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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Berry Good French Toast and Tea for Fall

An often told story to my family was that my mom met my dad at the Oregon Caves. Within less than one month the two became a couple, married, and lived happily ever after. Today, Columbus Day, is their anniversary. I remember this date because yesterday the eye doctor checked my peepers.  Sitting in the office—not as bad as the pinned eyes scene from the “Clockwork Orange” film—I got the diagnosis. No eye diseases, use low strength over the counter reading glasses for TV. The good doc gave credit to genes. This good-for-you recipe is inspired by my good parents—and eye-healthy blueberries, according to medical doctors.

Berry Good French Toast
2 organic eggs
½ cup low-fat organic milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 slices whole grain bread
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup blueberries
Honey to taste (use a local variety from our health food store)

In a bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and vanilla. Dip bread into egg mixture on both sides. Place in a medium heated frying pan. Turn once and when each slice of bread is golden brown and crispy remove and put on a plate. Top with a mound of blueberries. Drizzle with honey. Serves two.
This quick, easy to make hot breakfast is as good as it gets on an off-season morning. Pair with coffee or tea. 

— 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 5, 2017

Apple Love During Fall Days

Crisp Autumn Days with Andre

This fall I’ve noticed my liking for apples as well as others who seem to jump on the apple bandwagon. After all, this fruit is wholesome and very versatile in cooking and baking. Let me take you back in time to when apples played an unforgettable scenario for me.

My birthday is in October. That reminds me of one particular year money was tight due to the Great Recession. A former neighbor had a real job (unlike me, a past freelance magazine journalist) but he was frugal. Still, come the night of my special day he and my sibling surprised me with a gourmet store bought French Apple Pie. I was moved because a cake wasn’t on my wish list but pie—well, who doesn’t like pie, right? It’s the feel-good food, especially when the air is crisp and leaves are turning color in the Sierra. I was moved by the good-neighbor gesture.

This comforting apple crisp made from scratch was inspired by my neighbor, the dog-loving man (like my dad, another Libra) who shoveled snow off the deck, brought me sweets from Poland, and walked my former beloved Brittany on black ice, and suggested I write books about Lake Tahoe (I have used the mountains as a muse in my Healing Powers series). He was a good neighbor to love, appreciate--like a good apple dish!

Apple Crisp

Apple Mixture
2 cups, 4-5 Granny Smith apples, washed, peeled, cored, sliced
½ cup apple juice
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons European style butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Crispy Topping
½ cup oats
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons European style butter
Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl put fruit. Add juice, sugar, butter, cinnamon, and vanilla. Set aside. In another bowl, combine oats, sugar, and butter. It should be moist and form crumbled balls. Dish fruit high into two or three ramekins (depends on if they are 6, 8, 12 ounces). Top with crumble topping. Place in a pan filled half with water. Place in oven for about one hour. (Turn the oven up to 425 degrees for the last 20 minutes.) Once the crumble is light brown and fruit bubbly, it’s done. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream. Serves 2-4.
 This easy to make apple crisp aka crumble is worth the effort of peeling the apples. I tried making it with Honeycrisp apples but it’s Granny Smith that works like a charm. Also, unlike some dishes, this one is best served fresh out of the oven. The scent of apples, cinnamon, and the flavor plus light crunchy texture of the crispy topping and juice apples will make you and yours smile. A serving of this apple crisp has my late dog-loving, sweet neighbor’s name on it.

Motto:  Fences make good neighbors but so does dishing out autumn foods like good apples and sharing the season's delight.