Study Suggests Olive Oil, Nuts May Help Reverse Heart Risk Factors

More evidence that eating like a Greek can be good for your ticker. According to a new study, consuming a Mediterranean diet with additional extra virgin olive oil or nuts could reverse conditions that trigger heart disease. Collage Heart and Olive Oil

Spanish researchers found that people who ate fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and fish along with extra olive oil or nuts lowered their obesity and blood glucose levels. Both are symptoms of metabolic syndrome, which boosts a person’s risk of stroke, heart disease or diabetes.

“A healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, with a moderate-high intake of vegetable fat (in form of virgin olive oil or nuts) is a good healthy option for the prevention of several cardiovascular risk factors and chronic disease,” the study’s senior author Dr. Jordi Salas-Salvadó told Reuters Health.

Around a quarter of adults are estimated to suffer from metabollic syndrome, which reflects a combination of three risk factors, including:  high blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides, low HDL (good) cholesterol, and obesity.

The researchers tracked about 5,800 men and women aged 55-80 who were at risk of heart disease. They were divided into three groups: One followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil; the second a Mediterranean diet with additional nuts; and the third – a control group – a low-fat diet.

While 64 percent of the participants had metabolic syndrome at the onset of the study, according to researchers, 28% of people no longer had symptoms after eating the Mediterranean diet. In particular, the researchers found that after nearly five years the people in the two Mediterranean diet groups were more likely to have lost belly fat and to have lower blood sugar levels.

“The higher reversion rate of metabolic syndrome was mainly observed in those individuals allocated to the Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil,” Salas-Salvadó told Reuters Health.

“We can speculate that a Mediterranean diet, particularly one supplemented with extra virgin olive oil (which has anti-inflammatory properties), could exert positive effects on fat redistribution.”

The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

 

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Ranch Update: the Drought and Our Olive Harvest; Sporting Harvest Beards

Photo by Charlie Garcia, California Olive Ranch

Photo by Charlie Garcia, California Olive Ranch

We’re thick into harvest, having started in early October. Our harvest teams are putting in 14-hour days to gather the olives and truck them to our northern California mill. The wonderful smell of fresh extra virgin olive oil permeates the mill. Meanwhile, the men on the harvest and milling teams are sporting their annual harvest beards. It’s part of a fun competition. We caught up with one of our ranchers, Brian Mori, to see how the harvest – and the beards – are going. Brian works with the family farmers who grow many of our olives.

How’s the harvest been going so far?

It’s been going at a pretty good pace. We’re becoming more efficient every year. We fine-tune our operations from one year to the next. Also, we haven’t had any rain that would prevent us from harvesting.

We’re still running about a 1-½ to 2 two weeks earlier than past harvests. We had an earlier season in general, so we were able to start the harvest early. The fruit maturity was ahead of schedule. Like last year, we had an early dry spring, which starts the olive development cycle earlier than usual.

Has the drought had any impact on the harvest?

It definitely has limited the water that we have in certain areas. And the drought contributed to the earlier harvest date. When we get into drought conditions, we have to limit the amount we can irrigate the trees. The dry conditions can put some stress on the trees, which can contribute to the olives maturing earlier.

How this year’s crop yield?

We’re a little bit lighter this year overall. But last year was an incredible year in terms of volume. So it’s not a big surprise that this year is a little smaller.

What are some of the fun traditions during harvest?

Most of our field and milling teams are involved in the beard contest. For this contest, you get points for style as well as volume – in other words, who can grow the largest beard. It’s a good tradition, one we’ve been doing for the last several years. It’s a team-building experience. We also have a barbecue at the end of harvest that everyone looks forward to.

How busy are you all in the orchards?

We’re working 14 hour days, seven days a week. We’ve been going at a consistent pace. Everyone is still in pretty good spirits. That said, I’m sure everyone is praying for at least one rainy day to get a day off.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I usually start my day at about 5 am. We’ll check the harvest schedule to see what’s been delivered from the night before. We also set that’s day’s schedule – what we’ll harvest and when. And we’ll determine whether there’s anything we need to address that day. I usually get home at about 7 pm or 8 pm.

It seems like you have a pretty diverse group of people involved in harvest and milling.

We’re predominantly a younger group – under 30. On the milling side they have a pretty good mix of men and women. Here on the harvest side we’re primarily male.

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

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5 Great Ways to Prepare One of Our Favorite Fall Veggies: Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprout collage

It’s hard for us to pass up Brussels sprouts during fall – especially when you can get them still attached to their thick, green stalks. We’re partial to roasting them in extra virgin olive oil and giving them a finishing drizzle of our robust, seasonally available Limited Reserve. But they also can be blanched or boiled, sautéed, and even grilled. Oh … they’re good raw, too!

Brussels sprouts, by the way, belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables, along with broccoli and cauliflower. They’re high in vitamin K, a powerful antioxidant that helps to fight chronic inflammation in the body. Brussels sprouts also are high in vitamin C, which helps to support the immune system. And they contain an array of B vitamins, which are important for energy production.  One more benefit: Brussels sprouts are a great source of fiber, with 4 grams in every cup. So what’s not to love!

Below are five ways to prepare what is arguably our favorite fall veggie.

Bacon Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Besides Brussels sprouts, we also love bacon. So this dish is a great marriage of flavors. In addition to the sprouts and bacon, it combines diced red potatoes and garlic. All are roasted together in extra virgin olive oil, until the Brussels sprouts are caramelized and the potatoes tender. A finishing drizzle of balsamic vinegar provides the final touch. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad

The sprouts in this dish are sliced thin and combined with thinly sliced pears. The dish comes together with a dressing made from fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive, such as our Arbequina. It gets a grating of Pecorino Toscano, an Italian table cheese from Tuscany. The dish comes from San Diego Chef Trey Foshee, who heads the kitchen at George’s at the Cove in La Jolla. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Grilled Brussels Sprouts

Grilled Brussels sprouts were a new concept in our “test kitchen” when we first prepared them. And we weren’t disappointed. They have a pleasant smokiness. And they’re a huge step up from boiled sprouts, which can emit a sulfurous stench. To prepare, boil briefly, toss with extra virgin olive oil such as our Everyday Fresh, and cook over live fire until nicely charred. (Click here to see a recipe from Food52 for grilled Brussels sprouts.)

Honey Mustard Brussels Sprout Slaw

Blogger Kate Taylor of Cookie + Kate was enjoying a Brussels sprout salad at a local restaurant in her town when she brainstormed the idea of making a slaw from shredded Brussels sprouts. And then another idea clicked in her head. “It occurred to me that a nice, emulsified mustard dressing would be creamy, almost like mayonnaise. Bam! This salad was born,” she writes. Make the dressing with our fruity Arbequina. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Lentils, Bacon, and Pear Salad

Blogger Kelsey Boyte of Happyokes created this dish. She says it was inspired by British food writer Nigel Slater’s chapter on Brussels sprouts in his book Tender. The sprouts, by the way, are shredded and blanched briefly in boiling water. The salad comes together with a Dijon vinaigrette, which you could make with our peppery Miller’s Blend to complement the bold flavors of the various ingredients. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Bon appétit,

Your Friends at California Olive Ranch

 

 

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World Food Day: Toast the Vital Role of Family Farmers w/ #ToastAFarmer

COR Growers

Today we observe World Food Day – a day where people worldwide come together to declare their commitment to end hunger in our lifetime. And this year’s theme is the role of family farmers in eradicating world hunger. Family farmers represent the backbone of global agriculture, playing a huge role in feeding families around the world. So today we toast family farmers around the world and here at home in California, where we depend on family farmers for a significant portion of the high-quality olives we use to make our extra virgin olive oil.

World Food Day celebrates the creation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on Oct. 16, 1945 in Quebec, Canada. First established in 1979, World Food Day has since then been observed in almost every country by millions of people. The UN agency notes that this year’s family farmer theme focuses global attention on the key role family farmers play in:

  • Eliminating hunger and poverty
  • Providing food security and nutrition
  • Improving livelihoods
  • Managing natural resources
  • Safeguarding the environment
  • And achieving sustainable development, especially in rural areas

According to the FAO, family farmers account for some 98% of farm holdings around the world. At California Olive Ranch, we look to family farmers across northern California to grow and cultivate our olives. We’re working closely with them right now as we harvest our olives and crush them into extra virgin olive oil. You can see some of our family farmers in the photos above. They play an invaluable role in making California Olive Ranch possible. We can’t thank them enough.

Please join us today in recognizing the contribution family farmers make to our daily lives. How? Snap a photo or create a video that shows how you appreciate their contribution too feeding the world’s population. Post it to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other form of social media along with the hashtag #ToastAFarmer. It will show family farmers that we recognize their invaluable contribution.

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

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Introducing #OliveToHarvest Photo Contest

Fall 2014 First RunFall harvest is upon us! We want to know, what do you love about the fall harvest season? Do you have favorite fall ingredients? Favorite fall dishes? We love fall because it means time to harvest our olives and make extra virgin olive oil. To celebrate the start of our olive harvest season, we’re hosting a photo contest and giveaway! Details listed below on how to enter, what to take photos of and what we’re giving away:

  • WHAT: Snap pictures of what you love about harvest season; photos of your favorite seasonal fall produce or a seasonal home-cooked meal along with your favorite California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil
  • HOW: Post your photos on Instagram, Twitter or our Facebook wall with the hashtag #olivetoharvest. Your photos will automatically be entered to win and will be displayed in our gallery
  • WHEN: Contest runs October 15th – November 15th
  • WHY: We want to share in the joy of fall harvest and see what you #olivetoharvest

We’ll be selecting ten winners to receive our seasonally available Limited Reserve extra virgin olive oil, fresh off the presses! Limited to one winning photo per entrant. Winners will be announced online, November 20th.

-Your Friends at California Olive Ranch

 

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A Hearty Minestrone Soup Inspired by the Fall Farmers’ Market

The fall farmers’ market inspires this hearty minestrone soup from food blogger Erin Clark of The Law Student’s Wife. It contains butternut squash, kale, carrots, and white beans, among other goodies. This thick, Italian-style soup is the perfect antidote to a cold fall evening. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Erin says the farmers’ market inspires her cooking because the produce is abundant, fresh and affordable. “And because I wind up with so many veggie impulse buys, I have no choice but to work them into our menu,” she adds. Erin calls this minestrone “my autumn farmers’ market love story.”

The soup also includes canned tomatoes, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Sautéed bacon adds a subtle, smoky flavor. And pasta adds another texture. Serve it with grated Parmesan cheese and a finishing drizzle of our medium-robust Arbosana oil for added flavor.

Bon appétit,

Your Friends at California Olive Ranch

 

 

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From Soup to Cake … Celebrating the Harvest with 6 Fall Recipes

Fall Recipes

It’s the harvest season. Our teams are gathering olives and crushing them into extra virgin olive oil at our northern California mill. We’re aren’t the only ones busy. During this time of year, farmers gather Brussels sprouts, broccoli, winter squash, apples, pears, cranberries, and more. Fall’s abundance means it’s a special time in the kitchen. After a long day at the ranch, we like to sit down for a good seasonal meal.

To help you enjoy the foods of the harvest season, we’ve compiled a list of seasonal recipes below, beginning with soup and ending with dessert. They all use a key seasonal ingredient: good extra virgin olive oil.

Roasted Carrot Soup

This roasted carrot soup – courtesy of Food52.com – takes the edge off a cold fall night. It gets added, complex flavor by first broiling the carrots until they brown and soften. Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, the culinary heavyweights behind Food52.com, note that this gives the carrots “sweet, earthy depth.” The soup uses just seven ingredients, minus the salt and pepper. It can be made in about 30 minutes. Give it a finishing drizzle of our nutty, medium-robust Arbosana oil. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Oven-Roasted Root Vegetables

During fall, root vegetables and extra virgin olive oil are a natural match. Simple. Flavorful. Easy to prepare. Just toss the root veggies – sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beets – with extra virgin olive oil and oven-roast until nicely caramelized. Roast the veggies with our Everyday Fresh oil and give them a finishing drizzle of our Arbosana to provide a layer of herbaceous, nutty flavor. The recipe appears in Colorado Classique: A Collection of Fresh Recipes from the Rockies, by the Junior League of Denver. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Chicken Roasted Over Potatoes and Lemons

The “apartment-size stoves” that Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton use in their test kitchen at Canal House lack a rotisserie. “So when we want to ‘rotisserie’ a chicken, we put the bird directly on the oven rack and slide a pan of sliced crusty bread, root vegetables, or potatoes and lemons onto the rack below to catch the flavorful juices,” they write in their book Canal House Cooks Every Day, where the recipe appears. Roast the potatoes and lemon with our Everyday Fresh, and give the chicken a finishing drizzle of our robust, peppery Miller’s Blend for added flavor.  (Click here to see the recipe.)

Dried Fig and Apple-Stuffed Pork Loin with Cider Sauce

“Apples and pork are a traditional duo, especially in the fall,” Marie Simmons writes in her book Fig Heaven, where the recipe appears. “In this pork loin the apple stuffing is embellished with cider-plumped dried figs, caramelized onions, and fresh sage. The pan juices are combined with additional cider and white wine for the sauce.” You could prepare the dish with our Everyday Fresh. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Olive Oil Cake with Fig and Orange Honey Compote

What do you get when you put oranges, fresh figs, good olive oil and rosemary in the hands of an accomplished pastry chef?  “A cake that melds the luscious taste and aroma of terrific olive oil, the textural interest of cornmeal, a slight herbal back note and a subtle blush of wine,” writes the pastry studio blog, which supplied this recipe. Together with a fruit compote it becomes a great example of northern California (and Mediterranean) baking at its best.” The blog used our Arbosana for the recipe. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Bon appétit,

Your Friends at California Olive Ranch

 

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Study Shows How Fat In Olive Oil Could Reverse Heart Failure

Olive oil may reverse heart failure, a new report suggests.

E. Douglas Lewandowski, director, UIC Cardiovascular Research Center

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine found that oleate –a common fat found in olive oil – helped failing hearts to use body fat as a fuel to keep pumping. The findings are reported in the journal Circulation.

“This gives more proof to the idea that consuming healthy fats like oleate can have a significantly positive effect on cardiac health,”  E. Douglas Lewandowski, study author and director of the UIC Center for Cardiovascular Research, said.

Heart failure affects nearly 5 million Americans. More than half a million new cases are diagnosed each year. Heart failure is not the same as a heart attack. Rather, it’s a chronic disease state where the heart becomes enlarged in response to chronic high blood pressure, requiring it to work harder to pump blood. As the heart walls grow thick, the volume of blood pumped out diminishes and can no longer supply the body with enough nutrients.

Failing hearts also are unable to properly process or store the fats they use for fuel. That inability to use fats, the heart’s primary fuel source, causes the muscle to become starved for energy.

Lewandowski and his colleagues studied how healthy and failing hearts beating in rats reacted after being given either oleate or palmitate, a fat found in dairy products, animal fats and palm oil. When the researchers supplied failing rat hearts with oleate, “we saw an immediate improvement in how the hearts contracted and pumped blood,” Lewandowski said.

By contrast, when the researchers gave the failing hears palmitate, “they basically looked like failing hearts,” Lewandowski told Time.com. Their fat metabolism was “imbalanced” and the hearts weren’t making enzymes that would help metabolize fat. There also was a rise in toxic fatty by-products that aggravate heart disease.

In addition to balancing fat metabolism and reducing toxic fat metabolites in enlarged, or hypertrophic, hearts, Lewandowski said, oleate also boosted the activation of several genes for enzymes that metabolize fat. “These genes are often suppressed in hypertrophic hearts,” he said. “So the fact that we can restore beneficial gene expression, as well as more balanced fat metabolism, plus reduce toxic fat metabolites, just by supplying hearts with oleate – a common dietary fat — is a very exciting finding.”

The research might help explain why a Mediterranean-style diet, which is rich in olive oil, is good for your heart.  A major study published last year suggested a  Mediterranean diet – particularly one rich with extra virgin olive oil and nuts – lowers the risk of stroke and other heart problems by 30 percent among high-risk individuals.

Your Friends at California Olive Ranch

 

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New California Olive Oil Testing/Labeling Standards Big Win for Consumers

The label says California extra virgin olive oil. But how can you be sure it’s the real thing: high-quality, California-grown olive oil without off-flavors or odors, or some other type of oil secretly slipped into the mix. Artois - Bottles

Now you can be more certain, thanks to new state standards which represent a big victory for consumers across the nation.

California has become the first state in the nation to adopt labeling and testing standards to ensure that California-made extra virgin olive is the real deal – and not an adulterated knockoff or flawed, rancid oil.

“We believe the time has come to designate a ‘California-grown’ olive oil, and these standards are an excellent way to do it,” Karen Ross, the secretary of California’s Department of Food and Agriculture, said in a statement. “California agriculture has an enviable reputation for high-quality products sought by consumers here and around the world.”

The CDFA adopted the standards on Sept. 18. They took effect Sept. 26. They’re stricter than other international standards governing olive oil.

The standards cover an estimated 100 growers and a dozen millers here, including California Olive Ranch. These companies make at least 5,000 gallons a year of California-grown olive oil.

The standards, which apply to this fall’s olive harvest:

  • Require large California olive oil companies to test every batch of extra virgin olive oil to determine if it’s rancid, adulterated or flawed.
  • Eliminate the use of marketing terms on labels like “light” and “pure,” which are refined oils typically produced using heat and chemicals. Both must be labeled as refined olive oils. (True extra virgin, by contrast, essentially is freshly pressed fruit juice.)
  • Require California olive oil producers to declare if they have adulterated any of their oil. Mary Bolton and Bob Singletary Newest

“The standards will be the first in the world to require testing of every lot of oil produced,” the CDFA said in its statement, adding: “Only extra-virgin olive oil is produced here, and the standards will establish a more stringent limit for free fatty acids, a negative attribute that signals a breakdown of olive oil quality due to exposure to heat, light and oxygen.”

Importers and distributors of bulk and bottled olive oil produced outside of California as well as smaller in-state millers are exempt from the standards.

“California producers have set the bar high, which is good news for consumers,” said Dan Flynn, executive director of the University of California, Davis Olive Center, whose research supported the standards initially proposed in July by the Olive Oil Commission of California, a group of local growers and millers who called for new testing and labeling requirements.

Nearly all of the 293,000 metric tons of olive oil consumed in the United last year came from European countries, notably Spain and Italy. But in recent years California olive oil companies have been accounting for a larger share, helping expand U.S. production to 10,000 metric tons last year. That’s up 10 times from 2007.

The new standards should hasten that trend.

Bon appétit,

Your Friends at California Olive Ranch

 

 

 

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5 Recipes that Let You Capitalize on Good, Ripe Tomatoes

Tomato collage

One of the best things about summer: the bevy of fresh tomatoes available from farmers’ markets and backyard gardens. We hoard them to make tomato sauce, gazpacho, and bruschetta. Or we simply serve them sliced with mozzarella, basil, and a generous drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.

Unfortunately, fresh tomato season is fleeting … and it’s now early fall. But, no doubt, many of you still have access to good tomatoes in your garden or farmers’ market. Below are recipes that let you capitalize on them.

Tomato Salad with Baby Mozzarella Balls

“I refuse to make this salad at any other time of the year than when heirloom tomatoes are in season – even though I’ve been known to lust over it in mid-January,” Viviane Bauquet Farre – creator of the food website food & style – says. “So every year, from late June until mid-October, I’ll make this salad at least once a week.” The tomatoes in this simple dish – and you can use varieties other than heirlooms – are paired with baby mozzarella balls and fresh basil. The salad is drizzled “lavishly” with a “spicy” extra virgin olive oil, such as our peppery Miller’s Blend or Rich & Robust. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Stuffed Tomatoes 

Blogger Janelle Maiocco of Talk of Tomatoes stuffs these red beauties with breadcrumbs, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. “So easy,” she notes, “yet they add sophistication to any plate.” Use our Everyday Fresh oil to prepare the dish; and give the cooked tomatoes a finishing drizzle of our more robust Arbosana to provide a final flourish of tomato and almond flavor. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Stacks

“Serving something warm and cooked (eggplant and tomato) against something cool and uncooked (mozzarella) is a simple trick for building layers of flavor,” Napa chef Michael Chiarello says of this dish in his cookbook At Home with Michael Chiarello. He recommends putting one stack on each dinner plate alongside a simple grilled meat. Chiarello adds that if you’re serving “a lavish mixed grill, put all the stacks on a platter and pass the platter around the table.” You could give each stack a finishing drizzle with our fruity Arbequina oil. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Spaghetti with Raw Tomato Sauce

This sauce screams fresh. Ripe tomatoes are peeled, seeded and chopped. They’re combined in a bowl with extra virgin olive oil – we’d use our Everyday Fresh or fruity Arbequina - along with basil, a couple of whole garlic cloves, and salt and pepper. The ingredients are left to “mingle” at room temperature for half an hour. Pair the sauce with cooked spaghetti. The dish appears in Recipes from an Italian Summer (Click here to see the recipe.)

Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Food writer Diane Rossen Worthington argues rightly that “you an never have enough caramelized tomato flavor on plain pasta.” For this dish, she suggests using red cherry or grape tomatoes. They’re oven-roasted with minced garlic, bread crumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper, and extra virgin olive oil (like our Everyday Fresh). The tomatoes are cooked until the mixture is “bubbly, browned, and slightly thickened.” Toss with your favorite pasta and basil. The dish appears in Worthington’s book Seriously Simple: Easy Recipes for Creative Cooks (Click here to see the recipe.)

Bon appétit,

Your Friends at California Olive Ranch

 

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