Saturday, January 28, 2017

Soup Days
Vegetable soup is a common comfort food.  As a kid, canned Campbell’s tomato soup and boxed Lipton chicken and noodle soup were often served by my mom on rainy, winter nights. A few years ago, on a dark, stormy midnight I walked outdoors and the front deck was covered with heavy, wet snow. The pine trees and wires amid me looked eerie because they were shrouded with white powder. At 7:30 a.m. I flicked on the lamp—it didn’t work. “Power outage,” I mumbled. It was the beginning of the first day the lights went out at South Lake Tahoe. 

I hoped for the best, but by dusk I went into survival mode and prepared for the worst. I was clad in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans and felt like a characters in The Day After Tomorrow doomsday film.  But it was cozy in the candlelight sitting by the crackling, warm fire. I ate a bowl (or two) of vegetable soup. It was the premium canned variety that I found in my pantry next to a box of whole grain crackers. I appreciated the typical go-to foods which sufficed but were nondescript.
During our recent Snowstorm 2017 event, I revisited the gift of soup. But this time around, the lights stayed on. Instead of a ready-made type, I revamped my friendly semi-homemade vegetable soup recipe. I added Mediterranean delights, including fresh vegetables, herbs, spices, and pasta. It’s like a Wedding Soup but without chicken or meat. The hearty vegetarian soup made with superfoods helped make the challenges of our endless storm more bearable with its comforting taste of nature whipped up in about 30 minutes.

Chunky Italian Vegetable Soup

1 carton (32 ounces) organic vegetable broth
¼ cup red or yellow onion
½ cup celery
¼ cup fresh barley and basil, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup carrots, chopped
½ cup zucchini, chopped
1 ½ cups uncooked whole grain rotini
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (garnish)

      Pour broth into a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add onion, celery, barley, basil, thyme, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil again. Add salt and pepper. Then, add remaining vegetables. Simmer for 15 minutes. In another pot boil pasta for several seven minutes until cooked. Add pasta. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Top with cheese. Serves 4. * Serve with slices of sourdough cracked wheat bread. Slice in rectangles. Spread with butter, and sprinkle with minced garlic. Place on foil and toast in a 425 degree oven until hot and crispy.

      I can personally attest that the aroma of herbs and garlic in the kitchen were amazing. The first spoonful of the easy-to-make hearty soup was better than the stuff in a can. And crispy, buttery bread beats crackers any day. While ready-made soups are quick, making the extra effort to use a broth, fresh ingredients, and TLC make a big difference. This soup is worth writing home about. Soup’s on!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Chocolate and Tea--Two Perfect Companions

By Cal Orey 

While a cup of tea is a pleasure on its own, it also can be weaved into edible adventures and enhance a variety of sweet and savory flavors. Whether you’re brewing a pure tea or a blend with exotic herbs and spices, the range of flavors in a steep can pair well with chocolate treats... Cal Orey, author of The Healing Powers of Chocolate, shares her thoughts on cacao confections and her favorite pairings in the delicious recipe below. She even treated us to exclusive excerpt from her book featuring a recipe for a green tea infused chocolate rocky road tea bark (just in time for Valentine’s day). Although if you prefer to begin with pairings, seek out herbal infusions or teas that are blended with cinnamon, ginger, licorice, mint and vanilla for the ultimate chocolate and tea experience.

Q: What inspired your interest in chocolate?
A: I have penned the Healing Powers series–books on amazing superfoods. Since chocolate has a reputation of being a “forbidden” food, I felt it was time to lose the guilt. I thought, “It would be intriguing to write about a decadent food that is actually good for you.” It was the right time to write about the right kind of chocolate—in moderation—and prove its powers as a healthy and versatile functional food.
Q: What gives chocolate some health benefits?
A: A 1.5 ounce bar of quality chocolate has as much antioxidant power as a 5 ounce glass of wine—without the side effects of alcohol. Chocolate is chock-full of mood-enhancing ingredients, including phenylethylamine (the “love drug”) and serotonin—a feel good compound.
Q: Why do you think chocolate and tea are a perfect match?
A: Both superfoods have amazing powers to help nourish the body, mind, and spirit. Pairing this mighty duo is like apple pie and vanilla ice cream or salt and pepper. Chocolate and tea are Mother’s Nature’s finest work and deserves kudos.
Q: Do you have a favorite chocolate and tea pairing?
A: This is a Sophie’s Choice question. If I have to make a decision today in the middle of winter with snow covered ground in the mountains, I’d choose a dark almond chocolate muffin with a cup of White Peony Tea.
Q: How is your new, forthcoming book The Healing Powers of Tea different than other tea books?
A: I focus on teas that other authors have not. Also, I pair herbal teas with classic teas and new tea trends to give it an edge. Not to forget the health spin of the superfood is woven throughout the book full of original stories, including my own travels on the road while tea is my constant companion.

(excerpt from The Daily Tea--find the Tea Bark recipe in the article)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Celestial Rice Pudding with Chocolate Shavings

This is the type of dessert that I grew up with in the 20th century and is found in cookbooks around the globe. Rice pudding recipes go back in time to the Tudor period (late 1400s and 1500s in England). A basic rice pudding is made with rice, milk, cream, and sugar and is flavored with vanilla and spices. It can be cooked on the stovetop and/or in the oven.
The first time I made rice pudding was back in the ‘60s and the recipe was borrowed from my mother. I recall one foggy morning in the southern San Francisco Bay Area of California, I played hooky from school so I could play chef (and frolic with our new Norwegian Elkhound pup). The pudding directions called for cooked white rice, whole milk, white eggs, and more than less sugar, and cinnamon. I poured the concoction into a rectangle glass dish and baked it inside our wall oven. Sitting on the kitchen floor, reading cookbooks with dog-eared pages and anticipating the pudding to bake was exciting (especially with a fluffy, sleeping pooch at my feet). I was home alone and loving it.

On Tuesday night I went back in time and put together rice pudding with fresh flair. Brown rice (it has more fiber than the white stuff) was the first switch. I added spices for flavor, golden raisins and nuts for texture and the health of it. To give this English-style pudding a sweet European twist I planned to top it off with whipped cream and chunks of dark chocolate to make this treat a sophisticated, healthier but decadent delight.

Heavenly Rice Pudding

1 1/4 cups brown rice, natural whole grain, cooked
2 ½ cups organic half & half
2 large brown eggs, beaten
¼ cup sugar, pure cane, granulated white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries
Whipped cream
Chocolate shavings, dark
Mix cooked rice and half-and-half in a bowl. Add eggs and sugar. Stir well. Add vanilla and spices. Fold in dried fruit and nuts. Pour into 4 ramekins. Place in 8” by 8” dish filled with water. Bake pudding at 325 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or till firm. Cool and top with dollop of whipped cream and chocolate. Refrigerate. I suggest warming up when you indulge.

Okay. I did perform the taste test. This savory and sweet custard-type rice pudding has a warming touch. I savored it at night while sitting in front of a warm, crackling fire with my Australian shepherd and we watched a dog-and-boy adventure film based in British Columbia (a sign for me to book my spring trip to Victoria, Canada). In the morning, I enjoyed a cup of coffee, chilled rice pudding, and fresh orange juice (fortified with vitamins D and calcium). As another storm series rolls in, this celestial dessert is one to cook up and have waiting in the oven or fridge for you and yours to enjoy and remember for years to come.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Chocolate Powers Ebook on Sale for Heart Health Month-V-Day

Chocolate Ebook on Sale at and

By Cal Orey

By The Writing Gourmet

By Cal Orey
Kensington Trade Paperback, January 2010
ISBN: 0-7582-3820-7, $14.00/$17.50 (CAN)

Here it is, the brand new Chocolate book (part of the internationally popular Healing Powers series: The HEALING POWERS OF VINEGAR and THE HEALING POWERS OF OLIVE OIL). Announced in 2009 in blog posts, newspapers, and magazines, it is now available. You can purchase THE HEALING POWERS OF CHOCOLATE right now  and  or your favorite retailer.

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

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

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

From Ancient Folk Medicine to Modern Health Wonder, Discover the Amazing Powers of Chocolate!
Discover the healing powers of dark chocolate and cocoa—now widely recognized as an accepted “health food” and “SuperFood”—versatile cure-all.
Find out how chocolate’s powers can lower the risk of developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and weight woes.
Learn how chocolate contains more antioxidants than green tea and red wine—without the alcohol.
Put dozens of chocolate home cures to work for treating acne, anxiety, brain fog, cabin fever, cough, depression, fatigue, and other ailments.
You’ll also find chocolate beauty and anti-aging treatment—from masks, manicures to bubble baths and body wraps—made from antioxidant-rich chocolate teamed with natural plant extracts.

Incorporating cutting-edge scientific research, plus Mediterranean-style heart-healthy chocolate recipes, from Sicilian Mole to Dark Chocolate Mousse, THE HEALING POWERS OF CHOCOLATE is a well-rounded one-of-a-kind resource that will show you why savoring this no longer forbidden “food of the gods” is the 21st century trend.
*Number 3 in 6 books the Healing Powers Series: Pairs well with The Healing Powers of Coffee, Honey and forthcoming Tea
* Formerly Featured in the Good Cook Book Club and One Spirit Book Club
* Editor's Fave book in long running Complete Woman magazine (Feb./March 2010 issue)
* 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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Scrumptious Scones By Tea Book Author

  Scrumptious Scones for Snowy Days

Spice and Raisin Scones with
Sweet Vanilla Glaze
The cold and snowy winter season is here. It’s time to fill up on hearty and warm comfort foods. Think home baked scones... 

I remember one winter storm in 1983 when I lived in Santa Cruz mountains. In a house overlooking the San Lorenzo River my concerns of the raging water rising was happening in my unused gourmet kitchen—not baking scones. As a student at San Francisco State University, one night our final exam for a science class was canceled due severe flooding and a power outage—the lights were out. On the way home, food for me was hot cheese and herb pizza slices at the local pizza spot. Baking wasn’t in my vocabulary.
But these days in the heavy sierra snowstorm, baking a batch of scones chock-full of herbs is a feat I did accomplish and is well worth the effort. The scone is a popular British bread that is quick to make. Savory scone like a cheese kind (cake flour gives it a light texture) is perfect paired with scrambled eggs, a bowl of chili or simply solo with a pot of tea. A dropped scone is quicker to make than other varieties, has a nice rustic look, and it tastes just as good if not better than the perfect circle shape. And the Mediterranean touch I like to use comes from using European Style butter (creamy and rich) with sea salt--and keeping the portion smaller than larger.

Pumpkin Scones with Herb Butter
Cheese Scones

2 cup cake flour
2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup European Style butter, cold small cubes 
1 cup buttermilk
1 brown egg
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoon yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chives, fresh, chopped
¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Dried Cranberries and Walnuts
for Round Scones

and Cream Cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl mix flour, sugar, and baking powder. Add chunks of butter (sliced in small squares). Set aside. In another bowl combine milk, egg, and cheddar cheese. Fold in onion and chives. Stir till a dough-like mixture forms. Drop ½ cup spoonfuls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake till light golden brown and crusty, about 12 to 14 minutes.  Cool. Serve warm. Makes 10-12.

The first scone I tasted was a petite vanilla one at Starbucks. Later on when I entered the world of scones I discovered savory types were tasty, too. To enhance a warm scone for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, try herb butter (just a small amount). Mix a teaspoon of real butter with a dash of fresh basil and parsley. Or try drizzling the scone with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.

This weekend when the sun shines again, I will bake sweeter triangle shaped scones with apples and walnuts with a maple glaze and circle shaped scones infused with currents and dried apricots. Scones are a great way to bring in the New Year with good food, less sweets, and good vibes for the best and worst of times (during a historical California winter storm), with respect to Charles Dickens. And don't forget to make a nice pot of tea--any kind will suffice and fuel your body, mind, and spirit.