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The (Olive) Oil Crisis

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Many people ask why many of my recipes have the option of being so low-fat (or fat free). I wrote the answer on my FAQ Page, but for the sake of convenience, I’ll write it out again here. From the FAQ page: “Many of your recipes seem low-calorie.  Why is that?”

I know a lot of the people who read my blog are trying to lose weight or can’t just eat as much as they want.  I strive to make my recipes relevant for as many people as possible.  Therefore, I try to give variations in the recipes so that everyone can make them.  That’s why I say things like “Use sautéing liquid of choice” instead of just calling for oil.  That way people can make the recipe as high-fat or low-fat as they want.

pps

(You can make the Pumpkin Pie Stir Fry as oily or oil-free as you wish)

But especially lately, I’ve been bombarded with questioners demanding to know why I, personally, don’t use any oil in my recipes.  Well, hmm… I never knew I said that! In truth, it depends on the recipe (and for whom I am cooking), but I’m not afraid of a little olive oil.  I’m not going to glug back a whole jar at once, but a bit in a recipe can really amp up the flavor.

Many people fall victim to the practice of always shunning all oils when cooking. This can be a mistake: A little oil helps sauce adhere to food, so without it, food can taste bland.  What happens then?  One might end up dousing the food in soy sauce (high in sodium), ketchup (high in sugar), or another condiment less healthy than oil.  This is especially sad for those watching their weights, because, often, the sauces added to get the food to actually taste like something end up being more calories than if one had simply used a little oil to begin with!  And the higher-in-calories (or sugar/sodium) food doesn’t even taste as good.

Plus, healthy oils (olive, canola, flax, hemp…), when eaten in moderation, impart multiple benefits to those who consume them: shiny skin, luscious locks, lowered risk of heart disease and high cholesterol, and—oh yeah—delicious taste! One of my favorite “recipes” using oil (where the taste of the alternative fat-free cooking method DOES NOT compare) is a simple zucchini side dish.  Without the oil, this dish tastes bland and burnt, but add a little evoo, and you get something you could swear came from a gourmet Italian restaurant… all in just a few minutes’ cooking time!

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Italian side-dish Zucchini

(Boring name… I couldn’t think of anything better!  Suggestions?)

  • however many zucchini you want, sliced into coins
  • a drizzle of high-quality olive oil (Be sure to store olive oil in a dark container. It loses health benefits when exposed to light.)
  • minced garlic
  • salt to taste (and pepper if you don’t hate it like I do)

Heat a pan over high heat for about a minute before putting anything in.  Then add the oil, quickly followed by the garlic and then the zucchini and salt.  Try not to stir too often, and do not add any water.  That’s it!  Once again, I’m not even sure I can really call this a “recipe” because it’s so simple.  But hey, Rachael Ray has recipes with only two ingredients!  So, in comparison, this one’s complex!

Question of the Day:

Do you use oils at all?  If so, what are your favorite ways to use them? And what’s your favorite oil?
By the way, please don’t be alarmed at some of the small-scale studies coming out that say cooking with healthy oils is bad for you.  First of all, they’re small-scale studies; you can find a study to confirm almost anything these days (Yes, there are studies that try to tell you broccoli is bad!).  And secondly, look at the biggest study of them all: history!  As a rule, the Italians probably consume more olive oil than anyone, and they have one of the highest life-expectancies (It’s way above the US’s).

So, just like with the Japanese in the Soy and Processed-Foods Debate, I choose to trust a large-scale study, a.k.a. hard facts deeply rooted in history. Here’s to a long, delicious life.

Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 
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  1. Jennifer - jcd says:

    Oil is definitely welcome in my house! We have six different oils under the cupboard and in the fridge right now: macadamia, canola, olive, flax, hemp, and walnut. mmmm… Oh, and two big tubs of coconut oil too!

    Favourite uses… macadamia nut oil is really yummy in oatmeal. Oh… I think I need to make some sort of Hawaiian macadamia nut and pineapple fudge baby tonight. Mmm…

  2. Oh I am a canola girl. Its perfect because it doesnt have a strong taste, so I use that in most recipes. I use EVOO when I intentionally want that flavor as part of the recipe. Canola for baked goods and greasing pans and olive for pasta and italian dishes!

  3. Aimee says:

    Once again, thank you for another well-written, well-said post. I have no idea why these quacks are now coming out against cooking with healthy oils! Look at the Greeks! Or the Italians, like you said. Honestly, next they’ll be attacking carrots! Oh wait, they’ve already done that. Apparently carrots are high in sugar and carbs. Madness, I tell you! 😉

  4. I try to minimize the amount of oil I use. My boyfriend likes to use quite a bit of it when he’s cooking – he always says “it’s good for you -it’s healthy fats” – but my opinion is that even if it’s healthy fat, you still need to use it very sparingly.

  5. abby says:

    i never cook with oil. i know its bad, i shoudn’t be scared. katie, you’ve inspired me to suck it up and DO IT! i’m going to do it today! 🙂

  6. A. says:

    Ouch…I feel sorry for that one anonymous commenter. I know this is none of my business, but hear me out. The commenter was pushy, but the first time she asked, she did it in a really nice way (she was even trying to make the same point as you do in this post, which is a good message btw!). I love your posts girl, but to be honest, you answered her first question with unnecessary sass. And she only asked again because you didn’t really answer her question the first time. Yes she was wrong in her assumption and I’m sure the reason she asked the question in the first place was jealousy-inspired (that’s clear by her insistence to know the answer), but I’m really shocked by how harsh your response was (for all you know, she has an eating disorder, and is more prone to scrutinizing other people’s eats). I’m sure it’s frustrating getting a bunch of harassing comments, and I still love you/your blog, but it would probably be wise to be more careful with your words. You got defensive–that’s understandable–but (online) public humiliation can really hurt someone. I don’t believe you are or intend to be a vengeful person!

  7. Anonymous says:

    i think A. and the anonymous commenter are the same person. anyone agree with me?! leave katie alone!!!! talk about sass. i would’ve written with MORE sass. katie doesn’t even have to explain herself to you at all! b****!

    (Katie’s note: Thank you so much for sticking up for me. It really means a lot to me… but please don’t call other people such names, no matter what they say. I had to edit that word out in your comment.)

  8. Jennifer - jcd says:

    Can we all play nice? If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you know Katie would never try to hurt anyone’s feelings and would feel bad if she did.

    It is difficult to express tone in written words, and often things get misunderstood or taken differently. Relax, and read my first apragraph. Katie wants everyone to love healthy fats, and understands if some people care to love them more than others.

    I’m not Katie, but she shouldn’t have to stand up for or defend herself so much. Great post, Katie!

  9. A friend says:

    Katie, please ignore A’s comment. I have an ED, and it is NOT your responsibility to worry about what may or may not trigger someone with an ED, because believe me, you’ll never be able to know what might trigger someone. Everyone’s different. If the first commenter is “prone to scrutinizing others’ eats” then that’s her issue, and you do NOT need to defend yourself. You have done more to help me OUT of my ED than any other person, blogger or not. So thank you, and keep doing what you’re doing. You inspire me so much.
    Love,
    A friend

  10. Mary says:

    Eep what’s with all the negativity? This is a TERRIFIC post! You’re awesome, as is a moderate amount of healthy oil in a diet.

  11. Katie, people will ALWAYS find something wrong no matter what you say! lol…

    I don’t always use oil when I’m cooking. It depends on my mood, what else I’ve had to eat that day, and what I’m cooking at the time! I’m glad no one is scrutinizing me though. 🙁

  12. Sarahishealthy says:

    Great post! I can’t think of a cute title for your zucchini though :(. You’re much more creative than I am so I’m sure you’ll think of something fun! 🙂

  13. I’m definitely not scared of using oils in my food! I have heard, however, that COOKING oils can cause them to mutate and can create carcinogens in your body– kinda bad news. 🙁 I’ve heard coconut oil doesn’t mutate as badly when heated, so I usually stick to that for cooking, as well as butter since it doesn’t mutate either!

    And I love using olive oil in my homemade salad dressings! I think I eat it every night!

  14. Valerie says:

    I’m getting the kiddos together for a big hug-a-fat photo shoot. Expect photos soon :). We love our olive oil in this household.

    On an aside,
    I really don’t see where you answered anything with sass. I just went back, out of curiosity, and read the old comment and your answers, and I think you handled the whole thing admirably, so it confuses and saddens me that someone could twist your benign words into something evil. Please don’t read anything into it, dearest Katie.

  15. Ilana says:

    “Fat” is such a complicated topic. I just had a discussion with someone over “obesity” – she said she was shocked to find out that “obesity” is an actual disorder, not simply a word to describe someone who is overweight. Like I said before, the word “fat” confuses anyone in this society that has been taught to stigmatize fat in food because we assume there’s an automatic connection between fat in food and fat on your body – I mean, that seems like a simple and obvious explanation, so I can see why we are confused. We need to somehow reorient the public opinion of FAT – fat needs a new public relations manager. Milk has great PR and it’s definitely not the greatest thing for you, but fat?? Hell ya.

    I try to get a nice serving of healthy fat in every single meal! If I don’t, I end up hungry really quickly! And ever since I’ve been consciously increasing my healthy fat intake, my body has responded quite positively – my hair and my skin look better and I’ve lost “body fat” and gained muscle and I’m happier than I was when I eschewed fat! Fave oils – olive and coconut. Peanut and sesame are fun too.

    Zucchini cooked that way is DIVINE. Divine. Amazing. One of my favorite vegetable preparations in the world.

    (Also, I don’t think you responded with any unnecessary sass but hey it’s the internet and people will see what they wanna see)

  16. Su says:

    Hi Katie,
    I use three different kinds of oil in my kitchen: canola oil for cooking and baking, olive oil for dressings, and roasted sesame oil to add some flavour to asian dishes (after cooking!). As I try to watch my calories, I only use a litte bit of each oil. And I don’t like greasy food anyway.
    Have a nice day!

  17. another brilliant post..love love love it <3

  18. Katie says:

    Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don’t. Like you, I am a skinny girl who gets comments about needing to put on weight, and “if you are trying, why don’t you use more oil, etc”. Well, sometimes I feel like it, and sometimes I don’t. Since when is giving options a bad thing?

  19. Inspired says:

    Guess I missed the whole drama ;). Just wanted to say, I love this post and I love my (healthy) oil!

  20. vegangal says:

    i love you katie and this post even though i dont like oil but im learning well i am at least eating a little bit of peanut butter now whenn before i wouldnt eat that either so baby steps right? and ignore the mean comments you are always the sweetest and kindest! xoxoxo

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