Category Archives: Lassens

eat+this+not+that, healthier+versions+of+junk+food, healthier+snack+foods

Eat This, Not That: Childhood Favorites

Eat This, Not That: Childhood Favorites

Written by Denae

We all have our favorite snacks from when we were kids. Even if they weren’t allowed in our lunch box, we still pined after that one kid who took out the best fruit snacks and chips! It’s taken a few years to get here, but the health food industry has finally made a more “healthy” alternative to those treats. I put healthy in quotes, because at the end of that day, candy is candy and junk food is junk food (even if it is organic, without GMO’s or preservatives). 

Never fear! You can now save any child in your life from the fate of begging “The Great Snack Kids” to trade carrot sticks for cheesy chips. You can also save yourself from trying to pronounce the ingredients on those conventional packages and trust the clean ingredients in these products found at Lassens!












Of course, these are only just a few of the alternatives to junk food that are now available in the health food store industry. If you are getting a hankering for something snacky, you now know where to go!

Enjoy fulfilling those cravings and packing up an awesome lunch box 😉

Love,
Lassens

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DIY Gifts for Your Favorite Foodies!

Dipping Oils and Flavored Vinegar

Written by Gayle

These gifts for foodies are so much fun to make and give! The vinegar takes about a month for the flavors to “marry”, so be sure to let your loved one know before they pop it open for a tasty salad!

Flavored Vinegar

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Place your chosen flavorings in a quart-sized jar. For these three, I used
Raspberries and fresh mint leaves (I used champagne vinegar)
Slices of lemon peel, sliced garlic cloves, chopped fresh rosemary (I used white wine vinegar)
Fresh cranberries (I used rice vinegar)

Pour the vinegar over the items into the jars. Cover with a non-metal lid (or put a piece of plastic wrap between the lid and the jar). Refrigerate for about three to four weeks, swirling it around every day.
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After a month or so, pour the contents through a strainer and then into your chosen bottles (with a funnel). Add a gift tag (mine were just printable business cards that I got at an office supply store) with a ribbon. Viola!

Italian Sun-Dried Tomato Dipping Oil

easy+DIY+gifts, holiday+gifts, homemade+gifts, italian+dipping+oil

I love to use dipping oil on bread when we eat Italian food. Here’s a simple recipe to do it yourself!

1/4 tsp each dried italian herbs–basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary
1 TBSP chopped sun-dried tomato (the kind that is packed in oil)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground pepper
1/2 TBSP chopped fresh organic parsley
3 TBSP grated organic parmesan cheese
2 cups Organic Extra-virgin Olive Oil

In a small pan, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil. add the herbs and the garlic, and just heat until softened.
Remove from the heat and let cool. Add the rest of the ingredients and the rest of the oil and then blend well. Pour into a bottle and allow to sit for several hours before serving. You can pour into gift bottles and spread a bit of your kitchen magic around to your friends and family! These should be used within about a week, or kept in the refrigerator.

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Happy gift-giving from Lassen’s!

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Build a Salad Worth Eating!

Build a Salad Worth Eating!

Written by Denae

There are a lot of ways to make a kickin’ salad. Leftovers can be a salad go-to if you want to make sure they don’t go to waste. I’ve used baked chicken, fajita veggies, and fruit on it’s last leg to make sure I’m not throwing away food. Don’t be scared of a few bruises, my husband always says, “The uglier the fruit, the more delicious it’ll taste.”

Below I’m whipped up a lovely infographic to help you whip up a legit salad. A filling dinner doesn’t always have to take a long time to prepare.  

Love, 
Lassens

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apple+crisp, apple+recipes, apple+dessert, easy+apple+crisp

Apples–The Fruit That Can Do Everything!

We’re Coming Up Galas at Lassen’s!

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The Gala apples are gorgeous and so delicious!  I love the crispy snap of Galas, and the taste has just enough tart and just enough sweet.  A friend of mine recently used Gala apples, sliced thin, in a turkey sandwich!  Great idea!

Yesterday I took advantage of the proliferation (and great price!) of Gala apples, and made some apple crisp for my family.  This is one of the simplest fruit desserts possible, and you can use all kinds of fruits to make a crisp!

Gala Apple Crisp

 
 
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You’ll Need:

  • 5 organic Gala, or other crisp apples (you could also use pears–especially the firmer Asian varieties, cherries, berries, or any combination of fruits desired.)
  • 1/4 cup organic maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup organic rolled old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup organic unbleached white or whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup organic brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP chia seeds
  • 3/4 tsp organic cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 TBSP organic butter, softened
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  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  • Wash, peel (if desired) and slice the apples into a 8- or 9-inch baking dish
  • Pour the maple syrup over the apples, and stir to coat.
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  • Mix the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chia seeds until well blended.
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  • Add the softened butter and blend with the back of a large spoon. 
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  • Blend until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs
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  • Pour the oat mixture over the top of the apples
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  • Spread the topping evenly over the apples.
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  • Bake 35 minutes, or until the topping is browned and the apples are tender when pricked with a fork.
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  • Remove from the oven, and serve warm.  I poured a little half-and-half over my warm apple crisp!
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I’d love to hear your favorite ways to use apples!  

Make a comment with your ideas for cooking or baking with apples!
 
love,
 
Lassen’s
freezer+monkey, frozen+treats, focus+on+local, local+products, local+producers, women+owned+business

Focus on Local–Freezer Monkey Gourmet Frozen Treats

These Are Not Your Average Frozen Treats!  They are Gourmet!

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Meet Tiffany!

Tiffany grew up in Santa Barbara, and has always loved this area.  She went to art school in New York, but eventually ended up in San Francisco, where she found her true calling in culinary school.  She worked in restaurants for over 15 years as a pastry and dessert chef.  She got to develop recipes and see her creations bring joy to many patrons.
 
But life brought her back to Ventura County.  She decided that she wanted to branch out and do something on her own, so she took a 14-week course on how to start your own business through WEV–Women’s Economic Ventures.  (For more information on WEV, click here.)  She had to write a business plan, and thought that she might start her own bakery.  But those plans just didn’t seem right for her and her children.  In October 2011 a sweltering heat wave hit Thousand Oaks and she found herself making frozen treats for her kids.  They were a huge hit and the kids kept coming back for more.   It was a light-bulb moment.  She dug out her recipe collection, looking for sorbet and ice cream recipes.  Her business plan abruptly changed.  Soon she created several different flavors and launched the Blueberry Dessert Company.  Her son named the line of pops when he came in, asking for more of those “freezer monkeys!”

 

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Watch This!

Last week I got to follow Tiffany around as she made her Caramelized Pineapple Pops.  First, she caramelizes some sugar in a heavy pot.  (To learn how to do this yourself, see my post on candying pecans for a spinach/pear salad found here. )

 

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Tiffany poured the caramelized sugar over fresh pineapple pieces, 

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and then added a little red Hawaiian sea salt.

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Tiffany blended the pineapple, caramel and salt until pureed.  

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Once everything was pureed very fine, she strained the mixture to remove the tough solids. 

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After removing the foam (too much air for a pop!) Tiffany poured the strained puree into these amazing molds that she got from Brazil.

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The lid, with the sticks, went on last.  It clamped everything together.

 

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The mold was lowered into a container with propylene glycol, a food-grade liquid that has a very low freezing point.  The liquid was -15 degrees, and the pops were frozen in about 15 minutes!  (None of the propylene glycol gets into the pops–it just surrounds the mold.)

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Amazing!  The quick-freeze time reduces the opportunity for crystals to form in the treats, so the result is a smooth and creamy texture. 

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The treats were popped out of the molds, and they were ready for packaging.

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Tiffany stamps the date on every pop.  

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Lassen’s carries six Freezer Monkey flavors–all delicious!  Great for these hot days, but also for all throughout the year!  (No reason to stop eating frozen treats in California!)

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Next up for Tiffany?  Watch for her Bon-Bons, coming soon!  I tried the Vietnamese Coconut–it was amazing!

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There’s nothing like the fun of a frozen treat on a stick, and Tiffany’s Freezer Monkey Treats are more than just frozen colored sugar water!  They are made with real fruit and other natural ingredients!  You’ll love them! 

Love,
 
Lassen’s
spinach+salad, easy+salad, pear+salad, gorgonzola+cheese, easy+salad+recipes, Newman's+Balsamic+Dressing, balsamic+vinegar, delicious+salad, spinach+recipes

Pears to the Rescue!

Simple, Delicious, Nutritious!

Lassen's+Organic+Bartlett+Pears, Bartlett+Pears
 
I have always love Bartlett Pears.  They are sweet and the texture is just right.  We would eat them by the dozens when I was growing up.  But when I left home for college I learned that some people did not love them like I did!  
 
Maybe you are one of those who haven’t yet learned to appreciate the humble pear.  So here are some great facts about them!
 
A medium pear has about 100 calories, and no fat, cholesterol, or sodium.  They are nutrient dense; high in Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.  A single pear has almost 25% of the recommended daily amount of fiber!   Here is a brochure with pear facts and more recipes.
 
Pears are one of the few fruits that do not ripen on the tree.  They are mature, but still green, when they are harvested.  If you leave the green fruit in a bowl for a few days, you’ll see them begin to lighten to a nice yellow color.  Eat them before they get too yellow or start to brown.  Delicious!

Pears are Wonderful in Many Recipes! 

Lassen's+Organic+Bartlett+Pears, Bartlett+Pears
 
 
Many times when I am going out to eat I will find a spinach salad on the menu that appeals to me.  I often order it, and I’m always happy with my choice (I have no menu envy when I do!)
 
When I noticed that these salads often only have four or five ingredients, I realized that I could make them myself, and now I do–a lot!  
 
So instead of spending upwards of $15 for a spinach salad, make it yourself!  This recipe serves 3-4 (2 for a main dish salad).

Spinach Pear Gorgonzola Salad

 

You’ll Need:

  • 1 package of washed, organic, baby spinach 
  • 2 TBP organic raw sugar (optional)
  • 1/4 cup organic raw pecans
  • 1/4 cup crumbled organic gorgonzola cheese
  • 2 ripe organic Bartlett pears
  • Organic Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil, or your choice of Organic Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

Optional — Candied Pecans

If you’d like, you can candy your pecans.  I think it adds a nice crunchy sweetness to the salad, but it is optional.  If you want to do it, here’s how.

 

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In heavy-bottomed dry pan, pour 2 TBSP sugar.  Shake the pan to spread the sugar evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Turn the heat to medium and watch the sugar as it heats.  Be careful to not let the sugar burn on the sides, where the pan may be thinner.  You can stir it around.

 

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The sugar will melt.  Right when the sugar crystals have all melted, turn off the heat and sprinkle the pecans over the top.  

 

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Using a spatula, turn the nuts over.  You have to move quickly to coat the nuts with the sugar.

 

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Turn the nuts onto a plate to cool.  I try to separate them as much as possible as I get them onto the plate.
 
While the nuts cool, assemble the salad.  

 

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Place the spinach on a plate, core and slice the pears, sprinkle the cheese and nuts over the top of the salad.

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I twisted a few grinds of fresh pepper over the top.  
 
Then just choose your dressing!  Lassen’s carries a large variety of delicious balsamic vinaigrette dressings!  I like the Newman’s Own brand, but sometimes I just like to use plain Extra-Virgin Organic Olive Oil and Organic Balsamic Vinegar with some freshly ground salt on top.

 

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And there you have it!  A restaurant quality salad with your own, gorgeous organic ingredients, including the humble and delicious Bartlett pear!
 
Happy eating!
 
Love,
 
Lassen’s
team+member+spotlight

Team Member Spotlight–Our Artist, Mykey!

She’s Behind the Scenes…  But Making Great Scenes!

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Let the Artist Work!

Mykey has worked at Lassen’s for nearly five years, but she has really made her own path here!  She started as a cashier in our Thousand Oaks store, but her goal was to work in the Supplements Department, which she was able to do after just a few months.  She said Jamie in the Thousand Oaks store is the “Best Teacher Ever!”  Mykey loved being a Supplement consultant, and she put her own twist on the department….

 

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With her Artwork!

Whenever there was a need for a display to be spruced up, Mykey stepped in with her creativity and artistic talent.  
 
She even won a contest with this display!

 

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All of this extra creativity didn’t go unnoticed.  Soon the Owner and Regional Manager saw Mykey’s work, and asked her to design a reusable bag for the stores.  This was what she likes to call her “initiation!”

It. Was. Fantastic.

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Mykey came up with a design that we all love!  Even the sides of the bags are creative and beautiful!

 

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You can buy these reusable bags in all of our stores! 

Funny.  Kind.  In Love.

When I asked Mykey to tell me three quick things about herself, she said first that she likes to make people laugh.  She and her friends love to act in and make funny YouTube videos.  She loves to be a ham in front of the camera!  Her wish for the world is that everyone would be kind and respectful.  And  (drum roll, please!) …. she is getting married in less than 100 days (She knows exactly how many days.  You’ll have to ask her what the countdown is now!)
 
And this is how her fiancee proposed…
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Oh look, her foot is popping!

  Can I get an “Awwwwwww…..?”

In the Beginning

Mykey started out in Pasadena, and then her family moved to Thousand Oaks when she was in second grade.  Her mom would sneak health foods into their meals, and so she grew up with an interest in eating in a more healthy way.  She was always a little artist–before she could write she would draw pictures and make up stories that her dad would write down for her.  She always took art classes in school, as well as music and film editing.  She said, “Anything that I can get my hands on I like to take a whack at it!”

 

Mykey loves to create and develop characters.  You may have seen some of her creations around!  Here are two of them on our Kid’s Day Ad–Pink Lady and Broccoli Boy:

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She also has come up with some villains to draw attention to the need for healthier eating.  Here’s the Mystery Fried Nugget that was part of the Mega Food Display.

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And who could ever miss ZenPeach?  Isn’t she great?  (And you ought to try one of these smoothies from our Deli–delish!)

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She’s Got Some Favs!

Mykey said there are many things she loves about her job at Lassen’s.  She loves the people she works with.  She loves being able to create and see her creations developed.  She loves being a part of the team that has philosophical discussions about the business and the business direction.

And Here are Some of Her Favorite Products

Mykey has a lot of favorites!  Some of them I hadn’t had before, but immediately picked up and gave them a try!

Artisana Coconut Butter

 
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Mykey spreads this on toast with cinnamon for a quick and delicious breakfast.  I had never tried this, and found it wonderful!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Renew Life Triple Fiber

Mykey adds this fiber to smoothies, yogurt, or applesauce.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Wild Poppy Drinks

Mykey’s favorite is the Peppermint Lemonade.  These drinks are found in the refrigerator case. I tried the Grapefruit Ginger, which was also wonderful!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Lassen’s Deli Raw Kale Salad

Mykey will often order this salad when she comes out of the office for lunch.  It is a very popular salad from our Deli!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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 Majestic Garlic Spread

This is an amazing Non-GMO, Raw, and Vegan spread that is fantastic on bread or vegetables or crackers.  We usually have some of this spread at my house, too!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
So next time you see some fantastic artwork at Lassen’s, you’ll know to thank Mykey!  So…

Lettuce Celebrate!

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Enjoy the artwork!  (And aren’t we grateful for the amazing talent of our artists?  I sure am!)
 
love,
 
Lassen’s
healthy+lunches, pizza+rolls, homemade+lunch+rolls, ham+and+cheese+rolls, cooking+with+kids

Take Some Time to Save Some Time on Healthy Lunches

Homemade Lunch Rolls

Making lunches before school was always such an ordeal at our house.  With kids going different directions and with different schedules and tastes, it was a huge challenge every weekday morning.

 

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But one year I started doing something that made a big difference.  And yesterday I recreated it with four grandsons: We made pizza and ham-n-cheese rolls.

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Back in the day, about once per month, I would make a large batch of these rolls.  Then I would  individually wrap and freeze them, and each morning the kids could choose the kind they wanted (or make another kind of sandwich) and pack their own lunch.  Since the roll was frozen, it would slowly thaw until it was just right at lunchtime.  

It seems like a big job, but the kids had fun helping to make them, and then the morning routine was much faster.

You Will Need:

 
https://sites.google.com/site/lassenslovesgaylerecipes/homemade-healthy-lunch-rolls

Makes 12-15 Lunch Rolls

  • 2 cups organic whole wheat flour, divided
  • 2 cups organic unbleached white flour, divided
  • 1 TBSP yeast (or two packages)
  • 1 cup organic whole or 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup organic raw sugar
  • 1/3 cup organic butter
  • 2 organic eggs, beaten
  • Fillings such as pizza sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, sliced ham, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes, left-over shredded chicken, pulled pork, etc

Step One:

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Make the Dough

  • Blend 1 cup each of whole wheat and white flour, add the yeast and stir together
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  • Heat to about 100 degrees (it should feel slightly warm to the touch) the milk, sugar, and butter.  Do not overheat or you will kill the yeast.
  • Slightly beat the eggs with a fork
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  • Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture, and blend on low with a hand mixer
  • Add the eggs and mix at medium speed for 3 minutes
  • Add 1/2 cup of white flour and 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and blend, using a wooden spoon
 
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  • Remove the spoon and blend with your hand until the flour is incorporated.   Add enough of the remaining flour to get a smooth and slightly sticky dough.  You don’t want it dry.
  • Pick up the dough and pour 2 tsps organic olive oil on the bottom of the bowl.  Put the dough on top of the oil and turn it over and over until it is coated.  This will prevent the dough from drying out.
 
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  • Cover with a clean light dish towel, and let raise until double in size.  This depends on the temperature of the room, but it will take at least an hour
 
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  • Gather your fillings
  • When the dough has risen double, punch it down and clear your workspace.  Since I had helpers, I cleared the whole counter!
  • Take about a 1/3 cup size of dough, and flatten it into a circle about 5″ across and 1/4 inch thick

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  • Add your fillings–pizza sauce, pepperoni, cheese, or ham and cheese (Sun-dried tomatoes and olives would be great!  Or chopped broccoli and cheese!)
 
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  • Fold up three edges and pinch together, and then fold up the rest and pinch together to hold the filling inside
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I did it!
  • Place the rolls on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray
 
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  •  Brush with butter.  This will help the rolls to bake a golden brown color.  
 
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  • Allow to raise for about an hour.  The won’t get significantly bigger, but you’ll see the dough gets puffier.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until golden
 
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We had these for dinner last night with watermelon and cucumbers!

 

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Yum!
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Even the pickiest eater ate it!
 
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And the one-year-old loved it!

Lassen’s carries a selection of fun lunch boxes to help reduce lunchtime waste!  This one is a full kit! 

 
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Or you can add these fun reusable containers to the box you already have
 
 
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How do you like this stainless steel stacking set?
 
 
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Or a spaceship fabric set!
 
 
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With a little planning and preparation, making school lunches doesn’t have to be stressful!
 
 
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Happy Back to School!
 
Love,
 
Lassen’s
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Flashback! Cooking as a Kid–or with one!

4-H In My Youth

I know that 4-H in this part of the country (and many others) means hogs and steers, but my introduction to 4-H was with a group of my girlfriends when I was about eight or nine.  One of the moms decided to start a 4-H club for us, so we spent lots of time at her house learning homemaking skills.
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Sounds old-fashioned, doesn’t it?

And I suppose it was.  But I was just having fun with my friends, learning some food basics, and gaining confidence in the kitchen.  I did lots of cooking with my mom so it wasn’t all that new to me, but I loved my 4-H time nonetheless.  
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That 4-H Club experience helped me to not be afraid of being in the kitchen or of having my children in the kitchen with me.  So my kids regularly made salad or peeled vegetables or measured ingredients or made dessert.  They assisted with everything I was doing.   When they went off to college I knew they wouldn’t starve — or live on fast food — because they were comfortable in the kitchen.

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Some of my favorite phones calls when they were away at school were the ones that started, “Mom, how do you make…?” asking for a recipe.  (I always knew when it was one son’s turn to cook for his dinner group!)

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One of the keys to cooking with kids is to make it fun, not a chore.  Kids are much more likely to eat healthy foods when they have had a hand in growing, harvesting, shopping, and preparing the foods themselves. 

I always loved to eat this side dish when I was a kid, because I got to make the bunny face!

 

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We didn’t have a lot of junk food around our house when I was growing up–no chips or sodas–but we always had the makings for this kind of a snack! 

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Invite your kids into the kitchen!  It will be fun for you and for them.  Teach them how to use the juicer and the blender, the oven and the stove.  Maybe you could be that mom who gets a bunch of giggly girls together to learn to be healthy gourmet cooks.  They will thank you some day!

I found a very simple kid-friendly hummus recipe here.  I think I’ll be making this recipe with my grandsons at Grandma Camp this year!  (They love to be in charge of turning the food processor on and off!)
 
Enjoy the kids in the kitchen!
 
love,
 
Lassen’s
 
 
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Focus on Local–Ojai Olive Oil

Ojai Olive Oil

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I sure didn’t appreciate the beauty of the olive tree when I had one in the front yard of our first little house.  It was pretty, but I had no idea what was hiding in those little orbs.  The nutritional value of olive oil is vast.  From this website I learned that olive oil can improve the immune system and protect agains viruses.  Heart disease, cancer, strokes, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and other conditions can be beneficially affected by consuming olive oil.  (Very interesting information!)  Olives are an important part of the Mediterranean Diet — you can learn more at the balance me beautiful website — which is a super healthy way to eat!

 

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I recently spent an afternoon with Alice Asquith, who showed me around the Ojai Olive Oil company’s olive grove and pressing operation, and learned so much more about the amazing olive.  It was a gorgeous summer day in Ojai, and Alice was kind and gracious.  

A Little History…

Did you know that until the 1780s, there were no olive trees in California?  The Padres from Spain introduced the trees so that they could have their olive oil.  It took over 100 years before California farmers were interested in growing olives.  In fact, there are still not enough olive growers in America to supply America’s olive oil needs.  Only 20% of the olive oil Americans consume is produced in America, even though there are many climates that are suited to olive growing.  

 

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In 1982, Alice’s husband, Ronald, bought a ten acre orange grove as a retirement project.  They moved to Ojai from metropolitan Los Angeles, and eventually replanted the grove in olives.  In 1998 he bought 36 more acres, where they now have the center of their operation. This grove had been planted in 1880!  The original farmers made oil until 1910, but after that the trees just sat — for 78 years.  No oil was made from the olives–they just fell to the ground and rotted.  Ron began to give them lot of TLC, and after just three years, the trees began to produce beautifully.  In 2001 they made their first olive oil.    The entire grove is now certified organic. 

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They started selling their oil–in their signature blue bottles–at farmer’s markets.

Ron decided to plant other varieties, and now they have nine different olive varieties in the groves.  At first they blended all of the varieties into their blended oil, but now they make both pure and blended variety oils.  

 

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 Three years ago they started suppling their oil to a cosmetic maker, and they have lovely soaps and creams made from their oil.

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Ronald spent many hours studying and learning about olive growing, and he had some wonderful mentors to help him along his way.  The groves now have over 3000 trees, which are thriving, but Alice said that “the weather is the boss.”  From budding to harvest, the trees must be nurtured.

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

The olive trees blossom in late April or so, and it takes six months from blossom to first harvest.  The olives will stay green for as long as possible, and then they start to ripen in early October.  During the harvest time they have to constantly watch the olives to make sure they harvest at the right time.  They wait until most of the olives are ripe–have turned color–then they harvest, all by hand.

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

It takes sixty pounds of olives to make one gallon of olive oil!  But if the weather has been very hot, the yield will be a little higher.  The olives are taken directly from the groves to be milled the day they are harvested. 

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First the olives are washed and the leaves blown off, and then the olives are crushed–chopped and pushed through a sieve. 

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You can see how the olives would be crushed as they moved down through this part of the machine and into the next step!  

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Once it moves into the drums, the olives are now the consistency of paste, and looks sort of like oatmeal.

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

The paste is stirred up slowly.  No heat or water is added.  It is protected from air to prevent oxidation.   

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The paste begins to separate, and then the centrifuge begins to spin to assist the separation by density and weight.  It takes 90 minutes from start to finish!  They can process up to 800 pounds of olives per hour.  The oil is strained and bottled.

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

The International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) has established standards for extra-virgin olive oil.  A sample of every batch of Ojai Olive Oil is sent to a lab for blind testing to make sure it meats the highest standards, and has less than 0.8% acidity.

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This Tuscan is one of the Ojai Olive Oil blends!

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Photo from Ojai Olive Oil

At the end of the process, there is a waste made of pulp, skins, and pits, shown above.  Ojai Olive Oil Company uses this to make compost.  

Some companies will add chemicals and apply heat to the waste so they can extract more of the oil.  However, these oils do not meet the “Extra-virgin” standards, and are often sold under the names, “Pure” or “Extra Light Tasting.”  These oils are about as far away from extra-virgin as can be.  (Do not be fooled by the “pure” label!)  And they do not have the health benefits of extra-virgin olive oil.
 
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Ojai Olive Oil Company also gives free tours and tastings at their grove.  You can see the machines and taste the oils!  For times and more detailed information about their ranch and story, click here.

If you have a morning or afternoon to stroll through an olive grove and learn about olive oil–not to mention taste some delightful deliciousness–I recommend going to Ojai and take a tour.  But if you don’t have the time, remember that you can find this deliciousness at Lassen’s.  
 
Love, 
 
Lassen’s
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Gorgeous Plums–You Can Do More Than Just Eat Them Plain!

A-Meen-O-Mum (I Want a Plum!)

That’s what one of my toddlers said when he wanted to have a plum.  Plums have long been a favorite at our house.  I like the varieties with tart skins and sweet flesh the most.  Peter likes the black plums best. But whatever the variety, when they are in season I always have some in my shopping cart.
 
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Recently I was looking for something easy to do with the bag of glorious organic plums that I’d brought home from Lassen’s, and found this recipe.  I made them, with my own changes, for dinner last night, as an accompaniment to baked chicken and roasted red potatoes (along with this recipe for kale and quinoa salad).  They got rave reviews!

 

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You’ll Need:

  • 4 organic plums, halved and pitted.  I used the red variety, but the recipe will work with any.
  • 1/3 cup organic orange juice — can use freshly squeezed
  • 1 1/2 TSP packed organic brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp organic ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp organic ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp organic ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp organic ground cardamom

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Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and spray a shallow baking dish with cooking spray
  • Cut and pit the plums and then place them, cut side up, in the baking dish
  • Mix together the orange juice, the brown sugar and the spices until blended.
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  • Pour the mixture over the plums.
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  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  The plums will be hot and the sauce bubbly.
  • Serve warm!
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Best Additional Use For This Recipe:

Syrup for Ice Cream.

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Yes.  The spiced plum syrup that was bubbling in the pan was SO delicious that we cracked open the vanilla ice cream and spooned some of the syrup on top.  

It. Was. Fab.

I will definitely make this recipe many many times!  It would be great made with pluots, peaches, cherries, or apricots!  Or a blend of fruits–yum!
 
Enjoy the rest of the stone fruit season!
 
love,
 
Lassen’s
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Another Quick Dish–this one can be Vegetarian!

Kalamata Olive Pasta…Otherwise Known as Pasta Puttanesca

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I always have the ingredients for this easy Italian Pasta dish on hand for those busy days when I just don’t want to cook, but I want to eat!  This dinner takes only about 30 minutes, including the salad shown!

Kalamata Olive Pasta (Pasta Puttanesca)

(This recipe is adapted from one found on the Epicurious website)  Serves 6

 

 

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You will need:

  • 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • 5 cloves organic garlic, minced or forced through a garlic press
  • 1 TBSP Wild Caught Anchovy Paste
  • 1/2 tsp hot red-pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/3 cup organic extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 28-oz can of Muir Glen organic diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup drained pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 TBSP drained organic capers
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh organic basil

Begin:

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil
Puree the tomatoes in a blender (I used my small food processor because my blender was broken!  Boo! But it worked alright)

 

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Mince or press the garlic
Coarsely chop the olives
When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente
 
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat
Add the garlic, anchovy paste, and red pepper flakes, and stir occasionally until fragrant.  This only takes about 2 minutes.
 
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Add the tomato puree to the garlic oil 

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Stir and then add the Kalamata olives and capers, then bring to a gentle simmer and add salt and pepper to taste 

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Meanwhile, chop the basil, and check the pasta to see if it is done.  When it is al dente, drain.  You can toss the pasta into the sauce if you would like.  Or serve the pasta and sauce separately.   

Make the salad–this takes only about 5 minutes!

Easy Caprese Salad

 

This is one of my favs!

You Will Need:

  • Mozzarella Fresca (Fresh Mozzarella), drained.  I like the little balls–they are about 1/2″ rounds
  • Organic cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • Organic Basil, coarsely chopped
  • Organic Balsamic Vinegar
  • Organic extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fresh-ground salt and pepper, to taste
Just toss everything together!  I do about half the amount of Mozzarella Fresca to the amount of tomatoes (2 cups of tomatoes, 1 cup of Mozzarella Fresca), then add the basil, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper to taste

Now Serve!

Stir the basil into the pasta sauce, and pass shredded parmesan cheese, if you’d like.  Everything is ready!
 
We like to have some Lassen’s Baked Rosemary Bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil on the side.

 

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Seriously!  It’s dinner in about a half hour!

This is a perfect meal for a busy summer day when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen!  
 
Happy pasta-ing!
 
Love,
 
Lassen’s