Friday, July 31, 2009

Blast Belly Fat with Vinegar & VIP Secrets

Blast Belly Fat
with Apple Cider Vinegar
& VIP Secrets

By Cal Orey

"To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist--the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know exactly how much oil one must put with one's vinegar."
-- Oscar Wilde

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. And these days, on my Web site I have a Q&A column "Ask the Vinegar/Oil Lady" which splashes me with questions weekly about drinking apple cider vinegar (ACV) solo or with water to lose weight and get that to-die for flat tummy or six pack abs. 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 got 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.

OK. Sure, ACV can certainly help you stay on the Whittle That Tummy track, but don't forget these other secrets that really work. At 56, to be 57 in two months, I toy with buying a bikini but not sure if it's politically correct at my age as an aging boomer. (Baby boomers work hard to age gracefully and a gourmet's touch can be a godsend.) As a size 4, I can and do wear a Victoria's Secret tankini (exposes partial belly) and a one piece--yep, my tummy is flat on a good belly day. Do these secrets work? Uh yeah.
P.S. Forego overindulging in alcohol or you may be frowning as you peek down at an unsightly "beer belly." Not pretty for guys or gals (at any age).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Heart-Healthy Pancakes with Syrup Rank #1 in Poll

Pancakes with Syrup Rank #1
Breakfast Poll

By Cal Orey

He who goes to bed hungry dreams of pancakes.

The heatwave is over...Lake Tahoe is finally having a thunderstorm and the smell of fresh rain lingers this Wednesday afternoon in my living room. The next best scent may just be hot pancakes ... Speaking of pancakes, The Writing Gourmet breakfast poll results are in. Question: Do your prefer pancakes or waffles?

A) Pancakes with syrup

B) Waffles with syrup

C) Both with fruit

D) I'll pass, eggs are my thing

Results: 41% pancakes with syrup; 33% waffles with syrup; 25% both with fruit; 0% eggs

I'm surprised a little bit. I surely thought Belgian waffles would be the winner. Not so much. So, I'm thinking why pancakes? I go straight to wikipedia and it's amazing how versatile and popular pancakes aka "hotcakes" and "flapjacks" are in American and around the globe.

Next thing I know, I start getting images of pancakes cooked up in movies and on TV. Recently, I was watching a competition of chefs making the best breakfast. One chose pancakes and he got frustrated when the first batch didn't turn out perfectly. Tossed it. It slowed him down (they must cook by the ticking clock) and his mistake affected his overall presentation. Yes, there is an art to making the perfect pancake. And romantic? Oh yeah. Last week I watched that edgy program (again) "Nurse Jackie" and a young woman mentioned how her boyfriend made her pancakes in the a.m. When the nurse returned home her husband was whipping up hotcakes for dinner. The film "Something's Gotta Give"? Both Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton wanted to share homemade pancakes for a late night snack. It was a sweet loving gesture but it didn't pan out (pun intended).

So, here I sit thinking simple pancakes sprinkled with confectioner's sugar drizzled with gourmet maple syrup is the way to go. Teamed with orange juice, and a cup of French brew with a big, big splash of organic 2% low-fat milk is a super breakfast--solo, with a mate or family. Tomorrow morning I'll prepare Oat Bran pancakes complete mix --just add water. Yep, these puppies contain no trans fat, are a good source of protein, calcium, and iron. Plus, the box notes you can substitute two tablespoons water with two tablespoons honey. (How cool is that?) And syrup? It's the pricey real gourmet maple syrup I use and recommend using. It's worth it. Once you try it you can't go back to the cheap or generic stuff. It will make you want to move to Vermont (or wherever the syrup makers make their stuff).
One more thing. I use a taste of olive oil (yes, I love Sciabica's oil) in the frying pan so I won't look disgruntled and flustered like the chef on Food Network. I don't want the first pancake or last one to stick to the pan. Lastly, I can see why teaming hotcakes with syrup, juice, and fine coffee--is a winner to start off the day, night or as an afternoon delight. (All this pancake chat has got me thinking French crepes...)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Organic Italian Pizza on the Cheap & Quick!

Organic Roasted Vegetable and Cheese Stone Baked Pizza
Cal Orey

The bitter the salad of endives, the stronger must be the vinegar.
--Palestinian Proverb

Today I went swimming in a cold pool and it was bliss. The last thing I want to do is slave in a hot kitchen. So, I am cheating (again). I purchased O Organics Organic Roasted Vegetable and Cheese Pizza... On the box it reads: "Made In Italy"--and it had me with those three little words.

If I ordered a gourmet pizza it would run about $20 with tip. Sure, I could whip up a homemade delight but it's hot, hot, hot. The Sierra Nevada heat wave lingers. So, this frozen baby looks like it could do the trick. Here, take a peek at some of the nutritional stuff:

Servings Per Container: 2
Calories 250 per serving
Total Fat 7 g
Cholesterol 15 mg
Sodium 460 mg
Protein 12 g

Vitamin C 37% [Wow, that's a lot!]
Calcium 16%
Iron 5%

Ingredients: Organic unbleached wheat flour, water, salt, organic cold pressed olive oil, natural yeast. Topping: organic tomato sauce (organic tomatoes), organic cold pressed olive oil, water, salt, organic onions, organic oregano, organic black pepper, organic mozzarella cheese, organic milk, salt, [something I don't know what it is], organic eggplant, organic zucchini, organic yellow and red peppers, organic parmesan cheese, organic milk [here is that strange word again--"microbial remet"]--correction, I put on my fave baby boomer reading glasses-- the small print reads microbial rennet (and Wikipedia provides the explanation quite nicely).

Overall, it sounds good to me, especially on a sizzling summer day. Organics says: "There is much to love about this pizza, which is made in Italy from Italian ingredients...The crust, which is light, crisp and golden, is stretched by hand, then the pizza is stone-baked in a wood-fired oven to bring out its complex flavors."
I'm easy. I'm sold. So, for less than $5.00 and teamed with a wholesome fresh green salad drizzled with homemade olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing--how in the frozen world can I go wrong? Oops. I now am reading "May contain tuna (fish)." Oh really. Well, that's OK. How do you say: When in the Italy (or America) do as the traditional Italians do. Eat fish. All this in 10 minutes. Amazing.

But the dogs need to go for a walk...and I'm not hungry yet because it's too warm indoors. The end result: I recommend trying this budget-wise pizza. What do you have to lose? It's summer--a time to get outdoors and take the shortcut route to cooking and staying healthy. But note, if you do want to really make a homemade pizza, in my book The Healing Powers of Vinegar, on page 276 there is a recipe "Greek Pita Pizza" created by a pro chef. And it includes both olive oil and red wine vinegar. It's your choice. Ah, it does look oh so good though.

To bake a quick frozen pizza or one from scratch? Nah, the recipe in the book is too perfect. It would be perfect to create on one of those cool days with those awesome summertime thunderstorms. Maybe later this week. But not today. It's time for our jog! "Simon. Seth. Let's go do it!" Buno Appetito.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dog Duo to Wed Woman: Turkey Dinner for Three

Engagement Dinner
By Cal Orey

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotions."
Yesterday I decided to go with the flow and let my romance life go to the dogs... I got engaged to my two Brittany spaniels (with French roots) Simon and Seth. I was at Sessions, the hair salon that caters to blushing brides (Lake Tahoe is the hot spot for getting hitched). I said to my stylist (as she was putting reddish highlights into my blonde hair to match my two four-legged orange and white boys) that I felt left out because I didn't walk down an aisle, wear a winning dress, or exchange vows. I added, "I'm in love with Seth and Simon, my two fun-loving, loyal dogs." And then, that is the exact moment when I decided I was going to get engaged and marry my dog duo... Back at home, I googled "Woman Marries Dog" and it seems it has only been done in other countries--not in America--so I may be the first dog lady to take the big leap. I got busy and rang up two ministers. I'm waiting to find out which one will snag the offbeat event with two bird dogs and their loving, idealistic Catholic mistress. (I don't believe a priest will provide this service.) Meanwhile, I'm shopping online for Brittany rings and/or bracelets and special collars (for the boys)--something budget-smart, simple and sophisticated to finalize our engagement. And a must-have is a dog-loving photographer to shoot photos to cherish. (And it gets more doggone crazy. I'm actually humming to the lyrics of the oldie but goodies--"Going to the Chapel of Love" and "Puppy Love.")

The wedding will be a late autumn event. It will be at a Dogs Allowed beach on the Nevada side or amid towering pine trees and golden aspens at my home. It's undecided. A minister (I pray) will perform the "Commitment Ceremony" service for two dogs and their human mistress. I prefer this occassion to be a small Mediterrnean-style event. The boys, Simon, 6, and Seth, 3, will be clad in black turtleneck sweaters with white bow ties. I will wear a long off white sweater dress with sunflowers in my hair. The wedding cake (made special in Reno) will include vinegar, olive oil, and carob (dogs cannot eat chocolate)--to follow the advice in my Healing Powers books series. And, the honeymoon? Most likely, it will be an unforgettable night with dog movies, room service, and lots of cuddles and doggie kisses. I hope we can enjoy this time together at a Lake Tahoe European-style dog-friendly hotel.

So, as I plan for all the dog-human wedding arrangements I'm going to celebrate tonight and prepare a Mediterranean dish that I can share with my canines.
For the dogs, I'm whipping up tasty appetizers--dog biscuits Simon and Seth will roll over for! Cheese Dog Biscuits: The ingredients include oat flour, cheddar cheese, water, and olive oil. The recipe is found on page 156 in my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil (published by Kensington). And, because my pooches are bird chasers I'm going to cook up an organic turkey--a gift. It will not be stuffed, however, I will baste it with all-natural olive oil and honey--two ingredients used in doggie treats. (The roasted potatoes and walnut garnish are for moi--not for my "fiance(s)".) It will be the Wedding engagement dinner fit for two dogs and their devoted guardian, soon to be "wife." We all three will be wagging our tails. This is going to be the beginning of an unforgettable wedding that I never got and always dreamed of getting.
One More Thing: If you're wondering about this animal-human marriage thing, stop wondering. Wikipedia dishes up a dog's tail list of who and where it's been done. (BTW: My roots are Osage it possible that's where this spiritual desire is rooted from or maybe I just am a fool in love.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls To Live For (Thanks to Olive Oil)

By Cal Orey
There was a chill in the summer night... The wildflowers are no longer vibrant in splashes of yellow. The pollen is gone. Victoria's Secret is sending me Fall catalogs boasting sweaters and jeans. I'm considering ordering firewood. Ah, are these the subtle hints of autumn? What's more, fresh, hot cinnamon rolls? That's what I'm going to talk about.
At one of the posh Lake Tahoe resorts (all mine, sort of, during off season) I have purchased pricey--but worth it--colossal cinnamon rolls. Imagine dipping into a warmish swimming pool, solo. Steam rising from the blue water. In November (sometimes earlier) a snow flurry falls onto your body and it's like snow from heaven. And to top it off, after laps until in the zone, you plop yourself into the hot, bubbly tub with a panoramic view of the Sierras and towering pine trees. Then, to top off this feel-good event, a hot cinnamon roll is yours to enjoy, bite after bite after the fall swim/tub treat. But making this sweet bread is even more enjoyable in the comfort of your own home.
If you want history facts about the scrumptious cinnmon roll, check out Wikipiedia. I'm thinking about the nutritional perks of rolls and I found that they do include good stuff, such as heart healthy olive oil and nuts. Iron-rich raisins and/or disease-fighting antioxidant-rich blueberries are good for you, too. And if you team this rolls with fresh squeezed orange juice and a cup of hot cocoa--you're on the European healthy track.
But I want to make homemade rolls and make these with a good fat. So who do I go to? Italian Gemma Sciabica, of course. This recipe comes straight from her cookbook Baking with California Olive Oil: Dolci and Biscotti Recipes . Naturally, as a native Californian, I'm going to use Sciabica's olive oil. (I can't believe I didn't include this recipe in my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil published by Kensington -- because breakfast rolls can be healing from head to toe each time you indulge. And the smell of cinnamon is touted to ignite the feeling of romance, too.
Cinnamon Rolls
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons semonlina
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dry yeast
3 tablespoons Marsala Olive Fruit Oil
1 egg (or two egg whites)
1/2 cup milk (non fat) or water (110 degrees)


4 to 5 tablespoons brown sugar; 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon; 1/4 teaspoon cardamom; 1/2 cup raisins, dried blueberries or cherries; 3 to 4 tablespoons walnuts chopped small; 2 teaspooons Marsala Olive Fruit Oil

1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon Marsla Olive Fruit Oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients until smooth. In mixing bowl add milk and yeast, let stand about 10 minutes. Stir in egg, vanilla and oil. Add remaining ingredients, stir until dough holds together. Cover, let rise in a warm place until dough holds together. Turn dough out onto floured board, pat dough down 12 by 8 inch rectangle. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with remaining ingredients evenly. Moisten edges, roll dough up jelly roll style, begin with long end. Slice roll with heavy thread, placing under roll. Criss cross thread across top of roll, pulling quickly as if tying a knot. Place rolls cut side up in 10 inch greased baking pan. Leave a little space in between rolls. Let stand covered in a warm place until puffy, about 1 hour. Bake in 375 degrees oven for 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden. Cover with folil loosely if browning too quickly. Drizzle glaze over cooled rolls evently. Note: Rolls may be baked in greased 12 cup muffin pan for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

The bottom line: Research shows that aroma can affect mood, anxiety, stress, memory and problem-solving. The scents of fresh cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate? What better way to start off your morning, huh? Oh, and a fire in the fireplace (to replace the BBQ scent of summer) is my idea of the beginnning of breathtaking autumn, a season to love (and two dog nights).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Taste Test: Gourmet Chocolate Ice Cream

By Cal Orey

Today at Lake Tahoe it is hot, hot, hot. It is the perfect day to taste cold chocolate ice cream... And I did just that. I purchased five different brands, not the usual Breyers Ice Cream that I am drawn to, time after time. I had special gourmet ice cream in mind and that is what came home with me in a big plastic bag.

Keep in mind, I'm a health author, not an expert food critic (like savvy Clay Gordon, author of Discover Chocolate) or seasoned chocolatier on the West Coast, East Coast or in Belgium or Switzerland. I am The Writing Gourmet--the one who writes books on the healing powers of vinegar, olive oil, and chocolate. The Writing Gourmet is a working writer who loves gourmet ice cream, including the most popular flavor--dark chocolate (according to my recent poll). These notes are simply my own personal point of view (POV) --and my younger brother (yes, he joined me in the at-home taste test) and I were on the same page; no sibling rivalry here.

Sure, ice cream does contain saturated fat (clogs your arteries and can pack on unwanted pounds and body fat if you eat too much). On the upside, these five brands I chose do not contain trans fat or a minimal amount. Yep, they do contain some cholesterol and sodium (not good for high blood pressure) but the amounts are not incredibly off the charts if you practice portion control. Moderation. Moderation. Moderation. (Yikes, what will I do with all this ice cream?)

1. Haagen-Dazs Reserve Amazon Valley Chocolate: "Though naturally lighter in color, AmazonValley cocoa beans deliver an intense flavor with notes of roasted chestnuts and hazelnuts."
Ingredients: cream, milk, sugar, cocoa powder, egg yolks, chocolate
Health Highlights: 1/2 cup--290 calories; Protein 5 g; vitamin A 10%; Calcium 10%; Iron 6%
POV: This ice cream boasts an exotic creamy texture with a rich, darker chocolate taste that lingers on and on--but it is a good aftertaste and yes, you'll want another bite (or two).

2. Villa Dolce Italian Kiss Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato: "Bacio, as it is known in Italy, is a delicious, rich blend of Piedmont Hazelnuts and European cocoa beans."
Ingredients: milk, cream, sugar, cocoa powder, hazelnut paste, hazelnuts (dextrose, guar gum, locust bean gum)
Health Highlights: 1/2 cup--200 calories; Protein 4 g; Vitamin 6%; Calcium 10%
POV: OMG! This is amazing. It has a caramel-egg nog type flavor. Blame it on the nuts. It's creamy with a capital C. The texture is something to write home about.

3. Ben & Jerrry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie All Natural: Chocolate Ice Cream with Fudge Brownies
Ingredients: cream,liquid sugar, skim milk, cocoa (processed with unbleached wheat flour, soybean oil, eggs, corn syrup, egg whites, guar gum, salt, carrgeenan, baking soda, vanilla extract, egg yolks
Health Highlights: 1/2 cup 220 calories; Protein 3 g; Vitamin A 8%; Calcium 10%; Iron 8%
POV: Ah, the chewy, brownie texture is fun and teases the taste buds. This will not last long in my freezer. (And I can't give it to the dogs. Bad stuff for four-leggers.)

4.Gelato Classico Italian Ice Cream Tiramisu: "Ultra rich and creamy hand-crated ice cream" and "Ultra rich gourmet ice cream"
Ingredients: cream, skim milk, cane sugar, carob bean,Tiramisu cake, cocoa processed, coffee, rum...(a long, long list of other stuff)
Health Highlights: 1/2 cup 270 calories; Protein 5 g; Vitamin A 10%; Calcium 15%; Vitamin C: 4%; Iron: 4%
POV: While the list of ingredients is a bit overwhelming (I am known as the purist gourmet), the unique flavor of this Italian ice cream is a masterpiece.

5. Haagan-Dazs Chocolate: "all natural ice cream"
Ingredients: cream, skim milk, sugar, egg yolks, cocoa processed with alkali
Health Highlights: 1/2 cup 260 calories; Protein: 5 g; Vitamin A 10%; Calcium:10%; Iron: 8%
POV: Simple. Creamy, rich chocolaty taste. Great texture.

So the verdict is in...Wow. This is a difficult choice. No wonder snobby Simon gets a thumbs down for some of his votes on American Idol. This is a difficult job to choose a favorite when all have merits. I love all-natural and simple ice cream. Therefore, #1 Haagan-Dazs Reserve Amazon Valley Chocolate wins in that category. But, the ice cream that melted my heart is #2 --Villa Dolce Italian Kiss. It titillated my working to be refined palate. Thank God I only purchased a 4 ounce container...
But the ice cream that truly wowed me--the real winner is #4, the Gelato Italian Classico Ice Cream. "Coffee and chocolate gelato with rum-kissed Tiramisu cake...Buon Appetito!" Despite its cat's tail list of ingredients it's the gourmet ice cream I was looking for on my quest without going to Italy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chocolate Contest: Craving A Killer Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe

Craving a Killer
Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe

By Cal Orey

I'm looking for an awesome one-of-a-kind all-natural original cheesecake recipe... I'd love for it to contain dark chocolate and olive oil. Those are my requirements. The individual who posts the most creative and best tasting chocolate cheesecake easy to follow recipe will win a signed copy of two of my books: The Healing Powers of Olive Oil and The Healing Powers of Chocolate --both published by Kensington.

Deadline is August 1. The winner will be announced. The books will be signed, sealed, and delivered. Note: I will send you the new book cover and catalog (received today) description of the chocolate book ($14.00). You will receive an advance copy for the holidays. A tradecover of The Healing Powers of Olive Oil (value $14.00 plus free mailing) will be sent asap.

P.S. Your recipe will be posted on my Web site in the Hot Chocolat category (see on top). And your name, Web site/blog will be included. And I will mention you and it on a national radio show to show how fab it is to pair olive oil and chocolate--two good foods with good monounsaturated fats.

Fave Ice Cream Flavor Poll Results: The Winner?

Ice Cream Flavor Poll Results
And The Winner Is?

by Cal Orey

Several days ago, I posted a poll on The Writing Gourmet blog: What Is Your Fave Ice Cream Flavor?... The results are interesting: 50% chocolate; 20% vanilla; 10% berry; 10% other. So there you go. Chocolate ice cream stands out--and that doesn't really surprise me. But I love 'em all. Cold, creamy, all-natural ice cream--if it's gourmet all the better.

I recall going to Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors Ice Cream Store and my boyfriend ordered up vanilla. I admit I created a bit of an argument when I darted: "Why in the world would you order something plain when there are dozens of flavors in front of you?" (I, too, like vanilla but with a twist of chocolate. I ordered a chocolate malt made with French vanilla ice cream and dark chocolate syrup.) The fact is, vanilla is sophisticated. It's pure. It's simple.

In my own freezer French vanilla is there. Three cartons. Breyers French Vanilla Real Ice Cream, All Natural is my fave. The ingredients: milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, natural flavor, natural tara gum--that's it. It's low in sodium, contains vitamin A and and bone-boosting calcium, and has only 140 calories per 1/2 cup.

Why do I love French vanilla ice cream? Ah, let me count the ways. You can do so much with it. You can top it with fresh peaches, berries, dark chocolate chips, and dress it up with balsamic vinegar for an elegant dessert. Milkshakes? Yep, any flavor from a strawberry shake to a berry smoothie. A scoop on hot chocolate or java to homemade apple pie. Thumbs up for vanilla ice cream. But there's more...

I can understand those who voted for berry ice cream. I tried to find a Black Raspberry Chocolate but it's not anywhere near Lake Tahoe. Go figure. I tried using the Product Locator on the Breyers' Web site. I hit 5, 10, 25, 50 miles--nothing. I wonder why it is nonexistent in Sierra Nevada. Is a quake coming? A power outage? They don't like mountain folks or tourists? Note to self: Do more research... And for those who checked "other" -- I get it. As a kid, after church on Sundays coffee ice cream was my choice. It made me feel grown up and good, especially after confession (not fun). But when it comes right down to it, it's still real vanilla and dark chocolate for me--these two provide the best of both ice cream worlds.

So, I am still on the quest for the best gourmet chocolate ice cream. Tomorrow, I will go on the hunt for it...and do a taste test in the comfort of my home. A writer's work is never done. (No dogs allowed. It's chocolate.) BTW: In my forthcoming book The Healing Powers of Chocolate, Gemma Sciabica gave me her recipe for homemade chocolate ice cream--and yes, it includes olive oil! Happy National Ice Cream Month. We only have a week left.

Stressed Out? Escape to Belgium Waffles & Berries

Stay Sane with Belgium Waffles and Berries

by Cal Orey

I've waffled before. I'll waffle again.
Howard Dean

Ever wake up to an imperfect world and wish you could just crawl back into bed? Yeah, it's one of those not so fun days. I'm suffering from writer's "Computer Hell."... My 7 month old laptop (a real lemon) has been diagnosed (again): defective hard drive. I may lose all programs, all work, all of it. All gone. So what can make me feel better?

I'm taking a jet plane to Belgium (in my dreams). No, that's not in the cards for me today. But I am going to go to Belgium Waffles and Berryland. Homemade? Not this time around. But on a good day I am going to do just that and do it right. Enter: The Belgium/Belgian Waffle: According to the quick and resourceful Wikipedia, "The Belgian, or Brussels waffle, is prepared with a yeast-leavened batter. It is generally, but not always, lighter, thicker, and crispier and has larger pockets compared to other waffle varieties. In Belgium, it is served warm by street vendors, dusted with confectioner's sugar, and sometimes topped with whipped cream or chocolate spread."

For now, it's Belgian Van's all natural multigrain waffles.--Gourmet style. Read: No trans fat, made with whole grain, complete with good stuff like protein, calcium, and iron. The bonus? I'm topping two of 'em (just 230 calories) with fresh, organic blueberries. These little blue gems are full of vitamins A and C (stressbuster), both essential to your health. One cup of blueberries has a mere 82 calories, and no fat.

Once I get my computer craziness settled, I vow to celebrate and buy a real waffle maker and I even checked out this Web site for Belgian Waffles--so you can make the real thing if your day is a happy one and you want to make these babies from scratch. I glanced at the site, the different shapes and prices of waffle makers as I munched on my hot, once frozen delights. But hey, they were light, crispy, topped with fresh and juicy blueberries and that real maple syrup that I do love despite the cost...Sure, I'd love to savor the homemade waffles like my Mom used to make on Sunday mornings. I'd hold the butter and use California's Sciabica olive oil so the waffles wouldn't stick to the new gadget that I don't have today. (Or maybe the makers are nonstick?) Life goes on...But hey, in the real world sometimes you have to make lemons into lemonade. Speaking of lemons, I loathe my computer. How many hours does it take to fly to Belgium?
One more thing: Oh, oh, oh...Did you know that there are a variety of waffle types?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

10 DIY Oil & Vinegar Summertime Home Cures

10 DIY Summertime Home Cures

(Plus Two Must-haves to Chill Out)

By Cal Orey

Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.
Jim Fiebig

I'm feeling the heat of summer and trying to go with the flow of it all... Tomorrow, on July 22, we will be witnessing the Total Solar Eclipse--a powerful Earth event around the globe. And during this New Moon cycle it will intensify home, family, and taking care of you and yours, whether Mother Nature tosses us a curve ball (or not) before, during, or after a superb meal chock-full of fine food.

Tonight, as the Author-Intuitive, I will be a guest on Captain Jack's Paranormal Radio Program. It's my job to dish out the latest recipe for what Earth changes--quakes to big waves--may or may not happen now or in the upcoming months.

It's a task to think fine food when Mother Nature is on a mega mission, of sorts. I get excited and well, cooking up a gourmet meal isn't first and foremost on my To Do list. Still, that doesn't mean olive oil and vinegar doesn't play a role in my life (or yours) during the summer. Let's face it: If you're hit by one of these pesky summer-related ailments, gourmet food will be put on the back burner till you're back to normal.

During the season of fun in the hot sun (and the Total Solar Eclipse), you may fall victim to some unpleasant but treatable health ailments or even an ER disaster. Olive oil and vinegar are the cure-alls. If it doesn’t specify which type of vinegar to use, go ahead and use your own preference: an apple cider vinegar, a red wine vinegar, or a white vinegar--even herbal vinegars such as rosemary can help you snag a tick on you or your pooch.

(Personally, I prefer Bragg's vinegar -- it's in my fridge at all times as well as the pantry. And it's no secret that I love Sciabicia's olive oils from California.) So the bottom line: When I'm stressed out by summer heat and woes I simply chill with fine fun-loving dogs and a killer gourmet ice cream cone. It worked when I was a kid and it works now, too.

· Antibacterial Hand Wash: To avoid getting the flu, especially if you travel, pour 2 parts apple cider vinegar, 1 part antibacterial soap and 1 part extra virgin olive oil in a handy soap dispenser.

· Diaper Rash: Use 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil with 1 teaspoon of water. Shake these two ingredients until you get a pasty emulsion, a sort of cream read to be spread on the irritated area.

· Hot Flashes: Take 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil per day. Or, drizzle a tablespoon or 2 on five serving of vegetables daily. (Include asparagus, beans, carrots, corn, dried seaweed, garlic, green pepper, onions, squash, and yams.)

· Insect and Bee Stings: Make yourself more comfortable in a homemade paste from vinegar and cornstarch. Apply it directly to the bumps and blisters.

· Muscle Aches: Warm 1 cup of olive oil in the microwave. Apply it as a massage oil. (If you have a significant other, this can be delightful. But doing it solo can work, too.)

· Poison Ivy and Oak: Try mixing equal parts vinegar and rubbing alcohol and apply to rash. Or mix equal parts buttermilk, vinegar, and salt and apply.

· Sunburn: Apply ice cold apple cider vinegar immediately for fast relief.

· Swimmer’s Ear: To protect against ear infections from swimming pools, a popular folk remedy to try is using a mixture of one part white vinegar to one part rubbing alcohol.

· Toenail Fungus: Distilled vinegar is believed to prevent fungus from growing. Try soaking your toes in a solution of vinegar and water, using 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water, 15 minutes per day.

· Universal Emergency: Purchase a large can of extra virgin olive oil and plastic jug of apple cider vinegar, and store it with your emergency supplies. During Mother’s Nature’s wrath, from tornadoes and hurricanes to fires and earthquakes, it’s good to have a universal cure-all product on hand.

Adapted from The Healing Powers of Vinegar and The Healing Powers of Olive Oil by Cal Orey, published by Kensington.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Top 10 Olive Oils With Heart and Soul

There's More to Cooking Than EVOO

By Cal Orey

--Rachael Ray

When I woke up this morning at 5:00 A.M. I admit that extra virgin olive oil didn't play a part in my dreams... It's a surreal experience to be up at the crack of dawn. It's fresh. It's pristine. It's simple. So, I had one cup of java (a dollop of whipped cream), one banana, and organic vanilla yogurt with fresh blackberries.

I'm beginning to think my purist eating style (and life) is getting to be a bit bland. It's time for a change and now that I'm wide-eyed and bushy tailed olive oil can help me add some variety and spice to my diet as well as yours.

World-renowned chef Mario Batali said that "olive oil is as precious as gold." TV Celeb Chef Rachel Ray, uses catchy phrases such as "EVOO" in reference to extra virgin olive oil. Nothing newsy about that. But, but, but did you know that there is wide, wide world of flavored olive oils that you can use in both cooking and baking?

No doubt, my sleeping two bird dogs and kitty would perk up if I started dishing up more plain fish, turkey, chicken, and duck. I'll stick with the fish but try herbal flavored oils with veggies, pastas, stir-fries, and breads. (Note to self: Find savvy matchmaker to find me a tall, lanky, dark, handsome chef with a sense of humor to melt my heart. Must love dogs, and pay social calls to me at Lake Tahoe during blizzards in the winter, not just the good old summertime.)

Meanwhile, back on Earth, here's some flavored oil with gusto to warm up you and yours year-round.

Top 10 Oils With Heart And Soul

1. Basil olive oil: dipping, drizzling, vegetables, tomatoes, tomato-based sauces, Southeast Asian cuisine, soups, salads, pastas, stir-fries
2. Garlic-flavored olive oil: sauteeing, vegetables, pasta
3. Jalapeno olive oil: sauteing vegetables, pasta
4. Lemon-flavored olive oil: salads, fish, chicken
5. Lime-flavored olive oil: salads, fish
6. Orange-flavored olive oil: chicken, duck
7. Oregano olive oil: tomatoes, pizza, tomato-based sauces, pastas, dressings
8. Pepper olive oil: sauteing, roasting, eggs, seafood, Southwest cuisine
9. Porcini olive oil: veggie dishes
10. Rosemary olive oil: roasted potatoes, eggplant, artichokes, asparagus, dressings, breads

(Source: The Healing Powers of Olive Oil by Cal Orey, published by Kensington)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Who Says You Can't Cook With Olive Oil?

Yes! Yes You Can Cook
(and Bake) with Olive Oil!

By Cal Orey

"Honor to a Spaniard, no matter how dishonest,
is as real a thing as water,
wine, or olive oil."

-- Ernest Hemingway

It's cooler today at Lake Tahoe but I'm feeling hot-tempered just thinking about a recent article which the author claimed you can't cook with olive oil because it's "toxic" for you... Oh really. So not true. I'm sensing this "author" desired a mass readership and sensationalized the headline. Or, if this is a new factoid, was a gigantic double-blind study conducted to prove cooking with olive oil is unhealthy for you? Hmm. My sixth sense and common sense says nope. If so, however, we better spread the word around the globe asap. I'm 99% sure the TV celeb chefs, Europeans, olive oil producers, and my dear friend Gemma Sciabica (who uses a variety of olive oil(s) in her cooking/baking found in her five cookbooks: ) would love to hear this absurd myth. NOT. BTW: She and her husband are octogenarians. Go figure.

In my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil -- I discuss cooking and baking with oils and include recipes from renowned chefs who indeed do use olive oil in their recipes. Personally, I have baked with extra virgin olive oil (remember, I'm the snobbish Writing Gourmet who is learning to cook and hates to do it), but in my book I note which oils to use for best results.

What's more, in the book I include recipes, such as Cioppino, Herbed Roast Turkey, Angel Hair Pasta and Diced Tomatoes, Edamame Beans, Basil, and Virgin Olive Oil, The Olive Press Citrus Cake, and Holiday Carrot Cake. Gee, all of these recipes and the others all call for olive oil in one form or another. Yeah, olive oil is used for more than drizzling on bread and salads. Here, take a look.

Extra virgin olive oil: drizzing, salads, marinades, sauces, stews, soups
Virgin olive oil: grilling, sauteing, drizzling, salad dressings, marinades, stews, soups
Olive oil: baking, frying, grilling, sauteing
Light olive oil: baking, frying, grilling, sauteing

So, in my next post I'll list all the ways you can use herbal and fruit-flavored oils in cooking. And to the person who says you can't do olive oil in the kitchen? Oils (including canola oil) have heart and soul and I, as well as real cooks around the world would beg to differ with you. I will bet my beloved two pooches and cat on it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Surprise Taco Salad with a Fishy Twist


by Cal Orey

On Wednesday afternoon I was delighted to share a fun and impromptu prerecorded radio show "The Cooking Connection" with pro Chef Jeff in Redding, California... We got off the topic of vinegar and olive oil and on the topic of fish and Mexican food. By the time the hour plus passed, I was oh so hungry and talking about my fantasy taco salad with its classic vegetarian ingredients from avocado, cheeses to fresh tomatoes, onions dressed with olive oil and vinegar. But the chef's words about fish grabbed my attention, too.
Later that night, I turned on Food Network and fish tacos were the topic. The crispy, crunchy tacos made by a variety of chefs would convert any strict vegan to splurging on tasty fish. As an intuitive, I see this as a mega sign. It's time to cook up a Fish Taco Salad. Doesn't the photo above make you want to do it?
This morning I rang up Gemma Sciabica, my fave Italian cook-author friend who lives in Modesto with her olive producing family. Now this woman can cook and bake--and she loves it. So, I asked her if I could borrow her Taco recipe and substitute fish. She suggested salmon--I can do that. (But I've been eyeing scallops, too. And the chef and I did talk shrimp.) "Why not combine all three?" I thought. So, I grabbed one of Gemma's cookbooks and there it was--Taco Salad. Whether it is fishy or fate, either way, I grabbed it and here's my catch...[with my fish variations and optional all-natural fave items in brackets.] I predict you'll enjoy this recipe as much as I will.
Fish Taco Salad
1 cup chayote cooked, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes (for garnish)
2 cilantro sprigs (for garnish)
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 cup Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion chopped
1 small head lettuce, shredded [spinach and romaine greens]
1/2 bag tortilla chips (corn) 8 ounces
2 avocados, diced
1 pound [a mix if you prefer] salmon, scallops, pre-cooked shrimp
1 cup jicama, shredded
1 cup olives, sliced
1 or 2 jalapeno, minced
1 carrot, shredded
2 garlic cloves, chopped
pinch of cumin
In large skillet over medium heat brown scallops and shrimp, onions and garlic in olive oil, cool. [In 400 degree oven (I live in high altitude) bake salmon for about 15 minutes till done. Don't forget to drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon.]
In large salad bowl add remaining ingredients, poor dressing over and toss gently. Garnish with cherry tomatoes and cilantro sprigs. [I love the look of the tortilla shell as they serve in restaurants. I prefer to use the whole grain flour tortilla and fry it till crisp. Note: A Tortilla Shell Deep Fryer Basket can make this task easier. Cost: About $20. (I once worked in a Mexican restaurant and detested this chore. It wilted my curls. But I'd love one and a waffle maker. On wish list.)] Serves 4 to 6.
1/3 cup Marsala Olive Fruit Oil (or to taste)
2 garlic cloves (or to taste) minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro or basil
pinch of oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup lime juice or vinegar
1 teaspoon tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon taco seasoning mix [Try to find an all-natural variety]
Combine all dressing ingredients in jar of blender, whirl until blended. Pour into glass covered container, keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Source: Cooking with California Olive Oil: Treasured Family Recipes by Gemma Sanita Sciabica
P.S. I hope I got the title right of the cooking show. It should air tomorrow in Redding (in the sci-fi film 10.5 it's the place where the train disappeared in a hidden fault) at 10:00 A.M. on AM radio.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Chocolate Ice Cream, Oil & Vinegar for Summer

Ice Cream, Oil & Vinegar--

Must-Have Home Cures

By Cal Orey

It's hot. We're having a heat wave at Lake Tahoe. And dark chocolate Italian gourmet ice cream is calling my name. But I can't find it... The ceiling fan is on, the windows in every room are open, and swimming today was bliss. Truly the cool water felt heavenly. The warm air is still lingering. I'm feeling summer and wishing it were fall.
Today, at the grocery store (when it's hot or you eat fresh food it's a good place to be) with finesse of a veteran local I dodged the multiple tourists and walked up and down the ice cream aisle in desperate search of the perfect gourmet dark chocolate ice cream. I didn't find it. Tomorrow, I'll have to hit another local store with a larger all-natural, premium health food section. And the ice cream I crave may be there. Or not.
I read that July is National Ice Cream Month. Oh, oh, oh--the Ice Cream Man with music drove down our street earlier today! Memories of childhood hit fast. Remember fudgesicles? Or how about soft chocolate ice cream topped with hard chocolate fudge sauce? Mint chocolate chip ice cream with its bittersweet chocolatey chunks comes to mind, too.
Tomorrow, I will search for the cold ice cream of my dreams. Due to the "severe recession" or some reason that baffles me, our Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors Ice Cream Store is MIA. All gone. No more swirl cookie lines before we get to get our choice of flavor.
I remember one time in Marin...a treat to cherish forever was a genuine gourmet dark Italian ice cream cone I savored and that is what I want. I want the good stuff. That's right. Rich, creamy, dark chocolate ice cream (Italian, French or Belgian) is what I'm talking about and I will hunt it down until I find it.
Meanwhile, if you have the ice cream of your choice, I have some DIY home cures that may make your sizzling summer a bit more comfy. Here, take a look at 5 must-have treatments with olive oil and vinegar.
1. Sunburn: Apply ice cold apple cider vinegar for fast relief.
2. Swimmer's Ear: To protect against ear infections from swimming pools, a popular folk remedy to try is using a mixutre of one part white vinegar to one part rubbing alcohol.
3. Insect and Bee Stings: Make yourself more comfortable in a homemade past from vinegar nd cornstarch. Apply it directly to the bumps and blisters.
4. Diaper Rash: Use 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil with 1 teaspoon of water. Shake these two ingredients until you get a pasty emulsion, a sort of cream ready to be spread on the irritated area.
5. Poison Ivy and Oak: Try mixing equal parts vinegar and rubbing alcohol and apply to rash. Or mix equal parts buttermilk, vinegar, and salt and apply.
So there you go. Olive oil and vinegar--most likely in your kitchen cupboard--and chocolate ice cream--in your freezer or you may have to join me to find the perfect brand. These are three superfoods that will make your life sweeter this summer. I'll keep you posted on my gourmet chocolate ice cream quest. My mantra is haunting me: "Fall, fall, fall." Two more months. I can do this. And the right chocolate ice cream will help take the edge off.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Olive Oyl's Summertime Cornbread

Olive Oyl's Summertime Cornbread
If you pour oil and vinegar into the same vessel,
you would call them not friends but opponents.

By Cal Orey

Cornbread is often considered an autumn food. But as a falltime lover, I'm going to break the rules (again) this summer... Nope, it's not the time to hit the pots and pans and make it all on my own. No, I'm not in big trouble and need rescuing from Popeye--but a little help in the kitchen and some good food couldn't hurt. Read: This Writing Gourmet has a radio show to do later today--talking about the virtues of vinegar to the people in Redding, California. And according to the weather report, it's going to be in the low 80s here at Lake Tahoe. Too hot to really bake up a storm. Again, I'm taking the quick, easy, and healthy route. And you can too.

Go online and type in all-natural cornbread mixes. These are much like gourmet brownie mixes--you have the option to add oil and it will be extra virgin olive oil that does the trick. The mixes call for water, an egg, low-fat milk, and oil (added ingredients will vary). Then, you mix it up and bake it. I prefer the nice sized muffins or after it's baked cornbread to cut in nice slices. BTW: These mixes boast no artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, and 0 trans fat. Plus, you'll get calcium, iron, and some other good for you nutrients. Not to forget the light texture and taste of the bread. I love to drizzle raw honey on top of cornbread (forget butter).

For me, today it's a nice spinach salad with nuts and veggies that will work since I like to stay on the vegan path. But, that doesn't mean I've ignored meat lovers. There is a super "Hearty Garlic Chili" recipe which calls for red wine vinegar (my fave) and it's on page 298 in my book The Healing Powers of Vinegar, Revised and Updated (Kensington, 2009 mass market edition). If you like kidney beans, ground beef, and want a good, hearty meal--it's for you. Or, go ahead and spend less time in the kitchen and do as Olive Oyl might do--team your hot cornbread with a cool, tossed spinach salad with summer's seasonal veggies, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Either way, it's a win-win lunch or dinner.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cheesecake, Fruit 'n' Balsamic Vinegar


"The vinegar tastes like it's got oil in it."
-- Richard Simmons

I have cheesecake on the brain... It's been a long time since I've had a fling with cheesecake. Too long. I thought about buying all the ingredients and baking up one from my kitchen but it seems like so much work. Then, I pondered, "If I buy a whole one I may be tempted to eat the whole thing." Yep, cheesecake is a trigger food for me. That means, I cannot eat just one slice and it will trigger me to eat slice after slice until it's all gone.

Today, I recalled the small solo cheesecakes found at bakeries. These are adorable. These are ready-made for one or two with one fork. And these often are topped with fresh fruit. Years ago, a friend of mine brought me these little pastries, time after time. She was helping the baker to keep his shop open and spreading the word. Yes, they were marvelous.

Personally, I love New York-style cheesecake with its cream cheese and eggs. Italian-style is dryer than than American styles. And there are so many varieties it makes me think "Gee, I should write a book--The Healing Powers of Cheesecake." But for now, a quick fix will suffice.

I've decided tomorrow I will purchase one of these cute creations at the local bakery. However, I will choose a plain one and top it with my fave seasonal fruit: blackberries. Next, that dark chocolate I recently received? I will grate fine bittersweet chocolate on top of the cheesecake. Lastly, I'll drizzle balsamic vinegar on top--just a bit for extra taste.

More good news for cheesecake lovers. Cheesecake does contain good stuff, such as zero trans fat, protein, vitamin A, calcium, iron, and monounsaturated fat (that's what's found in olive oil). Sure, it has saturated fat but hey, you don't have to eat a whole cheesecake. Go small. And it will do your spirit good. If you don't believe me, catch a rerun of the classic sit-com The Golden Girls. I swear they go to cheesecake for all of life's ups and downs. I know, I know. That's TV. But cheesecake is good for the soul in real life, too.

One more thing: To learn everything you want to learn about the different types of cheesecake, go to wikipedia and type in those sweet words. And balsamic vinegar? Ditto. Or, just choose a brand or two at your fave store. And to discover nutrition and health facts about balsamic vinegar and the "Balsamic Boom"--check out my book The Healing Powers of Vinegar, Revised and Updated (Kensington). Lastly, by drizzling vinegar on top of cheesecake topped with fresh fruit? It's the gourmet way to do it. Enjoy. It's all good.

Monday, July 13, 2009

"DIY" Pasta(s) Plus with a Touch of Olive Oil


By Cal Orey

"England and the English, as a rule they will refuse even to sample a foreign dish, they regard such things as garlic and olive oil with disgust, life is
unliveable to them unless they have tea and puddings."
-- George Orwell

In my dreams I'm in the kitchen making homemade Italian pastas with a pasta machine... It doesn't stop there. I also am creating European sauce(s) from scratch with all fresh ingredients that I grew from my vegetable garden.
But the truth is, in real life I will not be cooking in a hot and steamy kitchen with lingering aromas of garlic, onion, and herbs, I will be walking and bathing the dogs, swimming, and cleaning house. (I must treat the leather loveseat and couch. Blame the surface scratches on the pooches.) Oh yeah, and marketing my books--The Healing Powers of Olive Oil and The Healing Powers of Vinegar is on my Must-Do List, too. Yes, I am The Writing Gourmet--the one who loves fine food but hates to cook.
So, after my weekend chocolatefest (I died and went to chocolate heaven with Donnelly Chocolates ) I vow to eat light and healthy for the next few days and hold the fuss and muss in the kitchen. This morning I'm craving fresh fish (but no, I'm not Palin; no fishing at the Lake today). Tonight it will be a trio of pastas and two sauces on the table. I confess. Both sauces are store bought but they are full of all-natural ingredients including olive oil. That's right. Olive oil is part of the real deal and that makes me smile, sort of.
Plus, I'm pairing both pesto and tomato sauces with whole grain pastas. I'm going to boil up two or three kinds for the fun of it. (FYI: Check out this link on pasta. It's a Basic 101 crash course on pasta.) And to top it all off all will be topped with all natural fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Yeah, I will boil and grate but I won't chop or saute. Not today.
BTW: I am a Libra, one of those peace-loving, easygoing (sometimes lazy to a fault) sun signs. I once read that if you give a Libran child too many foods at once they will throw them on the floor. (We don't like to be forced to make a decision.) But tonight I want to have a few choices with choice pasta--not homemade but quickie do it yourself all natural stuff--it's the next best thing in the 21st century.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Secret to Eating Chocolate & Staying Skinny

By Cal Orey

"Thou shouldst eat to live; not live to eat." --Socrates

This weekend I have been savoring several little red wrapped boxes with big bows and filled with several little gourmet chocolates... And yes, I've been nibbling more than less. Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels to an assortment of handmade truffles and chocolates infused with sophisticated spices are definitely worth smelling and tasting, bite by bite, and writing home about. Thank you Richard Donnelly ( ). I feel like I'm having a new, delicious affair with chocolate and will share all the sensory details in an upcoming post. The grocery store brands are okay but to treat yourself to luxury types, like this? Ah, it's like staying at a fab five star hotel and not wanting to go back home. And no, you don't have to get fat while enjoying yourself.

It's called the "balance plan." In other words, if you really want to do gourmet dark chocolates with an European flair without the guilt--and not pack on pesky and unhealthy unwanted pounds and body fat--you can do it. Yes! Yes you really can have your chocolate and eat it too. So, what is the secret formula, anyhow?

First and foremost, by eating dark chocolate it can help to stave off cravings to eat empty calorie junk food and sweets (i.e., processed cookies, crackers, donuts, and cake). And yeah, chocolate does contain good nutrients and feel-good compounds for your body, mind, and spirit. So lose the notion of eating both junk food and chocolate--the food of the gods. Choose chocolate--the good stuff. Nah, the great stuff. That means it's time to splurge this summer. Spring for luxury chocolates. No regrets.

Then, run do not walk to your stash of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and drink more water, less heavy meals. That also means delete meat dishes. Go vegan on a sweet chocolate day. Tonight, for instance, I just fixed and ate a salad chock-full of greens, tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, and more good veggie and lean protein fixings. Here, take look at a spin-off recipe "Tossed Chef's Salad" page 253 in my book The Healing Powers of Vinegar.

Callie's Have Your Chocolate Chef's Salad

2 1/2 cups mixed, chopped dark green lettuce

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes

2 ounces cubed cheddar cheese

2 ounces cubed white chicken or turkey breast

1 sliced boiled egg

1/4 cup cucumber

A few slices of avocado

1/4 cup sliced mushrooms

1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a bowl combine all ingredients. Toss with olive oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. Serves one. Enjoy it with a bottle of Mountain Spring Water. And enjoy that rich dark chocolate truffle (or two) for dessert. Moi? Tonight I adored a silver dollar sized dark chocolate covered dried fruit--apricot (think both Vitamin A and potassium). Yes, yes, yes. It was sweet but not too sweet and the chewy texture was perfect for my palate.

One more thing: Tomorrow? It's time to hit the cold pool (again) and swim some serious laps. But it's all good like eating chocolate. Both pleasurable events can induce that feel-good endorphin high. If you indulge in a food to die for--don't forget to get a move on like the Europeans do in France. And yeah, you'll stay on the skinny track. I will bet on it. (But my chocolates? They are not part of the deal. Sorry.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pesto Pasta & Olive Oil (Without the Sweat)

Pesto Pasta & Olive Oil to Love

By Cal Orey
"Italians... seemed to never die. They eat olive oil all day long... and that's what does it."
-- William Kennedy

It's Friday. Translation: Time for R&R and fine food. In the A.M. UPS delivered a big package of French-style Richard Donnelly Chocolates ( ). Read: This is going to be an exciting weekend for my taste buds.
After a great swim (the pool was warmer than usual and almost all mine), a trip to the grocery store (the tourists hadn't arrived)--I decided pesto pasta was something I always wanted to make. Sure, I could have snagged the pre-made cold pesto pasta salad in the deli. Or, there was always the opportunity to buy all fresh ingredients--basil, garlic, olive oil, spinach--and make it from scratch. (I almost did this but I flaked.) And I admit it. In my book, The Healing Powers of Vinegar, Revised and Updated, there's a recipe "Basil and Spinach Pesto" created by a pro chef. But I didn't and don't want to cook--not today.
Instead, I found fresh, all natural pesto sauce--Pesto Sauce with Basil, Garlic & Pine Nuts ( ). I even called the company and I was told to simply top the refrigerated sauce onto hot pasta (black olives are optional), and Parmesan cheese mixed with a bit of olive oil will make it perfect. And the ready-made container of pesto sauce doesn't miss the healthy mark either. It does boast some good for you nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and protein. Sure, 300 calories per 1/4 cup serving and 270 mg of sodium may seem over the top--but it isn't anything to write home about (or to your personal trainer, nutritionist or doc) if you balance the day with more potassium-rich, bloat-busting fruits and veggies.

I wanted to team my pesto with a new type of pasta shape. So, I grabbed a box of multi-grain farfalle (bow-tie pasta, an Italian fave) with promise of protein and omega-3. (It contains iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate--all good for you stuff.)

So, before the evening walk with my dog duo, it's off to the kitchen to whip up a pasta plate that will take about 10 minutes. Spinach salad with roma tomatoes and a splash of red wine vinegar and a piece (or two) of warm and soft whole wheat French bread (with crunchy crust) drizzled with EVOO should complete the light dinner. Once back home and settled in I'll do as the traditional Europeans do--snack on fruit. Fresh, seasonal and sliced sweet and juicy peaches will be perfect. Yes, simply fine without the sweat.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Melt Fat With a Tuna Melt & Olive Oil Twist

& Savor
Olive Oil, Bread & Cheese

By Cal Orey

"Good oil, like good wine, is a gift from the gods."

-- George Ellwanger

Eat fat to lose fat... It's funny, but as the former Diet and Nutrition columnist for Woman's World magazine, I wrote about paring pounds and crazy fad diets (The Cabbage Soup Diet to the Smoothie Diet) but as I met my deadlines I chowed down on Mediterranean diet type of foods--fatty fish, olive oil, bread, and even cheese--and I maintained my 122 pounds/size 4 (I'm 5'5") through it all.
These days, I'm hearing about dumb diets, such as counting calories like it's a fine art to taking dangerous supplements--anything and everything to drop unwanted pounds.
Last night, from 1:00 A.M. - 2:00 A.M. I watched with total amazement a new dance show and was frustrated big-time to see the overweight competitors struggling to lose body fat. The winner would be the biggest loser and the best dancer. But I didn't get it. At all. Losing weight and staying lean forever doesn't seem like rocket science to me.
And yeah, eating good fish and good olive oil can help fill you up and not out. Anecdotal evidence shows that olive oil can suppress the appetite. The older you get, the more you want to stay physically active, to burn off calories instead of storing body fat. Teaming olive oil with fat-burning foods such as vegetables, fruits (like olives), heart healthy whole grains, and fish may also help you keep satisfied, as well as maintain a lean body throughout your life span.
So, tuna--the good stuff--is on my menu today. Try out this spin-off of a popular Italian Tuna Melt.

Tuna Melt with an Olive Oil Twist

3 ounces premium tuna, solid white albacore
in water, drained

1 wholegrain bagel or a French sourdough bread roll
1/8 cup black olives

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 slices or 1/4 ounce gourmet cheese (your choice)
1 tablespoon red onion, chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh cooked corn (optional)
1 medium garlic clove, peeled

Slice bagel in half. Rub garlic on bagel. Brush with EVOO. Mix tuna chunks with olives, corn, and onion and place on each bread slice. Top tuna with grated cheese. Grill in oven till hot, toasted, and cheese is melted. Garnish with a few sliced fresh tomatoes off the vine. Sprinkle ground pepper if desired.
And note, if you're craving fries with that Tuna Melt, no worries. Just check out The Writing Gourmet archives for healthy baked tators.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Apple Cider Vinegar for Gorgeous Hair? NOT!

Apple Cider
Vinegar Is Not the Key to Beautiful Tresses
By Cal Orey

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Can you eat your way to beautiful hair? Yes, say experts. But it may be more of a quick fix like turning to apple cider vinegar used internally or externally. Recently, I've read many articles which claim "ACV Can Help Prevent Hair Loss!" Yeah right. And I am Jennifer Aniston. But don't despair. (I'm a baby boomer and I still have healthy, long, curly locks. But it's not because of apple cider vinegar.)

According to research, there's a direct relationhip between what you eat and the health and beauty of your hair. Many of the same nutrients that protect your health also nourish your hair. "Good nutrition is essential for your hair follicles to regenerate to keep your hair in its growth phase," a New York hair expert commonly known as a "trichologist" once told me during my Diet and Nutrition column days for Woman's World magazine.

Since your hair is 97 percent protein and 3 percent water, the experts agree that a diet rich in protein is must to properly nourish your hair. No protein, no thick and shiny mane. But it's not just protein. Vitamin A, B Complex, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, Essential Fatty Acids, Protein, Biotin, Silica, Iron, Fat, Calcium, and Zinc--are all top hair boosters. And these nutrients shouldn't be replaced with a pipe dream that a miracle cure like ACV will give you miracle hair.

In other words, eat a balanced diet--such as the Mediterranean diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, legumes, fish, olive oil) and exercise regularly to destress.

Let apple cider vinegar do it's work in other areas: good for heart health, health improvements, weight loss, and home cures. So, I'm dishing out a real recipe for your hair health to help you, like me, lose doggone bad hair days and have a crowning glory like a drop dead gorgeous Afghan Hound. One more thing: Fatty fish (such as salmon) contains both good for your hair protein and essential fatty acids. And yes, extra virgin olive oil used topically on your hair and also in your overall diet can protect your crowning glory. (This yum recipe is for humanoids only.)

(Roast Salmon with Balsamic Glaze)

5 pound whole salmon center, bone removed
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespon grated lemon rind
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter
lemon slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place salmon in baking dish. Chop together lemon rind, garlic, and thyme. Brush oil over salmon and inside cavity. Rub herb mixture over. Prepare up to 24 hours ahead of time. Roast 40 minutes or until white juices appear on top. Meanwhile, combine balsamic vinegar, wine, and sugar in skillet. Bring to boil and reduce until syrupy. Turn heat to low and whisk in butter. Remove skin from salmon. Serve with sauce and lemon slices. Serves 8-10.

P.S. Team this fish plate with a spinach salad and mixed fresh vegetables and nuts to ensure getting more nutrients to feed your hair.

(Source: Recipe from The Vinegar Institute published in The Healing Powers of Vinegar, Revised and Updated by Kensington)