicken.

We participated in a mini boot camp on the beautiful grounds of the campus.  Despite an overcast day, everyone had fun.  There was no pressure to finish – just do what you can.  I will be implementing certain parts of the boot camp into my day to day regime.  The key to a healthy lifestyle is eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and lean meats along with some form of exercise. We had a tour of the campus and saw the scientific labs, the healthy assessment areas and learned more about what they accomplish at the nutrition campus each and everyday. After a long day, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up before our final dinner of the trip.

Prior to our last dinner together, we met Chef Mark Allison and he is the Executive Chef for Dole. He shared a cooking demonstration of three great recipes using healthy ingredients.  The flavors were amazing.

We enjoyed cocktails and a dinner created by Chef Chris Coleman that was quite inventive.  After dinner, we played "Dole Jeopardy" and divided into three groups.  A healthy competitive spirit was woven throughout the room and everyone had fun along the way.  Despite the long day, several of us gathered in the lobby bar for a few rounds of drinks and great conversation.

We enjoyed a healthy breakfast and bit farewell to many since they had early flights.  Several of us stayed to enjoy a walking tour of the city of CharlotteCharlotte is the largest city in North Carolina and is the 3rd fastest growing city in the United States. It is nicknamed the “Queen City” or “The Hornet’s Nest”.  It is known for three things – a very green place, a place for art and where folks love to “Live, Work and Play”.  We visited the Fourth Ward that had a colorful past but today is a neighborhood of quant and charming homes.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip to Charlotte.  I have a greater appreciation for good nutrition and eating a lot of fruits and vegetables.  If Mr. Murdock can do it, so can I. One of my favorite salads is the Classic Wedge Salad with lots of bacon and blue cheese.  I was inspired by my trip to North Carolina and the Dole Nutrition Institute to create a Modern Wedge Salad that was a healthy alternative.  Instead of bacon, I opted for smoked almonds.  To intensify the flavors, I roasted the tomatoes to add sweetness and a depth of flavor. I loved Dole’s new hybrid of celery that is milder and less stringy – simply brilliant.  I lightened the dressing by making it with light sour cream and low fat buttermilk.  The end result was one darn good salad!

The Modern Wedge Salad

Serves 4


1 Head of Dole Iceberg Lettuce
20 Cherry Tomatoes, roasted
4 Celery Stalks (Dole Mild Flavor Celery Hearts), sliced ¼ inch thick pieces
1 Cup Smoked Almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and lay onto a baking sheet.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with a touch of salt. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes until slightly wilted.  Let cool.

To assemble, remove any extra outer leaves and cut into four quarters and remove the core.  Lay each quarter on a separate plate.  Drizzle the dressing over each wedge, then divide the roasted tomatoes, celery and smoked almonds among each wedge.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.


½ Cup Low-Fat Buttermilk
1 teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice
2 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Cup Low Fat Sour Cream
1 ½ teaspoon Salt
Pinch of Cayenne
1 Cup Chives, finely diced
4 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
1 Shallot, finely minced

This post is sponsored by Dole.  I am part of their Ambassador program and I am being compensated. All opinions are 100% my own, as always.  Thank you for your continued readership and support.

1 comment:

  1. The "on the go" packaged salads sound great, but do you know if they have organic choices, and are the Dole products non-GMO? Sadly, that is what we have to ask these days to know if we are eating safe products.


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