Once upon a time my cooking staples consisted of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, canned tuna, cheddar cheese, pasta, and rice.
Though I still stand by these ingredients for some recipes, I've been so blessed in recent years to be able to refine my taste in certain foods and flavours.
I say "so blessed" because my husband and I lived on a very strict budget for years, so I know how expensive it can be to eat well.
That's one of my passions - to teach people who live with less how to shop, cook, and enjoy healthy, well prepared, delicious food.
Oh! And decorate.
It bothers me that we live in a world where people exist under the impression that the collective "this" is all they can ever have.
That unless you live in a home in "the right neighborhood" you may as well forget about things like beauty, art, and really good olive oil.
We've got it all wrong in Western culture.
Just ask Jamie Oliver.
I don't know if any of you follow any of his shows, but Oliver is one of my culinary heroes.
Whether it be championing schools to change their horrific lunch policies or travelling across Italy in a beat up VW van, Oliver appeals to me because his is a path with heart.
Heart health, too.
The Italians, in my humble opinion, have got it figured out. They know how to live big, express big, feel big, relax big, and eat big.
All with no stress, pretension, or guile.
In some of the poorest regions of Italy, the people eat better than the average middle class North American.
And where does it all start?
With the most green golden elixir of all: extra virgin olive oil.
Pictured below: Salsa Cruda made with basil infused extra virgin olive oil.
Friends, if you haven't already included olive oil and extra virgin olive oil as household staples, I'm hoping after you read this blog you'll reconsider.
First because in it's purest form, it's delicious, soul satisfying, and even kind of cosmic if you hit it on the right day.
And secondly, because it's incredibly good for you.
Don't believe me?
Among it's gazillion health benefits I'd like to highlight a few...
Extra Virgin Olive Oil:
*reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) and raises good cholesterol (HDL), so it's very good for the heart.
* significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer
* prevents the cell-and-tissue-damaging effects of free radicals
* promotes good digestion and relieves many stomach disorders
* stimulates the metabolism
* moisturizes skin and strengthens fingernails
* promotes healthy nervous system development in children, even the unborn
* contains anti-aging properties
Here's the rub, though.
To capture all the benefits of olive oil, you need to buy only 100% cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, unfiltered.
This means it hasn't been chemically refined or heat treated, which destroys its healthful properties, mojo, and great taste.
What it also means is, more money.
I've come to the conclusion, though, that when you buy really good food, a little goes a long way and it tends to end up costing less in the long run.
Although you just spent $20.00 on a can of olive oil, you no longer waste your money in fast food restaurants, or purchase the processed stuff lining the aisles at your local grocery.
Soon you discover that everything evens out in the end.
And you feel so much better.
And you no longer have to shell out the big bucks for night cream.
Another little known fact about extra virgin olive oil is that it's amazing for dry or mature skin.
Forget pro retinol, or ceremide, if you rub about 1/4 tsp of extra virgin olive oil into your skin prior to your regular cream, you will be amazed by the difference.
For an even bigger boost, exfoliate once a week with baking soda and water before your olive oil treatment.
I promise, you will notice a difference.
On that note, here are some other great uses for olive oil...
1. For men, use it for shaving. Olive oil can provide a closer shave when used in place of shaving cream.
2. Shine stainless steel. Many cleaning standbys, such as ammonia, can dull and even corrode chrome and stainless steel. Olive oil, however, is a safe and effective shining agent.
3. Remove eye makeup. Dab a little under the eyes and rinse off with a washcloth or cotton ball.
4. Prevent wax from sticking to a candle holder. Rub a thin coat on the base of the holder before inserting a candle. Dripped wax should peel away easily.
5. Care for your pet. Add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon to your cat’s food to help prevent hair balls.
6. Moisturize cuticles. Apply a small amount of olive oil to the nail beds.
7. Treat dry skin. Rub a thin layer over the skin after a shower or a waxing.
8. Unstick a zipper. Using a Q-tip, apply a drop to lubricate the teeth. (Avoid touching the fabric.) The zipper should move up and down freely.
9. Dust wooden furniture. Apply a bit of oil to a cloth and wipe.
10. Silence squeaky doors. Lubricate hinges by applying a small dab to a cloth, then wiping the top of the hinges so that the oil runs down the sides.
For even more information about olive oil, I found an excellent source:
Flavoured with Olive Oil
by: Joy Zacharia RD
Finally, what would a blog about olive oil be without a really good recipe?
Follow this link to my favourite salad recipe of all time...
Easy Arugula Salad