The Fat Truth About Olive Oil

Pun intended.

Now, let me start off by saying that I absolutely love olive oil and have for as long as I can remember. With that being said, you can imagine my devastation when I discovered that olive oil is very often misused, by both amateur cooks and celebrity chefs alike. My friend, Shanna, who is very into health food, introduced me to grape seed oil a while back. She explained that similar to olive oil being rich in omega-3s, grape seed oil is rich in omega-6s. Intrigued by it, I sought out to purchase some. However, before my purchase, I wanted to do a little more research. It was through this research that I discovered the truth about olive oil.

As it turns out, olive oil is as healthy as most people understand it to be. Its misuse lies in the fact that it is far too often used as a cooking oil when it’s anything but that. Compared to other cooking oils, olive oil has a low smoke point of roughly 325 to 375 °F. This means that when heated to a temperature beyond that point, olive oil becomes unstable, essentially depleting the oil of its nutritional benefits while allowing for the production of toxic chemicals. Because of this, olive oil should be used in recipes for items like salad dressings, slow cooker meals, and even baked goods. Meanwhile, if a recipe calls for olive oil for food that is to be grilled, sautéed, or fried, you’ll want to substitute another cooking oil.

In researching grape seed oil, I think it might be a contender for olive oil after all. With a smoke point of approximately 420 °F, it is much more appropriate for grilling and sautéing. Even better, its nutritional benefits are quite similar to those of my beloved olive oil. Let’s compare the two on a per-tablespoon basis:

OLIVE OIL:

  • 120 calories
  • cholesterol-free
  • 1.9 g saturated fat
  • 1.4 g polyunsaturated fat
  • 10 g monounsaturated fat
  • 1.9 mg vitamin E

GRAPE SEED OIL:

  • 120 calories
  • cholesterol-free
  • 1.3 g saturated fat
  • 10 g polyunsaturated fat
  • 2.2 g monounsaturated fat
  • 3.9 mg vitamin E

As you can see, the only significant difference between the two is the discrepancy between polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. For those who are unfamiliar with all of this “fat” terminology, I’ll try to explain it as simply as possible: saturated fat is to “bad” fat as unsaturated fat is to “good” fat. Furthermore, polyunsaturated fat is to omega-6 fatty acids (think: grape seed oil) as monounsaturated fat is to omega-3 fatty acids (think: olive oil). Both polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat fall under the unsaturated fat, or “good” fat, umbrella.

Still, it is important to note that, ideally, the ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s should be 1:1. In today’s society, however, the balance between the two is often largely out of whack, with the consumption of omega-6s being much higher than that of omega-3s. Luckily for healthy eaters, the reason for this imbalance is largely due to an increase in processed foods containing refined vegetable oils – namely, cookies, crackers, chips, sweets, and of course, fast food.

As with most other things in life, moderation is key. Because I prefer both the aroma and taste of olive oil when compared to grape seed oil, I still incorporate it into my food whenever appropriate. However, due to my recent findings, I most definitely opt for grape seed oil when preparing food at high temperatures. There is no such thing as a perfect food (at least, in a nutritional sense), so if the pros outweigh the cons relative to your lifestyle, I say go for it.

Simple Pleasures Sunday, Part I

I’m a firm believer in taking time to appreciate the small things in life. As such, I hope to regularly highlight my life’s simple pleasures. And, what better day to do so than on Sunday, the day when I am hands down my most relaxed and grateful self.

Manicures. More specifically, this to-die-for Essie color that serves as a reminder that sunny, springtime weather is indeed on its way.

Tea. Yes, this is actually a new thing for me. I’ve been a diehard coffee drinker since my early high school days. Don’t get me wrong, I still slam multiple cups of coffee when I work twelve-hour shifts. However, on my days off I find myself increasingly opting for tea. I’m so over the lack of variety that coffee has to offer, and in my humble opinion, flavored coffee tastes extremely artificial. In terms of variety, tea has opened up a whole new world for me. There are so many delicious options that I don’t think I could possibly get bored.

Fresh tulips. Really, fresh flowers in general. Having a bouquet in my apartment is more or less a constant in my life. I love the saying “Sometimes, you just have to create your own sunshine.” Well, treating myself to flowers on a regular basis is my way of making that happen.

Phantogram. I’ve known about this electronic rock duo for a while now, but unfortunately for me, not on the level that I have recently. To say that I’ve been binge-listening would be an understatement. Their stuff is seriously catchy.

Mochi. Being that I worked at a Japanese restaurant for several years, I naturally became infatuated with the ice-cream-filled, sticky-rice-coated bites of heaven also known as mochi. Because mochi isn’t widely available in grocery stores, I sadly forgot about my love for these tiny treats soon after working there. You can only imagine my excitement when I was walking down an aisle of Whole Foods the other week and realized that a number of flavors are housed in their frozen food section.

P.s. Happy one week since my first-ever blog post! :)

The Dainty Desert: A Terrarium How-To

I have been wanting to build my own terrarium for a while now; today is the day that I finally made it happen. I must say, I am thrilled with the results! I guess the green thumb that runs on my mom’s side of the family has finally caught up to me. Actually, talk to me in a few months to see if I’m able to keep this thing alive. I don’t exactly have the best track record. (Shout out to my girlfriend K Sal, who will never let me forget that I let our love fern, AKA a bamboo plant, die.)

I love the idea of a terrarium for countless reasons. Top on my list, however, are how unbelievably attractive they are and how easy they are to maintain. In researching how to go about this endeavor, I came to realize that there are actually two different types of terrariums: wet and dry. The main difference is in the type of plant that is used. The nature of the plant determines how the terrarium will be built, the type of container that will be used, and how the terrarium is cared for once assembled.

Because I built a dry terrarium, that will be the focus of today’s post. You’ll want to select a variety of cacti and succulents, as well as an open container. I’ll be the first to admit that it took me far too long to decide on which plants to purchase, as there are so many beauties to choose from. Ikea and Home Depot have fabulous selections. Be sure to buy enough plants to fill your container while still allowing enough room for the plants to grow. In terms of the container, West Elm, Etsy, and World Market have some great options. I ultimately opted for this recycled glass container.

What you’ll need:

What you’ll do:

  • First, fill the bottom of your container with decorative stones. The stones will allow for adequate drainage.
  • Second, add a thin layer of activated charcoal. Activated charcoal will absorb any odors that may eventually build up. I ordered mine on Amazon, but it can also be found in the aquarium section of most pet stores.
  • Third, add a layer of moss. The moss will prevent the soil from seeping down into the lower layers.
  • Fourth, add a generous layer of soil. Make sure the layer is thick enough to contain the roots.
  • Fifth, arrange your plants to ensure that they will fit once planted. Once you’re satisfied with your arrangement, plant away!
  • The final step is optional, as it is more for aesthetics than practicality. If desired, add a thin layer of sand.

As mentioned previously, maintaining a terrarium is extremely simple. For dry terrariums in particular, you’ll want to check for moisture once a week and spray with water as needed. Furthermore, dry terrariums do best when exposed to bright, yet indirect sunlight. I have mine situated under a south-facing window in my bedroom. Looking at it is an instant mood booster. Plus, it adds so much character to my room. I think I’m in love!

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Roasted Red Peppers

After making oven-roasted garlic as a component of last night’s dinner, I felt inspired to make roasted red peppers. Plus, I already had a juicy red pepper in the fridge, waiting to be used. I used to make my own roasted red peppers all the time. How I forgot about them and resorted back to purchasing jars of store-bought peppers is beyond me. Homemade roasted red peppers are not only infinitely more flavorful, but also extremely simple to make. Above all, anyone who knows me well knows that I prefer to opt for the “from scratch” option whenever possible.

What you’ll do:

  • turn the oven on to broil
  • in the meantime, cut a pepper into four pieces, removing the stem and seeds
  • flatten the pepper onto a baking sheet, skin side up
  • broil for approximately 15 minutes, until the skin of the pepper is completely charred
  • remove from the oven
  • put the pepper into a ziplock bag for 20 minutes, as the moisture will ensure that the skin easily peels away from the flesh of the pepper
  • once 20 minutes has elapsed, remove the peppers from the bag and peel the skin off
  • cut into strips and store in a mason jar

Super easy, right?! I’ve always used roasted red peppers on salads and sandwiches, as the sweet and smoky flavor adds that extra something. I’m thinking that sometime in the near future I’ll make a larger batch so that I can try my hand at roasted red pepper soup. Stay tuned!

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Sunday Dinner: Slow Cooker Lasagna

My dad came over for dinner tonight, and since it had been a while since we had a chance to spend some quality time together, I wanted to make him something that he’d really love. For starters, he’s a comfort food kind of guy. Also, being that he’s South Philly born and raised, he loves himself an Italian-style Sunday dinner (despite being Irish).

I almost instantly decided on lasagna, but I wanted to find a twist on the classic. I ended up discovering this recipe for Slow Cooker Lasagna with Ground Beef, Mushrooms, and Roasted Garlic. It’s virtually impossible for me to make a dish without tweaking some things in the recipe, and this meal was no exception. I substituted ground turkey for ground beef and cut the amount of mozzarella cheese the recipe called for in half. Also, as with all my hot meals, I substituted grape seed oil for olive oil (but we’ll save the reasoning behind that for a post of its own). I must note that I’ve never made oven-roasted garlic before, but after realizing how easy it was to do and how delicious the end-result tasted, I’m only eating garlic this way from this point on. It was fantastic!

Although I love cooking up a gourmet meal on the stove or in the oven, the teeny tiny kitchen in my Center City apartment isn’t always conducive to preparing elaborate meals. As such, I’ve become a huge fan of the slow cooker since my roommates and I moved in. The best part about preparing slow cooker lasagna vs. oven-cooked lasagna is that the slow cooker version doesn’t require the lasagna noodles to be cooked prior to layering. Score! This not only saves a (rather annoying) step, but also makes layering much easier.

All in all, I thought this was an absolutely delicious meal. Most importantly, my dad loved it!

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