Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Almost-Normal Garden Salad -- Mid-Pandemic

Almost-Normal Garden Salad

Kale mix, flowerets of raw broccoli, sliced tomatoes, sliced hard-boiled egg placed in mounds with Thousand Island Dressing for a Chef’ Salad. Top it off with small chunks of cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese. It’s a down-to-earth delight with California roots. This is the vegetable version – hold the meat and fowl this time around. And that’s how we do after a longish three months cooped up indoors.

As we begin to open our doors and breathe in fresh air and a sense of normalcy, it’s time for renewal with nature’s foods. Flashback to March 7. I wrote in my journal: “I'm sensing our tourist town may be one where we must be forced into home isolation. As an introvert you'd think I'd be chill. Not so much. I already have cabin fever but going to stores, casinos, even to the vet seem a bit off. People are on edge. I feel it.

“For now, it's "I Am Legend" time. I've got the treadmill for me; hopefully the dog will not have to use it since we still go outside. I’ve got healthy food. I'd like to think this is all a nightmare and when I wake up in the morning it will be back to normal. Sadly, this is the beginning of my new normal. I'm trying to stay in the present but keep moving forward in my mind and think "what if?" 

Well, we got through food challenge like a wild roller coaster ride. I recall empty food shelves, stocking up, rejoicing to find my favorite brand of eggs, and craving a sit-down meal at a restaurant. But now, we are coming back. And many of us need to healthy up – and savoring an immune-boosting fresh garden salad is a perfect place to start!

California Cool Chef’s Salad

2 cups kale mixed greens (the darker, the better)
1 large tomato, sliced
½ cup broccoli and carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons black olives, sliced (optional)
1/2 cup cheddar cheese or feta, chunks
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1/2 avocado, sliced or cubed
2 teaspoons each chives and scallions (fresh)

Homemade Thousand Island Dressing:
¾ cup mayonnaise with olive oil
2 teaspoons ketchup
1/2 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red onion, chopped (optional)
½ teaspoon garlic (fresh or dried)
Ground pepper to taste
1 lemon, sliced (garnish)

In a large bowl, place a bed of greens. Toss in salad stuff in the order of the ingredients. For dressing, in a small bowl, whisk ingredients and put in fridge until serving. The salad serves two to three.

A Chef’s Salad, like this one, is a reminder of a wholesome plant-based diet that isn’t always available during tough times. Fresh greens and vegetables are rejuvenating – from the store or garden. Pair it with iced tea or a glass of wine. During this spring, I, and perhaps you, too, have learned how precious our freedom is – whether it’s a quick run to the supermarket or eating inside a café. Well, I have learned gratitude for what we had -- and are slowly getting back. And this classic salad with a twist is symbolic of new beginnings -- and a refreshing summer season.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Pandemic Bittersweet Bites

By Cal Orey

After awakening to the early morning strong earthquake last week, I got up and brewed a big cup of joe. Scanning my pandemic stocked pantry, it reminded me of the Reno quake swarm of 2008. Tahoe-Reno locals were on edge and preparing for a stronger shaker. We indeed got it. But I was prepared  -- and we survived.

Fast forward to 2020. As the days linger into getting a good vibe of semi-normalcy, my  stockpile is a reminder of shaky times. After the tremors fizzled, bit by bit, I ate the food – my favorites. The rest of the boring canned goods were never used. I learned to stock healthy stuff that you’ll eat before, during, and after a shake-up.

This week I wrote an article about energizing drinks – clean and green . Then, I was in the mood for getting more get-up-and-go. These energy balls are a mix of the past.  No-bake cookies called Bourbon Balls, are a forties delight. It’s believed they were popular because they didn’t need butter or a lot of sugar (both scarce and rationed during World War II). Then, in the sixties – Granola Bars made a splash, thanks to the back to nature hippie movement. Think dried fruit, nut, and oats. In the seventies, Energy Balls were a California popular good-for-you combo of both these cookies and bars.

As we edge into Memorial Weekend Holiday, it’s a reminder that things change but also stay the same.  These energy balls are the perfect recipe. (You probably have most of the ingredients – or should) to get your groove back.

Super Peanut Butter Energy Balls

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup honey (I used organic)
½ cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup cranberries, dried
¼ cup white, milk or dark chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips (I used Reese’s)
2 teaspoons sea salt

In a large bowl, combine peanut butter and honey. Stir well. Fold in nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate chips (mini size is best). Put into refrigerator for about 30 minutes (it makes it easier to make balls). Shape into 2-inch balls, then roll in peanut butter chips. Sprinkle with sea salt. Store energy balls in an airtight container and keep in the fridge.  Makes about 15.  Serve with iced tea or coffee for the feel-good caffeine buzz.

The different colors and textures of these energy bites are chewy and creamy. Plus, the mix of nuts and honey with a bit of sea salt gives you both a sweet and savory treat. Some recipes add rolled oats (I decided to leave it out). You can change it up and add your favorite dried fruit and nuts. The best part is, these nostalgic energy balls are a reminder that we bounce back -- no matter what life’s challenges are tossed our way.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Pandemic Food Prices Are Soaring! Fish, Meat, Poultry -- Oh My!

During spring I often book a late autumn trip to Canada or last year it was Alaska. Images of black bears and salmon are on my mind. This week I’ve been having fantasies of making a second trip to the Northwest.
Last December I finally got the trip to Anchorage; but I didn’t get the fresh salmon dinner of my dreams. On a Sunday night flying first class was adventurous. Not only was their rough air but the novelty of possibly being diverted to Fairbanks was spooky and exciting. At SeaTac I called hotels at Fairbanks. One clerk was honest and chillax. I asked, “Do you have room service?” After all, I wouldn’t arrive until 3:00 A.M., and would need a cup of Joe in the morning. There was a pause. “You have to find your own coffee,” he said and chuckled. “It’s a different vibe here.” I took the risk and carried on with the rough flight watching “The Lion King” movie to stay calm.
This week for the fun of it, I splurged on Wild Alaskan salmon. Yeah, it was pricey – and the pandemic hiked the cost. But sometimes treating yourself to a special food like salmon can transport you to a place you can’t visit. And since we are homebound you probably get why I am craving a food adventure.

Baked Lemon-Herb Wild Alaskan Salmon

6-7-ounce skinless salmon fillet
1 tablespoon European style butter, salted, cut into 4 pieces
Ground black pepper
1 teaspoon each chopped fresh rosemary and parsley (dried can do the trick)
1 lemon, slices (save two for juice)

Place salmon on foil. Top with butter. Sprinkle with pepper. If you use dried herbs, go ahead and sprinkle on the raw fish. Top with lemon slices. In a 425-degree oven bake 10 to 14 minutes, till flaky. Remove from oven. If you use fresh herbs, sprinkle on top of cooked fish and add lemon juice. Cut fish in slices. Serve with wild rice and asparagus or green salad. Makes 2-3 servings.

So, this salmon with wild rice provided an “aha” moment. Not only was the moist herb-alicious salmon to live for it was a sign that live goes on. Now if I can get the nerve to book that flight for an Alaska sequel… but to Fairbanks – farther north I may get to see the northern lights. And who knows, perhaps I’ll hire a nature guide that will help me catch a wild Alaskan salmon for the thrill of it.

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

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Baking Bread is the New Normal During the Pandemic

During this time of change, isolation, and uncertainty, people are buying flour – lots of it – and baking bread. A few times my favorite bread has been sold out at the grocery store. Online stores? The price of flour is too high or offered in a 25-pound bag or out of stock. So, I took charge.
On Monday I did it. I got each and every type of flour imaginable. Inside my pantry there is a row of bags flour. I have cake flour, all-purpose flour, self-rising flour, and whole wheat flour. Do I feel safe? Nah. But the deal is I now know I can bake sourdough bread, muffins, scones, cupcakes, cake – and bread any time I want to do it. Being able to bake bread gives people a sense of control.

Flashback: During our challenging Great Recession I remember one December I took a trip to Safeway. I used one of my last valid credit cards. Like a squirrel in the fall, I stocked up on dried goods -- and flour. Why? Gosh, you can make pancakes, waffles, cookies – and banana bread. And yes, I baked a batch like I did this week.
2 eggs, brown, organic
1/4-1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup European style butter, salted (save a small amount to butter loaf dish)
2 ripe, large bananas
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
Confectioners' sugar or raw sugar (optional)

In a bowl, beat eggs. Add sugars, honey, and butter. Blend in the mashed bananas and vanilla. Add flour to the banana mixture. Mix in half-and-half, sour cream, cinnamon and allspice. Fold in walnuts. Pour batter into a buttered 9 x 6-inch loaf dish. Bake the bread at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or till firm to touch. If the top browns too fast, cover with foil after 30 minutes in the oven.  Cool for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar. You can serve warm or chilled. Garnish with fresh strawberries and mint or basil leaves for dessert. A pat of butter or drizzled raw honey can be a nice touch. Makes 8-10 servings. It freezes well.
Ah, the fresh aroma of banana bread is sweet and savory. When it’s baking in the oven and while cutting the first slice – it’s like coming home after a vacation – full of change. Banana bread is grounding and familiar. When we’re hit with tons of novelty – connecting with a familiar go-to food like bread feels like snuggling up to a best friend. Who wants a slice?
— Cal Orey, M.A., is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, Superfoods, Essential Oils, Herbs and Spices) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.)  Her website is .

Saturday, May 2, 2020

A Day in the Life of an Intuitive in a Pandemic

By Cal Orey

As an author-intuitive, I've been working psychic networks since the last recession in 2008. Yep, I predicted it as others did. Also, when the Wuhan, China was hit with COVID-19, I again, made a grim forecast. A pandemic would be the outcome. The rest is history.

While I write health books and articles, there is a light COVID-19 angle to some of the material. But since the media covers it 24/7 -- I keep my distance a bit. I'm talking writing about depression, immune system, superbugs -- is how I indirectly connect the topic with what is happening now.

Psychic Networks
When the pandemic began, I started getting calls from the UK. That's when I got a flavor of how bad it was and would get here in the U.S. Lockdowns were part of the reading. Some callers had the attitude that it's normal, others were more candid and shared more...
Most readers will tell you relationships are the focus of 70 percent of our callers. And I've heard it all.
I'm talking domestic abuse, unrequited love, a lover with COVID-19 and another not understanding if they've been dumped or if their partner is really sick. It's not uncommon for me to zone into the region where a caller is calling... and then I usually can sense what they are facing.

* Job Loss: One caller has a good job but I sensed weeks ago the person would be laid off. The signs were there. I said, "Have Plan B" and I dished out hints. The other day when the phone rang I answered, "They let you go, huh?" My heart raced. "Yes." No I wasn't doing a high five with my dog but it feels good when your intuition is working.

* Love at a Distance: Another caller is separated from her new love. I knew she was in denial about the C virus. After all, she resides in a hot zone and her friend is now sick in bed--hot zone even worse. She didn't seem to get it. It was like in the film "Contagion" with Matt Damon's character is told by the doctor they couldn't save his wife. He wants to see her. He was in shock. My caller is like that, a bit. "Why isn't he texting me?" and "Did I do something wrong?" Uh no, he is sick. He told you that... all the cues: Loved ones hospitalized, man of color, immune-compromised. She doesn't get it. I didn't take her calls yesterday. It is too depressing.

* Fighting Like Cats and Dogs: A long time regular is stressed out. After all, the couple loves their freedom. They have lasted for two decades. When she works, he's at home. When she is at home he is out. It was fine. But put these two independent, strong-willed people in an apartment and the tension soars -- like a riot in prison. What did they fight about? Potato chips! He told her she had two months -- find a new living arrangement. I predicted since it wasn't a bad fight it would blow over. The next day I got a call. A hit. She cried. He caved. And they live in quarantine happily again.

Author Prefers to Write, Not Chat

Honestly, writing books and articles is challenging but not stressful. Taking calls during a pandemic is a daily drain. Chamomile tea can only go so far. Some days, I can take it. Bring it on. Yep, I've read for people who are scared to work at their jobs. Yesterday, one woman told me she loves working at home and is scared to go back to work. Another caller, a train conductor asked me the question, "Will I get promoted soon?" I picked up she was in a Northeast hot zone and she didn't want to be on the trains anymore.  I told her I saw a delay. I don't lie. I call it like it is. She hung up.

And so it goes. Do I like working the networks during a pandemic? Sort of. It's fulfilling when I can help provide a sense of calm and voice of reason. I get it. After all, I'm the health author, right? But, I must tell you, I am a hypochondriac so some days I stay away from the networks for peace of mind.

Ringing Up My Go-To Reader

Last night I caved and called her. "Am I going to Alaska or Canada in the fall?" Pregnant pause. "No." She knows me. She has read me accurately for a long time. So, a second wave is coming and I will get cabin fever again. But hey, maybe I'll start playing the stock market. Today, I got a message that would be like the casinos. Since in the fall and winter we'll be doing this pandemic game again it's a no-brainer which stocks to pick... Toilet paper! I looked it up today -- Kimberly-Clark is doing well. And so it goes.

For now, I'll answer the phone. It just rang. And tomorrow I'll write up a story on a vitamin we all need to boost our immunity. You know, I think I can do this pandemic insanity -- it's like a video game getting to the next phase. Or not. Today, I got spooked going to the store. Only half of the people I saw wore masks. A group of millennials hugged, laughed -- no masks. I dropped my mask from my face to dangle around my neck and my younger sibling went inside the store for me. The year is young. And I am an intuitive. Read: Caution ahead.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Fruit, Nuts, Veggies, Water, Tea--No Meat Today

By Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet
2.99 Ebook Special
Kobo and Amazon

Here, take a look at some fab fat-fighting spring foods you can enjoy cooking, baking, and eating without putting on fat. Perfect pandemic foods since meat, poultry, flour, eggs, and bread are MIA.

1. Fresh Seasonal Fruit: Apples, oranges and berries (yes, strawberries are still available). Research shows that diets high in fiber help keep you full. Low-fat, fiber-rich fruit also promotes regularity. The result: A flatter tummy. Try a decadent and healthful warm cobbler teamed with a scoop of calcium-rich all-natural vanilla yogurt with autumn fresh fruit, and drizzle sweet balsamic vinegar on top.
2. Potassium-Rich Foods: Bananas, dried apricots and cranberries are high in potassium and used in baking during fall. They act as natural diuretics, which may reduce bloating. These are good plain or put into all-natural healthful nut breads and muffins that you make and bake.
3. Cheese: Don't skip good cheese because it's a good source of calcium and other nutrients such as protein and vitamin A--and it's creamy and tasty in veggie pastas and hot, toasty sandwiches. But think moderation and real cheese (no fake stuff). Sharp cheddar, feta, provolone are good to get satisfaction from a small amount.
4. Olive Oil: Adding a little extra virgin olive oil to your cooking and baking--like cheese--can help stave off unhealthy food cravings. Not to forget olive oil is a monounsaturated fat which is proven to be heart healthy, may stave off cancer, and help you to keep your weight in check.
5. Nuts: Almonds (as are other nuts) used in cooking and baking are a great godsend. They're high in zinc, rich in antioxidant E, contain some B vitamins, and sodium is very low. The crunchy texture is great in a fall salad or nutrient-dense good for you chewy cookie without chemicals and preservatives and chock-full of those dried fruits.
6. Chocolate: Not just a fall holiday food--it's a year-round health food. Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews, for instance, boast fiber, and iron. Nine scrumptious nuts contain about 200 calories, zero cholesterol, only 60 mg sodium--and will give you that feel-good boost for your mind, body, and spirit. Count on it. Chocolate is oh so versatile--it's not just a dessert. And yep, it can help you cut craving for fattening sweet foods.
7. H20: It's more of a challenge to drink water (not a food exactly but essential for survival) than eat chocolate in the colder months but it can be done. Yeah, I'm doing it now. Try adding a twist of orange, lemon or orange to bottled water. If you purchase water, you'll feel more obligated to drink up! It's good for you from head to toe...
8. ...Herbal Tea. Speaking of water, sipping a cup (or two) of a hot, steaming and healing herbal teas (such as vitamin C-rich rose hips) can help you to fight colds and flu; relieve stress and anxiety (so you won't be tempted to overeat). Black and green teas are chock-full of disease-fighting antioxidants. One cup of green tea has no fat, sodium, sugar, or calories.
9. Tomatoes: These little wonders--hot or cold-are rich in the antioxidant lycopene--a cancer fighter and wonder for hot and filling whole grain rice dishes for dinner to healthy omeletes for breakfast. One cup of chopped tomatos has just 35 calories. Because of this, tomatoes are a fat-free, nutrient-rich, and and versatile fall filler in many hearty meals.
10. Pumpkin: The alpha carotene in pumpkin (like sweet potatoes), a fall favorite, makes this vegetable a nutritional bonanza. Pumpkin is rich in heart-healthy carotenoids, potassium, magnesium, and folate, all of which may protect you from heart disease. This comfort food has only 25 calories per half cup and no fat. During the cold season, a warming and healthful dessert is a slice of pumpkin pie teamed with a steaming cup of hot water spiked with a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar and soothing chamomile tea.
A Bonus Food: A Cup of Cocoa: Don't forget savoring a cup of hot chocolate made with low-fat milk or water for that European touch--and it will nurture your spirit and warm your soul.