How to Choose the Best Olive Oil

We’ve all seen our favorite chefs at work on TV. Most of them use extra virgin olive oil. Why? Because it’s one of the healthiest oils to consume. However, they rarely say what brand they’re using (unless they’re being paid to advertise for that company).

Good quality olive oil can be one of the healthiest oils to use. It helps correct blood cholesterol problems and is high in vitamin E and antioxidants, fighting harmful compounds in the body. Olive oil plays a vital role in the Mediterranean diet, which we know is very healthful.

So…when we get to the grocery store, choosing which olive oil to buy seems about like choosing a breakfast cereal! There are MANY to choose from…too many. It’s just too confusing. So, I’ve done some research to help us all pick the best olive oil from the array we have to choose from at the moment.

It’s important to know that not all olive oils were created equal. In fact, MANY that are typically on our grocery store shelves are not healthful oils at all. Many have been “refined” (a process that involves heat and/or chemical solvents), have been on the shelf for extended periods of time and hence are not fresh, or are older oils that have been blended with fresher oils to mask their rancid flavor. Yuk!

Because eating old or rancid oils is actually damaging to health, I decided to put together a list of things to look for to help you choose which oil is best among those that are available to you at the moment when shopping. There may be higher quality oils out there in wherever-land, but they’re not the ones you’re looking at for the moment when you’re starring at the huge array on the grocery store shelf. You NEED to know which one to choose NOW! Copy this list and carry it with you the next time you shop for olive oil.

First, it’s important to know that ANY extracted oil is highly perishable. Light, heat and oxygen can interact with the oil and cause it to age or even spoil, creating compounds that are harmful to our health. So, keep this fact in mind as you make your way through the steps below.

When at the grocery store…

Put your “blinders” on! First thing, DON’T look at the price right away. IF you shop for price only, you’ll probably choose the cheapest oil on the shelf. Mistake #1. That oil is very likely refined and not the most healthful. That’s not what you want!

Choose oil in a small dark glass bottle (or packaging that shields the oil from light).  Unless you’re going to use a LOT of oil FAST, go for the small size…one that you know you can use up in a relatively short amount of time. Be sure the bottle (glass, not plastic) is dark, helping to protect the oil from damaging light. Otherwise, if you know you need a lot of oil and will be using it up quickly, opt for oil in a large can.

Be sure the cap is sealed and air tight. Well, duh. This should be a “given.” However…it’s worth checking because you never know what you might come across in a grocery store.

Choose “extra virgin olive oil.” Extra virgin is the highest quality olive oil. Now…DON’T take the front label on the bottle for it’s word. Turn the bottle over and look at the ingredients list. It should only say “extra virgin olive oil.” It MIGHT list refined oil and extra virgin olive oil. If it does, put it back on the shelf. It’s a blend of less-than-healthy refined oil, most likely mixed with fresher oil to improve the flavor. Not your best option.

Look for “first cold pressed” or “mechanically pressed.” This is the natural way to extract oil from olives. Otherwise it was probably extracted using heat and/or chemicals, which is not desirable and not the healthiest oil around. Choose a naturally extracted oil.

Some bottles say “organic.” Organic options in most any foods are good. However, “organic” alone with regard to olive oil is NOT the only thing to look for. Check out the other components before deciding that it’s your best option.

Look for quality seals on the label. Not all oils will have them, but they are helpful in ensuring the oil was produced according to set quality standards. Some seals you might see include:

COOC (California Olive Oil Council)
North American Olive Oil Association
International Olive Oil Council
PDO (Protected Designation of Origin…DOP in Italian)
PGI (Protected Geographical Indication…IGP in Italian)

Look for an expiration date or “best by” date. Try to select one with at least a year left before it expires. The further out the date, the fresher the oil. Freshly produced olive oil will last up to 2 years from the time of harvest, IF kept under ideal conditions (which is often not the case). AND we don’t know the time lapse from harvest to production and many dates are based on production dates, so there is some mystery here. So…the more time left in the dating, the fresher the oil.

Look for the producer and place of origin of the olives. Ideally, it’s best to find an oil from olives that were grown, processed and packaged in the same location. However, that would RARELY be found on our grocery store shelves. Just note that oil will be freshest and of higher quality under those circumstances. That translates into less transport time, less chance of spoilage due to less-than-ideal conditions along the way, etc. However, MOST if not all of what we’ll typically find on our grocery store shelves will not meet this criteria. It’s good to look for it anyway. IF you manage to find one…latch onto it!

NOW…After having looked for oils that meet the above criteria…it’s time to compare prices. Now you’ll know you’re getting the best deal on your olive oil AND the most healthful option you have to choose from at the moment.

When you get home…

TASTE the oil when you get it home. Ignore the color because the color will vary depending upon the variety of olive used and when it was picked. The color does NOT reflect the quality of the oil. When tasting, the oil should smell and taste like olives, and should have a slight bitterness and possibly pepperiness. This indicates the presence of the polyphenol compounds…the healthful compounds that we WANT in the oil! Hopefully the oil you selected will meet this criteria. If not, it’s back to the drawing board the next time you shop for oil.

Store your oil wisely. Store it away from light, heat and oxygen (close the bottle quickly after using it). Use it up quickly…don’t try to store it for a long time.

Get the most health benefits from your oil. Use the oil unheated as much as possible to get the most health benefits from your carefully chosen product. When using it to cook with, heat it the least amount possible to keep from destroying the polyphenol compounds and breaking down the oil (which is not healthful).

Here’s a video that I produced on this subject. Hope this helps!! Happy eating, Judi

Marinated Cruciferous Salad

Marinated Cruciferous Salad (Recipe)

As mentioned in my video about cruciferous vegetables, we ALL should eat these vegetables whenever we can. Raw or slightly cooked is best.

Below is a VERY simple salad recipe of mine using cruciferous vegetables marinated in an oil/vinegar dressing. The recipe can EASILY be varied to meet your family’s tastes and it can be increased or decreased with little effort beyond cutting the vegetables. Make this easy and use the cruciferous vegetables you have on hand!

Check out the video below the recipe, showing how this salad is made. Enjoy!! Judi

Marinated Cruciferous Salad
Makes about 2 Cups

2 cups chopped cruciferous vegetables of choice*
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1-1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar**
3 pinches sea salt
1 to 2 pinches dried oregano***
1 pinch dried granulated garlic

Place vegetables and onion in a medium size bowl. Add the dressing ingredients. Toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Toss again and serve.

Note the MANY possible variations with this salad:

* Use any combination of cruciferous vegetables you want. Suggestions include: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage (of any sort), radishes, arugula, kale, broccoli rabe, watercress, and/or bok choy

** To vary the flavor, lemon juice may be used in place of apple cider vinegar

*** In place of oregano, other herbs may be used such as: basil, dill, sage, cumin, marjoram, parsley, or thyme

Experiment and try different combinations to find your favorite!

 

Introducing…”NutriBit” Videos

As many people know, I have a lot of formal training in food and nutrition. In addition to that I’ve owned and operated my own bakery/bistro, taught nutrition to college students, AND I continue to delve into personal research on a regular basis.

It was recently suggested to me that I share some of this information with others. That seemed like a reasonable thing to do, especially since it ties in with my blog AND YouTube videos. Hence…the birth of “NutriBits”…as in “bits” of nutritional and health/wellness information relayed through videos. These are short, to the point videos I’ll be creating as I share valuable nutritional, health and wellness information that could help you in the kitchen, at the grocery store, and in your quest to live a healthier life.

A link to my introductory video is below. Please check it out and DO post questions that I might be able to help you with either here or in the comments section of any video I post. I’ll be happy to help with whatever questions I can! Judi

Two Green Fruit Smoothie

Two Green Fruit Smoothie

Now that the weather is starting to warm up, refreshing, “cooler” foods are coming to mind. For me, smoothies are in order. Yesterday I concocted something different I wanted to share…it was fabulous! It’s made with both raw baby greens AND green tea. Lots of fruit is added for sweetness. It’s filling and delicious. Here’s the recipe followed by my YouTube video showing how it’s made. Enjoy! Judi

Two Green Fruit Smoothie
Makes about 2 Cups

12 whole almonds (raw, not roasted nor salted)
12 blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup chopped fruit of choice (I used kiwi and fresh pineapple)
1 banana, fresh or frozen
1 large handful of raw mixed greens (ie spinach, baby kale)
1 rounded teaspoon of milled chia seeds or flax seeds
1 cup (8 oz) freshly brewed plain green tea, cooled
Sweetener of choice, optional

Place all ingredients into a blender in the order listed. Process until smooth. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Gluten Free Bread Muffins

Gluten Free Bread Muffins

Many people have gone gluten-free these days for assorted reasons. No matter what the reason, one thing that is often missed is bread. No matter what is said about bread in the news, even though its form may have changed, bread has been a staple in the diet of people for eons. If you enjoy bread and suddenly find yourself trying to do without it, life is just not the same! Nothing quite takes the place of bread.

I’ve explored gluten-free bread recipes and have found this one to be a winner. It’s a recipe I developed after a NUMBER of trial runs. It works baked in a loaf, but even better when made in a regular size muffin tin. This bread is not sweet, so it goes well with meals. The recipe is as follows.

Watch the video below for my special tips on making this bread successfully along with details of how to make it in a loaf. Enjoy! Judi

Gluten Free Bread Muffins
Makes 12 Regular Size Bread Muffins (or 1 loaf)

14 oz gluten-free flour blend (that contains NO xanthan gum, guar gum, nor yeast)
4 oz gluten-free oat flour OR almond meal/flour
3 Tbsp plain psyllium husk powder
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 cup almond milk (or any milk you prefer)
1 cup water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or any vegetable oil you prefer)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the liquid ingredients. Add liquid mixture to the dry mix and stir until well combined.

Lightly coat a regular size 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray. Scoop 1/3 to 1/2 cup batter into each muffin cup, dividing the batter evenly among all cups. Allow batter to “rest” as the oven preheats.

Place top rack of oven on the middle shelf. Preheat oven to 350ºF. When oven is heated, place muffin pan into oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and allow muffins to cool in the pan on a wire rack. Enjoy.

Bread may be stored, tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for one or two days. For prolonged storage, wrap each one tightly and store in the freezer until needed. Allow bread to thaw at room temperature or very briefly on a defrost setting in a microwave oven.

To see tips on how to successfully make this recipe or how to bake it in a loaf form, see the video below! Judi

Homemade Pizza Crust

Homemade Pizza Crust

I don’t know too many people who don’t enjoy pizza, at LEAST once in a while. There is SO much you can do with a pizza in addition to the usual tomato sauce, cheese and assorted toppings. It’s truly limited only to one’s imagination.

I started making homemade pizza crust for my family years ago when we first bought a bread machine. A fabulous recipe came in the little booklet that accompanied the machine. Well, the machine is now long out the door from being used for so many years. Since then, I started my bakery and made breads “en-mass” in a quantity NO bread machine could ever handle. Hence, I developed my own recipes.

Here’s a delicious basic pizza crust recipe. Once you master this, it would be easy to get creative with it by adding herbs or other flavorings to enhance whatever pizza you’re making. Give it a try if you haven’t made your own crust before. It truly IS well worth the effort because homemade crust has a flavor far better than any store-bought pizza could possibly have.

Homemade Pizza Crust
Makes One Thick 14″ Crust OR Two Thin 12″ Crusts

3 cups (15 oz) bread flour
1 pkg (1/4 oz) Rapid Rise yeast
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup water, warmed to 120-130ºF
2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Butter or other grease for pan
Cornmeal

Note: The following instructions are designed for a stand mixer. The dough may also be mixed and kneaded by hand. Be sure to knead very well until the dough is smooth and elastic.

In a stand mixer bowl, add bread flour, yeast and salt. Stir to combine and set aside. In a small bowl or mug, add warmed water OR place water in a mug and heat it briefly in a microwave oven until it has warmed to the appropriate temperature. Add vegetable oil to the warmed water. Pour liquid mixture into the flour mixture. Stir to moisten the flour.

Place mixer bowl on the stand mixer and attach a dough hook. Turn the mixer on low speed and allow the mixer to knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Remove bowl from stand. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the baking pan(s) by lightly greasing the pan with butter, then sprinkling cornmeal on the pan. Spread the cornmeal around the pan by tilting the pan in different directions to lightly coat the greased area with the cornmeal. Set aside.

After the dough has rested, form the pizza crust either by placing it on a VERY lightly floured board and rolling the dough into the desired size circle, then place the dough on the prepared pan. Alternately, you could place the dough ball on the prepared pan and spread the dough into a circle with your fingers. Dock the dough by poking holes in the dough with a fork to prevent air bubbles from forming as it bakes.

Preheat oven to 400ºF and prebake the dough for 5 to 7 minutes, depending upon the size and thickness of the dough. (Be sure to remove the crust from the oven before it starts to brown.) Remove pan from oven. Spread crust with desired toppings and return it to the oven. Bake pizza until the cheese is bubbly and toppings appear cooked. (Note that the time to finish the baking process will vary depending upon the size, thickness and toppings used.) Serve.

Check out my video below to SEE how the crust is made! Enjoy, Judi

Homemade Oatmeal Bread

Homemade Oatmeal Bread (A Recipe From My Bakery)

I enjoy baking and have ever since I was in early elementary school. In my adult years, I established my own bakery and specialized in making yeast breads, although I did make a lot of other goodies too. Little by little, I’m creating YouTube videos demonstrating how to make a lot of the breads I made in the bakery. To accompany the videos, I’m writing blog posts so you can print out the recipes if you want. They can also be downloaded in .PDF format from my website at http://HandMadeInIowa.com.

Below is my recipe for homemade Oatmeal Bread. The recipe has been scaled down to make two loaves, the usual amount for home recipes. It’s truly delicious and was a BIG seller at my bakery! Give it a try. It’s really not hard! To SEE how it’s made, check out the video below, where I walk viewers through the process step-by-step. Enjoy! Judi

Homemade Oatmeal Bread
Makes Two Loaves

1-1/2 cups rolled oats (either quick or old fashioned)
1-1/2 cups boiling water (or reserved water from cooking potatoes)
3 Tbsp (1-1/2 oz) butter
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp salt
2 room temperature eggs, lightly beaten
1 lb, 4 oz bread flour
1/2 oz Rapid Rise Yeast

Note: This recipe is designed for being prepared in a home stand mixer. If you don’t have one, simply hand mix the ingredients per the instructions and hand knead, being careful to work in as little extra flour as possible.

In a stand mixer bowl, combine the rolled oats, boiling water, butter, honey, brown sugar and salt. Place the bowl on the mixer stand and mix on low speed, using a standard paddle blade. Mix until the ingredients are well blended and oats appear to be “cooked.” Remove bowl from mixer stand.

Test the temperature of the mixture with an instant read thermometer. When it cools to between 120 and 130ºF, it is safe to proceed forward. Stir in the lightly beaten eggs. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, weigh out the bread flour. Stir in the yeast. Stir the flour mixture into the oat mix, just enough so the flour won’t spray out of the bowl when the mixer is turned on. Place mixer bowl onto the mixer stand, insert the dough hook, and mix on low speed for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the dough hook and bowl from the stand.

Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile bring a medium size saucepan of water to boil and prepare the oven to use as a proof box. Turn the oven light on. Place the lower rack at the lowest position in the oven and the top rack in the middle of the oven. When the water comes to a boil, place the saucepan on the lower oven rack and close the door. (This method can be used with both an electric and gas range.)

After the dough has rested, remove it to a VERY lightly floured board. Form into two loaves and place each loaf into a sprayed, oiled or greased loaf pan. (I used 8×4 pans, but 9×5 pans would also work, making shallower loaves.)

Place the formed loaves in their pans on the middle oven rack over the pan of hot water. Close the oven door and allow them to rise for 30 to 40 minutes, until about doubled in size. Remove loaves and saucepan from oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF.

An optional step to adorn the loaves: In a small bowl, mix one whole beaten egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush each loaf with the egg mixture and sprinkle with extra oats. (If you do not do this optional step, simply brush the BAKED loaves with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven.)

When the oven is preheated, bake bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove loaves to a wire rack and allow them to cool completely before slicing.

Roasted Honey Carrots with Walnuts

Roasted Honey (or Maple) Carrots with Walnuts

Everyone is loving their roasted veggies these days. Now that it’s cold outside, cranking up the oven is perfect timing for roasting whatever you have on hand. Carrots work exceptionally well in roasting.

I enjoy flavoring carrots just a bit with a little something sweet. We’re also told to eat walnuts for the omega-3’s. So…I decided to combine the two into Roasted Honey (or Maple) Carrots with Walnuts. It’s an absolutely FABULOUS side dish (or even a main course for vegetarians because of the nuts). The recipe is below, followed by a video demonstrating how to make them. Note that this recipe is very flexible and can easily be increased and flavors adjusted to your liking.

Roasted Honey (or Maple) Carrots with Walnuts
Makes 2 Servings

4 small carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
2 tsp honey or maple syrup
1/4 to 1/3 cup walnuts (or adjust to your preference)

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Prepare fresh carrots and place them on a baking sheet (that may or may not be lined with parchment paper). Drizzle olive oil over the carrots. Sprinkle carrots with desired amount of salt. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup. Toss carrots to evenly coat all sides. Spread carrots into a single layer on the pan.

Place pan in middle of preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove pan and test carrots for tenderness with a fork. When they are almost roasted to your liking, stir in the walnuts. Place back in oven for 5 minutes. Check walnuts for brownness. If they are lightly browned, remove from oven and serve. If the walnuts need more roasting time, return pan to oven for 2 or 3 minutes and check again. Everything is finished when the carrots are fork tender and the walnuts are just lightly browned. Note! Watch walnuts carefully as they can burn quickly. Strive to remove pan from the oven when the walnuts are lightly browned.

This recipe is made “to taste” and can easily be increased and flavorings adjusted according to your needs and personal preferences. Watch the video below to see how it’s done! Judi

Cinnamon Rolls (a recipe from my bakery)

As many people know, I used to own and operate my own bakery. What made it special was the fact that everything was made “from scratch”. I specialized in yeast breads and made a large variety of bread types, all from individual ingredients. No frozen bread doughs ever entered the scene!

From time to time, I’m sharing the recipes that I developed along the way. This post is for my cinnamon rolls. I probably made thousands over the years that I ran the bakery and people always wanted more. Now you can make your own straight from my recipe!

To SEE how it’s done, look below the recipe and view my YouTube video on the process. Enjoy! Judi

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
(A Recipe From My Bakery)
Makes 18 Rolls

1 lb, 6-1/2 oz all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 oz Rapid Rise yeast1 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2-5/8 oz butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Filling
2 oz butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tsp ground cinnamon

Place flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a stand mixer bowl. Stir to combine; set aside. In a small saucepan, heat milk, water and butter to 120-130F. Add warmed liquid and eggs to the flour mixture. Stir to moisten the flour. Place bowl on mixer stand and attach a dough hook. Mix on low speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with a towel and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

Remove dough to a lightly floured board or counter top. Roll dough ball to lightly coat all surfaces with flour. With a rolling pin, roll into a large rectangle, about 22″ x 12″. Spread melted butter over dough, leaving about 1 inch unbuttered along the long edge farthest away from you. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle evenly over buttered surface of dough.

Starting with the buttered long edge closest to you, roll dough into a long log. With a sharp knife, cut log into three even sized sections. Cut each section into 6 slices.

Place slices, cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet, or a pan of choice (baking sheet or 8″ or 9″ round cake pans…6 to a pan) that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray or oiled with the oil of your choice.

Allow formed rolls to proof until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. (Suggestion…proof rolls in a warm, moist environment, such as a make-shift oven proof box. See my video below on this subject.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TFhfxwLNGw

After rolls have doubled in size, place rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 375F. Bake rolls 15 to 20 minutes. (See note below!) Top with powdered sugar glaze immediately when they are removed from the oven. Allow to cool on a cooling rack, or enjoy them while they’re fresh out of the oven!

Powdered Sugar Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar
4 Tbsp milk of choice*
1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla extract*

Combine glaze ingredients in a bowl, adding a little milk at a time until it is drizzling consistency. If too thin, add more powdered sugar. If too thick, add more milk.

*Note: Whole milk or even half and half works best when making the glaze. With full fat milk, add up to 1 tsp vanilla extract. If using skim milk, use less extract; usually about 1/2 teaspoon is enough. When using lower fat milk, the more vanilla extract you use, the more brown the glaze will appear (unless using clear vanilla extract), and the stronger taste the vanilla extract will impart.

Note regarding baking time: The baking time will vary depending upon how the rolls are placed on a pan. If they are separated so that when they spread out they do not touch each other, they will take less time to bake. If they are placed close together in a pan, so they touch each other, forming less “crust” areas as they bake, they will take a little longer to bake. The key is to watch them and bake them until the tops are lightly browned.

Watch my video below to SEE how to make these rolls! jk

 

Easily Remove Ring Around the Collar

The other day I was ironing my husband’s shirts and discovered a BAD case of ring around the collar! It seems I should have noticed this well before now, but it just snuck up on me. I did a little research then got creative and came up with a VERY easy and EFFECTIVE way to get the stain out. This works whether the shirt has been worn (and not laundered), or even freshly washed, dried AND ironed. (Yes, really!)

Supplies needed: One old toothbrush, a small bowl of water, a little dish detergent that is a good grease fighter, and one dirty collar.

Lay the shirt so the collar lays open and flat. The shirt can be dry…no need to wet it down first.

Dirty shirt collar

Dirty shirt collar

Put a little bit of dish detergent on your toothbrush and scrub the dirt line along the collar.

Scrub collar with dish detergent and toothbrush

Scrub collar with dish detergent and toothbrush

After you’ve done a little scrubbing and worked the detergent into the fabric, wet the toothbrush and scrub the dirt line some more, working up some suds.

Wet the toothbrush

Wet the toothbrush

Work up some suds

Work up some suds

After you’ve scrubbed the dirt line to your satisfaction, the shirt can be laundered immediately in your usual laundry detergent in whatever water temperature you normally use. IF the shirt was exceptionally dirty and you feel your dish detergent is not a great grease fighter, it may help to allow your shirt to sit for a while (up to 1 hour) before laundering it. Note that the collar does not need to be rinsed out before placing it in the washing machine. IF you feel you used a LOT of dish detergent and need to rinse some of it out, go ahead and rinse.

Washed, wet shirt...See how clean!

Washed, wet shirt…See how clean!

After it comes out of the washer, take a quick look to be sure all the ring was scrubbed out. If not, repeat the process. If so, dry it as usual.

Dried shirt...good as new!

Dried shirt…good as new!

This is a fast and easy process that makes shirts look good as new! The real benefit is that you don’t need to buy extra chemicals to do the job. You should already have what you need on hand!

To see my video on this process, click below. Enjoy! Judi