Olive Oil in Texas? I thought they only had bubbling crude, black gold, Texas tea….

On a recent trip to Texas, while staying here, I took a day trip to a real organic olive oil ranch with my family. My Aunt and Uncle, who both live in Austin, adopted a little olive tree. We stopped by the ranch to check on it since Texas is having a drought. It turns out all these beautiful trees are being irrigated regularly and the hope is they will start producing fruit by next year.

Texas Hill Country Olive Oil Ranch is located in the Austin hill country and there is also a thriving olive oil agriculture in California. The climate in Austin is hot, hot, hot in the summer but olive trees love that. Olive trees are one of the toughest trees around and they can handle abuse.

One of the son-in-laws of one the Gambini owners gave us a tour of the orchard and explained the process of raising olive trees. These trees need to be pruned very often to facilitate fruit production. If they don’t get pruned they get lazy and grow all over the place like snakes, and then they don’t produce much fruit.

We learned that the USA regulates the production of olive oil to ensure a top quality rancid free product. I was always under the impression that European olive oil producers were under the same strict regulations. Not so, said our guide. He is convinced the best product stays in their respective countries and lower quality oil gets exported. Well, one taste of the Californian/Texan olive oil and I was convinced too. A a high quality olive oil causes a mild burning sensation when it hits the back of your throat and it has an ever so slight bitterness to it.

While we visited Texas Hill Country Olive Oil Ranch my uncle treated us all to olive oil gelato. What a delicacy! We sampled vanilla, chocolate and rosemary with different flavoured balsamic vinegar. My favourite for the ice cream was blackberry but the fig went well with the kettle chips.

To find out more about Texas Hill Country Olive Oil click here.

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Dr. Joe Schwarcz: The Right Chemistry

I recently attended a book signing by Cote Saint Luc’s very own Dr. Joe Schwarcz. Dr. Joe, as he is affectionately known by students and admirers alike, has a new book entitled The Right Chemistry.  It is his 13th book and it takes the ‘‘mistry” out of chemistry. The Right Chemistry is filled with wonderful vignettes about science written with humour and interesting facts.   As Dr. Joe always says “You need the sugar to make the medicine go down!”

Dr. Joe is known for making chemistry fun, fascinating and accessible to the masses.  Dr. Joe teaches chemistry at McGill and is noted for his interesting lectures.  He also gives talks to the regular folks too, like his monthly Mondays at the Cote Saint Luc Eleanor London Library called Science Demystified.

Over the years Dr. Joe has become a kind of watchdog for the quack science that has emerged more rapidly and venomously than ever before.  This is probably due to the advent of the internet, email, social media etc.   A lot of the claptrap out there is attached to health claims from disease curing foods to the evils of plastics.  Chances are if you have a question about something you got in an email or saw on the internet then Dr. Joe has already received an email about it.  According to Dr. Joe, many of these questions can be answered with one word: Nonsense!  Why? Because you need properly conducted scientific studies that are evidenced based to promote accurate health information.

Nutrition is a hot topic these days.  It seems like one day eggs are the devil and the next day they are the star.  Butter recently made a comeback while sugar is the new evil.  Dr. Joe is an encyclopedia of science but especially so with nutrition.  He sifts through all the garbage and promotes only evidence based nutrition information. He says that you can’t go wrong if you eat your fruits and veggies.

Dr. Joe has a handful of recipes he created with some well studied ingredients.  I am pleased to say that Dr. Joe has given me permission to post these recipes. Watch for them over the next few weeks.

Most of these recipes can be found in their cooked form at my neighbourhood fruit and vegetable store called Quality Fruits.  As local lore has it, Dr. Joe’s vegetarian goulash was created as a joke.  These days you can often find Dr. Joe doing quality control and tasting the wonderful foods.  If you happen to see Dr. Joe at Quality don’t hesitate to go up to him and say hi.  He will not bigfoot you and will gladly answer that burning question you have about blueberry enzymes curing your gout.

Do you stick to one supermarket?

I was standing in line recently at my local grocery store, wondering why I shop there.  It’s dirty, very small and it’s not the cheapest. So, what’s the deal with this place?  I guess it’s the familiarity.  It’s the neighborhood presence, the place where I feel like Norm from Cheers.

There is a cast of characters at this supermarket that amuses me greatly.  I love the fishmonger guy with the funny haircut and the good recipes.  It’s fun to watch the banter between the German lady at the fast food counter and the heavy set woman who does the BBQ chickens.  I love the milkman who is endlessly restocking the dairy section.  Then there is the religious Jewish guy at the Kosher counter who can’t figure me out .  But the best is the cashiers.  There is the happy guy who dropped a 100 pounds and is now a personal trainer on the side. The girl who keeps changing her hair color but never seems to wreck it.  The big lady who never cracks a smile. I also love those car order guys because they are some of the politest young men I have ever encountered.

I really appreciate the fact that if I have a suggestion or a complaint the managers take me very seriously.  They have really done wonders with the coffee section.  No need to got to Starbuck’s anymore.  The vegetarian section has some good stuff too.

At my store I know where almost everything is. I just want to get in and out as quickly as possible.  The longer I linger the more I spend.  Especially since I am of the dietitian persuasion, I feel it necessary to buy every new so called healthy product out there.  My dad the accountant says that is considered a business expense.  But who has time to separate the grocery bill into family and business?

Whenever I find myself at a fancier store I tend to over spend because I find every new food product invented.  I’ve tried hitting the bargain supermarket in the name of frugality but it is just not the same.  I miss the gang.

 

Addendum: The above article was published several months ago in a local newspaper.  I got a call from a reader who thanked me for this article, stating that what he got from it, was how important it is to support local business.  That wasn’t my conscious intention when I wrote the piece.  However, the subtext is just that. I do support local business even if it costs a bit more.

Video

Video Blog Episode 2 – How to choose your cereals?

Some tips from Janna Boloten R.D.!

Video Blog Episode 1 – Saucy Sodium –

What to Eat When You Go to the Movies

Disclaimer:  You are totally NOT allowed to sneak food into the movie theatre.

But if you do, bring the good stuff and remember snacks packed in little containers are always fun and less messy than plastic wrap and baggies.  Throw everything into a large bag or knapsack with a shmata covering everything for good measure.

Here some movie nosh ideas.  Make your own trail mix with 1/4 cup of dried fruit, 1/4 cup of unsalted mixed nuts, 1/4 cup of high fibre cereal like All Bran and a tablespoon of coconut flakes or dark chocolate slivers. This is a high calorie snack but it is filling and packed with fiber.

If it’s a matinee you are heading out to see, why not pack a sandwich?  Get creative and use fancy whole grain bread with a spread like hummus instead of mayonnaise. For the protein, use leftover meat or chicken or a hard cheese like cheddar.  I caution you against a healthy tuna or egg salad sandwich since that would surely give you away.  I can smell tuna from at least half kilometer.  For the side, baby carrots work well so keep your crunching quiet.

 

 

If you prefer traditional movie fair like popcorn then make your own.  Ditch the convenient microwave bags for an air popper which you can pick up for about 20$ or try popping the corn in a paper bag in the microwave.  Season it with homemade garlic butter.  Use 2 teaspoons for 3 cups of popped popcorn.  That is 2 servings of fat plus a serving of grains!

Drink water as it is the preferred beverage.  Don’t go with juice or pop.  Who needs the extra calories? If you are a mindless eater maybe munching during a movie is not a good move.  Chew sugarless gum instead.

Finally, this may seem pretty obvious but you can’t beat a fruit or some cut up vegetables for a healthy snack.  Add in some dairy like a yogurt or a piece of cheese and you’ve got the perfect snack.  Who’s going to kick you out of your seat for eating something healthy?

Nutrition Confessions


Would you like a muffin by jencounter
I suck at baking. I have had more baking disasters then I
care to mention.   I have actually
scraped cream cheese for a cheese cake that flew out of my bowl and landed on
the floor, back into the bowl and served it. 
I have ruined homemade granola, cookies, cakes, icing, muffins, premade
challah dough and even rice Krispie squares. 
I tried to candy maple syrup once and it boiled over the pot, over the stove
and on to the floor.  I can’t properly
whip butter even with a Kitchenaid.

The reason why I am such a terrible baker is because I don’t
like following directions and have no patience. 
I also hate using more than one bowl. 
I really detest mixing the dry ingredients in one and the wet in another.  I enjoy making recipes up and not following
directions.  You can not do that with
baking.  It’s a science and everything
needs to be measured properly, put into the bowls in the correct order and
baked at the right temperature for the right amount of time.  As you can see, there is a lot places where
one screw up the recipe.

I really wish it weren’t this way.  I really want to be a baker.   I want
to make my own wholesome snacks for my children.
  I want to stop buying junk in little packages
for their lunch boxes.  My kids beg for
me to bake for them.  This winter I even
tried to become a half baker. I bought this muffin mix from Loblaws.  It’s reasonably healthy and fairly easy to
make.  But, after a few batches it became
boring and no one was eating them.

I know several people who are ‘bakers’.  They make wonderful homemade baked goods for
their kids effortlessly.
  I like going to
their houses. Unfortunately, we don’t get too many invites these days because
my kids devour all their homemade goodies.

In the olden days there was no such thing as store bought
baked goods.  Granted, women used to keep
house and part of their daily work was creating the family meal plan from
scratch.  Today it is all about
convenience and time saving techniques. 
I have grown up that way too.  My
mother worked and baked only on occasion. 
My grandmother didn’t work but also only baked on occasion. 


Chocolate Chip Cookies by jamieanne
Ironically, as I sit here writing this my kid just got
dropped off by my mother with a tin of homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
that she made.  From a nutrition
perspective, regularly eating a ton of baked goods will surely end up on your
waistline.  It’s all about moderation.  I just ate 2 of my mother’s cookies and
tossed the rest into the freezer.  I will
put them in my kid’s lunch boxes instead of those dreaded Bear Paws.

The question is, would you pay a premium to have someone else
bake for you?  I would! Stay tuned for
Friday and to find about a new supplier.