Monday, June 24, 2019

Tourist Town Life--The Real Picture

Living in a Tourist Town? Author Shares Survival Story

I wasn't going to write about this coming Fourth of July but I'm thinking why the heck not? Welcome. Usually I am a quiet, balanced author-intuitive who writes articles and books. Three days ago, my life changed as I knew it...
As an intuitive, I sensed chaos was on its way. I prepared as I do before forecasting a mega quake swarm (2008 Reno-Tahoe) and the Angora Fire (2007) or thunderstorms (through the summer). I've done Northern California floods and blizzards before the Tahoe drought, and rough air when I choose to fly away to Canada and escape. But this Fourth of the July--is a piece of work.
On the upside, I've lost those three pesky pounds thanks to the Fourth of July Diet. Blame it on the vacationers here at the Lake. My street no longer looks like it once did. It is an Old-Tahoe-style neighborhood but the locals have managed to keep their homes clean and neat. Not so right now.

A Scene Out of Twister
Last night it looked like a scene out of "Twister"--and I was waiting for a flying cow to pay me a visit.  Dogs, young and old, were running loose up and down the street day and night. Cars, cars, cars everywhere. Clothes and towels, chairs, people galore were everywhere. And the noise factor? Hot tubs bubbling, screaming, laughing, sirens...
Ugh, I feel sick to my stomach. Sure, I get it. I live in a "tourist town"--get used to it. But you see, the intensity of holiday events never comes inland to the neighborhood as much as it is this year.  Well, we do hear fireworks and live music concerts but I and my companion animals have become desensitized to it. Sorta.
I've learned to stock up on food and water, have a low profile, and wait until the storm is over. This time the storm of unruly pets and their people overflowed into my world. RVs, flood lights (night and day. see "Lakeview Terrace" and how irate neighbors become when there's big balls of sunshine in their bedroom), tacky picnic table umbrellas, one flag, and a car lot is what I see when I peek outside the windows.

Tourist Town Needs Tourists’ Money
So you may be thinking:  "The town needs tourists' money"--but I do not get paid from the tourists. It's locals, like me, who are the bread and butter for the locals who offer services year-round during off-season. Meanwhile, as I sit here working at home (feeling captive, love to swim or walk the dog but I'm intimidated so I will not do either) I am done fighting. It is out of my control. 
As I look at photos of trips I've taken I think: "I didn't trash the city or town or do insensitive things." I do not get drunk, let my dog run loose, scream and party all day and night (however I wish I did at this moment).  So my Aussie chews his bones in between chaos and I try to finish the book that is due in less than two months but I cannot lie. I'm feeling frustrated and unbalanced.  The town has been invaded and tourists to vacation homeowners are acting selfish and insensitive to people who live here. But, but, but...
It's eerie out there (almost feeling like Will Smith's character in "I Am Legend" and sense "dark seekers" (mean zombie people and dogs are outside when it gets dark at night). Ready to board of all the windows. Besides one local's dog who jumped the fence (I felt so sorry for her--the shepherd's blue eyes met mine--she was scared) and her concerned owner rescued the dog. I feel for these pets and their people. Tonight we get 25 minutes of loud fireworks, after all, it's the time when we celebrate and our sensitive dogs and cats flee. And that's what I should have done. One more thing: My Aussie is barking out in the living room. I am allowing it because it's an insensitive tourist walking by my cabin with a wayward off-leash canine and ignoring our town laws. Live and let live? What else can I do. “Go ahead, boy bark!” I say and turn up the volume to the stereo.

Summer Fun…Join Them—Or Not

A few days ago, I read an article online about how a popular town in Europe, Venice, doesn’t want any more tourists. After all, too many people create traffic congestion, air pollution, lines in stores, and a quiet, quaint town of paradise can turn into a nightmare.
After 20 years of living at Lake Tahoe I became a “clacker”—refer to the film “The Devil Wears Prada”. No, I don’t wear heels but I’ve joined the fun-loving vacation homeowners. That means on weekends I stop writing. Why bother? I take time to chill: garden, swim, sun, and play with my furry friends.
I purchased those silly patio umbrellas with solar lights, faux ivy, lavender flowers, river rock, patio stones, tall trees, and solar lights. I created an oasis to make my time in season chaos, well, bliss. Oh, this year it arrived! I purchased earphones to plug into the TV and computer like being on an airplane. Pondering if I should order a pair for the dog. My cat, Zen? He’s chill.
And there is the ongoing feud of locals and vacation home rentals. But that is another story. My mantra: This too shall pass. Autumn.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Sweet and Spicy Crisp for Summer Days

Cave In and Savor a Fruity Crisp!
By Cal Orey
Yeah, the trees and flowers finally bloomed. Warm air is here. Wildlife is out and about. On the South Shore the environmental change affects mood and how we eat. I’ve been doing the vegan, raw food diet for what seems like forever. And it was time to cave for a day.I tossed in the Stone Age grub and baked us something to celebrate summer.
This week I noticed the big peaches on the kitchen counter were ripe. I didn’t really want to bake peachy muffins or scones. And while a deep dish peach pie or health nut smoothie could work those ideas were tossed out, too. I decided to whip up a peach crisp with a cinnamon twist to remind me that autumn (my favorite season) will return in a few months.
The other morning, when chopping peaches it took me back to one summer day in the cabin. I recall baking a peach pie early in the day when it was cool. Walking out into the kitchen I heard a hissing sound; actually it wasn’t the first time. I walked to the fireplace, removed the metal cover and was welcomed by a frisky mom and her three raccoon babies. “Hiss!” It took a day or three to find a brave human soul to safely remove the furry family, one by one, outdoors. And a screen was put on top of the chimney. That night, when eating a slice of pie I was amazed how resourceful our wildlife can be to find comfort and solitude during tourist season.
This sweet and spicy peach crisp is dedicated to the South Shore raccoon family that paid me, the hermit-ess author a visit. It’s a classic recipe. I changed it up a bit with extra cinnamon and mint to keep it flavorful and lighter.
Summertime Peach Crisp
3 to 4 peaches, cored, peeled, chopped into small bits (you can use cherries, too!)
¼ cup granulated white sugar
¼ cup all-purposed flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar (you can make this yourself, or buy it)

Crisp Topping
½ cup self-rising flour
1/4 stick European style butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
¼ cup old-fashioned quick oats (not instant)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Mint sprigs for garnish
Vanilla gelato (optional)

In a bowl, place chopped peaches. Add sugar, flour, and cinnamon sugar. Set aside. In another bowl, combine flour, butter, sugar, oats, and cinnamon. Dish fruit into ramekins or a baking dish of your choice to fit the mixture. Top each with crispy topping. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until peaches are tender and bubbly. Serve warm with mint. Makes 4-6.
So this time around I enjoyed the sweet summertime peaches. No furry visitors but that’s okay. I did discover that the raccoon is a good omen: It’s a sign to accept gifts from the universe; and be open to new things and challenges. This light fruity dessert can be dished up for family, friends, or a sweet solo treat. One serving of peach crisp served with iced coffee, tea or water will keep your seasonal diet on track. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Peanut Butter Cookie and Iced Tea, Anyone?

By Cal Orey

Summer is almost here! Sea salt, like in the ocean is super mixed with caramel. It 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 in the summer if you pair it with a cold beverage and eat just one!

One fall 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.
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 getting warmer because of summer,  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 (2019) 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 year-round with iced tea or hot tea. And even if you don't gamble or do and win--you'll still win with a cookie like these!
Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, Superfoods, and Essential Oils--ready for pre-order) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

It's Veggie Skinny Dipping Time!

It’s mid-June and that means easy does it in the kitchen. Why? Summer is almost here! That means it’s time to chill, get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine. Forget slaving over a stovetop or baking when it’s hot. But quickie side dishes like hot, crispy fries or zucchini sticks is perfect for a cool snack.
A long time ago, during one winter at a dentist office in town I was waiting nervously to have a procedure done. I had forgotten to eat. My stomach was growling and I was queasy. “Do you have any crackers or tea?” I asked the dental assistant. She brought me a slice of homemade zucchini bread. It was a sweet gesture; if it were winter I’d whip us up a batch for old time’s sake. But uh, it’s almost summertime! Too hot, sorry.
This zucchini bread memory hit me this week because I recently had my teeth cleaned; my beloved Australian Shepherd had his teeth tended to, too.

And, at the supermarket the summer vegetable was calling out to me, “Hey! Remember me?” Plant-based food, from vegetables to herbs and spices, like garlic powder to parsley, is what led me to zucchini, the long green vegetable that is found in comforting soups and stews. But, in summer it’s time for more fruits and vegetables, right? Because it’s the season for fun, why not spice it up, right?

Baked Zucchini Cheese Sticks
1 large zucchini or 2 smaller ones
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup European style butter melted
Ground pepper to taste
½ cup ketchup
1 Roma tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, dried or fresh

Wash zucchini. On a bread board cut stems. Slice zucchini in half. Repeat. Cut into French fry type wedges. Leave the skins on. Place on plate. Set aside. In a bowl, combine egg and cheese, mix. Set aside. In a flat dish mix breadcrumbs and seasoning. Now it’s time to dip zucchini wedges into egg mixture, then roll into breadcrumb mixture. Place wedges onto a baking pan. Drip butter onto the zucchini. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until light golden brown and crispy on the outside. Serve hot. Ketchup with tomato chunks and parsley is a tasty dip. Salsa can suffice too. Serves 3 to 4.

This recipe is easy to make and fun to eat. After all, it’s finger food. The cool thing is, you can fry it up but baking it is healthier and you still get that crunch. Nope, it’s not zucchini lasagna (that’s more of a fall, winter dish) but it’s tasty, hot, and spicy. The bottom line: Make a batch for family or friends and you’re sure to get a thumbs up because it’s super-crazy fun food!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Warm Up to Berry Frozen Yogurt Time!

Chillin’ With Berry Frozen Yogurt
It’s time. The weather is warming up. That means no-cook recipes for lighter foods are here! I discovered this week that you can have your ice cream and eat it too! In other words, if you do it yourself the sweet treat can be super healthy and comfort food.
On the weekend at Safeway I noticed strawberries were a great price for a big bunch. I fantasized about baking a decadent strawberry cobbler, deep dish pie, and even scones topped with glaze. Then, my pounds-off (yes, it’s working at 120 now, but I’ve morphed into a vegetarian-vegan deprived bunny rabbit clad in skinny jeans) pre-summer phased kicked in; I took another route.
I used to go to our former 31 Flavors and order a frozen yogurt. And I’ve purchased cartons of the stuff, too during past summers. Then, this week when watching Pioneer Woman on the Food Network channel I watched the star made a quickie strawberry-mango ice cream. I thought, “I’m going to change it up since I’m a West Coast girl. It’s time to use the South Shore Tahoe-style strawberries, lose the island mango and chocolate plus no food processor. So, my name is on it.”
Confession: After I made a batch I noticed it wasn’t thick and ready to serve like the superstar’s ice cream. I popped the fruit mixture into the freezer. Staring at the chime clock and hearing chimes every half hour got me wondering: “Will it chill?” At 8 P.M. I opened the freezer, took out the plastic container, and guess what? I did it!  I scooped up two mounds of berry frozen yogurt! Here’s my simple tried-and-true recipe.
2 cups strawberries, fresh, washed (freeze them)
½ cup Greek yogurt (I used plain)
¼ cup organic half and half (I may try heavy cream next time)
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup white granulated sugar
½ cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
Mint sprigs or dried mint (optional)
In a blender (mine has a pulse button) or food processor (I still haven’t splurged on one due to my love for the trusty, multi-task blending machine), blend frozen strawberries. This is a task but it works!  Add yogurt, half and half, honey, and sugar. Pour mixture into a plastic container. Put it into the freezer. Chill. Best served once frozen, about two hours. Garnish with nuts for crunch and mint for a nice minty flavor. Serves 4 to 6.  
Is it easier to buy frozen yogurt? Of course! But using fresh fruit, and your fave Greek yogurt, local honey—without an ice cream maker is empowering! No unwanted ingredients. Will I do it again? Oh yeah. Think of all the flavors to mix up. And the dog days of summer haven’t even started. Frozen yogurt, anyone?