Callie’s Cabin: Hot sticky cinnamon buns for chilly days

This is not the time to feel guilty when cravings hit to indulge is “forbidden” foods. Enter warm, out of the oven fresh sticky buns.

As a kid, I loved sticky buns. My mom bought them from some chain restaurant. Instead of traveling back in time to a place that is gone, you can whip up this quick biscuit version in the comfort of your Tahoe kitchen.

One morning this week when it was oh-so cold in the morning, I grabbed several ingredients from the pantry. I’m talking nuts to syrup. I thought, “My mom used to bake pies, cakes, cookies but why not these sticky buns.” No matter. Once I put the dressed up the quick store-bought biscuits in the oven, I peeked about 10 minutes later. And that is the moment I knew I was onto something good.

These gems do not have frosting — it’s more of an ooey-gooey sweet and savory treat chock-full of deliciousness that will make you take a pause and simply savor every bite. They were inspired by my mother who knew how sweet bread, like these, can make challenges seem a little less challenging.

CINNAMON STICKY BUNS

3 tablespoons European style butter (salted)

¼ cup maple syrup (organic)

3/4 cup light brown sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup pecans

1 tube refrigerated biscuits (I used Grands)

In a square 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish or round pan pour half of the melted butter and syrup onto the bottom of the dish. Place biscuits close to each other (they’ll rise higher) in rows. Set aside.

In another bowl combine sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. Top with mixture. Then, spoon on the rest of the butter and syrup. Bake at 335 degrees for about 25 minutes. Do not over bake. Remove from oven and turn over immediately onto a dish or foil. Serve immediately or store in a foil lined air tight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Serves eight. 

So, will these buns make your life during uncertain times go back to normal? Well, yeah, sort of. It’s a pleasure blast from the past when things were simpler. Go ahead – bake a batch and pretend it’s pre-pandemic days. These buns will give you a taste of 2019 when things were normal. Pair ‘em with a cup of quality coffee of you favorite tea. Have two – yes, they are that good.

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, and Herbs and Spices) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) For more information, http://www.calorey.com

Callie’s Cabin: Mornings with summer crumble

During World War II, sweet fruit crumbles were a cheap replacement for pies thanks to shortages of pastry ingredients and rationing. Flour, sugar, butter, and oatmeal were common staples (much like during the current pandemic) for baking the special comfort food that can be shared with special people. 

Speaking of the past, one summer my late geologist friend and I went on a California book tour for the biography I wrote about him and his earthquake predictions. Our journey included Southern California, Glendale and Orange County. We even paid a visit to the San Andreas Fault — and together were on TV in Palmdale. 

After the desert town book signing, we stopped at a small roadside café. We ordered homemade fresh fruit crumble. It reminded us of San Jose, once rich with fruit trees instead of concrete buildings. As we ate the rustic crumble, he shared tales of nature as a passionate student, professor, geologist for Santa Clara County — and predicting shakers. 

Jim’s birthday was Aug. 31. I miss him, a surrogate dad. On the South Shore this summer to comfort my feelings of loss, isolation, and no traveling, I baked an earthy fruit crumble for two — to celebrate my longtime friend. 

Apricot Crumble for Two

3 large fresh apricots, chopped 

¼ cup fresh blackberries (optional)

1/8 cup (each) brown and granulated sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Crumble Topping

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup European style butter, melted

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup oats

Granulated sugar and cinnamon (to taste)

½ cup nuts (optional or for topping when crumble is baked)

In a bowl put chopped fruit. Add sugar, flour, spice, juice. Set aside. In another bowl combined flour, butter, sugar, and oats. Put fruit mix in ramekins. I filled up two to the rim. Top fruit with crumble topping. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake about 40 to 50 minutes. It’s done when topping is golden brown and fruit is tender and bubbly. Best served warm. Serves 2 to 4 (if you split one). It is good plain or top with whipped cream or vanilla bean gelato. 

So, this week one morning when it’s cool outdoors, I put together this easy treat. The cinnamon filled the cabin air and reminded me of my sweet and down-to-earth long relationship with a man who lived to be an octogenarian.

He called me his biographer as he taught me the ropes of earthquake sensitives – cats, dogs, and people. When I took my first bite of the apricot crumble it was warm and earthy, like revisiting a dear friend who left an imprint on my heart and spirit.

* Update: a widely felt 4.2 earthquake rumbled through San Fernando Valley on July 30. A sign from above?

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 http://www.calorey.com.

Callie’s Cabin: Quiche with a taste of home

Hello quiche.

This French dish uses eggs and rich milk or cream mixed up and put in a pastry like a pie. Recipes can include ham, bacon – and vegetables.

As a kid, my mom first introduced to me this sophisticated European-inspired gooey yellow mixed pie. My 10-year-old palate preferred scrambled eggs. Once in my twenties, I re-discovered quiche at artsy cafes in San Francisco. Also, vegetarian versions grabbed my attention. 

Last December when I traveled to Anchorage, I recall the sobering awakening to the fancy hotel breakfast menu. I couldn’t get past the Reindeer Skillet.

Now the crustless quiche seemed doable (but I was afraid a piece of Bambi could be in it) so I settled for buttermilk pancakes.

I should have taken a chance on the egg dish. To this day I swear the rubbery flat short stack was from a frozen batch – not fresh. And the syrup wasn’t the maple kind I fell in love with when in Quebec. (Yes, I am suffering from cabin fever and foreign adventures.)

As I sit in the cabin ready to book a late fall trip to Fairbanks for those northern lights I must see – I wait to see if it’s safe to go due to the new normal in our world. While an Alaskan quiche without crust seems romantic – I made it here at home, my way.

This herby quiche is inspired by a friendly herb-savvy store man who I spoke with on the phone but didn’t get to meet due to the erratic weather (icy roads paired with surreal fog). 

Herby Spinach Quiche

1 cup organic half-and-half

3 organic brown eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon red onion, diced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

A dash each of ground pepper, nutmeg, sea salt

1 (9-inch) premium store-bought refrigerated pie crust 

1 egg white

1 cup all natural, premium organic mozzarella, shredded (save ¼ cup for top)

½ cup white cheddar cheese, shredded

3/4 cup spinach, baby, chopped

1 tablespoon European style butter

In a mixing bowl combine half-and-half and eggs. Add onion, thyme, and spices. Set aside. Bake pie crust covered in foil for 10 minutes in a 400-degree oven.

Brush with a mixture of egg white and 1 tablespoon water. (This keeps it flaky.)  Chill in freezer for about 15 minutes. Remove. Top pie crust bottom with cheeses, spinach (rinse, dry well), and pour milk and egg mixture on top. Sprinkle with mozzarella.

Stir lightly so it’s even. Drizzle with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes or till firm and crust is light golden brown. Do not over bake. Cool for at least 30 minutes. You can serve warm or chilled. Makes 6-8 servings. 

For some reason, like pizza, quiche can taste better cold than hot. The flavors have time to blend and the texture is amazing. I did have a slice in the early evening – but I knew it would be my breakfast. Go ahead – try it both ways. Sure, crustless quiche could be simply delish in Alaska but it’s welcoming on the home front at south shore, too. I give credit to the flavorful herbs and spices.

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) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.)  Her website is www.calorey.com .

Callie’s Cabin: Spring into comfort Floral Rice Pudding

Rice pudding goes back to the Tudor period in England.

A basic rice pudding is made with white rice, whole milk, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla flavoring.

It can be cooked in a saucepan on the stovetop or baked in the oven. It’s the perfect comfort food with a cool French twist for a new way of life on the south shore during springtime.

I was a kid when I first made rice pudding. On a foggy morning in San Jose I skipped school so I could play chef and curl up with my new fluffy Norwegian elkhound puppy.

I used my mom’s recipe.

Sitting on the kitchen floor, reading the cookbooks perplexed me. A lot of the recipes were complicated. I didn’t understand cooking methods.

Decades later, I transformed this Mediterranean dessert with different foods and essential oils or herbs.

And a furry Australian shepherd kept me company while I changed it up but maintained the memorable cinnamon and vanilla aroma and flavor with lavender for a herby, calming bite.

Floral Rice Pudding

1 cup brown (or white) rice, cooked

2 ½ cups organic half-and-half

2 large brown eggs, beaten

¼ cup sugar, pure cane granulated white

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 drop lavender essential oil (food grade) or ½-1 teaspoon edible lavender flowers

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup dried cranberries or amber raisins

½ cup walnuts or almonds, chopped

Topping

1 cup whipped cream

1 tablespoon honey

Sprigs of edible lavender dried flowers for garnish

*Use a toothpick drop for your measurement of food grade essential oils. Food grade only. Instead of whipped cream you can simply drizzle honey on top of pudding. Edible lavender is available online. Look for organic lavender flowers dried, used for tea and baking.

Mix cooked rice and half-and-half in a bowl.

Add eggs and sugar. Stir well. Add vanilla and lavender oil.

Fold in dried fruit. Pour into ramekins. Place in 8-inch by 8-inch dish filled with cold water.

Bake pudding at 325 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until set. Cool and top with nuts.

Top with a dollop of whipped cream with well with honey. Sprinkle with edible lavender dried flowers. Good served warm or cold. Serves 4.

Pair this creamy comfort pudding a cup of hot lavender chamomile tea. (Available in different forms at your supermarket or online.) There have been countless studies on the benefits of lavender to help treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

As long as you use pure essential oils (food grade) from a source you trust, you’ll join the legions of people who adopted the oils, tea, and flowers for baking in their daily lives. It’s called bonding with Mother Nature’s goodness for the body, mind, and spirit.

(Adapted from The Healing Powers of Essential Oils: A Complete Guide to Nature’s Most Magical Medicine by Cal Orey published by Kensington)

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) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is http://www.calorey.com.