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100 Days of Quarantine: How I Kept My Lockdown Meals Healthy and Exciting

Everytime I open a fresh bottle of olive oil, I’m transported back to Doña Elena’s olive tree plantation in Priego de Córdoba, in Andalucia, Spain, where the best olive oils are made. One rainy day in the biting cold, I got to stand in the middle of a row of olive trees and pick fresh olives straight from the branch. The smell of extra virgin olive oil, to this day, remains an olfactory trigger, and I make sure to savor it every time. Quarantine has made me cherish this memory even more — so much that I’ve taken to an olive oil-centric diet over the past few months, using Doña Elena, of course. More so, since eating at home is safer, healthier, and more affordable. During the period of ECQ, I’ve rediscovered the joys of cooking, as well as learned some new tricks in the kitchen.

The beauty of getting to visit where the olives are grown and seeing how they are fermented is you get a better appreciation of the product. Just like wine doesn’t just exist to get you drunk, olive oil doesn’t just exist to keep food from sticking to the pan. Doña Elena has three kinds: Pure, Pomace, and Extra Virgin, and each one has a different flavor profile and tolerance for heat. While self-isolating, I experimented on these different varieties in cooking healthier meals that are easy to make, have five ingredients or less, and are, most importantly, budget-friendly. When cooking with olive oil, as opposed to regular cooking oil, you’ll find that the flavor of the oil almost leads the way, and inspires you to cook healthier. Instead of stocking up on bread and instant noodles, go for healthier staples, such as in-season vegetables or frozen veggies, pasta, grains, spices, and Doña Elena olive oil. These simple, accessible ingredients are all you need to keep meals exciting, healthy, and delicious. 

Olives are abundant in the Mediterranean region, which is why olive oil is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet. Doña Elena Olive Oils are a combination of two types of olives, hojiblanca and picual, which make it rich in good fats and antioxidants. Each bottle contains 80% monounsaturated oleic acids, a healthy fat that is known for many benefits, including improving cellular health, enhancing brain function, regulating insulin, supporting heart health, and supporting weight management. This is why, even if the Mediterranean diet isn’t exactly a weight loss plan, but rather a style of eating, people who try it stick to it because it’s non-restrictive and offers a whole lot of proven benefits. This period of quarantine has encouraged many of us to cook our own food, even taking it a step further by experimenting on our own versions of favorite restaurant dishes. 

During these restrictive times, it’s important to remain flexible and work with a “diet” that agrees with your taste, time, lifestyle, and budget. The Mediterranean diet is primarily fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, herbs, fish, and seafood, but because a lot of ingredients are still unavailable because of our current circumstances, it’s okay to get creative and mix it up with whatever you have in your pantry — the star of which should be olive oil, which is not just a pandemic pantry staple, but a key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet and any healthy dish. 

My favorite thing to make when I am really stressed out, pressed for time, and absolutely famished, is a super satisfying Broccoli and Asparagus Farfalle. Cook farfalle in boiling water and (lots of!) salt for 10 minutes. In my experience, a handful of farfalle counts as one serving. Save about 4 tablespoons of pasta water in a cup. Drain the remaining water and set the pasta aside. In another pan, sauté finely chopped garlic in Doña Elena Pure Olive Oil, add chopped broccoli and asparagus, mix in the pasta water. Pure olive oil is best for sautéing and frying. Add one tablespoon of sour cream and mix well. Toss in the pasta. Drizzle with a little bit of lemon juice. Season with pepper and chili flakes. 

Brocolli and Asparagus Farfalle

My favorite thing to make when I am really stressed out, pressed for time, and absolutely famished, is a super satisfying Broccoli and Asparagus Farfalle. Cook farfalle in boiling water and (lots of!) salt for 10 minutes. In my experience, a handful of farfalle counts as one serving. Save about 4 tablespoons of pasta water in a cup. Drain the remaining water and set the pasta aside. In another pan, sauté finely chopped garlic in Doña Elena Pure Olive Oil, add chopped broccoli and asparagus, mix in the pasta water. Pure olive oil is best for sautéing and frying. Add one tablespoon of sour cream and mix well. Toss in the pasta. Drizzle with a little bit of lemon juice. Season with pepper and chili flakes. 

Whenever I feel like having a satisfying meal but still want to keep it healthy, I turn to something fried, plus rice, plus a tasty Arugula and Parmesan Salad. One of the easiest greens to make a salad with, just because it in itself is already so flavorful, is arugula. Toss some leaves together with halved cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with Doña Elena Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is best used for salad dressings, dips, or drizzling on cooked food because it has retained so much of the olive fruit’s flavor and tang. Top with grated parmesan cheese, and add salt and pepper to taste. The milkfish (bangus) in the photo was pan fried with Doña Elena Pomace Olive Oil, a cooking-grade oil that can be used for both roasting and frying. The rice is Japonica, which is a good source of protein. 

Finally, one comfort food that I keep going back to is my own Okra and ginger with Couscous recipe. It’s Mediterranean and tweaked to satisfy a carb-lover like myself. Chop the okra into bite-size pieces. In a pan, sauté chopped onion and ginger in Doña Elena Pure Olive Oil until fragrant. Add the okra and one chopped tomato. Cook until okra is tender and a bit gooey. Add two tablespoons of water and two tablespoons of couscous. Lower the heat and mix well. Remove from heat and fluff. 

Doña Elena now comes in a new internationally copyrighted look by a French designer, featuring a brighter color palette and usage recommendations for different varieties — Pure, Pomace, and Extra Virgin, which makes it easy for first-time users. The glass bottle is manufactured in Europe and remains easy to grip and store. For the price of one coffee takeout, you get a 250mL bottle that’s easy on the pocket and good for the health. Loved by local chefs and used by home cooks across the country, Doña Elena Olive Oil makes everyday recipes taste extraordinary while giving them a healthy boost. 

Switching to olive oil may seem like a minor step towards healthy eating, but it is a step in the right direction and they make even the simplest, 5-ingredient recipe, that much more complex and flavorful. Doña Elena’s Pure, Extra Virgin, and Pomace are conveniently available in 250 ml, 500 ml, 1 L and 5L PET bottles, so you can buy at your convenience, all at an affordable price. With everyone just trying to maximize their resources and manage their time between working from home and doing things that we normally do at home, such as cooking, planning meals in advance plays such a crucial part of our health and well-being. Having a simple recipe and basic ingredients on hand is all that stands between you and a bag of chips for lunch. 

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Doña Elena Olive Oil is available nationwide at supermarkets, and online via lazada.com.ph and 

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