Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Dole Test Kitchen

by Meghann on November 3, 2011

Get a bunch of health conscious bloggers together and chances are you’re going to find a few crazy runners in the pack. This morning I joined a few of those crazy runners for a beautiful early run around Westlake (the gorgeous little town we’re staying in).


The runners: Monica (Dole), Jenn (Fit Bottomed Girls), Sandy (@APSandy), Tina (Carrots ‘n’ Cake), Monica (Run Eat Repeat), Leah (BookieBoo), and Me!

The group headed out for an easy 3-4 mile run that would take us to Westlake Lake and back. Monica, Tina, and I ended up taking the lead of the pack with a brisk 9:30 or so pace. The weather was a little chilly, but the views were beautiful and the company was even better.


We hit the turn around point at mile 2.22 and did a quick turn around before running into some of our fellow runners on the way back. ๐Ÿ˜‰


This morning was my very last run before Savannah and it felt great to loosen up my legs one last time. Tina is running New York City on Sunday, so it was nice to trade marathon motivations and goals. We both agreed that just finishing either race is our top priority and there is no need to kill ourselves in the process.


After our run (and very quick showers) we headed across the street to the Dole headquarters to get our learn on.


But, first we grabbed breakfast from the Dole cafeteria.


I’m such a food nerd because I find any company’s cafeteria to be fascinating. I know a lot of big name places are known for the healthy options they serve their employees and Dole is one of them. Everything is fresh and prepared in-house with a heavy emphasis on high nutritional value.



Of course I have a marathon to prepare for, so I grabbed carb with a side of carb.


The scone was the first thing that caught my attention when I walked in the door. It was dry, crumbly and everything a delicious scone should be. They don’t use butter in any of the Dole kitchens (something I could go back and forth with), so I’m curious how they made a perfect scone out of the equivalence of Smart Balance. I know I’ve tried before and failed miserably, props to them for making it work!


With my scone I prepared a small bowl of oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, and almond slivers. I ended up adding a packet of peanut butter as well. The oatmeal was thick and hearty.


I saw Tina preparing an iced coffee and I knew I had to follow suit. Just a little half and half was all this cup needed.


After breakfast we moved to the Dole test kitchens to learn about some of the new products entering the market right now.


First up were the Dole Salad Kits.

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My family purchased a lot of the various salad kits growing up because they were so easy to throw together with a rotisserie chicken for dinner (a staple in my house when I was a teenager), but I haven’t purchased my own since I moved out on my own 8 years ago. I tend to purchase a big bag of spinach for the week and build my own salads using my own variation of toppings. It also doesn’t help that I’m not a fan of croutons and I always found that the majority of salad kits consisted mainly of lettuce, dressing, and croutons. Meh.

Since it had been a while since I purchased a salad kit of my own, I was a bit surprised with what Dole had to offer. One of the kits we sampled had spinach, blue cheese, dried cranberries, and a balsamic vinaigrette; while the other was a summer kit with fresh herbs, nuts, dried fruit, and cheese. They were tasty and I loved the topping combinations, but I wish there had been more bulk in the toppings, I barely got any.


Next up we had a little fun with Dole’s frozen fruit line.

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Do you know that frozen banana ice cream craze that is sweeping the country? Well, Dole found a product out there that makes it really easy to produce. It’s called a Yonanas Maker and it’s pretty cool. You just stuff a frozen banana in the tube and push down like you would a juicer..

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Then out comes frozen banana soft serve.


And once again I wish I could eat bananas (or even stand the smell of then) because the ‘soft serve’ looked really appetizing when all was said and done.


They did the same process with frozen mangos and the ‘soft serve’ came out in a similar texture and smoothness. We were also informed that the same process could be done with frozen pumpkin (!!!) and various other frozen fruits. Annnddddd now I want one. Santa? Please? ๐Ÿ˜‰


We learned about Dole’s new initiative to pack their fruit in 100% juice (the only kind of pre-packaged fruit I would buy)

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And about the new Dole Real Fruit Bites packages that I’ve seen EVERYWHERE lately.


I told the Dole representatives that these are great and tasty, but need a little more ‘umph’ to them. Maybe adding some nuts or something similar could bulk them up and make them a little bit more of a substantial snack instead of just a snack that leads to another snack when it fails to fill you up at all.


My favorite products we tried were from their ever expanding new frozen line.

I’ve seen the Dole Frozen Fruit Cups popping up in the supermarket lately and was curious what they were all about.


The packages consist of two individual packets of frozen blueberries, strawberries, or pineapple. I sort of get where they’re going with this because people do enjoy eating frozen fruit, but these babies are a bit pricey (retailing for $2.50 – $3.00) for what they are. Honestly, I would save my money and just grab a handful of berries from the bad in the freezer instead. Meh.



Our last set of samples were the new Dole Smoothie Shakers.


Again, I’ve seen these on the shelves and have been curious what they are. Inside of each container is a mix frozen bits and pieces of fruit and yogurt.


The concept is fairly simple, you add juice (they recommend apple, orange, or pineapple) to the frozen pieces, shake, and pour (or drink).

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I was really, really impressed that the smoothie came out in a frozen smoothie texture instead of the typical milk-like texture you usually see with prepackaged smoothies. I also appreciated the suggested retail price of $1.50 per shaker and how easy this would be in an office setting where you couldn’t whip out a blender or want to pay $5.00 for a high calorie smoothie drink.


What I didn’t like was how the smoothie adapted the taste of what juice you used. I tried a little of the strawberry with the apple juice, orange juice, and pineapple and each one tasted like I was drinking apple juice, orange juice, or pineapple. We asked if the shakers could be done with water or milk instead and were told they could, but the flavor would be a little bland. Since I’m not one for overly sweet drinks anyway, I would really love to try the shaker with almond milk. I’m pretty sure I would prefer that over the juices.

I’m going to have to cut this post short and share some of the other info a little later. It’s dinner time and I’m starving!

See ya!

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