Foodie Fun: Ojai Olive Farm

Ojai Olive Farm

This weekend, I cashed in a LivingSocial voucher for the Ojai Olive Farm, a quaint ranch nestled in the rolling hills of the Ojai Valley. The small operations room was surrounded by beautiful olive trees that were over 130 years old, with delicate leaves and huge, gnarled trunks. Cacti dot the landscape and huge boulders rest among hills that share space with avocado and tangerine trees.

Unripened olives

Did you know that two things can be done with olives? You can either cure them or make oil out of them. I’m glad I didn’t find out on my own, but our tour guide warned us that a fresh olive is not the most palatable treat. At the Ojai farm, the olives remain on the tree until fall, when they’re a deep, plummy black. They are hand picked and put into crates to be pressed the same day they are picked.

The owner, Ron Asquith, started the Ojai olive farm as a retirement project.

After the olives are washed, giant machines smash the fruit into a paste, and then the paste is whirled around thousands of times until the oil separates from the water and solid matter. The oil is filtered 15 times against thick, cottony sheets, and the fresh oil is immediately bottled or placed into gigantic drums. All of the machinery is stainless steel to protect the taste of the oil, and this machinery was specifically shipped from Italy to ensure authentic and premium olive oil processing.

After seeing the manufacturing process, we were herded into a heavenly room with rows and rows of gleaming olive oils and balsamic vinegars. I grabbed a napkin with some bread cubes and got to tasting. There were about 10 different varieties of olive oil, some flavored like lemon or raspberry, and some traditional styles which were very sharp and tangy. Some described them as “grassy”, but I thought that was harsh!

Don't buy olive oil like this that isn't marked "Extra Virgin".

Did you know when you buy olive oil, you should avoid oils that say “pure” or “light”? What that means is that the waste portion of the olives after they’ve been pressed was used to make the oil. For premium taste and flavor, you should always buy olive oil marked extra virgin. You’ll be able to tell in the taste – and one more way to check is to read the bottle and see where the olives come from. If the bottle says something like “made from olives in Tunisia, Greece, Africa, Spain and Italy”, run for the hills – because basically that means that you’re buying yucky used up olive juice. Your olive oil should come from only one place, and it should be extra virgin. (Also – use your olive oil within 18 months, and store in a dark, dry place away from heat sources.)

I love olive oil!

My LivingSocial voucher included one bottle of olive oil, one bottle of vinegar, and an olive tree! I settled on a garlic flavored olive oil and a delicious pomegranate balsamic vinegar. I thought the vinegar would be awesome on a salad, as it has a slightly fruity, sweet taste that pairs beautifully with the tongue-tingling tang of the vinegar.

I'm extending an olive branch. Har, har.

Here I am with my olive tree. I’m super excited to get it planted in the ground, and it already has one baby olive on it! When the olives are ripe I think I’ll take a stab at curing them, but luckily I’ll have plenty of time for that, as most olive trees produce the most fruit around 5 years old. Did you know in Crete, Greece and Jerusalem there are 3,000 year old olive trees?! Can you imagine?!

Get pickin'!

If you’re ever in the Ojai area, you should definitely visit the Ojai Olive Farm. I had a great time and learned a ton, and my belly left feeling super happy. I also picked up some handmade olive soaps – and you have a chance to win one if you come back on Wednesday when we’ll celebrate reaching 150 Facebook fans! So now Double Chinners, I gotta know – are you a fan of olives? If not for eating, how do you feel about olive oil? Let’s chat… ‘cuz olive olives. (and bad puns).

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, bloggies! These are the pumpkins Matt and I carved. Mine is Oogie Boogie from the Nightmare Before Christmas, and Matt’s is…. some creepy thing with big sharp teeth.

We’re having a small group of friends over to help pass out candy, watch movies and eat treats. Luckily for me, I’m learning that treats don’t all have to be sugary! In addition to the cauldron of Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids, Reeses, M&Ms and Twix, we’ll have a giant veggie platter heaping with celery, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and cucumbers. We also have goat cheese, gouda, light brie and Vinta crackers for a savory nibble.

We would have some of these if they hadn’t all been eaten in a voracious cleaning frenzy… After carving our pumpkins, I washed the seeds to remove the gooey pumpkin guts and tossed them with a little bit of olive oil and some creole seasoning. The result was delicious! Pumpkin seeds have such a fresh, unusual taste to them – and lightly roasting them brings out this wonderful nutty flavor.

I’ve found it a little challenging to eat healthy this week when I’ve been surrounded by candy and junk, but now that I’m finally getting over this horrible cold, I’m excited to head back to the gym and get back into my fitness routine. I’ve been doing okay at keeping my hands out of the candy cauldron, but the hectic pace of the week kept me from doing my best in terms of nutrition.

What do you have planned for Halloween – tricks, treats or none of the above?

 

Rockin’ Red Potatoes

Do you know how much I love potatoes? THIS MUCH *stretches arms out wide* Potatoes are awesome. I think they’re kind of underrated, because admittedly, they’re not the most flavorful thing in the world – but maybe what makes them so great is how they can be dressed up in so many different ways. Recently, I had an influx of red potatoes as Matt and I both bought bags of them without realizing we already had them. I decided to utilize the massive herb garden at our house and make herb potatoes. While the points value isn’t super low (6+ per cup), potatoes are so filling that you don’t need a massive serving, and these kind of feel like junk food because they’re so yummy. Roast them until they’re golden brown and crunchy and you’ll think, “What diet?”.

Crispety Crunchy Golden Deliciousness

You need:
5 Large Red Potatoes, scrubbed,cut into chunks and then rinsed (removes extra starch)
2 Chopped Green Onions
2 TBSP Olive Oil
2 TBSP Water
2 TBSP Fresh Rosemary
2 TBSP Fresh Oregano
2 TBSP Fresh Thyme
2 Garlic cloves
Salt to taste

Green Goodness

Preheat your oven to 400. In a food processor, add all of the washed herbs (stems removed), green onions, 2 tbsp olive oil, garlic cloves, salt and water.

Slime!

Pulse until it’s a paste – it’s ok if it still has some herb texture. In a large mixing bowl, toss the raw potatoes with the herb paste until the chunks are coated.

Spread on a pan so they get nice and tan!

Arrange in a single layer on a baking pan and roast until they’re brown on the sides and easily pierced with a fork.

Finito! Bon Apetit!

Eat one serving, resist seconds, pretend you didn’t eat five more of them off the baking sheet, and enjoy!