Thursday, January 25, 2018

'Tis the Season for Snow and Muffins

Ah,  yes... It’s feeling like normal wintertime in the mountains. As the storm rolled in I was inspired to bake a batch of fresh fruit muffins. Back in the late 20th century, eye-catching, super-size muffins were a super thing. While people may have thought the muffin craze was a healthful phenomenon, think again. Portion control is important as well as the type of fat used and sugar added. So, yes, folks were getting there muffins on but probably packing on unwanted pounds, too.

Enter the 21st century healthy muffin. Last year as we were coping with the Snow Apocalypse I was in desperate need of assistance. Buried in white powder at lake level I posted an ad on a Tahoe website. It read something like this: “Help! Will pay one million dollars, give up purebred dog, toss in the fish aquarium, and brew a pot of fresh coffee with baked goods for anyone to shovel my deck and yard.” Two days later, a young, energetic man appeared at my doorstep. He shoveled and shoveled piles of white power, making doable trails so I could walk the pooch and get back to normal.

This morning I awoke to several inches of snow, which is fine with me and the canine. After one cup of Joe, fresh squeezed OJ, and a fresh apple muffin it was time. In Cal-ese this means walk the dog, go swimming, and enjoy the winter wonderland scenery without worries of getting up on the roof to shovel off mounds of white stuff. In the afternoon another muffin (warmed up) for afternoon tea seems like a plan. As we’re back on track weather-wise, here’s my down-to-earth recipe for you to put to use.

Fresh Apple Mountain Muffins
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour sifted (you can also use half of each)
¼ cup granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup olive oil
2 eggs, brown, organic
¾ cup buttermilk
½ cup apple juice (without added sugar)
1 ½ cups Granny smith apples, cored, peeled, chopped
2 teaspoons granulated white sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon

      In a mixing bowl combine dry ingredients, flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Add oil, eggs, buttermilk, and juice. Fold in apples. Use an ice cream scoop and spoon batter into cupcake lined tin pan. Sprinkle sugar mixture on top. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. Makes 12. Serve warm. (While you don’t need frosting, you can use it. Try a mini dollop of cream cheese or vanilla frosting. Or you can dust muffins with confectioners’ sugar to remind you of snow.)
These fresh muffins are healthier than cupcakes and are flavorful with bites of apple and notes of cinnamon. Not only are they easy to make, but they are versatile during chilly weather. Serve them warm for breakfast. Or savor an apple muffin with a cup of hot apple cider or tea at night. And rest assured you’re filling up not out on an earthy treat with a semi-sweet apple muffin.

      — Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, and Tea) published by Kensington and available at bookstores. The collection was featured in the Good Cook Book Club. Her website is

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Hot Soup and Tea for National Hot Tea Month

A Toast to Hot Soup and 
Tea for Winter--
National Hot Tea Month

Colds, Flu, and the stomach bug. Oh my! Each time I turn on the news or log on to the Internet I am overwhelmed of the statistics that it’s the season to be sick. But you don’t have to relinquish control and get ill. It’s the time to take care of yourself, be more mindful when outdoors, and indoors it’s the perfect time to make soup and tea (it is National Hot Tea Month) before a cold or flu spooks you and takes you down!

As a self-professed hypochondriac, after hearing all the doom and gloom virus reports for 2018, I thought a cold was paying me a visit. On the upside without snow to shovel or crackling fires to make, not to forget walking the dog on black ice, I decided to prepare. A store run for water, sore throat lozenges, orange juice, fresh vegetables, herbs, and tea were stocked and ready for me to be woman down.
During the three day holiday, I escaped to the bed. My refuge included clean flannel sheets with cozy comforters,  two companion animals, put one log into the fireplace with the promise to burn 4 ½ hours), and the popular TV mini-series “Big Little Lies”—and tea. On day two, I was surprised. After chilling, making soup and drinking tea—no cold, no flu. I survived. So, here’s the recipe to prevent a cold that may be coming to visit you.

 Vegetable Soup for Winter Health

1 carton (32 ounces) organic low-sodium vegetable broth
¼ cup red or yellow onion
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced
½ cup celery, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 large Roma tomatoes, chopped
½ cup carrots and cauliflower, chopped
1- 1½ cups cooked whole grain spaghetti
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese (garnish)

 Pour broth into a large pot. Bring to a boil. In another pan boil until tender, onion, garlic, celery, basil, seasoning, carrots, cauliflower, and tomatoes.  Drain and place in broth.  Simmer for 15 minutes. In another pot boil pasta for several seven minutes until cooked. Add pasta and salt and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Top with cheese. Serve with slices of local artisan sourdough French whole grain bread and real butter. Serves 6.
This easy to make vegetable soup tastes much better than the stuff from a can. The scent of garlic and onion fills the kitchen and it feels like you’ve been cooking home-style soup all day. Pairing a bowl of hot soup with a slice of fresh, warm bread will warm you up and give you that warm and fuzzy feeling, too.

Not to forget, brew a pot of premium black or herbal tea. Use tea bags or leaves. Add fresh lemon and local honey—two more good-for-you foods to boost your immune system. Sipping tea before and after this meal adds good-for-you disease-fighting antioxidants. And this, my friends, will help you keep the cold and flu at bay. Is it worth the trouble to make up a batch of DIY soup and make a tea potion? You bet, especially if you want to be ready for the next storm.

      — Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, and Tea) published by Kensington and available at bookstores. The collection was featured in the Good Cook Book Club. Her website is

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Healing Powers of Tea--Author's Favorite Sweet Chamomile

By Cal Orey

Apple Chamomile Tea Cake

Sweet apple cake recipes with fresh apples, an autumn favorite, go back centuries. This recipe, my own, has served the years but I continue to make minor tweaks, and this time around it's infused with a bit of special chamomile tea blend.

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
12 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon apple cinnamon chamomile, finely ground loose leaf
1 stick European sea salt butter (save 1 tablespoon to grease cake dish)
1/2 cup Granny Smith apples, cord, chopped, unpeeled
1/2 cup raisins
2 eggs
2 tablespoons honey (optional)
Sea salt caramel gelato

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, spices, and tea. Add cold butter chunks, apples, raisins, eggs, and honey. Stir until mixed. Spoon batter into buttered baking dish or pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes or until firm and light golden. Cool. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Cut into squares. Top with a small scoop of gelato. Serves 16.

Excerpt from The Healing Powers of Tea (Kensington).
Pages 260-261
Chamomile Secrets That'll Surprise You
Pages 106-108

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Herbal Tea and Chocolate--NEW TEA Book Pairs the Two

Herbal Tea and Chocolate

Chocolate and tea can be found as the perfect match in tea rooms to gifts for National Hot Tea Month and February’s  Heart Health Month and Valentine’s Day--and year-round. 

Q: Why do you think chocolate and tea are a perfect match?
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?
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: What's an interesting fact about tea that most people don't know?
A: You can cook and bake with chocolate paired with tea--leaves or brewed. You can incorporate chocolate and tea in recipes like Chocolate Lavender Torte, and Rosemary-Infused-Chocolate Fudge Cake.

Q: How is your new book The Healing Powers of Tea different than other tea books?
A: I focus on teas (black and white) 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 all types of tea and tisanes are my constant companion.

Q: Do you share chocolate recipes in your new tea book?
A: Ah, there are so many sweet recipes for the tea lover to choose from--I'm certain chocolate and honey sweetness sprinkled throughout the pages!

Healing Herbal Tea--
Paired with Chocolate
CINNAMON: Cinnamon, like anise and cardamom, the tummy helpers can also be used to treat colds and ease gas and diarrhea, which often accompany the flu. Best Choco Blend: Truffles, cakes, cookies. It is included in chocolate baked goods, hot chocolate, and exotic chocolate and truffles.
GINGER: Ginger root is another digestive aid, like tasty cinnamon, that can be soothing medicine for the stomach and intestines, relieving indigestion, cramps, and nausea. Best Choco Blend: It is used dark chocolate bars and combined with lemons in truffles, and in baked chocolate goods.
LICORICE:  Another healing herb, licorice may soothe a sore throat. Also, ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Indians used the “love” root of the licorice plant as one of nature’s aphrodisiacs to enhance sexual arousal and stamina. Best Choco Blend: Dark chocolate truffles.
MINT: This spice releases a culinary scent that elicits pleasant memories and sensations of baked desserts in the kitchen. Best Choco Blend: Dark chocolate bars, truffles.
VANILLA:  Sweet vanilla enhances the flavor of a variety of foods, like cinnamon, especially in ice cream, chocolate, and coffee. Best Choco Blend: Milk and dark chocolate truffles, cookies, and cakes.
Excerpt from The Healing Powers of Chocolate (Kensington). It was previously featured in One Spirit Book Club.
Rocky Road Tea Bark
* * *
7 premium baking chips, 60 percent  
cacao bittersweet chocolate or white chocolate
7 ounces premium baking chips, milk chocolate
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 tablespoon macadamia nut oil
½ cup macadamia nuts, chopped                             
¼ cup tea leaves (green tea with
citrus notes) crush into bite-size bits
Melt dark chocolate chips in microwave for about two or three minutes, stir occasionally until melted. Stir the dark chocolate and spread it onto a nonstick cookie sheet (or line with parchment paper). Spread and shape into a rectangle. Chill in freezer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, nuke milk chocolate chips. Once the chocolate is melted, stir in marshmallows and nuts. (Save half of the nuts for the top.) Take out dark chocolate from freezer and frost with rocky road mixture. Sprinkle with nuts and tea on top. Put back into freezer for 10 minutes. Take out and pick up the entire chocolate candy slab, place on a plate. If you use parchment paper, take off. Break into peanut brittle-like square pieces. Place in airtight sealed containers and keep in refrigerator.

Excerpt from The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, Revised and Updated (Kensington) It was previously featured in Good Cook Book Club.