Monday, August 31, 2009

EVOO with Frosted Chocolate Brownies? Yes!

By Cal Orey

If you want cakey, eat chocolate cake. Brownies should be dense and moist and fudgy.”
Houghton Mifflin

Here I sit waiting for FedEx. It's finally over. The galley, the proofs, the big book--The Healing Powers of Chocolate is going back to its roots in New York. I finished my work. It's done. Ironically, while I thought I was chocolated out, not so. This a.m. I got a call from Anette at Anette's Chocolates and a friendly email from chocolatier Michael Recchiuti...The gourmet chocolate cravings are teasing me (again). It's obvious my love affair with chocolate will be till death do us part...
So, I am trapped here in my mountain cabin as the carrier's window is from 2:30-7:00 P.M. I cannot go to the store but I do have a box of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie mix, a separate bag (not the one in the box) of Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips (60% cacao content which I've learned to love), and extra virgin olive oil--plenty of this good stuff in the pantry thanks to my last work The Healing Powers of Olive Oil. What bugs me a lot is that today I read (again) that not only can you not bake with olive oil, you can't use it in frosting. So not true. At all.
Experiment time. I just put about a half cup of chocolate chips in the microwave for less than one minute. The texture was good but I added about 1/8 tablespoon of EVOO and it seemed to make the consistency richer, smoother. Then, I wanted a citrus note--I squeezed orange juice from a big, fresh orange into the frosting concoction and yeah, it worked. (I wish I had a lime or lemon but like I said--I am stuck here, sort of like being snowbound in the winter at Lake Tahoe.)
What's more, I have used olive oil before instead of vegetable oil in the tasty premium brownie mix. It worked. And, when you live in high altitude, like I do...the mix calls for flour and water. No problem. We're good to go. So, once the FedEx savior comes to my rescue, I will go out into the kitchen and make up a batch of Frosted Chocolate Brownies. Funny, last night I watched Bridget Jones's Diary and I love the cooking scene where she attempts to cook a dinner for friends. Bridget can't cook either--I could relate to my anti-cooking soul sister. But I know these frosted chocolate brownies will work like a charm and look close to the photo above, complete with those pretty little ridges. Now that's a celebration. And I thank olive oil for it, too. OMG! The FedEx guy just knocked on the door. Yes! Yes! Yes! The Healing Powers of Chocolate is now officially en route back to its home. Mission accomplished.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Czech Cuisine: Beef Gets a Vinegar & Oil Kiss

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

When I was in grade school I did happily eat my mother's tasty meat dishes. After all, I grew up in the fifties, a time when meat and potatoes were an item in my life. Roast beef and scalloped potatoes; BBQ hamburgers and fries; steak and a baked potato--were popular in our household. Fast forward to The Mediterrnean diet, which I, now as a health-conscious boomer adore with all my heart (pun intended). It does include meat sparingly--and folks in Czech love beef. Last week, I received copies of my book The Healing Powers of Vinegar (it was translated in Czech-ese). So, I'm going to dedicate this wholesome beef recipe from the book to the publisher and my mom...

This stew reminds me of the charming romantic film Green Card. There's a scene when the French man and American woman go grocery shopping. He wants meat, she does not. She, like me, is into the California hippie thing: sprouts, veggies, plants... But this recipe is good (olive oil, vinegar, wine, tomatoes, garlic, onion) to have on hand because you never know what serendipity may bring to you or me.

A caveat: Without hesitation I would add potatoes and carrots to this stew. Plus, serving warm, fresh whole grain French bread would play a role, too. Now, the problem remains. I don't have anyone to cook this dish for...Ah, my two beloved Brittanys with French roots and meat-loving kitty would do tricks and purr for it, I'm sure. Nah, maybe a meat lover from the Mediterranean (like in the memorable film French Kiss) will pay me a visit. Or better yet, if I get my overdue trip abroad in 2010 I may eat exactly what I am served, especially if it boasts healthy ingredients like this stew.
P.S. I want a Dutch Oven for my birthday, October 6. What a fab way to cook during cooler days, cooler nights--a colder climate. Fall is coming. I feel it in the air.

Mediterranean Beef Stew

1 pound lean beef or stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained

1/4 cup canned beef broth

1/2 cup sliced pimento-stuffed green olives

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons Nakano Seasoned Rice Vinegar with Red Pepper or Nakano Seasoned Red Wine Vinegar--Italian Herb

1 tablepoon tomato paste

1/4 teaspoons salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Dredge meat in flour. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add half of meat; brown on all sides and transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil nd meat. Add onions to Dutch oven; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients except basil. Return meat with any accumulated juices to Dutch oven. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 2 hours or until meat is tender. Stir in basil just before serving. Serves 4.

Source: The Healing Powers of Vinegar by Cal Orey, published by Kensington, 2009 (mass market edition)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cookie Poll Results Are In: And the Winner Is...

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

Recently, on The Writing Gourmet blog I listed some popular cookies, including chocolate chip, macaroons, and gingerbread. It was tie. Macaroons and chocolate chip were the winners. As I finish the final touches on The Healing Powers of Chocolate, certainly chocolate is on my brain. But so is fresh and good for you coconut. I feel oh-so marooned in the mountains and am craving Coconut Macaroons...

But like who in this household has time to bake moist and chewy scrumptious cookies with European roots? Not moi. Not this weekend. (Note to self: Train my two Type-A, food-loving French Brittanys to bake for me during work days.) First, I went online and noted many Websites that boast their petit and handsome gourmet macaroons. Pricey little cookies. The dark chocolate dipped ones attracted me right away. They brought memories back to the San Francisco Bay Area. One restaurant on the peninsula offered to die for large macaroons--half covered in dark chocolate. Bliss.

The glitch is, I'm isolated here--working hard on the proofs--in the Sierras just like the two cookies in the photo above. A fire is burning out of control in Yosemite and oddly enough Mother Nature has decided to let the winds blow into the Tahoe Basin. Gosh, we're more than 200 miles away. Ironically, after this galley is back to New York, I was going to take the pooches to Yosemite--never been there. But in my study I have that famous Ansel Adams poster of the famous spot people all over the world visit--except me. It will have to suffice for now.

Back to those fab French coconut macaroons with dark chocolate. Here is my working version of the cookie mounds which I will bake in the fall. You may try it and tell me how it works. And yes, I may try my hand at plain ones first. I'm a bit chocolated out for the moment. I assure you--as our mothers always told us during challenging times in life--it too will pass. Chocolate, all kinds, all forms, will always have a place in my world year-round.

Callie's Mountain Coconut Macaroons

1 1/2 cups fresh or premium shredded coconut

1/2 cup sweet condensed milk

2 large egg whites

1/8 cup flour (high altitude)

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine coconut, milk, and flour. Put in egg whites and almond extract. Plop larger than smaller drops of dough onto a lightly greased (extra virgin olive oil, yes it works) cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degrees oven for about 20 minutes or till golden brown. (Optional. In microwave melt 1/2 cup 60% cacao content dark chocolate chips. Stir in a bit of condensed milk for a smoother, sweeter texture to frost tops of cookies.)

Note: This is my sweet fantasy for tonight. It should work. But I warn you it may not be failproof if you try it at home. You're on your own. If you want to play it safe, munch on a handful of fresh coconut or dark chocolate chips and wait for me to try it out first. Read: I think the ash is getting inside my brain. Cookie time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chocolatey Contest: Win The Healing Powers of Chocolate & Gourmet Chocolates

Welcome to a one-of-a-kind Chocolatey Contest with a Mediterranean angle. That's right. I want you to take me to Europe via gourmet food. But help! I'd love to have a new, improved menu plan. The rules: First, Sign In on my blog: . Tip: (Go to Followers on the left column; Google is the quickest route in.)...

Then, dish out the awesome titles of your fave dishes--no recipes. Be bold. Be creative. Think healthy. The catch is, you must include vinegar, olive oil, and chocolate. Here's a taste... Imagine: You are throwing a dinner party with good friends, good conversation. It's an event for four this weekend! It's 80 degrees outdoors. You're in a mountain-type setting. What do you serve? Please include the following dishes: Appetizer, Bread, Salad, Entree, One Side Dish, Dessert and Beverage. No meat, please.

Deadline: The first day of Fall, September 22. The winner will receive a signed, sealed, and delivered copy of The Healing Powers of Chocolate (Kensington, December 2009) and a box of handmade luxury chocolates by one of my fave chocolatiers. I've sweetened the pot due to the overwhelming response from folks who want to enjoy chocolate--just like I have been doing for months during my research! So, get in on the fun--you may win two yummy gifts just in time for the holidays! Good luck.

P.S. Two other contestants--aka the runners-up--will win a copy of The Healing Powers of Vinegar or The Healing Powers of Olive Oil.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mom's Tweaked Italian-Style Stuffed Bell Peppers

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself.
Henry David Thoreau

I remember as a kid my mom would make and bake Stuffed Bell Peppers filled with a mixture of ground beef, rice, and tomato sauce. But when I stopped eating food with eyes (mainly meat) that killed my days of these special meals in one. Today, I got the idea of recreating these adorable individual peppers and tweaking them with an Italian flair...

Come autumn I vow to make homemade tomato sauce like my mom did on Sundays and let it simmer and fill the air in my mountain home. I might add fresh fish, too. But today, it's a busy one. The pool at 1:00--I must get my swim. And, of course, the galley of my book The Healing Powers of Chocolate is calling out to me to proof so I'm not working too hard during the Labor Day Holiday. And the pooches. Ah yes, walking the boys is on today's agenda. Teeth cleaning for me? Tomorrow afternoon. Keeping healthy takes some work...So sometimes, cutting corners in the kitchen is a hot thing to do if you want to keep your cool.

Speaking of cool...The special store bought sauce Barilla Marinara "With Imported Olive Oil" had me with the words "olive oil." And the words on the label "Founded Parma, Italy 1877" wooed me, too. Plus, this sauce contains plenty of good for you nutrients (i.e., vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium), and less than more sodium than other ready made sauces. Yes, today will be a busy one but I will have a hot, healthy dinner tonight. It won't be a frozen or canned dinner. It will be created with a homestyle TLC spirit. Paired with a tossed green salad and whole grain French bread dipped in warm herbal olive oil will make it right. No worries. It will be perfetto as the good life goes on.

Mom's Tweaked Italian-Style Stuffed Bell Peppers

2-3 large bell peppers, red and gold
2 cups brown rice, whole grain, cooked
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
1/4 cup black olives
1/2 cup black raisins
1 cup Provolone or your fave Italian cheese, shredded
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 tbs. Italian seasoning
2 roma tomatoes, diced

Wash bell peppers, slice off tops and save. Core. Steam peppers in boiling water till al dente, a few minutes. Set aside. Combine brown rice, 1/2 cup sauce, mushrooms, tomatoes, olives, raisins, cheese, seasoning. Stuff each pepper. Put remaining sauce on both the bottom of a baking dish and top of each. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Top with Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Spicy Gingerbread for Busy Chocolate Health Nuts

by Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet
"And I had but one penny in the world. Thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread."
– William Shakespeare
Ginger has been toying with my thoughts. It's not because I'm queasy. It's because I love ginger cookies, ginger infused in dark chocolate bars, and gingerbread. The catch is, I told myself "No big cooking/baking experiments until the chocolate book galley is out of my hands." Still, I cheated. Yesterday, I snagged a store bought box of gingerbread mix. But I'm going to make a quickie creation that will make it special: tasty and healthier...

The roots of gingerbread are from the United Kingdom but it's got a French thing going on, too. French gingerbread pastries come with spices and honey--the things that make me smile and want to bake when I shouldn't be like now. Instead of falling victim to "writer's block" I'm suffering from "proofer's block." Read: You find yourself doing anything (i.e, cleaning, exercising, shopping, washing the dog, and baking) to avoid scrutinizing words like analyzing a frog and its inner parts on a slab in Biology 101. Ugh.

Yep, I want the lingering scent of gingerbread to permeate the entire house. How romantic is that? So, today I'm going to put this spicy gingerbread together fast and easy. But, but, but you can make it more creative. First, I'm turning to olive oil, of course, for the vegetable oil the box calls for. (Actually, for soft ginger cookies 2 tablespoons of butter can be replaced with olive oil. For the cake, it calls for 1 1/4 cups water--I'll use 1/8 cup olive oil (less 1/8 H20) and a large brown egg)...

The best part, I'm including sweet 'n' spicy stuff, like dark chocolate pistoles (64 percent cacoa content) into the batter (sorry, no time for exact measurements) with a crumbly mixture of chopped walnuts, brown sugar or honey (never put quality honey in the fridge!), and cinnamon should do it. It's the nuts --like olive oil--that contain the healthy fats that are good your body from head to toe. Plus, you get the crunchiness of nuts to chill and that chocolate feel-good energetic buzz so you're ready to go during mental tasks that must be done. If you try this chocolate health nut recipe, once hot and baked (it does contain protein, a healthy portion of iron, potassium, folic acid, and other good nutrients) sprinkle plenty of nutrient-dense walnuts (toasted in the oven 4 minutes if you've got the time) on top (like the picture above). I am toying with topping it off with a dollop of fresh, cold French vanilla ice cream (for the calcium boost and creamy texture) with dark chocolate orange shavings for taste... OK. It's not "homemade" but hey. Sometimes you can make it happen in the kitchen with a touch of creativity and while you don't slave over the stove--its doable. Oh, oh, oh. You've gotta team this warm, spicy treat with a healthful cup (or two) of iced herbal tea with lots of ice cubes (it's warming up at Lake Tahoe). Black tea or green tea (for the caffeine) may be the perfetto trick since I've got a lot of words to digest.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ooops! A Continental Breakast With Hot Chocolate but No Croissants?

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

"Do you know on this one block you can buy croissants in five different places? There's one store called Bonjour Croissant. It makes me want to go to Paris and open up a store called Hello Toast.” -- Fran Lebowitz

I woke up this A.M. to the sound of rain--it's not real common at Lake Tahoe. Listening to the chirping birds right now is a sign to me that I didn't put together a politcally correct Continental breakfast. As I watched a fat squirrel munch on a pine cone it hit me. I forgot to include warm and fresh croissants!...

Sure, I went the route of simple and healthy. Two large brown scrambled eggs with grated cheddar cheese (yep, I shredded it myself) and organic 2% low-fat milk. One glass of premium orange juice fortified with vitamin D and calcium. (I'm trying to stay healthy and wise as a precaution if Swine flu makes its rounds here, a popular resort town in season or off season.) And I enjoyed a cup of MarieBelle TM hot chocolate spiked with French Roast coffee--it's rich gourmet chocolate (you can see the chocolate shavings).

But I forgot the croissants. So, today I will go on the hunt to find the best and most flakey, natural croissants. In September (after the galley for The Healing Powers of Chocolate is out of my hands and en route to New York), I vow to make them with dark chocolate--for the mere pleasure of it all. But now, the question remains: To swim or not to swim. It's still kind of gray skies and wet looking outdoors. I suppose it doesn't matter. Water is water. But croissants are croissants. And I won't forget next time around to include the European wonders in my Continental breakfast to make it feel like I'm on vacation at home.

P.S. I did eat the hot breakfast in the dining room/study with my two Brittanys, and in front of the fish aquarium (with pristine water and happy fish). And that is a fine earthy European-type memory to cherish--with or without chocolately French croissants.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Italian Chocolate Brownies--Neapolitan Style

By Cal Orey,

The Writing Goumet

"Doubtless God could have made a better berry (than the strawberry) but doubtless God never did."

--William Allen Butler

It's still warm outdoors and cooking is not an option for me. I just walked the boys (Brittany duo), and am going back to proofing the galley for the big chocolate book--The Healing Powers of Chocolate (Kensington, Dec. 2009). And yep, reading words about chocolate--all kinds from all places--is making me hungry for chocolate. This is a good thing I think. (Oh dear, my dear readers will want to eat chocolate, too.) And ironically, it turns out the treat I'm thinking about has a Mediterranean flavor to it...

No homemade brownies this time around. I'm cutting corners (again). I'm turning to Ghirardelli Premium Double Chocolate Brownie Mix. (I was considering melting the luxury chocolate bars I have saved from research and make frosting but that will happen once the book proofs are out of the house. I will have more time to get more creative.) When you're a scribe for a living you've got to prioritize tasks despite chocolate cravings.

On the upside, I will use extra virgin olive oil (it calls for vegetable oil). I will serve the warm dark, chewy chocolate brownies (yes, nuts will be included for the crunch) with fresh, juicy late summer strawberries.

And instead of using sweet white chocolate frosting (very tempted to turn to Ghirardelli's white chips) I will open up the new container of lowfat vanilla yogurt. This all natural yogurt is healthy. It boasts plenty of potassium (great to keep your blood pressure in check), protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients--and it tastes natural, creamy, and is my fave. No artificial junk.

The best part is, I just did a quick google check and it turns out this concoction of mine has Italian roots. Yep. Neapolitan ice cream was derived in Naples, Italy. It was one of my favorites as a kid. And look, I gave this Italian treat a healthy twist.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Health Nut Rice Pudding--Yes! You Can Use Brown Rice!

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

"When they didn't give him boiled mutton, they gave him rice pudding, pretending it was a treat. And saved the butcher.”

-- Charles Dickens

Rice pudding has been in my eating thoughts for the past week. I find this odd since it's more of a fall dish but maybe it's because the leaves on the trees are beginning to turn golden, there's a crisp feel in the late night air, the squirrels are busy, and locals are beginning to prepare their wood piles. So these could be the hints that I'm tasting autumn and wanted to go back into yesteryear and eat creamy rice pudding...

This pudding is oh so popular around the world. Long grain rice, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and raisins are just some of the common ingredients used. Rice pudding can be baked or cooked on the stovetop. And this cooking version cried out to me. After all, it is warm (again) at Tahoe and last night at 8:00 P.M. I didn't want to have the oven making the air any hotter.

When I've made this dish in the past, I've always used brown rice, eggs, sugar and baked it. This time around I tried different sweetners--maple syrup and sweet consensed milk (on the stove when I tasted it cook I knew I was on track with its creamy sweet flavor). Also, I found one Web site where a chef said you cannot use brown rice. Huh? But I broke the rules and did what some others do--for the health of it. (I used white rice only when the dog or cat get sick. Or, it can be okay for homecooked Chinese rice and veggies.) I used Mahatma brown rice--and it is rich in plenty of nutrients and contains no fat, sodium, or cholesterol. It doesn't get much better than that. Whole grains are truly the way to go...more fiber, more healthy for you inside and out.

And walnuts? Wow. These little guys contain the good for you monounsaturated fat like olive oil. Not to forget their protein, fiber, and so much more in the perks department for you as well as the awesome crunchy texture. Nuts and fruit make this pudding extra special.

Health Nut Rice Pudding

3 cups whole grain cooked brown rice

2 cups low-fat 2% organic milk

1 cup (14 ounce) sweetened condensed milk

1 1/4 cups raisins

3/4 cups walnuts, chopped

3 - 4 tablespoons premium maple syrup

1-2 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix cooked rice and milk in saucepan. Over medium heat bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cook about 20 minutes, add syrup, stir frequently till creamy and before it will stick to the pan. Use the cinnamon last not during to preserve its flavor. Add nuts and raisins when you take it off the stovetop. Pour into 8" by 8" pan. Let cool and serve immediately or refrigerate. I suggest warming up when you indulge.

This morning I woke up to a tasty dish (like in the glasses in the picture above) of rice pudding. I warmed it up first in the microwave (it's creamier that way), put it in those pretty parfait glasses I rarely use, and topped it with cinnamon sticks and fresh raspberries to give it a touch of late summer. That chef who said you couldn't do it with brown rice? It's a lesson to do what you sense will work for you. It works. The pudding is both creamy and chewy, the nuts are satisfyingly crunchy, and the juicy berries make it perfect. Come fall I'll do it again and add cranberries and golden raisins.

P.S. Don't forget the Outdoor Dinner Party Contest. It's simple. Just name your fave fantasy dishes and you may win a free copy of The Healing Powers of Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate--your choice.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Contest: Outdoor Dinner Party-What Do YOU Serve?

by Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

Imagine: You are throwing a dinner party for four this weekend! It's 80 degrees outdoors. You're in a mountain-type setting. What do you serve? There are a few must-haves I'd like you to include in your menu: olive oil, vinegar, and chocolate...

Please include the following dishes: Appetizer, Bread, Salad, Entree, One Side Dish, Dessert and Beverage. No meat, please. And no, you don't have to show your recipes--just the titles of each course will suffice.

I'd like this intimate garden party to have a special rustic, charming European feel to it--so think Mediterranean cuisine. The easier to make but elegant selections gets extra points. The complete menu that is the most creative, bold, and healthy will standout and you will win the book of your choice: The Healing Powers of Vinegar, Olive Oil, or Chocolate--signed, sealed, and mailed by moi to you. Have fun!

Custard Pie with a Chocolate Kiss (for good luck)

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

"And above all...Think chocolate!" -- Betty Crocker

It's Tuesday and I am craving comfort food. I got the word. The chocolate book galley will indeed be on my doorstep Thursday. I'm excited. I'm nervous. I'm excited. I want a healthy, creamy, chocolatey treat to get me through these next few days. And I found just the perfect recipe(s).
I turned to Gemma Sciabica's cookbook Cooking with California Olive Oil: Popular Recipes. In minutes my eyes feasted on the Custard Pie recipe. As a tween I used to make custard pudding. It was failproof for me, a wannabe wonderful bakeress. And it did turn out, time after time, without woes like a lucky charm. It was my favorite food friend.

Custard Pie

1 single pie crust, chilled
2 1/2 cups milk [I probably will use 2% low fat milk or mix it half and half with sweet condensed milk for a creamier texture]
4 eggs [I will use organic brown eggs]
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
2 teaspoons vanilla

In mixing bowl, beat filling ingredients with wire whip or rotary beater until smooth. Pour into unbaked pie shell, carefully place in oven. Bake in 400 degrees oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, bake about 35 minutes longer or until filling is set. Test center with cake tester. Cover edge of pie with foil if browning too quickly.


1/4 teaspoon nutmeg,
grated peel of 1 orange
1/2 cup coconut
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 squares (1 ounce) semisweet chocolate, melted

OK. It's a gamble like playing the slots or tables at Lake Tahoe's casinos. But I've decided that I'm going for the coconut (it's healthy for you)--and the dark chocolate and nutmeg, for sure. I'll hold the whipped cream and instead top the pie with some fresh summer fruit (rapberries). Also, rather than making a homemade olive oil crust I am going to get a store bought one; one with less than more artificial ingredients). Sometimes, despite me being the health fanatic, you've got to take shortcuts (pie crust) but this pie will have less unhealthy stuff in it than a frozen one picked up the store.
Still, I want you to have Gemma's Olive Oil Pie Crust recipe (page 272 in her cookbook noted above) which I vow to use and share on The Writing Gourmet after the chocolate book proofs are out the door and pre-fall hits us at Lake Tahoe. And yes, I promise to share it with you during the next pie I bake. It'll be a celebration!

But today, swimming, bathing Simon, my 6 year old Brittany, getting a new fish tank, and cleaning the house are on my plate till the The Healing Powers of Chocolate arrives like a visitor from a faraway land. I am nervous as a cat before a quake. Oh yeah, I need to pick up special food for Kerouac, my devoted black senior kitty. A writer's work is never done. Thank God for coconut custard pie and chocolate.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A "City of Angels" Fresh Fruit Salad to Love

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won't, and that's a wife who can't cook and will. -- Robert Frost

Today, while swimming in a pool (almost all mine) I pondered, "Why am I so eager for summer to be over?" After all, the sun felt warm, the water temperature was perfect, and all the fresh fruits that are still in season...these are a few reasons why we shouldn't rush Mother Nature...

The other evening I watched the film City of Angels with Meg Ryan. I simply love the scene at Lake Tahoe when she is in a comfy cabin amid towering trees, preparing a beautiful breakfast fresh fruit salad. She puts her heart and soul into it. You can almost taste it as Maggie did the pear and described the sensory details (like Ernest Hemingway does in his fine works of art) to Seth (played by Nicholas Cage). Ah, falling in love and tasting fresh produce are two pleasures in life.

Back to Tahoe present-day in the summertime of 2009. So, this afternoon while I was enjoying the breaststroke (my favorite, backstroke second), lap after lap for 30 minutes, I got vivid images of fresh fruit of the season. And now, after a store stop, I'm looking at the pineapple on top of my fridge. There are apricots, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, red grapes, and fuji apples--waiting for me to wash, slice and put into a half of a cored pineapple (you can get a gadget to do this chore). I am excited. Why rush fall when summer is still at its best. And this fruit salad is oh so healthy...
Apples: Crunchy, full of fiber, no fat and one apple contains only 81 calories.
Apricots: Apricots are water-rich, so they're filling for only a few calories and are fat free.
Bananas: Great tropical fruit and high in potassium, B vitamins.
Blueberries: These gems are full of vitamin A and C.

Raspberries: You get flavor, potassium and more than the recommended daily requirement for vitamin C, not to forget its fiber.
Red Grapes: Full of disease-fighting antioxidants such as resveratrol which is heart healthy.
Strawberries: Rich in the anti-stress vitamin C, low cal and delicious.

Combining it all together--the bright splashes of colorful summer fruits--into a pineapple--is the fun part and the perfect fruit to include in a fat-burning plan or for a summer delight. Not only does this sweet carb satisfy your sweet cravings, it contains no fat or sodium. It contains fiber, postassium, and a trace mineral, manganese, which aids the body's metabolism. I almost went with a coconut (health perks, too) but decided to go with this exotic juicy fruit...
Next step. A dash of cinnamon, the juice of an orange, and a bit of honey is all that it takes. Oh wait. A few dark chocolate shavings on top. Perfect for one. I can almost taste it now.

But hold the phone. Isn't that how the bittersweet film City of Angels ended up, too? No salad for two. Surprise ending this time around. I named one of my Brittanys after the character Seth (I was finishing a Barnes and Noble book tour in Southern California and it seemed appropriate) so I can eat my salad in real life tomorrow morning, noon and tonight next to a canine angel. How sweet is that?
P.S. But remember, NO grapes or apples for dogs. And to be on the safe side keep the fruit salad for you and give the pooch(s) an all natural gourmet doggie biscuit and walk.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Favorite Breakfast May Shock You

My Favorite Breakfast

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

Trying a case the second time is like eating yesterday morning's oatmeal.
Lloyd Paul Stryker

During a Barnes and Noble book tour, I remember one time waking up in downtown Seattle at a posh hotel before the lecture/signing. I ordered breakfast. Sure, I could have had anything--French toast to Belgian waffles. But I chose another route. I called in for fresh grapefruit juice, oatmeal with strawberries, brown sugar, low-fat milk, and a cup of coffee...

And this morning, at Lake Tahoe, I turned on the tube to the Hallmark channel: Benji the Hunted (my two Brittanys love to watch the go-getter mutt with a heart of gold). And at the same time, this nature-lover prepared and savored the same hot oatmeal as I enjoyed in Seattle but with a different touch--iron-rich raisins sprinkled with dark chocolate chips. No need for brown sugar. This is so delicious.

Simple is good and good for your health. Yesterday my sibling told me that when he was on the golf course another player got an ER call. His wife had suffered a heart attack. She is only 50. This news is just one more red flag for everyone (at any age) to eat heart healthy foods every day.

So is oatmeal really all that healthy for you? Yeah, it seems like it is. Take a peek at this breakdown of oatmeal nutritional and health benefits. Not only is oatmeal low in fat and cholesterol, but it has other good nutrients, too. Also, when you pair it with fresh seasonal fruit, nuts--or dark chocolate and raisins--it gets better. Is an oatmeal breakfast good? I feel it's as good as it gets. And a glass or bottle of fresh water with sliced lemon is a great way to start off the morning, too...
Later today it's off to the pool (I hope the water isn't too cold, last night was chilly), the dog walk, and I promised my little one, Seth, the 3 year old pooch, we'd take turns on the treadmill and play The Dog Whisperer. Maybe I'll start restocking the pantry for pre-fall. Read: Still waiting on the galley for my book The Healing Powers of Chocolate (Kensington, December 2009). I know it's coming. Ah, this is worse than writer's block!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Contest Winner Chooses 5 Super Gourmet Foods

By Cal Orey

My bags are packed and I'm ready to go. Ever notice we sometimes wish we were somewhere else--even stranded on an exotic island for one week with room service. The glitch is, in this fantasy which I dreamed up for The Writing Gourmet's contest, you only get drinking water (of your choice), all the fresh fish you can eat (cooked the way you like) and five gourmet foods...

While some contestants tempted me with their choices, from the omlete, ham sandwich (I'd order it Italian style), polenta to chocolate, I went with the most well-balanced selections that appealed to me for being healthy, creative, and bold. And Bob is the winner! Congrats to you for making this island dream become a reality of sorts. Here, take a look.

3. Manicotti
5. Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Whipped Cream

I thought about this hypothetical scenario. To make it work I'd be demanding with my orders. Think Sally (played by Meg Ryan) in the classic film When Harry Met Sally in the scene when she orders her meal. She gets it the way she wants it...

For starters, the Caesar Salad: I would ask for a meatless salad with added spinach lettuce to the romaine plus tomatoes. Whole grain croutons. This popular salad boasts plenty of vitamin A and potassium. Guava is high in fiber and contains more than 5 times the vitamin C of oranges. Yep, I'd have fresh squeezed juice in the A.M. and for a snack at night.
Manicotti? I'd request that it be prepared meatless with whole grain pasta, olive oil (I can't forget this since I penned The Healing Powers of Olive Oil), and homemade marinara sauce with lots of juicy, organic tomatoes. Of course, I'd team it with fish--lobster (it's low in saturated fat, a good source of B12 and more good perks, not to forget it tastes sublime), for sure!
Next, the treats such as ice cream would be all-natural dark chocolate. I'd love the good-for-you compounds day after day as I write in the forthcoming book The Healing Powers of Chocolate. (Click the above link in the list of five foods to see my gourmet chocolate ice cream taste test.) And the pie would be made from scratch. Fresh and health-boosting strawberries and rhubarb are a must with a whole grain crust; the whipped cream would be fresh, all natural, of course.
The bottom line: It's all good. I'd survive in luxury. And so would you. Let's go do it!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Need a Feel-Good Banana Chocolate Streusel Rx?

By Cal Orey

My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished...a chocolate cake. I feel better already.
Dave Barry

Nope, The Healing Powers of Chocolate galley hasn't arrived on my doorstep yet. But I can sense it's coming sooner than later... I did receive some suprise chocolate recipes in the mail today (foreshadow?)--and they came from my fave cookbook author Gemma Sciabica who seems to have an uncanny knack of knowing when I need something oh-so naturally sweet and healthy to cheer me up and/or calm me down...

I did have a nice swim earlier today but now it's heating up, typical for August at Lake Tahoe. So, no I will not bake today (too warm) but promise to do it within the week so I can share my adventure in the kitchen--as promised. Truly, I am such a klutz with pots and pans that I believe I may have developed a fear of cooking and baking. (I wonder if there is a name for this phobia?) On the upside, this streusel recipe looks failproof and I think I can do it. I think I can. But note, I'll take the muffin route for this streusel so it won't be a trigger food for me.
I'm certain this cake will go fast with the healthful, natural ingredients--bananas, chocolate (purchase gourmet chips, at least 60% cacoa content), nuts, and quality olive oil. (Ever notice the cat's tail list of all the artificial ingredients that you can't pronounce on the labels of store bought cakes and muffins?) Gemma's recipe (BTW: streusel is German not Italian) will make a perfect and wholesome breakfast muffin (I've been looking everywhere for one) or an ideal treat after a dog walk (for me not my anti-chocolate Brittanys).
And, most importantly, it should help to get me through the job of proofing the chocolate book. Ah versatile chocolate. (Did you know chocolate not only contains feel-good compounds but it can help to give you an alertness boost?) Note: Add more than less dark chocolate chips. Gemma adds, "This cake is so good, everyone asks for the recipe!)

Banana Cake With Chocolate Streusel
Serves 16
2 tablespoons Sciabica's or Marsala Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped fine
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Stir above altogether in mixing bowl, set aside.
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Sciabica's or Marsala Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 egg
1 1/3 cups bananas, mashed (about 3)
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 Danish pastry extract (Watkins)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch baking pan. Stir chocolate chips, brown sugar, walnuts, olive oil and cinnamon in a small bowl until well mixed, set streusel aside.
In mixing bowl combine dry ingredients, make well in center. Pour in buttermilk, olive oil, banana, egg and flavoring, stir until just blended. Spread half of batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 streusel. Repeat with remaining batter and streusel. Bake about 45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean from center. Cool cake in pan on rack.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Peanut Butter Can Soothe Your Spirit During the Worst of Times

By Cal Orey

I'm sitting here with my two dogs and watching the film Courage Under Fire. I admit I'm feeling on edge big time while waiting for the proofs for my big chocolate book. The galley is due on the doorstep any minute or day now and it's like waiting anxiously for the mega earthshaking event of the birth of a child...

Speaking of childhood, I remember when my mom would try new gourmet dishes (from snails to frog tails) out on us--the kids--I'd often turn up my nose. As a stubborn kid, I wanted something familar, good, and tasty. Peanut butter sandwiches, the friendly ones like simple daisies, always came the rescue.

Today, not feeling especially hungry or in the mood to cook. So I just toasted a wholegrain bagel (yeah, I have one of those cool bagel toasters), and spread all-natural peanut butter (it's included in the Mediterranean diet; considered a "healthy" food with its fiber, protein and micronutrients but moderation is key because of fat and calories) and organic honey on it. I decided to pass on sliced bananas (but I believe it's worth giving it a go except I had one whole this a.m.). And you know what? The creamy texture of the butter, sweetness of the honey and chewy, toasty bagel hit the spot spot on.
P.S. Did you know there is a gourmet peanut butter club? I am tempted to join it, especially during waiting periods (i.e., the recovery of the recession) as I wait for my written words from the heart and soul about chocolate "the perfect food" printed on pages. It's not like anticipating a box chocolates on the doorstep. It's different. I think I need a luxury-type truffle (filled with a tidbit of smooth peanut butter) to get me through the time lag ordeal.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Don't Worry, Eat Cheese (and Tomatoes)--Live to 80

Today is Monday and the world seems to be obsessed with health care or lack of it. On CNN and've tuned in all day and now I'm ready to tune out. It's time to make a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough with tomatoes--like the Dutch do... After all, the stats show folks in the Netherlands live longer--to 80--than Americans do. And when I did a quick search about their diet I discovered that for breakfast--cheese and French bread are a thumbs up. What's more, the Netherlands is a hot spot for tomatoes.

It seems like health care companies are raising their premiums and deductibles and we the people in America are getting less not more health care. I flunked math in college but this formula doesn't add up. I'm not getting my money's worth or so it seems. I decided to downgrade my catastrophic insurance plan. It's depressing me. I'm still in "healthy tier 1" but it's my healthful lifestyle strategies not theirs that is keeping me healthy, poor (not wealthy), and wise...
So, what are the odds that I will get slammed by a catastrophe tomorrow, next month, next year, or in 10 years? In my Woman's World days, as the diet and nutrition columnist, I wrote, more than once, that 60% of all diseases such as cancer and heart disease can be prevented by eating a healthful, nutrient-dense diet. And in my book Doctors' Orders, the 101 docs dished out tons of personal tips on how diet and a healthful lifestyle can keep you happy and healthy. Plus, I figured out today that health insurance doesn't make you healthy (it's nice to have though in case a bear attacks me or I get snowbound in the wilderness for a week)--it's the lifestyle choices that play a big role in staying out of the hospital.

Meanwhile, I sort of wish I were anywhere else but here--a comforting place where everyone gets health care. No worries. Comfort. As a kid, I loved grilled cheese sandwiches. They're comfort food. Now, as a disgruntled baby boomer I'm craving a healthful sandwich: Edam and Gouda gourmet cheeses (I won't give these up) sliced on whole wheat French bread with fresh tomatoes off the vine. Grilled. No complicated instructions or hidden ingredients. It's simple. It will make me feel better. And maybe I will plan an escape to the Netherlands where everyone has health insurance, eats cheese and tomatoes. And then, I can plan on finding hobbies when I am ready to join the octogenarian group. Sounds like a doable plan to me.

Friday, August 7, 2009





No recipes today. Imagine: You are stranded solo (or with friends) on an isolated island for one week--you can order in five fine foods of your choice... Think Cast Away or The Beach. You've got water and fish. No worries. So now choose five more foods that you would love to have with you. That's it--only five.

The most creative, innovative, and heathful fab five foods group answer will make you the winner of one free book--of your choice (olive oil, vinegar, chocolate), penned by The Writing Gourmet. Good luck!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Chocolate Cheesecake Champion's Secret Ingredients



Recently, I ran a contest searching for the best chocolate cheesecake. I was looking for something creative, something different, something natural. And I found it--with the surprise of orange and cocoa...
Rewind. Days ago, at our local supermarket the friendly baker (she knows me as the obsessive health nut) told me their cheesecake ingredients were not all natural and high in fat. In the frozen food department the cheesecakes contained lists of too many ingredients with names I couldn't pronounce. I did find a gourmet one for $15 but again, too much stuff inside that didn't seem right to me. Back home, I went online and found a company that bakes all-natural cheesecakes and sent an email. They have temporarily stopped making the gems.

So, after a phone call and cookbook check, I am ready to announce that the chocolate cheesecake champion is one of my very favorite bakers--Gemma Sciabica. (Her biscotti is truly fine and truly addicting.) To me, her Orange Cheesecake recipe is a genuine standout because it's what I wanted--and more--but couldn't find anywhere.
True, I told her the other day that I was going to start baking and cooking--trying out some of her recipes. But it's so much work, and so little time. Read: I have The Healing Powers of Chocolate galley coming to my doorstep and am trying to get my house in order before I go back to work and proof it. So while I want to eat a winning slice of cheesecake, who in the writing world has the time to whip it up?
Again, it's shortcut time. Instead of using Gemma's original Chocolate Crust which includes olive oil and cocoa, I am going to cheat and use one of those ready-made chocolate pie crusts you can buy at the store. But I will make the Filling and use the secret ingredients--and know what I'm getting.

Orange Cheesecake

2 1/2 cups cottage cheese (non fat)
1 cup cream cheese (low fat)
1 1/2 cups ricotta (low fat)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
grated peel of 1 orange
4 eggs (or 2 eggs & 4 egg whites)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon maraschino syrup

In food processor container puree cottage cheese and remaining ingredients until thoroughly combined. Pour filling into prepared pan (9 inch spring form pan). Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool on rack.

As soon as I purchase a food processor and the right pan (or maybe mini spring form pans), I'm going to bake this Orange Cheesecake using Gemma's Chocolate Crust recipe. (It includes almonds or hazelnuts ground.) For now, it's the shortcut route--quickie pie crust and I will use my trusty blender and make do. To top it off, however, I will use quality dark chocolate shavings to help put my personal signature on this champion cheesecake. That will make me feel like I'm on the right track, sort of.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wine, Vinegar, Oil for a Romantic Meal to Love

By Cal Orey

I have a confession to make. Wine has never met my lips. It does play a part in the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, which I practice and preach... But I do not drink...In my book The Healing Powers of Vinegar, I do discuss that researchers have discovered that red wine savored by the French people contains healthful chemicals such as tannins, quercetin, proanthocyanidin, catechins, and other good stuff. However, it's the resveratrol that may be the key to good heart health.

So the question remains, does red wine vinegar have the same potential health effects as red wine? According to the docs and scientists I interviewed, since it is derived from red wine it may indeed have some of the good for you perks as red wine.

* Red wine vinegar contains polyphenols--and maybe resveratrol
* Red wine vinegar is fat-free
* You can add red wine vinegar to fruits and vegetables and get additional antioxidants

But hold the phone! Just because I don't drink (if I did it would be wine) I may have on more than one occasion eaten a dish which wine--such as Marsala, a Sicilian wine used often for cooking--was part of the recipe.
Here, take a peek at one of my fave chef's creations--it includes wine, olive oil, and wine vinegar. What's more, if I were to have a dinner party, I can see me (yeah, The Writing Gourmet who hates to cook) making this dish and serving it over rice, chopsticks, green tea (and offering the perfect wine of choice) and gourmet fortune cookies for dessert. It's a perfect creative and fun dinner for six or two (or even solo) with leftovers to share with that special someone. (I'm not sure if Chef Sal would be pleased that I turned his Sicilian dish into an Asian delight but knowing him as I do--I feel he'd give me a thumbs up. Gosh, I miss his former restaurant--once a hot spot in the San Francisco Bay Area--and the generous portion-sized meals I'd take home and love the following day.)

Sweet and Sour Chicken

1 1/2 cups Marsala wine
1 large onion, chopped fine
3 whole cloves
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large bay leaf
6 chicken breasts, 7 ounces each, skin on
flour seasoned with salt and pepper
3 ounces olive oil
10 ounces chicken broth
3 tablespoons sugar
6 ounces red or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)

In a saucepan, heat the Marsala wine, onion, cloves, garlic, and bay leaf. Jut before it comes to a boil, pour over the chicken breasts in a shallow glass baking dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours. Remove breasts from marinade, dredge in seasoned flour, and saute in large skillet for 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Set aside on a plate. Pour off any excess oil from skillet. After discarding cloves and bay leaf from marinade, add this liquid to the skillet. Simmer for 5 minutes, then return breasts to the skillet, spooning sauce over the breasts. Add broth, stir, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, turning once or more. While chicken is simmering, heat sugar in a small saucepan until it melts to an amber color. Carefully stir in vinegar and, if you wish, the raisins and pine nuts. Pour this mixture over the breasts 2 or 3 minutes before they are done. Serves 6

Recipe by Chef Salvatore J. Campagna, published in The Healing Powers of Vinegar

P.S. To learn all you want to know about wine, and which ones go best with different foods, check out the book Pick a Perfect Wine in No Time by wine guru Anita and log onto her Web site: .

Who Says Nachos Are a Forbidden Food?


By Cal Orey

I just got back from swimming and doing the lap thing always makes me hungry. But no, I don't want to cook. So, I plopped a handful (a large one) of natural multigrain tortilla chips onto a plate; sliced all-natural gourmet cheddar cheese on top... The Brittanys--my two dogs Simon and Seth--were behind me the entire time to make this easy snack a human challenge. Note to self: I need to call my dog trainer. Oops forget that. I just taught Seth how to jump over the cat tree! Wow.

Speaking of hot stuff, I snatched up some of those jalapeno peppers I used for the guacamole aka "green goo" (I did make that) to make the nachos have a kick to it. And I nuked it. Yes, this popular appetizer is crunchy, chewy, and gooey. It's fun and tastes good.

But warning, fast-food nachos can be oh so fattening and high in calories which spells unhealthy and homemade ones, too can be bad news. Translation: Say goodbye to these popular munchies if you use too much cheese (or unnatural processed kinds) or not the good chips--multigrain or low-sodium are best if you're watching your blood pressure (or don't want to be). Also, making your own with whole wheat flour tortillas and made with olive oil can be the ticket to heart health, too...Lots of people who want to lose unwanted weight believe they can't eat cheese or chips. Not true. The secret is, moderation and making it as natural as possible.
I wrote in that little mini mag (the ones you find at the grocery store) From Fat to Firm at Any Age!--"If you avoid cheese because you think it'll pack on the pounds, you may be right--but don't write it off entirely. You don't want to miss out on a super source of calcium and other important nutrients such as protein, phosphorus and vitamin A--and not to mention taste."

Instead of eating large quantities of tasteless "lite" and reduced-calorie cheese, savor the rich flavor of gourmet cheese--just like you can do with dark chocolate and extra virgin olive oil. You'll get more satisfaction from just a small amount.

I remember when I was cranking out the Diet and Nutrition column for Woman's World magazine, that I got in trouble. A fan wrote to the magazine and claimed our nutritionist used more than 50 ingredients for several meals and that no way, no how could she afford it. (I laughed back then. Gosh, I wanted to make the recipes creative as possible.) But I get it now. And using up those little jalapeno peppers was no sweat. (Those puppies, especially the red ones can be expensive!)

So, the snack filled me up. But now what in the cooking world do I cook up for dinner? Ugh. I don't even want to go there. Chinese with veggies and fresh scallops? Sounds good to me. I wonder if I can teach my bird dogs to flush fish out of the Lake for me. Need to do research on that one.