Tag Archives: olive oil

Friday Linkage 2/24/2017

November 9th was a day of some serious despair, but I see a lot of potential in the awakening of a progressive spirit and an exposure of the right wing’s anti-people agenda.  Yes, it will be a lot of work to make any kind of meaningful change given the dynamics of elections in the U.S.  Yes, Donald Trump is a dumpster fire in human form that happens to inhabit the Oval Office.  However, there has been a spark that has ignited a liberal fire like no other time in recent memory.

On to the links…

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Lowest Since 1994—A lot of this decline has to do with the replacement of coal with natural gas in the electrical generation sector and a recession that dampened demand across a whole host of industries.  Nonetheless, the data is compelling:


The Future of Solar Power Technology is Bright—No matter what the political environment looks like in the future, the potential of solar is very real.

Record Wind & Solar Keep The Lights On In NSW As Coal & Gas Went Missing—Renewable energy can make the grid more reliable.  This should put the argument about intermittency to bed.

Wind Technician Jobs Growing, in Iowa and Nationally—The sooner that everyone realizes that there are more people working in renewable energy jobs, like wind turbine technicians, the sooner that we can get past the narrative of coal jobs being the only energy jobs that matter.

Drilling Experts Explain why Trump Can’t Bring Back Oilfield Jobs—The jobs will not be coming back because like coal before it automation and market changes are driving the need for actual human labor down.

University of Iowa Announces it will be Coal-Free by 2025—Each power generating facility or consumer that goes coal-free is another brick in the wall in eliminating coal from our energy infrastructure.  Yes, it will take a long time.  Yes, it is inevitable if we keep up the pressure.

Petcoke Piles Gone, but Another Dangerous Pollutant Discovered in the Air—If you think that there is no place for the EPA it is likely that you do not live in a community affected by this kind of pollution.  Low income communities are at the mercy of polluters because they do not have the political clout of the Koch brothers.

Which Ski Run Is Better for the Planet?—Ski hills go out of business.  What comes after is hard to imagine as you spend your days sliding.  However, the way we develop ski runs can make a major difference for the next stage of the land’s lifecycle.

Almost Every Packaged Food Comes from These Two Companies—The merger between Kraft Heinz and Unilever may have died, but this should give you some sense as to how consolidated the center aisles of the grocery store have become.

Olive Oil Shortage Looms as Prices and Demand Rise—Climate change has come for our coffee, chocolate, and hops.  Now olive oil is the crosshairs.  When will the larger populace realize that the impacts of climate change is here.

Fifth of World’s Food Lost to Over-Eating and Waste—Food insecurity is not a question of production it is a question of distribution, availability, and affordability.  It is a god damned shame that we live in a world where a significant portion of the world’s population is overweight while a similarly large portion of the world’s population is food insecure.


Four Ingredient Jalapeno Cashew Spread

For some reason I decided to plant a single jalapeno bush in my garden. I am not a particularly heavy user of jalapenos in my cooking at home because none of my other family members are fans of the flavor or the heat. Chalk it up to garden center optimism, which is the same syndrome that causes people to buy twice as many plant starts than they actually have space for in the garden. Guilty as charged.

In the past week or so, as the heat has been turned up outside and the weather took a turn for the dry, the jalapeno bush exploded in peppers:


How does one take a bowl of jalapenos that are rotting away on the counter and turn them into something that is easy to eat? Enter jalapeno cashew spread. Specifically, super easy four ingredient jalapeno cashew spread.

In the handy dandy Ninja blender I combine rough cut jalapenos, a few cups of unsalted cashews, a dash of sea salt, and some very neutral vegetable oil:


Pulse or blend that mixture until it takes on a consistency to your liking. Some people I know add more oil until it is almost smooth like peanut butter. I prefer a little coarser texture and less oil. It’s all up to you.

Another option is to use olive oil instead of a neutral vegetable oil like canola. I have yet to try olive oil as I like the jalapeno and nut flavors to come through.

What you will be left with is a bowl of spicy spread that is perfect for toasted sourdough:



Friday Linkage 9/26/2014

Where did summer go? I sort of woke up and realized that fall was already here. There is a chill in the night air, football is in full swing, and ski resorts are sending out countdowns to opening day so I guess I should have known the change was afoot. Still, I really was not ready.

On to the links…

Depression era Photos from Your Hometown—A collaboration between the Library of Congress and Yale University has produced a catalog of over 175,000 Depression era photos indexed by county. It’s just a fascinating adventure to troll through old photos of places you know today. Spend a few minutes or an hour today.

Harvest of Change—The Des Moines Register has put together fascinating portrait of the changes afoot in rural America as the current generation of farmers ages out and there is little population to support the next wave.

Wyoming Wind Farm Energy would go to L.A.—Wyoming is in the process of building out two mega wind farm developments. In total, you are looking at approximately $16 BILLION of investment and over 5,100 megawatts of clean energy being pumped into the grid. Damn.

REC Solar Breaks 27 MW Installed Capacity in Hawaii—Hawaii may be the test tube state for renewable energy because its grid is independent of the rest of the nation and costs are high. If only HECO would get out of the way of progress. Fat chance.

Within 10 Years, Every SolarCity System will come with Batteries from Tesla’s Gigafactory—Storage of renewable energy is one of the harbingers of a smart and resilient electricity grid. Tesla and SolarCity appear to be the ones driving toward that future in a coherent and coordinated manner.

Putting Solar Panels On School Roofs Could Dramatically Increase America’s Solar Capacity—So, there are a ton of flat roofs out there with little need for electricity in the sweltering summer months. Let’s get some solar panels out there today.

Kazakhstan Mulls Adding 713 MW of Solar PV Capacity by 2020—Has the world gone solar crazy when Kazakhstan, better known for bad governance and Borat, is developing some serious solar PV? Just asking.

Obama Is Working To Protect An Unknown Tropical Paradise—Marine sanctuaries are amazing things. No one, outside of international fishing interests, argues against the establishment of the zones and the protection of a relatively small portion of the oceans may yield massive returns.

For Polar Bears, a Climate Change Twist—Polar bears are having a hard time sealing because of the lack of sea ice, but snow geese are on the menu now. If only I could get a few polar bears down here in Iowa to consume the Canada geese that crap over everything.

California Adopts new Olive Oil Standards—Given the level of forgery olive oil should really be called snake oil. California is trying to put some rigor and standardization around the labeling to assist consumers and protect the industry from the less scrupulous players.

Behind the Scenes at America’s Largest Contiguous Hop Farm—This is a fun tour of a huge hops farm in northern Idaho. If you are a beer drinker you owe it to yourself to spend a few minutes checking out this amazing operation.

Friday Linkage 7/25/2014

It seems like the world is falling apart or maybe we were just living through a period where the time until doomsday was much further out. I do not know, but it sure feels like things have gotten really crazy in the last couple of months.

On to the links…

National Park Service Calls Development Plans a Threat to Grand Canyon—Seriously, why can we not leave the Grand Canyon alone? First, it’s damning the Colorado River and next it’s uranium mining and then it’s airplane tours that are supremely annoying. And on it goes…

Obama Administration Opens Eastern Seaboard To Oil Drilling Surveys—This was a total WTF moment. Isn’t enough of the U.S. open to oil and gas exploration already? Aren’t oil and gas companies sitting on millions of acres of leases? Confusing.

Despite Foot-Draggers in Congress, Wind Turbine Company Adding 800 Jobs to Colorado Manufacturing—Everything is in spite of Congress these days, but as the price to deploy wind equals the price to produce electricity from coal there will be no requirement for Congress to act. The market will have decided.

Iowa Governor Accused Of Passing Up $1 Million For New Solar—If all politics is local, I guess that my local clown is Terry Branstad who is the biggest shill for industry in state politics right now. Never mind the hush money paid to people that were fired or his inability to follow basic traffic laws, Governor “Brain Dead” is a joke when it comes to moving the state forward.

States Against E.P.A. Rule on Carbon Pollution Would Gain—Too bad certain politicians’ objections to anything done by the Obama administration is driven by politics and optics as opposed to reality. The benefit to a state’s citizens is irrelevant if there is hay to be made on Fox News.

Texas Is Wired for Wind Power, and More Farms Plug In—Texas actually took a proactive approach to building an infrastructure to exploit wind power and it is paying off. Hard to believe in a state that is run by a clown like Rick Perry that something this visionary was undertaken.

China’s Energy Plans Will Worsen Climate Change—Is there ever any good news from China lately? At least this is not the start of the zombie apocalypse.

Tall Wood is the Next Big Thing in Construction—There have been reports that so called “tall wood” will take off as construction costs with more traditional steel and concrete rise due to global demand and climate concerns, but I am not holding my breath given the power of vested interests.

California’s Next Oil Rush might be Surprisingly Delicious—As California confronts the reality of a drier future it’s water intensive agriculture is going to need to look at other crops if it expects to be in the business for any period of time. Almonds and alfalfa are going to be out and olives might just be in.

California Couple Tries To Conserve Water, Ends Up Facing $500 Fine For Brown Lawn—Never mind the drought and the state asking for people to conserve water, if the HOA or city demands a green lawn in the desert it must be done.

How Morro Bay Went from a National Disaster to a Sustainable Success Story—It is possible, even in California, to have a success story.

Cargill to Phase Out use of Growth-Promoting Antibiotics in Turkeys—The elimination of antibiotics as a growth promotion agent is one of the simplest reforms that can be undertaken to check the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. An extra pound or so on a turkey carcass is not worth one life lost to a drug-resistant bacterial infection.

Eat Invasive Species!—Invasivore.org is a site dedicated to spreading the know how and culinary skills necessary to make delectable delights from your local invasive species. Asian carp anyone?

Soylent Survivor: One Month Living on Lab-made Liquid Nourishment—It’s hard to believe how much mileage the creator of this meal replacement has gotten. If it had been named Slim-Fast does anyone think that the media would have paid this much attention? Nope.

Why Don’t Ice Cream Sandwiches Melt Anymore?—The obvious answer is that the white stuff in the middle is not actually ice cream. Still, I am a little frightened by the chemical concoction that is being passed off as ice cream. Another reason for homemade.

Friday Linkage 9/6/2013

Some of these links may be a little dated given that it is the news that I have been interested in over the past couple of weeks.  Obviously, I had some stuff going on at the homefront.

On to the links…

Beer vs. Oil: Beer Wins—Enbridge Oil is a ship of fools.  First, they spill a bunch of nasty tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River.  When they get ordered to clean up their spill completely, which they probably tried to get out of using some technicality, the plan was a joke.  At least the good guys won this one.

The Untold Story Of Western Ranchers And Their Epic Battle Against Coal—Has the coal industry found a way to piss off everyone in the U.S.?  Now it looks like they have lost the rugged ranchers of the western U.S.  Who is left on their side?  Congress.  Damn.

Climate Change’s Original Sin—There is no discrete “environmental” journalism anymore because climate change is the single issue that is enmeshed with every decision that we will make for the foreseeable future.

Cattle—not climate change—killing the Great Barrier Reef—It looks like the obsession with eating meat is the primary cause of destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.  Enjoy the hamburger, mate!

The Real Reason Kansas Is Running Out of Water—So, we suck water out of the ground to grow corn that we stuff down the gullets of feedlot cattle.  Great system.

A Nevada Tribe’s Epic Battle To Replace A Deadly Coal Plant With Solar—Even if the Moapa Paiutes are successful in cleaning up the Reid-Gardner power plant there is a chance that natural gas development will follow.  Given the history of suffering of native people, is there an end in sight?

The Fracking Rig Next Door—Do you wonder what it would be like to have a fracking rig move in down the street?  Well, here are the photos.  Think about what it would be like before you spout off that fracking is our pathway to energy independence.

Four New Wind Farms In The Upper Midwest Could Power 750,000 Homes— Every week or month seems to bring news of a windfarm development in my neck of the woods that is bigger and badder than the prior announcement.  One of the numbers in the article that is crazy is 1,650.  That is the number of windpower megawatts that Xcel is awaiting on approval.  Blow, baby blow!

With Rooftop Solar on Rise, U.S. Utilities Are Striking Back—Utilities are scared of the rise in rooftop solar because it shakes their business model to its very foundations.  They also like total control.  Bullies don’t like it when someone takes away their toys and control.  Get ready for the playground fight of the next decade.

The Latest Clean Energy Cocktail: Bacteria And Fungus—It is crazy to see what scientists are doing with simple organisms in the pursuit of biofuels.  As the technology develops and matures there may be a hope for next generation biofuels to fulfill the promise of the current generation of biofuels.

Why Pushing Alternate Fuels Makes for Bad Public Policy—John DeCicco makes a salient point that there is no environmental reason to make a headlong rush into promoting alternative fuels for transportation use.  His point is that cleaning upstream power generation—in terms of both pollutants and carbon dioxide—is more important than cleaning up downstream users—e.g. you and I.  I am down with this point to a certain level.  I believe that we need to attack the problem from both ends, but the political reality is that there is only so much political capital to tackle these problems.

The United States uses 39% of the energy it produces, wastes 61%…—If you thought that there was not room for efficiency in the portfolio of climate change solutions, I give you this graphic:


Six Tips to Buying Better Olive Oil—Olive oil is such a huge part of my culinary regime that it is hard to read an article like this and not wonder about the liquid in my cabinet.  Of course, I try to buy oil sourced from U.S. farms so some of my concerns are overblown. As it says in the final tip, “If there’s a shorthand way of looking for quality, reach for olive oil from the Golden State.”

Building a Better Mass-Market Tomato—There is not better way to improve the lot of grocery store vegetables than to finally develop a tomato that actually tastes like something more than acid water.  We can all hope, right?

The Obesity Era—This has to be one of the most thought provoking and depressing things that I have read in a long time.  Do we live in the obesity era?

Where Sand Is Gold, the Reserves Are Running Dry—Is there a more unsustainable state than Florida?  It’s beaches are eroding, the ground literally swallows buildings, and the landscape is a haven for invasive species.  Does it ever end?  I cannot wait for vacation in Orlando.

After the Fire: The Uncertain Future of Yosemite’s Forests—Our management policies and climate change may have conspired to create a fire regime that now threatens to permanently alter the landscape of the western U.S.  Uh oh!

Friday Linkage 2/8/2013

This was an interesting week.  More cabinet positions in the Obama adminastration opened up, but one spot–Secretary of the Interior–was filled, pending confirmation.  I think it was considered a surprise that Sally Jewell, the CEO of outdoor outfitter REI, was chosen.  I think it was a somewhat inspired choice because she brings environmental street cred, business experience, and some history with the oil and gas industry.  I am sure that Republican jack asses will find something to hold up the confirmation with, but that is what jack asses do.

On to the links…

U.S. Carbon Emissions Drop to 1994 Levels–It looks like the drop in carbon emissions in the U.S. is not just a reflection of the recession but a more permanent change in the state of affairs.  Sweet.

New Mexico Utility Agrees to Buy Solar Power at a Price Cheaper than Coal–You know that solar has reached a tipping point when commercial contracts for supplying power are priced lower than dirty ol’ coal.  This is really good news.

Wind Farms in Spain Break Energy Record–Since November 1, 2012 electricity generated from wind has been the number 1 source.  Not the number 1 renewable, but the number 1 source among all generation types.  In total wind equals approximately 25% of the total electricity for Spain.  We can take the carbon out of our infrastructure.

We Pay More for Gas than Every Before–In the U.S. the average household spends $2,912 on gas or 4% of the average household pre-tax income.  WTF?  So, even though we are consuming fewer gallons of gas we are paying more for each gallon.

Planting Trees may not Reverse Climate Change, but it Will Help Locally–Damn, and I thought that all of those tree planting schemes were the answer to climate change.  But, it is good to see that there is a chance that planting trees can help reduce the impacts of climate change in a local micro-climate.

On Decimated Shores, A Second Chance for Christmas Trees–It looks like Christmas trees can have other uses besides being mulched.  In Minnesota, I remember trees being sunk in the Mississippi River to provide spawning grounds for fish because driftwood got stuck behind all of the dams.

For Marginalized Urban Recyclers, a Non-Profit with a Can Do Attitude–Canners, or the people you see picking up cans and bottles for the redemption, are one of those urban underbelly populations that people do not even consider.  I am glad to see that someone is trying to make life easier for people who live on the margins.

 World’s First Electric Car Ferry Recharges in 10 Minutes–This boat is wicked cool.  The technology just seems like something that makes sense.  If only we could find a way to replace the S.S. Badger’s dirty engines with something awesome like this Norwegian beauty.

The Cosmestics Wars–Why do we allow companies to use chemicals that are unknown to be safe or not?  Why is the standard not to prove harm but to prove safety?

Trade Group Lawsuit Challenges Olive Oil Labeling–I thought the situation was bad for trying to figure out the country of origin when it came to live oil.  It appears that there is a whole other level subterfuge. Great.

Europe Announces Sweeping Changes to Fisheries Policy–It’s a step in the right direction.  The fact that we thrown away nearly as much fish as we keep for processing is insane when you consider the pressure that the oceans are under.  Maybe there is hope for us after all.

Two Bills Propose Zero Tolerance for Bison–It is ridiculous the way that bison are treated in Montana because of misconceptions.  Never mind the destruction and disease spread by cattle.  Ridiculous.

Why People are Eatig their Own Trash–If you thought the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans was something to worry about when you are at the beach you would be mistaken:


Olive Oil Fraud

Olive oil is one of those foods that we are supposed to consume with abandon.  In terms of health, it is rich in monounsaturated fats—particularly oleic acid—that is associated with a “heart healthy” diet.  It is a prime component of the so-called “Mediterranean diet” that is touted as a lifestyle choice that can lead to longevity.

In my house, olive oil and butter—not margarine, but real honest to God butter—are the two fats that get used in cooking the most.  Each has their place and the flavors are quite different.  However, after hearing an interview with Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, I have deep reservations about the bottle of goodness in my pantry.

Apparently, it’s a charade.  You may think you are buying extra-virgin olive oil imported from Italy.  In reality, you are probably buying some other grade of olive oil that was actually grown and pressed in a country other than Italy.  To become “Italian” the oil was imported to Italy for bottling and exported from that location thus “Italian” olive oil.  That would be no different than sending a big jug of wine from New York to Bordeaux, changing the bottle, and calling it “French.”

How pervasive is this problem?  In the interview, Mueller posits that approximately 4 out of 10 bottles labeled “Italian” are merely packaged in Italy.

Even worse, there is a lot of olive oil that is adulterated.  At the worst, according to Mueller, is that producers include non-olive oils in blends and sell the resulting product as “olive oil.”  Another trick is to use low quality olives, refined through a process to resemble extra virgin olive oil, and selling the result as tradition extra virgin olive oil.  This is all a play to produce cheap olive oil.

And get this, these adulterated products—even if they contain lower quality olive oils—do not possess the health benefits of true extra virgin olive oil.

So, what’s the solution?  Like everything with regard to food in the modern world, it’s about knowing and trusting the producer.  Unlike tomatoes or pork, it is very tough to source olive oil from a local producer in Iowa.

First, read this report from the University of California-Davis.  It is a very rigorous study that details many brands of olive oil which passed several levels of testing in order to be considered virgin or extra virgin.  Surprisingly, or not so surprising if you have listened to the interview with Tom Mueller, is that 69 percent of imported olive oils and 10 percent of California olive oils failed the sensory standards for extra virgin status.  This would be unsurprising if all of these samples had not been labeled as extra virgin.  Talk about fraud.

Second, find a brand of olive oil you can trust and stick with it.  Recently I have changed my purchasing habits away from imported olive oil toward California grown olive oil.  Why?  I want to keep the dollars in the U.S. economy and there is less incentive to lie about the origins of U.S. olive oil, unlike the Italian appellation.

At my local Costco, I found this olive oil:

Olive OilCalifornia Olive Ranch was one of the companies that had all of its samples pass the sensory panels in the UC Davis report.  The Miller’s Blend is supposed to have more flavor than a traditional extra virgin olive oil.

Getting two 1 liter bottles for ~$15 is just icing on the cake.  Or drizzle on the ice cream if I follow the advice of Tom Mueller.