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10-Second Recipes: Does Your Olive Oil Have a Stamp of Approval?

(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)

By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate

I had just finished drizzling two teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil into a decaf coffee-dark chocolate stevia-flavored smoothie I had created to replace a sugar- and caffeinated one I loved from a juice chain. Nutritionists have urged adding healthy fats, especially olive oil, to our diets for decades. I'd been practicing as they preached for at least 20 years, since attending and writing about an olive oil tasting that mimicked a wine tasting.

When I placed the smoothie in the freezer to chill slightly before drinking, I was surprised at the first words that jumped off the page of what I was reading: "olive oil." Author Larry Olmsted, though, wasn't adding more laudatory news. I hadn't expected olive oil to be a major player in "Real Food Fake Food: Why You Don't Know What You're Eating & What You Can Do About It."

However, the lucrative product joins sushi-grade fish, kobe and grass-fed beef and lobster as a category that is at risk for fraud. What may or may not appear on olive oil labels is that producers sometimes add soybean and peanut oils. They can be older stocks and greatly affect the flavor and pose allergy risks. The words "extra-virgin" or "virgin" on labels, Olmsted alerts, may mean nothing more than a price markup. In addition, packages marked "pure olive oil" can refer to the lowest allowable grade.

The USDA and FDA have cited staff and cost cuts as challenges they face. As in the case of other possible frauds, Olmsted suggests awareness regarding finding the real thing when it comes to olive oil. Look for markers on labels, like those from international trade groups such as EVA and UNAPROL or "COOC --- Certified Extra Virgin" from the California Olive Oil Council, a stamp that was formed to help.

Because my level of trust had always been high regarding olive oil and its stellar health reputation, I had never scoured labels before. Before my first smoothie sip just minutes later, though, I got past "first cold pressing" (a good sign regarding freshness and flavor) and bragging about the brand's international popularity on the front of the label.

On the back, it did note that extra-virgin olive oil was the only ingredient. However, per Olmsted's warnings, I was even more relieved to see a small red circle along with words about the size of a pinhead reading: "This seal designates that (this brand) meets the exacting standards of the International Olive Council, worldwide governing body that sets the quality standards for the olive oil industry."

Well-produced olive oil tastes superior, notes Olmsted and those who have experienced the difference. The California Olive Oil Council avocado salad below is a showcase for olive oil. My easy coffee-dark chocolate smoothie uses it as one of its healthful additions.

Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!

Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.

1/2 cup decaffeinated coffee beans       
4 squares dark chocolate (70 percent cacao)       
1 cup unsweetened soymilk     
4 tablespoons stevia      
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa      
1/2 cup soy strawberry-flavored yogurt-style product     
2 tablespoons strawberry fruit-only spread/jam      
1 / 4 cup blueberries      
2 teaspoons certified extra-virgin olive oil      
7 ice cubes
Yields 1 large serving.

Place coffee beans in strong blender (or coffee grinder) set to "grate" until ground. Add dark chocolate squares and grate.

Add all other ingredients, except ice cubes, set to "smoothie" and blend. Through small hole in top of blender lid, carefully add one ice cube at a time set to "crush ice" or to "grind" and grind; then set at "smoothie" until smooth. Serve immediately.

2 slices thick-cut bacon 
2 to 3 heirloom tomatoes, quartered 
1 avocado, peeled and sliced 
2 tablespoons certified extra-virgin olive oil 
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar 
Salt, to taste
Yields 2 servings.

Cook bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat. Let cool. Roughly crumble. Toss with tomatoes and avocado.

In a small bowl, place olive oil. Whisk rice vinegar and salt into olive oil to emulsify. Pour over salad before serving.

-COOC (California Olive Oil Council)

QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: If your idea of a snack isn't a raw flapjack created from nuts, dates, seeds, oats and fruit, Chef Jamie Oliver would like a word with you. After trying to help clean up Britain's and the United States' school lunch programs, TV chef and cookbook author Oliver has turned his attention to super foods in "Everyday Super Food: Recipes for a Healthier, Happier You." He's written bestsellers on comfort food, but here tells how directing his own and his family's diet to super food ingredients made them feel much more energetic.

Lisa Messinger  at Creators Syndicate is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on

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