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.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Chef's Salad with a 21st Century Twist


Enter the popular Chef’s Salad. It’s an all-American favorite like apple pie. The traditional salad  also called Chef Salad includes meat, poultry, cheese (sliced julienne style), hard-cooked eggs, and salad greens. Some food historians believe the mixed green salad derived from our health-conscious Golden State. Others believed it was created at a fancy restaurant in New York City.

As a kid, during warm months my mom made this salad for our family. My first Chef’s Salad included turkey, ham, iceberg lettuce, and dressing. It was paired with a bread basket full of French bread and pats of butter. On weekends, my mom took extra time and care into slicing the cold cuts into fancy thin rectangles and created yummy homemade Thousand Island dressing. But if it was a side dish on the weekdays it was a simple vegetable version tossed together with bottled French dressing.
Years ago when a neighbor invited me—the health nut vegetarian--to a bar-b-que I brought salsa, tortilla chips, and marshmallows for roasting. The guests weren’t thrilled by my goodies or the raw grilled shrimp and warm vegetable pasta salad. I remember I said, “I should have made a Chef’s Salad with lots of meats and vegetables. That way, we’d all be happy.” Due to clash of personalities which started with a cold war of meat eaters versus vegetarian, I snatched my bag of unopened marshmallows, went home early and made S’mores in the microwave.
As a wannabe vegan in the Sierra, half the time I’m a vegetarian. So here is a version of the Chef’s Salad with a South Shore meatless twist.

Health Nut Vegetarian Chef’s Salad

2 cups spring mixed greens (the darker, the better)
1 large Roma tomato, sliced
¼ cup cucumber, sliced
¼ cup celery, diced
¼ cup green or red bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons red onion, sliced (optional)
2 tablespoons black olives, sliced (optional)
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, shelled
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, sharp, sliced
2 teaspoons each chives and scallions, minced
Dressing:
½ cup mayonnaise with olive oil
1 teaspoon ketchup
1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
1 teaspoon onion, chopped (optional)
Ground pepper to taste

In a large bowl, place a bed of greens. Toss in salad ingredients. For dressing, in a small bowl, whisk ingredients and put in fridge until serving. The salad serves two to three. (Carnivores can substitute cheese and seeds with ¼ cup turkey, ¼ cup ham, chopped, and 2 tablespoons bacon, crumbled.)

A Chef’s Salad, like this one, is good for everyone. Offer both salad dressing types to be on the safe side. Serve with local, fresh warm French bread slices (with olive oil to dip), and a bowl of berries for dessert. This dish is versatile and can be a slimming one or not—if piled with too much meat and dressing. However you dish it up I promise that it’ll keep your guests from fleeing. For dessert, offer apple pie and you can’t go wrong. Well, serve a bowl of fresh berries, too, to cover all bases. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

On the Streets: Homeless Pets and Their People

On the Streets
Homeless Pets and Their People
By Cal Orey

…A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity, and in poverty, in health, and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow, and snow drives fiercely, if only he may be by his master’s side. "


From coast to coast, in San Francisco or Atlanta, homelessness was a problem in the 20th century and it is today. Both humans and their pets cope with weather changes or living without a home due to a natural disaster.  Here is a story that I wrote years ago but it is a timeless one that needs to be heard...

There’s a memorable scene in the movie Down and Out in Beverly Hills where Nick Nolte, a homeless man, loses his little tan dog, Kerouac and soon after attempts to end his life by jumping into a wealthy businessman’s backyard swimming pool.
            In the hands of this actor, this is a very moving scene. Behind the absurd outcome, however, is the painful truth about down and out people and our society’s often cold and insensitive attitude toward the way the homeless pets and their people really feel.
            Many dog and cat owners—perhaps even you—may one day be just a paycheck or an illness away from becoming homeless. And when a story like this one shows the streets being a home to people and their sleeping bags, pets and shopping carts, you, like, like all pet people may wonder, “How do the homeless and their pets live?”
            I spent several days on the streets with the disenfranchised and my report, while sad, still serves to illustrate the patience and devotion the companion animal holds for his owner, no matter what the circumstances.
            In San Francisco during the Depression dogs kept company with the jobless and transient hobos. During the turbulent Sixties dogs freeloaded with the hippies on Haight Street and freeway ramps. And now, amid a recession, pets band together with the homeless in the Tenderloin and at Golden Gate Park. Regardless of the era or locale, it’s the pet, however, who sticks by his or her owner’s side—for better or worse.
            Statistics prove pets and their people who are homeless, ill or financially destitute are far too common on the streets of San Francisco today.  In the Bay Area, there were an estimated 46,000 homeless in 1988. How many own pets? No one knows for sure. But you can bet it’s a lot.
            Often it is the homeless person rather than society who is blamed when the inevitable doubt arises: “Did he create his plight?” And too frequently, the judgmental question is posed by the homeless themselves who more times than not, have lost their pride and self-worth.


MEET A HOMELESS MAN AND HIS DOGS

            Reno, a homeless person, for example, owns two dogs in San Francisco.  After a painful divorce, several years ago the anguished man grabbed his guitar and pup, left Colorado, and hit the road. For over five years, Reno has been broke and struggling on the streets of San Francisco with his “two girls”—Tramp, an Australian Shepherd/Bull Terrier and Puget Sound, a black Labrador retriever from Washington state.
            Often the 38-year-old unkempt man and his two canines can be found on Market Street where they panhandle for food. Some people call the homeless with dogs, like Reno, “scam artists.” Many turn their heads. And others are losing patience and won’t spare a dime. Dog or not.
            One recent afternoon, in between tears and flashing a snap shot of three dogs, Reno said in between tears he had lost Puget’s daughter, Bingo in an operation. He blamed the doctors for “killing his dog.” Not surprising, his anger and frustration carries over to The City’s Mayor, and the police who often harass the homeless and keep them from living at Civic Center Plaza.
            Reno’s feelings are common among homeless people. “Maybe, the only one that cares and gives support is their companion animal,” says Richard Avanzino, president of the San Francisco SPCA. “Because homeless people have this unique bond and special relationship, in many cases, the animals are better cared for than they take care of themselves. And that’s because the animal has stood by their side when society and the world and human beings have discarded them.”
            Why? Why do people (veterans, children, adults with disabilities, single parents, teenagers, part-time employees—without housing, end up on the streets?
            Experts answer that the primary reason of homelessness is lack of affordable housing. Also other societal factors such as low-paying jobs, inaccessible health care, as well as personal disasters, drug abuse and alcoholism can cause homelessness.
            Despite the growing problem of homeless people and their pets, it continues. Slowly, pet owners coping with hard times are fighting back, and rediscovering their dignity, civil rights, and freedom.

A DOG-LOVING VETERAN AND HIS TROOP

            As a Vietnam veteran living in the Tenderloin, Ray Masterson was homeless for 20 years. With a likeness to John Steinbeck’s fictional character Pirate, a dog-loving man who owned five dogs in Tortilla Flat, he tells his story: “After I go out of the service it was hard to hold down a job, moving from one part of the country to the other. I’ve always had a dog when I’ve been without a home. It’s a fulfillment of being needed. It’s like having a family that I don’t have.”
            Ray has owned several dogs while homeless: Corky, a Coyote/Dingo; Samson, a Husky/Wolf; Toker, a Pit Bull Terrier/Great Dane; and Bear, a Pit Bull Terrier/Chow Chow. “Corky was a real good panhandler,” he says and laughs out loud. “Bear took right to freight trains. Every animal I’ve has had their own personalities and quirks. I got Bear on the rebound because Corky had been run over by a tractor trailer up in Oregon. I worked my way around for about a month and somebody gave me Bear as a pup. As he grew bigger and stronger I got tired of carrying his food and water plus mine in a backpack—so I built him a pair of donkey saddle bags. He carried his own food and water for over a year.
            “Bear and I were homeless in The City for about nine months. We slept up in the churchyard mostly, where we had permission from the church. Bear wouldn’t let anybody near me,” explains Ray. Like a proud father, he points out Bear’s distinct facial features, and adds, that as a pup his dog’s face was full of fuzzy fur resembling a California Grizzly Bear.
            These days the 37-year-old war vet who’d spend his last five dollars on his dog, receives compensation from the government for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even though Ray’s off the streets for now, he’s busy at work as a homeless advocate.
So when society turns their back on people who are down and out it’s understandable why these folks go to man’s best friend for comfort. One man’s words---attributed to Senator George Vest in 1870—from his writing “Tribute To A Dog” says it best:

“…A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity, and in poverty, in health, and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow, and snow drives fiercely, if only he may be by his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will lick wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all others desert, he remains.”  

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Taste of Honey, Berries, and Tea for Spring



Strawberry shortcake is a popular dessert. In the 20th century I savored this treat with store bought round angel cake, strawberries, and whipped cream from a can. It’s a dish with ties to the Deep South—a place where biscuits are common as strawberries are in Northern California, often from Watsonville. And pairing homemade biscuits and fresh strawberries from our Golden State is a way to make this shortcake be a cut above the cake in a box.
Several years ago, during the summer I was stung by a wasp here on the South Shore. It came from the under the steps under the deck. A pest expert came out to the cabin but he didn’t find anything. I insisted there had to be a nest. After what seemed like eternity, the man found a wasp shell the size of small watermelon. But the welt on my arm hurt for the afternoon. Strawberry shortcake (store bought pound cake) made me feel a bit better as did putting Manuka honey on it. (It’s a type of honey with medicinal effects for skin.)

This week I am not tending to painful stings but dealing with tree pollen and sniffles. I discovered eating local honey can help lessen symptoms of seasonal allergies. So, a visit to Grassroots and I now have local honey from Carson City. What’s more, I whipped up a 21st century old fashioned strawberry shortcake for old time’s sake with fresh biscuits made from scratch for a rustic, mountain appeal.

Tea Biscuits with Strawberries and Cream

1 ¼ cups self-rising flour
1 tablespoon granulated pure sugar
¼ cup European style butter
½ cup buttermilk or organic half & half
Extra flour for biscuit dough
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh orange rind
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
2 teaspoons honey
1 cup vanilla gelato
Confectioner’s sugar (for dusting)
Real whipped cream (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine flour and sugar. Add cold cubes of butter. Mix well. Pour milk into mixture. Using your hands, mold dough into a ball. Place onto a floured cutting board. Knead dough and form into a rectangle. Using a biscuit or cookie cutter cut out biscuits. Place biscuits into 8” by 8” baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon and rind.Bake at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes or until light brown on top and bottom.  Remove and cool for a few minutes. Slice in half. Place in small round or oval ramekin. Top bottom biscuit with a scoop of gelato (or whipped cream), put top on. Add strawberries. Sprinkle with sugar. Serves 4.

This sweet dessert pairs nicely with chamomile tea (it has anti-inflammatory benefits for stings and bites) spiked with honey and a bit of all natural lemonade. Flying insect to pesky pollen is part of the great outdoors. Using honey, however, can help make these outdoor challenges seem small and the strawberry dessert will help you exhale and enjoy, too. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Olive Oil Author Dishes on Pasta Plate

Pasta Primavera 
from Author of 
The Healing Powers of Olive Oil 

By Cal Orey
Pasta can be a filling and perfect dish for springtime. Pasta primavera—pasta with vegetables--is a bit more sophisticated than spaghetti with marinara sauce. The history of pasta primavera traces goes back to Northeastern Canada and New York City. The pairing of lightly cooked pasta and vegetables (usually with a sauce) is popular today as it was back in the seventies and eighties.
When I was in my thirties, I was a green reporter on the beat for national magazines. I was assigned a story on two well-known entertainment celebs in San Francisco. One night after the interview, they took me out to an Italian restaurant in North Beach. I nibbled on French bread while the duo ordered Pasta Primavera for everyone. They told me a surprise was coming to dinner. It was Warren Hinckle, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. I didn’t know who he was, nor was I familiar with the pasta dish. But I was charmed by both man and food. The next day I learned who I broke bread with and I never forgot the pasta plate either.
This week I made the dish inspired by my past adventure. This quick and budget-friendly recipe is fun to cook and fun to eat. Not to forget a plant-based meal with nutrient-rich vegetables including heart-healthy olive oil is as good as it gets for your health and waistline. It is not as rich or fattening as Fettuccine Alfredo but it is memorable.



Spaghetti Primavera Sierra-Style

2-3 cups cooked whole grain thin spaghetti
2 cups cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, carrots and cauliflower), chopped
2 tablespoons each extra-virgin olive oil and European style butter
1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 large Roma tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (four cheese mix)
Ground black pepper to taste
Basil, fresh, chopped
½ cup pine nuts
In a medium-size pan, cook pasta per directions. Add cruciferous vegetables after 3-4 minutes, boil till al dente, drain (but keep about 1/3 of the pan water to keep pasta moist). Pour into colander.  In a large frying pan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add garlic and tomatoes. Sauté  a few minutes till hot and tender and then fold into pasta vegetable mixture, and add the pasta water. Top with cheese, pepper,, basil, and nuts. Serves 4. Pair with fresh, warm whole grain bread or a baguette (sliced vertically) with butter or drizzle with olive oil. And this flavorful pasta plate pairs well with a berry dessert.

Blackberries and Chocolate Gelato

2 cups chocolate gelato
2 cups fresh blackberries or raspberries
Whipped cream or Greek honey-flavored yogurt (optional)
4 teaspoons dark chocolate, grated (garnish)
Mint leaves (for garnish)
Gather 4 small ramekins. Place ½ scoop of gelato into each one. Top with ½ cup berries and a dollop of whipped cream or yogurt. Garnish with chocolate. Serves 4.

This light Italian-type meal can be served for lunch or dinner. It will thrill guests and fill up family, friends—and is fine for one. It is fail proof and your kitchen will smell divine with garlic lingering. Don’t forget to savor a glass of wine or iced tea with your pasta in the sierras and you’ll feel like the city came to you.