The Art of Cooking with Essential Oils
ADDITIONAL CREDIT: Styling, art direction and photography by Christiann Koepke of Portlandfresh.com
For this special feature, we are thrilled to share a beautiful story on cooking with essential oils, a world where each drop is filled with bright, vibrant taste. An art we have only just begun to dabble in, we're excited to have an experienced home-cook like Suzanne Fuoco of Pinkslip Jam to help guide our hand. Below find an interview speckled with simple recipes and show-stopping recipe at the end for a citrus, olive oil pound cake.
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TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU GOT INTO EXPLORING THE WORLD OF ESSENTIAL OILS.
I have always been interested in plants—my Grandparents were farmers and raised many of the fruits and vegetables we ate. My mother was an incredible gardener and I have always loved being in nature. I’ve naturally been drawn to herbs, tinctures, and oils throughout my life and became even more aware of their healing properties when I became pregnant with my first son. I used lavender oil for calmness and ginger for nausea. When I became an RN, I was fortunate enough to work with a variety of midwives and progressive MD’s & NPs in Berkeley. We used essential oils in several modalities in the hospital. Upon moving to Portland, I was introduced to the line of doTERRA essential oils thru my friend Jill Mason at Starflower, her floral shop. Since that time, roughly four years ago, I have been using essential oils myself, with my family, and introducing them to friends. I use the oils for health & wellness, as well as in culinary settings. They have nearly replaced all pharmaceuticals in our family medicine cabinet.
WHAT ARE THE KEY WAYS THAT YOU PERSONALLY USE ESSENTIAL OILS?
I use the oils for my own wellness. I love to use Clary Sage as a way to even out hormonal shifts. I use Peppermint for headaches as well as for digestion issues. I love to use Lemon in my water every day—it naturally draws out toxins stored in the liver (did you know that we are exposed to more environmental toxins in ONE day than our Grandparents were exposed to in their entire lifetimes?). I also use essential oils in cooking though I will caution people to use only Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) oils for internal purposes. Read labels with care because plant medicine is potent and not all of the essential oils are meant to be taken internally. In addition to my own use, I have used essential oils, mostly thrrough diffusion, in my school health rooms as I am a School Health RN. The students have had incredibly positive reactions!
IT SEEMS THAT WE ARE SEEING A RISE IN INTEREST IN ESSENTIAL OILS AS OF LATE. IT IS AN ANCIENT CRAFT, SO WHY DO YOU THINK THIS RECENT SURGE IN INTEREST?
From my personal experience, I feel people are exhausted from side effects and environmental toxic overload. Plants were the original medicine, dating back thousands of years, and pharmaceutical synthetic medications are a recent development. Plants work on a holistic level, are effective, and essential oils cost pennies per drop in comparison with the ever rising costs of Western prescribed medications. I also think more and more people want to feel empowered by taking their health into their own hands and not feeling dependent upon increasingly rushed physicians. The health care system in this country is not serving the needs of most people. In addition, as an ancient craft, more and more people are returning to the ways of their elders as a way to have real connection to what they use in and on their bodies, whether it be in the form of farm-to-table eating, learning to knit & sew, or making bread from scratch. I think it comes down to a strong desire to feel empowered and connected as well as more self-reliant.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHY IS USING ESSENTIAL OILS SO BENEFICIAL AS A WHOLE?
Essential oils are potent, effective and fast-acting plant medicine. People need to do their research & work with someone who is knowledgeable because many of the oils are very strong, yet I know them to be safe if used correctly. Peppermint essential oil, for example, is extremely beneficial for stomach aches. One drop of peppermint oil is equivalent to approximately 28 cups of peppermint tea! I have no idea what Pepto Bismal or other over-the-counter medicines cost now, though I do know a bottle of Peppermint essential oil lasts me months, does not spoil, and I can take it anywhere. I also know that there will be no negative side effects. Last Winter I was diagnosed with pneumonia and did not want to take antibiotics. I checked the price of the prescription and it was over $100.00 with insurance. Instead, I made capsules of On Guard (a protective blend), Oregano, Lemon, and Black Pepper essential oils and took these capsules 4x/day, as well as drinking plenty of water with Lemon oil in it. My symptoms disappeared within 36 hours. I didn’t need any subsequent medications for the side effects antibiotics usually bring on. I felt great knowing I could treat myself safely, effectively, and had everything I needed right at home. I think most people would feel a huge sense of relief if they could also address their own health needs this way.
NOT ALL ESSENTIAL OILS ARE CREATED EQUALLY. WHAT SHOULD WE LOOK FOR IN AN ESSENTIAL OIL IN ORDER TO TRUST THAT THEY ARE PURE AND HEALTHY TO USE ON OUR BODIES OR EVEN INGEST?
It’s absolutely true!! Not all essential oils are created equally! Most essential oils that are inexpensive and readily found in supermarkets are not organic, or, if they are, they have fillers in them which is why they are at the price point that they are. Many are not steam distilled or expeller produced. Many oils are expelled using hexane, a chemical which is toxic. I look for the CPTG essential oils because they are the only oils which are regulated and independently tested for purity. CPTG, again, stands for Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade. Oils which have a Supplemental Facts area on the bottles are safe to ingest. Many of the blends do not have this on the label and are not safe to take internally.
ARE ALL ESSENTIAL OILS SAFE TO COOK WITH?
Best practices to keep in mind are that essential oils are very strong—one or two drops are all you need and due to their chemical compounds, it is best to use the oils toward the end of the cooking process as heat does change the therapeutic qualities.
TELL US ABOUT COOKING WITH ESSENTIAL OILS AND THE BENEFITS OF DOING SO.
I love cooking with essential oils as I get absolute purity of flavor in such a concentrated form! It cuts way down on waste because I only need to use a drop or two of oil, and can have the bottle of essential oil for months! Often people only need a squeeze of lemon or orange and then are left with rind, pulp, etc. For a home cook, often this can be incorporated into something else, though for many people, it winds up in the compost bin, which is a huge waste. With the oils, especially if an ingredient isn’t in season, the cost and waste factor are greatly reduced. I love to use Bergamot essential oil in making sauces and flavoring jams. Bergamot is challenging to find here in the Pacific Northwest, is not local, and has travelled hundreds if not thousands of miles. When I do find Bergamot, the cost is prohibitive, so using the oil is a great way for me to have a little bit of this liquid sunshine whenever I want it!
FOR SOMEONE WHO'S JUST STARTING TO GET INTO ESSENTIAL OILS, WHAT'S AN EASY RECIPE TO MAKE AT HOME?
Oh! I love homemade chai and make it regularly! Although tastes differ, I have found this combination to be my favorite:
Brew a strong cup of your favorite organic black tea, then once it steeps for 2 or 3 minutes, add:
- 1 or 2 drops of Cardamom
- 1 or 2 drops Cinnamon
- 1 drop Clove
- 1 drop Black Pepper
- Add in whichever type of milk you prefer, such as almond, hemp, or organic dairy.
It’s delicious and you are getting incredible benefits for all the warming essential oils which are also great for digestion. Clove oil has also been used for thousands of years for teeth & gum health!
DO YOU HAVE ANY RESOURCES OR OTHER COOKBOOKS THAT YOU CAN REFERENCE ON COOKING WITH ESSENTIAL OILS?
One of the first cookbooks I ever read that mentioned essential oils is still one of my favorites! This book is called Aroma: The Magic of Essential Oils in Food and Fragrance by Mandy Aftel and Daniel Patterson. It came out in 2004 and I absolutely love this book! Recently Mandy wrote another book though I have yet to purchase it. Anything she writes or concocts is worth investigating! I trust her implicitly! Before really delving into doTERRA, I used her Pink Peppercorn and Geranium Chef’s Essences and always absolutely loved the results. I strongly recommend all of her products! I also know that her oil blends for the skin are incredible! When living in Berkeley I used to get facials with her various facial oils and my skin never looked better! Her website is www.aftelier.com and she can also be found on Facebook. I have a website for my doTERRA business and there are several recipes on there as well: www.mydoterra.com/suzannefuoco2014.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GO-TO RECIPES AND/OR CURRENT FAVOURITES FOR COOKING WITH ESSENTIAL OILS?
I love to make Guacamole using black pepper, coriander, and lime essential oils! That is one of my favorite quick recipes! I also really like to use essential oils in salad dressings—basil, oregano, and thyme oils lend themselves so perfectly for this! Another favorite of mine is to replace vanilla in baking recipes with something different—recently I made lavender shortbread and it had just a hint of lavender which was really lovely. It is also really fun on summer days to make lemonade and add something like lemongrass or basil for a more sophisticated twist! I use essential oils in cocktails as well and they add so much unique flavor. I think it's fun just to get in there and play. I highly recommend that people begin to start thinking about culinary oils like a kid who is presented with a new box of colored pencils: just get in there and start to experiment and play! Once you start, it is such an addictive process in the best possible ways!
CITRUS OLIVE OIL POUND CAKE with FIG POMEGRANATE COMPOTE
CAKE RECIPE by Suzanne Fuoco, COMPOTE RECIPE by Suzanne Fuoco & Christiann Koepke
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons cherry brandy
- 2 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Cointreau
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 2 drops Lemon essential oil
- 2 drops Citrus essential oil
*Ensure your essential oils for both recipes are safe to cook with and digest internally
Optional Lemon Glaze
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 drops Lemon essential oil
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Prepare a 9 × 5-inch loaf pan by cutting parchment paper to size and fitting to bottom of pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1 cup of the sugar. Whisk in the olive oil, milk, brandy, liqueur, lemon zest, orange zest, and 1/4 cup of the orange juice.
Add the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk. Add in batches to wet ingredients and stir just until thoroughly incorporated.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and let cool in pan at least 10-15 minutes before removing. When cake has cooled, simply lift the parchment out with the cake intact, and pull sides down so it can continue to cool. After about 1 hour, remove parchment and store in airtight container.
For optional lemon glaze, in a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.
Drizzle over cake once both the syrup and cake have cooled.
- 1 c. dried figs, sliced with stems removed
- 1 1/2 c. pomegranate juice
- 1/2 c. red wine (cabernet preferred)
- 2-3 thick orange slices, including peel
- 2 drops cinnamon essential oil
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer on low, covered, for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Store in fridge in air tight container for 1-2 weeks. Enjoy on everything!
Another essential oil brand we trust includes Living Libations.