The Modern Wedge Salad + “Dole Fresh Fest” Highlights

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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
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
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
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!

1 Head of Dole Iceberg
20 Cherry
Tomatoes, roasted
4 Celery Stalks
(Dole Mild Flavor Celery Hearts), sliced ¼ inch thick pieces
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
1 teaspoon Fresh
Lemon Juice
2 teaspoon Apple
Cider Vinegar
1 Cup Chives,
finely diced
4 Cloves Garlic,
finely minced
1 Shallot, finely

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.

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