The Champion's Table
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Friday, March 31, 2017

California Strawberry Festival’s Berry Blast Off Recipe Contest ends on April 7!

Jodi Taffel's dish at the 2015 California Strawberry Festival
Do you have a winning non-baking strawberry recipe? If you do, you have 7 days left to submit your recipe for the Berry Blast Off Recipe Contest, presented by the Ventura County Star. The judges are looking for the tastiest non-baking strawberry dish that can be made within an hour (California Strawberry Festival’s take on Iron Chef).

Alethia Shih and Jodi Taffel in the heat of competition

  • Non-baking strawberry recipe made with your favorite sauce, dessert, entrĂ©e, dip, drink, jam, spread, appetizer, snack, etc.
  • Be creative and complex with fresh ingredients.
  • Must be prepared and presented within 60 minutes.
  • Strawberries should be your key ingredient.
  • Must be over 21 years of age.

Recipe submission deadline is Friday, April 7, 2017 at 12pm PST

  • Submit recipes with your name, address, phone, email, and other contact information by: Email - (please submit in both memo and attachment form), or Fax - +1.805.385.4729 (Attn: Berry Blast Off), or Mail – California Strawberry Festival, Attn: Berry Blast Off, 1661 Pacific Ave #15, Oxnard, CA 93033.
  • Click here to read entire rules and guidelines.

Judges for the 2015 California Strawberry Festival Berry Blast-Off Recipe Finale

  • Top five semi-finalists selected will compete in a one-hour cooking challenge on Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at 11am PST in the Courtyard by Marriott Oxnard’s professional kitchen.
  • The judges will select two finalists who will go on to compete head-to-head on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at the California Strawberry Festival.


  • The grand prize winner of the Berry Blast Off Recipe Contest will receive a four-day, three-night Welk Resorts getaway vacation to either Palm Springs, San Diego, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, or Branson, MO (airfare not included) and a Cutco studio knife set (approximate value $500).
  • The runner-up will receive an overnight stay at the Courtyard at Marriott Oxnard and a complimentary dinner for two at Tierra Sur Restaurant at Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard, CA.
  • All semi-finalists receive four complimentary tickets to attend to this year’s festival and a complimentary 2017 collectible poster.
  • All contestants who submit a recipe will receive a free ticket to this year’s Festival (limited to one person/one per family/one per residence).

Build your own Strawberry Shortcake
At the festival, it’s all about the sweet, delicious strawberry. Saturday, May 20th through Sunday, May 21st, over 50 food booths will be showcasing their strawberry concoctions from strawberry pizza, strawberry beer, strawberry nachos, strawberry funnel cake, strawberry crepes, chocolate dipped strawberries, fried strawberries, the ever-popular “build your own” strawberry shortcake tent, and strawberry popcorn to name a few. The booths are run by non-profit organizations with 100% of sales goes to their causes. Over the past three decades more than $4.5 million dollars have benefited more than 20 Southland charities. It’s a “berrylicious” deal for everyone!

Strawberry Trivia:

  • There is an average of 200 seeds on each strawberry and technically each yellow seed is an individual fruit itself.
  • It would take 7,000 strawberries to create the red carpet that welcomes the stars to the Academy Awards every year.
  • Strawberry juice combined with honey will reduce inflammation.

Submit your strawberry recipe today and mark your calendars to taste the sweetest strawberries in California!

For more information:
California Strawberry Festival
3250 S Rose Ave
Oxnard, CA
Tickets: General admission is $12, seniors 62+ are $8 and children ages 5-12 are $5. Kids 4 and under are free. Active military and dependents with ID are $8.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Melissa’s Produce 2017 Produce Trends and 2nd Annual Dessert Contest + Recipe

In the past five years, I have been eating more and more fruits and vegetables thanks to Melissa’s Produce. They sell the most amazing variety of produce in Southern California and across our great nation. Their products are readily available for foodservice companies, restaurants, and consumers. On my trip to the World Food Championships in Orange Beach last year, I found Melissa’s Baby DYPs at Winn-Dixie. I was so excited to see a fellow Californian, even in produce form, I had to post it on Instagram. In Orange and Los Angeles Counties, I have personally seen their products at Northgate, Smart & Final, JONS International Marketplace, and Vons.

If you want to know what the produce trends are for this year, I have them for you thanks to Melissa’s. (below each trend, is a listing of Melissa’s products):

Convenience to Save Time in the Kitchen

Peeled & Steamed Butternut Squash is prepped and ready-to-heat and eat right out of its convenient, single serving package.

Organic Soup Starter Kit is a variety pack of the basic fresh ingredients needed for a delicious soup in a convenient 2½ lb. tote consisting of 3 russet potatoes, 2 carrots, 1 zucchini, 1 celery stalk, and 1 yellow onion.

Organic Garden Grab Bag is a variety pack of essential organic vegetables in a convenient 2 lb. tote consisting of 1 green bell pepper, 1 red bell pepper, 1 cucumber, 1 zucchini, 1 carrot, 1 bulb of garlic, and 1 shallot.

Coconut Heart is harvested before the meat is fully developed with delicious and refreshing coconut water inside.

Varieties and Colors in Produce

Fresh Mixed Baby Carrots are sweet, tender young carrots that are peeled, washed, and ready to use.

Snack-able Sized Items

Spicy Edamame is seasoned with a mix of favorite Asian flavors including sesame, soy sauce, salt, ginger, and togarashi seasoning.

Fresh Coconuts are conveniently labeled to indicate which eye to punch with a straw. Crack them open and the thin layer of coconut meat is soft and sweet.

Trendy Vegetables

Okra are small, crisp, brightly colored pods that are a mainstay of southern cooking. They are served fried, roasted, cut up for soups and gumbo, or pickled.

Trendy Potatoes

Baby Dutch Yellow® Potatoes (DYPs®) are round with distinct yellowish-white skin.

Trendy Chile Peppers

Shishito Peppers are traditionally served in Japanese cuisine roasted and tossed with sesame oil and a dash of soy sauce.

Emerging Produce: Tatuma, Milpero, Turmeric, Organic Ginger, Thai Chiles, and Guava

Trendy Citrus Fruit

Neopolitan Tangerines are a brand-new hybrid variety and are slightly smaller in size than most mandarins. They have a big flavor with a very high natural sugar content and are seedless, easy to peel, and extremely juicy.

Seasonal Fruit

Butterscotch Pears™ are directly imported from the fields of South Korea. Each pear is carefully wrapped while still on the trees with a protective paper cover to protect them from the elements resulting in a blemish-free fruit. Each pear is tissue wrapped for moisture retention and placed in form-fitting foam socks to protect them from bruising. The prized paper-thin skin is devoid of the bitter flavor normally associated with other pears.

Trendy Tropical Fruits

Passion Fruit is an aromatic, jelly-like golden flesh fruit that is sweet-tart in flavor and filled with edible seeds. If the skin is smooth and perfect, it is not ripe yet. Let it get wrinkled and dimpled and then it is ready to eat.

Tropical Dragon Fruit is an exotic cactus fruit that has a delicately sweet and mildly acidic flavor somewhat like watermelon, cactus pear, and kiwi. The fruit inside ranges from white to pink to magenta. The tiny black seeds are edible, similar to a kiwi.

Once a year, the Melissa’s Produce family of writers and bloggers have a friendly dessert competition where the winners are amongst the attendees.

My mom submitted her tasty Manju recipe and won 4th place! She received two lovely cookbooks by Ming TsaiSimply Ming In Your Kitchen and Ming’s Master Recipes. I am a HUGE fan of Ming Tsai and had the privilege of dining at his Blue Ginger restaurant back in 2009 while working on a tradeshow in Boston.

My recipe didn’t place but if you are on a gluten-free or ovo-lacto vegan diet, you’ll love my recipe.

Coco-Chocolate Chip Cookies by OC Food Diva

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Yield: 16 cookies
Great for gluten-free and ovo-lacto vegan diets

1 cup peanuts, crushed into a powder
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, whisked
½ cup coconut milk
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together coconut flour, sugar, powdered peanuts, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. Add in oil, eggs, vanilla extract, and coconut milk and mix with hands until dough forms.
  4. Mix in chocolate chips.
  5. Shape into 1-inch balls, pat down to form a patty shape, and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  6. Bake on the middle rack for 15 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Let cookies cool on sheet and serve.

I hope you will try some of these fruits and vegetables that are trending. The color of the rainbow is waiting for you in the produce aisle!

For more information:

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