Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Special Oatmeal-Chocolatey Muffins

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

“People get so in the habit of worry that if you save them from drowning and put them on a bank to dry in the sun with hot chocolate and muffins they wonder whether they are catching cold."
John Jay Chapman

It's Friday morning and I woke up to a healthy homemade oatmeal muffin. It was the fruity-nut and dark chocolatey kind of treat with a white Casper Ghost-like dollop of cream cheese frosting that put a smile on my face. There's so much talk about the flu that eating well can take away the spookiness of getting sick, sort of.
I recently penned an article about the swine flu vaccine, which will be published online November 1 in Oracle 20-20 Magazine. In this piece I dish out ways how to boost your immune system. Eating healthy nutrient-dense foods including antioxidant-rich health foods like fruits, nuts, chocolate and whole grains teamed with regular exercise are ways to keep us well to fight off the flu or weather it. So last night I was thinking oatmeal muffins I ended up using some nutritious ingredients: oatmeal, golden raisins, hazelnuts and premium dark chocolate...
I recall last year I often swam at an outdoor resort Lake Tahoe pool. One day it was a freezing 15 degrees outside. A storm was coming in, snow covered the ground, and there were ripples in the water (it was warm with steam rising from the top). But my ears were so cold. Still, I wanted to swim. I did. And I did get a nasty ear infection a few days later. This year it's the indoor pool for me and it's utopia-like effects complete with an oversized hot tub, waterfall, and off season it's usually all mine. Last year I used to purchase a pricey oversized muffin (with hidden fat and plenty of calories) at Starbucks after my workout. This year I'm coming home to all-natural homestyle muffins just like these oatmeal chocolately ones.

Halloween Special Oatmeal-Chocolatey Muffins
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked
1 cup all natural whole wheat flour
1 large brown egg
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 stick European style butter
1 cup organic milk, 2% low-fat
1/2 teaspoon Mediterranean sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup hazelnuts or walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins or dried apricots bits
1/2 cup gourmet dark chocolate chips, 72% cacao

Melt butter in a pan on low heat. In a bowl mix butter with beaten egg and sugar. Combine mixture with flour, oatmeal, powder, soda. Stir in nuts, raisins and chocolate chips. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or till golden brown and muffin tops bounce back at a finger's touch. Cool for about 20 minutes. Drop a small dollop of frosting on muffin tops and top with a nut or chocolate chip. Makes 12 medium sized muffins--not too big and not too small, a perfect size for anyone.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/8 cup European style butter
1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Chill while the muffins are baking.

The jury is in and these natural muffins make me happy. They're not too sweet but sweet enough. I can taste the plump golden raisins, crunchy little hazelnuts (walnuts can work, too), and melted chocolate chips--a great way to get used to quality chocolate and like it. And the cream cheese frosting? Ah, using whipped cream cheese is so easy and the texture is creamy like the European style butter. Use just a tad because you don't want to overdo the sugar for your health's sake but a dollop is ideal. These muffins look pretty like the photo.

The best part, they're quick to make and you can control the size and ingredients. Trick or treat? These yummy Halloween muffins are a real treat, no tricks this year. Suggestion: Cozy up indoors and in the morning, afternoon or night pair one of these special muffins with a cup of fresh juice, herbal tea or hot chocolate and enjoy the seasonal changes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Celebrate Chocolate Year-Round--Not Just Today!

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

I woke up today to a lot of emails with the words: "Today is National Chocolate Day." Hmm. To me, every day is chocolate day. It's true. Yes. Yes you can incorporate chocolate (moderation is key) in your diet (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) for your health's sake. Nope, chocolate isn't just for Halloween, the upcoming holiday season and V-Day. Chocolate--the good dark stuff--is a health food that you can savor year-round...

By Cal Orey
Kensington Trade Paperback, December 29, 2009
ISBN: 0-7582-3820-7, $14.00/$17.50 (CAN)
(Available now for pre-order at all online booksellers including and
Foreword by Will Clower, Ph.D., author of The French Don’t Diet Plan

“Decadent” and “sinful” are words commonly associated with chocolate, but they no longer apply. Approximately 4000 years ago, in Central America, the Mayan Indians considered cocoa beans “food of the gods” because of its medicinal benefits. Later, it got tagged as a “bad” fatty food. But by the end of the 20th century, a twist of fate turned chocolate back into a health food.

THE HEALING POWERS OF CHOCOLATE traces the origin of chocolate, from bean to bar, from centuries ago to the present day. In creating this informative and fascinating book, renowned health expert and author Cal Orey (who lives near San Francisco, one of the nation’s chocolate hot spots) interviewed America’s top chocolate makers and chocolatiers, nutritionists, medical researchers, and chocolate lovers to find out how this ancient “food of the gods” can prevent and fight common ailments and diseases.

The result is a lively comprehensive guide to the wide world of quality chocolate, from 70% dark truffles to Italian biscotti baked with extra virgin olive oil, in America and around the globe. With proven data for eating dark chocolate containing cocoa flavanols to reduce heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, and dozens of pesky ailments, this book—with a European twist—takes you on a magical chocolate tour, complete with wit, charm, and entertaining personal anecdotes from ancient folklore to the 20th and 21st century.

From Ancient Folk Medicine to Modern Health Wonder, Discover the Amazing Powers of Chocolate!

* Discover the healing powers of dark chocolate and cocoa—now widely recognized as an accepted “health food” and “SuperFood”—versatile cure-all.

* Find out how chocolate’s powers can lower the risk of developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and weight woes.

* Learn how chocolate contains more antioxidants than green tea and red wine—without the alcohol.

* Put dozens of chocolate home cures to work for treating acne, anxiety, brain fog, cabin fever, cough, depression, fatigue, and other ailments.

* You’ll also find chocolate beauty and anti-aging treatment—from masks, manicures to bubble baths and body wraps—made from antioxidant-rich chocolate teamed with natural plant extracts.

Incorporating cutting-edge scientific research, plus Mediterranean-style heart-healthy chocolate recipes, from Sicilian Mole to Dark Chocolate Mousse, THE HEALING POWERS OF CHOCOLATE is a well-rounded one-of-a-kind resource that will show you why savoring this no longer forbidden “food of the gods” is the 21st century trend.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sierra Style Hot Dutch Apple Pie 'N' Mocha Java

By Cal Orey,
The Writing Gourmet


Ever notice how baking is oh-so good for the spirit on a good day? I planned to bake a Dutch Apple Pie but waited till the right time. It was today. It was after the dreaded woman's annual doctor's visit. My brother went with me. How sweet is that for a sibling task? The upside: It wasn't the big, terrible ordeal I had anticipated it to be. No worries. All went well. So, I celebrated fulfilling those preventative health tests (the pesky things women should do regularly that I've practiced and preached about for years in articles and books) by putting together a healthful pie that I was thinking about creating for a whole week. It was well worth the wait because I felt well...

I used Honeycrisp Apples. I've never tasted these sweet and tart crisp apples. The store clerk told me that they're special here at Tahoe and won't last long. When slicing them it was a test to save 'em or bake 'em. They're truly good for both baking and eating as is. I tossed in a couple of organic apples, also something new for me. And instead of my first double crust apple pie like I made a while ago, I chose the Dutch variety for the challenge to see if I could make it taste like the ones you buy at the store. It was easy, fun, and much healthier than store bought ones.

Dutch Apple Pie
1 store deep dish bought pie crust (still hooked on these)
7-8 Honeycrisp apples, washed, peeled, cored, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Crumbly Crust
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 stick European Style butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take pie crust out of freezer. Set aside to thaw for 15 minutes. Prepare apples and place in bowl of ice water. Melt butter and mix with flour, spices, and lemon juice and mix with apples. Set aside. Melt butter and add sugars and cinnamon. Place apple mixture in pie shell. Spread crumbly crust on top. Place a large piece of foil underneath the pie tin to prevent edges of crust burning. Bake 50 to 60 minutes. (If you live in high altitude it may take a bit longer.). It's done when crust is golden brown and apples are tender and bubbly.

Warning: Do not cut for at least one hour. Factoid: If you wait, slicing the pie will be nice and picture perfect. (But I had to taste and yes, it worked inside and outside on the topping.) I read that freezing a Dutch Apple Pie does well. But in my case I gave half to my brother as a gift for his support; the rest will be history within a few days. And note, warming it up in the microwave is a good thing because it brings out all the apple flavor and juices and you can enjoy the crunch of the crumbly topping.

So, tomorrow morning it looks like I will be waking up to snow and/or rain (80% probability) as the storm winds increase outside. I am looking forward to having a slice of almost homemade hot fresh apple pie with a cup of hot chocolate mocha flavored coffee splashed with low-fat organic milk. (And yes, this unconventional breakfast will be savored in bed where it's warm and cozy with the Brittanys and black cat Kerouac. No doubt we'll be looking out the windows at snow-covered pine trees. It should be a good morning.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Looking for Mr. Gourmet Food Soul Mate?

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

Are you wondering is he “The One?” to wine and dine with you forever? Ever hope you find a foodie “soul mate” to share your fave fine edibles and eating style? Looking for a serious chocoholic? Health Nut? Wine lover? Vegan? Exotic food fanatic? Wouldn't it be awesome if you met (or already are in relationship with) that special someone who shares your food likes and dislikes? Do you feel you have made an uncanny food match? Well here’s your chance to find out. Take this savvy soul mate quiz paired with love expert Los Angeles, California-based relationship expert Marla Martenson, author of Excuse Me, Your Soul Mate is Waiting to see if you have met your real compatible match—in the food department.


1. When you meet face to face at a hot food spot or homestyle gathering for the first time, you:
A) automatically show your true colors and eat what you want and how you want without hesitation.
B) pause before speaking and eating.
C) don't eat (it's not your fave food) or do chow down reluctantly pretend to be somebody else to please him.
2. You’re together on a dinner date you:
A) never seem to run out of awesome foods and food topics to share with each other.
B) wish you were solo at work or working out at the gym.
C) are out of sync and feel uncomfortable. You are turned off by what foods turn him on.
3. He dishes out his innermost food dishes. You:
A) are on the same page with your visions of the future and foodfests you'll share.
B) get some of his cuisine aspirations and dreams.
C) feel his experimental lofty food choices are weird or not your cup of tea.
4. He’s got a few table manners that irk you as well as food tastes that are a bit pesky. You:
A) find his imperfections endearing and help him to deal.
B) analyze his food glitches and ponder if he’s a worthwhile fixer-upper.
C) point out his faults, complain, and try and change him.
5. Do you feel that when you two are together and apart in the kitchen, restaurant, picnic or anywhere where food is served, that there is a great meaning to your food relationship?
A) yes.
B) sort of.
C) not yet.
6. Ever think about him when cooking up your fave dishes, only to have him contact you within minutes or hours (and know he's anticipating your concoction)?
A) you betcha.
B) a few times.
C) nope.
7. When sharing a meal do you find you can finish each others’ sentences or read each others’ mind about your feelings linked to the food you're eating?
A) always.
B) occasionally.
C) never.

TALLY UP TIME - The more A’s, B’s, and C’s you answer will tell you if have found your soul mate (think the film City of Angels and the pear scene with Maggie and Seth)—someone you have a profound affinity with together. Some food loving romantics believe each person’s soul has another complementary counterpart and is the link to total happiness and fulfillment once two soul mates connect.

Mostly A’s - Soul Mate Kudos to you! You’ve found your true foodie match. The two of you are inseparable in the kitchen and restaurants and excited when you try new and old foods. There is a powerful, instantaneous feeling that you have known the other before. The relationship is immediate, as though no time had been lost since you were last together, explains relationship expert Marla Martenson. If you still want to be together forever even when you think you might drive each other crazy, she adds, that is a sure-fire sign he is your soul mate.
Tapping into a True Foodie Love: Martenson suggests: “Treat your soul mate like your best friend. Too often we treat the love of our life the worst--thinking that they will be around no matter what. Whatever you do, don’t take your soul for granted. Treasure him and savor each moment.”

Mostly B’s - Soul Date Sometimes you sense your new date or the man you’ve been dating and enjoying meals together is your soul mate—but then you’re not 100% sure. Rather than kiss him goodbye, take potential soul mate inventory. “Spend quality time together and see if this really is the person that you want to be with,” says Martenson. She suggests observing the other person in different situations (i.e., interacting at a restaurant or having an intimate dinner with you) is the key to knowing if you’ve met your food soul mate, not just another date. The love guru adds, “Take your time, after all, your soul mate is forever, right?”
Tapping into a True Foodie Love: If you hope that special man in your life is your soul mate, it doesn’t mean that you should flee off to Las Vegas, get hitche and hit the restaurant strip. If he is your true love, he will always be there for you with no strings attached.

Mostly C’s - Soul Flake Unlike the Soul Mate and Soul Date, this imposter is not compatible with you. In fact, there are red flags that can help you to determine if you are stuck in mismatch territory. If the word good “food” isn’t in his vocabulary, or if his food likes totally clash with yours big-time (i.e., junk food dude), he may not be your gourmet food soul mate. Once you stop looking for the soul mate of your dreams, you may meet him when you least expect it and embrace an eternal bond and enter gourmet Foodland hand in hand.
Tapping into a True Foodie Love: Meanwhile, when you two are together and he’s hypercritical of you--and your love of certain types of to die for food or dedication to Food Network programs, it’s time to do some soul searching.
* A spin-off article I wrote for Complete Woman magazine.

Friday, October 23, 2009

10 Secret Fall Foods to Keep You Lean & Warm

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

“The devil has put a penalty on all things we enjoy in life. Either we suffer in health or we suffer in soul or we get fat.”--Albert Einstein

Casseroles, and candy, and cakes. Oh, my! I admit it. I don't want to pack on frightening pounds and body fat during autumn. Let's face it. Turn on Food Network and the sight of awesome dishes are going to grab you. But hold the phone! It doesn't have to be the season to pack on unwanted weight. Sure, this is the time when temperatures get cooler, and it's instinct for us to start cooking up comfort foods (often high in fat, sugar, and calories).Worse, we get a little more sedentary like big bears and fat squirrels getting ready to go into hibernation, right?...

Been there, done that. In my early 20s, when I lived in Eugene, Oregon I fell into the weight gain game during the winter. As a waitress, I ate fattening junk foods and didn't even enjoy the experience. Food was my foe. Once I returned to sunny California, I made friends with nutritious edibles, got physical, and I lost the extra pounds. It was a total diet-lifestyle makeover. Now, residing at Lake Tahoe (a place where it snows and the temps can drop below zero) I have learned to adapt and stay lean and healthy in the colder months--and so can you.
If you want to make a sharp turn into Skinnyland--the place where you get a move on and eat fresh foods it can be done. Today, I went to the pool and swam nonstop for almost 30 minutes. The Brittanys got a longer walk (they're whooped!). I brought in firewood and swept/hosed down the deck. At the store? I got apples, dried fruits, fish, nuts, dark chocolate, coffee filters and--I'm keeping it natural despite my desire to whip up new recipes. No, I will not give up baking or cooking--nor should you, but I'm not going to slide down into the chubby celeb chefs' hole of no return. No way. I'm a northern Californian and want to stay lean and healthy and I hope you do, too.

Tonight I kept it simple. I had a Greek Salad (see the photo above). How easy is that? Tossed green spinach, sprinkled feta cheese, a few tablespoons of olives, roma tomatoes, and pre-cooked jumbo shrimp. I drizzled a bit of EVOO and a splash of red wine vinegar on top. That's it. Oh, I did include a piece of fresh sourdough French bread (from San Francisco, it was a homesick thing)--but no butter. And a handful of dark chocolate nuts. OMG! These are something to write home about.
Here, take a look at some fab fat-fighting fall foods you can enjoy cooking, baking, and eating without putting on fat.
1. Fresh Fruit: Apples, oranges and berries (yes, strawberries are still available). Research shows that diets high in fiber help keep you full. Low-fat, fiber-rich fruit also promotes regularity. The result: A flatter tummy. Try a decadent and healthful warm cobbler teamed with a scoop of calcium-rich all-natural vanilla yogurt with autumn fresh fruit, and drizzle sweet balsamic vinegar on top.
2. Potassium-Rich Foods: Bananas, dried apricots and cranberries are high in potassium and used in baking during fall. They act as natural diuretics, which may reduce bloating. These are good plain or put into all-natural healthful nut breads and muffins that you make and bake.
3. Cheese: Don't skip good cheese because it's a good source of calcium and other nutrients such as protein and vitamin A--and it's creamy and tasty in veggie pastas and hot, toasty sandwiches. But think moderation and real cheese (no fake stuff). Sharp cheddar, feta, provolone are good to get satisfaction from a small amount.
4. Olive Oil: Adding a little extra virgin olive oil to your cooking and baking--like cheese--can help stave off unhealthy food cravings. Not to forget olive oil is a monounsaturated fat which is proven to be heart healthy, may stave off cancer, and help you to keep your weight in check.
5. Nuts: Almonds (as are other nuts) used in cooking and baking are a great godsend. They're high in zinc, rich in antioxidant E, contain some B vitamins, and sodium is very low. The crunchy texture is great in a fall salad or nutrient-dense good for you chewy cookie without chemicals and preservatives and chock-full of those dried fruits.
6. DARK Chocolate: Not just a fall holiday food--it's a year-round health food. Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews, for instance, boast fiber, and iron. Nine scrumptious nuts contain about 200 calories, zero cholesterol, only 60 mg sodium--and will give you that feel-good boost for your mind, body, and spirit. Count on it. Chocolate is oh so versatile--it's not just a dessert. And yep, it can help you cut craving for fattening sweet foods.
7. H20: It's more of a challenge to drink water (not a food exactly but essential for survival) than eat chocolate in the colder months but it can be done. Yeah, I'm doing it now. Try adding a twist of orange, lemon or orange to bottled water. If you purchase water, you'll feel more obligated to drink up! It's good for you from head to toe...
8. ...Herbal Tea. Speaking of water, sipping a cup (or two) of a hot, steaming and healing herbal teas (such as vitamin C-rich rose hips) can help you to fight colds and flu; relieve stress and anxiety (so you won't be tempted to overeat). Black and green teas are chock-full of disease-fighting antioxidants. One cup of green tea has no fat, sodium, sugar, or calories.
9. Tomatoes: These little wonders--hot or cold-are rich in the antioxidant lycopene--a cancer fighter and wonder for hot and filling whole grain rice dishes for dinner to healthy omeletes for breakfast. One cup of chopped tomatos has just 35 calories. Because of this, tomatoes are a fat-free, nutrient-rich, and and versatile fall filler in many hearty meals.
10. Pumpkin: The alpha carotene in pumpkin (like sweet potatoes), a fall favorite, makes this vegetable a nutritional bonanza. Pumpkin is rich in heart-healthy carotenoids, potassium, magnesium, and folate, all of which may protect you from heart disease. This comfort food has only 25 calories per half cup and no fat. During the cold season, a warming and healthful dessert is a slice of pumpkin pie teamed with a steaming cup of hot water spiked with a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar and soothing chamomile tea.

A Bonus Food: A Cup of Cocoa: Don't forget savoring a cup of hot chocolate made with low-fat milk or water for that European touch. P.S. A new study to be published in a medial journal this November shows that yes, cocoa is heart healthy--and it will nurture your spirit and warm your soul.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Which Oil Is the Winner for Your Chocolate Taste?

By Cal Orey,
The Writing Gourmet

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 taste buds or chocolate cooking and baking. For instance, if you don’t like mushrooms, porcini olive oil may not be your cup of oil in an exotic chocolate mole. You may love to cook, but extra virgin olive oil may not give you enough pizzazz in your favorite double dark chocolate cookies. 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 chocolate and 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 and chocolate before you choose the oil(s) (a healthier fat choice to use in your dishes) for you...

Oils For Your Chocolate 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 and chocolate 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. Chocolate Favorite (Chocolate mousse)
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. Chocolate Favorite (Luxury chocolate truffles)
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. Chocolate Favorite (Dark chocolate nut breads)
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. Chocolate Favorite (Chocolate 'n' fruit biscotti)
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. Chocolate Favorite(Chocolate mole)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Warm Up to Petit Peanut Butter Chocolate Drops

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet
“If you can't control your peanut butter, you can't expect to control your life."
Bill Watterson
Back in the seventies, I hitched and hiked with my Lhasa/Maltese. We found each other in Seattle and traveled south to the gulf states and up north to Quebec. It was an unforgettable experience and I felt like a fish out of water. The sophisticated locals spoke fluent French (I did not). The street signs looked foreign and the metric system on food labels confused me. I was lost. At night, I recall sleeping on the lot of a huge Victorian-style home--but we slept in my sleeping bag outside in the backyard. It was so cold. I fantasized about walking up to the front door and saying: "Hello I'm from California" and imagined the homeowners would invite me in for a homecooked meal and warm bed. It didn't happen. We made due with what I had in my backpack. I ate peanut butter and whole wheat bread; my pooch ate generic dog food. And we snuggled throughout the long, lonely cold night air for warmth and companionship...

Tonight in a warm living room with my two canines and one cat, I'm watching Food Network... I'm waiting for my French-style cookie dough to chill so I can roll 'em into petit drops. These tiny cookies remind me of Tahoe mountain peaks in autumn without snow. These Petit Peanut Butter cookies make me feel warm and cozy at home. The bonus: Peanut butter contains heart healthy resveratrol (like red wine) and monounsaturated fat (like good for you super health food olive oil).

Petit Peanut Butter Chocolate Drops
1 1/4-1/2 cups all natural whole wheat flour (more than less if you live in high altitude)
1 brown egg
1/2 cup all natural crunchy peanut butter (mix well)
1/2 cup European Style butter
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
gourmet dark chocolate chips, 72% cacao

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, soda, and powder. In another bowl, cream butters, sugars (the more white granulated sugar you use, the crispier the cookie), and beaten egg. Combine the two mixtures and add vanilla and olive oil. Chill for a few to several hours. Take out of fridge. Roll petite balls of dough and place on cookie sheet (it works better without parchment paper). Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes or till golden brown. Once out of the oven put two chocolate chips on the thumbprint cookies. Makes about two dozen (depending on size of drop)...
I like the mix of sugars in these peanut butter cookies because they're crisp and light not heavy or chewy. And the dark chocolate is a nice chocolatey touch. The EVOO and European Style butter makes me feel both earthy and faraway from the Golden State--even though I'm homebound in a house filled with a heavenly cinnamon aroma. I'm home. I'm not on the road. I'm home with my two Brittanys with French roots who don't speak French. And they are warm, cuddled up next to each other on the sofa. Cookie?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ouch! A Cup of Tea & Chocolate, Please

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

"Ecstasy is a glass full of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth."

--Alexander Puskin

On Friday night I was feeling good watching a film on TV, chilling out with my companion animals, and pain free--until it happened. I went into another room for a minute and then heard that tell-tale familar sound of Seth, my three-year-old Brittany chomping on a plastic bottle of water that I left behind. I scurried towards the bedroom to catch him in the act (before the water spills and he gets the bottle cap). But in my great attempt to beat him to the punch I tripped in the dark hallway. I fell on the gate room divider (a must-have for active Type A pooches). And BAM! as the famous Chef Emeril says. Down, down, down I went onto both the oh-so hard floor and wooden gate. The visible damage: One red and swollen lump the size of a hard boiled egg on my right cheekbone. The day after: I am sporting two pesky black eyes, a sore shoulder, bruised thigh, and aching back. Ouch...

Coincidentally, an eye-catching new October study published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that both chocolate and drinking water can help curb pain. Well, it worked for the lab rats.

Meanwhile, today my cheekbone smarts. A lot. So, I'll choose both natural painkillers. As a Libra who loves balance, I'll take mine in all forms. For starters, have I been in the mood to bake? No. Swim? Yes. But the tourists are here till tomorrow so no pool today. I'll nurse my wounds with the help of hot tea, bottled water (yes, watching the pooch), and dark chocolate chips. Not to forget ICE and a heating pad.

Take Two Chocolates and Pet the Dog

So how can chocolate also help to soothe pain, anyhow? Well, in my chocolate book I discuss the multiple feel-good compounds for aches and pains--but for now I will tell you something you may already know. Dark chocolate is a known natural painkiller. Plus, both swimming and hydrotherapy (hot tub) paired with dark chocolate can help you to relax (like pets can do) and boost pain-relieving endorphins. It's a double effect to soothe pain and help you feel better...

And tea? My tea of choice is chamomile. Not only does it ease inflammation (yeah, I've got that going on), protect against infection, but it also soothes and relaxes. It can help soothe your nerves (enough for me to go get highlights put in my hair to match my orange and white Brittany pair)--and that can help you to look and feel relaxed.

Chamomile & Chocolate Pain Recipe

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon dried chamomile flowers or 1 tea bag. Steep at least 5 minutes.

Take one or two premium dark chocolates (70% cacao) or drink a cup of hot dark chocolate twice a day during a bout of pain.

One more thing. Ouch. My cheekbone throbs. Where's the chocolate? Note to self: Train the pooch to brew me a cup of tea. Can dogs do that?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

European Chocolatey-Pumpkin Spice Muffins

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet
“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.

Henry David Thoreau

I love pumpkin. I love pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin fudge, and pumpkin muffins. All day long I was preparing myself to bake up a batch of sweet and spicy pumpkin chocolate chip muffins with a different spin. (Ever notice everything has been done before?) And I just did it. I used orange extra virgin olive oil, European Style butter, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a mix of gourmet dark chocolate chips--a superfood that does your body, mind, and spirit good. Yes, it was worth it...

The scent in the kitchen, dining room and living room smells like fresh baked pumpkin. The taste of one of these warm concoctions with the oh-so melted chocolatey chips was so good I did what I do...into the freezer for safe keeping and not over indulging. What's more, there was enough batter to make a small pumpkin nut bread (I topped it with hazelnuts) and Mediterranean sea salt (a bit like what I enjoyed on some of the European dark chocolate caramels I tried).
Last year, in the fall after swimming, I sometimes purchased a large, pricey pumpkin muffin at Starbucks. But now that I know I can bake my own and spike them with quality chocolate, control the size and ingredients, and keep a stash in the freezer--I may never buy another prepared muffin. (Forget the packaged pumpkin muffins at the store. If you check out the nutrition labels they include way too many chemicals and preservatives, not to forget that they're not fresh like ones you whip up in the comfort of your own home.)

European Chocolatey-Pumpkin Spice Muffins
2 cups canned pumpkin
3 cups all natural whole wheat flour
1 cup European Style butter, melted
4 large brown eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup golden brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg (each)
1/2 cup gourmet dark chocolate chips, 72% cacao
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, 60% cacao
1/2 cup hazelnuts
Mediterranean sea salt

Mix eggs, sugars, and oil. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, powder, soda, and spices. Combine all ingredients and add pumpkin and vanilla. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour mixture into muffin 12 muffin tins. Use the rest of the batter in a small bread pan. (Lightly grease with orange olive oil. Yes, it works.) Drop hazelnuts on top of bread. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or till a firm golden brown. Cool. Spinkle sugar on top of muffins; sea salt on top of nut bread. Serve warm.
I admit it. These cosmopolitan muffins were the second highlight of my day. The first and foremost fave time was enjoying the swimming pool/hot tub--it was all mine and the temperature was perfect. Not one tourist in sight. Not one. Utopia. But later, an imperfection hit home. My six year old pooch paid our vet a visit (again). His left ear is problematic with debris (not uncommon for sporting dogs and Brittanys) and he had to have it flushed out. Brave Simon. And now the canine sleeps next to his dog pal Seth.
So, tonight's baking time was another escape. It was easy, fun, and a treat to taste the healthy pumpkin, variety of spices, melted dark chocolates, and Mediterranean sea salt. For a minute, it was almost like whisking away to Tuscany. Sort of. Ah, to warm up one of these muffins tomorrow morning paired with a fresh cup of earthy and bold Sumatra java, and orange juice will be heaven.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sicillian Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

"I don't drown my sorrows; I suffocate them with chocolate chip cookies." -- Author Unknown

Here comes the rain. Welcome to the West Coast storms. The water (we don't get a lot of rain storms in the Sierras) reminds of an European island--like Sicily. It's a perfect day to play hooky from real life, stay home and cozy up to the fireplace and bake a batch of homemade gourmet chocolatey chip cookies. (I will do this today or tomorrow morning. Yep, still enjoying the healthful mini-fast.) The problem is, I can't decide to go for dark or white chocolate chips. So, I'm doing what Librans do: It's going to be a triple chocolate feat. That way I'll get both dark 'n' white chocolate chips and cocoa powder for the darker cookies, too...

These Sicillian cookies I've dreamed up have an Italian edge to them. One, I'm using 72% cacao chocolate chips. (It's an acquired taste and healthier, too.) Two, I'm using white chocolate, but less, as European chocolatiers do to decorate their chocolates. Three, I'm turning to premium unsweetened cocoa powder for half the cookies (so I can enjoy the best of both chocolate worlds). Also, for the double dark chocolate ones I'm going to use lime extra virgin olive oil (the roots of lime are from Sicily).
Pairing lime and dark chocolate (with nuts) reminds me of the scrumptious handmade chocolates I enjoyed during the research of my book The Healing Powers of Chocolate. The best part: You get two types of cookies with three types of chocolate. It's a serious chocolate lover's fantasy. No milk chocolate this time around.

Sicillian Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all natural whole wheat flour (I use a bit more because of the high altitude)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup European-style butter, melted
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup golden brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large brown eggs
1/3 cup 2% organic low-fat milk (optional)
1 cup Gourmet Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips,
72 percent cacao, extra bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup premium white chocolate chips
1/3-1/2 cup premium baking cocoa natural
unsweeetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup premium hazlenuts, chopped (optional)

Cream sugars (add more to taste) and melted butter. (Be careful not to burn. I use the microwave and keep a close eye on it while my two Brittanys try and sabatoge my concentration.) Add beaten eggs and mix together. Combine flour, salt, soda, and powder. Divide batter into two parts. Add cocoa powder, dark chocolate chips (use 3/4 cup), hazelnuts, and lime oil to one part; add 1/4 cup dark and white chocolate chips and lime oil to the other part. (Chill the batter in fridge for several hours for better cookies). Shape dough into small-sized balls for a petite, sophisticated European look. Place on cookie sheets (ungreased parchment paper or nonstick ones). Bake at 350 to 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes till golden brown. Sprinkle granulated white sugar or Mediterranean sea salt on the dark chocolate chip cookies for a nice eye-catching and sweet or salty effect.

These Sicillian-style gems are a cut above the run-of-the-mill Toll House chocolate chip and walnut wonders I grew up baking and eating. I love the fact that these select ingredients have a gourmet touch and European taste. And it's these reasons why you can eat one or two and enjoy them like rich, exotic small luxury Italian chocolates. You won't want to overindulge in these cookies because they are special and deserve to be savored for their Sicillian charm.
Serve with a cup or two of hot tea (green and black tea are rich in antioxidants and chamomile is soothing) and fresh seasonal fruit. Oh, and I predict that the tell-tale sensual aroma of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies will give your home a heavenly, lingering smell, rain or shine.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Get Spa'd with Autumn Produce & Olive Oil

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

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

Ever notice how your body craves a European-type pampering from head to toe? Today is Columbus Day and I'm taking a mini-vacation for a day. That means it's a time for fresh autumn fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil. I'm going to be nibbling on naturally sweet and nutritious grapefruit, kiwi, purple grapes, apples--some of my favorite fall fruity delights. Drinking lots of water and herbal teas throughout the day is part of my Get Spa'd plan. In between this cleansing process in the early afternoon I'm off to the resort pool to get a good swim and relaxing hot tub. (I hope the tourists are MIA.)

Back home again for fall chores (such as bringing in firewood, hanging the pressed kitchen curtains, tackling the cob webs, and filing paperwork). Drinking more water is part of the schedule... Oh, I almost forgot. A writer's work(s) is never done. I have to do a quick edit for a piece due this week on how healing chocolate is not healing for dogs and cats during the holidays--or any day for that matter.

Tonight it's going to be a simple and fresh salad for one. While lean protein is good for you and your immune system it's strictly an almost vegetarian's day for me. I haven't eaten meat for more than 30 years but fish and eggs (in moderation) are part of the Mediterranean diet and I do indulge on other days for health's sake. Yes, both eggs and fatty fish are good for you. But today is a special day of cleansing my home and body. And a bit of European cheeses (they're part of the plan on this holiday salad) are a super source of calcium, protein, and vitamin A, not to mention taste.

Indulging in an easy modified fast with detoxifying fruits and salads without eggs and fish paired with plenty of water and teas have umpteen perks: clears skin, gives your organs a rest, cleanses body, relieves aches and pain, relaxes, rejuvenates, boosts regularity, helps to maintain your ideal body weight, and slows aging. No measurments for this salad are required.

Mediterranean Salad

* * *
Spinach and romaine greens
Roma tomatoes, sliced
Provolone, feta & parmesan
Black olives, sliced

I purchased a loaf of local mountain multigrain French bread. Warming it up and drizzling a bit of warm olive oil on it seems like the right Italian thing to pair with the tossed salad.
One more thing. Olive oil isn't just for eating. Tonight it's a perfect night to use olive oil on my hands and feet for that smooth effect during that homestyle manicure and pedicure. And this is the Mediterranean way to give your body a mini-break for your mind, body, and spirit.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

California/Mediterranean Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

Last night my two fun-loving, double trouble Brittanys--Simon and Seth--joined me while we watched the film Marley & Me. It's a movie for authors, serious dog lovers, and dogs. Yes, I cried (again). (Read: One of my former canine companions was a Yellow Labrador. And losing a dog pal is one of the most difficult challenges to face in real life.) After the film, I got images of feel-good chocolate brownies to bake today. But I was fantasizing about giving these childhood favorites a different spin with a sophisticated Mediterranean touch. I was thinking dark chocolate, European-style butter, orange olive oil, and hazlenuts. I was imagining small cupcakes not big squares to keep with my "moderation" mantra. And yep, I just finished creating, baking, and eating one. I lied. (I ate two...froze the rest)...

California/Mediterranean Brownie Cupcakes

1 box of Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix
1/3 cup water (I added 2 tablespoons because I live in the Sierras)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour because it's my choice of flour)
1 brown egg
2 tablespoons European-style butter
1/3 cup hazelnuts
confectioners' sugar

Mix water, oil, butter, and egg in a bowl. Add brownie mix and stir till creamy. Drop brownie mixture into cupcake tins (I used foil ones which are doable; I suggest a nonstick cupcake pan). Top with nuts. Bake at about 325 to 350 degrees (it's higher for me because of my rustic but charming oven) for about 40 minutes. Cool. Dust with Confectioners' Sugar. Freeze to avoid eating more than two.
Note: I used a popular brand (Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix) and made adaptions for my own taste. Keep in mind, there are a lot of dark chocolate brownie mixes (from natural to organic) available both at the grocery store and online. You can make it from scratch, too. But as one who loves to take shortcuts with a health punch, and a San Francisco girl at heart, I am smiling with the end results.
The chocolately aroma lingers in the house. I am purchasing a nonstick cupcake pan--asap and sifter for sugar. (So many kitchen gadgets to get, so little time.) I turned 'em out on a white dish, dusted the cupcakes with the white, pretty sugar, and added fresh orange slices for garnish. (I wanted my brownie cupcakes to look like the photo above--and they do almost.) The texture of the cupcakes are rich, chewy, moist, and the note of orange flavor came through just enough to give me a that California/Mediterranean flair I was craving. The nuts added that oomph of crunch and the confectioners' sugar was a sweet addition.
These mountain-style brownies with white powdered sugar are a bittersweet reminder of the second storm of the season we have coming in on Tuesday. But snow may not hit Lake Level. If it does, a fire, curling up with Simon and Seth (and Kerouac, my black cat) and munching on a brownie cupcake teamed with a cup of hot chamomile tea will get me and my outdoorsy pooches through the rainy spell.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Custard with Class--Fruit 'n' Dark Chocolate Curls

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet
"I've been doing the same lemon tart for
fifteen years. I can't make it any better. To me, it's perfect.”--
Thomas Keller

A decade ago, I remember my dear friend (a surrogate mom) in the San Francisco Bay Area (where I was born and raised), brought me small custard tarts with fruit on top. She was helping a baker's business. Sadly, his store's sign was hidden and she was a humanitarian giving a helping hand. I adored the adorable desserts but truly my fridge was overstocked with these tarts so I ended up passing out many to neighbors. And yesterday, while swimming I got images of these tarts. Today is Tart Day at my house...

Is a baked fruit tart nutritious? Yes and no. It does contain sugar, fat, sodium, and cholesterol. But it also has protein, calcium, and a wide array of good nutrients such as potassium plus vitamins and minerals. More nutritious fresh autumn fruit is better than less. I just read you can't freeze this type of pie because when thawed it will separate and be watery. So, if you don't want to gain weight, indulge in a small slice, share, and next time around I suggest making mini tarts like I enjoyed in the past.

Lemon Custard Fruit Tart
12 ounces evaporated milk, low-fat
3 large brown eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/4 cup premium maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons
extra virgin olive oil, lemon flavored
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 pie crust, Marie Calendar's Deep Dish

green grapes, sliced in half
fresh large strawberries, sliced
dark chocolate curls

Heat milk on stovetop but don't boil. Combine milk with beaten eggs, sugar, and flour. Add syrup, vanilla, olive oil, and lemon juice. Pour easily into pie crust. Sprinkle top with nutmeg. Cover the bottom of the pie shell with a large piece of foil that can cover the top crust (to prevent burning). Bake at 325 to 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or till firm. Cool and put in the fridge (and that is where you will store it, too). Top with fruit (after it is chilled) and chocolate curls for that cool touch.

Lemon, Fruit and Chocolate Curls Are Classy

The end result of lemon custard, fruit and chocolate: Ah, the lemony flavor is sweet and tart. The fresh fruity flavors of grapes and strawberries compliments the creamy texture of the custard. (The crust? I know I can make one from scratch but Marie Calender's pie crusts are tasty, flaky and they work with less time, less mess.) The Dark Chocolate Curls give this pie a sophisticated, pretty European look--and marrying chocolate with lemon works well. A tablespoon of the rich tasting curls: 20 calories with no sodium, trans fat, total fat one gram, and three grams of protein per serving. And don't forget the good for you antioxidants and compounds in dark chocolate.
This Fruit Tart with a cool chocolate twist works for me. But I should have really made the smaller ones to maintain my small size. (I did have a veggie salad for dinner. If you practice the balance plan you, too, can enjoy treats in moderation without packing on unwanted body fat. Note to self: Extra laps at the swimming pool; longer dog walk tomorrow.)
One more thing. I think I prefer the smoother texture of using half and half milk as I did in the
Sierra-Style Custard (with chocolate shavings) made back in September, the day before autumn arrived. They're different. They're both fun and light with a chocolatey, cosmopolitan San Francisco-type edge.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fresh Fruit Salad & Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air."

--Nathaniel Hawthorne
Today I was a guest on a radio show hosted by Will Clower, Ph.D.--a guru on the Mediterranean Diet. We dished out a big helping of chat about the amazing powers of vinegar, olive oil, and chocolate. These three superfoods have so many virtues that I felt like a juggler trying to keep each in the limelight. Last night, on Captain Jack's program, I talked quakes in the Pacific Ring of Fire and Golden State along with geologist Jim Berkland. Three plus hours later...Whew. But hey, Dr. Clower gave me a new name: "Renaissance Woman." I always thought of me as "Nature Girl." No matter...
It does seem like whenever and whatever I write about the topic is related to Mother Earth. Speaking of the globe, yesterday I finished an article on the Swine Flu Shot for my November Earth Changes column in Oracle 20-20 magazine.
So, it's time for a little pampering R&R. Yes, I did go swimming this afternoon. The water was almost perfect--pool all mine. Yes, the Brittanys, Simon and Seth got a nice, long walk (the snow has melted). Now it's time to feast on autumn's fresh fruits. I am getting ready to whip up a healthful, immune-boosting seasonal fresh fruit salad dressed in chocolate balsamic vinegar. In the fridge there's a lot of Northern California fruits, such as kiwi, pears, grapes (green and purple), strawberries, and apples. I like the combo in the photo above. So that way I don't have to make any decisions. But I love pink grapefruit and dark chocolate so I'm including it to the salad.

Fresh Fruit Salad & Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar
1 fuji apple, slices
1 Granny Smith green apple, slices
1 orange, slices
1/2 pink grapefruit, slices
purple grapes

Combine in bowl. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on fruit. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar or honey. Put in the fridge and chill. Once cold, drizzle Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar on an elegant white plate. Spoon a half to one cup of fresh fruit mixture on top. (I have a bottle of Hotel Chocolat: Cocoa Nib & Balsamic Vinegar. One tablespoon is a mere 20 calories; 0 fat, cholesterol, sodium. It includes Cocoa Bean and Sugar Cocoa Powder.) As with red wine vinegar, the labeled contents aren't the entire story. Balsamic vinegar, like its grape-filled counterpart, contains powerful antioxidants that protect against heart disease--and may even fight cancer.)
So, pairing Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar with nutrient-dense fruits, you've got a good for you salad. This vinegar has a distinct, rich flavor. (I've enjoyed regular pricey balsamic vinegar on vanilla ice cream at an Italian restaurant). Pairing Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar with fresh fruits will titillate your palate and give you a taste of autumn.

Monday, October 5, 2009

CONTEST: SWF Looking For The Perfect Chocolate Birthday Cake

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet
“The old believe everything;
the middle aged suspect everything:
the young know everything.-- Oscar Wilde

I am a Monday's child. It is the day I was born. Tomorrow is my birthday. Last year I was researching and writing my forthcoming book on chocolate. And boy, did I have a whole lot of chocolate--from coast to coast--in the house. We're talking chewy brownies, spicy chocolates, rich truffles, and chocolatey cookies. This time around I'm thinking: "I want to make my own birthday cake. It's got to be chocolate." The problem? I'm a Libra (The Scales) and can't decide what kind of cake to bake. And that's where you come in...

I'd like a simple not too complicated cake to bake. Think creative and definitely quality dark chocolate. (I have a two layer sunflower cake pan on its way that I'd love to use since it will give me a feel of Tuscany, a place I dream of visiting.) I wouldn't mind if white chocolate and/or milk chocolate is part of the creation. I love nuts (hazelnuts and almonds). I like creamy buttercream frosting--all flavors, especially with a hint of citrus such as lemon, lime and orange which are delicious with chocolate. And, most important, I prefer using mostly healthful, natural ingredients.

So, the baker or bakeress who dishes out and gives me the best recipe for me will be the winner. What is the prize? You'll receive a signed copy of my book The Healing Powers of Chocolate (Kensington, January 2010)--and receive an advance copy before the new year! Post your recipe right here on this blog post.

Deadline: October 12, Columbus Day (my parents' anniversary). It will be a belated gift and I will bake the Perfect Chocolate Birthday Cake.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Chocolatey Baked Apples With Good Stuff

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

"All millionaires love a baked apple."
--Ronald Firbank, novelist

It's snowing outside. I'm fantasizing about warm and spicy baked apples with a taste of dark chocolate amid fresh, cold grapes. I read that bakeresses claim you cannot use Fuji apples but one rouge said "yes"--that's enough for me, the one who doesn't like to follow the crowd. I am craving these old-fashioned apples with a 21st century touch. And tomorrow afternoon they will be inside the oven...

Sunday Afternoon: I just took three apples out of the oven. Two are Fuji, one is Red Delicious. Yep, the latter wins. It is soft and mushy like a baked apple should be, whereas the Fuji is too crunchy. Live and learn. Here's my tried and true healthy European-style remake of mom's baked apples I ate when I was a kid.

Chocolatey Baked Apples With Good Stuff

2 Red Delicious Apples, slice tops, core
Divide for each apple:
2-3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2-3 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips, 60 percent cacao
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2-3 tablespoons hazelnuts
1 teaspoon butter or extra virgin olive oil

Stuff apples with sugar, chocolate, and nuts. Place apples in baking dish full of shallow water. If your apples tilt, slice a thin piece off the bottom. Sprinkle with allspice.Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or till tender. Pour the apple juice over apple mixture. Serve right out of the oven. Top with a spoonful of all-natural dark chocolate low-fat yogurt for breakfast; all-natural chocolate ice cream for a snack. (Vanilla will do, too.) Store leftovers and warm up in the microwave.
An apple a day means fewer doctors to pay. Eighty percent of teh fiber found in an apple is soluble fiber--or pectin, which may be of help in lower blood cholesterol levels. Also, apples are a good source of potassium, which helps keep you heart healthy. And like most other autumn fruits, they're also lower in sodium (for better blood pressure), calories (for staying slim), and fat. Plus, you're getting good monounsaturated fat from the nuts, and chocolate is chockfull of good for you compounds, nutrients, and antioxidants.
It was a fun experience. Eating a warm chocolatey baked apple garnished with purple grapes (a seasonal fruit) was different. Sitting by the fireplace, overlooking the snow-topped pine trees and ground while munching on the soft apple with crunchy nuts covered in a distinct gooey dark chocolate taste spiked with spices and topped with a small scoop of gourmet vanilla ice cream hit the spot. One more thing: Save the fuji apples, my fave of all apples, to savor as is.