Choosing Olive Oil

Q: In addition to using the test for fake olive oil, what comments do you have for all of
us on buying cold pressed olive oil?

~Heather

A: Oils and fats (butter, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.) is the category of foods which I prioritize as #1 for switching to organic. (See the Organic Food tab for my list.) So I’m always looking for that Organic seal when buying olive oil. However, if you can’t find an organic olive oil which hardens in the fridge, then the certification has been falsified (every system has cheaters I guess), so I would then look for an oil from a small family farm in the US. My reasoning is that family farms tend to make more conscientious choices, and sometimes have organic practices but can’t afford the certifications.

Also, you already mentioned “cold pressed olive oil” which is a great thing to point out: the processing of the oil does have an effect on the final product. Cold pressing avoids damaging the unsaturated parts of the oil, which would set it up for rancidity before it makes it to your kitchen. “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” is the first press of the olives; the subsequent presses produce a lower grade of olive oil, with fewer of it’s healthy properties…sometimes called “light olive oil” because it has less of the distinctive olive flavor. There is no difference in caloric value. I only buy cold pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Another thought is that glass is an inert material for the oil bottle…a large jug of oil in plastic isn’t a great idea, even if it’s one of the lesser toxic plastics. Most high quality EVOO that I see today is sold in dark green glass bottles, which can make it difficult to see the color/flavor profile, but which protects it from degradation/rancidity caused by light. Light and heat are what you should strive to protect your oil from as it’s stored.

Speaking of flavor profile…this seems to be it’s own art, like wine tasting. My (very!) simplified understanding is that greener means a sharper flavor and golden means a more mellow flavor. What you choose is up to your own palate!

The best way to enjoy olive oil is cold, as in salad dressing. I also like to pour it over steamed vegetables like broccoli, and top with Pecorino (a sheep cheese similar to Parmesan). Enjoy!

How to Test Your Olive Oil

So the word on the street is that our olive oil may be fake, or rather cut with cheaper (and unhealthy) oils like canola, corn, or worse.

How to know if yours is?

Put it in the refrigerator.

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If it turns solid at this lower temperature, that means it is indeed an oil with saturated and unsaturated fats; the signature of olive oil.

You can see my olive oil above; after two days of refrigeration, it was pretty solid. Of course, it’s impossible to pour in this state, so don’t *keep* it in the fridge. 🙂

What brand did I buy? Trader Joes Organic Spanish EVOO, a great deal at $6.99 for 17oz.

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(I know…this sounds like an add straight from the TJ’s Frequent Flyer. Fortunately for you, these are my honest opinions. Unfortunately for me, I’m not getting paid to rave about their products.)

Using Over-Cultured Dairy Products

Ever let your yogurt go a little too long, or get a little too warm? I do.

Although its disappointing to have separated whey and “cottage cheese” in place of the creamy yogurt I was expecting, the curds and whey don’t have to go to waste.

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Today I’m pouring about 2 cups of whey over 2 cups of oats for use in High Protein Waffles tomorrow morning. The curds can be used as part or all of the cottage cheese in the recipe.

Other uses for over cultured yogurt or kefir:
• in a smoothie, if not over-sour
• whey can be used in small amounts in culturing vegetables such as sauerkraut (I don’t do this, preferring only salt for sauerkraut, as I can taste a slight cow or goat flavor in the product when using whey.)
• any baked recipe which calls for buttermilk, such as biscuits or pancakes. In this case, the more sour the better! It may be necessary to use all the curds and only part of the whey so the batter is not too watery, and to blend thoroughly. This presents a great opportunity to soak the grain or flour in the recipe for 12 hours or longer.
• whey can be sipped straight, as a tonic
• creamy curds can be strained and mixed with herbs for a soft cheese spread for crackers or crisp green apple
• in case of an abundance of whey, I feed it to our (lucky) cats. 🙂

What creative uses have you found for over-cultured dairy?

Black Cherry Chutney

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I’m not sure if cherries are native to India, but I used some to make this chutney for our home school India fest. It was fantastic.

Black Cherry Chutney
Simmer in small saucepan until soft:
1.5 cups frozen organic black cherries (Costco)
1/2 cup pear butter
1/2 small onion, minced
1/4 cup water
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 cup brown sugar or honey
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (heat to taste)

When soft, mash cherries with a potato masher until blended in sauce. Add:
1/2 cup organic raisins
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Blend in until raisins have rehydrated. Pour into a jar a keep in the fridge. The natural pectins and chunks of fruit will give thick body without the addition of pectin or gelatin.

Enjoy as a condiment with curries.

Homemade Mayo [Basic Sauce]

I love mayonnaise, but I no longer use the store-bought kind because I haven’t found a tasty one with organic oils, no soy and no chicken eggs. So I make it instead. Here is a basic sauce I use for chicken salad, mayo, casseroles, or to top steamed broccoli.

Mock Mayonnaise
Melt over medium heat:
1 stick butter

Meanwhile combine in blender:
1 very large egg (duck) at room temperature (or 2 small chicken?)
2 tsp Dijon mustard (TJs)
1/2 tsp salt
Juice of one lime or half lemon (2tsp)
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp paprika powder, if desired

When butter is melted, and while the blender is running with the lid on and center piece removed, pour the butter oil in a small stream into the egg mixture until it emulsifies into a creamy sauce.

Yields enough to use with 3 cups chopped chicken, not counting the chopped apples, celery, or raisins.

Refrigerate for firm mayo.

For Curry Sauce (for broccoli, or in Chicken Divan casserole), add 1/2 tsp curry and omit paprika.

Misto Olive Oil Sprayer

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Looking for a way to replace the easy “Pam spray” in your baking? This Misto bottle can be filled with your Hugh quality olive oil, then pumps up for 15 seconds of aerosol type spraying. Perfect for greasing pans for baking, or as an easy way to distribute oil on veggies for grilling.

Pam is made with toxic refined oils…and then new olive oil versions still have emulsifiers and propellant chemicals added. This is a way for you to avoid all that, and it’s much more sustainable than a can that goes in the landfill.

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Costco is selling two packs of these handy things for about $16. One for yourself, and one to give as a Christmas gift!

Two Week Meal Plan

So here is the much requested Two Week Meal Plan. It’s not pretty; if I wait until I have time to make it pretty, you’d never see it. But a print out in my purse has been working for me since last fall.

Which brings my to my next topic: we are VERY TIRED of these meals. At least most of them. My husband flat out told me the other day that he doesn’t want to eat curried soup again for a long time. I’ve been the long eater of curry soup leftovers this week. 🙂

So, I’m working on a new meal plan.

I’m suggesting that you don’t do as we did and eat the same 14 meals for 6 months straight. OK, so we did have a few other meals in there (holidays? random whims? friends bringing meals for me post-partum?), but this was truly the back bone of my meal planning. And now it’s really old.

All the same, maybe these meals are all new to you. So I’ll walk you through them.

 

Click here for the Two Week Meal Plan Fall 2011.

Breakfasts: skillet eggs means either fried or scrambled eggs, and opa eggs means soft boiled (our family name for them). Smoothies are the kefir smoothies I make for my husband daily (kefir, banana, whey powder, frozen strawberries). The waffles are the High Protein Waffles on this site, EXCEPT I use almond flour rather than oatmeal and dry curd cottage cheese vs. cottage cheese while we’re on SCD, and honey vs. maple syrup on top. (Oops, those aren’t on the 2 week plan, but we have them penciled in for Friday mornings.) We didn’t actually make carrot juice as often as this menu states, but that was our goal.

Lunches: soup means a basic carrot/celery/onion soup, sometimes with chicken broth in there too. The chicken salad and almond/PB roll ups are recipes I’ve given recently; the “quesadilla” is in a thin egg wrap with cheese like an almond roll up (it’s more like an omlette than a quesadilla, but I’m not telling my kids that).

Snacks: I listed snacks so I would remember to shop for these things too, but we weren’t locked into certain snacks on certain days. The “Grape Zip” mentioned is homemade yogurt mixed 2:1 with concord grape juice…it’s a drink and makes a fast snack without quite so much mess/dishes as serving yogurt in bowls. Other snack ideas besides nuts, muffins, fruit: cheese, white bean hummus and celery sticks, spoonful of nut butter, kale chips, homemade frozen yogurt, homemade juice pops.

Dinners: Having dinner planned is what saves the day for me very often. In this menu, I was planning specifically for activities we were leaving for immediately after dinner on Tuesday and Wednesday, so those dinners had to be fast (that is, they had to be liked well enough for the kids to eat without many complaints). Thursday we had soccer practice and would arrive home for a late dinner, so I wanted it to be ready in the crockpot/oven. This mostly worked out, but I want to explore more crockpot meals for the future so I spend less time in prep in the late afternoon (maybe I’ll get a nap one of these days!!!).

Pizza: my husband requested this every. Friday. night. After six months of this, he’s agreed that once every other week is often enough. I have salad listed several times, and “veggie” which may be whatever is hitting the stores at that season or frozen green beans and broccoli (oh… that just made me think of a yummy chicken broccoli casserole with sauce and cheese…). Zucchini spaghetti is shredded zucchini in place of the pasta (and yes, I’ve tried spaghetti squash, I just like zucchini better).

Many meals use ingredients from previous meals: using meat or broth from the chicken roasted on Sunday, or planning the leftover pizza as the picnic lunch for the soccer game Saturday. You just have to line up your meals so you can keep rolling foods into the next meal or two. Also, I shop Trader Joes each Sunday evening, and pick up eggs and milk on Wednesday, and then make yogurt/kefir after that. Sometimes the day you shop makes a difference on when you want to schedule a meal…like plan guacamole for a few days after you shop for avocados, but eat fish the same day you purchase it.

What menu planning tips do your have to share? What are your favorite meals?

Food Makeover

Does your pantry look like this?

(And I’m not talking about crowded or unorganized, but the foods in it.)

And maybe your doctor, or your friend, or your nutritionist, or your conscience has recently told you that you need to change over to healthier eating. But maybe you are overwhelmed?

If so, take heart.

My pantry looked similar to this a few years ago, and I have made significant changes to the pantry and our diet, even as a busy mom with a limited budget. Remember the CleanGreenStart Approach:

  • Start because every change to a healthier product is a step in the right direction
  • Read labels, including ingredients and processing info for food
  • Replace the most toxic products immediately as your budget will allow, but commit to change over the rest as you use up/repurchase them

In the coming weeks (months?) I’ll be adding tips on switching out foods in the “Standard American Diet” (the SAD diet) for healthier choices. And we’ll come back and take a look at this all-too-familiar looking pantry for inspiration.

(This is not my pantry. . . and the owner will remain anonymous. The cute baskets are a great idea, don’t you think? Maybe I’ll “cute up” my pantry a bit and show you what it looks like sans Cheese Nips, etc.)

Gluten Free Bread/Tortillas/Buns/Pizza

I’ve been enjoying great tasting gluten free bread, tortillas, hamburger buns, pizza crusts, and flatbread, all made from one basic recipe (this makes it easier to only shop for these basic ingredients). I am using the refrigerator rise method given in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (their website is: artisanbreadinfive.com). The recipe has several modifications to make it to my liking:

Gluten Free Basic Refrigerator Dough

Whisking together the flours. This is the only picture I had for this, although I don't rise bread in a metal bowl.

in a large (6 qt +) glass, pottery, or plastic bowl, whisk together:
1 cup organic brown rice flour (decrease to 1/2 cup if making sourdough)
1 cup millet flour
1, 1/2 cups sorghum flour
3 cups tapioca flour
2 Tb. xanthan gum
1 Tb. fine sea salt
2 Tb. yeast (omit if making a sourdough)

beat slightly, then stir in with wooden spoon:
4 large eggs

melt on stove top, then add:
1/3 cup butter (may substitute coconut oil or ghee)

heat to tepid on stove top, then add in divided parts:
2, 2/3 cups filtered water (reduce to 2, 1/6 cups if using sourdough starter)
2 Tb. honey (dissolve in water)

This is my dough which has raised on the counter for 2 hours.

Continue to stir with wooden spoon until all flour is combined. Cover, and set on counter for 2 hours, or until dough has risen. Cover tightly and store in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Dough is ready immediately, or develops a better flavor, great digestibility, and fewer carbohydrates with a longer “soak” during several days in the refrigerator. You will not knead the dough when removing it from the fridge, just carefully break off the amount of dough for baking.

Bread: allow to rest baking stone/bread pan for 1 hour, covered, then bake approx. 1 hour in 350 degree oven, or until the internal temperature is 200-210 degrees. Directions for crusty bread are given on the Artisan Bread In Five site. Cool completely before slicing. Yields 2 medium loaves.

Buns: Let rest 1 hour on baking pan/stone, then bake at 325 for about 35 minutes. Cool completely before slicing. Yields about 12 hamburger buns.

Pizza Crust: place about 1/4 of dough on a large square of freezer paper. Cover with another square of freezer paper. Roll to the size of

Rolling a tortilla between two sheets of freezer paper.

a pizza pan, then place in freezer, for up to a month. When frozen, the crust can be removed, the paper stripped from it and immediately placed on a pizza pan or stone. It will then melt and be ready to bake by the time you have toppings on it. (I preheat my stone to 500, and bake the pizza for 10 minutes.) Yields 4 pizzas.

Flat Bread: using the freezer paper method above, roll the dough to the size of a tortilla, then fry on medium in a cast iron skillet with a Tb. of butter for each side. Yum!

Peeling the paper from a frozen tortilla; ready to cook on the stove top.

Tortillas: Omit yeast from recipe; I also reduce eggs to 1, but it works with 4 as well. Place the amount of a small fist of dough on freezer paper, cover with freezer paper, and roll to a round tortilla, just as in the method above for pizza crust.  I keep stacks of these in the freezer. Heat cast iron griddle or skillet to medium heat, then remove tortilla from freezer and paper, cook without oil for about 2 minutes, until  you can see the underside has cooked. Flip to cook other side. These are delicious and flexible! Yeild 18-20 tortillas.

My sourdough starter, developing on the countertop.

Sourdough: I have recently been making this bread recipe with a GF brown rice sourdough culture which I purchased from culturesforhealth.com. To do this, I omit the yeast, and substitute 1 cup of active sourdough starter (from a jar on my counter) for 1/2 cup of the brown rice flour, and 1/2 cup of the water. All the other instructions for bread apply.

Vegetable Cleanses

[This is the second post in a series. Check out the introduction post on cleansing diets here.]

Now let’s take a look at some specific cleanses. These are all cleanses I have tried, or a close family member has tried, so what I share is just my personal opinion and experience, is not medical advice, and should in no way replace the recommendation of your trusted physician.

Vegetable and/or Fruit only Cleanses, including:

  • Vegetable juicing: using a juicing appliance to extract the juice from vegetables and fruits. A great deal of vegetable nutrients can be consumed in a small amount of juice, however the tendency to use sweet veggies and fruits (i.e. carrots and apples) can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes and exacerbate candida overgrowth.
  • Raw Vegetables: mainly a raw vegetable  cleanse, can include raw juices. Some people eat “raw” as a lifestyle, and often include nuts and raw dairy, which are often avoided for a cleanse. The idea is to benefit from the live enzymes in the raw veggies, which help to break them down. However, raw vegetables can still be difficult to digest in persons without sufficient supply of enzymes for breaking down fiber and other plant carbohydrates.
  • Vegetable soup cleanses: another variation on vegetable cleanses. More vegetables can be consumed than in a raw cleanse, but enzymes are destroyed in cooking. More fiber than a juice cleanse.
  • Grape cleanse: when only grapes and water are eaten. The high sugar content may exacerbate candida or other fungal overgrowth.
  • Seneca Indian 4 day cleanse: a combination of all the above: day 1 raw fruit only but no bananas, day 2 herbal teas with maple syrup only, day 3 vegetables of all kinds: juice, raw or in soup, day 4 rich vegetable broth only.

Unless you are using organic vegetables, you can forget it as a detox. Other than the detox properties of the cleanse (with organic only), vegetable cleanses seem to focus cleansing on the colon. Since this organ stores and then moves waste out of the body, it would seem a logical organ needing a periodic cleaning. A few days to a week has been more than sufficient in my experience, however every body is different. Note that “cleaning out the colon” does not mean that flora imbalances are corrected: if you have overgrowth of Candida (fungal) or harmful bacteria, this kind of cleanse will not correct that (you will likely need a combination of herbal and/or pharmaceutical medicines and probiotic supplements supervised by a doctor, with follow-up testing to confirm efficacy). Vegetable cleanses are excellent for breaking food cravings.

Cleansing and/or detoxing while pregnant and breastfeeding is not recommended, since toxins will be mobilized and could harm a baby in the womb or at the breast. This can be very frustrating for women in the middle of childbearing years, especially when they plan to nurse beyond a year with each baby, and find breastfeeding and pregnancies come back to back. I have been told by a Midwife whom I trust that the only “cleansing diet” she recommends to her moms is a raw vegetable/salads with lemon diet for one week while nursing (not pregnant). However, this should only be done after the milk supply is well established (perhaps after 6 mo. postpartum of full-time nursing). I did try this with my first baby, but had a hard time feeling satiated/getting enough calories, so I gave it up after 2 days.

There is no doubt: vegetables are good for us. However, I do not advocate vegan or vegetarian diets as healthy: they just haven’t held up to science or to my own experience. And don’t think that only vegetables help us detox; meat protein contains many amino acids not found in veggies . . . amino acids which detox certain kinds of chemicals accumulated or manufactured in our bodies. So (as I state in the intro post on this topic) the best cleanse is a long-term clean balanced diet.

Your body is detoxing every single day, whether you are on a special diet or not! Another way to approach the long-term detox lifestyle is to purposefully include more of the detox powerhouses into your diet:

Foods that enhance liver detox:

  • asparagus
  • grapefruit
  • artichokes
  • all dark leafy greens: kale, spinach, romaine, chard
  • onions
  • garlic
  • olive oil

Foods that enhance kidney detox:

  • cranberry
  • lemon
  • water, water, water (only purified)
  • cucumber

While systematically removing detox blockers from your everyday diet:

  • any kind of heated vegetable oil, such as found in fried chips, baked chips, french fries, box cookies
  • refined sugar
  • conventional dairy

Up next: some fasts and more specific cleanses.