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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Black Bean Brownies

Cooking time: 25 minutes Makes 16 squares

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Ingredients
1 can of black beans drained and rinsed
3 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
2 TBSP vanilla extract (the real stuff)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 Tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips (if desired)

Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Put all ingredients in a food processor (except chocolate chips) and mix until smooth
Feed chocolate chips through the top chute with quick on and off pulses
Poor mixture into a well greased 8″ x 8″ pan

Dr. Joe’s Chicken Paprikas

CHICKEN PAPRIKAS

½ cup canola oil
2 chopped onions
5 cloves of minced garlic
2 green peppers
3 tomatoes
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
3 tablespoons paprika
15 pieces chicken with skin taken off (legs and/or thighs)
½ cup water

DIRECTIONS

Saute onions and garlic in oil until onions are translucent.
Add chicken and stir. Add chopped peppers, tomatoes,
salt, pepper and paprika. Stir. Add ½ cup water. Stir.
Cook 45 minutes on low heat. Place on bed of rice, dress
with parsley.

chicken-paprikash

Dr. Joe’s Goulash Recipe

GOULASH with tofu and hungarian paprika

Place enough canola oil in a 2 liter saucepan to just cover the bottom.

When the oil is hot, add two chopped onions and sauté until the onions are light brown and translucent.

Add two cubed tomatoes, a cup of cut green beans and three chopped peppers of different colors. Green, yellow and red are ideal.

Add 4-5 cloves of crushed garlic and a teaspoon of salt. Stir well.

Add 2 tablespoons of Hungarian paprika and stir well.

Peel about 10 red potatoes and cut them into approximately 2 cm cubes. Add these to the pot along with a cup of water. Stir well.

When the potatoes are starting to get a little soft, add two cups of mushrooms. Stir.

The goulash is done when the potatoes are soft, roughly five minutes after adding the mushrooms. At this point you can add more salt, depending on taste. A little black pepper may also be added.

In a separate pan, sauté some onions and garlic in a little canola oil. Take a one pound package of hard tofu and cut it into little cubes. Sauté tofu in the onion-garlic mix until the tofu starts to get a little brown. Sprinkle with paprika and keep cooking. Add a chopped red and a chopped yellow pepper. The tofu is done when the peppers get soft.

Place the goulash in a serving dish, and add the tofu mix to the top. Sprinkle liberally with fresh chopped parsley.

Enjoy!

(If you are the kind of person who likes to walk a little on the wild side, add a spoonful of sour cream. Even with this, the goulash will be low in fat. Your taste buds will thank you.)

Goulash soup

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.

Dirty Nutrition

According to the great Wikipedia, an aphrodisiac is a substance, such as food and drink, that increases sexual desire.   However, it’s never been scientifically proven that such a link exists.  Anecdotally, there are those folks who swear certain foods increase the libido.  I am certain my second son was conceived due to a delectable cheesecake eaten at a popular restaurant 😉

Chocolate has the reputation for being a prominent aphrodisiac.  Painting your lover with chocolate will probably do more for enhancing the experience than relying on any chemical in the food to spark an erotic response.  No food can magically make a person horny.  Even the most reputably known aphrodisiac, the oyster, has never been proven to make sex better.  Oysters are high in amino acids which in turn make dopamine which is a happy hormone.  Oysters do resemble a certain part of the female anatomy and that can be titallating.  

Fruit can be very erotic.  All you have to do is slice an apple lengthwise to find out why.  Many fruits have a suggestive shape like strawberries, mangos, kiwis and bananas. Bet you never thought about fruit like that before!

A beautiful bountiful bowl of lush fruit can be very appealing before and after love making.  Imagine blind folding your lover and feeding them luscious fruit dipped in, what else, chocolate.  After a satisfying romp why not recharge and replenish with a healthy bowl of fruit.

Wine and other types of alcohol are known to get people in the mood.  A little dulling of senses has led to many a one night stand.  Be aware that alcohol is a known depressant and it dehydrates the body both of which can dampen the mood quickly.  If you are going hot and heavy, keep a bottle of water nearby.  Sex is considered exercise!

Since sex is a physical activity, treat is as such.  Have a light meal before the fun and  replenish with milk!  Milk is a very popular post workout drink.  It’s got carbs and protein, a perfect refueling combo. If you went extra hard go with the chocolate milk 😉

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.