Monday, March 4, 2013

Melissa's produce & Julia's waffle maker

This morning I was like a kid in a candy shop, except the "candy" wasn't manufactured sugar/chemicals.. it was ripe delicious produce! And it was complimentary of Melissa's! Melissa's opened up the doors to their lovely test kitchen (and boxes of their produce) so we could shoot video for a co-promotion between Live Well Network, Health Magazine and Dancing with the Stars. In coming here, I got to see a part of LA that I never knew existed... the City of Vernon. It's basically in downtown LA, but not part of the City of Los Angeles. And it's home to many clothing and food warehouses. I passed by Farmer John's on the way to Melissa's and was thankful that the shoot wasn't there (meatpacking and Jen don't mix so well; produce and Jen mix quite well).
Fun fact about Melissa's: the company's founder was friends with Julia Child; hence there were many items from Julia's kitchen in Melissa's kitchen. The one that really caught my eye was the above waffle maker (for obvious reasons). It wasn't mickey, but I still love the hearts (in my pre-k/elementary school days, my mom used to make valentine's day breakfast for my friends and I using the same shape). Those were the days.
Beyond the Julia artifacts, there were some very intriguing fruits in the kitchen that caught my eye. My favorite was the cherimoya (below). These tasted a little bit like mangoes, but creamier in texture.
And can you guess what the little green fruits in the middle dish below are?
They're kiwis! Yes, they're tiny! Like the size of the raspberries! And the skins were so soft and entirely edible.  Don't let that pineapple fool you; the pineapple was miniature, too!

I learned a lot of fun facts from my new friends at Melissa's. Here are a few takeaways from today:

(1) New Zealanders (yes, kiwis) like to eat the skin of regular kiwis (yeah the kind that doesn't look like the berry-sized babies above).
I didn't realize that hairy kiwi skin was edible, much less palatable/flavorful to some people. Go figure!
(2) Bananas get ripe faster in plastic bags.
For some reason I've always thought that paper bags were the best place for bananas to go for ripening, but it turns out plastic is better, and it should be tied up to reduce air flow to the banana. This tip is very useful for me, because I'm usually too impatient to let bananas reach ideal ripe-ness for bread/muffin baking. I always think to myself that the batter would be just a little better if I'd let the bananas stay in their peels longer!
(3) Asparagus is the most nutrient-rich vegetable.
I thought for sure it would be something like kale which is buzzed about all the time as being an amazing superfood.. Asparagus should be getting more attention!
(4) Blackberries are the most nutrient-rich fruit.
With all the superfood-buzz that blueberries get, I thought for sure they'd have the best nutrient profile, but that's not the case! Look at these gorgeous blackberries that were on the counter during our shoot. (And my iphone camera doesn't even do them justice).
We pretty much ate the set throughout this entire shoot. There was so much ripe produce begging to be consumed! Our amazing food stylist Taji did an incredible job keeping up with us by replenishing the decor as we devoured! 
In addition to the facts I gleaned from Melissa's staff, I also learned great food tips from nutritionist Cynthia Sass who talked about healthy pre and post-dance workout snacks with Live Well Network's Ali Vincent in front of the cameras. But I can't share Cynthia's tips because they're part of both Ali's show and a Dance Yourself Slim feature in the Health Magazine issue on newstands April 19th!

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