Wednesday, April 1, 2015



Available online amazon, barnes and noble,

The art of using olive oil for mind, body, and spirit goes back 6,000 years. Hippocrates, “the father of medicine,” used olive oil in over 60 healing remedies. New research confirms incorporating olive oil—and other healing oils--into your diet can help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and stall age-related diseases.  True, olive oil is a star in the top ranked Mediterranean diet--but popular flavored oils deserve kudos, too, this springtime and year-round.
Easter Bunny’s
Fudgy Coconut Oil Brownies

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Spring forward with fudgy brownies with both olive oil and coconut oil. Also, dark chocolate and nuts are part of this bar. This is a classic recipe but with my own healing oils spin of semi-homemade (the brownie mix nutrition label reads no trans fats). But note, these bars are good so if you want to stave off a “muffin top” as noted in Eat Pray Love,  savor one not a whole batch like I did.
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¼ cup and 2 teaspoons cup extra virgin olive oil,
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup water  
2 organic brown eggs
1 package store-bought premium dark chocolate              
brownie mix    
1/4 cup all-purpose flour  
(high altitude; follow box instructions if not)                                                             
½ cup dark chocolate chips                                                
1 cup sweetened coconut, shredded 
1/2 cup almonds, sliced                                  

In a large bowl, combine oils, water, and eggs. Add brownie mix and flour, stir till smooth. Fold in chips and nuts. Lightly grease (with extra virgin olive oil) an 8-inch-by8-inch glass square dish, pour and spread brownie mixture. Bake at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes. While warm from the oven, sprinkle top with coconut. Makes 12 brownies.

I was born and raised in Umbria, Italy on my family’s ancient olive plantation. My father was half Irish, a fair skinned, red-headed stocky and sturdy hardworking olive grove farmer. My mother, an Italian petite, dark-haired woman with piercing blue eyes ran a charming bed and breakfast cottage. She served and sold homemade bread, cheese, vegetables, fruit and olive oil. The days were long but our fruits of labor were worth the efforts for the well-being of our family, the community, and tourists who liked our cozy, rustic lifestyle in the Mediterranean.
One November overcast cool morning in the kitchen with my mom I learned the art of baking drop scones. I forgot to include the pale yellow liquid gold.  My detail-oriented mother, a seasoned baker, mumbled “tsk-tsk” as she poured the “liquid gold” into the thick batter. When the scones were baked, and fruity scent filled the air of the kitchen she dipped a warm scone full of olives and nuts into a beautifully decorated olive oil dish.  She smiled and handed me the treat as a truce. In the real world, this rural picturesque scene is a dream of mine. While I would love to be an olive farmer’s daughter, living in Europe—the truth of the matter it’s not the real story of my roots.
My real-life first olive oil experience is when I was a simple, hearty food-loving eight-years-old kid who loved different places and different people. Did I enjoy different foods? Not so much because my Westernized palate wasn’t worldly. One rainy Christmas Eve, my parents took my older sister, Debbie and me, to a modest San Jose, California red apartment two-story complex we used to live at before moving to the fifties’ “Family Knows Best”-type house in the suburbs.
At the old complex to visit former neighbors, I knocked on Florence’s upstairs front door. A short, plump, elderly gray-haired Italian lady greeted us—damp and cold—with a hug and genuine smile. I liked her and her kitchen filled with sweet and savory smells. After all, she baked cookies and breads. I sipped hot cocoa topped with miniature marshmallows; I sat huddled up to the warm stove. The kitchen table was cluttered with dozens of cans and bottles of oils and fats.
Florence offered me a cookie from a tin box. I asked, “Which ones should I choose?” She answered, “The long cookies with almonds—biscotti.” She told me the oblong-shaped biscuit, twice-baked, was from Italy.  I dipped it into my cocoa; she put hers in black tea. The woman whispered while pointing to a dark colored bottle on the table, “Olive oil and real butter makes cookies moist,” she said adding, “my secret ingredient.” I believed her. She gave me the box filled with layers of different biscotti including Gingersnap, Neapolitan, Pumpkin and Spumoni. It was a memorable special gift.

One of my favorite chick flicks is Eat Pray Love.  The protagonist, Liz, played by actor Julia Roberts enjoys a Food fest that would make Ernest Hemingway blush. The indulgences take place in Rome but tend to make me hungry in the Sierra. In one scene, Liz announces she is “having a relationship” with her Pizza Napolitana (the scene was shot at L’Antica Pizzeria DaMichele in Naples). And it was difficult not to call the pizza guy.
Not to forget the Figs and Ham when Liz walks through the streets of Rome. The food adventurer passes a woman cutting into a plate of fresh figs and Parma ham—almost a spellbinding ritual to make me want to book a flight abroad ASAP.  And, of course, when Liz orders and savors each bite of The Spaghetti al’Amatricana, a simple dish, including chili peppers, onions, pancetta, onions—and olive oil, she makes it look like a meal fit for a princess or prince (images of the romantic scene of Lady and the Tramp sharing pasta come to mind).
Another fine scene for foodies with health on the brain, like me, is when Liz dines alone and prepares Egg, Asparagus, Potato and Ham Salad. When she drizzles olive oil on the food—it lured me to my kitchen pantry to make a meal.  Other food events, like the Thanksgiving dinner with good food and good people, to Liz ordering an array of dishes (she mastered a foreign language) for a group of dear Italian friends is to be cherished.
Today, I aspire to make my dishes stand out in presentation like the foods viewed in Eat Pray Love. In yesteryear as a Tom boy, I flunked Home Economics in junior high. Worse, my mother didn’t like me creating dishes in the kitchen. I didn’t follow directions. I always modified cookbook recipes. But today, for the health and flavor of it, I am a fearless spiritual warrior in the kitchen. Cooking, baking, and dining with olive oil, other oils and butter can be a rebellious and new adventure each and every time for me, much like Liz embarking on food trips in Rome.

Medical doctors, nutritionists, and chefs will tell you that olive oil is not the only healing oil, since the following oils have great benefits, too.
Oil                                                       What It Does        
Almond oil                                          A good carrier oil for essential oils used for massage
Avocado oil                                        Heart-healthy oil high in monounsaturated oil
Coconut oil                                         An immune enhancer; fights infection
Flaxseed oil                                         A high-lignan oil that relieves depression and fatigue
Macadamia nut oil                              Rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats
Red Palm oil                                       High in vitamin E and beta carotene
Soy oil                                                 Monounsaturated fat/ polyunsaturated fats— heart healthy
Walnut oil                                           Boosts heart health to brain wellness.

Excerpt from The Healing Powers Of Olive Oil: A Complete Guide To Nature's Liquid Gold 

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