Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
-- Barbara Costikyan
A bonus tip: A couple of days ago, I purchased a 2010 calendar. It's called Sweet Journey with photos of scrumptious sweet foods including narrative, such as "Power to the Truffle" to "The Mysterious Brownie." I just noticed it also features inspirational thoughts--and, of course, the dates of lunar cycles. I'm feeling better already.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
"Life is like a box of chocolates ... You never know what you're gonna get." - Forrest Gump
It happened on cue. Odd that it struck right after stocking the pantry with get well foods. I'm sicker than a dog. Maybe I caught the ear infection from Simon, my Brittany. Just kidding. I am in bed with sinusitus. Read: ears throb (on a 1-10 pain scale 8.5) and pop when I swallow, post nasal drip, raspy sore throat, fever and chills (last night). It's embarrassing for a health author to fall victim to germs in the world. Worse, my article on natural swine flu prevention for Oracle 20-20 Magazine (November issue, online) is due in a few days and I feel terrible...
- Vinegar Rx: To clear up clogged respiratory congestion, inhale a vapor mist from a steaming pot containing water and several spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar. Why You'll Like It: It will help clear the air passages naturally and you'll be breathing easy again.
- Olive Oil Rx: Put a few drops of olive oil in the ear canal. Repeat as needed. Why You'll Like It: For one, if it's a minor earache, olive oil, which is believed to have mild antibiotic properties, can and does get rid of the ache and heal the pain. It may help swimmer's ear, too--yep, it pays me a social call in the winter mountain months thanks to the water--my true love.
- Chocolate Rx: Last but not to be forgotten, try a cup of quality dark European spicy hot chocolate--chock-full of disease-fighting antioxidants--made with water not milk (dairy products can add to congestion). Why You'll Like It: Hot spices taste amazing and help unblock sinuses. As one who does get sinus headaches, from time to time, and congestion (living in the high mountain altitude and lack of humidity doesn't help), I can tell you that hot foods stimulate nasal secretions and loosen up unwanted mucus. So spicy hot chocolate is both fun to drink and can help fight off a sinus infection. And note, chocolate can do so much more as I note in my new book The Healing Powers of Chocolate (Kensington, December 2009).
Saturday, September 26, 2009
“Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana.”
-- Bill Gates
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Friday, September 25, 2009
By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet
Back home I found myself surfing the Net (it was either that or clean the fireplace before I order wood) and came across an online website bookstore. I was pleasantly surprised to be welcomed with the synopsis for my forthcoming book The Healing Powers of Chocolate (Kensington, December 2009)--available for pre-order on online bookstore websites. Wow. I can't believe I really got to create 304 pages on chocolate. Yes, it was fun. Yes, it was surreal. Yes, it was an experience that I will always cherish. I got to go to Chocolate Heaven and enjoyed every tasty tidbit of it--from head to toe. If you're thinking "Huh?" here, check out the words on the back cover of the chocolate book:
* A 1.5 ounce bar of quality chocolate has as much antioxidant power as a 5 ounce glass of wine—without the side effects of alcohol.
* Chocolate is chock-full of mood-enhancing ingredients, including phenylethylamine (the "love drug") and serotonin.
* Chocolate can relieve a host of ailments, including depression, fatigue, pain and PMS, as well as rev up your sex drive!
Drawing on the latest scientific research as well as interviews with medical doctors and chocolatiers, this fascinating book reveals how to live longer and healthier while indulging in one of nature's most decadent and versatile foods. Explore real chocolate (infused with fruits, herbs, and spices), Mediterranean-style, heart-healthy recipes, plus home remedies that combat everything from acne to anxiety. You'll also discover rejuvenating beauty and anti-aging spa treatments—all made with antioxidant-rich chocolate!
So, as I continue to autumn clean my home, room by room (and turn to feng shui magic), I cannot get chocolate out of my mind. It's like a long-term love affair that will be with me till death do us part. Last night I watched "Food Network" and was amazed by the efforts of four competitive chefs who created a birthday cake for the chef of chefs. They used great artistic talents. I was impressed. And that is why I chose the photo above: It's a chocolate pyramid with fresh fruit and spun chocolate garnish. But back home in the mountains simple chocolate ice cream will suffice for now.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
1 Bye-Bye Cold. Got a runny nose, sore throat, cough, muscle aches, and pains? Poor baby, you've got a cold. Rose hips, a key staple in the diets of Native American tribes, may help boost immunity and provide relief from cold and cough symptoms. If you pair up this herbal wonder with vinegar, you might be able to say good riddance to your nasty bug. Or, you can turn to vinegar solo.
Vinegar Rx: To clear up clogged respiratory congestion, inhale vapor mist from a steaming pot containing water and several spoons of vinegar.
3 Stop A Cough. Hack, hack, hack. Coughs come with everything from the common cold to acute bronchitis, which cause mucus in the throat and lungs. Not only is coughing annoying, but it can hurt your chest after a while, too. Soon you want something to make the symptom go away.
- What Vinegar To Try: http://www.bragg.com/ Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar. Organic, raw, unfiltered, with the "mother." Mother or "mother-of-vinegar" is a term used to describe the excess liquid that accumulates on top of cider or other juice, which turns them into the most nutritious vinegar for health. As the fermentation progresses, mother forms a floating clump or filmy substance, like a coffee latte with the foam on top. Mother, the latte-like foam, is a living mixture of "good" bacteria and enzymes.
The Formula: Basic ingredients: Combine 3 quarts apple cider vinegar; 3 tablespoons each of rosemary, lavender, sage, mint, rue, and plantain; and 6 cloves of garlic. Let it sit in a covered container for at least 24 hours.
Where Can You Buy Vinegar and Herbs? To avoid a possible price increase, stock up. If you live in the U.S., you can get apple cider vinegar and herbs at your local health food store and grocery store. International countries can obtain products online at: https://www.yourhealthfoodstore.co.uk/content/international-delivery-destinations.php .
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
It was one of those days. Yes, my swim was great as I joined a local in doing laps...She's moving back to the Midwest. Lake Tahoe is going through changes, people are going more than coming to the mountains. Simon, my oldest Brittany's ear needed a vet's touch (again); the stitches were removed from his thigh (a skin tag). An antibiotic ointment for his ear and he's on the road to recovery. Seth, his three year old dog pal got his nails trimmed, teeth cleaned. The boys are sleeping (it was a big canine day) and now I'm watching Misery (an author's cautionary tale of being held hostage by a No. 1 Fan). Makes sense the way my day has been going. While I've been on a roll with recipes turning out, tonight is a must-have chocolate night--but all did not go as expected...
I remember last year this time I began to receive chocolates on my doorstep from chocolatiers. It was for the research of my book The Healing Powers of Chocolate. The first time I took a bite out of a 70% extra dark chocolate Aztec truffle with cinnamon and cayenne I entered another, more sophisticated chocolate world--with no point of return.
So tonight, I whipped up a super adapted super simple fudge recipe created by a friend of mine. Translation: I didn't follow instructions to a T. I noticed the recipe ingredients weren't foreign on the Net so it seemed to be okay. (I was reluctant though because it called for less than more ingredients.) This time around, it was a different kind of fudge, unlike the Italian Hazelnut Fudge I made recently and loved. No tasty hazelnuts, butter or sugar. Gut instincts said "No" but I took the plunge and added my own version with a mix of quality white and dark chocolate. Surprisingly, it was darker in color than the last batch. And it's chilling in the fridge.
Spicy Chocolate Fudge (Take One)
1 -1/4 cups white chocolate chips,
1 cup semi-sweet baking chocolate,
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Extra virgin olive oil
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Monday, September 21, 2009
-- Clement Freud
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. --George Eliot
The sun is shining, the air is warm, but fall is lingering in the air of Lake Tahoe. I can feel it, especially at night, earling morning, and I see the changes (i.e., trees, big and small, are turning a golden color and squirrels are getting busy and plump). Recently, I began pre-autumn cleaning and shared six tips with you about detoxing the kitchen with vinegar and olive oil. Today, it's back to the kitchen to continue the never-ending chores. And olive oil is going to give me a hand (or two)...So join me. Misery loves company! Nah, there is an art to cleaning and it can be fun and the rewards are healing for the mind, body, and spirit. Here are some things you can do with olive oil and vinegar teamed with other natural ingredients such as lemon, water, and essential oils. You'll find that these mixtures can be used to clean floors, polish furniture, freshen the air, and much, much more. My kitchen and dining room are spacious and connected so my fall cleanup is a team effort while I seem to be going back and forth to each room to make it match and balanced (a true Libra, the sign of the scales)...
- Cutting Board Cleanup. A wooden cutting board in your kitchen is a must-have, and olive oil can help to preserve it. After using it, wash it with soap and water. Dry. Then, once it is squeaky clean, wipe it with olive oil.
- No More Rust. Got a cast-iron frying pan? If so, chances are it's a hand-me-down. So, you want to take care of it and keep it in tip-top condition. After each time you use it, wash it, and dry it, don't forget to lightly apply olive oil to keep it rust-free and maintain its natural shine.
- Pamper Kitchen Helpers. Olive oil fans use the versatile home aid to add a vibrant shine to kitchen helpers such as the blender, coffeemaker, and toaster. After you clean these items, simply spray them with a mist of olive oil and water (3 parts water to 1 part olive oil) and buff until they gleam olive oil pretty.
- Wow Wood Paneling. I live in a house that was built decades ago. It has a lot of built-in cupboards, and it's wood paneled throughout, including the dining room and kitchen. I use a vinegar and water (with a bit of lemon for the scent) solution first to clean the wood. Then, I turn to a traditional furniture polish and then buff surface scratches with olive oil. It's pet-friendly (my Brittanys get into everything I do) and this makes the paneling shine.
- Buff Brass. To keep brass looking shinier, buff your treasures with olive oil after cleaning them. I have a hand-me-down collection from my dad, who was also a nature lover. So, preserving his brass birds, ducks, unicorns, and reindeers means a lot to me. Olive oil keeps the brass from tarnishing so fast.
- Preserve Antiques. I have a glass dining room table with classic wrought iron from the good old 1950s. Rubbing a bit of extra virgin olive oil onto the iron legs of the table and four chairs using a soft cloth provides a fantastic shine to this classic and preserves its worth.
Meanwhile, as a feel of Indian summer stays like a tourist in the Sierra, in between cleaning (wherever you live) it's a time to cleanse your body with fresh salads (a garden variety of dark greens, tomatoes, sprinkled with Italian cheeses, and herbs) drizzled with olive oil and vinegar. Fall fruits (pears, apples, and grapes) and vegetables (pumpkin, eggplant, carrots) are to be embraced and used in nut breads and morning muffins. And healing herbal teas to stave off the fall flu? Ah, in the morning and night, hot teas (green or black) are a must-have and iced chamomile teas and fresh fruit juices during the day are good for you and a good way to bring in the change of seasons.
A bonus tip: I've put bottles of herbal vinegars in the kitchen windowsills. Still trying to decide to hang the fresh curtains or enjoy the new, improved look without them. And my fave feng shui secret for the day? Two weeks ago, I hung a wooden black framed mirror above the stovetop. It reflects the kitchen window and makes the kitchen appear larger as it boasts the great outdoors (picture-perfect pine trees)--and this tip promises to bring good luck. Did it do its deed? You betcha in the nick of time! Try it.
(Adapted from The Healing Powers of Olive Oil: A Complete Guide to Nature's Liquid Gold by Cal Orey, published by Kensington; 2009, mass market paperback)
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I've had chocolate fudge on the brain for a week. While I gave my body a vacation and enjoyed my mini-fast detox diet (salads, low-fat jarlsberg cheese, veggies, apples, oranges, berries, water, and chamomile tea), I was preparing myself for the homemade chocolate fudgefest last night. I did it. At last, I made chocolatey fudge with an Italian twist... (And it was the best Rx to get me through another companion animal challenge.)...
Flashback... I had to do it. After all, one week before autumn arrives--the rustic red Italian baking dish from Sur La Table arrived on my doorstep. Made in Italy, its size (13" length x 8 1/2" width x 3 1/4" depth) could work for an upscale fudge pan, right? No matter. This beautiful piece of bakeware tagged "Italian Baker with Handles" was going to be used for my first Italian entree pasta dish but I just couldn't wait. It was a "sign"--giving me the green light to go ahead to christen my new European dish. Moving forward... If you do a Google search for Chocolate Fudge recipes you'll be overwhelmed with dozens and dozens of recipes--using exactly the same ingredients. I like to concoct my own style to keep it easy, failproof (I'm still in Baking 101 mode), healthy and tasty as possible. During my research for The Healing Powers of Chocolate, I noticed that many of the gourmet European chocolatiers do use real and fresh ingredients, including quality chocolate, butter, sugar, and cream. So, I was on a mission to do that, too, sort of.
- Use hazelnuts. These crunchy cuties boast protein, iron, fiber, calcium, and other good stuff. They truly made this fudge work for me in presentation, taste and texture.
- Use an Italian dish during the chilling process. It is a nice effect and will whisk you away to Europe (sort of).
- Use premium all-natural premium semi-sweet chocolate, 60%-70% cacao content.
- Use real butter (unsalted is good) but I splurged and ended up with Challenge butter (uses real California milk). Note: Since writing The Healing Powers of Olive Oil--butter is rarely in my fridge. Olive oil is my fat of choice as it is Italians.
- Use premium milk. Note: To cut the fat I chose 2% low-fat evaporated milk with vitamins A and D.
- Use creamy stuff. I hesitated to go the marshmallow cream route but the sweet goo does contain corn syrup (Italians have been known to eat it); as a kid I recall it was the ingredient that made our fudge turn out, not flop.
- Use EVOO to grease your dish before pouring the chocolate mixture into it. (No, I didn't do it this time around but would not hesitate next time.)
- Cut the recipe portions in half. Remember, European women don't get fat if they follow the traditional Mediterranean diet and lifestyle: Smaller portions, eat decadent foods like chocolate, and get a move on. Think small.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
- "We take vacations from work to relax, recharge and gain new perspectives on life," noted Elson M. Haas MD, author of The Detox Diet (Celestial Arts). "Taking vacations from food does the same thing." And that is exactly what I'm going to do for a few days. Why? Yesterday at the store I bought stuff to make homemade fudge (with quality dark chocolate) and casseroles (stuffed with veggies, whole grain pasta, cheese, and fish). Plus for my upcoming birthday I splurged and purchased new, improved baking dishes and pans. I am excited like a kid with fun toys as I continue to detox-feng shui the kitchen inside and out. But, I also want to cleanse my body inside and out.
- So, I stocked up on fresh raspberries (late summer sale priced two for one baskets) and fresh greens to create spinach, tomato and cucumber salads drizzled with balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar and sprinkled with herbs. I've decided to "vegge out" and eat plenty of nutrient-dense vegetables--such as cruciferous veggies and whole grain brown rice, and fruits such as raspberries and blueberries, as well as drink lots of herbal tea (chamomile is my fave) and bottled water.
- Nutritionists will tell you that cleansing diets help flush impurities from your system and detoxify it. And a detoxifying mini-fast can "rev up" your body as you slim down. Some perks include: gives your organs a rest, cleanses body, purifies, relaxes, rejuvenates, promotes regularity, and so much more.
- So, as I continue to deep clean my kitchen (i.e., the curtains have been washed and professionally pressed; today I'm washing the outside windows with vinegar and water; cleaning the outside wood cupboards, I'll use vinegar and olive oil)--I'm going to detox my body, too.
- Oh yeah, swimming is on the agenda at 1:00 P.M. Note: As colder climate moves in, don't give up your exercise routine. I made arrangements to move on into the indoor spa pool--in a few weeks--complete with pampering perks: hot tub to steam) and I've gotten back into the treadmill at home teamed with my go-getter pooch, 3 year-old Seth.
In a cocoa bean shell: Recently, I read "Don't trust a skinny chef." I disagree. Since I've been watching "Food Network"--I've noticed that some of the pro chefs are sporting too many pounds. Not a good thing. I believe you can make mean and tasty dishes and also maintain a mean body machine, too. It's a challenge to create and eat scrumptious food and stay lean. It takes work but it's worth it to keep you healthy and happy. A toast to the mini-detox diet--the route to allowing you to have your chocolate and eat it, too!
Monday, September 14, 2009
"He who asks fortune-tellers the future unwittingly forfeits an inner intimation of coming events that is a thousand times more exact than anything they may say."
-- Walter Benjamin
-- Dr. Carl Sagan quote
- I read up on the trials of a prepared frozen crust. So I was one up on the woes I faced. I kept 'em frozen before preparing (not refrigerated like I was told to do at the store). Upon opening up the package of two crusts, I was surprised at the texture--just like homemade. I lightly floured the bottom with whole wheat flour. Then, I plopped my apples (see below for Filling info) in and was pleased at the metamorphisis that was appearing before my eyes. (Next time I will do a lattice crust but that is a bit more challenging.)
- When taking out the second crust to avoid sticking I flopped it over in my hands and ran warm water over the tin pan. Then, flipping it back, I topped the pie with the second crust and there were a few glitches. No worries. I dabbed a bit of warm water on the torn parts and smoothed out a handsome crust to write home about. When I fluted the edges (like mom taught me to do) I felt like she was in the dining room with me. It was an unworldly experience. Instead of brushing the top of the crust with an egg white, I chose organic milk. And sprinkling cinnamon and sugar on top was just the beginning of a good time because I sensed the work was over.
- I cut a few slits (as I read to do) and cut out a small circle on top of the pie. It looked like pies in photos. Into the oven for 15 minutes...and then I peeked at my pie before turning the oven down for another hour. It was confirmed. My first homemade apple pie was not going to flop. My mom was an excitable, passionate bakeress and I will never forget one time when her homemade Butterscotch Pie turned out too soupy. She cried. I cried. It was a sad event. (To prevent a sequel, I was thankful that I read ahead of time and remembered to prevent the pie crust from cooking too fast and burning...fold foil over the heat-sensitive edges.)
- Note: A no brainer: Do this first before turning to your crust of choice. Combine the ingredients. I put it all in a collander and drizzled thick, brown juice ontop of the apples, stirring it up so each and every apple was coated.
- One hour later: At 8:50 P.M. last night I peeked inside the oven. My pie was golden brown and the apple juices were all bubbly oozing out through the slits. I took a fork and pulled out one single apple wedge--tender. It was done. Sixty plus minutes later (I couldn't wait any longer to judge the pie), I cut a piece of pie (I rarely eat after 7:00 P.M.--the secret to maintaining a size 4-6) and savored the first bite. Success. The apples were hot and juicy, not too sweet or too tart. The crust tender, a nice golden light color, and hard to decode if it was homemade or not. It was a natural, wholesome apple pie (almost like mom used to bake). I miss her. Making and baking this sweet apple pie brought me back into time, the Sixties, when I was just a kid who loved her mother who knew how to bake from scratch.
P.S. Enter the Healthiest Survival Pie Contest and Win a Copy of The Healing Powers of Chocolate, Olive Oil, Vinegar--Your Choice. Click Here for Easy Details--the Title of Your Fave Healthiest Pie.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
The North thinks it know how to make corn bread, but this is a gross superstition. Perhaps no bread in the world is quite as good as Southern corn bread, and perhaps no bread in the world is quite as bad as the Northern imitation of it.”
Oh yeah. Last night I enjoyed the memorable scent of strawberries paired with a sweet, fresh muffin bakery smell. This morning I just ate and savored a strawberry chocolatey cornbread muffin teamed with a cup of French Roast coffee splashed with milk, and a glass of fresh orange juice. And this is how it all happened. Yesterday, I was going to create a special double crust apple pie. But at the last minute one of my ingredients was AWOL. So, I starting pondering, "What can I bake that is healthy, easy, and a bit of pre-fall mixed with late summer?" Cornbread (it has European roots) paired with strawberries! Like books and articles, when I googled this combo, I was surprised that it's been done. But, I did it my way--mountain-style with a taste of olive oil, dark chocolate chips (60% cacao), and a convenient store bought mix that boasts on the package "natural."
- Sure, I could have whipped up a concoction of cornmeal and the other natural ingredients, but I took an alternative route. I snagged a packaged box of Krusteaz Natural Honey Cornbread and I'm glad I did. Krusteaz: "Homemade. Made Easy." I used organic 2% low-fat milk, one brown egg, and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. Because I live in high altitude (over 5,000 feet) I added 1 tablespoon wheat flour and 2 tablespoons milk. And the best part, I washed and quartered more than a cup of fresh late summer strawberries. (At Lake Tahoe these were priced at $4.99 a container--an autumn price. The other day, I scored two containers for $4.99--a summer bargain.) And last but not to be left out, I tossed in about a half cup of dark chocolate chips--they've got countless compounds that are oh so good for your mind, body, and spirit. I am a true Northerner (we are known to prefer a sweeter cornbread than Southerners.)
- Next step. I simply poured the easy to mix batter mixed with my fave healthy ingredients into cupcake tins (standard and jumbo size) and popped these muffins into the oven for 20 minutes. The end result: Super moist muffins--not dry like cornbread can be. Each bite I could taste a burst of juicy sweet and a tad tart strawberry and the creamy bits of dark chocolate. No need for high fat butter or honey. And that's it. Bake these muffins up and you, too, can take a nice vacation to cornbread heaven.
- These Krusteaz muffins provide you with some muscle-boosting protein, dietary fiber, and iron. While cornbread can be a tad high in sodium (of interest if you're watching your weight or strive to keep heart healthy), a serving size (2x2-inch piece) contains just 260 milligrams and a mere 110 calories. No cholesterol or trans fat (again, the stuff that clogs your arteries). And, of course, strawberries are chock-full of stress fighting, good for you antioxidant vitamin C, a flu-fighting must-have in September. These Strawberry-Chocolate Cornbread Muffins are a homey mountain delight without picking the berries or growing the corn. (Oh wow. "Barefoot Contessa" is on the tube. Yep, I'm changing like the seasons.)
Monday, September 7, 2009
Enter: Fortune cookies. These are one of life's simple little pleasures. It's so much fun to open up the crisp cookies after a Chinese dinner or take-out. Imagine if you could make up a batch of your own treasures paired with unique and profound forecasts created by you! I found a fine recipe penned by Gemma Sciabica in her cookbook California Olive Oil: Dolci and Biscotti Recipes. The batter part seems easy to create--and it had me at the word "olive oil". The dipping these unforgettable gems into dark chocolate was my idea or so I thought until I did a Google search. Yep, there's cookie companies that sell fortune cookies--chocolate dipped and in an array of flavors. Still, I'd like to create these cookies by myself. I'm up for the challenge. Are you? Warning: The batter part seems easy but molding the cookies may be a bit of a task...