Monday, November 30, 2009

Tahoe-Style Autumn Apple-Cranberry Crumble Pie



By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

“Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh... Now you tell me what you know.”
--
Groucho Marx

Monday is my fave day of the week. It’s fresh. It promises new beginnings. It's off season (again) or what I like to think of as "hump month"--a time when it's quiet at Lake Tahoe. Read: The town is a pre-winter wonder for locals. (Yes, the resort pool was heaven.) And fall is in the air with snow melting on the ground. (The dog walk was grr-eat. No black ice and a nice crisp feel amid the towering pine trees.) I’m having a lingering, love affair with autumn's cranberries, pumpkin, and honeycrisp apples. The last two may be history come winter. So tonight I put to use fresh cranberries and those special sweet and tart apples--an awesome apple that so many people in so many places love to eat. But they come as fast as they go. I can smell the scrumptious aroma of both the berries and apples and it’s better than scented earthy candles…

I used
Honeycrisp Apples (again). The word is, that both pumpkin and these apples may be AWOL sooner than later at Lake Tahoe. This time around, I tossed in whole cranberries and I’m glad I did. And I took the Dutch Apple Pie route since I had one store bought crust left waiting for me to do something with it before winter arrives. I’m sure this pie is healthier created with fresh, seasonal good for you apples and cranberries than store bought ones because you and I can control the rest of the ingredients.

Autumn Apple-Cranberry Crumble Pie
1 store deep dish bought pie crust (still hooked on these)
4 large Honeycrisp apples, washed, cored, sliced
1 cup fresh cranberries, whole (mixed with granulated sugar)
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 cup (each) brown and granulated sugar
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice


Crumbly Crust
1/4 stick butter, unsalted
1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar
OR FOR MORE CRUMBLE 'N' CRUNCH TRY
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. Melt butter and mix with flour, spices, and mix with apples. Set aside. Melt butter and add sugar. 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.

One hour later... I cut a small slice and put a small dollop of whipped cream (no artery clogging trans fats) on top. A dusting of powdered sugar--like a snow flurry--could suffice, too. Into the living room by the fire I sat. Bite by bite I savored this sweet and tart fall fruit pie. The crust is just as good as homemade and the crumble topping is crunchy. I wish I could freeze autumn and my favorite fall foods. I'll miss you Honeycrisp apples. But I know Old Man Winter is coming around the mountain.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Vinegar Power--A Best Friend During the Holidays




By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet


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



The Healing Powers of Vinegar is still helping people slim down and healthy up. In my internationally popular book, I show you how to prevent unwanted weight and body fat, and stay heart healthy with vinegar. These topics are popular woes during the hectic holidays when we're tempted to overindulge in unhealthy foods and stress out while traveling, preparing for family get togethers, and coping with life's ups and downs. So, yes! Yes versatile vinegar can be your best friend--always there for you--throughout the busy month of December...
• Discover the healing powers of apple cider vinegar (and the fruit flavored vinegar craze--like holiday cranberry vinegar) -- now widely recognized as a practical and a potent elixir.
• Find out how incorporating the latest scientific evidence, plus Mediterranean-style heart-healthy no cook diet plans--and many holiday-style recipes--can help to lose body fat easily and prevent heart disease -- the number one killer for both women and men in America.
• Learn how red wine vinegar contains the same important antioxidants as red wine -- without the alcohol.
• Put dozens of new home cures to work through the holiday season... Vinegar can help in treating acid reflux disease, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, hangnails, hot flashes, insomnia, universal emergency (acts as a cure-all medication for any type of natural disasters), and more.
• Find a wealth of new natural beauty treatments and environment-friendly household hints—from detoxing your kitchen to cleaning up kids and pets--a must throughout the holiday season.

Praise for The Healing Powers of Vinegar
(now available in both trade cover and mass market formats; found on all online booksellers' sites including http://www.amazon.com/ and http://www.barnesandnoble.com/)
* Original edition was purchased by the Rodale Prevention Book Club

* Publisher’s Weekly chose the revised edition of The Healing Powers of Vinegar as one of its Selected Cookbooks, July 2006-February 2007

* One Spirit Book Club offers this book (including The Good Cook Book Club)

* Featured in Woman's World magazine

* The Healing Powers of Vinegar has been translated in more than a dozen languages around the globe

Chillin with Chocolate 'N' Pumpkin Ice Cream


By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet
"It is not the strongest pumpkin grower that survives, not the most intelligent, but the grower most responsive to change."--- Charles Darwin, Theory of Pumpkin Evolution

Sweet Sunday. Today the happy tourists should be traveling back home. That means my fave resort swimming pool will be full with less than more people. Translation: It looks like happiness is coming my way. Another thing that makes me smile is ice cream. Even better is pumpkin ice cream. A few years ago, at Lake Tahoe we had a 31 Flavors--a place I'd frequent and ask "Do you have pumpkin ice cream yet?" So, you can imagine how I felt when our ice cream store closed shop. But before Thanksgiving I saw pumpkin ice cream at our grocery store and it was a pleasant surprise...
The other night I topped a scoop of the ice cream with 70% cacao chocolate chips. Wow. You've got to try this team. The creamy and crunchy texture is perfect. And the chocolate? Well, dark chocolate contains monounsaturated fat and it can help to fill you up not out like olive oil and nuts if and if you do not over indulge. Quality and moderation are the secrets. (White chocolate can work and you'll get some extra calcium.)
Another secret? The
regular pumpkin ice cream complete with those warming, earthy autumn spices was AWOL but I snagged the Dreyer's Light Slow Churned Rich & Creamy stuff. (It promises 50% less fat and 30% less calories.) I hesitated but with the holiday foods it seemed like it was good timing.) It works for me. And I discovered Dreyer's also makes a Hot Chocolate flavor but it's not here in the Lake Tahoe Basin. How sad is that? It's time for that swim and the dog walk is on the agenda. Yeah, I'm just chillin all day long.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fresh Cranberry Pancakes, Anyone?



By Cal Orey,
The Writing Gourmet
“He who goes to bed hungry dreams of pancakes."-- Proverb

It snowed last night. It's starting to feel a lot like pre-winter. Not my fave season. It sort of reminds me of being on a roller coaster and we're starting to inch up that big, big, big hill before that oh-so thrilling decline. Anyhow, you, like me, may be a bit overwhelmed with Thanksgiving leftovers and may be craving something fresh...

I did make a Cranberry Nut Bread for Thanksgiving breakfast and I used fresh whole cranberries. It does work. No need to chop 'em in half. So, I've got a half bag left. I'm scanning a "Blueberry Pancakes" recipe excerpted form Baking Sensational Sweets with California Olive Oil created by Gemma Sanita Sciabica--it's in my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil.
But since it's cranberry season it seems appropriate to use cranberries (and/or blueberries if you can find fresh ones). Remember the film Something's Gotta Give with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson? There is the memorable scene where the meant to be couple both wanted to share homemade pancakes until an interruption and they gave up their desire for the sweet treat. For some reason, it's a tasty food that can be romantic for two or comforting for one.

Cranberry Pancakes
1 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons Marsala Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups cranberries (and/or 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 berries. Lightly oil a griddle or large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drop the batter by 1/4 cups onto the hot griddle and spread gently into 4-inch rounds. Cook the pancakes 2-3 minutes. Turn the pancakes over and cook 1-2 more minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter. Place the pancakes on a cookie sheet and keep them warm int he oven while cooking the remaining batter. Serve the pancakes with pure maple syrup. [Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar for an extra festive treat.]

So, now I know what I'm going to do with those tart 'n' sweet cranberries. (I mixed them with granulated sugar like you do apples when baking an apple pie.) So, it feels like a winter-type breakfast. But unlike a roller coaster ride (or a blizzard) there will be no screaming in this house; just feeling good by munching on the first to last bit of fresh holiday berries. It's a perfect and versatile treat for breakfast, brunch or even a late night snack.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I Saved a Turkey...But I'm Cooking a Merry Feast


By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

"Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast." --William Shakespeare

I did it. I saved a turkey but...four bird(s) are defrosting in the fridge. I was going to rebel and do the Detox Holiday Diet. But then, the Thanksgiving spirit grabbed me. Blame it on my bird dogs. The sides (plus breakfast bread) are done. The sweet and savory scents lingering in the house are worth it. I went a bit non-conventional, a bit European. The cool thing is, I stayed easy (almost-homemade), natural and healthful (as possible). I did include vinegar, olive oil and chocolate, earthy herbs and spices as well as some low-fat, lower sodium ingredients. The best part, rather than eating too much at one sitting, I can graze on some of the dishes during the day (paired with morning gourmet coffee, herbal teas, bottled water, and fresh fruit juice) and throughout the week...

Non-Turkey Day Feast

Cranberry Nut Bread
Healthy Fruit-Vegetable Salad
Sourdough Garlic Rolls
Cornish Game Hens Stuffed with Wild Rice
Cornbread Herb Dressing
Baby Red Potatoes, Mashed
Pumpkin Coconut Chocolate Chip Pie

It's not odd to downsize birds, from turkey to adorable hens. As a baby boomer, I'm hardly alone. Many of us are orphans or our families are all grown up and perhaps too far away to celebrate this holiday together. So, rather than not eating and savoring awesome autumn foods, we can do it but just on a smaller scale.

Also, I've learned by doing it all the night before is the way to do it. No stress tomorrow. It will be a fun R&R day with homemade food in the comfort of my home with the four-leggers and my sibling. I'd love to swim but the pool will be scattered with too many tourists. So, Thursday will include one long dog walk, two happy Brittanys and one black cat. (I'll be giving them pieces--no bones--of the birds to show them my gratitude for their companionship and unconditional love.)

P.S. Recipes to be dished out throughout the week. But now, I'm whooped! And here I sit watching Food Network. Go figure.

P.P.S. HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU AND YOURS!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Indulge In Chocolate" Made Me Smile Last Weekend





By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

“All I need is a little love now and then, but some chocolate will do for now."
--
Lucy Van Pelt

Last Friday I survived the snowstorm that fizzled at Lake Tahoe. We didn't get much snow at lake level--three inches. But baby it was cold, cold, cold. I like storms, sort of. I like fresh powder. I like getting cozy indoors by making a fire, cuddling up with my companion animals, and having a moviefest. And I love indulging in chocolate during pre-winter times, like this. So, in the late afternoon when the UPS guy left a package on my doorstep I knew from experience that it was going to be an unforgettable chocolatey weekend for this die-hard serious chocoholic. And I smiled...
I used to get excited when Victoria's Secret packages paid me a visit. I still do grin when clothes arrive on my doorstep. But there's something different, more special about receiving chocolate, like this time, that uplifted my spirit even more than new threads. After all, sweaters and jeans don't boast those compounds that can give you energy, help you to destress, and beat the fall blues. That's where Indulge In Chocolate comes into play.
Indulge In Chocolate sports a wide variety of chocolate--and truffles that wowed me. My box of truffles is made by Illinois Nut & Candy Home of Fantasia Confections. It boasts 25 handmade truffles--and I'm glad it did. (Yes, past tense but there are some chocolates left.) The presentation won points with me. A handsome square box greeted me. It is classy and will be included in my empty and sentimental chocolate box "collection."
When I opened up the gold colored box I felt like a kid in a candy store. Check out the photo above. It's like "Where do I start?" This collection is tagged "Decadent Box of Truffles." And that it is. I can personally attest that the Mocha Truffles described as "Luscious chocolate combined with the rich flavor of mocha" was spot on. The glitch? There was only one! But two Mint Truffles "rich dark chocolate with a hint of mint" sufficed. The Dark Chocolate Cherry "rich dark chocolate blends perfectly with the sweet tang of cherry" was cherry-less but no matter. It worked for me.
Another item that caught my eye is titled Dark Chocolate Gift Basket--a vegan delight with three gourmet dark chocolate varieties. And oh those Vegan Lemon Cream Chocolates that boast a min. of dark 55% cocoa--these gems are on my holiday gift list. (I simply adore the double punch of chocolate and citrus.) My only regret is that I didn't find this company while researching and writing my new book The Healing Powers of Chocolate. Indulge In Chocolate deserves applause year round for its efforts and vast selection--and has a must-see Website for chocolate lovers.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A New Chocolate Book on the Block!



By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

"Life is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're gonna get."--Forrest Gump


Welcome to my new book. 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, I 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. And I indulged in chocolate (all types, shapes and in a variety of dishes) from the West Coast, East Coast, Midwest, Deep South and even Ireland...
The result? The Healing Powers of Chocolate (accepted by One Spirit Book Club; noted as "Editor's Faves" in Complete Woman magazine on stands Dec./Jan) is part of the popular international Healing Powers series. Published by Kensington, this edgy book 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.

So, is chocolate and The Healing Powers of Chocolate--the different treat to grab--grabbing attention? Here, take a look:

* “The right kind, the right amount of chocolate may just save your life.”--Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., author of New York Times bestseller The Fat Flush Plan

* “Can dark chocolate boost brain power? This book shows you how regular intake of antioxidant rich cacao foods is likely to do just that, and more.”--Ray Sahelian, M.D., author of Mind Boosters

* “The powerful polyphenols in dark chocolate are a 21st century health food—your Rx for longevity!”--Karlis Ullis, M.D., Medical Director of Sports Medicine and Anti-Aging Medical Group, Santa Monica, CA

* “A fascinating read full of amazing anecdotes and edgy information. Orey's book entertains while sharing new ways to pair fine chocolate and quality extra virgin olive oil in homemade recipes, from appetizers and entrees to sauces and desserts.”-- Gemma Sanita Sciabica., author of Cooking with California Olive Oil

* “Fine chocolate is about taste, style, and integrity, and fine chocolate is the medium for our message. It is delightful to find an author who understands all this!”--John Down & Joe Guiliano, founders of Christopher Norman Chocolates

* “To appreciate the ultimate aphrodisiac, read this stimulating book.” -- Dr. Ava Cadell, author and founder of Loveology University

* “Chocolate is a taste of divine ecstasy on Earth. It is our sensual communion. Orey's journalistic style and efforts share this insight with readers around the world.” -- Jim Walsh, founder of Intentional Chocolate

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Turkey Dinner SOS! What's Your Worst Experience?


By Cal Orey,
The Writing Gourmet
"What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving? "
-- Erma Bombeck

Back in the fifities, I experienced an unforgettable Thanksgiving dinner to cherish... I was a fifth grader living in a Dennis the Menace-type perfect suburbialand. My mom, a bakeress with talents, cooked the day before and the day of the big event. In the late afternoon our fun-loving relatives joined us. We all sat by the fireplace(s), watching movies on TV, talking and playing with the dog. Then, dinner was served in the dining room. On a glass table (which I now have in my dining room) was a beautiful display of rolls, vegetables, cranberries, mashed potatoes, dressing, turkey on a platter, pumpkin and pecan pies. My father carved the turkey. We ate. We laughed. We enjoyed our huge turkey feast like pilgrims. It was a picture-perfect day--a true Food Network-Hallmark Channel movie...
These days, I know that on the big screen and in real life sometimes Thanksgiving days and dinners aren't always picture-perfect. In the film "The Accidental Tourist" the sister character undercooks the bird. But there are other accidents I remember mega and now I have tagged these "turkey day fowl ups"...
* At 17, at the dinner table complete with a traditional stuffed turkey I rebelled and announced "I'm a vegetarian." My mother cried. My father yelled. My brother made funny faces.
* At 21, I (a Californian hippie chick) was stranded on the road with my dog. We were stuck in a Wyoming blizzard. Cold, wet and hungry we watched strangers pass us by.
* At 28, I was struck by a nasty flu bug. I couldn't eat anything--not even turkey soup.
* At 35, my boyfriend made the turkey dinner. We got into a silly guy-gal argument. He wrapped up the cooked bird in foil and drove it home in his BMW. I was turkey-less.
* At 46, I cooked a big turkey but I was afraid of getting food poisoning for not cooking it long enough. The end result: the tough, dry bird was dumped into the garbage.
* At 50-something I didn't want to do the Turkey Day thing so I rebelled (again). I ordered a veggie pizza and tipped the pizza guy.
* Last year I ate chocolate and researched the food of the gods. It was heaven and I didn't need any help.
Contest Question: So, what is your most memorable Thanksgiving Day or Turkey Dinner disaster? Please share. The winner who dishes out the most heartfelt, amusing or unforgettable ordeal (it can be short) will win a copy of my new book The Healing Powers of Chocolate.
Deadline Date: Thanksgiving.
(Need turkey talk help?
Call this number for Turkey SOS.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Double Sweet Potatoes with Olive Oil



By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

“Said Aristotle unto Plato,'Have another sweet potato?'Said Plato unto Aristotle,'Thank you, I prefer the bottle.'”
--Owen Wister


Good morning. Yesterday I got the news. Our local paper will be embracing The Writing Gourmet's column once a week in the Food pages. The day before I recalled the character (Diane Lane) in Under the Tuscan Sun--one of my fave movies. On the big screen she expressed her wish to have a house full of people to cook for in her new home. I can relate. And now, I can share my Healing Powers series' recipes (and own favorites) with folks in my town (and online)!
In a recent post I claimed an Anti-Turkey Day protest but I'm dishing out some tried and true holiday-related dishes for you and me. Why? It's in my heart to celebrate special days (and every day) and what better way to do it than turn to good for you comfort foods...
I love pumpkin. I love carrots. I love sweet potato pie. My mom used to bake these tators (chock-full of vitamin A, low in fat and high in fiber) and put brown sugar on top. That said, this recipe caught my eye. The photo above flaunts pecans and I recommend topping your potatoes with these crunchy gems mixed with brown sugar. Or, you can follow this recipe to the word and ingredient, straight from the North American Olive Oil Association in my book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
4 large sweet potatoes (about 5 pounds), peeled and quarterd
Extra light olive oil for greasing casserole
1/4 cup extra light olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 teaspons grated fresh gingerroot
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 egg
2 tablespoons orange peel (about 2 oranges)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cardamom, optional
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 slices cinnamon bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons extra light olive oil
Place the potatoes in a Dutch oven with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover loosely, and simmer 15-25 minutes or until tender.* Drain well in a colander, place in a large bowl, and set aside.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 2-quart casserole with olive oil. In a medium skillet or saucepan, heat the 1/4-cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and gingerroot; cook and stir until tender.
Lightly mash the potatoes with a spoon or potato masher. Add the onion mixture and remaining ingredients ecept for hte cinnamon bread and 2 teaspoons olive oil. For a smoother consistency, beat with a mixture to blend. For a chunkier mixture, mash with a potato masher or wooden spoon to blend. Spoon into the prepared casserole.
In a food processor or blender, process the bread pieces until completely chopped. Blend in the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Sprinkle over the potato mixture. Bake 35-45 minutes, or until lightly browned and thoroughly hot. Serves 18-20. [You can cut the recipe in half.]
*Potatoes are tender when a knife can easily be inserted into the thickest parts with little or no resistence. For a smoother casserole, cooke the potatoes until very tender. For a slightly chunkier casserole, cooke the potatoes just until the knife can be inserted.
That's my potato recipe gift to you for Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, it's feeling a lot like late fall. Mother Nature is trying her best to bring in a cold winter storm. I woke up to the howling wind and snuggled with my furry duo--Simon and Seth, the Brittanys. Checking NOAA it looks like we may get a little snow at lake level and more in the higher elevations. Or not. Either way these sweet potatoes may make their way to my kitchen table in the Sierras before next week. What a super sweet and super healthy way to stay warm, huh?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Vinegar-Oil Lady Dishes Out the Healing Powers



By Cal Orey,
The Writing Gourmet
"Except the vine, there is no plant which bears a fruit
as of great importance as the olive." --
Pliny
Every day I read blog posts after posts--touting the benefits of vinegar and olive oil. I am not surprised. At all. A decade ago I penned The Healing Powers of Vinegar. Then, due to its popularity around the globe I updated it in 2006. And The Healing Powers of Olive followed in its sister's footsteps. And, at last--The Healing Powers of Chocolate (yes, you can actually pre-order the 304 page book right now) will make its debut next month. Welcome to The Healing Powers series...
These "superfoods" are in my kitchen, pantry, and medicine cabinet. For starters, I know how vinegar's powers can help prevent age-related diseases like cancer and heart disease. Personally, I have put dozens of home remedies to work for treating allergies, swimmer's ear, and other pesky ailments. Also, vinegar has given me a wealth of natural beauty treatments and environment-friendly help--from making my kitchen countertops sparkle to cleaning up after my fur children. And that's not all...
  • Yes, it's true. Olive oil aka "liquid gold" like vinegar(s) may help you to lose weight, lower cholesterol and blood presure...prevent heart disease and cancer... Live longer...and so much more! From ancient times to present-day, olive oil has been used for everything from health ailments to beauty and housekeeping.
  • Nowadays, I see studies day after day on the Net backing up the fact that both vinegar and olive oil continue to have "super" powers and I am pleased. The top doctors, nutritionists, olive oil producers, and chefs, dished out to me the timeless information on the many benefits of olive oil and vinegar.
  • So it makes me happy that these two ageless books include health benefits, home cures, and dozens of heart healthy recipes (created by renowned chefs)--perfect for the winter and upcoming Thanksgiving weekend. Cranberry Chutney, Baked Sweet Potatoes with Plantain and Citrus Chutney, Vinegar Pastry, and The Olive Press Citrus Cake--just to name a few.
  • As the holidays approach us, I'll bet that both the healing powers of vinegar and olive oil can help you to enjoy a healthier, happier celebration in the kitchen, with your family, friends, and your home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Edgy Tips to Fresh Mt. Lasagna You'll Applaud



By Cal Orey,
The Writing Gourmet

"The original lasagna recipe contained about 36 grams of fat. We cut that back to 11...primarily by removing the meat from the meat sauce and making a cream sauce with low-fat milk and just a little bit of olive oil." -- Patsy Jamieson

Yesterday I went to a matinee and watched the doomsday film 2012. When you look at your watch five times, think about your latch-key pooches, and fantasize about warming up your homemade veggie lasagna--it's obvious--the movie isn't earth moving nor did it make the Earth move for me. I gave it a 3.2 on a 10.9 Richter scale. (Woody Harrelson's character amused me.) Although watching California drop into the Pacific Ocean did move me to go get popcorn (no butter since the world probably will continue after December 21, 2012) to take the edge off... More good news. My Mt. Veggie Lasagna, a comfort food, was the solution to make me feel safe, satisfied and cozy once back home with my four-legged companions. True, I live just a few blocks away from the Lake, which is deep and cold and could create a tsunami, claim scientists. So, I needed to warm up and tune out "the end is near" stuff in my head. And I put leftover lasagna in the microwave and savored the Italian dish (I tried to forget the demise of Italy in the disaster flick). In real life, my almost homemade Mt. Lasagna is one way to chill out when you're on edge...

Here, take a peek at 10 Edgy Tips to Fresh Mt. Lasagna...

1. Use Different Cheese(s). I used ricotta, mozzarella, Monterey Jack and mild cheddar. You can go for low-fat. Or not.

2. Hold the Meat, Do Chunky Fresh Veggies. I used fresh pieces of cruciferous veggies cauliflower, broccoli), zucchini and tomatoes. No need for beef here.

3. Try Semolina. This is an Italian lasagne enriched made with 100% semolina. It's got lots of good for you essential nutrients. (Google it.) Nice texture. Cooked it al dente (about 10 minutes) before layering the casserole dish.

4. Go for All-Natural Ready Made Marinara Sauce (with olive oil). I like this a lot because it tastes good and saves time. It works. Use one with less than more sodium.

5. Add Spices. I used nutmeg and fresh ground pepper. If you like a spicy dish, add fresh garlic and onion.

6. Use an Italian Casserole Dish. I love my rustic red Italian baking dish. It gives the lasagna an European look.

7. Make Two Dishes; Forget freezing one. Too watery from the water-dense veggies. Put in fridge. Makes healthy leftovers for a few days. Or, don't use half the pasta and make one dish.

8. Cover for 15 Minutes When Baking. This technique works to help the edges of pasta from burning or getting too crispy.

9. Don't Use Generic Ingredients. Call me a snob. But I do like my gourmet brands and it seems to taste better when you go for the best. Read: Ditch no name ingredients in this dish.

10. Let Cool Before Slicing. If you want a picture perfect lasagna do wait before cutting it up.


Callie's Fresh Mt. Lasagna

1 package lasagna
1 container of ricotta
1 package mozzarella, shredded
1 package low-fat Monterey Jack/cheddar, shredded
2 jars of marinara sauce (with olive oil and mushrooms)
2 cups fresh vegetables
(cruciferous, zucchini, tomatoes), chopped
Boil pasta for about 10 minutes. Drain. In a mixing bowl combine cheeses. Add pepper and nutmeg. Mix well. In casserole dishes layer ingredients: sauce, pasta, veggies, cheese. The top layer will be sauce topped with mozzarella. Bake at 350 for about an hour- 10-15 minutes longer if you live in high altitude. (Use foil for the first 20 minutes to prevent burning the pasta.) Let cool before cutting picture perfect slices. Serve with hot garlic bread made with whole grain French bread, butter, fresh garlic and parsley. And a spinach salad drizzled with olive oil and red wine vinegar is optional.

So there you go. It's easy. It's fast. It's a dish that will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside and out. And if you see a film that portrays the end of the world it will make you forget all about it. Sort of. The tsunami scenes are a bit over the top. Note to self: Swim 5 times per week.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Trick to Chocolatey/Caramel Lattes to Die For



By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet
"Chocolate, men, coffee:
some things are better rich."-
-Anonymous

Ever treat yourself to a homemade Caramel Mocha or Latte? Once you do it you'll want to do it again and again. Well, today I discovered a way to enjoy these decadent treats in the comfort of my home. And now that means, you like me, can spoil ourselves, family and friends whenever we get the desire to do so. I remember one time I asked a Lake Tahoe Starbucks' clerk the question "What type of caramel syrup do you use?" No answer. (It's a secret ingredient.) So, I tried using one popular caramel brand (the stuff used on ice cream sundaes) sold at the supermarket and it was okay--but nothing to write home about. That's changed. I found not one but two secret latte tricks. At last, I can treat myself to a real coffee shop-style hot latte whenever I'm craving one by simply turning to two distinctive gourmet syrups: Dark Chocolate and Caramel...

Enter Mont Blanc Gourmet Syrups. First I was introduced to
Ghana Single-Origin --the first in their line of Single-Origin Chocolate Syrups. It's an "upscale product and offers the pure, unadulterated flavor of one of the world’s most prized chocolates: the West African Omanhene chocolate." (I include Omanhene chocolate in my book The Healing Powers of Chocolate--and yes, I dish out a lot of health perks of both coffee and chocolate.)
Next, meet Caramel Syrup. It boasts a rich caramel flavor and makes lattes a decadent treat teamed with dark chocolate syrup. (These are just two of many syrups including
Sweet Dark Chocolate and White Chocolate ready to order any time for any occasion. Here's just a couple of the DIY recipes Mont Blanc Gourmet offers:

Traditional Caramel Mocha
1 fl. oz. (2 pumps) Sweet Dark Chocolate Syrup
1.5 fl. oz. (3 pumps) Caramel Syrup
1–2 shots of espresso
Top off with steamed milk
Top with whipped cream and drizzle with Caramel Syrup

Traditional Caramel Latte
2 fl. oz. (4 pumps) Caramel Syrup
1–2 shots of espresso
Top off with steamed milk
Top with whipped cream and drizzle with Caramel Syrup

The ingredients for Dark Chocolate Syrup are simple and pure, including high-fructose corn syrup, water, corn syrup, sugar, cocoa, natural flavor, salt, potassium sorbate (preservative). The ingredients for Caramel Syrup include corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, water, brown sugar, sweetened condensed nonfat milk, sugar, caramel color, salt, disodium phosphate, carrageenan, potassium sorbate (preservative), and artificial flavor.
I'll use low-fat organic milk and hold the whipped cream. But on occasion I just might indulge for the fun of it. Also, no espresso but strong, fresh brewed coffee does the trick for me. Steamed milk? That's tricky if you don't have one of those jazzy machines. But Google the topic "how to steam milk" and you can wing it in a pinch and it can do the job.

All in all, having these two gourmet syrups in my house is apt to make my fall-winter coffee experiences more enjoyable--and it looks like I've found the trick to lattes and won't want to go back to a plain cup of Joe. The best part is, on a cold, snowy day before of after a storm (one may be headed this way this week) I can whip up a homemade chocolatey/caramel latte, sit by the fire with two doggies and a cat and enjoy the warmth and beauty indoors at Lake Tahoe. That's sweet.

Waking Up to a Kiss of Sweet Coffee



By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet
"Ah, that is a perfume in which I delight; when they roast coffee near my house, I hasten to open the door to take in all the aroma." -- Jean Jacques Rousseau

Yesterday I received a package of gourmet coffee. It was something different, something special. Welcome to Caramel Kiss Coffee. The glitch was, it was whole bean. No worries. After my swim I stopped by at our local supermarket and headed for the coffee grinder. Funny, though. It's distinct aroma caught the attention of customers around me. I know they were jealous. And I was the only one who had it...

So, this morning I brewed a cup of the Arabica coffee --a flavored java. As usual, I added a big splash of organic low-fat milk and sprinkled the top with cinnamon. Its flavor is as promised: "creamy, toasty, buttery rich flavor of caramel to create a taste sensation in a cup." Is it really "delightfully luscious!"? Yeah, it really is. The problem is, I'm not sure if I can go back to the non-flavored gourmet varieties.

This caramel flavored coffee comes in two varieties: with and without caffeine. I definitely am drinking the one with caffeine, no doubt. Whew! This afternoon I'm going to a matinee to see the doomsday film "2012." I will probably get those chewy caramel Milk Duds to help me get through the 158 minute movie. I'm thinking now how can I smuggle in a cup of Caramel Kiss to make the time go by faster as I watch the world end as we know it. An "aha moment" is coming: Get thermos!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chill! Go on an Anti-Turkey Day Cooking Protest

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet
"A full belly makes a dull brain." -- Benjamin Franklin

I'm watching Food Network. Turkey Day meals are on the go. And I've made the decision. No way am I cooking or eating the traditional Thanksgiving meal. After viewing all these holiday recipes it would be anti-climatic. Now I know some folks have big families and this "anti-turkey cooking protest" won't fly. But it does with me--and it can for you before or after the big day or perhaps on "the" day itself like me. So, this year I'm saving one bird. And, I'm talking giving my body and spirit a mini vacation without going anywhere. Think stress-free self indulgent fun without fattening food. Swimming, hot tubbing, dog walks, pampering my body (i.e., manicure/pedicure, facial) and chilling out for the thrill of it.
The Harvest may be waning, but these pantry staples can keep you on the road to detoxing your body. Personally, I don't want to pack on five pounds (that's the norm) during Turkey Day time. So I'm going to rebel and turn to a detox diet regime before, after-- even during the big day and forego cooking altogether. You know, give my body a feel-good mini-vacation to feel rejuvenated just for me. No guilt from overindulging and it can make you feel good from head to toe...
Not just for salad or a dash of flavor, items like nutrient-dense vinegars, olive oil, herbs and spices and autumn produce are rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and other healing properties. Check out these healthful, slim-down foods--including The Healing Powers of Chocolate--to heal your body, mind and spirit...
VINEGARS
Apple Cider Vinegar: In the era of the Romans and Egyptians, there were many potent vinegars onmeal tables. Today, we know apple cider vinegar, especially the natural and organic kind, is high infiber and rich in potassium, which can help detoxify the body. Apple cider vinegar can balance sodium and potassium levels, which can also aid in weight loss. Pairing its total ingredients, including boron, calcium and enzymes, with nutritious fall fruits and vegetables may help prevent cancer, and heart disease.
Fruit Vinegars: In Japan, vinegar drinks not unlike apple cider vinegar, are made from vitamin-rich fruit. A Korean delight, persimmon vinegar, is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, which are also good for bolstering the immune system to fight off colds and flu in the fall. While it isn’t easily found in the United States, it may be found at Korean supermarkets. For a delightful kick, splash one or two tablespoons per serving on top of grapefruit and oranges.
Olive Oil
Like ancient vinegar, olive oil goes way back in time. The olive tree was first cultivated in the Mediterranean countries 6,000 years ago. Since then, olive oil has played a therapeutic role in the diet and provides amazing healing powers, from preventing diabetes to keeping off unwanted pounds, especially when combined with vinegars. Olive oil, which is 74 percent heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, contains plenty of healthful nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E, along with phytoestrogens and sterols. Olive oil (extra virgin is recommended) is good for the digestive system, helps regularity, lowers cholesterol levels and guards against cancer. Light or regular EVOO can help fill you up not out as I discuss in The Healing Powers of Olive Oil. And don't forget the powers of other earthy eats...
HERBS, SPICES AND TEAS
Chamomile: For more than 2,000 years, chamomile, a daisy-like plant, has been considered amedicinal miracle. It was known as “ground apple” by the Greeks because of its fragrant scent. Chamomile tea (spiked with apple cider vinegar and cinnamon) can be calming and stave off holiday stress-related eating. (Hold the sugar and reach for raw honey.)
Garlic: For at least 3,000 years, garlic, dubbed “the stinking rose,” has been used medicinally. Thetherapeutic uses of garlic have been noted in more than 1,000 scientific studies. Garlic has been found to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, and may ward off infections and cancer via the antioxidant mineral selenium. It also contains allicin, which is a strong antimicrobial, so eating garlic may help protect against colds, flu and bronchitis--and it provides flavor to veggies without the calories and fat of butter.
Rose Hips: An important staple in the diets of Native American tribes because of their incredible health benefits, rose hips are a good source of antioxidants, including vitamins C, E and beta carotene, which can help boost immunity and provide relief for cold and cough symptoms common during the fall months. And sipping a cup or two of hot rose hips tea can soothe holiday frazzled nerves and help to keep you from overeating high calorie and unhealthy junk food.

AUTUMN EDIBLES
These versatile foods mix well with vinegars, oils, warming herbs, spices and tasty teas for healthful fall detox recipes.
*Apples: This fruit is a rich source of pectin, a water-soluble fiber that may help lower the risk of heart disease. A bonus: One medium apple has no fat and a mere 81 calories.
*Dark Chocolate: This superfood like apples has countless health perks. If you choose to give your body a vacation, quality chocolate can help you to detoxify it. By eating a small piece of dark chocolate (70% cacao) it can help to uplift your mood, beat stress and anxiety (woes during seasonal changes with colder and shorter, darker days), provide energy, and do so much more for your body.
*Pumpkin: Welcome to another good source of beta-carotene, potassium, vitamins A, C, and dietary fiber. Think pudding and/or a hearty bowl of hot soup. Pumpkin is filling and a small amount is satisfying during the holiday season. Read: Good for detoxifying, too.*Spinach: A single serving of cooked spinach provides beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Studies show that these carotenes protect the arteries from bad cholesterol and can heal your heart. It’s the perfect fall food for a filling salad with vinegar, olive oil, garlic and tomatoes.
*Tomatoes: Scoop up the end-of-season tomatoes while you can—these gems are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, and may lower the risk of developing cancers by preventing damage due to cancer-contributing molecules called free radicals. One cup of chopped tomatoes has just 35 calories.

So whether you choose to detox and pamper yourself before, during or after the upcoming foodfest, vinegars, olive oil, and even chocolate can help you to pare unwanted pre-winter pounds and cleanse your body and spirit, too. One more thing. Savoring dark chocolate (in moderation) drinking herbal tea or a cup of gourmet coffee, eating veggies and fruits doesn't seem like a serious starve yourself fast but a healthful mini-fast that can be done without hunger pangs and feeling left out of the big holiday. (Note: I'm repeating this blog post for those who missed my previous post on this topic.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Detox Your Body During Holiday Foodfests


By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

"A full belly makes a dull brain."
-- Benjamin Franklin

The Harvest may be waning, but these pantry staples can keep you on the road to detoxing your body before or post-Thanksgiving. Personally, I don't want to pack on five pounds (that's the norm) during Turkey Day time. So I might rebel and turn to a detox diet regime before, after--or maybe even during the big day and forego cooking altogether. You know, give my body a feel-good mini-vacation to feel rejuvenated just for me. No guilt from overindulging and it can make you feel good from head to toe... Not just for salad or a dash of flavor, items like nutrient-dense vinegars, olive oil, herbs and spices and autumn produce are rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and other healing properties. Check out these healthful, slim-down foods--including The Healing Powers of Chocolate--to heal your body, mind and spirit...


VINEGARS
Apple Cider Vinegar: In the era of the Romans and Egyptians, there were many potent vinegars onmeal tables. Today, we know apple cider vinegar, especially the natural and organic kind, is high infiber and rich in potassium, which can help detoxify the body. Apple cider vinegar can balance sodium and potassium levels, which can also aid in weight loss. Pairing its total ingredients, including boron, calcium and enzymes, with nutritious fall fruits and vegetables may help prevent cancer, and heart disease.
Fruit Vinegars: In Japan, vinegar drinks not unlike apple cider vinegar, are made from vitamin-rich fruit. A Korean delight, persimmon vinegar, is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, which are also good for bolstering the immune system to fight off colds and flu in the fall. While it isn’t easily found in the United States, it may be found at Korean supermarkets. For a delightful kick, splash one or two tablespoons per serving on top of grapefruit and oranges.
Olive Oil
Like ancient vinegar, olive oil goes way back in time. The olive tree was first cultivated in the Mediterranean countries 6,000 years ago. Since then, olive oil has played a therapeutic role in the diet and provides amazing healing powers, from preventing diabetes to keeping off unwanted pounds, especially when combined with vinegars. Olive oil, which is 74 percent heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, contains plenty of healthful nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E, along with phytoestrogens and sterols. Olive oil (extra virgin is recommended) is good for the digestive system, helps regularity, lowers cholesterol levels and guards against cancer. Light or regular EVOO can help fill you up not out as I discuss in The Healing Powers of Olive Oil. And don't forget the powers of other earthy eats...
HERBS, SPICES AND TEAS
Chamomile: For more than 2,000 years, chamomile, a daisy-like plant, has been considered amedicinal miracle. It was known as “ground apple” by the Greeks because of its fragrant scent. Chamomile tea (spiked with apple cider vinegar and cinnamon) can be calming and stave off holiday stress-related eating. (Hold the sugar and reach for raw honey.)
Garlic: For at least 3,000 years, garlic, dubbed “the stinking rose,” has been used medicinally. Thetherapeutic uses of garlic have been noted in more than 1,000 scientific studies. Garlic has been found to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, and may ward off infections and cancer via the antioxidant mineral selenium. It also contains allicin, which is a strong antimicrobial, so eating garlic may help protect against colds, flu and bronchitis--and it provides flavor to veggies without the calories and fat of butter.
Rose Hips: An important staple in the diets of Native American tribes because of their incredible health benefits, rose hips are a good source of antioxidants, including vitamins C, E and beta carotene, which can help boost immunity and provide relief for cold and cough symptoms common during the fall months. And sipping a cup or two of hot rose hips tea can soothe holiday frazzled nerves and help to keep you from overeating high calorie and unhealthy junk food.
AUTUMN EDIBLES
These versatile foods mix well with vinegars, oils, warming herbs, spices and tasty teas for healthful fall detox recipes.
*Apples: This fruit is a rich source of pectin, a water-soluble fiber that may help lower the risk of heart disease. A bonus: One medium apple has no fat and a mere 81 calories.
*Dark Chocolate: This superfood like apples has countless health perks. If you choose to give your body a vacation, quality chocolate can help you to detoxify it. By eating a small piece of dark chocolate (70% cacao) it can help to uplift your mood, beat stress and anxiety (woes during seasonal changes with colder and shorter, darker days), provide energy, and do so much more for your body.
*Pumpkin: Welcome to another good source of beta-carotene, potassium, vitamins A, C, and dietary fiber. Think pudding and/or a hearty bowl of hot soup. Pumpkin is filling and a small amount is satisfying during the holiday season. Read: Good for detoxifying, too.
*Spinach: A single serving of cooked spinach provides beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Studies show that these carotenes protect the arteries from bad cholesterol and can heal your heart. It’s the perfect fall food for a filling salad with vinegar, olive oil, garlic and tomatoes.
*Tomatoes: Scoop up the end-of-season tomatoes while you can—these gems are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, and may lower the risk of developing cancers by preventing damage due to cancer-contributing molecules called free radicals. One cup of chopped tomatoes has just 35 calories.
So whether you choose to detox before, during (it can be tempting and a test of willpower whether you cook or not) or after the upcoming foodfest, vinegars, olive oil, and even chocolate can help you to pare unwanted pre-winter pounds and cleanse your body and spirit, too. One more thing: Savoring dark chocolate, drinking herbal tea, eating veggies and fruits doesn't seem like a serious fast but a healthful mini-fast that can be done without hunger pangs and feeling left out.

My No-Bake Cheesecake: Doomed Project X

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

"I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: try to please everybody." - Herbert Bayard Swope


Thirty years ago, I baked a no-bake cheesecake. It worked, sort of. I recall it had a few lumps (I didn't have a mixer) but it tasted good. I pleased my friends because they wanted a second slice. Yesterday I went to work to try and recreate history and make it better--more natural--to please the big world of cyber foodies. This new, improved cheesecake would be an Italian-New Zealand creation (these countries use different cheeses and the no-bake cheesecakes aren't dry). I had purchased the good for you ingredients--good stuff--to make it natural, healthy and tasty. In theory it should have worked well. But challenge after challenge happened and if I was cooking this cheesecake on Food Network it would have been a mega meltdown...
I recalled my 20th century original recipe which used whipped cream and cream cheese. This time around in the 21st century I didn't want to go the artificial cream route. So, I defied the past and all others' failproof no-bake cheesecake recipes (calling for gelatin to canned milk) and took a bold, fresh alternative route. I used all-natural low-fat yogurt: lemon and vanilla; cream cheese; ricotta cheese; sour cream and sugar. After mixing it all together I put it into a pre-made low-fat graham cracker crust. (I think that jinxed me. Should have done it from scratch.) And then once in the fridge the trouble began. Hour after hour, I peeked at it. It wasn't getting firm. So, I went to the Internet. I read that others had the same woe: "Help! My no-bake cheesecake isn't setting!" I could feel their pain.
Back to the drawing board. I took the sad cheesecake soup out of the fridge and added one cup confectioners' sugar and 1/3 cup unconcentrated orange juice (no lemon juice in the house). (I even took the filling out of the pie shell and blended it well and put it back. Poor thing.) These two ingredients are supposed to help thicken the mixture. I wished I had ready made whipped cream on hand (it could have sealed the deal) but I didn't. And I wasn't in the mood to go to the store and deal with smiling checkers because I was on the verge of tears due to my doomed project.
Instead, I put the cheesecake concoction back into the freezer and read more comments on the Net. Patience. Savvy bakeresses said wait 2, 3 and up to 4 hours. At midnight, I peeked at the ailing cheesecake and it had set! It looked nice. Success! I put it back into the fridge and went to bed. I fantasized that in the morning I'd slice a piece of cheesecake, top it with coconut and slices of fresh oranges. But something during the night happened. When I woke up this morning I was welcomed with bad news. I opened the fridge. I was back to square one-- like in the film Groundhog Day. It didn't set. It flopped. My No-Bake Cheesecake failed. Whatever I did I couldn't get it right. I should have used whipped cream. Or maybe it was the mountain altitude. No matter. It's over. And now it sits in the garbage can.
Motto: Follow tried and true directions. Or, try baking a "real" cheesecake that you bake. Note to self: After my heartburn goes away, buy a slice of New York-style cheesecake. I like that kind better anyhow. (My attitude reminds me of the unforgettable fable Fox and the Grapes--"It is easy to despise what you cannot get.")

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Garlic French Fries Are Good for the Soul





By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet
“French fries. I love them. Some people are chocolate and sweets people. I love French fries. That and caviar.” -- Cameron Diaz

It snowed a tad last night. Sort of. The wind howled early in the morning. I woke up to see white powder on the rooftops. But it melted fast. I'm feeling winter is trying to make its move into Lake Tahoe as fall lingers. It's this time of year when I begin fantasizing about relocating. Today, it was moving on to Monterey. And, of course, you have to pass Gilroy--where the annual Garlic Festival is--to get there. So, must-have heart-healthy garlic and fries have been on my mind.
But here I am in the Sierras, nowhere near the coast, and as I noted a few posts back that I stuffed the fridge with veggies. That includes cute and healthful baby red potatoes (super rich in potassium and vitamin C). Sure, they're great for roasting and baking but did you know they are perfect for garlic fries? And I just had a serving. The garlic aroma fills the living room and I'm loving it...

Garlic French Fries
Wash 2 to 3 potatoes. Slice in wedges. (It's much easier to do than russet tators because the skins are thin--and leaving them as is works.) Put extra virgin olive oil into a frying pan. Once heated place potatoes in the pan. Sprinkle with chopped garlic. Toss in fresh chopped parsley and ground pepper. Hold the salt. When crispy and brown place on plate and blot oil. Serve on another plate with a few tablespoons of ketchup. Serves two. Note: Ketchup is way over the top in sodium but it boasts cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene and other nutrients--moderation.

I'm sure baked and roasted red potatoes are healthier than fried ones, but every once in a while it's okay to feed your cravings. Today, at the pool (yes, it was lovely) I met a couple (pro competitive weight trainers). The woman, in her 20s, has a six-pack belly, cut arms, and well, her body was 9 percent body fat. (She just finished a competition.) I used to lift free weights so I couldn't help but notice her muscles and feel a bit of envy. But hey, I'm old enough to be her mom; still a size 4 and lean 'n' fit. Upon request, after she showed me her biceps, I flaunted my upper back muscles (I know, I know vanity is not a virtue) which does have definition (from swimming countless breaststroke laps, week after week).
My point is, she reminded me that eating protein can help you to build muscle mass. And yes, I know this because I have written magazine articles about how to do it. I find it amusing that I after swimming and walking the Brittanys, I rushed home to my good carbs and garlic--part of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. The thing is, I don't think I could do egg whites or yucky tasting protein shakes (again). But next week I vow to fill my blog posts with European-type protein recipes--fish, nuts and eggs.
Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the scent of garlic and the memory of the crispy garlic fries I ate one by one as my bird dogs looked at me with envy. Yes, I gave in. Each pooch got a bite. And we got our long, fall walk so we and our muscles are good to go for non-competing sporting dogs and a baby boomer health author. Another perk: I feel reconnected to the California Coast, a place where I left my heart and soul.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

California Artichokes Get a Mediterranean Makeover


By Cal Orey,
The Writing Gourmet

“Life is like eating artichokes, you have got to go through so much to get so little."
--
Thomas Aloysius Dorgan


I remember eating artichokes when I was a kid. We dipped the artichoke leaves into mayonnaise. In my teens, I learned to enjoy the heart of the artichoke and discovered it was the best part. Hitchhiking (yes, I was a bold post-hippie chick who traveled around America with my devoted black Labrador Stonefox) to Big Sur and other coastal landmarks, I recall artichoke stands where you could buy dozens on the cheap. And I can't forget selling flowers on a corner next to a place that sold fried artichoke hearts. And, of course, I grew up less than 50 miles from artichoke country--Castroville. So, yes, as a native Californian (who probably will never leave the Golden State) artichokes have a genuine history in my heart, spirit and soul. Today, it's truly a nice warm and fuzzy feeling to revisit these prickly vegetables (that make you work like a sporting dog to enjoy their healthful benefits) and give 'em a new spin...

I'm keeping my promise to me and you and will be exploring and enjoying more vegetables. Since it's a holiday I'm not sure I want to cook up a storm, and steamed artichokes--healthy gems that are low in fat, cholesterol, calories and chock-full of nutrients and postassium) seem like an easy way to get one vegetable coming my way. I recall during my Woman's World diet and nutrition columnist days, we wrote that artichokes are a good food to eat if you're trying to lose unwanted weight because it's an exercise of learning how to eat and enjoy s-l-o-w-l-y leaf by leaf.

So, it's time to wash two artichokes, cut the stems, and put water into a large saucepan, bring to a full boil. Drop in artichokes, boil for about a half hour or till tender (pull off a leaf or two and if it's easy does it, it's done). (I read to keep it's color, add fresh lemon slices to the water.) Boil for about 30 minutes. The artichokes are done when an outside leaf pulls away easily. Then, it's vinaigrette time with a Mediterrranean flavor of garlic, onions, and olive oil.

Artichoke Vinaigrette

Mix 1/2 cup lemon flavored extra virgin olive oil, 3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped, 1 tablespoon red onion, chopped, and a dash of freshly ground pepper. Chill for a couple of hours. Warm in microwave and drizzle over warm or cold (either way are tasty) artichokes and/or dip leaves and the heart into vinaigrette.

The other day, I purchased two large artichokes--$3.00 a piece. It could be because I live at Lake Tahoe where produce can be pricey. I thought artichokes were in season but if they are the price doesn't show it. No matter. One of these monsters dipped in the good heart-healthy stuff will be fun and different because I'm giving my old artichoke friends a new, improved Mediterranean makeover. And like a kid I will anticipate enjoying the meat on the leaves as well as getting to the heart of the matter. FYI: Here's a great link to everything you want to know about artichokes and your health but were too busy to ask.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Enjou Chocolat Makes the Cut



By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

"There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and chocolate truffles."

- Author Unknown

Last November I had the pleasure of visiting Chocolateland. Every week I'd receive chocolate from different regions, including the West Coast, East Coast, Midwest, Deep South--and even Ireland. It was heaven for a chocolate lover. We're talking chocolate in all shapes and sizes--milk, white, dark and chocolate truffles. Yes, it was awesome. Yes, I enjoyed it. Some chocolatiers' chocolates didn't make the cut for me and sit lonely and uneaten in my file cabinet inside the study. (I'm saving them for a rainy day.) Then, there are those lovely colored, empty chocolate boxes that sit nicely on top of the fridge. (I'm sentimental.) Yep, they did make the cut. And last week, I received another box of chocolates which came from Morristown, New Jersey...

Welcome to Enjou Chocolat. At the end of the week, I was greeted with a 1/2 lb. Connoisseur Collection (all dark) which is a combination of truffles plus other chocolates. There wasn't a cheat sheet but it wasn't too difficult to decode each piece (more than 15). The covered caramel, orange creme, and molasses crunch made points with me. Both the taste and texture--not too sweet or too bitter--worked as a team in sync to titillate my taste buds. But that's not all...

Enjou Chocolat Owner Wendy Taffet sent me a brand new dark chocolate cranberry blueberry bark. Now this is worth writing home about. Yes, I've tasted lots of barks in my research for The Healing Powers of Chocolate--but this one is different. The texture is creamy and leaves you satisfied. The mix of two healing berries is excellent. And did I say dark chocolate? It is a winner and I could eat a piece of it every day. (Note: Take a peek at the Almond Bark and the Taste of Health sampler.)

Some of the highlights of Enjou Chocolat are: There is a wide variety of chocolate to choose from, including gift baskets, molded chocolates, holiday gifts (Thanksgiving is on its way) and chocolate assortments. The presentation is eye-catching (look at the photo above). And the price range is excellent in today's challenging economy. Some chocolates are to die for but the cost is over the top. Enjou gives their all and you won't break the bank.

One more thing: Yes, that handsome silver box with the silver and gold ribbon and bow? It's now keeping company with dozens of other empty chocolate boxes sitting on top of my refrigerator. (Yes, I shared. Moderation is key to having your chocolate and eating it, too.) Another fond (and healthy) dark chocolate memory for me. Thank you Enjou Chocolat.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chocolate Coco-nut Chip Cookies with a Tropical Twist



By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet


People might say that chocolate chip cookies are good, but they have to be freshly baked cookies." -- Brian Wansink

As we edge towards mid-November it looks like our tropical-like Lake Tahoe weather streak may be ending. I have mixed feelings about it. I keep hearing that song Put the Lime in the Coconut play in my head but watch NOAA's weather forecast for possible snowfall at 6,000 feet. Meanwhile, when I swim, like today, it just doesn't seem like fall will give us winter-type weather. So, last night I made homemade chocolate chip cookies with a healthful grown-up tropical twist. Translation: I added lots of Mediterranean foods including nuts, dark chocolate and olive oil...
Tropical Twist Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups all natural whole wheat flour (I added an extra 1/4 cup because of the altitude)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, unsalted
1 brown egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Mediterranean sea salt
1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup coconut, shredded
1 cup premium dark chocolate chips, 60-70% cacao
3/4 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
dark chocolate shavings

Preheat ovent to 350 degrees. In a bowl mix flour, soda, and salt. Melt butter (I like to do it that way) and mix together egg, oil, sugars, and vanilla. Fold in dark chocolate chips, nuts, and coconut. Roll petite balls on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes. Once out of oven sprinkle with dark chocolate shavings and/or nuts or coconut flakes. Makes about two dozen.

It's a challenge to bake cookies in the mountains. You've got to get the right mix of sugars and flour for a chewy bite and mountain-like cookie--not flat. I think I've got it down after a decade of living here in the Sierras. I made these tropical treats smaller than larger so I can keep calories in check. Munching on one after a swim or dog walk is a tropical treat. Speaking of dogs...An almost doggie E.R. moment happened last night while mixing up these cookies. (I decided to let my boys be with me since the recipe is quick and easy.) But before I knew it, the bag of chocolate chips dropped onto the kitchen floor and my food-loving Brittany duo scoped 'em out as if they were a big bird in the field. Thank God I rounded up both pooches into another room asap. Whew! It was a close call.

But all is good and I (not Simon and Seth) got to enjoy the freshly baked, warm, oh-so chocolatey, chewy chocolate chip cookies. The hint of lime flavoring, light crunch of nuts (I used the baking kind so I didn't have to chop the big, pricey ones), and double chocolate works like a charm. I keep singing that song Put the Lime in the Coconut and get memorable images of the midnight kitchen scene in Practial Magic. And yes, these chocolate chip cookies have a magical taste with its tropical ingredients. I hope it doesn't snow. Not yet. I can do rain. Why am I fantasizing about relocating to The Big Island? A cup of gourmet hot chocolate paired with one of these cookies will get me and you through the awkward hump month before Old Man Winter arrives.