Callie’s Cabin: Honey lemon pancakes (recipe)

Pancakes and I have a history.

I've wolfed down hotcakes and bacon in the Deep South. A few weeks ago, I dined on fancy hotel room service flapjacks with maple syrup in the Northeast. This week I'm celebrating light and fluffy silver dollars with a light lemon twist at home.

Sure, we've all enjoyed 'em at pancake houses and coffee shops. But I'm talking about good home-style buttermilk pancakes changed up a bit. I learned how to make this traditional treat by living on the South Shore and listening to a neighbor's advice.

A few years ago, one Tahoe local (a millennial) befriended me. She was a mom and wife, who taught me some ropes of living in the mountains.

One day in her kitchen I told to her that I purchased pre-packaged pancakes (like those toaster waffles in the freezer aisle at the store).

She laughed.

Worse, I added that I also grabbed a budget-friendly bottle of syrup with a household name.

She looked at me, shook her head, and then darted, "I love to cook. Why don't you make your own hotcakes? You'll taste the difference."

I was quiet, feeling a bit guilty for avoiding pots and pans.

During my anti-cooking phase, I blamed my pancakes in a box on too many deadlines and not enough time. In hindsight my kitchen-friendly friend was right. Homemade pancakes are easy and fun to create.

As time passed, I've morphed into a pancake bakeress. I've put together varieties, using different flours, sweeteners, fruits and nuts. At last, I've created a sweet springtime buttermilk pancake with citrus notes and honey.

It's a perfect back-to-nature hotcake inspired by living in the Sierra.

Honey Lemon Pancakes

½ cup cake flour, whisk or sifted

½ cup self-rising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 large brown egg, organic

½ cup low-fat buttermilk (premium brand)

½ fresh lemon, juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon European style butter (save more for topping)

1 tablespoon European style butter, melted

Confectioners' sugar (optional)

Honey (for drizzling)

Lemon slices and mint leaves (for garnish)

In a bowl combine flours, and baking powder.

Add egg, buttermilk, juice, vanilla, and butter.

Stir well until mixture is smooth.

Use a 1/3 to ½ measuring cup for scooping the batter onto a nonstick pan.

The art of making the perfect pancake includes: Do not use butter in a pan; warm up the pan slowly to medium heat. Turn over when the pancake bubbles.

Sprinkle pancakes with sugar.

Drizzle with organic honey, add a pat of butter.

Garnish with lemon slices and mint leaves.

Serves four to six. (Yes, you can double the recipe.)

So yes, it is worth the trouble whipping up light and fluffy pancakes in the comfort of your kitchen. Why? The first bite of home-style pancakes is hot; even better you can taste the layers of real ingredients. The texture? Fluffy like a Tahoe snow flurry in the spring.

I will tell you that doing it yourself is the way we do in the mountains. It works.

Cal Orey 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.

Callie’s Cabin: Sierra-style cheesy bread (recipe)

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 (it's still on the menu at Dominos)? 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.)

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.

CHEESY BREAD

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 six to eight nice sized pieces.

I put on the kettle and enjoyed plenty of chamomile tea. 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.

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 http://www.calorey.com.

Callie’s Cabin: Fresh cinnamon rolls (recipe)

Ah, the cinnamon roll is a sweet-smelling pastry popular in Europe. The ingredients in this roll or bun are not complicated. Cinnamon, flour, sugar, and butter are its regular components. And I recently learned how to make it from scratch.

This week, while surviving our snowstorm(s) I treated myself to DIY cinnamon rolls. Sure, you can buy these at a cinnamon roll shop or bakery in town. But if you really want to experience the real deal, take the long way home, like I did, and take the romantic homemade route.

One winter I purchased the cinnamon rolls found in the refrigerator aisle at the grocery store. They're in a tube that you pop open, bake and use the frosting out of a can.

The rolls were for the love of my life. The thing is, when he arrived from the Bay Area, we argued about the weather in the morning while eating rolls fresh from the oven. No kidding.

"How can you live here where it's so cold?" asked the guy, who I traveled with to Hawaii three times.

Clad in hooded sweatshirt, thermal tee, leggings, jeans, thick socks and boots I said: "You get used to it."

I recalled one day loving the cool fog in San Francisco; he drove us back to San Carlos where the sky was blue and sun shined bright.

This recipe is inspired by a romance that dissipated but left me with a forever love for fresh, warm cinnamon rolls.

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Dough

2 ½ cups self-rising flour, and a bit to dust the cutting board

½ cup granulated white sugar

¼ cup European butter, and a bit to grease the baking dish

1 cup organic low-fat milk

Filling

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup granulated white sugar

¼ European style butter, melted

1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon

½ cup raisins and walnuts (chopped)

Topping

¼ cup granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Glaze (optional)

1 -2 cups confectioners' sugar

4-6 tablespoons organic low-fat milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a bowl combine flour and sugar. Add soft butter and sugar. Mix well.

Turn out on a floured cutting board. Shape into a circle. Knead until there are no rough edges and dough is smooth.

Use a rolling pin to shape dough into a long rectangle. Set aside.

In a bowl mix sugar, butter, cinnamon raisins and nuts. Spread mixture on the rectangle.

Roll up the rectangle away from you until it's sealed. Use a sharp knife and cut into 12-15 slices.

Place each pinwheel circle on an 8" by 8" buttered baking dish round or square.

Sprinkle tops with sugar and cinnamon mix. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes and light golden brown.

Cool. Remove. Drizzle or frost with glaze. Or not. They are good plain or with apricot jam.

Store for several days in the fridge or freeze and warm up in the microwave. Makes 12-15.

Tip: Using self-rising flour is the 21st century miracle. You can forget yeast and baking powder while your goodies still rise!

These cinnamon rolls are not too sweet (unless you double the filling mixture for a sweeter, gooey taste). They are flaky, buttery, and best served warm to taste the cinnamon notes. The nutty crunch and chewy raisins are a nice touch.

Serve with home squeezed pink grapefruit juice.

It's a cinnamon roll for a cozy breakfast. The fine winter chill and warm rolls are a perfect pair.

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 http://www.calorey.com.

Callie’s Cabin: Triple chocolate brownies to love (recipe)

Since the 1900s, most cookbooks included a brownie recipe. But if I'm going to be honest, I've always used the store-bought brownie mix.

It's easy. You add an egg, oil, water; mix it up and bake. Done. But hey, if kids on the "Food Network" show can make brownies so can I. Yep, I ditched the box method and made homemade brownies.

Baking moist chocolate brownies from scratch is easy to do. These gooey double chocolate brownies include good heart-healthy ingredients, including cocoa powder, dark chocolate chunks, and walnuts — for American Heart Month. Speaking of heart matters, brownies take me back in time of a Tahoe snowy Valentine's Day …

One morning I was snuggling with a male friend who woke me up with three words, "Happy Valentine's Day."

Then, the phone rang. When I answered the call, a man's voice said, "I wanted to let you know — I love it." Those unforgettable words were from my editor. He adored my first book proposal (which I procrastinated doing). The assigned topic was The Healing Powers of Vinegar.

"Is that all?" I responded; I think I was in shock because I sounded too chill. After the conversation ended, my pal was AWOL. I was left with my Brittany spaniel to cuddle and celebrate.

Years later, on this year's Valentine's Day, I woke up to a contract via email. It was for book number nine in the Healing Powers Series that was ignited by that vinegar book. I rejoiced with a large cup of fresh brewed joe and a brownie I baked the night before. And, of course, my warm-hearted Australian shepherd was within arm's reach.

So, these brownies were inspired by V-Day.

Triple CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

½ cup European style butter

1 ½ cups brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 eggs

¼ organic chocolate milk

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Ghirardelli premium baking 100 percent cocoa)

½ cup cake flour or all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ cup dark or milk chocolate chips (Ghirardelli) or a bar (small chunks)

½ walnuts, chopped (optional)

Confectioners' sugar

Butter for greasing the pan

In a bowl, cream soft butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla, eggs and milk. Stir well. Add cocoa powder, flour, and baking powder. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Spread batter in a buttered 8" by 8" baking dish.

In a 350-degree oven bake for about 30 minutes until firm to touch or use the toothpick method (it comes out clean). Cool for 10 minutes. Cut into 2 inch squares to make 16 brownies. Or use a Valentine shaped cookie cutter and place on brownies. It will make approximately six to eight larger brownie squares. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Brownie tips: Using less flour and more baking powder plus a bit of milk makes brownies moister. If you want a decadent brownie you can frost it. Combine ¼ cup European style butter, ½ cup whipped cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 cup confectioners' sugar (or more for a thicker consistency). Best if beat with a mixer. Pipe on top of brownies. Place each brownie in a cupcake paper for presentation. Store in refrigerator. Served warm is bliss. Adding fresh berries make this treat more heart-healthy treat to love.

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 http://www.calorey.com.

Callie’s Cabin: Warm up to wintry super Buddha bowl (recipe)

Welcome to a Buddha bowl, a perfect wintertime salad choice for Super Bowl Sunday, right?

This power bowl is a vegetarian meal served in a bowl, which boasts an arrangement of superfoods. A group of nature's foods are arranged in a nice Zen-like balance and in a creative way to be easy on the eyes for a super presentation.

Buddha bowls have been around for several years at health spa resorts to pre-packaged bowls located in the salad section at your grocery store to even gracing hotel menus.

These power bowls are actually salads with whole foods, including vegetables and whole grains. It's a complete meal in a bowl. The bowls are in trendy because they can be super fresh, super flavorful, and super convenient. If you're hungry and want to eat fresh and healthy, you've come to the right place.

One Super Bowl Sunday, I prepared a multitude of hot dishes that make for fun finger foods but take time, like pot stickers and chicken wings. When a few neighbors were in my cabin, relaxing by the fire and watching the game, I, the workhorse was working — in the kitchen cooking, baking, and thinking of one five letter word: "Chill."

But I was doing everything but kicking back with the crowd. Next time whatever I put together when visitors visit, the food will be a DIY display for everyone. So, this recipe is inspired by Super Bowl day.

BUDDAH BOWL

Salad

2-2 ½ cups kale mix, chopped

1 cup cruciferous vegetables, steamed or nuked

½ cup avocado, chopped

½ cup tomatoes, chopped

½ cup feta or cheddar cheese

¼ cup black olives, sliced (optional)

¼ cup red onion slices (optional)

1 cup brown rice, cooked

¼ cup walnuts, chopped

6-8 ounces beans, jumbo shrimp or chicken chunks, cooked (optional)

Parmesan cheese shavings (optional)

Dressing

You can make your own olive oil and balsamic vinegar or rice vinegar dressing; ratio 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar and add your favorite spices and herbs. Or you can also purchase a premium all-natural store bought variety. Herbal, ranch, thousand island can all do the trick.

In a bowl, place each ingredient (at least six) separately in individual groups. Arrange each food item nicely for a super presentation. Garnish with Parmesan cheese. If the vegetables and rice are hot it makes it a more warming bowl on a cold day.

Serve with French bread or a baguette. Slice, spread with butter and garlic powder (or minced fresh garlic). Pop in the oven under the broiler until lightly toasted. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.

Serves three to four. You can double the recipe if you like. Or if you want to have more fun, and less complaints from picky eaters, put ingredients in ramekins and let people put together their personalized super power bowls.

You don't have to work up a sweat. Offer hot tea or wine. And yeah, chill. You will enter your Zen zone all day long.

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 http://www.calorey.com.