Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Scoop on Shakes and Smoothies


Summertime is the time for a cold and creamy milkshake. This sweet drink that goes way back in time, is a creation of milk, ice cream, and flavorings such as chocolate syrup. Back in my waitressing days (yes, I was a server) I'd make these drinks that took time using steel containers that you stuck into a machine (my shakes often whirled too fast and spilled onto the floor and ended my short restaurant career)...
The real scoop is, milkshakes were messy to make (on the job), and often included imitation vanilla ice cream and artificial whipped cream. No fresh fruits or assorted nuts. But times have changed or maybe I have morphed into a health nut and continue to think outside of the can and shake things up in the kitchen.

Several years ago when I penned the chocolate book I was treated to a former European hotel spa in Reno. Imagine savoring a Chocolate Silk Hydrotherapy Bath treat complete with an oversized bear claw Jacuzzi-style bathtub full of bubbling water and a chocolate scent while savoring house made chocolate truffles. After 30 minutes there was more in chocolate heaven. I was given a chocolate scrub/French manicure  and a tall chocolate milkshake to sip. But the perfectionist in me now says, "The shake could have been dark chocolate infused with fresh fruit chunks for a healthier kick."
So, just for you, dear readers, I’ve concocted an awesome chocolate delight that’ll wow your eyes and taste buds—at any age.

Sweet Double Chocolate Shake/Smoothie
* * * * *
4-5 ice cubes
1/2 cup organic half and half
1/4 cup organic low-fat milk
1 cup premium, all-natural chocolate ice cream
1 teaspoon premium unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup banana slices
1 tablespoon nut butter (your choice)
Strawberries and nuts (for topping and/or garnish)

Put all ingredients in a blender. If it has the smoothie button on it, all the better. Blend until thick but not too thin. Pour into glass mugs or glasses. Garnish with berries and nuts. Serves two small shakes or one large one. Hold the whipped cream unless it’s the real stuff you whip up yourself from scratch. * You can put the chocolate shake/smoothie(s) in the freezer for 15 to 20  minutes to make it colder.


This shake/smoothie was a super cool treat this week as our Tahoe heatwave is in the works. The chocolate is calming and energizing, the healthful ingredients are flavorful and well, summer healthy. A homemade shake/smoothie is simple to create and as I always say, you can control the ingredients to keep it healthy just the way you like it. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

California Gold Potato Salad for NorCal Author

California Gold Potato Salad

By Cal Orey

#1 Book Penned at Lake Tahoe
As a kid during summertime bar-b-ques and potato salad were common. In the backyard we’d be dished up a plate of chicken, corn on the cob, and a scoop of salad. History shows American-style potato salad comes from Europe. My mom would put it together using russet potatoes, plain mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, celery, and spices. I liked it but as time passed, my taste changed and this salad is now updated since I switch it up to my hippie clean food eating style.

During my two decades at Tahoe thanks to my travels to the Pacific Northwest and Canada, my healthful salads are even healthier, especially since I make them myself. During the Great Recession here on the South Shore, I admit it was like going back in time to graduate school days and living on a tight budget. One day at Safeway I grabbed a bag of potatoes. No processed, fancy foods or dining out for me. I became the DIY cook for survival’s sake. At home the potato and I became close friends. Shepherd’s Pie, baked taters stuffed with vegetables, French fries, and even potato salad were part of my regimen to get through the tough times. Translation: Several of the magazines I wrote for folded. I had to get a real job as a copywriter for Realtors around the Lake. But potatoes came to the rescue.
Red Mediterranean Potato Salad 
These days, times are a bit better. I get to travel a bit and share my tales in books on health and nutrition. So, here is a revised recipe inspired by my mom but with a new, improved West Coast twist.

Rich Wo(man)’s Potato Salad

4 russet potatoes, boiled (with skins on)
¾ cup mayonnaise with olive oil dressing (store bought)
½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
Black pepper and sea salt to taste
1 cup baby spinach, chopped
¼ cup almonds, sliced
½ cup blue cheese, crumbled
Tomato slices (garnish)

In a large mixing bowl, place cubed potatoes. Add mayonnaise and mix. Add bell peppers, onion, pepper, and salt. Chill in refrigerator. Serve a large scoop of potato salad on a bed of spinach leaves. Top with nuts and sprinkle cheese on top. Garnish with tomato. Serves 4-6.

For summer I pair potato salad with homemade lemonade. To stay on the healthy track, mix it up yourself. Purchase lemons (a bit pricey), use bottled water (a bit pricey), ice cubes (a bit pricey), and pure sugar (on the cheap) or honey (a bit pricey). Slice 2-3 large lemons and squeeze juice into two 8-ounce glasses. Add water, sugar or honey to taste (less is more for good health), and ice. Stir, add a sprig of fresh mint (a bit pricey) and a straw. In the long run, it’s less costly than lemonade in a carton and all-natural. And it tastes sublime.
I keep it real but adding nature’s finest foods in salads, like potato salad, to add flavor and good for you nutrients.  And yes, this new recipe is better than my mother’s yellow stuff without the super greens, blue cheese punch, and crunch of nuts. So as times and cash flow can change--so can your eating style. P.S. Go meatless and enjoy this salad as an entrée or pair it with fish.
Motto: While money comes and goes, Mother Nature’s potatoes can get you through the best and worst of times like making lemonade out of lemons.

--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.) 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Super Vegetables and Tea 21st Century-Style

Summer is on its way and lighter eating is part of seasonal change.  Going back in time a decade ago, at Safeway when I used to gaze at frozen packaged Stuffed Peppers, an American dish, filled with ground beef, white rice, and tomato sauce.  It took me back to when I was a kid and enjoyed my mom’s Porcupine Meatballs (the Stuffed Bell peppers were for the grown-ups).  Nowadays, going meatless and eating more vegetables is gaining momentum for me—and perhaps you, too.

Years ago, my mode of exercise on the South Shore would be to walk to foodie hot spots.  I’d treat myself to cold lemonade and hot French fries.  One afternoon while I sipped the beverage, I waited for a to-go order of fries. The server didn’t give me a strange look. She took my light order despite people were eating meals.  I happily left with my box of taters which I nibbled on during my trek with a get lean mission. Now, I eat first and my go dog walks me after.



Porcupine-Style Stuffed Bell Peppers
* * *
1 1/2 cups brown or yellow rice, cooked (try wild rice but it is high in sodium)
2 bell peppers, red or yellow
2 tablespoons European style butter or olive oil
2 tablespoons yellow or red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
3-4 tablespoons green bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup Roma tomatoes, chopped
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Black Tea is Healthy
In a pan, cook rice according to instructions. Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt butter or oil, sauté onion. garlic, and peppers. Add into cooked rice. Set aside. In a microwave dish with a half inch of water put two sliced, seeded peppers. Microwave about 1 minute. Remove and stuff rice mixture. Top with tomatoes. (You can use large tomatoes instead of peppers if you preferred.) Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Makes 2. Serve with a fresh baguette slices dipped in olive oil. A cupful of green and purple grapes is a nice sweet dessert to add.
These stuffed peppers can be savored for lunch or dinner. For me, I ate one hot out of the oven for a light dinner, and the next day, cold leftovers one for lunch.  These days, I prefer eating grains and vegetables during the warmer weather.  Pairing it with black tea, fresh lemons, and less than more sugar is an acquired taste but a healthier choice. Home-style stuffed peppers and chilled brew will provide you with refreshment.  It’s worth the effort to put it together in the comfort of your home and you’ll enjoy the energy boost to go do it.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Breakfast Muffins for National Iced Tea Month


Welcome to the muffin. New York is known for an apple muffin whereas California, thanks to our orange groves, should be touted for its orange muffin.  Muffins are similar to cupcakes in the way you bake them.  However, muffins are often less sweet and can do well on their own without fancy frosting.  You can find muffins are at our local bakeries, grocery stories, or make hit the kitchen at night when it’s cool and make them yourself...

Four and a half years ago, I recall awakening early in the morning. My mission was to go to Sacramento to pick up a new addition to my family.  Not a big breakfast person, en route, I stopped at a convenient store and purchased a packaged muffin. While it stopped my stomach from growling, a home baked muffin would have been, well, special to savor on this special trip. Upon arrival I met an elderly woman. She handed me a wake-up gift. “How adorable,” I exclaimed. My arms were full of a 12 pound fur ball—an Australian Shepherd 10 week old puppy complete with puppy breath.  And we traveled back home to the Sierra.

This week when I brewed a cup of coffee and teamed it with an orange muffin I made the night before, I took the two treats back to bed (a ritual I love). Turning on the TV for CBS This Morning, I looked to the right of me. A full grown Aussie with amber eyes met my eyes. It was a perfect breakfast with my soulmate with paws.
Welcome to my breakfast muffin recipe. I love self-rising flour (no need for baking powder or baking soda). Using fresh fruit, organic milk, and simple ingredients without artificial preservatives is the way to do it when you live in the mountains.

Orange Breakfast  Muffins

1 large orange, (cut in half and use ½ cup juice)
1/2 cup organic 2% low-fat milk
1/2 cup European style butter (melted)
½ cup sugar (you can use ¼ cup if preferred)
1 large brown egg
1 capful pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ cup self-rising flour
2-3 teaspoons orange rind
Raw or confectioners’ sugar
Mint leaves (for garnish)

In a large bowl, stir together juice and milk. Add butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, stir well. Stir in flour and orange rind until smooth without lump. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 20 minutes or until tops are light golden brown and firm to touch. Remove from pan.  Sprinkle muffin tops with sugar. Garnish with mint leaves. Serve warm or cool. Makes 10. *You can remove muffin wrappers for nice look. Breakfast muffins store well in an airtight container.

A bonus: This recipe is quick and easy to make. The fresh muffin flavor is subtle but the citrus taste is detectable. Texture-wise they are light not dense. You can dress them up with a vanilla  glaze or cut the muffins in half and spread with honey or cream cheese. These orange muffins pair well with eggs and bacon. Make this recipe the night before to enjoy the morning for a sweet wake-up treat for you and yours indoors and outdoors. And don't forget to love these orange gems with iced tea! It's National Iced Tea Month!
*To order Healing Powers Series, check out this site.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

No-Cook Energy Bites for Holiday Get-Up-and-Go!


When did this popular candy-rich, no-bake bite appear? It may have started during the health-oriented ‘70s tofu and granola craze. But it also is a spin-off of no-bake cookies infused with alcohol that go back to the mid-20th century.

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When I first moved here I became good friends with a neighbor, an older woman whom locals thought was my mom. But she was my best friend, pet sitter, and confidant. During the summer, one afternoon while I sipped homemade iced tea, she made Bourbon Balls (a treat my mother used to make for holidays). Vanilla wafer crumbs, powdered sugar, corn syrup, and bourbon are some of the ingredients. “Why don’t you make something healthy?” I asked. She darted, “Like what?” I offered my hippie-ish recipe for energy balls. She shook her head no while shaping her traditional 1-inch balls and putting each one on a cookie sheet.
That night her recipe inspired me to recreate energy balls. I put together good for you foods--peanut butter, honey, dried fruit, and nuts. The next day, my pal didn’t want to try my superfood, and I passed on her booze balls. But we remained friends despite our different tastes from the beatnik era to post-hippie days.

So here is a version of my get-up-and-go energy balls. As the temperature rises, both locals and tourists are going to love these bites. What’s better than bite-sized balls with wholesome goodness that are easy to make and from nature’s finest. And they contain healthful protein, carbs, fat, fiber, and iron.

Peanut Butter Coconut Balls

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup honey (I used a local brand from Carson City)
1/3 cup premium unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
½ cup walnuts, chopped
¼ cup raisins, golden
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, premium (I used Baker’s)
2 teaspoons sea salt
Cinnamon and ginger to taste (optional)

In a large bowl, combine peanut butter, honey, and cocoa powder. Stir well. Fold in walnuts and raisins. Put into refrigerator for about 30 minutes (it makes it easier to make the balls). Shape into 2-inch balls, then roll in coconut. Sprinkle with salt. Store balls in airtight container. (Peanut Butter Coconut Balls freeze well.)  Makes about 1 dozen.  (You can also switch it up and use different dried fruit, like blueberries and cranberries to celebrate Memorial Day weekend and Fourth of July.) Serve with iced tea or coffee for the feel-good caffeine buzz.

The different colors and textures of these energy bites are pleasing to the eye and palate. They are gooey, chewy, and crunchy. Plus, the mix of nuts and honey with a bit of sea salt gives you both a sweet and savory treat. And ginger is a brilliant note. Instead of baking cookies in a hot kitchen, these no-bake energy balls allow you time to enjoy the outdoors. Don’t forget to share the goodness with family, friends, and neighbors (all ages) for the fun of it.

*The Healing Powers of Tea and The Healing Powers of Honey are available at online bookstores, including amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, kobo.com.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Toasted Sandwich with a Mediterranean Diet Touch


Say hello to the panini sandwich wonder.  It’s an Italian hot sandwich consisting of two slices of bread—baguette of French bread—stuffed with cheese and meat and fried on a grill, pan, or broiled. This present-day, popular grilled sandwich goes back to the 20th century. And, you don’t have to travel far to find one at restaurants around the Lake. But you can also do it yourself at home.

One late spring, chilly afternoon after viewing the movie “It’s Complicated” I made my first panini inspired by Meryl Streep’s dish, a hot cheesy French sandwich called Croque Monsieur. It wowed and wooed male characters Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin—and me. It’s a simple sandwich with an egg base, ham, tomato, cheese and bread—one or two slices. I chose to go the Italian panini route—no eggs.

Tuna Cheddar Cheese Panini  

2 tablespoons finely chopped cucumber
2 tablespoons chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped red onion (optional)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise with olive oil (store bought)
3-ounce can albacore tuna in water, drained   
Ground black pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons European style butter with sea salt
4 thick slices Artisan European style French bread made with organic flour (or a baguette)
4 slices cheddar cheese
1 Roma tomato, sliced
Fresh basil, chopped (optional)

In a bowl, combine cucumber, celery, onion, mayo, tuna, and pepper. Stir and chill in refrigerator. Place 4 bread slices on a cutting board. On medium heat, use a large skillet to add butter, melt, and add bread. Top 2 slices bread with tuna mixture, cheese, and tomato.  Then top with the other 2 slices of buttered bread. Place another smaller pan (or spatula) on top of sandwiches. Cook about 3-5 minutes on each side or until brown. You can also use the oven broiler. *I put tomato on the sandwich after it was cooked. Slice each sandwich in half. Top with fresh basil. Serves two.
A panini press or grill is nice to achieve grill marks. But two skillets or oven broiler can achieve the toasted grill imprint, sort of. The crunch of the soft but crispy bread, gooey cheese and creamy tuna with bits of goodness are well, good (especially if you use premium ingredients). It’s comfort food with a wholesome twist. Serve with a green salad. A scoop of chocolate gelato spread on top of a whole grain honey graham cracker (open face or a sandwich) paired with iced tea or coffee will complete this scrumptious Mediterranean meal to love.

 — 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 .


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Healing Powers Series Author Loves Plums and Pears


Fresh fruit in May at Lake Tahoe isn’t as fruitful as it is in the summertime. However, finding sweet fruits, including plums and pears, can be done. These two favorites can make a sweet English-style fruit crumble like the Brits favored because the sophisticated dish is uncomplicated to make...

During one May visit to the South Shore, before I became a local, the unpredictable weather like in Hawaii or Alaska, was an introduction to how meals and plans can change in a heartbeat. My sibling and I were en route to having a picnic on a sandy beach. But due to a thunderstorm we had to resort to plan B. “We can eat sandwiches and fruit while watching the rain at the Lake,” I offered, thinking the novelty of winter-like weather in the spring was exciting even while sitting in the car.
The funny thing is, years later I forgot how this month can be cold one day and warm the next. Last weekend I purchased fresh fruit to make cold fruit salad. But it snowed. So, that is how I switched things up and my fruit (not as flavorful and juicy like it is in the summer) morphed into a warm dish.

Plum and Pear Crumble
Serve crumble with coffee
3 plums, cored, peeled, chopped
3 pears, cored, peeled, chopped
1 apple, cored, peeled, chopped
1/8 cup (each) brown and granulated sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 lemon cut in half, all the juice

Crumble Topping
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 stick European style butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
¼ cup old-fashioned quick oats (not instant)
½ cup walnuts, chopped
Whipped cream or ice cream (choice depends on the weather)
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl put chopped fruit. Add sugar, flour, cinnamon, and juice.  Mix well. Set aside. In another bowl, combine butter, sugar, oats, flour. and nuts. Dish fruit evenly into ramekins. Top each with crumbly topping. Bake approximately one hour. (If you live in high altitude it may take a bit longer.). It's done when crust is golden brown and fruit is tender and bubbly. Best served warm with a dollop of whipped cream. Serves four.


Making a plum tart or apple pie in May seems a bit off, but creating simple fruit crumble dishes works whether it’s chilly or not. The oatmeal makes it crumbly not sugary like a fruit crisp. Served warm with coffee for breakfast or cold with iced tea for dessert definitely works. Come summertime repeat with blackberries or rhubarb. It’s a sweet and comfort food from nature’s finest for life in the mountains and guaranteed to please whatever Mother Nature decides to do.