Saturday, February 25, 2017

Snow Armageddon in the Sierra 2017


Snow Armageddon Hits Home

In the early winter at the sierras of Northern California, the severe drought continued but I was happy with mild temperatures, less tourists, and color changes of the fall. Despite the lack of much needed water the West requires, living in the mountains is a serene environment. And then it happened. Our first snowstorm of the New Year arrived…

January 3
Moving ashore on the West Coast January 3, we are finally welcomed with heavy snowfall in the Sierra Mountains. The storm is a godsend and locals and tourists rejoice since it is a ski resort town. I happily carry in firewood from the garage and build a big, crackling fire. Cuddling up with my dog and cat and watching films while sipping tea is cozy. Shoveling fresh, white powder is easy and I make nice trails on the deck, front and back yards. It is a winter wonderland.
January 11
Another snowstorm rolls into the Sierra. Power outages, gusty winds, and snow at high elevations again. I forgot how beautiful snow can be. Inch by inch it falls onto the deck and at Lake Level. It was bliss, a picture postcard of heaven. Shoveling snow is something I haven’t done for a long time. “Its good cardio” I said as I removed the powder and made perfect trails.
Then, newspaper headlines read: “10 Plus Feet of snow Bury California’s Sierra Nevada as Heavy Rain Knocks down Drought”… Worse, for days California back-to-back heavy rain caused flooding and mudslides, while feet of snow buried the Sierra Nevada. I sense the fun is over and challenges were beginning as my sibling purchased a snow blower.

January 15
Then, one more storm slams the sierras. Tourists are happy and hotels are filled. It is a real winter like mountain folks said we used to get. The snow piles up on the deck, and berms pile on fences so I can no longer see neighbors due to the snow fortress. With a mix of rain and snow, shoveling snow is no longer easy to do. Snow is building up on the rooftops and ice dams are dripping water at the doorsteps making it slippery to walk and taking the dog out is now a dangerous task late at night and early in the morning. Dirt and debris in the snow on the deck is an eyesore.

January 22
The back-to-back snowstorms are here to stay. Some main highway roads are closed. The term “atmospheric rivers” or water vapor in the sky is my scapegoat because it is to blame for rain and snow. Rocks falling on roads to avalanches are part of the snow Armageddon.  Images of The Shining psychological horror film set in the Colorado Rockies haunted me as I feel snowbound in my cabin. I can’t shake thoughts of the movie Trapped: Buried Alive when people are at a ski lodge hit by an avalanche. “Could this really happen?”

January 30
While I love walking my four-year-old Australian Shepherd on fluffy snow, dog treks on black ice and deep snow are not fun when I’m 120 pounds and he’s half my weight. As the berms pile up from two feet to six feet, my canine fell victim to snow. On a drive my sibling hit two monster berms and the pooch lunged forward in the car.  At 3 a.m., my Aussie yelped in my bed. One vet visit later, muscle strain and temporary nerve damage on his right front leg and neck. Three meds prescribed. The upside: Puppy healed in five days. The snowstorms were no longer anticipated but dreaded because of the hardships that come with it. I surf the net and price flights to Oahu, Hawaii and Atlanta, Georgia.


February 2
Local paper headlines hit home as I read: “Drought-easing California Snow Heaviest in 22 Years”—it was real. I wrote an ad and posted it on Facebook’s “I Love Lake Tahoe”:  Decent Proposal: One million dollars to shovel 3 trails; 30 minutes; snow guy snow-flaked. Help. It looks like a spooky snow amusement ride out there. I will toss in signed copies of book collection. Lights are on, brewing. coffee/tea... Okay. You can have my 4 yr. old Aussie, very loving and the cat. Heck, take the fish aquarium! -- Author Buried in Snow at Lake Tahoe. I wait for help.

February 10
My words worked. Decent trails were dug out by a hardworking snow boarder. I read about these odd warm temperatures paired with snow that are increasing flooding threat in California. Mudslides and rockslides close two major highways from Nevada to Lake Tahoe and restrict travel on US Interstate 80 over the Sierra Nevada near Truckee. Authorities warn residents on Lake Tahoe's north shore to stay in their homes due to the threat of avalanches after nearly three feet of new snow hit the mountains overnight. I think, “Is this really happening?”

February 11
Worse, my county is one of dozens of northern and central California counties under a flood warning through most of the weekend. While we had a break until the end of the week, more storms on their way, river gauges and reports form emergency officials, forewarn flood warnings are still happening. Cabin fever hit. I am fleeing to the resort swimming pool and hot tub for an R&R.

February 12
It is surreal. Day after day, seems like a dream of endless snow, avalanches, flooding, mudslides, and major highway closures. Sometimes Mother Nature works against us and our lives face her wrath. Currently, as I watch The Weather Channel and see the dam that may not hold, and hear more storms to threaten California, I’m looking at properties in Las Vegas, Nevada, a nice, warm desert.

Wicked Wintry Weather 2017 
·        Significant flooding affected parts of California including the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Cruz mountains, and the Russian River which rose three feet above flood stage, affecting hundreds of houses with water.
·        Dams were opened to relieve pressure from built-up floodwaters, with the Sacramento Weir being opened for the first time in eleven years.
·         Over one half million customers of Pacific Gas and Electric lost power in Northern and Central California during the event.
·          If Oroville Dam fails, rural towns, Feather River down to the state capital of Sacramento, creaky levees may fail and the city may be flooded. 

Pre-Spring Cleaning with Vinegar and Olive Oil


Spring has sprung. It’s time to move forward and get moving into spring cleaning mode. The cleaner your kitchen is, the cleaner your spirit and soul, which is a good thing for you, yours, and your environment.  Read on--you, too, can enjoy a well-balanced kitchen--with vinegar, honey, oil and tea--that feels good from head to toe like I recall enjoying as a little girl. 
Also, today, I made a note to myself for pre-spring things to do: Lose five pounds, new wind chimes, gray rug, new fluffy white towels, light green candles, wash all white sheets, frame Barnes and Noble Vinegar book poster, new white running shoes, spring herbal teas, stuff fridge with fresh fruits and vegetables, new cactus plants for the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, hair lightened, and teeth cleaned--and book flight to Canada for July. 

1. Use Eco-friendly Vinegar and Olive Oil Cleaners. For starters, brew a cup of herbal tea for its energizing effects tol boost your energy and mood...Then, it's time to clean your kitchen from top to bottom with natural stuff. You'll be doing you, yours, and Mother Nature a favor. Using nontoxic vinegar can help you to: lose the ants; clean stainless steel, get rid of dust, and keep fresh flowers longer. By keeping it green it will provide you with better health and energy.

2. Declutter Your Stuff. Ditto. Getting rid of things you don't use will up your energy. It's true. You feel lighter with less kitchen baggage, starting fresh is good for the soul. I cleaned out both the fridge and freezer. Add a fresh box of baking soda to soak up odors. Then, I tackled the pantry and tossed out olive oil, pasta, rice, soup, and anything else that expired...What's the saying: Out with the old and in with the new.

3. Clean the Stovetop and Oven. This was a chore but it feels right to have the stovetop shine. (My Stepford Wife colors are starting to show.) The inside of the oven is sparkling, too. Tip: If you must use toxic oven cleaner, go over it with the natural stuff. Trust me, this is a feel-good must-do before days and nights warm up.

4. Brighten Up with Lighting. During the colder days without sun you'll want to have sunny-type lighting which can up your energy and mood--linked to good health. Go for full spectrum light bulbs or ones with a nice amber glow.  Speaking of lightening up...

5. Boost Your Mood with Plants. To help wipe out pollutants in your kitchen, fill your space with hardy, happy plants. Your best bet: philodendrons, spider plants or cactus.

6. Bring on the Water. Fish aquariums provide positive energy in the dining room, especially with a gentle filter Ever notice Asian restaurants and the calming ambiance of fish? Partial fish tank cleanings are good for fish.

7. Fish, Fish, Fish. Today, I read that goldfish can bring you good luck and prosperity. In fact, nine is the lucky number. The colors? Gold and one black one. (Go smaller rather than bigger in size = less cleaning.) My kitchen/dining room/study all are connected. So, the fish aquarium is a pleasant, calming treat for all three rooms. 

8. Bring Out the Fresh Fruit. I've got several plump healthful seasonal fruits on display and ready to eat, such as pears placed in a stainless steel colander. According to feng shui concensus, a full bowl may lead to a full life. Translation: Display pretty bowls with plenty of pretty fruit. Empty bowls with just a few pieces of old fruit not so good. And oranges? Nine is the lucky number I've read...Put 'em in a wooden bowl and on the kitchen or dining room table. (Note: If they're pricey, purchase the ones in a bag. Save the separate, sweet and juicy ones for eating.)


9. Hide the Gadgets. Too many kitchen items can clutter up all that positive decluttering you did. So, choose your favorites and recycle as you use 'em. Or, you can always get a kitchen island. A rustic, wooden Mediterranean type is earthy. It would be modest, wooden, but eye-catching, and a great place to stack some kitchen gadgets, and a workspace.

10. Hang Wind Chimes with Crystals. I brought one of mine in from the deck--and put it above the kitchen windows.  Feng shui gurus recommend hanging chimes in the doorway to the kitchen or over the stove sings good energy. And sit down, exhales,  enjoy your clean, decluttered surroundings and renewal of springtime!

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 www.calorey.com

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.

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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. www.calorey.com.


 
THE HEALING POWERS OF COFFEE
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)

Topping
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.