Reach and Read: Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil


Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller

Why yes it is! Who knew? Another, albeit non-fiction this time, in the run of foodie books. Tom shares more detail and depth about olive oil than you might have ever thought possible. Not quite as scandalous as say, blood diamonds (Yikes!), but really eye opening none the less. His words add building support to the whole knowing where your food comes from schtick. I, for one am actively composing a letter to Costco to find out what they know and test for when sourcing their olive oil. Several months ago they shared an article (linked below) about how and where they sourced their honey from, which when you think about it, is quite the feat. I worked my behind off for 2 gallons this past year, not to mention the poor bee that only make 1/12 (yes, twelfth) teaspoon in her lifetime.

The book is a great mix of historical perspectives and roles, modern day applications, crime, scandal and duping the general public.

So, what makes a good pure high quality olive oil? Maybe start with what doesn’t.

First – what is in the name? extra virgin, accept nothing less. But beware, as the name alone is not a guarantee. Plain olive oil is fit only to light lamps (lampante!) Has nothing to do with cooking really. Don’t be fooled by “pure olive oil” that usually means it has undergone heavy refinement, usually with chemicals. Also, you might see olive pomace, and think, wow that sounds exotic and foodie-oodie! It’s not. It pretty low quality.

Second – Smooth flavor. Actually, that burning in the back of throat when you taste it means it is GOOD! I almost tossed a bottle because of it, but it really is one indicator that the oil is high in the compounds with anti-inflammatory properties. Not to say that there aren’t good ones that don’t burn though. It should have some flavor and it won’t be the same bottle to bottle or harvest.

Third – color doesn’t really mean anything, and green dye and chlorophyll are cheap

Fourth – Italian flags on the label mean nothing, maybe an Italian touched it at some point or someone got all sticker happy

So, what would a checklist look like? Just so happens that Real Simple had a basic one, that I added to after reading this book (which makes me an expert, no?)

What to Look For:

  • A dark-tinted glass bottle or tin – oil is light and heat sensitive. Hmm, should maybe not be storing on the stove…..
  • A born-on date or best if used by date. Oil does NOT get better with time. The book purports buying in bulk and bottling as close to purchase time as possible, as it stores better in large quantities (less air). Aim for two years or less. So, until I have my response from Costco, really ask yourself if you will go through that four liter value pack in two years.
  • Estate or vineyard name – similar to wine. Taking it way beyond the flag. And no “Bertolio” does not count. There might be some with seals of authenticity too but remember if it seems too good to be true (like really cheap) it probably isn’t.
  • USDA organic seal – since this is really the only way to ensure “regulation”. This means 95% of the oil regardless of origin is made with organic olives. Don’t rule out someone for not having though, its spendy to obtain.
  • Talk to the “vintner” or olive oil pro-shop person. Aim to buy local or as close as you can. California and Victoria seem to be the two big regions near Seattle right now.
  • A reasonable price – say $15 per liter or higher, like buying wine in essence. Learning about the process, it is not cheap to grow, harvest, press, transport, bottle a good cheap oil.

Tom has a great website with lots of links, blog (to keep the education flowing), resources, lists of reputable sources etc. Only one in Seattle, that is on the road trip list though. Check it out and then figure out where your olive oil is from – http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/

I think that we are going to see increasingly more on this subject. And if a nice tasty restaurant charges you for oil or “premium” oil, pay for it – after reading this book, I have a deeper respect for the humble olive and its value. Stay tuned for the hopeful response from Costco.

Great article – http://www.sfgate.com/recipes/article/Extra-virgin-olive-oil-boom-in-state-4187486.php#page-1

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/shopping-storing/more-shopping-storing/olive-oil-buying-checklist-00000000041460/index.html

Costco connection article: Straight from the Hive

Three is the Magic Number – of Residents : an ode and the back story

Ode: a lyric poem in the form of an address to a particular subject, often elevated in style or manner and written in varied or irregular meter.


Every once and a while, my work life blatantly enters into the blog … The residency program is the highlight of my j-o-b with repeated emotional deposits and a few withdrawals. I am surrounded by a fantastic team of preceptors and every year The Village produces a set of new and improved pharmacists. Some years I squawk out accolades, sum up the objective totality of work (holy FTE ROI) but this year it was to be poetry. Thinking about what made this year, what the day symbolized in a bit of word play and racking my brain for a song or quote to springboard from, I decided to see what the tried and true School House Rocks empire might have. There it was *Poof* – Three is the Magic Number! The big change for the program was the addition of a new specialty program and third resident. Granted much of this is specific to people and situations in my life you don’t know but I’m pretty proud of my crash poetry skillz (and need some blog topics because it is too hot to cook today).

Three is a magic number, oh yes it is.
Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity and even on Hospital Level 3,
You get three as a magic number
Amanda and Joe and Sandy
Past and present and future residents
Gives you three – That’s a magic number
Preceptor Experience and Summative evaluations
See one, Do one and Teach one
Gives you three – That’s a magic number
Every awesome strategic plan has three corners and three sides.
It takes blood, sweat and tears to succeed in life and VM
And sometimes the third time really is the charm
It takes three great residents to make team
It takes three great residents to make my year!
And I have three signed diplomas.
No more, no less
You don’t have to guess
When it’s three, you can see it’s a magic number

There are some lost verses (aka stuff that came up after the fact) – like our fearless department director did three residencies, we had 75 applications for the upcoming year (that is 3 x 25), no one was a third wheel, something about 5S’s but only 3Ps and A3s (lean tools) and there is no floor 13 for a reason…..

And there were quite a few other songs that could have been the launching pad but didn’t make the cut (or into my mind in the heat of the moment (yes, Asia reference intentional).

The Beatles reference – the best things in life are “three”. Oh, but there were four of them.

Fortunately, I didn’t need to use Meatloaf’s “two out of three ain’t bad” for inspiration, given that they all made it….. nor bust out my inner train wreck and sing Brittany Spear’s One Two Three. Although….. Brittany’s lyrics could have been manipulated

[Three is a charm, Two is not the same. I don’t see them harm, So are you game? …. Merrier the more, Triple fun that way].

I feared using anything from Three Dog Night, as it would likely be lost on almost everyone there. Even though they performed at last year’s gala AND I have my photo with them (but I look bad in it so no deal). Who could be lonely with a ‘stache and ‘burns like that!

[One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do – Two can be as bad as one – It’s the loneliest number since the number one]


I didn’t even think about Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. Would’ve worked out pretty good, maybe I will use it for orientation on Monday. Put a bird on it!

[This is my message to you-ou-ou: Dont worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh! Every little thing gonna be all right.]


Finally, the internets are a many splendor thing. There is a plethora of songs brought to you by the number 3 and, as you would expect, I will share some with you. Like everyone’s favorite Pissing Razors – “Three” (who the h-e-double hockey sticks are they? There are drugs for that btw), country legend Randy Travis – “Three Wooden Crosses” (I would not liken the program to crucifixion), NIN (nine inch nails, 3×3) and Brian Adams Summer of 69 (3 x23 – but who wants to do math, besides pharmacists count by 5’s), Devil Makes Three (actually a pretty good group), Sting’s “One World, not Three”, Plain White Tee’s 121234 and Coolio 1234 (but OBVIOUSLY, only 75% of it), Three Doors Down, 3 AM by Matchbox 20, Three Marlenas by The Wallflowers (Not sure what a Marlena is but take me back to the glory days of high school please!), Three Days by Carly Simon, Three Blind Mice, The Three Degrees (disco mavens! But would I chose Take Good Care of Yourself or When Will I See You Again – both true), Kenny Rogers “Three Times a Lady” (have you read my other Kenny Roger’s post?)and “We Three Kings”.

Speaking of We Three Kings….. childhood memory time: we used to have a chili feed and Christmas “greening” at the church I grew up in. A few of the older boys and/or possibly their dad taught my little brother and I alternative lyrics to the Christmas Classic. I now share them with you:

We three kings of Orient are
Tried to smoke a rubber cigar.
It was loaded, it exploded…
Now we are seeing stars!

Dying for more songs with numbers in their titles? Here is a nicely organized curation with videos. Or just google it and enjoy the treasure hunt.

I’ll stop now….

You Can Bánh Tráng Anything: Exhibit 3 Dumplings & Kale

In the continuing March 20th Case of bánh tráng-ing anything, would the jury please now direct their attention to Exhibit 3: Dumplings a la Bánh Tráng. For detailed instructions and tutorial on wrapping with rice paper please visit this blog post for opening arguments.

So far we have bahn trang’d: salmon, spicy Korean beef and roast duck. Today I share with you – dumplings, potstickers, gyoza, mandu, jiaozi. I split mine in half so that it was nicely distributed. Another new ingredient in this wrap was garden fresh kale. Delish!

Yummy! Makes dumplings for dinner a whole lot more healthy. Find a brand that you like and (pot)stick with them.

You can teach an old dog new tricks BUT can you unteach them?

You can teach an old dog new tricks BUT can you unteach them? Granted I am not an old dog, but I did for the very first time this week edit and upload a video to YouTube. We also discovered our darling Mr. Mason, learned how to open our bedroom door and burrow all the live long day on our bed. (So, it wasn’t the MIL leaving/opening our bedroom door everyday……) Martin Scorsese doesn’t need to worry any time soon but we had a grand time rigging up the laptop to catch him in the act.  Only took us a warm spot on the bed, no visit by MIL that day, 6 hours of door knob footage and a folding chair.

The star of this movie short, Mason aka Mr. Peebody Barky McPhearson had a few words to share – “I learned how to jimmy those door knobs during my days on the streets, brief stint in the circus and in the California slammers.”

Knowing we wouldn’t be home to reprimand in the moment, we placed the vacuum in front of the door as a remedy this trick. He is afraid of the vacuum when it is on and off, so seem perfect – right height, stored in the laundry room right by door, fear factor.

Well – it worked …. for one day! He managed to get in on Day 2 but apparently couldn’t get out. BUSTED but back to the drawing board!vaccumm2Don’t worry – I won’t be going off the deep end with pet videos but we do love our Mr. Mason. He is a one of kind one-eyed dog that we were lucky enough to rescue from the great organization People United for Pets (PUP) located in the Seattle area. check them out and make your next pet a rescue.

mason mug

Any ideas to break this habit? Can your dog open a door?

Want to learn more about PUP? Here you go! http://pupdogrescue.wordpress.com/

Reach & Read: Comfort Food


Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs

Before I jump in, please note that this is not the novel of same name by Kitty Thomas – that comes with the warning on Good Reads, and I quote, “This is a story about “actual” slavery. If reading an erotic story without safewords makes you uncomfortable, this is not the book for you”. Dually noted.

Ok, now that I might have let a few of you down. Kate did a great job with this book. I had low expectations (for no good reason really) but was continuing on in my theme of audiobooks about food and cooking. She does a nice job creating the characters and I could, like in other books, see them fitting right in with people I know. The BEST Girl Scout Cookie client I had as a juvenile, Mrs. Janney, played my mind’s role of Gus, the main character. Both were graceful, well dressed and aging beautifully. It is an easy read (or listen in my case) and I did wish for sequel when it was all done as each of the characters had interesting lives that grew throughout the course of the story. I am not a literary genius but it felt like the right amount of conflict (Gus-Carmon Vega), confused love (“Sa-Troy”), letting down defenses (Aimee), breaking out of a shell (Hannah) and a born again good guy (Oliver). It leaves you with hope after trials and tribulations.

I was a little bummed that the book didn’t include actual recipes since many a tasty dish were prepared, given the fact that a frequent scene of this book is on a cooking show. But you can bet that I will for sure try to recreate a few of them in the near future: the infamous octopus salad for sure.

But being the super sleuth I am, discovered that based on reader feedback, Kate created a living breathing website with recipes from Eat, Drink and Be along with others. Woo Ha! Ok, it’s not that awesome of a page, but really has potential. This lemon (yumm!) apricot cake sounds great and I have a bit of apricot jam that needs a destination.

http://www.comfortfoodnovel.com/recipes.html

http://www.comfortfoodnovel.com/lemoncakewithapricotfilling.pdf

I will also add her first bestselling novel Friday Night Knitting Club to my list, given my level of enjoyment with this book and recommend it to others as a great way to spend some cozy afternoons.

The Bee People – Chapter 2

Chapter 2 – Apis Mellifica and Her Eyes


Here comes a little brown lady whose name is Apis Mellifica. She is making her wings go so fast that they buzz like a humming-top. Straight as a, arrow she goes to that morning-glory flower. All at once the buzzing stops; little Miss Apis has landed feet down and right side up on the nectar guide.

Such great eyes as stare at you when look her full in the face! No wonder she saw the bright flower a long way off and came straight to it. She has more eye-space for her size than an owl, which is saying a good deal. In fact, her head looks as if it were nearly all eyes, — for two large ones cover the sides. And if you will believe me, in the space between the two large eyes, right on top of her head, are three small ones! Unless you shave Miss Apis’s head you can see but one of these small eyes at a time, as there is a tuft of hairs in front of each, which hides it unless you’re are looking right down into it. In the picture Miss Apis’s head has been shaved. Five eyes! But that is not all. Each of her two large eyes is made up of about six thousand three hundred very small ones.

Really, Miss Apis, twelve thousand six hundred and three eyes are a goodly supply for one bee. It is fortunate that she does not have to keep count of them, for if she counted an eye every second it would take almost four hours to get to the end, without stopping to take a sip of honey, or even to say, Oh, dear me!


How would you like your mother to look at you out of more than twelve thousand eyes when you had been doing something naughty? Two eyes are bad enough at such times. Let us hope that young bees never do wrong.

[…]

Although she possesses such a prodigious number of eyes, Miss Apis has no eyelids. No, indeed! She has eye-hairs instead, that point outward and do not prevent her seeing but keep dust and pollen from getting into her eyes.

Key Points:

  • It is true bees have lots of eyes, made up of ommatidia (that is at least a 14 point scrabble word, but worth a lot more in street cred)
  • Bees actually have a very unique color sense
  • Bees can distinguish color from gray
  • However, they have trouble distinguishing between colors and tend to run them together: “orange, yellow, and green“= yellow. “Blue, violet, and purple”= blue.
  • Bees can’t really see the color red, aka red-blind, which seems so counterintuitive
  • People actually study this
  • Flowers play to these bee strengths (ultra-violet color for bees eyes only)

I share with you words and illustrations from the public domain M. Morely book – The Bee People. Published 1899; designed for third to fifth grade readers with goal to learn “how to observe” but plenty for adults to learn as well. Life lesson, bee truths and a gauge to see if we have made progress over the last century. If you find something interesting take 5 minutes and do some extra research. Bees are amazing creatures!

Excerpts –

Resources:

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Clover

Out of both, necessity (weed invasion) and inspiration (by Photo Friday) – I share with you my love-hate relationship with clover, Trifolium sp., and an unanticipated discovery. First – Love. Snapped this photo with trusty iPhone on a recent walk home after work. It captures the calm and decompression and the fresh young summer smell, shown as the purple sunlight. Love!

Other reasons to love clover:

  • Great company when you are stuck out in right field during a tee-ball game
  • Some may experience healing powers (I am NOT endorsing this nor doing a literature evaluation) with red clover
  • Trifolium incarnatum or Crimson clover (yes, of Sunny and Cher fame) is a farming powerhouse, tremendous cover crop that restores nitrogen to the soil
  • Can make for a great lawn if the right kind of clover, otherwise, see the hate section
  • Support healthy livestock by providing good forage in quantity and quality and fighting out fescue
  • Might even reduce livestock methane production by 10% (a (lame) special genetic variation that is less burp inducing, because you know that cow burps are burning through the ozone)
  • Can be woven into great crowns
  • Provides a never ending search for the mystery and fortune of a four leafed version (or dare we look for 5!): a leaf for fame, wealth, a faithful lover and glorious health.

The darker side of clover….. I despise the dark green and almost reddish-colored clover with yellow flowers that grows all over. This stuff is nasty, with an unground web of roots that are nearly impossible to pull up intact. Why would I wage such war on the beautiful gift-giving plant? It’s aggressive and messing up the ground cover we are growing in between our pavers out front. Yes, purely superficial. It single handedly destroyed the scotch moss that was there and it trying to over throw the current plant (but only on the weakened “periphery”), which I believe to be Brass Buttons.

Actually, this weed is called black medic (not clover, Medicago lupulina), but I still going to hate on it. Hrmppff.

The best ways to get rid of it is just pulling it up, preferable before it goes to seed. Round-up® will kill it and Preen can help prevent it, along with smothering it with compost. Yes, I am admitting to using RoundUp, most definitely in moderation, not near food plants and surrounded in controversy (albeit more about large scale applications – I dare you to search Monsanto). Another driving factor – the clover had managed to set up shop all around the irrigation system and I didn’t want to damage it with my shovel. Oooooh, wise water usage meets maybe toxic weed spray.

Today my weapons are my hands and the weed killer. At my side is my trusty steed, Snail. I’ll try Preen later as it started raining on me and I was hungry for lunch. Snail ended up guarding the yard waste bin when we were all done.

Hate:

  • Apparently some farms are growing genetically modified clovers to only have 4 leafs (creepy)
  • Black clover infiltrates with surroundings
  • Copiously seeds it spawns
  • Isn’t even a pretty weed and gives crimson clover a bad name
  • Just won’t leave us alone…..
  • Pulling it up damages surrounding plants and is like performing exploratory surgery to find its roots (which are reddish, a good thing)

Don’t judge a book by its clover!

(because it might not really be a clover)

Resources:

Let the Sunshine In: Beauty in Simplicity Patchwork

So let the sun shine in, face it with a grin.
Smilers never lose and frowners never win.
So let the sun shine in, face it with a grin
Open up your heart and let the sun shine in


A favorite song from my childhood, sung by many but the one in memory is performed by Anne Murray. Thank you Mom!

Some may poo-poo patchwork saying it is too simple or boring, but it is really about color and movement – the things that I hear many people say they struggle with. Patchwork is scalable to any size and a great way to integrate sentimental fabric or scraps. I share with you one approach to patchwork, in which the seams are offset. This accomplishes two things 1) faster to sew because you don’t have to interlock the seams flat at each intersection and 2) further helps as a blender, especially when you know you will have similar fabric “touching”. Makes it so there is never a big blob of the same print. I was also able to use up fabric that was not wide enough for a full square but great to insert to offset the row.

Select your fabric. Don’t be afraid to work in something bold, something that is more color intense or that you only have a tiny bit of.

For this quilt, the “anchor fabric” is the Joel Dewberry’s Aviary 2 in Granite line. I L-O-V-E the Aviary line. In addition, I added several other items from The Stash AND cut up a dress I had sewn quite a while ago and didn’t wear anymore. Its dark grey fabric lives on!

Decide how big of a square or rectangle you want. The sizes don’t even have to all match, but chose either length or width to be the same, for sanity sake. There are lots of great quilts out there where the widths all vary and even some were within the quilt the rows vary from one to the next. LOTS of movement and really fun to make. The hardest part is ending up the same length for each row. Fortunately there are scissors to trim it all.

For this quilt with the selected fabric, the squares are 6 1/4 inches. Why not 6 ½ inches? Because a lot of the fabric was only in fat quarters and I wanted to both maximize the size of the block (the final quilt was a KING!) and number I could cut. Some of the great prints would have been lost in smaller squares. Whatever size you want to end with, add ½ inch to the final dimensions to allow for a ¼ seam on all sides (or whatever, consistent seam you want). For the pieces used to offset the rows I used varying lengths but most were about 3 5/8 by 6 1/2 inches.

Cut up your fabric! I create a key of each fabric and running count of squares, especially when you are making something that is going to require +300 squares (18 x19 squares + 19 offset pieces). This also helps you see relatively how much each print and color group you have. This is important because if you have something bold, in the case the black squares and light gray, I like to make sure they are spread out evenly over whole quilt. For this one, it is about 2 per row. I also tried to keep track of how much yardage was used.

Makeup some rules for laying out quilt. You don’t really have to do this, but I like too. I attempt for gray and yellow to alternate, 2-3 black or light gray pieces per quilt. I also know that I have the most squares of the cream floral with yellow leaf piece; there is a right side up for the cream square, light yellow chandeliers, and birds. I also decided that all the wood grain, “clover” and the two with black lines will all go in a consistent direction through the quilt.

Lay the quilt out. OR just start sewing with reckless abandon. I like to lay it out and fiddle around until it is pleasing to my A/R eye.

Assemble your quilt rows. Sew! Sew! Sew! Press the seams flat to in one direction.

Be sure to take time and admire your progress. I recommend numbering your rows too. Just pin a sticky note to it or use blue tape.

Start sewing your rows together. I usually do about 3 rows at a time, and then attach those larger pieces. It just makes the quilt top a lot easier to sew and manage and also to iron as you go.

This quilt was so large, that I had to hang it over the balcony to open it up fully. It kindly shed farbee-doos (what the McIntyre women call threads and fuzz etc.) all over the room below. Farbee-doos are attracted to dog fur.

Now that the top is all assembled, it’s time to prep the back and binding and head for the finish line. For this particular quilt, I am sending out to my favorite long-arm quilter for a Warm and Natural batting and all-over stipple with matching yellow thread.

For backing quilts I usually try to use up big pieces of remaining fabric, making them scrappy. For this one, I used some linen and one piece of yellow and gray that didn’t make the cut for the front. I also added some personalization, but can’t reveal that here, as it is a surprise. Be sure to make it about 3-5 inches bigger than the top all the way around.

Cut your binding. I like to do 2 ¼ inch strips and this one also requires a ton of linear feet to bind given final dimensions are well over 110 inches. After sewing strips end to end on the diagonal (try chain piecing!), I wrap it on a piece of cardboard for organized storing.

Side note: Do you feel tortured to fill landfills with scrap bits that are just too small or maybe not a fabric you want to see again? I make pet pillows with the scraps. Sew up a pillow on all sides, except the top and toss them all in until it is full to your liking. Mine sits right next to me at the machine.

Do you have patchwork stories?

“We do not live an equal life, but one of contrasts and patchwork; now a little joy, then a sorrow, now a sin, then a generous or brave action”. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Open up your heart and let the sunshine in. Originally written by Stuart Hamblen, 1953

A Friday Confession: Candy

These are my confessions . . .

  1. I yell ” Release the Kracken” when the chocolate escapes, although apparently it tends to avoid “special candies” and doesn’t eat nuts or fruit (see number 4)

  2. Have contemplated the merits of Candy Crush as a weight loss tool by harnessing the power of aversion to jellies and chocolate
  3. Don’t shop at Wet Seal because one time I choked on a Lemon Head (like give-me-the-Heimlich choking) and they didn’t even stop ringing me up to help.

  4. Complain that cherries, onions or acorns (chestnuts? Apparently no one knows for sure) are NOT “candy”
  5. Ruminated about the inconceivability of losing a level with a two sprinkle combo move….
  6. Salivate at the sound of Hot Tamales rattlin’ in the box
  7. Like my Peeps a little on the dry aged side (and apparently on Krispy Kremes – Peeps at Sea: May 7, 2011) but not the non-Easter holiday imposter peeps (bats and trees do NOT taste the same)
  8. Had a few restless nights this week where, when I closed my eyes, I was playing Candy Crush in my third eye chakra
  9. My parents paid my brother and I 25 cents in 1987 to NOT finish one of those giant lollipops that my grandparents had sent to us; would someone pay me now to not finish my food? J
  10. LOVED Moon Pies until I ate a moldy one in Vietnam – yes, they can somehow go bad.

.

“Just when I thought I said all I can say …

See when this stuff goes through be tryna figure out
When, what, and how I’mma let this come out of my mouth
Said it ain’t gon’ be easy
But I need to stop thinkin’, contemplatin'”