Friday, November 24, 2017

Chocolate Bark and Tea

Chocolate Bark for Autumn
By Cal Orey

As I sit here on a warm post-Turkey Day memories are in the cabin. After all, I inherited our glass and black wrought iron dining room table. Today I am time traveling back to the suburbs in the 20th century.  I’ve got to give kudos to my mom.  Early in the morning she’d get up and fix a 20 pound turkey, dressing, two kinds of potatoes, vegetables, appetizers, and a homemade pecan and pumpkin pie. She’d set a table (the one I have now) that looked like one of the super chefs would do on the Food Network channel. Just thinking about it all has wiped me out. Whew!

Yes, I did Thanksgiving but I took the easy, chill Mediterranean route. I put together semi-homemade cornbread dressing, a kale-spinach salad, chunky red herb taters, and store bought turkey (the pricey, organic kind). It was quick, easy, and had an Italian flair. The next day, with the turkey and dressing in the freezer I was happy. I don’t want to pack on the typical five pounds that Americans do this time of year. But ironically, I whipped up a batch of chocolate bark with a late fall spin to enjoy with hot tea—my best friend after a holiday. (I know, I didn’t knock myself out like my mother did. Oh well, a different generation—the ME one.)

Nature’s Crunchy Chocolate Bark
½ cup dark chocolate chips, premium brand
½ cup white chocolate chips, premium brand
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or almond extract
½ cup of pecans or almonds
½ cup of cranberries or raisins or dried apricots, chopped

Melt dark chocolate chips in a microwave for about 2-3 minutes. Place a paper towel over the bowl and keep an eye on it. Take the bowl out, stir, put back in until smooth. Do not overcook! Add the extract of your choice. Spread it on a nonstick flat cookie sheet (or line with parchment paper). Spread and shape into a rectangle. Chill in freezer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt white chocolate chips in the microwave. Once the white chocolate is melted remove. Take out dark chocolate from the freezer and frost it with the white chocolate. Sprinkle nuts and dried fruit of your choice. Put back into freezer for about 15-20 minutes. Break into pieces (think rustic peanut brittle)—it doesn’t have to be perfect squares. Place pieces in plastic container. It stores nicely in fridge or freezer. Makes about 12-16 small pieces.

This quick and fun treat is a nice way to move on into the next holiday coming up. We have time so instead of Christmas cookies chocolate bark is a nice break. A piece or two with a cup of tea or coffee will provide energy, isn’t super fattening, and you’ll get a move on at work and play during our Indian-like summer that lingers on and we enjoy the late autumn days. Chocolate bark is ideal for an afternoon slump or after dinner. Yes, holiday cookies are next up. 

— Cal Orey, M.A., is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, and Tea) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.)  Her website is

Sunday, November 19, 2017

TEA Book Home Cures Peek Unveiled for Fall-Winter!

Warm Up this Winter—Wellness in a Cup—
Discover the Benefits of Tea for Your Body and Mind!
5 Tea Home Cures from Your Kitchen

One autumn day I found myself getting up at 2:30 A.M. to catch a 6:00 A.M. plane to Salt Lake City, then to Atlanta Georgia, to Montreal, Quebec. Waking up without adequate sleep felt odd and it was the wrong hour to brew coffee. So, I made a cup of my own blend: black and green tea. It gave me enough energy to get on the shuttle bus without acting like a zombie from a sci-fi film.

But while tea offers home cures, including beating sleepiness, it can also keep you calmer than java. At the first airport counter cafĂ©, I ordered a cup of hot water and used my own chamomile tea bag to keep me calm enough for the next fear factor: flying out of the Sierra and into Salt Lake City—two airports known for turbulent flights.

There is a growing trend of at-home tea cures (like I used to achieve my final destination), that’ll wow you with their potential healing powers. I sprinkled in tea wisdom from tried-and-true folk remedies, scientific studies, medical experts, and my own home tea and tisane cures. It’s tea time! Read on--here's five home cures from more than 50 in The Healing Powers of Tea (Available December 26, 2017).

1. COLDS (Warm Up Baby.) During the fall and winter months, cold season hits more frequently. Also, though, if you are under stress a cold can pay you a visit year-round, especially if traveling or contracting a virus from someone else. If your immune system is under attack—a cold can be prevented or the severity lessened with tea.
What Tea Rx to Use: Drink one 8-ounce cup of black tea (hot or iced) with or without 1 teaspoon honey two to three times per day.
Why You’ll Feel Tea-rrific: Tea researchers believe it’s the compound antigen in black tea that bolsters the body’s immune system and may help guard against colds. Also, the tannins may help to stave off viruses like a cold. I recall one doctor’s story about how he turned to tea for comfort. He was traveling in the Alaskan wilderness. While in a van traveling with a lot of people, one had a cold as he did. The doctor had tea and drank the liquid. And it helped the good doctor heal.
2.  COUGHS (Cease the tickle.) Coping with a cold can be annoying, but coughing which can be caused by seasonal allergies, or linger after a cold, a bout of bronchitis, or other things, can be pesky and make your throat and even chest ache.
What Tea Rx to Use: Opt to brew 1 12-ounce cup of black or white tea. For an extra throat soother, add 1 teaspoon of honey. Repeat as necessary.
Why You’ll Feel Tea-rrific:  Tacking a cough takes a bit of sleuth work to discover why you are coughing—and then it’s time to be proactive and deal with the problem. If allergens are the issue, for instance, it’s time to get an air purifier, vacuum and dust more, and add tea with honey to your diet repertoire—soon you’ll be doing the happy dance without stopping to cough.

3. FLU (Say good-bye to germs.) Catching the flu, which can come on suddenly, drags you down and into bed. Viruses come in all forms and can give you anything from a 24-hour flu bug to a super bug that’ll spook you to the point where images from sci-fi films like Outbreak and Contagion will haunt you as you try and shake it.
What Tea Rx to Use: Take 2 cups of tea and you won’t be calling the doctor in the morning. Mix it up and sip 1 cup of tea (black, green, or white) and 1 cup of your favorite vitamin C-enhanced herbal tea such as hibiscus.
Why You’ll Feel Tea-rrific: It’s no surprise that the functional food tea is chock-full of antioxidants—the good guys that can keep your immune system healthy and stave off germs you could encounter from your local grocery store to a vacation stop. By drinking tea and a vitamin-rich tisane teamed with a nutrient-dense diet, you’ll be keeping your immune system strong.
4. SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER (Blast the blues.)  Feeling down and sluggish with SAD, coined by Dr. Norman Rosenthal, is another monster to face. I have tackled the symptoms with an arsenal of remedies—and tea is on the list come late fall through early spring.
What Tea Rx to Use: Brew 1 cup of hot water and use 1 teaspoon green tea leaves or tea bag. Steep for 3 minutes. Repeat 2 times per day.
Why You’ll Feel Tea-rrific: Green tea has 45 milligrams of caffeine (which can give you a physical and mental burst of energy). But also, green tea contains L-theanine—a compound that enhances brain chemicals including serotonin and that can give you a calming sense of well-being.
5. SORE THROAT (Treat the pain.) Before a cold you can get a telltale sore throat. Not to forget allergies and even talking too much. Rather than run to the doctor for an allergy medication, why not take an alternative route and turn to tea?
What Tea Rx to Use:  Dried oolong leaves combined with rose hips or hibiscus can be a perfect pairing. Put 1 teaspoon of tea leaves and 1 teaspoon of the herbal tea of your choice in 1 cup of hot water. Steep for a few minutes, then strain. Add honey to taste.
Why You’ll Feel Tea—rrific: Oolong tea my reduce swelling and inflammation, due to flavonoids. Also, honey boasts anti-inflammatory benefits, too.

Ginger Lemon Honey Tea

Ginger and lemon go together like salt and pepper—two of nature’s finest superfoods with an immunity booster that can keep you healthy this winter and all year-long.
2 cups water
10 thin slices gingerroot, fresh
1 lemon sliced
3 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup lemon juice

Bring water, gingerroot, and lemon slices to a boil for 1 or 2 minutes. Remove from heat, steep 10 minutes, strain. Stir in honey and lemon juice. You can also add apple peel, a piece of onion, and one or two tablespoons of chamomile.
(Courtesy: Gemma Sanita Sciabica)

Excerpt from The Healing Powers of Tea 2018. All right reserved. Reprinted with permission  from Kensington .
— Cal Orey, M.A.  is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, and Tea) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.)  Her website is .

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Warm Up to Pumpkin Muffins and Tea!

It’s still fall and it’s still the time for pumpkin. Pumpkin pie, ice cream, tea, fudge—and warm muffins paired with a hot cup of tea with honey!

Two decades ago, I used to be the diet and nutrition columnist for a popular national woman’s magazine. I’d often team up with a nutritionist (she was good for doing calorie and fat counting). Every week I’d have to create an article about food. During this time of year, pumpkin was included with all the fancy Thanksgiving trimmings--weight loss stories followed.

One early morning my East Coast editor called me. She was very angry. “Why?”  I asked, still half asleep on West Coast time. “You used 30 different ingredients in last week’s story!” I mumbled, “So? We wanted to make it tasty for Turkey Day.” The editor darted, “A fan sent a letter to us. She said she cannot afford to buy all the food ingredients in your recipes.” She added, “You need to be more practical!” I giggled and said, “Well, the recipes and article were creative and festive.” After all, it was the cover story, as always.

The thing is, if I remember being reprimanded about this faux pas, I get it. She was right. Real people (unless they’re millionaires) do use food items more than once. This editor-inspired recipe is ideal for me, and perhaps you, too.  I used up the last of the self-rising flour (I love it, no baking powder or baking soda needed.) I had an unused can of pumpkin, new pumpkin spice and cinnamon sticks in the pantry.  I always have sugar, Greek yogurt, eggs, butter, and honey. But I did purchase raw pumpkin seeds!

2 cups self-rising flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 white granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon (ground from cinnamon stick)
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin spice
½ cup European style butter, melted
½ cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup Greek yogurt, honey flavored
2 eggs, brown, organic
¼ cup European style butter, melted
¼ cup honey
Raw pumpkin seeds 
Raw sugar (to taste)
Combine flour, sugars, cinnamon, and pumpkin spice. Add butter, pumpkin, and yogurt. Mix well until smooth. Use an ice cream scoop and place uniform scoops of batter into muffin tins with muffin paper (if you can find orange colored or a Thanksgiving theme, great). Bake at 350 degree for about 20 to 25 minutes until light golden brown.  Cool. Combine butter and honey, mix well. Dip muffin tops into the honey butter. Top with sugar and seeds. Serve and slice. Add cream cheese, or organic blueberry jam, or spread apple butter.  (Forget frosting or glaze.) Makes 12.

        At the end of the week I baked these muffin around noon. A few hours later, due to a bout of cabin fever I went swimming. When I returned home it was a welcoming moment when I opened the front door. The cabin smelled like a bakery, thanks to the homemade budget-friendly pumpkin muffins. These are perfect for breakfast, brunch, or an afternoon snack with cup of tea or coffee. You’re on your own for Thanksgiving dinner. Blessings to you and yours! --Healing Powers series (at all fine bookstores)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

'Tis the Season for Comfort Food and Tea

One mid-autumn before the first snowfall I stocked up (like a squirrel before winter) on comfort foods at our local supermarket. At this time in my life cooking wasn’t on my agenda but eating hot, feel-good fare was definitely on my brain. Enter boxes of gourmet, organic frozen mac and cheese. It was the kind you take out of the colorful box, peel off the cellophane wrapper, and pop in the microwave for a few minutes. Instant gratification, right? Sort of. But TLC was missing.  
Fast forward to my present days of cooking and baking real food. Nowadays, mixing it up with pasta, cheese sauce, fresh herbs, spices and vegetables is worth the time and effort. As the days are getting shorter and cooler, it's time for hitting the kitchen and whipping up home-style creamy, gooey macaroni and cheese. This fall-inspired good grain recipe is one you'll want to use and save for winter.

Home-style Mac and Cheese
2 cups cooked whole grain pasta
1 ½ cups half-and-half
1 cup parmesan, finely grated
2 tablespoons European style butter
2 tablespoons yellow onion, chopped
Ground pepper to taste
¼-1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs, seasoned
1 large Roma tomato, chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons basil or parsley, chopped

In a pan boil pasta per directions on the box. Set aside. In a small skillet, heat half-and-half. Add cheese, and butter. Combine cheese sauce with cooked pasta. Mix well. Add onion and pepper.  Scoop even portions into ramekins. Top with panko. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove and sprinkle tops with tomato. Place back into oven for 10 more minutes. Take out of oven and cool. Sprinkle with basil. Serves 4. Add a salad with dark leafy greens, and a cup of hot tea.
As simple as this recipe is, it is more flavorful and easier on the eyes than the stuff in the box—and the crunchy topping is scrumptious. Also, as leftovers simple heat up in the microwave and you’ll still get that homemade creamy taste. Mac and Cheese boasts good-for-you fiber-plentiful pasta, calcium-rich Parm, and nutrient-rich tomatoes and basil. Not only is it a healthful dish (in moderation), it will warm you up on a cold, snowy day for lunch or dinner.
Motto:  Homemade food made with passion nourishes the mind, body, and spirit.
— Cal Orey, M.A., is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, and Tea) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.)  Her website is . 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

It's (almost) TEA Time! Your Cuppa is Steeping!

By Cal Orey

Wellness in a Cup—Discover the Benefits of Tea for Your Body and Mind!

It picks you up and calms you down, warms you and refreshes you. With black, white, red, green, and herbal varieties, there’s a tea for every taste, and now this time-honored superfood is trending as the drink of choice for health-conscious people of all ages and cultures. 

Healthy  Recipes
Home Cures
Weight Loss Tips
Lively Stories

Available in ebook/tradecover

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Halloween Nights--Shaking It Up with Cranberries and Honey

During one late October week before Halloween I was on a mission.  A trip to many stores around town was on my to-do list.  I bought pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, and chocolate candy bars (big and small)—the big day was coming!

On the afternoon of Halloween, I put a brighter bulb in the porch light, dumped all the candy into a plastic pumpkin, placed the muffins and cookies with spiders on a platter, and brewed a cup of coffee. It was Halloween night and I was super ready for trick or treaters. At dusk nobody came. When it was dark not one knock on the door. By 9:00 P.M., it was obvious. I was so tricked—no kids in spooky costumes for me. I blamed it on the chilly weather.

So, this year I am on a pumpkin fast. Well, I have canned pumpkin in the pantry, and I munched on pumpkin seeds last week. I did experience the pumpkin patch in Placerville in early October. But this time around, on Halloween night I’m starting a new tradition. All lights off. I’ll be watching Hallmark harvest films and/or scary sci-fi films for the chill effect, working on a book project, cuddling with the dog and cat—and  chilling. No goblins or witches—just a sweet treat—a cranberry shake.  

Autumn Cranberry Shake

1-1/4 cups vanilla gelato
½-3/4 cup fresh cranberries, whole
¼ cup all natural premium orange juice
½ small banana, slices
¼ cup organic half-and-half
1 capful pure vanilla extract
Honey to taste
4-5 small ice cubes
Whipped cream (optional)
Walnuts, finely chopped (garnish for topping)
In a blender combine gelato, berries, juice, half-and-half, vanilla, honey, and ice cubes. Blend quickly until thick and smooth.  Top with whipped cream and nuts. Pour into a milkshake glass. Grab a spoon and straw. Serves 1 or 2.
I didn’t want to spook you with exotic fruits, protein powder, or non-fat milk. After all, we are entering the holiday season. In defense of this decadent shake, you are getting plenty of vitamin C from the berries and orange juice. Also, this shake boasts calcium and protein. So you don’t have to feel guilty when savoring this cold, oh-so creamy delight. Give credit to the banana and gelato, less milk. The cool thing is, fresh cranberries are delicious when you include nature’s sweeteners, like orange juice and honey. You’ll feel festive sipping this shake day or night—whether trick or treaters pay you a visit. Or not. Enjoy the chill of the shake. For tradition’s sake, Boo!
Motto: When you’re tricked, treat yourself to something to feel warm and fuzzy.

— Cal Orey, M.A., is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, and Tea) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.)  Her website is

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Salad and Tea for Fall Days and Nights

It was late fall many, many moons ago on the South Shore. The wind was strong, the temperature was in the twenties, but I was determined to leave the toasty cabin to go get my morning swim and hot tub fix. I was swimming laps at one of the outdoor pools. Snow flurries began but the water was warm—my ears freezing. Walking on the fresh cold snow to get into the Jacuzzi was a challenge. The reward? It was awesome! And I treated myself to a Starbucks’ pumpkin latte. Once back home I ate a fresh salad. Then, the sun came out and my canines needed their walk. Another perk? I made the first crackling fire of the season. And so it goes with a roller coaster weather ride at Lake Tahoe.

If you’re a local you know during shoulder season it can be warm and chilly. It’s best to go with the flow and enter slowly with hot and cold foods so you keep your sanity! This is a Sierra-inspired salad and hot beverage for fall.

1 cup kale, chopped
1 cup baby spinach, chopped
¼ cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/2 cup fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, or cranberries—yes! They’re tart but good)
2 tablespoons sliced red onion (optional)
Parmesan cheese, shavings or shredded
1/4 cup chunks of cooked salmon (optional)

Vinaigrette:  You can buy a fruity all-natural bottled dressing or make your own. Mix ½ cup olive oil, 3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard, and a bit of honey and dash of pepper. Chill in fridge.

In a bowl, combine greens, top with nuts, berries, onion, and cheese. Whisk up and drizzle dressing  over your salad mixture.  The salad bowl serves 1-2.

Okay. I know a clean salad with real food isn’t a pumpkin pie or apple cake with cream cheese frosting--but this is just as sweet and better for you. Pair your greens--trust me--with a mug of hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick. Or brew a cup of pumpkin spice tea and warm up the scent of autumn!

The bottom line: Fall doesn’t have to be the time to pack on pounds or be sedentary. The more you get used to eating a healthful salad with fall time fruits and vegetables, the more energized you’ll feel, keep seasonal change (cold, flu) woes at bay so you can go do it—outdoors and indoors.

— Cal Orey, M.A., is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, and Tea) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.)  Her website is