Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Cookies with a Thrilling Twist

By Cal Orey

Yep. It’s time. We’re now entering a brand new month and soon a new season. Sweet September! That means it’s almost time for baking. But we’re taking it slowly, remember. Why not bake a batch of sweet-and-salty peanut butter cookies changed up a bit.  As history tells it, criss-cross imprints made by using fork tines goes back to the early 20th century. My mom told me pressing the cookie dough made it bake better.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Sea salt caramel is a popular combo trend and it’s not unheard of to mix it up with peanut butter. Sea salt caramel gelato is a favorite cold comfort food I’ve enjoyed in the summertime with iced water after dinner. But peanut butter cookies are a treat fall-time treat that take me to coffee and cookie shops.

Last October on a Sunday afternoon I had a feeling that if I played the Wheel of Fortune dollar slots I’d win. Once the man next to me let me have a go of it at his slot machine, I sensed a win coming. When I spun the wheel after hearing those words “Wheel of Fortune” I knew I’d hit the 2000 dollar jackpot. And yes, it hit the 2000 number! Also, I was given a gift card to use at a coffee shop. And I purchased pastries and cookies, including a peanut butter cookie. This recipe reminds me of that exciting day and I included a bit of excitement (sea salt and caramel) for the thrill factor.
Peanut butter criss-cross cookies (sea salt CARAMEL)
½ cup European style butter
½ cup golden brown sugar
¼ cup white granulated sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 brown eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups caramel chips (Ghirardelli)
Sea salt (optional)
In a medium bowl, combine softened European style butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients (flour and baking soda).  Fold in chips. Place dough in refrigerator for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On an ungreased cookie sheet or lined with parchment paper or foil, drop ice cream scoop (1/4 cup size) onto sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 10 minutes. Remove and cool. Makes about 15 cookies. Store in airtight container in refrigerator. 
Serve with tea, honey, gelato or ice cream and fresh berries. Since the days are still warmish,  I recommend taking two cookies (they're medium sized) and spread cold vanilla or chocolate ice cream on one and make an ice cream sandwich for the thrill of it.

These cookies are easy to make. Not only do they smell heavenly with creamy peanut butter (a superfood noted in the new book, The Healing Powers of Superfoods (December 18, 2018) and caramel chips but you can taste both in each bite. The criss-cross marks will give you a classic peanut butter cookie and the caramel chips and sea salt brings you back to present-day adventurous trends. It’s the perfect cookie prelude as we edge into off season and autumn bliss around the Lake and nation.
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

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Summer Scones, Prelude to Autumn

As the crisp air at night and early mornings greets us, it’s time. Are you craving warm foods for breakfast or dessert? Instead of baking an apple pie or cake, I decided to start slowly, like inching my way into the cool pool water when swimming. So, we’re going back to Sconeland, a place where you can enjoy a sweet and savory homemade pastry with the colors of pre-autumn at Lake Tahoe.

One September I munched on a scone purchased at one of the airport cafes while traveling to Vancouver, Canada. I was clad in Tahoe-type fall attire when I arrived in a strange place where the air was warm and semi-humid. Ironically, people were wearing shorts and sandals. All I could think of was, “Why did I flee our mountain town during a surreal time of changes in weather with a mix of two seasons.” Chilly mornings and late nights combined with and sunny days. I rolled up my jeans, wore T-shirts, and walking shoes without socks. I promised myself I’d bake home-style scones in the cool morning while enjoying afternoon activities with blue skies and sunshine.
So, this week I used my Granny Smith apples, walnuts and raisins (meant for chunky oatmeal cookies but I changed my mind). Here, take a look at the British Columbia-inspired recipe for scones infused with both summer and fall foods.
2 ¾ cups cake flour, sifted
¼ cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk, premium brand
2 teaspoons maple syrup
¼ cup tablespoons European style butter, cold, cubed
1 cup Granny Smith or Fuji apples, cored, peeled, chopped
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
Lemon rind, 2 tablespoons
Whole wheat flour (for shaping dough)
3 tablespoons raw sugar and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (for topping)
In a bowl combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Add buttermilk and syrup. Fold in butter, fruit, nuts, and rind. On a floured cutting board mold the dough into a circle. Place on a plate and put into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Remove and slice the circle like a pizza into triangles. Place on un-greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sugar cinnamon mixture. Bake scones in a 425 degree oven for 18-20 minutes or until bottom of scones are light brown. Do not overbake. Makes 6 scones.
Serve with local honey or summery organic berry jam. Using cake flour gives these scones a light cake texture. (You can use all-purpose flour for a crunchy cookie type bite.) The sweet bursts of apple bites and chewy nuts and raisins with warming cinnamon notes are super staples of autumn eats. The fresh citrus complements a flavorful harvest time scone in between two seasons. These are perfect for breakfast and hot coffee or an afternoon snack with iced tea. You choose.
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

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


New Book on the Amazing  Powers of Superfoods 

From the author of the hugely successful Healing Powers series (Honey, Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, and Coffee) comes THE HEALING POWERS OF SUPERFOODS.
Did you know the keys to a long life and vibrant good health can be found on the shelves of your local supermarket?
Apples, leafy greens, shellfish, yogurt—even ice cream and pasta. The latest scientific studies reveal that many of the classic foods you’ve always loved are superfoods that can supercharge your health! Not only are they delicious, they’re affordable—plus these essential farm-to-table favorites can work with any diet plan, from the balanced Mediterranean Diet to the hunter-gatherer Paleo plan.

With over 50 recipes for both cooked and raw dishes, including smoothies and soups, a detox juice fast and a jump-start pounds-off diet, this down-to-earth guide will show you how to get healthy and stay healthy with body-friendly superfoods.

*Boost your immune system with citrus and nutrient-dense berries, including fresh, frozen, and dried. 
*Enjoy the healthy fats in eggs and nuts, including nut butters, to fight inflammation, slow the aging process, and lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
*Trade white sugar for antioxidant-rich sweeteners like maple syrup, the newest superfood!
*Create home remedies designed to ease anxiety, improve sleep, boost brainpower and enhance energy.
*Keep your home spotless for kids and pets using eco-friendly superfood-rich formulas.
*Pamper your mind and body with the same food-based treatments that health spas use, including ingredients like seeds and seaweed. 

Now you can indulge in a Pesto Pizza or Berry Basil Smoothie, a Chicken Bone Broth or dark chocolate gelato, while chilling with an ancient-oats facial or relaxing in a warm, herb-scented bath. Infused with heartwarming stories and inspiring legends, The Healing Powers of Superfoods will take you to a world of wellness that starts at home with our favorite foods from Mother Nature—enjoyed in a new way with an exciting twist!

  • Series: Healing Powers (Book 7)
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel Press (December 18, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806538988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806538983
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Shrimp Louis on the Water

By Cal Orey
Feeling the chill in the air at dawn almost lured me into baking a pre-autumn apple cake. But hey, it’s still summertime so Fuji apples sufficed. Instead of me baking for you, I’m dishing up some more clean food to keep us energized and happy. And that spells greens and shellfish.
Ever notice how your favorite foods spawn memories? 

Well, this week on a late summer afternoon when I made this West Coast classic dish, my mind took me back to a past chapter in life. Enter Santa Cruz Mountains... I was living in an amazing home amid towering redwood trees, and the gourmet kitchen boasted a view of the San Lorenzo River. One glitch, though—my next-door neighbors were the landlords and their dog didn’t get along with my Lab. I thought I could mend the problem without a fence and dinner invite. I fried chicken, put together a Shrimp Louis, and baked an apple pie. The food was pricey (which I couldn’t afford) and the meal went well. In fact, the following week the couple reciprocated and served me a meal. It was a casserole dish of mystery meat and canned beans. The end result: Our dogs never got along and within six months my life on the river was washed up and I moved back to the flat land. Blame it on the no name casserole, definitely not my fish fare!
This week I’m treating you to a Shrimp Louis, the kind I savored in San Francisco. I put a fresh spin on it and you will have the name of each ingredient.  
Louis Dressing
¾ cup mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons scallions
2 tablespoons bell pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh Italian herbs
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
6-8 ounces jumbo shrimp, cooked
2-2 ½ cups baby spinach lettuce, chopped
½ cup avocado, slices
½ cup tomatoes, slices
Lemon slices (for garnish)
Parmesan cheese shavings (optional)
In a bowl, mix all salad ingredients. Keep it chunky after folding in eggs. Chill in fridge for at least one hour. When ready to make your shrimp salad, add remove tails from shrimp (get from your butcher) and add to dressing. Mix well. Place spinach on plates, top with shrimp. Place avocados, tomatoes, avocado, tomatoes nicely around the mound. Garnish with lemon and cheese. Serve with slices of warm artisan French bread. Serves 3-4.
Iceberg lettuce is more classic but spinach is better for you. This salad with roots in California by a variety of chefs, is easy to put together and truly fail-proof, whether you’re trying to impress your neighbors with a good meal or make yourself smile while the weather is still warm and that summer feeling is still lingering in the air. After your fish salad, dish up sliced apples  with iced tea and citrus slices to keep it healthy. Yes, decadent  baked goods are coming soon as fall arrives!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Chill with a Fresh Summer Catch

As we’re edging into fall it’s still too warm to cook and bake. The thing is, I’m a bit tired of no-cook meals: salads, salads, salads. But this month, to turn on the oven is just not happening. The dilemma is, I’m a bit jaded on rabbit food. So, I decided to stir things up a bit in the kitchen for you and me.
This Stir-fry meal takes me back to a time when I was in grad school. I went on a cooking strike (again) while studying for oral exams during Indian summer in the San Francisco Bay Area. I digress. One night I opened up the freezer door and instead of being greeted by ice cream, I got a head’s up. A dozen boxes of Lean Cuisine quickie microwave pasta meals greeted me...
...It was a sign. Images of the film Sleeping with the Enemy come to mind (the scene where all the canned food is lined up in a row).  My mate left the nondescript food and was leaving on a jet plane for work to go to fun by-the-water places while I stayed home and hit the books (not unlike now while I write books for a living). Each night, day after day, as I nuked and consumed the dinner-in-a-box I was envious of not being free and on the road, living real life and savoring real food. But I survived.
Fast forward to present-day. Instead of eating frozen food, I can and do whip up the real stuff. While the heat is on it’s time to turn to pasta and summertime vegetables. Not only is this easy breezy dish easy to create, it’s fast and fresh. Translation: You can get out of the kitchen and  leave cooking and baking for autumn when the air is crisp.
2 cups cooked Whole Grain Penne pasta (or Tri-Color Penne)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon European-style butter
2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
¼ cup green bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup zucchini, chopped or sliced
¼ cup Roma tomatoes, sliced
¼ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, shavings
Fresh basil (garnish)
In a saucepan, cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil and butter in large sauté pan or wok over high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, zucchini, and tomatoes. Stir-fry until all ingredients are hot, vegetables tender. Cook for no longer than 5 minutes. Drain pasta. In a large dish, place pasta (you can drain or not) fold in vegetables. Top with cheese. Drizzle with olive oil. Serves 4.  *If you want to add lean protein, try 8 ounces jumbo shrimp, cooked, rinsed. Add to the vegetable mix and stir-fry along with the colorful bunch.
This quickie real food hits the spot for lunch or dinner. Add slices of herbal bread from your favorite local bakery. And don’t forget iced tea with fresh lemon slices. Go ahead and treat yourself to a scoop of cold gelato (chocolate chip with mint sprigs) for a treat after. So, this is how we do in the summertime on the South Shore. No time to bake indoors when there’s plenty left to do outdoors as the dog days of summer (and walking the dog) linger on. 
--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 .

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Cornbread with a Sweet 'N Savory Summery Surprise

By Cal Orey
It’s August and I’m still on a baking strike due to the heat wave. Well, sort of. Lately, this summer I’ve been tormented by the aroma of bar-b-que around me outdoors. While I’m a vegetarian, it doesn’t mean those carnivore cravings don’t pay me a visit, from time to time.
During the last hottest month around the Lake (I Googled it), I am also sad because Marie  Callender's on Highway 50 is no more. (I called like ringing up an ex-mate to prove they’re really gone.) As one who eats rabbit food, that was a hot spot for me. Instant gratification. I’d walk in and immediately be greeted with an elderly woman (I guess she was supposed to look like Marie), ice water, a mini loaf of the famous home-style cornbread and little cups of honey butter. Then, I’d walk over to the salad bar and for bunnies, like me, it was heaven at its best. Vegetables galore and different dressings.

I know I’ve dished on Marie in the past. So instead of whining and going down nostalgia lane, I went to the kitchen (three fans were on; four counting the ceiling one) and I whipped up a batch of cornbread for you and me. I changed it up a bit and added fresh herbs and lemon. It’s quick to make and bake. (I suggest doing it in the morning, not afternoon for comfort’s sake.)

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ cup white granulated sugar
1 brown egg
½ 2% low-fat milk
¼ cup Honey Greek yogurt
1/3 cup European-style butter
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon rind
1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon mixed herbs, fresh or dried (basil, rosemary)
Honey Butter
Mix half and half ratio of raw local honey and European-style butter. Chill in refrigerator until solid.
In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and sugar). Add wet ingredients: egg, milk, yogurt, and juice. Fold in rind and herbs. Pour batter into a lightly butter greased 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Do not over bake. Remove from oven and cool in room temperature. Cut into squares.  Makes about 9 to 12 servings. Store in airtight container in refrigerator. Serve warm or cold with honey butter.

The best part is this recipe is fail proof. The squares cut nicely—no sticking to the dish. They look oh-so pretty with the tart lemon rind and green herb mix. Spreading honey butter on a square of cornbread will tease your palate with sweet and savory bites. Yes, yes it will go perfectly with chicken, chili, and the m-word. Also, you can do what I do—pair it with a kale and spinach salad drizzled with olive oil and red wine vinegar.  I miss Marie so much I’m tempted to go buy a pie in the frozen food aisle at the grocery store. Nah, I’ll wait and bake one from scratch come this fall.
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