Friday, February 24, 2017

Pasta and Olive Oil for Pre-Spring Energy

Pasta Plate with Bread Dipped in Olive Oil

Pasta is good. Fettucine Alfredo is great. A simple dish (with roots from Rome) is made from fettuccine, Parmesan cheese and butter. I’ve enjoyed it at Italian-style restaurants at Tahoe, frozen in a box to pop in the microwave, and Alfredo sauce in a jar topped on linguini. But I discovered another route to a perfect plate of pasta.
Last fall I was booked for a Barnes and Noble bookstore signing at Anchorage, Alaska. Fantasies of eating fish and Fettucine (on the menu at a luxury hotel with a swimming pool and city view overlooking Cook Inlet) were on my agenda. Two days before my departure, the “Alaska Dispatch News” reported PR on my event but the Bering Sea Storm with “hurricane force winds and rare wind shear” was the story.  I called the tour guide named Lake. “It’s all good,” he said, adding I was the only one booked for the tour. I darted, “Turnagain Arm is flooded!” My exciting scenic road adventure the day after the signing had gone south thanks to the rain gods. I canceled.
I was relieved to escape rough air en route to the Pacific Northwest, but I felt sad that my north to Alaska journey and food fest was toast. I whipped up a meal that included salmon and Fettucine Alfredo. My escapade in the kitchen wasn’t Alaska but it was a rewarding exploration.
Health Nut Fettuccini Alfredo
½ cup European style butter
2 tablespoons cream cheese
2 cups organic half and half
1 teaspoon garlic, fresh, minced (optional)
Ground black pepper to taste
Oregano to taste (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh basil
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (a mix of asiago and Romano make it better)
¼ cup pine nuts
½ pound fettucine (or spaghetti), whole grain, cooked
1-1  ½ cup broccoli spears (or zucchini), chopped, cooked  (steamed or nuked)

In a skillet on medium heat, melt butter, add cream cheese, followed by half and half. Mix in spices and basil. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir in cheese and remove from heat. Serve on top of pasta or fold in. Top with vegetables. Sprinkle with nuts and parmesan cheese. Serves 2-4. Pair it with baked fresh wild Alaskan salmon fillets (ask your butcher how long to cook), and whole grain rolls with butter or dipped in olive oil.

This is not your mom’s Fettucine Alfredo—it’s got a 21st century earthy and exciting twist. A plain creamy Fettucine Alfredo is nice but by adding vegetables for texture, herbs for extra flavor, and nuts for crunch makes it more fun like a trip to Alaska. No I didn’t see the Northern Lights or get an up close moose encounter, but the hot pasta with fish cooked properly thrilled me.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Blueberry Hotcakes and Honey to Warm You Up

Blueberry Hotcakes and Honey to Warm You Up

Enter pancakes also known as flapjacks, griddlecakes, and hotcakes. Often served at breakfast this popular food is topped with butter and maple syrup. Hotcakes are an American favorite that I, and perhaps you, too, have enjoyed since childhood.  But sometimes giving a classic flavored food, like pancakes, a twist is a welcomed change.

Since my life here in the mountains, I’ve made flapjacks from a store bought mix (with the directions to just add water), and have ordered them in luxury hotels from room service menus. But making them from scratch at home is heaven because you can control the size, ingredients, and add-ons that makes hotcakes scrumptious, and a healthful treat food that can make you feel like royalty.
Last year on Thanksgiving my waterbed heater broke. Worse, I found a hole on the mattress.  It was a sign that after decades it was time to dump it.  Bed less, I ordered a memory gel foam mattress to fit in my bed frame, an antique. Days passed, no mattress. It was lost in the Midwest.  The couch, loveseat, and futon were not the same. On Day 14, the online store promised me overnight delivery. Achy and sleep deprived, when it arrived, I made my bed, a sanctuary with new fluffy comforters and soft flannel sheets. The next morning I celebrated by whipping up pancakes and savoring them in bed.  But you can enjoy flapjacks any time, any day.

 Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Pancakes

1 cup cake flour
1 ½ tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons granulated table sugar
¾ cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon European style butter with sea salt
1 brown egg, beaten
1 1/2-2 cups fresh blueberries (save half for topping)
Organic maple syrup or honey
European style butter
Whipped cream or confectioners’ sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon rind

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, and sugar. Add buttermilk, butter, and egg. Fold in half of the berries.  Use a non-stick skillet on medium heat. Drop ¼ to ½ cup spoonfuls of batter in circles in the pan. Drop a handful of berries on each one. When the pancake bubbles flip over and cook till golden brown. Top pancakes with a pat of butter, drizzle with syrup or honey, berries. Add a dollop of whipped cream or sugar, and sprinkle with lemon rind. Serves 4-8.

These pancakes are light and fluffy because of using cake flour. The blueberries give the hotcakes a tart and sweet flavor. A small amount of real butter adds a creamy texture and whipped cream is even sweeter with the tang of lemon. The morning I made blueberry pancakes and munched on them in my new, improved bed I was happy in the sierras.  Fabulous flapjacks are a luxury for snowy or rainy days ahead during the upcoming holiday. Sweet dreams.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Will You Be My Valentine?

By Cal Orey

Welcome to the classy gourmet grilled cheese, home fries, and red strawberries. These are superfoods for you on Valentine's Day...
These are some of my favorite good-for-you comfort foods with a healthy twist. A grilled cheese sandwich is often heated by placing the buttered slices of bread, with the cheese between the slices, on a frying pan. It goes back to the 20th century, and cheese has roots to ancient times around the world.  
One version of the grilled cheese sandwich can be found in the film The Devil Wears Prada. When the heroine’s boyfriend makes her a pricey sandwich to celebrate he uses Jarlsberg—and big-ticket cheese blocks found in the deli section but well worth the price.
Several years ago, on Valentine’s Day I was signing my book 202 Pets’ Peeve: Cats and Dogs Speak Out on Pesky Human Behavior at a Barnes and Noble bookstore in Sacramento. Ironically, the manager had booked dogs from the shelter, too. Of course, the cute canines upstaged me, the author with no name. I was embarrassed because my book did not make a hit, nor was I acknowledged. I took a break. In search of comfort I bought a deli cheese sandwich and bag of chips. When I came back I sat slumped in a chair behind a small desk piled with my unsigned books. The dogs won but I vowed to treat myself again with better signings and better sandwiches.

Gourmet Grilled Cheese
4-6 slices Jarlsberg (premium brand)
2-4 slices sharp cheddar cheese (premium brand)
4 slices whole wheat sourdough bread (or light rye bread)
3-4 fresh Roma tomatoes, sliced
2-3 tablespoons European style butter, unsalted
Preheat a large frying pan over medium heat with a bit of butter. Place bread slices in pan and cover each with butter. Top two slices with cheese(s), tomatoes. Let cheese melt. Top with the other bread slices. Cook sandwich in pan until golden brown on both sides. Slice in half or diagonal shape. Add a side of green salad with olive oil and red wine vinegar, dried cranberries and nuts. Serves two.

Home Fries
2 Russet potatoes, washed, sliced in thick wedges
1-2 tablespoon European style butter
1 teaspoon chives, fresh
Ground pepper to taste
Sea salt to taste
            Put potato slices on a nonstick baking pan. Place in a 450 degree oven. Bake for about 30 minutes. Turn potatoes a few times. Remove when golden brown. Serves two.

Strawberries and Cream
2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, sliced
½ cup whipped cream (real whipped cream is recommended)
Chocolate shavings (dark or milk chocolate)
Wash berries and slice. Top with whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings.
            Place the berries in parfait glasses or ramekins. Top with whipped cream and chocolate. Serves 2.
The sound of a sizzling gourmet grilled cheese sandwich cooking on the stovetop is worth the price. More rewarding book signings followed up and down the West Coast—and better sandwiches before and after events, too. As I plan another trip, savoring a hot and gooey cheese sandwich and crispy home fries for dinner is comforting. Enjoying decadent berries (expensive, like Jarlsberg, because they’re not in season) for dessert is bliss while anticipating watching the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on TV with my beloved Australian Shepherd. Valentine’s treats, like these, are as good as it gets.

— 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

Monday, February 6, 2017

Coffee the Beverage We Can't Live Without

Timeless Book on the Amazing Powers of Coffee

From the author of the hugely successful Healing Powers series (Honey, Vinegar, Olive Oil, and Chocolate, and Tea) comes THE HEALING POWERS OF COFFEE: A Complete Guide to Nature’s Surprising Superfood.
It’s the beverage we can’t live without—yet few consume it without some guilt. But the wonderful truth is that coffee has abundant health benefits. Coffee boasts more antioxidants than cocoa and tea, and even more than renowned antioxidant-rich fruits like oranges and blueberries. In fact, there are hundreds of healing compounds in coffee.

Recent studies have shown that coffee consumption can significantly decrease or reduce the risk of many conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, asthma, cancer, heart disease, chronic constipation, dental caries, diabetes, and liver disease.
As in her previous bestselling books, Cal Orey combines groundbreaking research into all these health and weight loss benefits with home cures, cosmetic uses, household hints, and dozens of heart-healthy Mediterranean style recipes.

CAL OREY is an author and journalist specializing in topics such as health, nutrition, science, and pets. She is the author of The Healing Powers series and has written countless articles for both health and women’s magazines about foods and their health benefits and home cures. Her articles have appeared in Woman’s WorldWoman’s Day, Men’s Fitness, as well as The WriterShe has a master’s degree in English from San Francisco State University and resides in northern California. Her books include The Healing Powers of Vinegar, The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, The Healing Powers of Chocolate, and The Healing Powers of Honey. The prestigious book clubs featured The Healing Powers of Coffee in One Spirit, QPB, Lifestyles, and BOMC2.  The Healing Powers of Vinegar (now in 3rd ed.) has sold in Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, and South Korea--where it is the #1 bestselling health book. The Healing Powers of Olive Oil is available in 2nd ed. clubs.

A Complete Guide to Nature’s Surprising Superfood
Cal Orey
Kensington Books, August 2012, Trade Paperback Non-fiction
ISBN-13: 978-0-7582-7330/$15.00 ($16.95 – Canada)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Elegant Coffee Cake for the Wintry Days

Vintage Coffee Cake--Deliciousness!
Coffee cake is popular classic sweet bread with European roots. It is often eaten with coffee or tea—warming comfort superfoods for cold winter days and nights. My mother used to bake a Praline Cake (made with vegetable shortening and margarine, baked in a Pyrex Baking Dish). Coffee cakes are single layer cakes (round, square or rectangular) with a streusel and/or vanilla glaze on top, often eaten for breakfast, a snack, or dessert. 
More than a decade ago, I endured a sierra blizzard on Highway 50 while driving home from Zephyr Cove to Bijou Pines. It was an adventure in the whiteout like when I was stuck in Cheyenne, Wyoming while hitchhiking with my dog; stranded on a road until a truck driver gave us a lift. He drank coffee; I ate coffee cake in a box as we move slowly on the Interstate with zero visibility like the snowstorm at Lake Tahoe. I stopped at Safeway and purchased a coffee cake and instant coffee. At home, I watched snow pile up on the deck while talking on the phone to my editor in Chicago. “I’m scared. What if the snow covers the windows and I can’t open the door?” Amid her words of Midwest snowstorm wisdom--and bites of coffee cake—I survived once again.
Years later, as a seasoned semi-mountain hardy woman, this week I whipped up a homemade sour cream coffee cake and brewed a pot of herbal tea. While the cake was in the oven, I made a fire and anticipated fresh snow for February.

Elegant Sour Cream Coffee Cake
2 large brown eggs
½ cup pure cane sugar, granulated white
The Healing Powers of Coffee
(ebook with click of a mouse)
1 cup sour cream (or lemon yogurt)
½ cup European style butter with sea salt (save a bit for greasing pan)
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup cranberries, dried (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon rind (optional)

½-3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup walnuts, chopped
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
In a bowl, combine eggs, sugar, sour cream, and butter. Set aside.  In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix together dry and wet ingredients. Add vanilla. Mix topping of sugar, cinnamon, and nuts in another small bowl. Put half of the topping on the bottom of a lightly butter greased 8” by 8” glass dish. Spread cake batter on top. Put the other half of topping on top. Spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar for a chic touch. Or drizzle with a glaze mixture of 1 to 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 cup organic milk (or to preferred consistency), and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Serves eight to 10.

This new and improved cake is perfect. I used less than more sugar (it’s healthier), and the sour cream gives the cake a nice moist texture while cake flour provides a lighter cake. I went with nuts and sugar dusting but red cranberries and white glaze can give a coffee cake a festive touch for Valentine’s Day.  As the next round of storms roll in, this coffee cake will help you to cozy up and feel warm and fuzzy indoors and outdoors.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Vinegar Semi-Fasts to Lose Weight Fast

As a former diet and nutrition columnist for Woman's World magazine (touting the latest zany weight loss fad diet for the week--often the big cover story), I can tell you both millions of women (and men)--and popular celebs--want to lose pounds and body fat super fast--and whittle their waistline. Yep, we all want that flat tummy. So, can taking the ACV cure do it alone? 
Nope. While ACV does work wonders and can help you lose weight, I know that on this planet it takes more than one magic bullet to shrink your tummy. Here, take a look at some tips to team with that tablespoon of ACV (I prefer Bragg Organic brand) in water a couple of times a day (lemon and raw honey can improve the tart taste), which can help to suppress your appetite. Psst! It's the acetic acid that may boost your metabolism and help to dissolve unhealthy body fat. (I discuss this topic with a nutritional expert in Chapter 16 "Fat-Burning Vinegar" in The Healing Powers of Vinegar.)

* Graze: Eating smaller, more frequent meals is key to a trimmer tummy. (I even feed my pooches their premium dog food in smaller meals. And they've always had lean and lanky, elegant bodies--no belly fat which can lead to heart woes to diabetes 2 for both pets and humans. No kidding.)

* Fill Up On Fiber: High fiber diets can help you. Low-fat, fiber rich foods provide bulk, which is filling and promotes regularity. Both add up to a flatter stomach. This is oh-so true year-round.

* Eat High-Potassium Foods: Potassium-rich foods help decrease unwanted water retention--and flatten your tummy. Apples, bananas, cantaloupe, dried apricots, vegetables, salads (paired with lean protein, olive oil and red wine vinegar, fat-burning herbs), and watermelon are high in bloat-busting potassium. They act as natural diuretics, which may reduce what looks like a kangeroo's pouch-type tummy. (Recently, I bought a $4 seedless watermelon and it is so sweet, juicy, and it's amazing. Forget the kind I grew up with with those pesky black seeds! Check out the link above to learn all about this watermelon treasure.)

* Shake The Salt Habit: Salt can cause water retention, which may cause the stomach to look and feel bloated. Read food labels and if you see a food item is too high is sodium, forego eating it.

* Eat Natural Foods: Foods full of chemicals and high in refined sugars are calorie-dense and can pack on abdominal fat.

* Lose The Soda: Carbonated beverages can add to that bloated feeling. Instead, turn to water--it's a natural diuretic, so it'll help you shed bloat. As a past Diet Coke fan, I have learned to stock the fridge and pantry with Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water. You can do it--and you won't want to go back. And, get a move on--drinking water, too, to stay hydrated. Aerobic activity, like these other fat-blasting secrets of the stars, will help you to melt belly fat. It takes 15 or 20 minutes before you start to burn fat. Try a half-hour of walking or swimming.

* Do not eat after 7 PM...Drink water, herbal tea and give your body a break until breakfast.

Note: (Both 2 day and 7 day diet plans are in the book to zap 7 lbs+ in 1 wk! Then, onto the top ranked heart-healthy, ranked #3 diet plan in the U.S. Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle...The Healing Powers of Vinegar is available at Walmart, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and #2 at in naturopathy and other online bookstores.)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Soup Days
Vegetable soup is a common comfort food.  As a kid, canned Campbell’s tomato soup and boxed Lipton chicken and noodle soup were often served by my mom on rainy, winter nights. A few years ago, on a dark, stormy midnight I walked outdoors and the front deck was covered with heavy, wet snow. The pine trees and wires amid me looked eerie because they were shrouded with white powder. At 7:30 a.m. I flicked on the lamp—it didn’t work. “Power outage,” I mumbled. It was the beginning of the first day the lights went out at South Lake Tahoe. 

I hoped for the best, but by dusk I went into survival mode and prepared for the worst. I was clad in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans and felt like a characters in The Day After Tomorrow doomsday film.  But it was cozy in the candlelight sitting by the crackling, warm fire. I ate a bowl (or two) of vegetable soup. It was the premium canned variety that I found in my pantry next to a box of whole grain crackers. I appreciated the typical go-to foods which sufficed but were nondescript.
During our recent Snowstorm 2017 event, I revisited the gift of soup. But this time around, the lights stayed on. Instead of a ready-made type, I revamped my friendly semi-homemade vegetable soup recipe. I added Mediterranean delights, including fresh vegetables, herbs, spices, and pasta. It’s like a Wedding Soup but without chicken or meat. The hearty vegetarian soup made with superfoods helped make the challenges of our endless storm more bearable with its comforting taste of nature whipped up in about 30 minutes.

Chunky Italian Vegetable Soup

1 carton (32 ounces) organic vegetable broth
¼ cup red or yellow onion
½ cup celery
¼ cup fresh barley and basil, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup carrots, chopped
½ cup zucchini, chopped
1 ½ cups uncooked whole grain rotini
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (garnish)

      Pour broth into a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add onion, celery, barley, basil, thyme, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil again. Add salt and pepper. Then, add remaining vegetables. Simmer for 15 minutes. In another pot boil pasta for several seven minutes until cooked. Add pasta. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Top with cheese. Serves 4. * Serve with slices of sourdough cracked wheat bread. Slice in rectangles. Spread with butter, and sprinkle with minced garlic. Place on foil and toast in a 425 degree oven until hot and crispy.

      I can personally attest that the aroma of herbs and garlic in the kitchen were amazing. The first spoonful of the easy-to-make hearty soup was better than the stuff in a can. And crispy, buttery bread beats crackers any day. While ready-made soups are quick, making the extra effort to use a broth, fresh ingredients, and TLC make a big difference. This soup is worth writing home about. Soup’s on!