Thursday, March 28, 2019

Home-Style Comfort Food in the Sierras

By Cal Orey

As we enter spring with its snow and chill in the air, cravings for comfort food are the norm for me and probably you, too. Yep, it’s still time to be using the oven.  Ever hear of cheesy bread? Remember the cheese toast they used to dish out at our Sizzler and still on the menu at Domino's? Well, hot bread stuffed with cheese can give you a warm and fuzzy feeling because it’s full of decadent deliciousness.

Last week on a trip to Eastern Canada, I wanted food to soothe my frazzled nerves due to a fluke “Final Destination” film-like incident on the plane. I attempted to order familiar nourishment to help me feel connected to Tahoe, my home. No such luck.
 “I’m sorry. We do not have French bread”  I heard the room service voice with an accent on the phone say to me. “How about kale salad with vegetables?” I asked. Another thumbs down. I had a choice of Caesar Salad or a funny fruit dish I couldn’t pronounce. I felt like a fish out of the Pacific Ocean flopping solo as I looked out the window at Lake Ontario. I settled for strange looking Canadian French fries with a weird yellow sauce on the side. I missed our blue Lake, pine trees, and my favorite eats gazing out at tall city buildings. I sipped tea. (I brought my fave herbal kind from home.)heard the room service voice with an accent on the phone say to me. “How about kale salad with vegetables?” I asked. Another thumbs down. I had a choice of Caesar Salad or a funny fruit dish I couldn’t pronounce. I felt like a fish out of the Pacific Ocean flopping solo as I looked out the window at Lake Ontario. I settled for strange looking Canadian French fries with a weird yellow sauce on the side. I missed our blue Lake, pine trees, and my favorite eats gazing out at tall city buildings. I sipped tea. (I brought my fave herbal kind from home.)

Once back home in the cabin I made a home-style cheesy bread and paired it with a kale and cabbage salad with tomatoes, tossed with red wine vinegar and olive oil. I’m talking West Coast eats for a Lake Tahoe palate.
SIERRA-STYLE bread, Salad and TEA
1 small round Artisan sourdough bread (I got mine at Safeway’s bakery)
¾ cup European style butter
¼ cup parsley
¼ cup Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Ground black pepper to taste
½ cup each Mozzarella, Parmesan shavings, cheddar cheese
In a bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Add parsley, seasoning, garlic powder, and pepper. Slice the top of the bread so there are crevices. Drizzle the butter mixture on top and allow it to drip into the cut holes. Stuff cheese pieces into the openings.  Place bread onto foil. Cover top with foil. In a 350 degree oven, bake 15 minutes or till cheese is melted. Remove top foil. Turn up oven to 400 degrees and bake about 10 more minutes or until cheese bubbles and top is golden. Take out. Cool. Serve warm. You can pull it apart or slice it like a pizza. Makes 6-8 nice sized pieces.
I put on the kettle and enjoyed plenty of chamomile tea. And I made a fire, cuddled up with the cat and dog. Exhaled. This is the way we do in Tahoe. Good food. This time going off the hill I learned I’m no longer a city girl with a sophisticated appetite. I’ve morphed into a mountain woman who likes simple farm-to-table meals.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Eastern Canada...Next Up Adventure

Going to Eastern Canada...

Memories of Victoria Linger

By Cal Orey

Soon, I'll be packing my bags (okay, they're packed since the last trip that was canceled at the eleventh hour). I will be leaving on a jet plane to Ontario, Canada. While I'm excited to revisit the region I once hitchhiked to with a dog, I still am fond of Western Canada...Here's why...

Twice when I was visiting Vancouver, British Columbia, I was smitten by the warmth and airy ambiance of tearooms, fresh, warm scones with clotted cream and tea--genuine deliciousness. This recipe is straight from the prestigious Vancouver Fairmont Hotel's chef and and place where I feel like a princess when sipping tea and savoring a fresh, warm scone. (Raisin Scones recipe, page 16, The Healing Powers of Tea)  

At Victoria, I didn't have scones or need the "tearoom experience" as I tried to tell the restaurant servers--after all, I wrote the book on it!  (But I did enjoy cool, creamy homemade gelato and iced tea, found at a small indoor shop on a corner while strolling on the streets and talking to an elderly couple from the UK whom made me feel at home.) And, at the popular Fairmont tearoom on the island. I savored two cups of  white tea (it was calming and refreshing), a garden salad with heirloom tomatoes drizzled with an olive oil and vinegar dressing. Not to forget the semi-adventurous boat tour of The Gorge.  Note to self: Go on whale tour next time and experience swells and sea life. 
Funny, I was hoping for a few waves and choppy water but none happened--smooth sailing as was the flight to and from the island. (This surprised me since it was my fear to take the small CRJ700 but it was a nice flight, no cloud cover.)  We did see one sea creature, a few swimmers... the history of the water inlet was fascinating as was the guide, much like trying a new type of tea. Swimming each morning (the pool was all mine), followed by a soak in the adjoining hot tub, drinking bottled water--and tea day, afternoon, and nighttime was bliss. 
The island shuts down early, it was the most calming Canada trip I've taken and romantic memories linger when sipping a fave cup of tea. I happily share my tea tales of on the road and visiting tearooms, sipping teas--all types, and enjoying inspired travels that I recreated in recipes for both The Healing Powers of Tea and The Healing Powers of Honey.  

On the Road Again--Gerbil Escapes Cabin
Tea and Tub Time?
Oh yeah!
While I got my fill of tea and scones in Western Canada, tea will be part of my journey.  I'm sure tea will be available in Eastern Canada--and a tea device is certain to be in my hotel room. Yes, I'm bringing my own stash of chamomile.
Thinking about bringing home those unforgettable maple syrup cookies and/or a maple leaf tattoo. Not to forget visiting the Ripley's Aquarium and more water explorations, including a salt water swimming pool and soaker tub! Yep, water is part of this trip, as always. Boat adventure? I suppose it depends on the weather and waters.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Superfoods Spring Clean-Up Time!

 By Cal Orey
Keep It Green with
 Superfoods Spring Cleaning
Spring is in the air. Instead of using toxic cleaners you can get your home spotless using eco-friendly superfood-rich formulas. Not only are superfoods delicious, they’re versatile—plus these farm-to-table favorites can work to help spring clean!  It’s the season to change it up indoors. By rearranging space arrangement, you can enhance the flow of energy, and enjoy harmony with the environment. Many goals of using and arranging fruits, vegetables, and nuts in the house which may bring you a more peaceful living space and better well-being.
Superfoods are super but sometimes they end up in places that we don’t want them to be or they can be used to rid of other foods that need to go. Here, take a look.

SIX Eco-Friendly Household Hints
1. Lemon for unwanted stains:  Superfruit lemons boast antiseptic and anti-bacterial healing powers, especially when it comes to zapping stains. Both lemon juice and peels can act like bleach (but more gentle) and rid of food spots on carpets to clothing.
2.Water for Gum on furniture or carpet: It happens. If chewing gum gets stuck in hair H20 comes to the rescue. Simply apply an ice cube (put it in a plastic bag) to affected region. Freeze the gum. Repeat as needed.
3.Peanut Butter for Gum on Pet or Human Hair: If water doesn’t do the trick, peanut butter (yes!) might work. Let a bit of the butter soak into the hair, remove with a cloth, wash, and rinse.
4. Use citrus cleaners: By putting to work cleaning agents with citrus essential oil it will provide a lingering, clean scent but also its eco-green and will give you better health and energy than using cleaning products with toxic ingredients.
5.Scent it up, naturally: A simmering potpourri can provide a wonderful aroma in your home. Try combining superfoods, including 3 cups water and 2 lemons and 1 apple with peels. Place them in a pot. Add spices, such as cinnamon and vanilla. Heat to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. Your kitchen will smell sublime any season of the year.
6. Put out the drinking water-fruit container:  At spas and dentist offices it’s not uncommon to see a large container of water filled with slices of citrus. I love doing this in the summer but it can be used year-round to help you and yours to remember to stay hydrated.

Adapted from The Healing Powers of Superfoods (Citadel, 2019). All rights reserved. Available at all online bookstores.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

March is Hump Month--A Time for Honey and Tea

Here comes March tagged the "hump month"--a time between winter and spring.  It's a time for renewal. Depending on where you live, it can be cold one day and warm the next. Despite whatever Old Man Winter brings us, with chocolate and a bit of the Irish luck will help me (and perhaps you, too) get through the unpredictable days with flying colors.

As a kid, Saint Patrick's Day was a big event in my house because my mother was part Irish. And I can't forget the corn beef and cabbage as well as the dark chocolate cupcakes frosted with fluffy green frosting.
While I was researching and writing my book The Healing Powers of Chocolate (Kensington, 2010), chocolate boasting three types of chocolate: milk, white, and dark were in my home in all forms, thanks to chocolatiers. I'm talking chocolate frogs to bunnies. It was an unforgettable spring break.
More than a decade ago, on March 17th, I also received a sweet surprise. The deal was sealed for me to pen my latest Healing Powers book The Healing Powers of Honey (October 2011). Could it be just a coincidence or perhaps luck was on my side because of the special holiday? Also, I read that Victorian people believed bees were messengers between heaven and Earth. What's more, they adorned themselves with bee jewelry to help boost their financial luck. For me, during the Recession "recovery" I believed eating dark chocolate and wearing a bee necklace or bracelet may have been helpful.
Meanwhile, may I suggest incorporating chocolate into your upcoming days into spring to help you deal with rain or snow and give you a mental and physical boost? I plan to include chocolate in my March meals--and, of course, I'll give them an Irish spin with a chocolate frog (or two).
BTW: Frogs are another symbol of good luck and yes, a ceramic one is sitting indoors by my front door.