Is gourmet food worth the extra dollar?

By Holly Dove

Our taste team finds some nice surprises in a gourmet versus budget food test

When it comes to “party” food, such as salami or olives, many might like to pay the extra few dollars to get added flavour and better quality. But when it comes to the bare essentials, budget food such as milk might taste just as good, if not better, than its gourmet rival. This week the Weekend Herald put gourmet food to the test against budget counterparts as a group of discerning food-lovers – including a Ponsonby chef – took part in a blind tasting. The seven-strong team tried a combination of essential foods and “party” foods – milk, olives, cheese, chips, salami, bananas and peanut butter. Comparing budget, mid-range and high-end foods the tasters sampled food from each category while blindfolded.

Without the packaging and brand-name hype, they were able to judge food based solely on taste – with no distractions.

The winners

Mainland Tasty Cheese, valued at $7.70 for 250g

Mid-range price.

“More crumbly [than the other contestants] and lots of flavour”, according to Herald’s Bite food editor Jo Elwin.

Ponsonby chef Dean agreed with the top spot, grading it a four out of five and describing it as “vintagey”.

Waitrose Halkidiki

olives valued at $8.99 for 300g.

High-end price.

A unanimous winner here, the Waitrose olives were described by tasters as big, juicy and full of flavour. “Succulent and herby”, said Dean, while fellow taster Lizzie Sullivan said they were “delicious and flavourful.”

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Olive Tapenade and Mushroom Bruschetta


…The Chili Cheese Toast, which was recommended to us, was strictly okay: the green olives and green bell pepper did add to the flavour. But the Olive Tapenade and Mushroom Bruschetta is a delight. Loaded on the bruschetta, moist and bursting with flavours, it was devoured.


Health benefits of olives

September 16, 2014, by Katie Wilhelmi RD, LD , The Journal

I love olives. They are one of my favorite foods. Ironically, my 2-year-old also loves them. My husband claims it’s because I ate way more than my share when I was pregnant. Whatever the reason might be, I’m glad he likes them too.

Olives are a main ingredient on any pizzas we make at our house. They are common on holiday tables and at parties on traditional relish trays. But olives are also an ideal ingredient to add flavor and variety to foods all year long.

Olives come in many different shapes, colors, sizes and flavors. The difference between black and green olives is simply the ripeness. Green olives are unripe and black olives are fully ripe. Olives, both ripe and unripe, are cured or pickled before eating. The reason for this is that fresh olives are too bitter to eat because they contain oleuropein. Oleuropein is full of antioxidants that actually make the olives good for us.


Even though olives have a high fat content – 15 to 30 percent – the majority of fat is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Olives are also considered a good source of vitamin E and contain the natural antioxidants found in oleuropein. Four or five medium to large ripe olives have only 25 calories and 2 grams of fat. Because of the curing process, olives do contain sodium. Rinsing olives first before eating will help reduce some of the sodium.

If you are looking for new ways to try serving olives one way is to make a tapenade. Tapenades are an olive puree or paste blended with seasonings and herbs. All you need is a food processor, blender or knife with a cutting board to prepare a basic tapenade. Tapenades are the perfect building blocks to use with baguettes, crackers or pita chips for holiday parties. For another fun appetizer idea using olives try the stuffed olive recipe below.

Gouda-Stuffed Olives (Serves 24).

All you need

1 oz Gouda cheese | 1 (6-oz) can large black ripe pitted olives, drained | 3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto or deli ham

All you do

1. Cut Gouda cheese into small (1/4-inch) pieces; stuff one piece into each olive.

2. Cut prosciutto into 3-by–inch strips; fold each strip lengthwise once to form 3-by–inch strips.

3. Wrap a strip of prosciutto around each olive; secure with a toothpick.

4. Cover and chill up to 24 hours before serving.

Nutrition per serving: Calories 20, Total fat 1.5 g, Sodium 150 mg, Total carbohydrate 0 g

This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Katie Wilhelmi is a registered dietitian at the New Ulm Hy-Vee.



Here’s the skinny on good fats

You can’t lose weight and stay fit simply by removing fat from your diet. But you can give your body fats that are more beneficial to your health.

WOULD ALL OF our weight loss problems be solved if we just removed fat from our diets? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Fats are a vital part of a healthy diet, providing essential fatty acids, assisting in absorbing vitamins A, D & E, and acting as a great source of energising fuel. But it’s easy to get confused about what constitutes good fats and bad.

Here’s the skinny on fats: There are many different types of fats and they can be conveniently divided into four main categories: saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and trans fats. A balanced diet should contain a good mix of fats while avoiding trans fats all together.

Monounsaturated fats

This type of fat is found in a variety of foods and oils like olives, almonds, cashews, peanuts, peanut butter and avocados.

delicious pb

PB (no J).

Source: Shutterstock.

Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood which can also lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. They also produce nutrients that assist in developing and maintaining the body’s cells.

Polyunsaturated Fats

Foods high in polyunsaturated fats include soybean oil, sunflower oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, tofu and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and trout.


Flaked tuna and olives, a great way to boost your monounsaturates and polyunsaturates in one sitting.

Source: Shutterstock.

In addition to reducing your bad cholesterol levels, polyunsaturated fats contain essential omega-3 fatty acids which boost brain function and may strengthen the immune system.

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are contained naturally in many foods including fat on lamb, fatty beef, poultry with skin, full fat dairy products and take away foods. At SMART Training we suggest that clients limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your total daily calories. We suggest trimming visible fat from meat or removing the skin from chicken or swapping butter for sunflower or olive spread.

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Tilapia with toasted Almonds and Green Olives

Tilapia is the beige of the fish world: inoffensive and ubiquitous. It doesn’t stand a chance against, well, just about every other fish around, but it’s also incredible cheap and fairly adaptable to whatever toppings you’d like to add to it. This explains why I spent far more time worrying about what would go with the fish than I did worrying about the fish itself.


I wanted something dramatic and flavorful, which led to the idea of coating the tilapia in crushed almonds. But I always cringe before starting a recipe where I have to make sure something adheres to fish. Regardless of how careful I am, half the time the coating falls off in the pan, burning the ingredients and leaving the fish exposed. And even when I do succeed, I’ve usually made a mess of the kitchen in the process.

Instead, I took the easy way out and sprinkled on almonds at the end. That way I could focus on making sure they were properly toasted, and not on whether they were sticking to the fish or burning in the pan. This also allowed me to mix in some briny green olives with the almonds, which added even more character to the dish.

I took the easy route with the green beans, too. They’re simmered in boiling water until bright green, drained, and then immediately tossed in a tart Sherry vinaigrette. I liked the vinaigrette so much, I drizzled a bit of it over the whole finished dish.

Get the recipe at


Dirty Martini, with fried blue cheese stuffed green olives and honey

A number of chefs at independent or small chain restaurants are also innovating with salt and sweet as a way to add interest and increase sales at the bar.
At Tamo Bistro & Bar at the Seaport Hotel in Boston, chef Robert Tobin accidentally created the Dirty Martini, a salty and sweet combo of fried blue cheese stuffed olives served with honey harvested from the hotel’s rooftop beehives. Initially, Tobin was just making the fried blue cheese stuffed olives, but after a first taste he thought they were too salty. He tried several variations in cheese, olives and crust, but nothing solved the problem. Then, while making a spicy-and-sweet dip, Tobin tried some honey and knew it was a perfect solution.

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Olive Tapenade with green & black olives

I find this tapenade to be very addicting! I like to eat it with a neutral tasting cracker, such as Blue Diamond Nut-Thins and Le Pain de fleurs Buckwheat Crispbread are also really good.
Olive Tapenade with green & black olives
Low-FODMAP, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free
makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 can (dr. wt. 6 oz.) pitted, whole black olives, drained
1 can (dr. wt. 6 oz.) pitted, whole green olives, drained
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon garlic oil (try my quick or oven-roasted recipes)
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste
3 large, fresh basil leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Whirl until it forms a smooth paste (about 1 minute in a food processor). You can serve this at room temp but I actually like to eat it chilled. Serve with crackers or as a sandwich spread. Store any leftovers in the fridge.


Red Rocks: Tomato tartlets with tapenade cream and rosemary salt

The perfect dinner party starter 

  • article-0-1EB18AFE00000578-880_634x601butter for greasing
  • leaves from 2 sprigs rosemary
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 3-4 large beef tomatoes
  • 125g (4½ oz) pitted green olives
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • olive oil
  • 3 tbsp crème fraîche
  • 2 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • salad leaves to serve


  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and lightly butter two baking sheets. Whiz the rosemary with 1 tbsp sea salt in a spice mill or coffee grinder until finely chopped. Slice each tomato horizontally into 3-4 thick discs (to yield 12-16 in total; save the tops and bottoms for another use). Whiz the olives in a processor with the garlic, anchovies and 1 tbsp olive oil, then beat in the crème fraîche by hand.

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Breakfast with High-Phenol EVOO Reduces Inflammation Linked to Diabetes, Heart Disease

A new study published in Food Chemistry shows that adding phenol-rich olive oil to breakfast successfully lowers the inflammation linked to metabolic syndrome.


Inflammation is associated with metabolic syndrome, an increasingly common condition characterized by the presence of three of the following pathologies in an individual: obesity (particularly abdominal fat), high blood pressure, a low level of “good” HDL cholesterol, high fasting blood sugar and a high level of triglycerides. Left untreated, metabolic syndrome can trigger diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

Forty-nine patients with metabolic syndrome added 40 ml of high-, medium- or low-phenol virgin olive oil to their breakfast. The high-phenol olive oil (398 parts per million) breakfast neutralized pro-inflammatory gene expression in patients while reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines in blood plasma. The result was an overall lower level of post-meal inflammation.

Phenols — phytochemicals found in plant-based foods such as olives, coffee, tea, and chocolate — have been enjoying the nutritional limelight as an increasing number of health-related benefits are revealed. While the lion’s share of studies to date focus on their anti-oxidant benefits, growing evidence shows that phenols also reduce inflammation.

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Grilled Potatoes With Feta, Green Olives and Mint

The flavors of the grill penetrate these potatoes to give them a nice smoky accent. The saltiness from the feta and olives gives them a great punch. And the herbs and citrus zest brighten the entire dish.

This potato salad goes nicely with a steak, chicken, fish and it’s also perfect on its own. I love to serve it with a cinnamon and coriander-spiced skirt steak.



2 1/4 pounds small red-skinned new potatoes | 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided | 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt | 1/2 cup water | 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest | 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped | 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped | 2 teaspoons fresh oregano or marjoram leaves, chopped | 1/2 cup Chalkidiki olives, pitted, coarsely chopped | 3 ounces feta, crumbled | Freshly ground black pepper

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11 Reasons You Should Be Eating Olives Daily

Are you looking for healthy snack ideas? Have you ever thought about adding olives to your diet? The truth is olives make a great healthy snack.  Olives contain a lot of vitamins and macro/micro elements which do wonders to our body. Additionally, olives contain a large amount of fatty acids and antioxidants, including lutein, a potent antioxidant that neutralizes the action of free radicals and protects our body from aging.

  • PicMonkey-Collage2Olives contribute to the prevention of diseases of the heart and vessels, as well as oncological diseases.
  • Maslinic Acid in Olive Skin helps prevent against colon cancer.
  • Olives  have a therapeutic effect in arthritis, podagra, osteochondrosis – diseases of the musculoskeletal system.
  • The calcium contained in olives is important in the strengthening of bone tissue, which takes part in the formation of the joints.

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Baked Feta Cheese with Olives

Note: This recipe is designed for a wood oven, but the dish can be made in a 450-degree conventional oven.

baked feta cheese1 1/2 cups mixed olives, pitted or not, in brine | 1 tablespoon chopped lemon thyme | 2 teaspoons grated orange zest (from about 1 orange) | 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice | 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes | 1 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds | 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided | 16 ounces French sheep’s milk feta, cut into 1-inch cubes | Crostini, for serving

1. Drain the olives and place them in a small bowl. Add thyme, zest, juice, pepper flakes, fennel seeds and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside. This can be made several hours in advance and held at room temperature.

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Orzo salad with Kalamata olives, dried cranberries, and walnuts

Serves 6

Margie Coloian, of Johnston, R.I., sent an orzo salad to The Recipe Box Project, in which readers send in their favorite family dishes. This uses just a few tablespoons of light vinaigrette dressing, which is tossed with orzo, the flat rice-shaped pasta, Kalamata olives, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, red onion, and tomato. “The dish balances the saltiness of olives with the sweetness of cranberries,” writes Coloian. Add feta cheese crumbles to make the dish richer.


2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar | Salt and pepper, to taste | 1 clove garlic, smashed | 1 tablespoon olive oil

1. In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, salt, and pepper.

2. Whisk in the oil. Add the garlic. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.


1/2 cup walnuts | Salt and pepper, to taste | 1 cup orzo | 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped | 1 large tomato, coarsely chopped | 1/4 red onion finely chopped | 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, chopped | 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley | 1/2 cup dried cranberries | 1/2 cup crumbled feta chees (opt) | Olive oil (for sprinkling)

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Shaved Carrots with Olives & Almonds

Gather purple, yellow and white varieties of carrots together for this colorful salad, which is an easy way to elevate the humble spring root vegetable. The shavings are as delicious as they are beautiful, curled around briny green olives and toasty almonds, and sprinkled with fragrant cumin.


Shaved Carrots with Olives & Almonds

1 lb. (500 g.) multicolored carrots

1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g.) pitted green olives

1/4 cup (1/3 oz./10 g.) lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g.) almonds, toasted and crushed

Using a mandoline, shave the carrots lengthwise into thin ribbons. Transfer to a bowl. On a cutting board, coarsely chop together the olives and parsley. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the oil, lemon juice and cumin seeds and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Add the olive mixture to the carrots and toss well. Arrange on plates, sprinkle with the almonds, and serve. Serves 4.


Olives and olive oil in the prevention of osteoporosis

healthy for lifeIncreasing life expectancy is matched by an increase in the prevalence of a number of age-related chronic diseases, including osteoporosis and its associated complications. To prevent this disease, nutritional strategies for optimizing bone health are now being considered, since a dietary approach is more popular amongst osteoporosis sufferers than drug intervention, and long-term drug treatment compliance is relatively poor. Indeed, an increasing body of scientific evidence has demonstrated that compounds derived from food alter the expression of genes in the human body. By turning genes on or off, bioactives in food alter the concentration of specific proteins directly or indirectly associated with human diseases. This may explain why adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet affords protection from degenerative diseases. This diet provides high amounts of olive oil, which is considered as a functional food, and which besides having a high level of MUFA, as oleic acid, contains multiple minor components with biological properties. There is accumulating evidence that antioxidant and anti-inflammatory micronutrients could be beneficial to bone health as well. In this light, olives or olive oil consumption remain sources for putative new and innovative dietary health intervention in the nutritional prevention of osteoporosis.


Meatless Monday: Marinated chickpeas with olives, roasted red peppers and raisins over mixed greens

This is a nice sweet, salty salad with a bit of a nutty undertone, thanks to the walnut oil. No dressing required. Just spoon the chickpea mixture over top of fresh, bright baby greens, and enjoy!

by Caitlin Sanigameatlessmonday

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced roasted red pepper
  • 6 pitted kalamata olives or chalkidiki (Inolivia), sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 6 cups mixed baby greens (I used spinach, frisee and arugula.)

In a medium bowl, combine the chickpeas, raisins, red pepper, olives, parsley and scallions. Pour the olive oil over top and season with the salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Divide the greens among 4 bowls. Top with the chickpea salad.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from: so hungry I could blog


Inolivia | Olives | Ideas


  • 250ml olive oil, 20131017_citrus_marinated
  • 300g green olives in brine,
  • 4 bay leaves,
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary,
  • 1-2 red chilies, seeded and sliced,
  • a few strips of lemon and orange rind,
  • 60ml red wine vinegar

Pour oil into a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until just warm. Divide olives, bay leaves, rosemary, chili, rind and vinegar between sterilised glass jars. Pour over warm olive oil. Seal. Turn jars upside down and stand for five minutes. Turn upright. Allow to infuse for one week, turning once daily.


  • 250ml green olives, pitted,
  • 50ml chopped parsley,
  • 5ml chopped garlic,
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets,
  • 30-60ml olive oil

Put the olives, parsley, garlic and anchovies into a processor and process until finely chopped. With the machine running, add in the olive oil. Process until smooth. Store in a jar in the refrigerator and serve on slices of toasted baguette.

Inspired by Angela Day Kitchen-