Know Your Cooking Oils and the Pea Experiments


Cooking oils with high levels of Monounsaturated or Polyunsaturated fats offer the most health benefits.

                                                                                                                                                                            Oil                Monounsaturated      Polyunsaturated     Saturated 

Canola                         63%                    28%                  7%

Olive                           73%                     19%                 14%

Peanut                        49%                     34%                 17%

Grapeseed                   16%                     70%                 10%

Sunflower Seed           20%                     57%                 10%

Corn                           30%                      55%                15%

Soybean                     24%                      58%                15%

Sources: Cooking Light magazine, August 2009 and Wikipedia.


I have olive, canola, vegetable (corn), peanut, and sesame seed oils in my pantry. I use different oils depending on what I am cooking. Each oil has its pluses and minuses.

The Canola Oil Controversy

Is canola oil safe? In a word, yes. 

Canola oil is a very healthy oil to use in cooking. It is very high in heart healthy monounsaturated fats and is very low in the saturated fats found in most vegetable oils.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does allow food companies to make a qualified claim that canola oil is heart-healthy on product labels. From the FDA website: a “qualified health claim” is supported by scientific evidence, but does not meet the significant scientific agreement standard. 

For cooking purposes  in addition to being heart healthy canola oil has two wonderful strengths:  1.) It is a light oil and  has a mild flavor and so does not over power the taste of the food; and 2.) it withstands high temperatures very well, therefore you can brown or sear meat or vegetables very nicely.

Bitter Taste

One of the issues surrounding canola oil arises from the fact that many years ago canola oil was made from the rapeseed plant. The rapeseed plant is related to cabbage, radishes, mustard, turnips, watercress, and horseradish plants. Therefore rapeseed oil has a bitter taste and for that reason was not used much by Americans or Canadians. Rapeseed oil has been used by Asian cultures for centuries.

Rapeseed plants also have high levels of erucic acid which in high amounts can be toxic to humans.

Today canola oil is not made from the rapeseed plant. But more on that later.

Industrial Use

It is totally and completely false that rapeseed plants were used to make poisonous mustard gas during WW I. Snopes , for me a very trusted source of factual information, refutes these claims as does NutritionDiva.

Another issue with canola oil was/is that rapeseed oil is used to lubricate machinery and cars during the war and today for other industrial purposes. However, all cooking oils are used for industrial purposes. All cooking oils are lubricants and can be and are used for a multitude of purposes.

How Rapeseed Oil Became Canola Oil

Remember your high school biology class and Mendel’s laws of segregation and independent assortment? Of course you do! Just like I do. NOT!

But what you may remember are those pea gene tables that always some how magically appeared on biology tests. I just used to guess on those things. I figured I had a 50-50 chance of being right. Now you all know why I am not a scientist today.

Image above from Wikipedia.

Well, Mendel’s experimentation and discoveries with selective breeding of peas have real life application to today’s controversies over not just canola oil but a whole host of other issues.

Life After Pea Experiments

Many years ago Canadian rapeseed growers set about to get rid of or lower the erucic acid in rapeseed plants. In the process they also reduced the bitter taste of the oil. They named this oil Canola oil.

Using selective breeding (Mendel’s Model) to enhance the desirable taste characteristics and lower the undesirable euric acid characteristic these Canadian growers ended up with a very healthy cooking oil.

Now some people say that canola oil is genetically modified. And yes, that is true. But so are tangelos, Fuji apples, colorful carrots, seedless grapes and watermelons and countless other foods.

There are also the benefits of new disease and bug resistant plants that come from modifying plants according to Mendel’s model.

I see a difference between genetically modified and genetic engineered.  It is probably a fine distinction and I don’t know enough about it to write intelligently. And I am not going to do a 50/50 guess like I did on my biology tests. But I may do some more research and get back to you on this.

But if using Mendel’s work can give us a larger number of choices of delicious fruits and vegetables which are less susceptible to the vagaries of weather, diseases and pests, and may help alleviate hunger then I am more for it than agin it.

Featured Recipe   MTTD’s Ultimate Hash Browns

I have been making this dish for years. What I haven’t done before is write it down in recipe format. That was hard. So the ingredients below are kinda, sorta a best guesstimate. That and the dish is also subject to what ever left overs I have in my fridge. Once I added chopped zucchini. That’s the way left-overs tumble.

If you are looking for low a fat, healthy recipe this is not it. This is especially true if you serve these potatoes with bacon and eggs for a wonderful Sunday morning breakfast.

This is what you will need for 2-3 people:

Butter or oil of your choosing

1 potato for each person

3-4 slices bacon

2-3 mushrooms

Sliced green onions

Grated cheddar cheese

Chopped tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

Here is what you do:

Heat a thin layer of the  butter or oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Wash and slice potatoes medium.

In this skillet place the potatoes in a single layer amd lightly brown them. If using add the salt and pepper now.

NOTE: Only about two-thirds of the potato slices fit into the pan. I placed the remaining slices in iced cold water. I will make a second batch after the first.

Chop the bacon slices.

In a second skillet slowly brown chopped bacon.

While potatoes and bacon are cooking chop your mushrooms, green onions, and tomatoes.

NOTE: Check the potatoes periodically and turn them at least once during the cooking. If some of the potatoes get brown faster than the others,  move them to the edge of the pan and move others more to the center.

When the bacon is crisp remove it and drain on a paper towel.

Pour off most of the butter or oil………

NOTE: I use Center Cut bacon. It is a bit more expensive. But there are stores out there where it is a $1 or $2 less than in other stores. I think you know which one I mean.

Anyway, Center Cut bacon has far, far, FAR less fat. So it is a bit healthier. So for me the expense is worth it.

This is how much fat the four slices of bacon rendered during frying. So I poured no fat off as the directions above state. Didn’t have to.

…………and add the chopped mushrooms, heat only. Don’t give these lovely morsels time to soak up too much oil.

I forgot to take a picture of this step. The mushrooms were only in the skillet a minute or so anyway.

When the potatoes are cooked through add the bacon and mushrooms and gently mix into the potatoes. Cook a minute or so.

Then add the green onions and gently mix in.

Then top with some of the grated cheddar cheese and let it  melt slightly.

Place the potatoes on a plate and serve with the chopped tomatoes on top.

Bon Appetit!!!


2 potatoes                            $1.38

3-4 slices bacon                    $1.24  

3 mushrooms                        $0.18

Sliced green onions                $0.28

Grated cheddar cheese           $0.72

Chopped tomatoes                 $0.48

Salt and pepper to taste

Total cost = $4.28

Cost per person for 2 = $2.14

Cost per person for 3 = $1.43



There were so many great comments this week it was hard to pick just one. Both Carol and Mikaela Cowles left really great comments.

But Sharizat’s comment about the Equivalent Chart just really stood out:

This is very useful. Can’t confuse “manys” and “muchs.”

Thank you for all of the comments you made this week. And keep them coming. I love to read what you think and write.

Quote of the Day

What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn’t much better than tedious disease.

George Dennison Prentice

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