Saturday, February 16, 2019

A Chilling Tale in the Sierra Nevada

 By Cal Orey

Back in January, I reported weather happenings would resemble scenes out of the film “The Day After Tomorrow,” and we’d see more erratic events in the New Year. I warned it is the time to be ready for unusual Earth events. That meant wacky snowstorms in warm regions…
So, on February 12, Maui, Hawaii was pummeled with snow and 191 m.p.h. wind. But it didn't play out the way some folks, including me, predicted it would. No way.
At the end of January, a deep freeze aka polar vortex with below zero temperatures hit regions, including Iowa, Chicago---27 degrees.
 Not to forget the Sierra Nevada, specifically Mammoth Lakes celebrated 11 feet of snow.  And these sobering incidents are just a few of the countless super chilling (pun intended) happenings like watching a thriller film on T.V. called “Wicked Weather.”

California Dreaming, Sort of

This wintertime the classic tune lyrics, “It Never Rains in Southern California” are playing in my mind and I’m chuckling, sort of. The thing is, most of our sunny state is getting rain and snow. The new word is, we are officially drought-free. But with all this precipitation comes challenges.
Some of my January 2019 weather forecasts are coming true. Some not. I agreed with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts that weather will be warmer in the majority of the United States. And it isn’t that cold thanks to Pineapple Express aka heavy rain, snow, wind and flooding on the West Coast—bringing us to California.
On February 15, a CNN headline read: “Strong Storm drenches California, unleashing mudslides and flooding”—and, of course, there is our snow, snow, snow…

Sierra Nevada: I predicted a repeat drought in our Golden State is likely (despite one or two major snowstorms in the northern state with power outages). Well, dump the drought. We are nearing 150 percent above normal precipitation and it’s not even Spring.
No, it isn’t sub-zero temperatures where the pipes break at Lake Tahoe (which I have experienced). But avalanche warnings and some power outages have happened. In February mid-month we got rain and wet snow aka slain or slush but it turned to snow. Road closures were more than less leading to gridlock and car spin outs or "slides" from tourists and locals. 

San Francisco Bay Area:  But note, while our state needed water the adage, "Be careful for what you wish for" makes sense. Flood warnings and flash floods are beginning. I forecasted coastal chunks of cliffs (like at Big Sur) will erode and fall into the sea. That may happen with coastal flooding--but currently very destructive mudslides are found in Napa and Sausalito affecting homes and terrain. But the year is young.

Southern State: I did note mudslides. Sure enough, these are happening in many regions of Southern California, due to the rain. Worse, the flooding and mudslides following debris from our past Western wildfires are causing loss of homes and people being displaced.
Think of a lava cake, saturated ground. Worse, some scientists believe heavy rainfall and snowfall can be linked to causing earthquakes. And Californians know too well we are overdue for the Big One which could rumble our state in Southern, Northern, or the San Francisco region.
Blame it on the Pineapple Express

So, the Pacific Northwest (including Washington and western Canada) is getting snow, too, which is rare. The words Pineapple Express are to blame. Simply put, this is a surreal thing --heavy flow of atmospheric moisture and precipitation from Hawaii moving through the Pacific Ocean that creates warm storms. While the back to back storms are welcomed in California, the snow and rain do come with a price.

It Hit Home and the Epic Snow was Not Pretty

Welcome to Stephen King's "The Shining" sequel. No kidding. Personally, I can attest some challenges. I have postponed three out of town trips due to road closures, dangerous driving conditions which includes rainfall and black ice to blizzards, 5 feet berms (like a wall of snow) in my neighborhood, and whiteouts. Sure. Living in the Sierra Nevada is known for its natural beauty and unpredictable weather...  
But, but, but we have about 21,000 residents. During this epic snowfall, tourists invaded our town. We were not ready for it. 
Worse, authorities pleaded folks to not come because the roads were closed, over crowded, not snow plowed, and inadequate causing mega gridlock. And locals couldn't leave their homes to go to work, tourists tried to take back roads to get out. Chaos and disruption. Can you imagine if a firestorm or major earthquake happened? No way out!

The inconvenient truth is, this year it seems with global warming and global cooling or climate change, you never know exactly what you’re going to get, with respect to Forrest Gump’s words. One more thing.  Sometimes, when too much of a good thing happens,  it tests humanity. And novelty can bring out the best or worst in mankind.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Eat Pray and Brownie Love

By Cal Orey
Since the 1900s, most cookbooks included a brownie recipe. But if I’m going to be honest, I’ve always used the store-bought brownie mix. It’s easy. You add an egg, oil, water; mix it up and bake. Done. But hey, if kids on the “Food Network” show can make brownies I decided it’s time. Yep, I ditched the box method and made homemade brownies...
Baking moist chocolate brownies from scratch is easy to do. These gooey double chocolate brownies include good heart-healthy ingredients, including cocoa powder, dark chocolate chunks, and walnuts--for American Heart Month. Speaking of heart matters, brownies take me back in time of a Tahoe snowy Valentine’s Day…
One morning I was snuggling with a male friend who woke me up with three words, “Happy Valentine’s Day.” Then, the phone rang. When I answered the call, a man’s voice said, “I  wanted to let you know--I love it.” Those unforgettable words were from my editor. He adored my first book proposal (which I procrastinated doing). The assigned topic was The Healing Powers of Vinegar. “Is that all?” I responded; I think I was in shock because I sounded too chill. After the conversation ended, my pal was AWOL. I was left with my Brittany spaniel to cuddle and celebrate.
Years later, on this year’s Valentine’s Day, I woke up to a contract via email. It was for book number nine in the Healing Powers Series that was ignited by that vinegar book. I rejoiced with a large cup of fresh brewed joe and a brownie I baked the night before. And, of course, my warm-hearted Australian shepherd was within arm’s reach. So, these brownies were inspired by V-Day.
 Chocolate Bliss Brownies
½ cup European style butter
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ organic chocolate milk
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Ghirardelli premium baking 100%  cocoa)
½ cup cake flour or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup dark or milk chocolate chips (Ghirardelli) or a bar (small chunks)
½ walnuts, chopped (optional)
Confectioners’ sugar

Butter for greasing the pan
In a bowl, cream soft butters and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and milk. Stir well. Add cocoa powder, flour, and baking powder. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Spread batter in a buttered 8” by 8” baking dish. In a 350-degree oven bake for about 30 minutes until firm to touch or use the toothpick method (it comes out clean). Cool for 10 minutes. Cut into 2” squares to make 16 brownies. Or use a Valentine shaped cookie cutter and place on brownies. It will make approximately 6-8 larger brownie squares. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.
Brownie Tips: Using less flour and more baking powder plus a bit of milk makes brownies moister. If you want a decadent brownie you can frost it. Combine ¼ cup European style butter, ½ cup whipped cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar (or more for a thicker consistency). Best if beat with a mixer. Pipe on top of brownies. Place each brownie in a cupcake paper for presentation. Store in refrigerator. Served warm is bliss. Adding fresh berries make this treat more heart-healthy treat to love.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Heart Health Month--Tea, Superfoods and Homemade Soup

By Cal Orey

February and slain (rain and snow) around the sierras is a perfect time for hearty vegetable soup. Think plenty of fresh, seasonal vegetables and stock for a chunky semi-homemade soup. Garlic and onions, carrots and celery—and fresh tomatoes—with  plenty of pasta can make your pot of soup on the stove top a crowd pleaser in the kitchen and comfort food in your bowl on the table for lunch or dinner.
This week I came down with a pesky earache (swimmer's ear, sort of). It is a home cure remedy the good doctor ordered (water and peroxide) that seems to be working. And soup is what helps make the aches and pains of shoveling heavy snow not seem so bad.  Using lots of veggies put into a big pot with organic store bought broth was amazing. Not only was it easy, the aroma in my cabin was sublime.

Fresh Chunky Vegetable Soup
  • 1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil or European style butter
  • ¼ cup yellow onion,
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 carton (32 ounces) organic vegetable broth
  • 2 cups mixed fresh vegetables, chopped (broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, green bell pepper, jicama, radish)
  • 1 ½ cups uncooked pasta
  • Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, peeled, chopped
  • Perfect with real butter and fresh bread
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (garnish)

In a skillet, heat olive oil or butter over medium heat, add onion and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes. Pour into a large pot. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add vegetables. Bring to a boil again then put on low heat. In another pot boil pasta for several seven minutes until cooked. Add pasta and tomatoes to vegetable mixture.  Stir in spinach.  Simmer for about 10 minutes. Serve hot sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and slices of warm whole grain bread and butter. Serves 6.

I love this soup—when I’m well (I froze some in case I get a cold this winter). Not only is it easy to put it together, it’s easy on the eyes and palate. It’s also the time to blast soup myths: You can use fresh tomatoes; forget canned goods. Some folks say broccoli and spinach in your soup can create a bitter taste—there is none left so I disagree. 

Follow the store bought broth box directions and do not dilute. Add any of your favorite herbs for extra flavor. Making semi-homemade soup can be whipped up and dished up in less than 30 minutes. It’s not your mom’s soup—it’s fresh and with your stamp on it for the 21st century.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Unusual Home Cures with Olive Oil--Sale 1.99 for Heart Health Month!

(for Wintertime)

By Cal Orey

Did you know olive oil isn’t the only healing oil 
that provides healing perks? There are so many different cooking oils with amazing do-it-yourself home cures...

After I wrote the first edition of The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, based on the Mediterranean diet, I used extra virgin olive oil for home cures, including an earache, cracked skin, to a spider bite and wasp sting—all culprits that have paid me a visit while I enjoy the mountain lifestyle. These days, my kitchen pantry is stocked with other oils, too, including coconut oil and macadamia nut oil—that can and does the job.

So, take a look at some of these healing oils including almond oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, hemp seed oil, macadamia nut oil, red palm oil, sesame oil and canola oil that can be used in cooking but also as home cures. Do consult with your health care practitioner before using any new healing oil for an ailment. (And don’t forget, olive oil can also be used for most if not all of these home remedies, too.) 
1. AGE SPOTS (Preventing brown blotches with coconut oil) Brown freckle-like circles on your face, hands, arms and legs seem to appear on both men and women when Old Man Time pays a visit. Some people may be more prone to getting these spots due to sun exposure or genes. The way I see it, we can go with the flow and embrace our spots like wrinkles and gray hair—or fight it with cosmestic surgery or naturally.
What Oil Remedy to Use:  Rub a bit of coconut oil onto age spots, whether they are on your face or hands. Do this three times per day.
Why You’ll Like It:  No promises all of your age spots will be gone forever and the skin will look like it did in your twenties, however, the odds are good that your spots may appear lighter, skin smoother and that in itself may make the spots seem less noticeable. Proponents of coconut oil believe the anti-age spot potential is due to the antioxidants perks.  Evidently, these good guys may win the battle of oxidation (think of an apple cut and let out in the air and how it browns due to exposure to light).

2. ATHLETE’S FOOT (Zapping inflamed feet by using the right oil and vinegar) Age spots like aging has its woes, but athlete’s foot can occur at any age, is pesky. too. This ailment is often picked up in gym locker rooms if you go barefoot, since you are exposed to the environment where the bugs are found. This, in turn, can result in red, feet, especially in between the toes.
What Oil Remedy to Use: Mix 1 tablespoon coconut oil with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar. Use this mixture twice a day.
Why You’ll Like It: There’s many reasons why you may find this treatment to your liking. It’s natural, it’s inexpensive, and it doesn’t smell as some over-the-counter remedies. This home cure contains lauric acid, an ingredient that makes it an antiviral and antibacterial worker, much like vinegar. You have the anti-fungal properties in vinegar paired with the anti-inflammatory effects of the coconut oil. So, if you let the oil and vinegar team do its job, you may just beat a bout of athlete’s foot.
3. BACK PAIN (Curbing aches with oils) Itchy feet are annoying but an aching back is miserable and doesn’t discriminate with gender or age. Personally, I endured a bout of sciatica in my middle years to a sore back from shoveling snow.  Often, the back can hurt when we overdo work or play. Worse, muscles can tense up and the pain worsens and is a challenge to put it out of mind. A heating pad and hot tub or massage can help to loosen tight muscles—that’s where healing oils come into play.
What Oil Remedy to Use: Try using a generous amount of warm oil, including almond or sesame oil massage base with other healing oils, such as coconut or olive oil. You can do your upper back and lower back without a partner or professional masseuse. Try twice a day. Shower after.

Why You’ll Like It: A good massage with a healing oil will relax your mind and body. The 

aroma of almond oil is soothing and can help you to chill, making aches lessen. It’s healthier 

than taking medication and it is inexpensive.

4. BLOAT (Beating water weight with the best oil) Back pain is a pain but feeling and looking bloated isn’t just a cosmetic woes Years ago, I wrote an article on fat-burning foods. Popcorn was one of the 14 edibles. It’s high in fiber, low-fat,  low-cal, no trans fat especially if you lose the fake butter and salt. It’s a super stress relieving food because of the crunch, and it can help you to get rid of extra water weight, too.
What Oil Remedy to Use: Drizzle 1 or 2 tablespoons of warmed up red palm oil on top of 2 cups of air popped popcorn.
New Gift Size 2019
Why You’ll Like It:  Pairing red palm oil with nutritious popcorn is going to give you a double punch of nutrients. This oil contains antioxidant vitamins A and E. Plus, it has a buttery flavor that’ll titillate your taste buds and combined with fiber-rich popcorn will fill you up not out.  As a popcorn lover, I did give this healing oil recipe a go and discovered it was different, and gave it an exotic flair. Bonus: Thin crust whole wheat pizza with tomatoes, spinach, olives, olive oil, and a bit of feta cheese is diet friendly!
5. BODY FAT (Fighting pudge by enjoying fatty oils) Did you know extra weight and body fat can trigger back pain? It can. And adding good fat to your diet can help you lose unwanted fat and lower your body mass index.  Move over olive oil, because avocado oil and macadamia oil can help you to burn fat. These oils boost your energy. Also, they trigger the release of a hormone that signals your brain that you’re full and should stop eating.
What Oil Remedy to Use: Opt for avocado oil or macadamia oil in a salad full of fat-burning seasonal vegetables.
Why You’ll Like It: You’ll get a nice change as well as the monounsaturated fats that’ll give you the feeling of satisfaction after eating a meal.

Excerpt from The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, Revised and Updated (tradecover, E-book and mass market formats)