Author Archives: Libby Freligh

The F. Oliver’s / Owl House Dinner

F. Oliver’s Pairing Dinner – Monday, August 28th

Dinner $50, optional cocktail pairing $15

Call The Owl House for Reservations 585-360-2920

A vegetarian option is available by reserving 72 hours in advance.

Course I
Charred bread, housemade ricotta, F. Oliver’s Meyer Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil,
F. Oliver’s Summer Blueberry Balsamic reduction
– – – – – – – – – –
Martini – Gin, French vermouth, F. Oliver’s Arbosana Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Course II
F. Oliver’s Tunisian Harissa Extra Virgin Olive Oil poached grilled octopus with smoked pineapple, charnuska seed, F. Oliver’s Creamy Coconut Balsamic gastrique
– – – – – – – – – –
El Diablo – Tequila, lime, F. Oliver’s Mediterranean Cassis Balsamic shrub, seltzer

Course III
Sumac & Aleppo Pepper rubbed beef tenderloin, citrus yogurt, radish, pickled shallot,
F. Oliver’s Petit Beurre Extra Virgin Olive Oil
– – – – – – – – – –
Daiquiri – Rum, Lime, Sugar, F. Oliver’s Petit Burre Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Course IV
F. Oliver’s Blood Orange Extra Virgin Olive Oil cake with vanilla ice cream & F. Oliver’s Dark
Chocolate Balsamic hot fudge
– – – – – – – – – –
Cocchi Dopo Teatro & F. Oliver’s Boort Picual Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A Tale of Two Picuals

It was the best of times, it was the best of times. Apologies to Dickens but we’re lucky to have two incredible examples of the Picual olive in two very different ultra-premium extra-virgin olive oils (EVOOs).

Two independent producers created equally fabulous but different EVOOs.  One is a family business, the other founded by two friends from university. One is from Chile, the other, Australia. Here is the story of our two Picuals.

The Alonso Estate 

Alonso Olive Oil is based in the O’Higgins region of Chile, an area the Alonso family chose because of its Mediterranean-like climate. Headed by Don Abel Alonso, the family cultivates over seven olive varietals, each perfectly suited to the soil and climate of the estate.

The Alonso Family Olive Estate in Chile

Though their varietals and approach to quality are traditional, their production methods are state of the art. Not only do they use the most efficient machinery available to process the olives, they also adhere to a strict sustainability policy. Guiding their use of water and power and approach to employee training, the policy covers everything from using alternative energy sources to crediting employees for hours spent on socially responsible projects.

By combining old and new, the Alonso family creates extraordinary EVOOs that taste great, are great for you and are great for the planet.  

The Boort Estate

On the other side of the world is the Boort Estate, part of Boundary Bend Limited. The Boort estate is one of the world’s largest single estate olive groves and like Alonso, they cultivate multiple olive varietals, including Arbequina, Frantoio, Koroneiki, and Hojiblanca, in addition to this lovely Picual.

The Boort Olive Estate in Boort, Victoria, Australia

Boundary Bend was established in 1998 by horticulturists Rob McGavin and Paul Riordan. Meeting at university, they shared a vision of a modern Australian olive industry. Financed by friends and family, Rob and Paul planted their first grove of 200 hectares (about 500 acres) in 1999. They now own 2.2 million producing trees on over 6,070 hectares of pristine Australian farmland.

Like the Alonso family, they rely on modern production methods to provide incredibly high-quality EVOOs at a reasonable price. Boundary Bend is vertically integrated, manufacturing olive harvesters, running Australia’s largest olive tree nursery and operating a state of the art olive oil bottling, storage and laboratory facility. They continue to innovate in all aspects of the “new world” olive industry.

Tasting Notes

Extraordinary but different, here are our staff’s tasting notes on these two great EVOOs.

Alonso Picual (Chile)

Grassy, green banana, herbal undertones with a delicate bitterness on the finish

Boort Picual (Australia)

Green tea, straw, notes of tropical fruit with an intense pungency, finishing with a distinctly pleasant bitterness.

Come in to taste all of this season’s amazing single varietals and share your tasting notes for our two Picuals!


Family Dinner as an Act of Revolution

In these uncertain economic and political times, it can be difficult to find ways to make a real difference. What if there was one thing you could do that made you healthier, saved you money, supported your local economy, and helped your children become more resilient? There is – have dinner at home, at the table, together, four times per week.

That’s it, eat family dinner. By cooking at home, you can start a revolution. I’ve written here about the benefits of using local produce, which include supporting local farmers and eating food with more nutrients and far more flavor. Reducing your carbon footprint is a happy byproduct. But couple that with cooking and eating at home and the benefits multiply.

Studies show that we eat fewer than 70% of our meals at home and fewer than ⅓ of us eats meals together more than twice a week. While these figures fall, there is a rise in obesity, food sensitivities, depression, and difficulty making ends meet. And while cooking more nights of the week seems daunting, the biggest obstacle is establishing the habit.

There’s a great site, Food52, that started as a way for cooks to swap recipes and support one another and has become that and more. They believe that cooking doesn’t have to be complicated or precious and that the act of cooking fundamentally improves your quality of life. Their motto – Eat thoughtfully, live joyfully – is one we would all do well to adopt.

I live alone and cook for myself but rarely spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I’ve discovered so many meals I can make from scratch that take less than 30 minutes of actual work, and often less than an hour from cabinet to table. I steam vegetables in the microwave, I poach a week’s worth of chicken breasts in stock, I cook beans and rice ahead of time, I get cuts of meat that take only a few minutes in a skillet to prepare. I use our spice blends, infused oils, flavored vinegars – all make assembling a quick, nutritious, and very tasty meal extremely easy.

It seems like eating out or getting take out saves time. But really, the driving, the ordering, the waiting – it’s more than 30 minutes. And the food isn’t as good.

Another site, The Family Dinner Project, has scads of great research on the benefits of family dinner, ideas for cooking with children, fun things to do with food, conversation starters and more. Their research shows that the simple act of eating dinner as a family improves academic performance, increases self-esteem, makes children more resilient while lowering the risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, depression, the likelihood of developing eating disorders and lowers rates of obesity.

Family doesn’t have to mean children, it doesn’t even have to mean blood relationships. It’s the breaking of bread the sharing of food that provides the benefits. For those of us who live alone, the benefits of cooking are still massive. Preparing your own food:

  • Saves money
  • Saves time (see above)
  • Makes you healthier
  • Avoids food sensitivities
  • Provides a creative outlet

It’s very satisfying. Start a revolution – cook dinner.


Stacey Mrva, Rochester Store Manager, Attends Class at UC Davis

In F. Oliver’s ongoing effort to make their staff the most knowledgeable resources available, Stacey Mrva, our Rochester store manager attended class at the UC Davis Olive Center.

The classroom at the UC Davis Olive Center

I interviewed her last week and asked her to share some of her experience.

Stacey, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today. I know you’re busy getting the fresh crush ready. Tell me about the class you attended in California.  

The title of the class is, “Sensory Evaluation of Olive Oil,” and it’s presented by the University of California at Davis Olive Oil Center. The class focused on evaluating olive oils – through the senses, chemistry, and by understanding the policies under which olive oil is produced and marketed.

It was great, it really taught me how to evaluate olive oils. We sampled dozens of oils and learned how to evaluate based on smell and taste.  We learned the characteristics of great oils and how to taste all kinds of deficits. I knew a lot about what makes a great olive oil from working at F. Oliver’s but there are so many different ways an olive oil can display defects. Just when I thought I was getting it, they’d throw something new at us. It was exhilarating.

What are common defects in olive oil and how can you tell?

The two most common defects are rancid and fusty. Oils become rancid when they’re not stored properly – when they’ve been exposed to heat or light. The odor and flavor are like bad walnuts or Play-Doh, or crayons. Not that I really know what Play-Doh and crayons taste like! Fustiness is caused by olives that have begun to ferment.because they weren’t stored properly before crushing. The best example of fustiness is the taste of a brown, mushy table olive.

What’s really interesting is that rancidness and fustiness are not as uncommon as you’d think. Many supermarket olive oils display these characteristics. Many people haven’t tasted truly fresh olive oil and think that the rancid or fusty oil is extra-virgin olive oil. And that’s just one of the misconceptions that we in the U. S. have.

What are some other misconceptions?

Let’s see – light oil has less fat and fewer calories. That extra-virgin olive oil has a low smoke point. That cooking olive oil releases free radicals. There are a bunch more but those are the ones that stood out for me.

Ok, set me straight.

Light oil refers to olive oil that has been refined – a process using solvents and high heat. Producers do this to remove the bad taste of poor quality olives, to blend oils from different sources, and even to include oils that did not come from olives.

Smoke point is really interesting. The lower the acidity of an oil, the higher the smoke point. EVOO acidity is measured by free fatty acidity or FFA.  Some artisanal EVOOs have an FFA as low as .07 but most quality EVOOs come in around .2 – this gives them a smoke point of about 380 degrees F. This is just below canola oil.

As far as releasing free radicals – any heating process will do this. What is different about a high-quality EVOO is that the high polyphenol counts protect the body from free radicals. Other oils do not have this property.

Why UC Davis? What is the Olive Center?

It’s a great place, really vibrant and the staff is amazingly accomplished and very cool. They are a self-funded, university / industry group that wants to do for olives what UC Davis did for wine. They run classes, the like the one I went to, they publish research, they have olive groves and sell olive-based products. There are over 60 faculty members, researchers, and farmers associated with the center.

The grounds of the UC Davis Olive Center

Who attended the training?

It was a great mix of people – farmers, olive oil importers, store owners and managers, and one woman who just loved olive oil. It was a great group of people.

Thanks Stacey for talking to me today.

You’re welcome. I’m excited to share some of what I’ve learned and it’s very timely, as the fresh crush from the Southern Hemisphere is coming in. Everyone should stop by and try it!


F. Oliver’s Summer Events

Now that summer is well and truly here, F. Oliver’s is taking its show on the road. Just like fun, we can be found at summer markets and festivals. The following is a list of where you can find us this summer. (Of course, we’re always in our stores and here in cyberspace.)

Markets

Canandaigua Farmers Market
Every other Saturday from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM
July 1, 15, and 29
August 12, 26
September 9, 23

Rochester Public Market
Saturday 6 AM – 2 PM

Ginegaw Park Farmers Market
Walworth, NY
3 PM – 6 PM
July 18, August 22, September 19

Festivals

Canandaigua Arts and Music Festival
July 14, Noon – 7 PM, July 15 – 16, 10 AM – 5 PM
Downtown Canandaigua

Curbstone Festival & Sidewalk Sales
Skaneateles, NY
July 20 – 22, 9 AM – 6 PM

Sauerkraut Weekend
Phelps, NY
August 4 – 6

Park Ave. Fest
Rochester, NY
August 5, 10 AM – 6 PM, August 6, 10 AM – 5 PM

New York State Wine Fest
New York Wine and Culinary Center
Canandaigua, NY
August 12 – 13, 10 AM – 5 PM

Events

F. Oliver’s Olive Oil Tasting at Inns of Aurora
Aurora, NY
July 26, 4 – 6 PM
Part of the Inns of Aurora Taste of Summer Series


F. Oliver’s Takes Permanent Space at Rochester Public Market

F. Oliver’s and our partner Flour City Pasta are thrilled to announce our new permanent space in the revamped B Shed at the Rochester Public Market.

The B Shed replaces the 1977 indoor vending shed as part of the Market’s $8 million dollar renovation project. In addition to replacing the indoor shed, the renovations expand the number of vendor stalls as well as adding additional amenities such as a demonstration and education kitchen.  It is expected to open in July 2017.  F. Oliver’s / Flour City Pasta space will be located right next to the new kitchen. 

“We are so excited to be part of this historic chapter in the Market’s history,” said Penelope Pankow, the proprietor of F. Oliver’s, “our partnership with Flour City and our participation in the Public Market is part of our ongoing support of local foods and local providers. We love being there, we love the energy and we love providing products that so perfectly complement local produce.”

You can find F. Oliver’s and Flour City Pasta in the outdoor C Shed until the opening of the new indoor space.


Finger Lakes Bounty

 

Three years ago, I was trying to decide where I was going to live next and one of the huge pros for moving to Rochester was the rich agricultural region in and around the Finger Lakes. I’ve been a foodie for years but my dedication for local produce goes beyond the freshness and flavor of seasonal produce.  It’s that, of course, but there’s so much more to the goodness of what it means to get your fruits and vegetables locally.

Good thing #1

Support for family farms. Just as you support local businesses, supporting local farms supports your community. It takes out the middleman, saving you money, and giving your money directly to the farmer. Knowing where your food comes from, knowing who grows your food, is grounding, almost spiritual. I was looking for shallots one week at the Rochester Public Market and the farmer I was talking to was telling me that they were late, that for some reason she couldn’t fathom, they didn’t come up. The next week, the same farmer had shallots. I remember looking at them and thinking, “I know what you were doing last week, you were still underground.” That knowledge, that feeling subtly changed the way I worked with them, personalized the way I approached cooking my meal and certainly enhanced its flavor.

Good thing #2

Reducing your carbon footprint. The shorter the distance, the smaller the carbon footprint. The amount of fossil fuel it takes to bring out of season and exotic fruits and vegetables to your grocery store is not negligible. Buy local and do your bit to help reduce climate change.

Good thing #3

Good things come to those who wait. Christmas comes but once a year as do many fruits and vegetables. The last couple years, I’ve been moving towards eating only seasonal produce and it’s been a revelation. My foodie self knew that the closer my meal is to its source, the more flavor and personality it has – by orders of magnitude. We’ve all suffered through cardboard tomatoes. But I wasn’t prepared for the sheer joy that comes from the arrival of something wonderful. Spring peas, fresh strawberries, baby asparagus all taste more fabulous for anticipating their arrival. Our culture’s trend toward providing everything all the time seems like it’s all about providing but in many instances, it actually detracts.

We are truly blessed to live in an area so rich with agricultural abundance and it’s not difficult to take advantage of it. Shop your local farmer’s market, subscribe to a CSA. Plan your meals around local produce and experience the joy it can bring.


Bring a little sunshine into Mom’s life

This Mother’s Day, bring the sun into Mom’s life with the You Are My Sunshine Gift Box.  Fresh, Bright Basis EVOO, Sunny Pineapple Balsamic vinegar, and Sunshine Seasoned Pepper spice blend provide Mom with all she needs to create sunny new dishes this spring. Complete with recipe cards for Springtime Orzo Salad and Sunny Pineapple and Basil coolers, this gift box is sure to brighten up Mom’s every day.

Looking for something a little different? One of our F. Oliver’s team members can help you put together a custom three-bottle gift box to suit any Mom’s fancy, 10% off until Mother’s Day.

Stop by any of our four locations in Rochester, Canandaigua, Ithaca, or Skaneateles.


Put Your Best Fork Forward

March is National Nutrition Month, as presented by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (www.eatright.org). Their site, and registered dieticians in general, are great sources of valid, evidence-based information on how what we eat contributes to our general well being.

Another great source of information is the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a study and group of recommendations from the US Department of Health and Human Services in coordination with the US Department of Agriculture.

In brief, the Dietary Guidelines recommend that you:

  • Eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products.
  • Eat from a variety of protein sources, including lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
  • Limit saturated fats, trans fats, salt (sodium) and added sugars.

That’s it. The complete document is long and full of solid data, studies, and more precise recommendations but it all rolls up to what my mother used to tell us, “a colorful plate, is a nutritious plate.”  

While the idea of good nutrition can get tied up with ideas of deprivation, eating foods you don’t like, or even more fundamentally, the idea of being good or bad; thinking that way isn’t ultimately helpful.  

If you see the recommendations as an all or nothing proposition, if following them or not makes you a good person or a bad person, you’ll likely fail. And more to the point, you’ll probably feel like crap.  Eating well is about feeling well, about being well so anything, especially a thought, that make you feel less than well is counter-productive.

If good nutrition is your goal, it’s a matter of figuring out where you are and determining what small steps you can take to get there. For example, if your current diet is high in added sugars and you consume a lot of soda, a small step is to drink sparkling water with flavoring instead. If your diet is high in saturated fats, substitute olive oil for butter. Small changes, over time, provide huge results.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a number of tips based on our staff’s fabulous #WellnessWednesday posts on Facebook.  These are great ways to make small changes while providing big flavor and colorful plates.

  • To moderate the unhealthy fats in your diet, replace your butter or margarine with extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle our Petit Beurre EVOO on popcorn, use the Tuscan Garden EVOO on grilled cheese, marinate your steak with our Truffle infused EVOO or scramble your eggs with Tunisian Harissa EVOO. Simply changing the lipids in your diet will help with weight loss, cardiac health, and skin radiance.
  • Turmeric is one of the most beautiful and flavorful spices in the world and has a myriad of medicinal uses. Simply incorporate turmeric into some of your favorite dishes to help with intestinal inflammation, arthritis pain, cholesterol regulation and so much more.
  • Balsamic vinegar is a great natural remedy for acid reflux and indigestion. It contains important antioxidants that trigger the release of pepsins, which are imperative for breaking proteins down into amino acids; speeding up your metabolism and aiding in digestion. Additionally, balsamic vinegar is comprised of a large amount of acetic acid, which helps balance the pH in your stomach and keeps it from overproducing hydrochloric acid, the main perpetrator of the symptoms of acid reflux.
  • Extra virgin olive oil has wonderful anti-inflammatory benefits.  Researchers estimate that the oleocanthal in extra virgin olive oil has an effect similar to ibuprofen for pain relief.
  • Balsamic vinegar stabilizes blood glucose levels. As balsamic vinegar is low on the glycemic index, it only raises your glucose levels slightly, going down over a long period of time. High glycemic foods, like processed treats, cause a sudden spike in your blood sugar. Once it spikes, glucose drops sharply to below its original level. Low glycemic foods, such as balsamic vinegar, keep you feeling satisfied for a longer period of time.
  • Balsamic vinegar supports your immune system. The grapes that are used to make balsamic vinegar contain antioxidants that fight against cell damage, improve the body’s immune system and make blood platelets more flexible.

 


Northern Hemisphere Fresh Crush Has Arrived!

We’re thrilled to announce that the Northern Hemisphere fresh crush EVOOs are available in all of our stores.

In order to ensure you have access to the freshest, highest quality olive oils we source our single varietal  EVOOs from the finest producers from the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, rotating every six months. In the Northern Hemisphere, the oil season begins in early October extending to late February.

Similar to choosing when to pick wine grapes, the best olive oil comes from harvesting and crushing the olives at right time. Picking before the olive is ripe, provides low acidity but gives the oil a green, grassy taste. Waiting until late in the season to harvest the olives provides a higher yield for the growers, which translates into more money. However, oils made from late harvest olives are often not fit for human consumption unless they’ve been refined.

Harvesting and crushing the olives at the perfect moment of ripeness means lower yields, but higher quality, and much healthier EVOOs. In addition to tasting better and having a higher smoke point, the early harvest olives contain a higher polyphenol levels – the ingredient responsible for most of EVOO’s health benefits.

This season, we selected nine single varietals from three regions. Like many fine wines and single-malt whiskies, the single varietals are made from one type of fruit. Each olive type contributes a different flavor profile, and buying a single varietal instead of a blend ensures quality, as the producer can’t use one type of olive to mask the flavor of inferior olives.

And just like wine grapes, the olive’s characteristics vary year to year, depending on weather and growing region. A Frantoio that was mild one year, could be robust the next. As with all of our products, each of nine new EVOOs are available to taste.  

This year’s EVOOs were harvested and crushed in November 2016. Here are some tasting notes to get you started.

USA

Koroneiki

Intensity: Mild. Notes of green almond and apple peel give way to flavors of ripe banana. Balanced with minimal bitterness and slightly more pepper, our delicate early harvest California Koroneiki has a slightly pungent finish.

Organic Arbosana

Intensity: Mild/Medium. Our early harvest organic California Arbosana is loaded with ripe fruit notes. Creamy green olive, almond and a pleasant richness, make up this delicate, well balanced oil.

Organic Arbequina

Intensity: Medium. Our early harvest organic California Arbequina is creamy and delicate with notes of green almond, artichoke and citrus. It has a nice peppery finish and low bitterness.

Portugal

Chiquitita

Intensity: Mild. This new cultivar was developed in Spain in 1991 as a cross between the iconic Spanish Picual and Arbequina varieties. Our example is sweet and delicate, displaying pleasant notes of green almond and olive.

Galega

Intensity: Medium. The dominant variety in Portugal, this early harvest example is perfectly balanced with equal parts pungency and bitterness. Delicate, creamy and viscous with notes of berry and creamy almond.

Cobrançosa

Intensity: Robust. Historically one of the most popular Northern Hemisphere EVOOS, the Portuguese Cobrançosa is very complex. Layered with creamy flavors and savory notes of nettle and green herb, this unique Portuguese variety has developed a loyal following.

Spain

Melgarejo Koroneiki

Intensity: Medium. A delightfully pungent version of the iconic Greek varietal. Chock full of pepper and savory herb notes, this example displays herbaceous qualities is pungent without a ton of bitterness.

Melgarejo Frantoio

Intensity: Robust. An intensely herbaceous Frantoio, chock full of pepper and savory herb notes, this example displays capsicum like sensations and registers high in antioxidant content without a ton of bitterness.

Melgarejo Picual

Intensity: Robust. This flawless Spanish oil comes from one of the most decorated producers in the world. Notes include green tomato leaf, fresh cut grass and garden herbs. Ample bitterness and pungency make this oil a favorite among olive oil aficionados.  A visually stunning example of early harvest emerald green Picual.


What Did the Presidents Eat?

This month we observe the birthdays of two of our greatest presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Being food-oriented, I was curious to find out what these two great men liked to eat and found a wonderful site that details the eating habits of our presidents.

How and what we eat is determined by so many factors – our ethnic and cultural roots, geography, economics, our likes and dislikes, and trends of the day. Viewing history through food and recipes provides a glimpse into our past that is often more real and immediate than stories of the great and the good. It’s the history of our everyday, the history of everyone. With all the things that divide us, we are united in our need for – and often love of – food.

What our presidents ate is their history as men, as well as statesmen, and perhaps the most interesting view into an early president’s life comes from Martha Washington. As a bride, Martha inherited a family manuscript of recipes at the beginning of her first marriage to Robert Custis in 1749. The manuscript was likely already more a historical document than an everyday kitchen aid and was firmly rooted in English cuisine in addition to the fledgling cuisine of the New World.

Over the next 50 years, Martha continued updating the manuscript and in 1799, presented it to her granddaughter as a wedding gift. Think of it – as a 19 year old bride she inherited a guide dating back to the time of Elizabeth I and James I, words of advice passed down from grandmothers to mothers across ages and oceans. Her stewardship of the manuscript saw the death of her first husband, the courtship and marriage to her second, and a front row seat to the War of Independence. It was with her during her days as the first First Lady, the deaths of her children, her second husband, and her retirement back to Mount Vernon.  

It continued to be passed down from generation to generation and in the 1980’s was transcribed and annotated by food historian, Karen Hess and passed on to all of us. It’s available from Columbia University Press and it’s a fascinating read.

So what did the president’s eat? While neither was a gourmand, Washington seemed to have more interest in eating for pleasure; Lincoln saw food strictly as fuel though he did love apples. Washington loved to eat from the bounty of his estate – truly farm to table – and was surprisingly fond of cherries.


F. Oliver’s Seneca Seasoning Featured in Bon Appetit

Bon Appetit, Conde Nast’s leading food lifestyle brand, named F. Oliver’s Seneca Seasoning as one of their favorite spice blends in their article, 15 Spice Blends We Can’t Live Without.  The F. Oliver’s product was in good company, featured alongside blends created by New York chef, Eric Ripert and other national and local brands. The Seneca Seasoning was the only Finger Lakes brand featured.

“We’re thrilled that our world-class spice blends are receiving world-class recognition,” says F. Oliver’s proprietor, Penelope Pankow.

Seneca Seasoning is one many fine spice blends available at one of F. Oliver’s four retail locations and in our online store.


7 Simple Steps to a Healthy Heart

February is a little month dedicated to a lot of things – Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and my favorite Groundhog Day. To be fair, it’s the movie I love. In it, the character played by Bill Murray lives the same day over and over, trying everything he can think of to escape it all while trying to win the heart of Andie MacDowell. What he learns is that it’s not grand gestures or knowing everything or having everyone like you that wins the day; it’s living authentically and caring about the small graces that allows him to wake up on February 3 and yes, to win the girl.

I, like many people, use January to resolve, to make grand gestures and to hope some of its newness will rub off on me. And come February 2, it’s Groundhog Day. My resolutions go the way of set behaviors. That’s why I’m making Heart Health Month my new favorite part of February. The American Heart Association lists seven simple steps to achieve heart health:

  • Eat Better 
  • Get Active
  • Lose Weight
  • Quit Smoking
  • Reduce Blood Sugar
  • Control Cholesterol
  • Manage Blood Pressure

Simple doesn’t mean easy but it does mean that grand gestures don’t get you there. It means nudging yourself on a fairly regular basis towards simple goals, it means choosing long term outcomes over short term gratification more often than not. Five out of the seven are about food, which is awesome. I like to look at 7 Simple Steps like this:

Quit smoking – it’s incredibly difficult but the upside is awesome – you can taste and smell better. Food becomes more wondrous.

Get active – it doesn’t say punish your body or set unrealistic goals, just get active. Walk more – we’re lucky to be located in amazing downtown areas; park the car and see what’s in your neighborhood. In Monroe County, the American Heart Association provides maps to 30 walking paths.  Movement feels good, even just a little of it.

Eat Better and Lose Weight – I like to think of these as maintain a healthy weight and eat well. Eating well is about more than choosing food for its pharmaceutical value – it’s about choosing food in season, at its peak, for its flavor, for the fun of creating new dishes. It’s about enhancing your life with goodness and bounty. If you want to lose a few extra pounds to get to a healthy weight, explore new flavors and new dishes. It’s about making your mouth happy. You can eat fewer calories and be incredibly satisfied by forgoing the ingredients in processed food and replacing them with the more satisfying ingredients in food you prepare for yourself. Which brings us to:

Reduce Blood Sugar, Control Cholesterol, and Manage Blood Pressure – here it’s about replacing one type of ingredient for another – not giving up on anything in particular. It’s so easy to do:

  • Add a flavored balsamic to sparkling water – you have a flavorful fizzy drink without all the sugar and chemicals present in soda pop.
  • Substitute spices for salt – you’ll create new flavor profiles without missing salt a lick.
  • Use fresh olive oil – 2500 years ago, Hippocrates (of Hippocratic oath fame) called olive oil, “the great healer.” He knew from experience what we know now from science – fresh, quality olive oil has amazing healing properties. Just a cursory search on the National Institute of Health’s research site shows in significant, peer-reviewed studies, olive oil helps control cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and makes for a healthier you.

You can have it all – flavorful, satisfying meals and heart health. And you can finally wake up to a new song on February 3rd.