Saturday, May 30, 2009

Chocolate Biscotti Rx Heals... the Painful Health Insurance Earthquake

It's Saturday. It's a day for fun, rest, and relaxation... But today, May 30, 2009, it is not an amusing day for me. I am hardly alone. I was welcomed with a big health insurance package in my mailbox. As I opened the all too familiar cold and sterile envelope (being a health author-intuitive I sensed a price hike would greet me) I read the formal letter again and again. Yes, I was hit like a major earthquake hits our state without mercy. Monthly premiums are raised. It's true. And I am feeling blue.

I don't get it. We are in a deep recession. NorCal, my Golden State, is hurting--like an illness, a flu epidemic. People are struggling. Businesses are closing. Locals are still getting laid off from their jobs. Our state parks are being closed. Construction projects are on hold. And yet, health insurance prices, for people like me--healthy "Tier 1" boomers--who live life like healthy nuns--are paying the big price big-time. So, what to do?

Chocolate. It's a Chocolate Rx day. I am too upset to bake a homemade batch of chocolate biscotti. But I do have some in the freezer (made with healthy extra virgin olive oil discussed in my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil) and crunchy walnuts. And yes, fresh, low-fat organic milk will also soothe my soul and pocketbook wounds, too. And I will munch on a few of these chocolate stress-busters tonight as I snuggle up with my three male fur kids and get a double dose of chilling out while fantasizing about moving to Canada like in the film Sicko--where all is good. (Or a tropical place where cocoa trees grow may suffice.)

Will this mini chocolatefest make me feel better as I try and absorb the sobering fact that I'll be paying more each month for health insurance that I haven't put to the test? (Maybe it's the chocolate fixes, olive oil, nuts, and milk that help keep me healthy--mind, body, and spirit.) As Scarlett said in Gone with the Wind: "I'll think about that tomorrow." I will swim and savor the bubbly hot tub and ambiance of towering pine trees, clean air, and snow-capped mountain tops of Lake Tahoe. I will survive. Thank God for the healing powers of chocolate.
P.S. Self-reliance paired with a prestige truffle a day may be the real insurance to health, happiness, and longevity.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Cioppino for the Adventurous Fish Lover

Cioppino--the Italian Dish for the

Adventurous Fish Lover

While I prefer to be a strict vegetarian, it's a challenge to do it right and maintain good health. I know that I need essential fatty acids for good health. So, two to three times per week, I try to include fresh salmon or tuna in my diet. In my early teens (fish was on the menu and a religious ritual every Friday in my home because Catholicism rules), I do recall indulging in fresh lobster, trout, halibut, shrimp, and scallops.

I also have fond memories of an awesome meal at a NorCal restaurant in famous Cannery Row, Monterey, California. (A place one of my fave authors John Steinbeck wrote about in his works.) It was the first time that I had the Cioppino experience--fun, and it is for the uninhibited fish lover. Read: You must wear a bib and have the skill of cracking crab and lobster. (I admit it. I took half of the fish soup home so I could enjoy solo and not feel self-conscious. And I shared with my fish-loving fur children who weren't shy. At all.) Mediterranean people do eat and do love their fresh fish--a variety of types, too. And fish, does play a role in the health perks of Mediterranean diets.

Speaking of the Mediterranean...My dear friend Gemma Sciabica, an amazing cook like my Mother was, provided me this Cioppino recipe for The Healing Powers of Olive Oil (page 234-235) and it's also in one of her cookbooks Cooking with California Olive Oil: Treasured Family Recipes. (We are both Catholic. We both love fine food. But I continue to pray that one fine day I could cook and bake up a dish or two like she does!)

1/4 cup Marsala Olive Fruit Oil

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil and/or parsly

1 onion, diced

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 pound cod, cut into 2-inch cube

3/4 cup wine

1 pound crab (Alaskan King, thawed)

4 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes

1 pound shrimp

4 tablespoons tomato paste

2 dozen clams or mussels

Salt, pepper, and red hot pepper flakes to taste

1/2 pound scallops

2 bay leaves (remove before serving)

In a Dutch oven, add the oil, onions, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook over medium heat until soft. Add the wine and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, red hot pepper flakes, and bay leaves. Simmer for 15 minutes, covered, then add the basil. Add the cod and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining fish and cook, covered for 5 minutes, or until the clams open. Discard any unopened clams. Serve in soup bowls with toasted crusted Italian bread slices.

Excerpted and adapted from The Healing Powers of Olive Oil by Cal Orey (published by Kensington, 2009; mass market edition)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wake Up to Grr-eat Sweet Potato Biscuits

Wake Up to Grr-eat Sweet Potato Biscuits

Good morning. Do you want the good or bad news? Bad news: Yesterday morning Seth, my youngest Brittany, 3, devoured one banana peel (yes, the banana was eaten by me). Minutes later I rang up my vet. On hold. I waited. I waited for the final verdict. Good news: No damage. Seth survived the banana peel.

The banana saga brought back memories of the bagels and wrapper he chowed down during the horrifying June 2007 Angora Fire when we evacuated to a hotel. And, of course, there was the Dark Chocolate Truffle Incident...(A traumatic ordeal for all. Keep chocolate away from dogs morning, noon, and night 24/7.)

This morning all is good but I realize these days I am a bit bored with breakfast. Fruit, cereal, yogurt, and even the blueberry pancakes are yesterday's news. I want a new treat. And today, my eyes are fixed on a recipe (courtesy of Spectrum Naturals, Inc.,) in my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil.

I adore homemade sweet potato pie so these wholesome, all-natural biscuits will get me at the first bite, too. And they should make fine teammates with a Tuscan Omelet, yes? (Both call for canola oil.) Breakfast is back. If you whip up a batch please do share...One more thing. If you've got a food-loving canine (or two) by your side during breakfast as I always do, have a couple of doggie biscuits to share. ( Buno appetito!

Sweet Potato Biscuits

1 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup peeled, cooked, and mashed sweet potato
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1-2 tablespoons milk
Pinch cinnamon
1/3 cup Spectrum Naturals Organic Canola Oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sift the dry ingredients together. Place the sifted dry ingredients into a food processor, add the oil, and blend. Blend the sweet potatoes into the mixture and add the maple syrup. Add the milk a small amount at a time until the dough begins to form into a ball. Process as little as possible. Place the dough ball on a lightly floured suface and knead lightly, 5 to 10 times. Roll it out to 3/4-inch thickness and cut it into rounds. Place the cut-out rounds on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and bake for about 12 minutes. Makes 12 biscuits.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's Your Olive Oil Personality?


By Cal Orey

Olive oil judges from coast to coast and around the world recognize award-winning olive oils, but not all of them may be a suitable match for you and your lifestyle. For instance, if you don’t like mushrooms, porcini olive oil may not be your cup of oil. You may love to cook, but extra virgin olive oil may not give you enough pizzazz. Like to bake but don’t want to be stuck using only canola oil (one healthful oil) for your breads, cakes, and muffins? You may be limiting yourself with your oil of choice.

No matter what kind of oil lover you are, take this quiz, excerpted from my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil (new mass market edition, January 2009) to get to know your personality and your real taste in oil before you choose the oil(s) for you.

Oils For Life

What’s your lifestyle? Take this short quiz to find out. Discover what your fave flavor reveals about your real personality.

1.A typical morning for you includes:
A.Family chaos, with the dog joining in.
B.Breakfast in bed.
C.A 2-mile run.
D.Computer work.
E.Brunch at an ethnic restaurant.

2.When you cook, you’d like to:
A.Feed a fun-loving crowd.
B.Feed a loving mate or friend who’ll enjoy your meals.
C.Make a meal to take on the run.
D.Make a low-maintenance meal.
E.Work in a kitchen chock-full of exotic treats.

3.Your idea of a perfect vacation is:
A.Grabbing the family and visiting relatives.
B.Going to a secluded park for picnic.
C.Hitting the mountain trails.
D.Enjoying an at-home movie fest with a few friends.
E.Flying to a foreign country.

4.When the weekend hits, you can be found:
A.Enjoying a family event with the in-laws, spouse, kids,
cat and dog.
B.Busy with your hobbies.
C.Jogging through the neighborhood.
D.On the couch, cuddled up with you know who.
E.Attending an out-of-town social event.

5.A meal to you means, in one word:

Once you understand your cooking and eating styles, you can use the knowledge to select oils that are compatible with them. This, in turn, will enhance your olive oil experience. See how you scored below. I’ve made a few oil-wise choices for you to get started or to add to your current olive oil repertoire.

Mostly A’s: The Extrovert:
Your Style: You are well-rounded, fun-loving, and people-oriented. You want an oil that is versatile, and good for kids and animals. An all-purpose olive oil is ideal. An oil that will not be too exotic during family get-togethers is best.
Best Oils: Extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, roasted garlic olive oil, and citrus olive oils.

Mostly B’s: The Introvert:
Your Style: You are the intellectual, an independent individual who may live alone. You’d probably enjoy an olive oil that is good for you and versatile, as opposed to strong-flavored olive oils.
Best Oils: Extra virgin olive oil, basil olive oil, and citrus olive oils.

Mostly C’s: The Outdoor Health Nut:
Your Style: You are a physical person, ready to hike in the summer, hit the gym in the winter. An active individual with a sense of adventure as long as it’s healthful.
Best Oils: Light olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, and porcini olive oil.

Mostly D’s: The Indoor Hermit:
Your Style: You are a sofa spud, with one hand on the remote control and the other in a bag of wholesome doggie treats. An afternoon of baking is up your alley.
Best Oils: Extra virgin olive oil, and homemade flavored olive oils.

Mostly E’s: The Adventurer:
Your Style: You are ready to travel for work or play. Trying new foods is what life is all about. You enjoy tasting new foods and flavors wherever you go and “bland” is not in your vocabulary.
Best Oils: Pepper olive oil, porcini olive oil, rosemary olive oil, and oregano olive oil.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Comfort Food: Pasta, EVOO, Ice Cream & Balsamic Vinegar

Comfort Food: Pasta, EVOO, Ice Cream with Berries & Balsamic Vinegar

Today is Memorial Day but it doesn't seem like a holiday. It came too soon this year. Instead of the usual crowd of tourists and heat at Lake Tahoe, it is quiet. It is calm. It is like a quiet Monday. As usual, I hit the resort swimming pool and swam laps...the hot tub was hot and comforting, too.

The wildflowers and aspen trees, another comforter, are blooming everywhere I look. But the birds, my favorite Blue jays are scarce as are the nocturnal raccoons and I don't know why. New potted plants--basil, parsley, thyme, sage, mint--Boston ferns surround me and make me smile. And the Lake is not plentiful with boats and people--that is comforting, too.

The sky is gray. A thunderstorm and showers is forecasted. It's cool outside. Indoors I'm craving comfort food--wholesome fare with a Mediterranean flair. I whipped up hot pasta--the recipe is in my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil--(page 229) Angel Hair Pasta with Diced Tomatoes, Edamame Beans, Basil, and Virgin Olive Oil, created by Chef Michel Stroot. (It was fun to use my own basil.) And yes, berries are still on my brain. Later, a scoop of all-natural French vanilla ice cream , topped with fresh and sweet blueberries and strawberries (like the memorable sounds of the Beatles' song Strawberry Fields Forever) is going to soothe my spirit and soul.

And last but not least, I'm finally going to make that fire (and cuddle up with the warm and loving Brittany duo) because it's chilly outside. Recap: A crackling fire, a bowl of berries with ice cream drizzled with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and garnished with a sprig of fresh mint (ah, the genuine comfort of having your own herbs outdoors) will comfort me (or you) along with a comfort movie or two.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Marinated Green Vegetables with Olive Oil & Vinegar

Spring Has Sprung: Marinated Green Vegetables with

Olive Oil & Vinegar

The herbs are here... Fresh sage and basil leaves are all mine. I admit it. I never have used fresh herbs and I'm blushing as I write the truth. But tonight, I'm going to make a simple vegetable dish and use my own fresh herbs which are basking in the warm spring sunshine on the deck (radiating strong memories of the sweet, soulful song Here Comes the Sun).
In The Healing Powers of Vinegar I include a recipe that can make basic vegetables healthier and tastier. I am adapting this treasure with a few more ingredients: carrots and Parmesan cheese. (A while ago, I did purchase a grater and now indulge in fresh gourmet cheese whenever a recipe calls for a touch of extra flavor and texture.)
A decade ago, when I lived in a Mediterranean-style bungalow on the peninsula in San Carlos, California, I'd often go to Salvatore's restaurant. As I say over and over again, I'm not a foodie but I adore fine food. I'd often order warm French bread, grilled salmon, marinated green vegetables, a baked potato (with fresh chives), and a cup or two of hot herbal tea.
Sure, this veggie recipe is simple but full of the good stuff and good for the season.
After all, spring is time to detox your body. It's a time to rejoice in the season of renewal and energize yourself with more exercise, less food. It's a time to shed a couple of extra pounds and eat more fresh, healthful foods rich in disease-fighting antioxidants. It's a time to nourish your body, spirit, and soul. So, here is a jump-start diet recipe with fresh ingredients that can do all that and more.
One more thing. And when you taste that first bite? Be ready to savor a zesty and intense flavor of earthy springtime veggies. Yes, you'll get hooked. Buon Appetito!

Marinated Green Vegetables

1 pound broccoli florets
1 pound asparagus, fresh spears
2 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 pound zucchini, fresh and firm
1/2 pound carrots, fresh and firm
2 fresh sage leaves, chopped
into 1/2-inch strips
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
a pinch of salt
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup red wine vinegar

Blanch broccoli in salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove and set aside. Blanch asparagus spears in same water for 1 minute or less Set aside. Wash zucchini in cold water and cut into 1/4-inch strips about 3 inches long. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet and saute the zucchini strips over high heat until a little color is attained. Do not cook until limp. Use as little oil as possible. Remove while stil al dente (firm to the bite). Set aside. In the same skillet, add more oil if needed and saute the sliced onion until brown. Add the garlic, chopped basil, chopped sage, and pinch of salt. Before the garlic turns brown, add the vinegar, bring to a boil, and then reduce until there is just a little liquid left in the pan. Combine the set-aside green vegetabls and pour the onion, garlic, and vinegar mixture over them. Toss to flavor all pieces. Sprinkle fresh Parmesan cheese on top. Serve at room temperature or save for later service. Serves 8 to 10.

(Recipe by Chef Salvatore J. Campagna)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My First Fresh Herbal Garden:The Mediterranean Way

My First Fresh Herbal Garden:
The Mediterranean Way

Living in the mountains at Lake Tahoe is a challenge if you want to play Happy Herbal Gardener. I've got a green thumb, sort of. Inside my home the philadendrons and ficus plants are happy year-round. Summertime it's been daisies and Boston ferns on the deck. But now it's time for change. Yikes!
The idea of fresh herbs have captured my imagination, nurturing instincts, and desire to put together an herbal garden. I called up a nursery and a friendly assistant manger told me that thyme, parsley, oregano, and mint and even tomatoes--all will do well. The sunny deck may be the perfect place to start. (The best part, Simon, Seth, and Kerouac--my furry trio--will not be tempted to snack on the upcoming garden; but not sure if raccoons and coyotes are really into the natural herbal thing). And so the song Scarborough Fair lyrics join me in my new adventure.
Today, the Langoliers (aka tourists are coming much like the Stephen King sci-film) are invading the town so a quick trip to the store (a new shipment of herb plants have arrived) is on the agenda. I've decided to inch my way into this venture. Translation: Purchase mint (my first herbal plant) and place in pot (two for starters) on the deck. And that's not all...

This weekend I will make a pitcher of herbal tea (my favorites are calming but bland chamomile, black or green) and garnish it with my first fresh mint leaves. It's simple. It's real. It's easy. I'm excited like a kid. Baby steps. The real new, improved herbal, plant, flower garden will begin in June. Uh-why wait? You never know what you're going to get with the weather at the Lake. Read: We can and have had snow in the summer. So step by step and I will start my first fresh herbal garden and treat it with lots of TLC...I can do this--I think I can. I think I can. (I so miss the Mediterranean-style climate of San Francisco Bay Area where I grew up and growing a garden is easy, breezy with a capital E.)
The Bonus: I will be able to use fresh herbs in the recipes in my books The Healing Powers of Olive Oil and The Healing Powers of Vinegar. Enjoyment will come from seeing the greenery on the deck and knowing fresh herbs (not the store bought lifeless stuff in tins) will be part of my all-natural Mediterranean diet (think fresh veggies, fruits, fish, pasta plates, spices and olive oil) and lifestyle. Here's a toast to herbal tea with my first taste of fresh mint leaves. Buon Appetito!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Carrot Cake Surprise, Anyone?

Carrot Cake Surprise

I love carrots. I love carrot cake. I love the cream cheese frosting on top. There is a memorable scene in the film (and classic tune) When a Man Loves a Woman when Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia meet in the bar at lunch. They exchange playful banter and it's the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting he promises to bake for her that hits her heart and stuck.

But for this upcoming Memorial Day Weekend, I concocted a different spin-off surprise adaption of a holiday carrot cake recipe. Less sweet, more healthy... I'm a mega health-conscious bakeress so baking up these carrot cake puppies will be a joy. Not only are orange carrots superfoods (tune into this fun and carrot-smart song), good for you muffins spiked with good for you spices are a heartwarming treat for breakfast to afternoon and early evening snacks--and yes, hearty to share with the one you love. (No, these are not for the four-leggers.)

Speaking of love and puppies... My two beloved and smart orange-and-white Brittanys, Simon and Seth, a trouble-loving pooch duo (like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) love to wreak havoc on me when I get involved in a project, especially if food is part of it. My boys, 3 and 6, get a kick out of using their furry paws to snag edibles off the countertop. Seth is oh-so tall and lanky. This time around, he snatched the bag of raw carrots and sprinted toward the living room as his accomplice Simon followed. And the chase was on. "Boys!" I shouted twice while running after the two into the dining room (praying The Dog Whisperer would pay us a visit). The end result: Only one carrot munched on with doggie teeth marks. No worries. Carrots aren't harmful to canines.

Back into the kitchen. Here is an adaption of Holiday Carrot Cake, straight from the North American Olive Oil Association--and in my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil (on pages 238 and 239 complete with the Cream Cheese Frosting recipe).

Fresh Carrot Muffins

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups extra light olive oil
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 1/2 cups shredded carrots
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt; set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the granulated and brown sugar, eggs and olive oil. Beat at high speed to creamy. Add the carrots and flour mixture. Mix on low speed to moisten. Blend on high speed 1 minute, scraping the sides as needed. Stir in the walnuts. Pour into muffin tins. (I like the aluminum foil muffin holders. The size of muffins is your choice. The larger ones make more of an oomph impression but if you're watching your weight less is more.) Bake 18-22 minutes (I live in a high altitude, 6,500 feet), or until the top springs back when touched lightly and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool. 10 minutes on the cooling racks.

(Note: If you'd like to try something fun, Lemon EVOO is a fave citrus olive oil of mine which can be substituted or added to a light variety. And why not try fresh blueberries instead of carrots? Yep, those little berries are still lingering in my mind and fridge next to the blackberries and strawberries.)
Enjoy a warm muffin with a cup of iced herbal tea, hot gourmet coffee, or fresh squeezed orange fruit juice.
(P.S. Have dogs curled up by your feet and all paws on the floor not on top of the scrumptious muffins.) Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blueberry Pancakes (with a Bit of Olive Oil, Honey, and Ricotta Cheese)

Blueberry Pancakes

In my twenties, I didn’t believe in breakfast. But today, I can still hear my mom say, “You should eat a bowl of cereal and a piece of fruit. It will give you energy for the day and keep you healthier as you grow up.” It turns out Mom was right. So are all those breakfast-loving Europeans in the Mediterranean countries. Italians, Greeks, and Spaniards take time out for breakfast.

These days, I’ve been on a berry kick. Remember the classic song "Blueberry Hill"? Yep, on my mind last night when I picked up strawberries and blueberries at the store. Ah, nutritious blueberries. These little gems are fiber-rich, chock-full of vitamin C, and more. Not only are they good for you, they are so sweet, so sour--kind of in between and fun to eat one by one.

Recently, I’ve had blueberry pancakes on the brain since I watched a film where the husband cooked up a batch and served his wife in bed. And then it hit me. No husband here (and I haven't trained my dogs to cook yet; they do bring me their bones to bed); but in my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil I included a one-of-a-kind breakfast recipe complete with blueberries, honey, and ricotta cheese.

Remember, I’m the one who doesn’t like to play chef yet I love to eat healthful food. So I took a deep breath, made my way to the kitchen, and whipped up this easy recipe from a dear Italian friend of mine who is a true blue (pun not intended) master in the kitchen. You can find this Blueberry Pancakes recipe, created by Gemma Sciabica, in my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil (page 208) and her book Baking Sensational Sweets with California Olive Oil.

Blueberry Pancakes

1 ½ cups flour
1 ¾ cups buttermilk
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons Marsala Olive Oil
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups blueberries

In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour in buttermilk, ricotta, olive oil, and eggs. Stir just until the mixture is moistened. Fold in the blueberries. Lightly oil a griddle or large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drop the batter by ¼ cups onto the hot griddle and spread gently into 4-inch rounds. Cook the pancakes 2-3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter. Place the pancakes on a cookie sheet and keep them warm in the oven while cooking the remaining batter.

Sweet Note: Instead of using syrup, I drizzled raw honey and a spoonful of ricotta cheese on top. And extra blueberries on the side made it a total treat with a twist.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Olive Oil Mania: Berry Pie Time

It's Time for Pie

I remember the scene in the film Michael when Dorothy (Andie MacDowell) is sitting in a restaurant and sings a song about pie. It's memorable because, well, it's creative; it's got me humming the catchy lyrics and fantasizing about a cherished edible (again). And this season, plump strawberries, blackberries and raspberries have caught my eye in the produce section of the grocery store.

All this berry talk has me craving a homebaked pie. My mother was an awesome bakeress. She whipped up pies from scratch. My treasured ones include fresh apple pie in the fall and strawberry pie in the late spring--like now.

I admit it, though. As a tween I was a wannabe chef in the kitchen but everything I created flopped. Not fun. My mother always came to my rescue...

While there is a nip in the air at Lake Tahoe, it is an ideal day to purchase fresh berries--and to bake a healthful pie to fill the air in the kitchen with warmth and a sweet fragrance complete with a healthful crust using olive oil. And I have found the failproof 21st century pie recipe to use right in my very own book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil.

Fresh Berry Pie

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch or tapioca flour

4 cups boysenberries (or berries of your choice)

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 olive oil pie crust dough (double)

Mix sugar and cornstarch, and toss with berries, cinnamon, and lemon juice Turn into pastry line pie plate. Bake in a 425 degree oven 35-45 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 9-inch pie.

Okay. To make this berry pie it is truly fine if you use Gemma's recipe No-Roll Pie Crust -- with Marsala Olive Oil. The recipe is found in both her book and The Healing Powers of Olive Oil (page 150).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Blackberry Bliss

Wow. This morning I awoke to a steaming cup of freshly brewed Italian coffee teamed with a splash of my fave organic low-fat milk. (I lied. It wasn't as hot as I like. Note to self: Why isn't the new coffee pot performing 100 percent?) Back to the cozy waterbed (it is a warm haven) while marketing my babies, The Healing Powers of Olive Oil and The Healing Powers of Vinegar (new mass market editions available; click on link and check out excerpts) amid more warmth...
Enter Simon and Seth, my beloved orange-and-white Brittanys who just wolfed down their breakfast (all-natural premium chow, of course)--and snuggled up with me (these two are soft, leggy, and elegant canines) as they awaited their walk-run. (Speaking of go-dogs, last night we--yeah, my pooches are heady and alert Geminis--watched "Marley and Me"--a dog lovers' bittersweet must-see film. A four tail wag film. ) Meanwhile, in real life, Kerouac, my patient feline who raised both Brits, is chilling and basking on his catnapper in the dining room spring sunshine. He waits. He waits for the Tahoe blue jays to pay a visit on the deck. Bird food and water are in place.
And I just won a book for posting on another food-related site. I opted for the one on gardening. Oh how I yearn to have my own vegetable garden with juicy tomatoes and apple trees. But not sure if this is a pipe dream because living at Lake Tahoe we're limited. It must be the high altitude, hard soil, cold snow...
Still, I just treated myself to a bowl of the sweetest fresh blackberries--not too sweet or too sour--mixed with creamy organic plain yogurt and drizzled with raw honey. Ah, I went to berry heaven. Almost as unforgettable as taking the trip to luxury chocolateland. The best part? Seasonal fruits are coming in season and this is exciting.
Take a peek at this Web site to see all of the good stuff you can get from enjoying one of Mother Nature's finest fruits--blackberries.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Your Pet? You Betcha!

“Five Ways Olive Oil is a Pet’s Best Friend”

Holistic medicine is in your kitchen

Ever use olive oil to remove ticks from a dog? Clean your pooch’s ears? Can you really add olive oil to your cat’s shampoo? Whether olive oil is used for home cures or health, this ancient remedy—a powerful golden liquid—is a versatile and natural helper for both dogs and cats in the 21st century. Here are some things you can use it for, straight from the bottle.

1. Smooth a Dog’s Snout. As a South Lake Tahoe pets author who knows what cold, dry air does to my skin, I can tell that oil may be helpful to dogs’ cold noses. My two Brittanys, Simon and Seth, love the snow. If their paws can become red, dry and cracked from long walks on the cold, dry ground, why not their tender black noses? RemedyRx: Use a small amount of extra virgin olive oil (only the best for our pets, right?) on your dog’s nose and gently massage in.

2. Fight Ticks. I know in mountain regions, a tick or two can find their way into a dog’s coat. Rather than try lighting a match to the pesky tick on your best friend, there are safer, natural remedies. Remedy Rx: In the film City of Angels, Maggie (Meg Ryan), a surgeon, must remove a tick from her yellow Lab. Her doctorboyfriend’s first recommendation is alcohol. When Maggie claims she doesn’t have any hospital stuff in her home, he inquires about olive oil. She offers jalapeno or rosemary. It was a dab of rosemary olive that was the oil of choice and did the trick to remove the tick.

3. Gooey Foot Pads. Uh-oh. Did Fluffy or Fido step in something sticky such as gum or tar? This sticky situation can be frustrating for both pet and caretaker. So, what can you do rather than watch your poor cat or dog lick and chew the unwanted substance? Olive oil comes to the rescue. Remedy Rx: Try soaking the foot pad in a solution of warm saltwater and olive oil. The two ingredients may break up the foreign substance, and both the oil and the salt may also soothe any redness.

4. Clean Ears. Dogs and cats can get ear mites, small parasitic creatures that take up residence in their ears, causing itching and inflammation. Olive oil or a natural product that contains it, whether you use it to prevent a case of ear mites or to treat it, may help ease the itch and fight the infection. Remedy Rx: You can dab olive oil on a cotton ball and rub gently inside and outside your pet’s ear canal.

5. Dog and Cat Shampoo. Olive oil in your pet’s shampoo? You bet. The olive oil may keep the skin healthy and leave the coat shining. Also, it may help maintain good skin hydration and even prevent matting on a long-haired pet. Remedy Rx: Mix 1/2 teaspoon with your pet’s recommended amount of natural shampoo. Massage in, then rinse.

And that's not all. Yep, without a doubt I go gourmet food for the pooches, too.

Dog Biscuits They'll Roll Over For!

Cheese Dog Biscuits

3 cups oat flour

1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

1 egg

2 tablespoons olive oil

Water to moisten

In a large bowl, add all the ingredients. Mix well, form into a ball, and roll out to a 1/4-inch thickness with a rolling pin. Cut into desired shapes, place on cookie sheets, and back in a 325 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until well browned. Turn off the oven, leaving the bisuits in the oven until cooled. (Source:

Excerpted from The Healing Powers of Olive Oil (purchased by One Spirit Book Club).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Get Skinny: Eat a Happy Diet

Eat a Happy Diet
While you may be frowning if you're carrying winter weight, I can personally attest that happy foods are important to boost your mood and dump unwanted pounds and body fat. Dietitians believe people with depression often have low levels of serotonin—a neurotransmitter believed to be involved in modulating mood and appetite.

By eating tryptophan-rich foods we can naturally boost levels of serotonin. Low-fat milk and cottage cheese are good but so is the Mediterranean diet, which includes plenty of seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and more monounsaturated fats—like olive oil. Olive oil—a healthful monounsaturated fat—is not the cure-all for life's ups and downs, but it can help you become energized again if you team it with a dark, leafy green salad with plenty of fresh vegetables. If you eat lots of veggies teamed with olive oil, which can fill you up, you’ll be less likely to fill out.

Sure, I hate to cook but I like to eat fine food. So, last night I whipped up a mood-boosting spinach salad topped with premium tuna ( solid white albacore) teamed with whole grain bread dipped in warm rosemary olive oil. Later on, a dish of fresh blackberries and a cup of chamomille tea followed. Here, take a peek of a super recipe, straight from my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil.

Basil and Spinach Pesto with Walnuts

1 bunch fresh spinach
1 bunch basil
5 cloves garlic
1/4 cup Spectrum Naturals Tuscan
Style Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

In a blender, combine half the greens and all the garlic. Add half of the oil and blend until pureed. Add the rest of the greens, a handful at a time, adding more oil as needed. Add the walnuts and cheese, and continue to puree. Season with salt and pepper. Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups.
Source: Chef Gary Jenanyan

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Never Diet Again

Yes! You Can Eat
Your Fave Fatty Foods and
Lose Unwanted Lbs.
By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

You really don't have to deprive yourself to lose pounds or maintain your weight. It's all about incorporating healthful eating habits into your lifestyle. For instance, when I go to a sandwich outlet, I order whole wheat bread, extra tomatoes, lettuce, green bell peppers, one piece of swiss cheese, olive oil and red wine vinegar. And now, I also ask for avocado and olives.
Speaking of olives...Recently, I ordered a vegetarian pizza. Usually, I order the normal tomato sauce, spinach, and mushrooms. This time, however, I overhead the man who took my order say "basil" and "olive oil."
I quickly inquired, since I had no clue they offered a pesto sauce with these two items. So, I order the green sauce with spinach, tomatoes, and olives. Do you see how you can treat yourself to full-fat foods and still eat healthy as well as not pack on unwanted pounds?
Once you realize that you can eat food and have your pizza, too, you'll get a handle on your weight. The bottom line: Don't forego your fave fatty foods because you'll end up giving into cravings anyhow. I indulge (in moderation) without the guilt monster and maintain 122 lbs., at 5'5" and slip into a size 4. The word "diet" is yesterday's news. Today, savoring forbidden foods is "in" if you do it with style.

The Golden Secrets To Remember
* Olive oil can help to suppress your appetite. Go ahead--drizzle it on bread the way the Europeans do before a meal...

* . . . But don't overdo a good thing. Olive oil is a fat and does have 120 calories per tablespoon.

* Extra light olive oil, which is without flavor, may help you to maintain your weight. Bonus Tip: A teaspoon before a meal or two each day will help curb your appetite.

* Eating "good" fats can give you energy, stop you from overeating, help your body metabolize the fat-soluable vitamins, and provide essential fatty acids.

* Savor a moderate-sized portion of good fatty foods such as a Mediterranean-style pizza, eggs, and dark chocolate because these favorites contain "good" fats and other nutrients.

* And note, get a move on like French women do. Swim, walk the dog, do the treadmill--and enjoy!

Monday, May 11, 2009

How the Recession Ruined My Trip

In my mind my bags were packed and I was ready to go to Umbria, Tuscany, and Sicily. And upon return I was ready to lease the bigger, better home with an acre backyard playland for my two fur children, Simon and Seth, to romp around daily. Instead, I have found myself changing my health insurance to the catastrophic kind; bargaining with the cable and phone people to get the best deal. And each week I toss Victoria's Secret catalog in the trash can before the dogs are walked. But recession or not, generic food (both human and pet) is not in my vocabulary yet.

I admit it. It could be worse. The recession (which I predicted in a national press release back in August 2007) has no doubt wreaked havoc on countless people around the globe. Not only is it affecting our savings to day-to-day pocketbooks, downgrading our lifestyles, but the meanspirited, widespread, worldwide economic shake-up can make you fat--if you let it. So, I strive each day to be healthy and fit, whether I stay put in my rustic home (with a Mediterranean-style charm) or migrate to another state with promise of a new, improved life as did the hardy folks in the bestselling classic novel The Grapes of Wrath.

Whatever happens, like Europeans who follow the traditional Mediterranean diet and lifestyle I will continue to graze (eating mini meals). The fridge and tablestops in my dining room and kitchen are chock-full of fruit--apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, and blueberries. My best friends are fresh veggies (spinach, potatoes, green peppers, tomatoes) whole grains (pasta to bread), nuts (cashews to almonds), olive oil (EVOO), organic low-fat yogurt and milk, water (I can't give up the bottled stuff yet), and did I mention dark chocolate?

P.S. On the list of Must-Haves I include regular swims and a hot tub bath; and dogs walks. In a cocoa bean shell: As long as I have fresh food, water, and artisanal chocolate, my body, mind, and spirit will survive the recession for as long as it takes.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Mediterranean Way

"It's The Mediterranean Way That Has Made Its Way Into My Heart And Soul"

Today I live life at Lake Tahoe, not Europe... I wake up to a large cup of fresh brewed French roast coffee, with a splash of low-fat organic milk. I sip the java in my oversized waterbed next to my two beloved Brittanys (with French roots) Simon and Seth. After they eat their breakfast, I sit on the deck in the sunshine and savor a bowl of fresh fruit and plain yogurt.

Soon after, it's dog walk time through the trail amid pine trees and splashes of wild flowers blooming (again). Once back, it is off to the resort swimming pool. At last, the water temperature is perfect. Few tourists dot the poolside (it's off season) and make it a perfect day for a perfect swim...Afterward, I make a stop at the grocery store: a box of dark Belgian chocolates (70% cocoa), a bunch of purple grapes, fresh multigrain French bread, an Italian soft blue cheese, dark green spinach greens, veggies and roma tomatoes.

Once home (again) I make friends (again) with the couple across the street and my two boys enjoy a free run with their female Golden Retriever mix. They are in doggie heaven. And now, the mellow pooches sleep. We chill. I watch the romantic film Chocolat as I feel a bit of Spring Fever lingering in the air.

Despite talking to locals in town who are feeling signs of a severe recession (this town may be indeed be in a Depression), I get it. It's the simple sensory data in the mountains that make getting up each day in the morning worth it. Fresh food. Mother Nature. It's the Mediterranean way--a healthy diet and exercise--that has made its way into my heart and soul.
Note to self: Give a copy my books The Healing Powers of Olive Oil and The Healing Powers of Vinegar to my neighbors. Hang onto the gourmet chocolates.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Feel Sexier with Olive Oil & Chocolate

Can Olive Oil & Chocolate Spice Up Your Sex Life?

As a healthy baby boomer living in the mountains I’d love to announce to the world that thanks to olive oil (and chocolate) I met my soul mate—and the two forbidden foods has made our romance a match made in heaven. But I am mate-less with two Brittanys and a black cat. Still, olive oil and dark chocolate has made my overall body, mind, and spirit happy. No mate in sight, though.

If you’re suffering from a lackluster libido (I’m not--but the coyotes, birds, bears, and raccoons aren’t suitable mates), olive oil, an integral food of the Mediterranean diet, may be your love ticket to feeling healthier this springtime. And if you indulge in moderation in the good stuff--extra virgin olive oil and gourmet chocolate (70% cocoa content) you'll likely feel more in the mood to make love, whether it's to the one you’re with or will be with one day in the future. Meanwhile, do as I do...Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, cuddle up with the four-leggers (or two-legger)...

What Oil Remedy to Use: Eat a nutrient-rich diet and drizzle quality olive oil over fresh, seasonal veggies and whole grain bread to pasta. And yes, yes, yes, you can bake with this heart-healthy monounsaturated fat (in moderation) on a regular basis.

Why You’ll Like It: A healthful, low-fat diet (forego high-fat processed foods) may help to maintain your blood vessels and blood flow, claim medical doctors. That’s important in enhancing sexual health, which does have its health benefits (including boosts intimacy, is good for the heart, burns calories, great for giving your skin a youthful glow, a bounce in your step, and improves sleep).

Fast Forward to Olive Oil and Chocolate
While EVOO oil may help to keep you healthy so you can maintain a healthy sex life (or be ready when Mr. or Ms. Soul Mate enters your world), chocolate is also touted (and proven) as a “love drug” for a variety of reasons. So, teaming the dark stuff with golden olive oil may be the secret to your heart. And if not at least you’ll get that lovin’ feeling from chocolate itself! Try this scrumptious recipe for you and/or your special someone this Mother’s Day, Father's Day and year-round!

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

1/3 cup Sciabica Orange
Olive Oil
1 cup flour
1 large egg

¾ cup uncooked quick-
Cooking oats
1/3 cup sugar 1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup brown sugar

¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup chocolate chips
½ teaspoon Watkins Danish
Pastry extract ¼ cup currants raisins
¼ cup orange juice or milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a large cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, mix the olive oil, egg, sugars, flavorings, and orange juice; stir to blend. Add the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt, an stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and currants.
Drop by level tablespoons (or with a 1-inch ice-cream scooper) 2 inches apart onto Reynolds aluminum (release) foil-lined cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with water-moistened tines of fork.
Bake 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Frost as desired.

(Source: Excerpt from The Healing Powers of Olive Oil (available on and ) -- with more sweet recipes for you to put to work. Recipe from Cooking with California Olive Oil: Treasured Family Recipes by Gemma Sanita Sciabica. To purchase olive oils, go to .)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Dog Smarts for Swine Flu & the Worried Well

Dog Smarts for
Swine Flu & the Worried Well
by Cal Orey, M.A. Health Author

As we are learning more and more about the Swine Flu (the popular term), there is both good news and bad news. First, the glitch is, while this virus may not be as deadly as the 1918 Spanish flu--it doesn't discriminate. Translation: People with healthy immune systems are not immune.
On the upside, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you get and stay healthier and you end up contracting the virus from getting infected by another person, your body will be in better shape to fight the symptoms of the flu and get well faster.
For now, there are two prescribed anti-viral drugs. One vaccine is in the works for what is now technically called "influenza A(H1N1) virus" and "H1N1 flu" (but "Swine Flu" is still used in the mainstream media)--which continues to spread around the globe. More good news: this flu doesn't seem to have the same deadly nature as other pandemic viruses have had in the past--so far.
So, today's must-have list of tricks is shorter. Here, is what you can do as we the people are in a wait-and-see mode.
Five Dog Tricks
1. Wash your paws frequently. Viruses can be transmitted by shaking someone's hand and then touching your face, nose or mouth. This is probably the most important strategy. Refer to my previous blog for the Four Thieves Formula--apple cider vinegar and herbs.
2. Eat good chow. A nutrient-dense diet (including disease-fighting antioxidant rich vegetables) will help keep your immune system strong.
3. Get a move on. Keeping physical daily will keep you happy and relaxed--two keys to staying balanced.
4. Chill out. By keeping your stress levels down, you can keep your immune system up and healthy. And yes, if you do contract the flu your body will be stronger to fight it.
5. Be social smart. Use your common sense. I don't take my healthy dogs to the dog park chock-full of pooches I do not know. It's a precautionary exercise to avoid dealing with potential contagious canine respiratory diseases. Social distancing for humans is in motion and may be a smart trick for the worried well.
The bottom line: Rent the sci-fi film I Am Legend. It's a heartfelt cautionary tale especially for dog lovers. Dr. Neville's (Will Smith) loyal German Shepherd Sam--and lifeline to life--was not immune to the killer virus but he was 1% of the population with an immunity to it, the worst-case deadly virus scenario that hits home.
In one unforgettable scene, the four-legger gets a bath by her isolated owner (think Cast Away and Tom Hanks) for viral protection (I'm assuming). [Click on the link to watch.]