Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Fire It Up with French Dessert Paired with Tea

By Cal Orey
Welcome to Crème Brulee, a rich custard with a crunchy, burnt sugar topping. This decadent dessert has roots that go back centuries to European cuisine. Back in the 1980s, this custard was in demand at French restaurants. And several years ago, this decadent French dessert was a simply pipe dream in my kitchen.  But things change.
During late spring one of my fun-loving neighbors invited me and my dog over for a bar-b-que dinner. I brought a store-bought custard pie, the kind in the frozen food aisle and you bake.  I didn’t have the chef confidence to create an eye-opening Crème Brulee. While, slices of pie topped with whipped cream were doable, and the dogs whooped from non-stop play, I mumbled, “I should have tried to make the homemade custard and boldly torch the top.” And I was teased for being afraid to attempt the real deal as I put the feat in a must-do mental file for another time.
This week, however, things are different. When I drove by my neighbor’s home it was sold, as the dog-less unfamiliar occupant shared the news. And while left with many good-time, pleasurable outdoor cook-out memories, from roasted marshmallows to s’mores, I’ve grown to accept novelty on the South Shore. So, it made sense to go out of my comfort zone and master the art of baking the French custard from scratch and boldly firing up the top for old time’s sake.
Like a custard, a recipe calls for simple ingredients but the best are recommended. Cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract are must-haves. Other ingredients, from citrus like lemon or orange rind to spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg, can make it even more special and flavorful. The custard is best put into round or oval shaped ramekins. To make the sugar topping, you can use a broiler or butane torch. (Being a bit skittish, I took the safest method.)

Crème Brulee and Berries
2 cups organic half-and-half (premium brand)
½ cup organic low-fat milk
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
4 organic brown eggs, yolks only
1 capful pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon or orange rind
Nutmeg to taste (optional)
¼ cup light brown sugar, ground fine (a bit more if preferred)
1 cup each fresh strawberries and blueberries, sliced
Confectioners’ sugar (optional) for dusting
In a pan heat milk on medium heat but do not bring to a boil. Set aside. In a bowl mix white sugar and egg yolks. Pour in milk, slowly until mixed well. Add vanilla, and rind. Pour into 4-ounce ramekins. Sprinkle each with nutmeg. In a pan of cold water place ramekins. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until firm (use a knife to test and when the custard comes out clean and doesn’t jiggle it is done). Remove ramekins from oven and cool. Place in refrigerator for a few hours. When ready to serve take out of fridge, sprinkle tops with brown sugar. Place in shallow pan with cold water, put under broiler (watch carefully and make sure your ramekins are broiler-safe). In about a minute or two the sugar will be caramelized. Remove, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Add berries. Serves 4. *If you a higher custard, use larger ramekins and make 2.

This magical custard is rich and creamy and so good. The sugary top with a light crispy crunch is an added treat. It’s fun and sophisticated. Fresh red strawberries and blueberries with are perfect colors for Memorial Weekend or Fourth of July. Not only does this custard look festive it’s a dessert to love for breakfast, brunch, afternoon tea, or after dinner. Served with iced tea or hot tea it promises to provide new entertaining food memories to treasure and you’ll feel baking strong!
-- Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, and Superfoods) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is

Friday, May 18, 2018

Mother Nature's Foods for Your Soul

Mix it up with tea
By Cal Orey
Sitting here in the rustic cabin, as I munch on homemade tortilla chips, dip, and lemonade, I still have images of my April Monterey-Pacific Grove trip back home. The thunderstorms we experienced yesterday in the mountains reminded me of overcast and fog on the coast. And I cannot forget the abundance of fruit and vegetables at the roadside produce stands. California is blessed to be an agricultural paradise, especially as we edge into summertime.
Coastal fog to mountain thunderstorms are calming
like nature's foods
This week I was craving avocado-tomato guacamole dip and chips. I’ll blame it on passing by the San Francisco Bay Area. When I used to live in San Carlos there was a superb dive on the corner from my bungalow. One time when I was waiting to move to Lake Tahoe I went there for an escape, my oasis. The server, a middle-aged man with wit and a heart of gold, was there for me with chips, dip, and a fresh squeezed fruit drink (per my request). While in waiting mode, we shared our anticipation. His eatery was closing; we both were moving to the unknown. The warm, crispy chips, creamy guacamole salsa combo teamed with a cold, sweet and tart lemonade (spiked with chamomile tea) took me to a place I love and helped chase the blues away. Victims of gentrification, our souls bonded that night. While the restaurant is gone, and I am here, the memory of a connection with appetizers is forever imprinted on my soul.
This week, once again, I find myself waiting and decided instead of chicken soup it is fresh California vegetables and fruit that would be the perfect pick me up to chill and attempt to go with the flow.
California Guacamole-Salsa Dip
1 avocado, ripe, peeled
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons red onion or scallions, diced
1 small chili pepper, diced
¼-1/3 cup salsa (fresh, store bought)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon or lime juice
Ground pepper and sea salt to taste
Parmesan shavings
Homemade tastes better than store bought
In a medium size bowl, mash avocado. Add tomatoes and onion, mix well. Fold in salsa, citrus juice, and spices. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When ready to serve, top with cheese.  Serves 2.
Semi Homemade Chips (fried)
3-4 Flour tortillas (fluffy kind)
Canola oil
Italian seasoning, ground pepper and sea salt to taste
In a skillet, cover the bottom about ¼ inch with oil. Set aside. Cut round tortillas into triangles like a pizza pie. Once the oil sizzles on medium heat, place tortilla triangles into pan. Turn a few times until the chips are light brown on both sides. Remove. Place on paper towels to absorb oil. Sprinkle with seasoning. Serve warm with chilled guacamole. Serves 2.
Fresh Lemonade
3-4 large lemons
4 cups water (I used bottled)
¼ cup granulated sugar
Ice cubes
Juice lemons. Pour into pitcher. Add water, stir. Sprinkle in sugar. Put in refrigerator until serving. Use glasses, straws, and add a slice of lemon on the rim of glass. *You can substitute half of your fave tea if preferred. Serves 4.
Guacamole, chips, and lemonade are simple foods. But avocados, tomatoes, onions, and lemons are all packed with good for you anti-stress vitamins. Not only are they healthful (less is more with guacamole because of the fat) these foods are delicious during hot or cold days as well as uncertain times. So, if you’re waiting for summertime to arrive or something else, I promise you, a mix of fun appetizers, like these, will help you chill and go with the flow (without chewing the ice!) until it happens. These treats are made to live in the moment for sanity's sake.
Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, and Superfoods) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is  
*Grab and bundle books for summer reads! Tea and Honey, Vinegar and Oil, Tea and Coffee, Vinegar, Honey, and Tea or all six before Superfoods (Dec. 2018)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Author-Intuitive Forecasts Volcano and Seismic Activity

Double Volcano Happenings
(Should You Be Nervous?)

My Earth changes forecasts for this year included shaky ground and volcanic activity in the United States. I also pinpointed the state of Alaska and Yellowstone which may turn heads with unusual action creating alerts...and more. Well, more is happening right now, indeed. During the spring, Yellowstone captured scientists’ concern but so has the Big Island in Hawaii. Read on—discover if these two volcanoes are on the road to destruction and how it may affect you.

Super Tremors in Yellowstone
Earthquake and volcano gurus will tell you, Yellowstone National Park—America’s restless supervolcano  is due for another eruption. The power of a supervolcano, they say, is 1,000 times greater than a normal volcano. But Yellowstone, a geologic park, has shown past volcanism and ongoing seismic activity for years. In May, earthquakes and eruptions are creating a buzz about the question, “Will it blow?” After all, the park sits over an active volcano. And Steamboat Geyser has erupted three times which is puzzling scientists.
While a possibility of a great eruption could happen, late geologist Jim Berkland noted back in the early 21st century, it likely could experience renewed volcanic activity-which it is doing. However, he added, it “should not approach the mega-eruption of mid-Pleistocene time.” And I agree with the maverick scientist who predicted the major 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake four days before it rocked San Francisco and Northern California. But volcanic activity doesn’t stop in Yellowstone.

Hawaii’s Big Island Kilauea Volcano
On Friday evening, May 4, I received a phone call from my sibling. He said with a sound of excitement, “Evacuations are happening in Hawaii. The volcano erupted!” After all, we have family on the Big Island. When I logged onto the computer I was welcomed with a 6.9 earthquake rocked the island. Since it happened on land, there was no tsunami or casualties happened like the Loma Prieta shaker.
But as the volcano continued to erupt while tremors continued, mandatory evacuations took place 30 miles from Hilo. Two rural subdivisions, Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens are in danger because of volcanic bombs (fire), avalanches of hot rock, and lethal gases including carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

Is Hawaii’s Volcanic Activity Unusual?
The fact is, Kilauea on Hawaii’s Big Island has spewed lava almost continuously for 35 years since 1983. And it has started acting out again and may not end soon. It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world—erupting on and off for thousands of years. But the question remains, what’s going on?
Conservative geologists and volcanologists will tell you there are not enough details about why—but new magma (lava underground from below the volcano) got injected up into the volcanic mass structure. The consensus is that this region is not stable—and may fall into the Pacific Ocean one day.

Are Yellowstone and Hawaii Volcanic Activity Linked?
Some scientists will tell you the present and future volcanic activity may be a trigger effect and caused by climate change. Centuries ago, past periods of loss of glaciers were followed by a spike in volcanic activity. And history often repeats itself when Earth changes occur. Eruptions caused by the melting of ice at the Antarctic (image of disoriented polar bears come to mind) are making it easier for magma to reach the surface and feed volcanic eruptions.
What’s more, you may be thinking, “Are these two volcanic geological parks linked to the ongoing activity?” Perhaps it is a trigger effect. Back in 1980, on March 27, Mount St. Helens eruption happened; it was followed by the great volcanic blast on May 18. Then, in late May, Mammoth Lakes, California (a dormant volcanic region) began experiencing seismic activity alerting United States Geologic Survey scientists to issue warnings.
While Mammoth Lakes four significant earthquakes in a few days and hundreds of smaller ones didn’t amount to another volcano episode like Mt. St. Helens, it did cause alarm. Also, while it’s better to be safe than sorry, tourism plummeted and the real estate market suffered.

So, Do These Volcanic Events Affect You?
If Yellowstone  blows or Kilauea continues to spew lava, these happenings certainly can affect people and the Earth. The sulfur dioxide can have adverse health effects by affecting healthy air quality. In the immediate area people who live nearby can suffer from the ash which can affect people with respiratory problems.
Sulfur dioxide can also effect the environment by wreaking havoc on weather and climate—and cause a cooling effect. Not only an volcanic activity displace people who may not be able to return to their homes, but air travel due to ash clouds and aircraft engines get too hot and can become dangerous.
The worst-case scenario? Well, Kilauea can affect the sea life in the Pacific Ocean and air flow, whereas, Yellowstone can do much worse ending up in a nuclear winter by shrouding the U.S. with ash turning Earth into a volcanic ice age. Go back in time, almost two hundred years after the eruption of Tambora, temperatures dropped, causing crops to die and famines in America and Europe. So, yes, these present-day volcanic happenings can change life as we know it on the earth but hopefully the activity will fizzle and not sizzle this time around.

San Andreas Fault Zone—Tick-Toc
A widely felt 4.5 earthquake rumbled nearby Palm Springs, the region seismologists believe could give us a major 7.8 shaker, well overdue. My prediction: A stronger quake could happen before the summer. 
The Big Island may start up again with its volcanic activity in June and/or July. And, an underwater earthquake in the Pacific Ocean—near Hawaii or Japan—could also be sobering events.

UPDATE: On May 17, two weeks before June, Kileuea erupted with plumes 30,000 feet into the sky...  Events will continue to unfold.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Celebrate National Iced Tea Month in June!

By Cal Orey

* * *

This recipe is California-inspired from when I was in my twenties and lived in Fresno, a farming region in the central state where orange groves are plentiful. During the hot summer afternoons I’d drink iced orange pekoe (pronounced PECK-oh)--a grade of orthodox black tea--to get energized so I could enjoy riding a ten speed bicycle accompanied by my soulmate with paws, a young and healthy black Labrador retriever Stone Fox, with dark brown soulful eyes and a smile to melt my heart. He’d run free through orange groves, we’d race until we were whooped. From my backpack, I’d treat me to cold tea in a thermos and let my dog drink water from a fountain to regroup.
2 cups water
5 tea bags, orange pekoe (Harney and  Sons--a blend of Assam and Ceylon)
Granulated white sugar or honey to taste
Lemon or orange slices
Fresh mint
            Bring fresh cold water to a boil and pour 2 cups over tea bags. Cover and brew 3 to 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and add 2 cups cold water. Stir. Pour into chilled, ice-filled tea mugs or glasses. Add sugar or honey to taste. Garnish with lemon slices and mint. Serves 4.

            Going back to basic tea beverages sometimes is like embracing tradition that gets better with time. In the next chapter, “A Historical Testimony,” I’ll show you exactly how tea continues to get praise and why it’s good enough to have a well-stocked pantry for "…the best of times…the worst of times" with respect to the words of author Charles Dickens’ “The Tale of Two Cities” and all authors, including this one, who turn to tea for inspiration and to find their Zen.
[Excerpt from THE HEALING POWERS OF TEA © 2017 Cal Orey.  All Rights Reserved.  Reprinted with permission from Kensington Publishing.]

The Healing Powers of Tea (Read another excerpt on tea and beauty plus a Q and A from the author for The Daily Tea.)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Healing Powers Series Author Recalls Victoria Vibe

By Cal Orey

Room with a view
Rough air free to Victoria
Last summer I followed my springtime plan and took a jet plane on an early summer trip to Victoria, British Columbia. One warm afternoon while sitting on a bench, I savored a milkshake, a vanilla malt to be specific. I ordered the shake asking for vanilla gelato, malt, and real milk. And that’s what I got, I think. As I sipped the creamy malt and observed my surroundings overlooking a boat harbor I was in heaven, sort of.
Unforgettable malt
An older couple from the United Kingdom befriended me. They, like me, noticed the locals were a bit aloof with a strong vibe of arrogance. It made me think of me at home at Tahoe. 
Residents deal with tourists, amazing
Sometimes, when running errands dodging tourists, I can be a bit on the cool side while standing in swirl cookie lines at stores or eateries. The man and woman were pleasant, reminding me we were tourists and the “attitude” wasn’t in my imagination. We laughed and talked, making me feel comfortable and not so isolated in a strange land.
My UK pals
I enjoyed the home-style malted milkshake offered at soda shops around the world. There’s something about the distinct taste of malt that made me feel at safe, cozy, and at home. After all, at our  grocery stores I have scooped out chocolate malt balls from the bins and have also purchased boxes of Whoppers at the movies. The flavor you get from candy is similar in the vanilla malt.  And I used to drop by at 31 Flavors and order a chocolate malt milkshake requesting extra vanilla ice cream, low-fat milk, malt powder, and chocolate syrup. 
When you add malted milk powder you’ve got a malted milkshake or malt shake.  Often these include chocolate, but it can be just vanilla.  Malted milk powder is a sweetener (made from barley malt, wheat, milk, and salt) and is super to whip up a classic parlor-type malted milkshake. This shake is Canada-inspired and simply just as good at home on the South Shore.

Old-Fashioned Malt Parlor Vanilla Malt
2 tablespoons malted milk powder (I ordered a pricey name brand online)
½ cup organic half-and-half (it’s richer and creamier than low-fat)
1 cup vanilla bean gelato (premium brand)
1 capful pure vanilla extract
Garnishes (optional): mint leaves, chocolate shavings
Whipped cream (optional)

Inspired by Canada, good at Lake Tahoe
In a blender, pour in malted milk powder and half-and-half. Add gelato (let it soften for about 10 minutes in room temperature), and vanilla extract. Blend for less than a minute to keep creamy and thick. Makes 1 large shake.  Serve in a pretty glass with a straw and spoon. Garnish as you please. Serves 1 or 2.

To increase the protein and fiber in your malt milkshake try adding California walnuts or almonds and fresh strawberries or blackberries from our West Coast. While this malted shake contains sugar because of the gelato (which also boasts some protein and calcium), treats, like this one, are a treat so moderation is key. No, making a sweet beverage isn’t the same as whisking off to Victoria but it can make you feel chill while enjoying the Lake or trees in our neck of the woods.

 — Cal Orey, M.A., is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, and Superfoods) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.)  Her website is

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Honey Book Author Shares Cautionary Spring Allergies Tale...

By Cal Orey

Years ago one Friday night I was suffering big-time from a bout of the "gookies in the throat" thanks to the seasonal changes, dog hair, dust in the air. I held a tablet in my hand and thought, "Should I take a fourth one? Or should I not?" No way was I going to get a doctor to look at me at midnight (and it wasn't an E.R. thing but it felt like it). So, I popped the pill. And I waited to feel normal like a princess without post nasal drip. 
Thirty minutes later: I paid the price and turned into a frog--or felt like it with the slimy stuff in my throat replaced by terrible stomach cramping...I thought my body was morphing into a reptilian monster. 
By midnight the paramedics arrived. I crawled to the front door. My jeans were unzipped, tummy was bloated and bathroom visits followed. A lot.  The team of First Responders commented on the wood paneling and high beam ceilings in my rustic cabin as I groaned and moaned in between visits to the toilet.
The team tried to convince me to get into the ambulance because it could have been a lot of terrible things--health woes, they said.  But I wouldn't budge because common sense told me I took more than less of the anti-allergy stuff. I refused to go to the hospital. I repeated, "It's the anti-allergy drug!" And the next day, I did my Internet research. Sure enough, you cannot overdo it with specific meds to fight allergies.  So, while I survived I've turned to honey and tea to battle the onset of seasonal changes in the air and my body.

ALLERGIES (Stop seasonal misery)  Dealing with annoying Spring Fever is like a roller coaster ride, and, of course, from personal experience I can tell you sneezing, a runny nose, and post nasal drip can ruin an indoor or outdoor event, thanks to seasonal pollen, dust, and pet dander. Every year when the yellow pollen arrives like an uninvited visitor at Lake Tahoe I hold a tissue in one hand and am on the phone to pharmacist with the other. I am always on a mission to find the natural remedy to stop my sniffles.  But honey may be the answer...

What Honey Rx to Use: Try eating a tablespoon of locally produced honey. Proponents of honey tell me that your immune system will get used to the local pollen in it (it should be within a 50 mile radius from where you live).

Why You'll Bee Happy:  By taking the honey cure, you may lose your allergy symptoms. Or not. It's worth the effort and is less pricey than a visit to the doctor or an allergist. Also, honey is a natural remedy and doesn't come with unknown side effects linked to allergy medications or pricey shots.  One summer day, I looked outside and the Tahoe yellow pollen was everywhere--cars, trees, and the ground. I started putting honey (not just the local alfalfa variety) in my tea, yogurt, and baking. Two days later, my sniffles were history. If it was coincidence or a honey cure it doesn't matter. It worked.
Tea, water, citrus can help lessen congestion

If you have mild respiratory problems, from allergies to asthma, honey may enhance the immune system to build up a better arsenal against airborne allergens--and help you breathe easier. Honey enthusiasts like D.C. Jarvis, M.D., believe honeycomb is excellent for treating certain breathing problems. The honey prescription,according to him, was chewing honeycomb which may line the entire breathing tract. 
Also, eating honey on a daily basis was recommended. "As far as I have been able to learn, Vermont folk medicine uses honeycomb as a desensitizing agent; from the results obtained by its use it appears to be anti-allergic in its action." He gives credit to the honeybees. 
Beekeepers tell me that honey may help allergies linked to trees and ragweed--the culprit of hay fever and its irritating symptoms during spring and autumn months and often right before.  If mold and food allergens are bothering you--honey is not going to be your allergy cure. As beekeepers are busy at work selling local honey to allergy sufferers, I am busy including all types of honeys in my diet because I want to be covered when both seasons. And if honey can help me cope with congestion and sneezing--I'm in. While further research is needed, I'm not going to wait for scientists to go to their lab rats for a go-ahead. More honey, please.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Dog Speaks Out to Readers for Bone-a-fide Book Reviews

By Cal Orey

REVIEW The Healing Powers of Tea (Publishers Weekly)
Dog makes the cut in author's series

My Dear Readers,

Hello. My name is Skyler. I'm a fun-loving, loyal , Type-A action-oriented, cerebral male five-year-old Australian Shepherd. I adore my mistress but... between me and you I desperately need your help.
Woman's best friend (and literary spokespet)

My human's latest books in her Healing Powers Series, The Healing Powers of Tea and The Healing Powers of Honey are lacking reviews. These two books are available at fine bookstores everywhere. (She told me to say that.) Please help or I'm going to be the victim of an author's love. Translation: She will either drag me along on these boring trips or leave me home alone. It's a Catch-22.

Yes, I survived the drive in this en route to
the book event
In March she took me on a spooky trek through a snowstorm to sign her TEA books. Ironically, these puppies sold more without her than with her and me. It was kind of fun going but come on--driving on a slippery road without treats is a bit over the top. And I had to keep her calm because we drove at a snail's pace to avoid slipping and sliding and well, it was surreal.
A dog's paradise, I was home alone
Then, in April what does my pet parent do? Second canine flu shot (booster) kennel cough shot, and into the dog-friendly kennel I went! Ugh. And she left to go to Gilroy and the coast. Not fair. Not fair.

This time it was a quickie. (I did get a bath!) And when she rescued me on Sunday afternoon (I thought she was going to bust down the door; she was an hour late after the acceptable pick-up hour) I wagged my bum I was so thrilled to be free again.
Me happy

400+ Amazon Reviews for bestselling book in
Healing Powers Series
So, people, I am sitting up and asking you to fetch a copy of the tea and/or honey books (and other topics you like)--and read it, review it on a bookstore website (where you found it). This way, I don't have to go along on one of these no dogs allowed book events or worse be incarcerated in the dog place. Just some honest words about the book(s) you choose and read will suffice. 

P.S. If you have any questions about tea, honey, olive oil, vinegar, coffee, chocolate, superfoods--just ask. I am a herding breed! I've got this.

Signed and Retrieved for You,