Contact Star Anise Organic Wholefoods
 

Please use the form on the right to contact me!
I will get back to all enquiries as soon as possible.

Soulla x 

           

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

welcome copy3.jpg

Blog

This blog started as a way for me to share my recipes + culinary adventures, tips for vibrant health + happiness, thoughts on the latest developments in nutritional medicine + the low down on the Sydney wholefoods scene and beyond...

The Due Diligence Series: 4 Questions to Ask when Buying Olive Oil

Becca Crawford

 

I’m frequently asked about the brands of products I buy and use. I’ve devoted  my life over the past decade, and made a living out of, researching and seeking out the best quality food, drinks, personal care products and household cleaning products. For what we put in, on and breathe into our bodies directly and profoundly impacts our health. To not be concerned about such things is a complete anathema to me. It’s why my nickname is the quintessential qualitarian. 

This extensive investigative process is called due diligence. I know from my days as a corporate lawyer the importance of doing a thorough due diligence diligence before making an acquisition. We would have an extensive checklist of items to investigate when acting on behalf of a purchaser to ensure that their acquisition was fruitful. Without formalising it, you might have a list of questions that you ask when buying a house, a car or a pet. I do the same when buying anything that touches my body (and on the occasions that I don’t, I often regret it). 

In my health coaching sessions I give my clients an extensive shopping list that lists all of my favourite brands of products in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast that they can buy in those areas. This is mighty convenient as I save them doing the exhaustive investigative work that I already have done. But what if you don’t live in those locations? And even if you do, what I feel is more empowering than handing someone such a list, is to arm them with the very questions to ask when purchasing products. This gives you the information you need wherever you are in the world to make savvy choices. 

In my due diligence series of blogs, I’ll be covering all of the basic staples so that you have all the questions to ask when purchasing products. Often this involves making enquiries of the producer when the relevant information is not on the packaging. But the more people who ask these pertinent questions, the more that suppliers will respond accordingly. 

I will also share my favourite brand for each product I will look at. There may of course be other brands which meet my due diligence questions but as Broth Bar & Larder is teeny tiny, I can only store one brand of any given item due to space restrictions. This is not a bad thing as it has forced me to hone in my due diligence enquiries to select the highest quality everything. 

I’m kickstarting my due diligence series with the questions to ask when buying olive oil and I’m intentionally keeping the questions simple instead of going into song and verse.

Olive oil is one of my staple healthy fats. It’s one of the few fats that pretty much everyone worldwide, regardless of dietary philosophy, agrees is healthy. A high quality olive oil is rich in nutrients, antioxidants, flavour and is anti-inflammatory. Anti-oxidants combat 'free radicals', helping to slow the ageing process and prevent various diseases. Anti-oxidants also contribute to the shelf-life of olive oil and enrich its unique flavour.

I tend to use olive oil cold as a finishing oil for dressing (or should I say “drowning”) vegetables as opposed to cooking with it because it is primarily a monounsaturated fat meaning that it is not as heat staple as the saturated fats (i.e. there is one place in its molecular chain where oxygen can muscle in and cause the molecule to fall apart causing damage). On the rare occasions that I do cook with olive oil,I will use as low heat as possible.

Without further ado, set out below are the 4 questions I ask when buying olive oil to ensure the highest quality and full-bodied flavour: 

1. Is it extra virgin? This should be labelled on the bottle. Extra virgin means three things: first pressed, cold pressed and an acidity below 0.8%. This criteria ensures an oil that is as unrefined as possible and of the highest nutritional (and flavour) quality. 


To flesh out each of these three criteria in turn,  cold pressing requires that chemicals and heat over 27 degrees Celsius (80 Fahrenheit) are not used to extract the oil from the fruit. Cold pressing is important because, as mentioned above, heat over a certain temperature can damage the delicate properties of olive oil. Secondly, the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC) requires extra virgin olive oil to be first (cold) pressed. First pressing  means that the olives were crushed and pressed only one time. The olive oil extracted from the first pressing is of the highest quality and purity. Thirdly, extra virgin also requires the oleic acidity of the oil to be between 0-0.8%. The lower the acidity, the better the quality. Acidity between 0.8-2% is virgin oil and not extra virgin. When olive oil isn’t extra virgin, many producers unfortunately like to use empty buzz words like “cold pressed” or “first pressed” on their labels for marketing with little truth or accuracy behind them. So ensure that your bottle of olive oil is first and foremost “extra virgin”. Pressing olives multiple times at high heat yields more oil out of the olives but also destroys much of the nutrition and creates a lower quality olive oil. Avoid anything sold as “light” olive oil as this means it is refined by chemical extraction and/or high temperature (and has nothing to do with calories). “Pure” olive oil is typically a blend of virgin olive oil and refined olive oil so I avoid it. Ditto for “deodorised” which is another word for chemical shit storm. 

2. Is it certified organic? 

If it is not certified, can the supplier confirm that the farming practices are organic in substance (i.e. no petrochemical fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides are used in the trees and soil)?

3. Is it in a dark (light proof) container? 

Light oxidises olive oil (i.e. makes it turn rancid). I avoid anything sold in light bottles or in a spray can. Opt for a dark bottle, tin or cask (bag in a box).  

4. Is it made in Australia? 

To reduce food miles and to support local producers I prefer to buy Australian made where possible. Australia makes some terrific olive oil. (For those living overseas ask if is it made in locally in your country and if none exists in your locality then find the closest country). 

Olive oil’s best storage temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius. Olive oil should be stored in a dark place place with a cool constant temperature such as a pantry away from direct heat and light. Always leave the cap on the bottle when not using it as oxygen also degrades olive oil. Olive oil is best not stored refrigerated because the change in temperature when taking it in and out of fridge damages its quality. A good test of whether an oil is purely olive oil or contains industrial seed oils (like vegetable, cottonseed, rice bran, grape seed, corn, sunflower, safflower, soy or canola oil – all which are in a word toxic and should be avoided at all expense) is to put a small amount in the fridge. Olive oil tends to go cloudy when refrigerated and hence doesn’t look very aesthetically pleasing. Which is precisely why producers of marinated products (often including organic ones!) will marinate products like goats cheese and olive oil in one of the industrial seed oils because they don’t go cloudy when refrigerated and hence look more attractive - so read labels carefully to ensure that only olive oil is used for marinating!! Ditto at food halls and delis- most items are marinating in industrial seed oils!! 

Olive oil keeps for approximately 18 months after which time oxidisation accelerated and acidity increases. Best to buy in small bottles so that you use it up quickly unless you think you can go through it within 18 months. I personally buy in a 4L bulk tin container and decant into a smaller bottle that I keep in the kitchen cupboard for everyday use. 

Olive.jpg

In terms of brands of olive oils, the brand I exclusively use and sell at Broth Bar & Larder is Toscana Olives as this brand meets all my due diligence questions. It is extra virgin (first cold pressed and has an acidity level of only  0.1%), certified organic, sold in dark bottles and is a family owned and operated business in rural Victoria. The olives are pressed on-site within hours of picking, which maximises antioxidants such as Vitamin E, phenolic compounds and carotenoids. Their olive oil meets and exceeds both Australian and international standards and they are proud signatories to the Australian Olive Industry Code of Practice. Their oil is routinely tested by an independent laboratory to ensure it meets the IOOC chemical and organoleptic standards for Extra Virgin Olive Oil. They have received numerous awards for their olive oil. This olive oil retails for $85/4L or $49.95/2L. It is not available via our online store but, like all our third party products, we can courier it to you if you email orders@staraniseorganic.com and prepay with your credit card. 


Two of my favourite simple ways of using olive oil in the kitchen:

1. Drizzle on top of steamed or sautéed leafy greens (like silverbeet or Greek “horta” that I grew up on) with a good squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of unrefined salt

2. Combine with balsamic vinegar to dip some quality sourdough bread into. 


In addition to culinary uses, I use olive oil almost exclusively as my face and body moisturiser (with a few drops of Young Living essential oils). My skin loves it! I use the same brand of olive oil whether it’s as a finishing oil or for (rare occasion) cooking or as a face and body moisturiser. This means one less personal care product to buy as I’m using olive oil anyway for culinary purposes. I just decant a small amount in a small glass jar to keep in the bathroom. My rule is to not put anything on my skin that I can’t otherwise eat. I found much better results using olive oil than coconut oil as a skin moisturiser because the saturated fat molecules in coconut oil are much bigger and tend to just sit on the surface of the skin rather than deeply penetrate into the skin like olive oil does. Many people also put olive oil in their hair as an intensive hair treatment and wash it out the next day. Or leave in the tips of your hair to strengthen the ends. I recall my mum telling me that back in her village in Cyprus the women would rub olive oil in the roots of their hair every day to maintain their thick luscious plaits of black hair. This is the true meaning of natural beauty. 

file-22.jpeg

So there you have it. The first of my due diligence series.  

Did you find this post helpful? Please leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below. 

 

How healthy is your relationship with food?

Becca Crawford

 

There’s nothing like travelling to test your relationship with food. 

Many many years ago when I learnt about the dangers of refined sugar, refined gluten and industrial seed oils and the importance of proper food sourcing and preparation (all of which I discuss at length in my health coaching sessions) I found myself becoming quite stressed and anxious about eating out or the kids being given food with questionable ingredients by well meaning family, friends and teachers. I could feel the cortisol rise in my body at the prospect of me or my kids ingesting something that was scientifically proven to be harmful. This really hit home after I had kids because the nurturer in me just wanted to protect my bubbas from toxins and anything that could harm their little systems, and there was nothing like stepping into motherhood that increased my desire to be the healthiest version of myself so I could best care for my children who are so dependent upon me. 

But the irony is that stress is more toxic than the most toxic food. And stressing over food is just as bad if not worse than any physiological effect that the food in question can have on your body. In extreme cases stressing over food can develop into orthorexia- where the thought of food and it’s effect on your body becomes all consuming and your relationship with food degenerates to a constant stress. Obviously this ain’t healthy and many of us experience it - myself included to a degree- when you start out on your health and wellness journey and realise that the diet you’ve been eating up to that point in your life (as promoted as healthy to us by mainstream dietetics) may in fact have been the contributing cause of your health crises.

Here’s where I got to: yes we need to educate ourselves on the source and processing of our food and to be conscious about the effects of processed foods on our body. Yes we need to make good food choices where we can and healthy swap all the crap with nutrient dense versions. But unless you want to live in a bubble, there are inevitably going to be certain times (such as travelling or visiting well meaning friends and family) when you or your kids are going to eat - either consciously or unwittingly - ingredients that you wouldn’t usually eat by choice in your own home. And here’s the kicker: you need to make peace with that. You need to take the stress out of that situation and surrender to what is and accept the fact that sometimes there are greater powers at play - like the emotional nourishment of sharing a meal with friends and family in a beautiful place, or the joy that a child experiences when they eat yeasted bread or pasta that they made with their own hands in a cooking class.

I’ve always believed that food should be a source of not only energy and nourishment but also a source of PLEASURE. It shouldn’t be stressful. Yes I’ve eaten things on my recent Cretian adventure and other trips that I wouldn’t normally eat. Have I stressed about it? Hell no. Did I enjoy it? Hell yes. That’s when you know when you’ve got a healthy relationship with food. Do I throw complete caution to the wind and eat everything and anything on a menu or at a buffet? No, because I make choices to avoid what I know is obviously unhealthy primarily because as I no longer see that as real food and secondly because I don’t want to feel and look crap later. I want to look and feel vibrantly alive and robust. 

I appreciate that the extent to which you can relax into what you are eating is largely dosage and constitution related. Someone with gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease may have a zero tolerance threshold to gluten which must be adhered to always else the consequences are not worth it. As my kids and I have robust digestion and no health issues it comes down to me setting some healthy boundaries which are inevitably more relaxed when we are eating outside of my house. A small amount of refined gluten and refined sugar here and there which inevitably comes across our plates without us seeking it out, isn’t going to noticeably effect me and my kids so having a piece of hand made spanakopita with filo pastry in Crete is something that I fully relished in and don’t in the slightest feel stressed about. 

I think having  a healthy relationship with our food is also a very important lesson for parents  to role model to children. If our kids see us stressing about food choices even when we are visiting yiayia or travelling to different countries I fear the effect this might have on them when they are older. If our kids resent us for holding on to our strict “no gluten, no seed oil, no refined sugar” ethos at all expense with white knuckle grip and gnashing of teeth in the absence of health issues, then will they rebel when they are older? If they see us relaxing a little in certain situations and laughing and thoroughly enjoying our meal with gusto, won’t that create a more positive association with food? 

If we can adhere to our wholefoods philosophy when travelling or eating out by asking simple questions and steering away from obvious examples of processed foods, then awesome - do it!! And if we can’t, aim to get to place of acceptance where you can thoroughly enjoy what you’re eating and not get stressed about it. And if you learnt later that the fish you ate was in fact farmed, or the eggs were cooked in canola oil or the meat did contain breadcrumbs, then simply accept it, surrender to it and just let it go without a second thought. It’s done. I sometimes imagine a protective healthy barrier around me where nothing untoward will happen from ingesting what I normally wouldn’t dream of eatingwhen I’m at home. 

If you feel your relationship with food needs improving, I highly recommend working with wholefoods dietician Marieke Rodenstein (in person or via Skype saying I referred you) who has had much personal and clinical experience in this area and whom I’ll be presenting with in Melbourne in my upcoming Food is Medicine and the Fundamentals of Robust Nutrition talk on Saturday 4 August. 

I hope you found this post helpful and I’d love to hear your thoughts and experience on this issue.

 

Hot Chocolate

Becca Crawford

 
 
file-21.jpeg

One of my favourite hot drinks is a hot chocolate. I have it most days without guilt as it’s free of any sweetener. Cosy, comforting, and warm. And I’m a sucker for raw cacao powder. Sometimes I think I eat my body weight in it.

Luckily raw cacao powder is the fourth most nutrient-dense food on the planet according to the Mat Lalonde scale of nutrient density – super high in phenols and anti oxidants. Yay! Because it is uplifting it is also a healthy swap for a coffee (without the jagged nervousness and heart-racing anxiety) and I personally have used it in this manner to circuit-break a coffee addiction as have many of the my health coaching clients. 

I make my hot chocolate in numerous ways depending on the amount of richness I crave. So instead of listing different ingredients I set out my recipe below in terms of a formula (much like my smoothie recipe) as that’s how my brain works:

 

Ingredients


—  Liquid base: 1 cup full fat milk, coconut milk, almond milk or boiling water (or combo of one or more). If I’m after something light I’ll go for boiling water, if I want something more substantial and satiating I’ll go for full fat milk. 

— Raw cacao powder: ½-1 tablespoon depending of taste.

— Optional protein booster: 1 tablespoon Collagen Hydrosolate which you can purchase direct from GelPro Australia here or from our retail store Broth Bar & Larder.  Collagen Hydrosolate which I discuss in detail in my online bone broth workshop provides additional osteo skeletal report and support for hair skin and nails. So if you need support in these areas, consider adding this in. It’s tasteless and dissolves in any liquid. 

— Optional fat bomb: ½ - 1 tablespoon cream, Brain Octane, MCT oil, virgin coconut oil, grass fed butter, or 1 egg yolk, or 2 raw cacao butter buttons. Good to add a fat bomb in if your liquid base is simply water. These traditional fats makes your hot choccy more nourishing and satiating. 

— Optional flavour bomb: these add not only flavour but also nutrient density:

  • A drop of Young Living essential oils such as cinnamon bark (my fav!), orange, tangerine, citrus fresh, peppermint (very uplifting), cardamom, or Red Shot (new zesty blend of cinnamon and citrus). To read why I exclusively use Young Living essential oils and how to purchase them please click here.
  • A sprinkling of chilli flakes (with a drop of Young Living orange essential oil for a choc orange hot choc). 
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla bean powder
file1-7.jpeg

Directions

If making with boiling water, place everything (other than essential oils) in a blender and process until mixed. If making with milk, then place everything (other than essential oils) in a small saucepan and gently heat (do not boil!) and blend with stick blender. Add in any essential oil. Pour into a cup and dust with raw cacao powder if desired.

Sip slowly and enjoy!