Holiday Primer: Baking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil … Not Butter

Pear Almond Cake 1

We go out of our way during the holidays – actually, all the time – to bake with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter for desserts like cakes, tortes, brownies, etc. That may mean preparing a baking recipe that specifically calls for olive oil – or substituting olive oil in a recipe that calls for butter. Good olive oil adds a great, nuanced flavor and keeps baked goods moist. Olive oil also contributes to a special, textured “crumb.” Moreover, swapping olive oil for butter cuts saturated fat. To help you with your holiday baking, we’ve assembled a Q&A.

How do I substitute olive oil for butter if a baking recipe calls for butter?

As a general rule of thumb, substitute three-quarters of the butter in a recipe with olive oil. For example: If a baking recipe calls for a stick of butter (8 tablespoons), use 6 tablespoons of olive oil. (Click here to see a conversion table.) If the recipe uses melted butter, follow the instruction and substitute the oil for the butter at three-quarters of the amount.

“Olive oil can replace butter and margarine in almost all baked goods,” said Chef Sarah House of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, the Oregon provider of high-quality flours and other natural foods.

What if the recipe calls for the butter to be creamed with the sugar?

“If the butter is creamed with the sugar, and there is additional liquid (such as milk) in the recipe, follow the recipe instructions substituting the oil for the butter at three-quarters of the amount,” cookbook author and olive oil expert Fran Gage advised.

If a recipe, like carrot cake, calls for vegetable or canola oil, can I use olive oil instead?

You bet! We do so all the time. Just use the olive oil on a one-for-one basis. If a recipe, say, calls for half a cup of vegetable oil, use the same amount of olive oil. Your cake and other baked goods will benefit from the fuller, delicious flavor of a good olive oil versus a neutral oil like vegetable or canola oils.

“Any dessert that’s already made with some kind of vegetable oil is a candidate for trying,” award-winning cookbook author and dessert chef Alice Medrich said.

What style of olive oil should I use in my baking?

Generally speaking, a delicate oil – like our Arbequina and Everyday Fresh oils – works well. “A delicate extra virgin olive oil, with low bitterness and pungency, is always a good choice, especially if it has buttery notes because it will then mimic the flavor of the butter that it is replacing,” Gage said. But she also notes that you can use a more robust oil in recipes using chocolate. “High-quality chocolate can stand up to the bitterness and pungency of a medium or even a robust extra virgin olive oil,” Gage said. Our medium-robust Arbosana is a particularly good choice for chocolate desserts.

Can I use any type of olive oil off the grocery shelf in baking?

Do so at your own peril! A good tasting olive oil, as we said, adds flavor. “Only use an olive oil that you enjoy eating on salads, as a bread dip, etc.,” Matthew Kadey, a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food writer whose work has appeared in EatingWell and Men’s Health, said. “If you don’t particularly like the taste of a highly processed olive oil, why sully your baking with it. As the old saw goes: ‘Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t want to drink.’”

(Click here to see olive oil baking recipes.)

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

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Olive Oil Granola – An Easy Homemade Gift for the Holidays!

Olive Oil Granola (2 of 3)

We love to give food-centric homemade gifts. They keep hearts and bellies full and happy. With the holidays, often we’re crunched for time so simple homemade gifts are key. That’s where olive oil granola comes in! Make granola in large batches and then package in jars or sealed clear bags for quick and easy packaging. Top it off with some ribbon and a gift tag and you’re good to gift.

Olive Oil Granola (3 of 3)To make things even simpler, below is a list of some of our favorite granola recipes featuring extra virgin olive oil. You can use any of our extra virgin olive oils to make the recipes but we’ve provided some of our favorite pairings.

Olive Oil Granola by A Cozy KitchenMiller’s Blend

Gingerbread Granola by Cookie & KateArbosana

Pumpkin Granola by Delightful CrumbArbequina

Maple Granola with Cacao Nibs & Hazelnuts by Turntable KitchenMild & Buttery

Cherry Nut Granola by Sprouted KitchenEveryday

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Holiday Gift Guide – our favorite gift ideas for your holiday host!

Host Gift Guide


We’ve all shown up to a friends or family members with a bottle of wine in hand during the holidays. Try something new this year – show up with a bottle of Limited Reserve EVOO ($19.99) paired with a new trendy or innovative gift for your favorite host! Here are some of our top picks:

Michael Aram Rock Cake Server, $79 SAKSFIFTHAVENUE.COM

Monogrammed Glass Domed Cake Plate/Punch Bowl, $24 WILLIAMS-SONOMA.COM

Two Birds Dish Towel, $12 ETSY.COM

Rewined Candles, $28 MARTHASTEWART.COM

Soma Water Filtration Unit with Filter, $50 WILLIAMS-SONOMA.COM

Three Piece Copper-Plated Cocktail Tools, $74 COCKTAILKINGDOM.COM

Square Cordova Cheese Board, $60 STERLINGPLACE.COM

Montecito Barware – Set of 4, $40 ZGALLERIE.COM

Copper Olive Oil Cruet, $100 WILLIAMS-SONOMA.COM

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Chefs Celebrating Harvest

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Recently, we were fortunate enough to be joined, for a two day harvest celebration, by some of the best chefs from New York and San Francisco. Included in the group were: Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern; John Adler, Franny’s; Karen Shu, ABC Kitchen, Dan Kluger, formerly of ABC Kitchen; Matt Armendariz, Parke Ulrich, Waterbar; Jonathan Sutton and Tony Ferrari, Hillside Supper Club; Laurence Jossel, Nopa, and Shannon Waters, Flour and Water and soon to be Aatxe.

Thursday evening, Chefs Ryan Pollnow and Thomas McNaughton hosted the group for an olive oil-centric meal at Central Kitchen, where they used specialized California Olive Ranch oils for each course. They served everything from olive oil poached quail to hibiscus leaf ice cream with Arbequina olive oil jam. Over dinner, the chefs shared ideas on the diverse ways to use olive oil in dish, either as a subtle component or as a primary component.

The next morning, the chefs all piled into a 15 passenger van to begin the journey north to our mill, to watch olives turn into the olive oil they know and trust. The chefs had the opportunity to ask questions about the olive varietals as they curiously plucked the olives off of the tree and watched as the olives were harvested. Chef Michael Anthony loved visiting the source of the olive oil he uses in his restaurant, and felt that “California Olive Ranch is clearly forward thinking and it’s great to see a producer work so hard to make such a good product.”


After touring the rest of our facility, Chef John Adler was impressed by all of the systems we have in place to track every bottle, “The traceability is the most impressive part. How you can trace a bottle back to the grower and go back and see how you can make it better. If we could apply that to our cooking we would be in a great place!”

As the tour came to a close, the group completed their visit with a tasting with Master Miller, Bob Singletary. Bob demonstrated the traditional method for tasting olive oil and had the chefs follow suit, to really pick up on the different flavor characteristics of each oil. Wowed, Matt Armendariz said, “I never knew olive oil could taste like that.” The group tossed ideas back and forth on how they would pair the different oils in their restaurants.

After a fun filled two days, the chefs returned to their kitchens, hopefully a bit more inspired by the oil they use every day. It was an honor for us to welcome such talents, and always a great reminder for us here at California Olive Ranch that our extra virgin olive oils are so well loved all around the country.

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From Drizzling To Baking: 6 Ways To Use Oil Oil At Thanksgiving

We’re hosting our first Thanksgiving meal in years, now that relatives are coming to our house versus the other way around. We’re still mulling our serving options. But one thing is for sure: Extra virgin olive oil will play a key role. Good olive oil adds flavor to a variety of dishes, from mashed spuds or sweet potatoes to pecan pie. It also keeps the turkey moist, when rubbed on beforehand. And olive oil is a healthful alternative to butter.

Below are six ways for using olive oil in your Thanksgiving feast – in everything from mashed potatoes and cornbread, to vegetables and the Thanksgiving bird itself.

  1. Give roasted veggies like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, sweet potatoes or yams a finishing drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil for added flavor. We’d opt for our peppery Miller’s Blend. You can do the same with boiled or steamed veggies, too.
  2. If you have a flavor injector – like the one in the photo – use it to inject olive oil into the breast and thighs of the turkey just before roasting. You could also try olive oil infused with lemon, garlic or rosemary. Flavor Injector
  3. Rather than rub your turkey with butter, rub it with olive oil beforehand. For added flavor, use an herb-infused olive oil rub. Chefs Marge Perry and David Bonom, for example, combine fresh sage, thyme, garlic, and olive oil and rub that mixture under and over the skin, infusing the meat with flavor and helping keep it moist. Our Everyday Fresh oil would be good. (Click here to see turkey recipe.)
  4. When it comes to basting the bird, try a combination of olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh herbs like rosemary and sage. (Click here to see the recipe.)
  5. Swap out melted butter for olive oil in baked goods like cornbread. “Why melt the butter if extra virgin is already liquid?” asks Italy-based food writer Faith Willinger. “Use your favorite cornbread recipe, substituting extra virgin for melted butter.” Alternatively, try Willinger’s own cornbread, featured in the photo at the top. (Click here to see the recipe.) Our buttery Everyday Fresh is good for baking.
  6. Make your mashed potatoes with olive oil instead of butter and cream. “I recall that my grandma would fork-mash boiled potatoes, drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt,” Italian food writer Lidia Bastianich says. She’s developed her own version, adding roasted garlic cloves. (Click here to see the recipe.)

You can also find more Thanksgiving recipes in our November eNewsletter, which is devoted to reinventing classic Thanksgiving dishes with olive oil. (Click here to see the eNewsletter.)

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch


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Mediterranean-Type Diet May Guard Against Chronic Kidney Disease – Study

Mediterranean Diet Fotosearch_k15658684 (2)

Chalk up yet another potential health benefit tied to a Mediterranean-style diet.  A new study finds that adhering to that regimen – rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, and heart-healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil – may significantly reduce your risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

People who stuck to a dietary pattern resembling the Mediterranean diet had a 50 percent lower risk of developing chronic kidney disease, and a 42 percent lower risk of experiencing rapid kidney function decline, according to the study in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

“Many studies have found a favorable association between the Mediterranean diet and a variety of health outcomes, including those related to cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cancer, among others,” Dr. Minesh Khatri of the Columbia University Medical Center said in a news release. “There is increasing evidence that poor diet is associated with kidney disease, but it is unknown whether the benefits of a Mediterranean diet could extend to kidney health as well.”

Khatari and his colleagues set out to test whether an improved diet might provide more health benefits. They followed 900 people for nearly seven years. The researchers said that every one-point increase in a Mediterranean diet score was tied to a 17 percent lower likelihood of developing chronic kidney disease.

Chronic kidney disease is a growing epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20 million people in the United States may have chronic kidney disease. Your chances of having CKD increase with age, according to the CDC. The odds increase after age 50 years and is most common among adults older than 70 years.

And while there has been significant progress in protecting against kidney disease and its progression – through aggressive treatment of “risk factors” like hypertension and diabetes – many people still experience declining kidney function as they age.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Julie Lin of Brigham and Women’s Hospital noted that a Mediterranean-style diet is only one component of an overall healthy lifestyle, which also needs to incorporate regular physical activity.

“Although a seemingly simple goal, achieving this is challenging. We need to begin by embracing the reality that there is no magic pill or miracle food, only vigilance and discipline with diet and regular exercise, and the rare indulgence in cake for very special occasions,” she wrote.

Your Friends at California Olive Ranch

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A Day at the Ranch

photo 1

Last week we rounded up some of our favorite food bloggers for a tour of our ranch and mill. Some of the nicest people and  most talented cooks and photographers from around the web spent the day following the olives from branch, to harvest, to milling, to bottle. We love the moment when folks reveal a gasping ‘ahhhh!’ when they see the vibrant green fresh oil flowing.  Or, the ‘mmmm!’ as they breathe in the grassy and floral aroma walking among those in the mill. We are so thankful to share harvest with such passionate folks.
photo 2Under drizzly skies, the tour began with grower relations manager, Brian, as he explained the pivotal role of his team of ranchers and the bonds with our partner California farmers.  From the minute our trees are planted to the time the olives are ready for harvesting, he explained our drip irrigation methods, how we plant in trellised rows planted north to south for maximum sun exposure, and how we quality check the fruit weekly starting early summer on every block of the ranches.

Brian shared the unique visual differences between each of the three varietals – from the shape of the olive to the color of the leaves – each offers their own personality into the mix of trees.  Koroneiki olive’s shape is similar to that of a football with slightly pointed ends, contrasted by the oval Arbosana.  Arbequina has a plump rounded shape with hues ranging from moss green to blush to light purple, all displaying various ranges of ripeness, all on one tree.
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Then we moved to the mill, where we saw the raw olives unload and enter the milling process – through the washers, the hammermill, and emerging as vibrant green extra virgin olive oil.   At the end of the tour we sat down with Bob Singletary, our Master Miller, and tasted five freshly milled extra virgin olive oils, each with a slight variance in color from bright green to beautiful liquid gold.  Bob explained how extra virgin olive oil is evaluated from a sensory standpoint and guided our guests through the different flavor profile of each oil.  Swirl, snif, slurp and swallow……all delicious and all-encompassing of each of our five senses.  From mild to bold oils, he explained the unique aspects each of our Arbequina, Arbosana and Koroneiki olives offer, and how that flavor enhances the fresh ingredients we cook with every day.
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Thank you to Kathryne of Cookie and Kate, Erin of Naturally Ella, Stacy of Delightful Crumb, Kelsey of Happyolks and Brenda of A Farmgirl’s Dabbles for joining us up at the ranch. We are thankful to know you, and hope you too enjoyed experiencing a little bit of California agriculture.

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How We Mill Our Freshest Olive Oil: Limited Reserve; Place Your Order Now

We mill a very special extra virgin olive oil in the fall: Limited Reserve. Limited is the freshest oil we make. It’s essentially bottled soon after the olives are crushed, delivering a “burst” of flavor intensity in your mouth. You can now place your order for Limited. (Click here to place order for Limited Reserve.Limited Reserve Bottle 2014

Limited is seasonally available immediately after harvest. It represents our finest first cold pressings from the first weeks of harvest.

Modeled after the Olio Nuovo tradition in Italy, Limited is bottled intentionally with olive fruit suspended in the oil. Those particles are what deliver that “burst” of fruitiness in your mouth – along with the highest degree of health benefits (by  way of polyphenols) and freshness.

It’s a perfect gift for the holidays. And it’s best if consumed within 9 months of harvest.

Traditionally, we use all three of our olive varieties to make Limited. Arbequina provides a lot of fruit flavor and herbaciousness. The Arbosana always gives a lot of floral notes and contributes to the medium bitterness and pungency we like to have in the Limited Reserve. And the Koroneiki gives us that real kick in the back of your throat pungency, as well as a very banana flavor at the beginning.

This year, however, we decided to go with a blend of all Koroneiki oils from two separate ranches we have.  One of the Koroneiki oils provides the strong pungency that we love in our Limited Reserve, with a hint of the green herbaceousness.  The other Koroneiki  is from a younger orchard and gives the milder tones with the green tea, green fruit (apple and banana) characteristics that we absolutely love.

When choosing which oils to use, our team will usually meet a few weeks before we plan to bottle the oil. We’ll review the various oils we’ve made, and make various blends with our tasting team. We’ll then choose the best.

We use Limited with all kinds of dishes at Thanksgiving. We drizzle it on roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. We blend it into mashed sweet potatoes instead of butter. We drizzle it on freshly sliced pieces of turkey. We’ve even drizzled Limited on pecan pie. The oil’s peppery kick delivers a nice counterpoint to the pie’s sweet flavor.

Limited is great with other dishes, too. Drizzle it on bruschetta rubbed with garlic. Toss it with pasta and sauteed garlic to create that classic Italian dish, spaghetti aglio e olio.

But here’s our best advice when it comes to Limited Reserve: Let your imagination run wild!

Bon appétit,

Your Friends at California Olive Ranch

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Study Suggests Olive Oil, Nuts May Help Reverse Heart Risk Factors

More evidence that eating like a Greek can be good for your ticker. According to a new study, consuming a Mediterranean diet with additional extra virgin olive oil or nuts could reverse conditions that trigger heart disease. Collage Heart and Olive Oil

Spanish researchers found that people who ate fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and fish along with extra olive oil or nuts lowered their obesity and blood glucose levels. Both are symptoms of metabolic syndrome, which boosts a person’s risk of stroke, heart disease or diabetes.

“A healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, with a moderate-high intake of vegetable fat (in form of virgin olive oil or nuts) is a good healthy option for the prevention of several cardiovascular risk factors and chronic disease,” the study’s senior author Dr. Jordi Salas-Salvadó told Reuters Health.

Around a quarter of adults are estimated to suffer from metabollic syndrome, which reflects a combination of three risk factors, including:  high blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides, low HDL (good) cholesterol, and obesity.

The researchers tracked about 5,800 men and women aged 55-80 who were at risk of heart disease. They were divided into three groups: One followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil; the second a Mediterranean diet with additional nuts; and the third – a control group – a low-fat diet.

While 64 percent of the participants had metabolic syndrome at the onset of the study, according to researchers, 28% of people no longer had symptoms after eating the Mediterranean diet. In particular, the researchers found that after nearly five years the people in the two Mediterranean diet groups were more likely to have lost belly fat and to have lower blood sugar levels.

“The higher reversion rate of metabolic syndrome was mainly observed in those individuals allocated to the Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil,” Salas-Salvadó told Reuters Health.

“We can speculate that a Mediterranean diet, particularly one supplemented with extra virgin olive oil (which has anti-inflammatory properties), could exert positive effects on fat redistribution.”

The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Your friends at California Olive Ranch


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Ranch Update: the Drought and Our Olive Harvest; Sporting Harvest Beards

Photo by Charlie Garcia, California Olive Ranch

Photo by Charlie Garcia, California Olive Ranch

We’re thick into harvest, having started in early October. Our harvest teams are putting in 14-hour days to gather the olives and truck them to our northern California mill. The wonderful smell of fresh extra virgin olive oil permeates the mill. Meanwhile, the men on the harvest and milling teams are sporting their annual harvest beards. It’s part of a fun competition. We caught up with one of our ranchers, Brian Mori, to see how the harvest – and the beards – are going. Brian works with the family farmers who grow many of our olives.

How’s the harvest been going so far?

It’s been going at a pretty good pace. We’re becoming more efficient every year. We fine-tune our operations from one year to the next. Also, we haven’t had any rain that would prevent us from harvesting.

We’re still running about a 1-½ to 2 two weeks earlier than past harvests. We had an earlier season in general, so we were able to start the harvest early. The fruit maturity was ahead of schedule. Like last year, we had an early dry spring, which starts the olive development cycle earlier than usual.

Has the drought had any impact on the harvest?

It definitely has limited the water that we have in certain areas. And the drought contributed to the earlier harvest date. When we get into drought conditions, we have to limit the amount we can irrigate the trees. The dry conditions can put some stress on the trees, which can contribute to the olives maturing earlier.

How this year’s crop yield?

We’re a little bit lighter this year overall. But last year was an incredible year in terms of volume. So it’s not a big surprise that this year is a little smaller.

What are some of the fun traditions during harvest?

Most of our field and milling teams are involved in the beard contest. For this contest, you get points for style as well as volume – in other words, who can grow the largest beard. It’s a good tradition, one we’ve been doing for the last several years. It’s a team-building experience. We also have a barbecue at the end of harvest that everyone looks forward to.

How busy are you all in the orchards?

We’re working 14 hour days, seven days a week. We’ve been going at a consistent pace. Everyone is still in pretty good spirits. That said, I’m sure everyone is praying for at least one rainy day to get a day off.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I usually start my day at about 5 am. We’ll check the harvest schedule to see what’s been delivered from the night before. We also set that’s day’s schedule – what we’ll harvest and when. And we’ll determine whether there’s anything we need to address that day. I usually get home at about 7 pm or 8 pm.

It seems like you have a pretty diverse group of people involved in harvest and milling.

We’re predominantly a younger group – under 30. On the milling side they have a pretty good mix of men and women. Here on the harvest side we’re primarily male.

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

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