Traditional Fourth of July foods include grilled foods, noodle salad, lemonade and strawberry shortcake. This fare can be fun and tasty. But I'm passing on these conventional goodies. Instead, while swimming on Wednesday, I envisioned enjoying creamy cheesecake and iced coffee - the kind you'd get at a popular coffee shop. The thing is, I created this pair at home and it's worth sharing.
In the summer of 2007, I recall the Angora Fire that ignited on June 24 in the early afternoon. Once the wildfire was out of control, I was in flight mode. First, my two dogs were barking at the commotion outdoors. When I went outside, ash was falling from the sky. Neighbors were hosing down their rooftops and some people with cell phones in their hands were pacing on the street. They were trying to decide whether stay or go. As a journalist who covered the Oakland Firestorm in 1991, I decided to get the heck out of dodge. I thought, "The worst-case scenario would be getting stuck in gridlock on Highway 50 with two hyper dogs and one vocal cat in a car - if the wildfire spread due to the forecasted strong winds." I opted to flee to Reno for some R&R until the fire was contained.
Today, watching the news about the devastating wildfire in Colorado brings back spooky flashbacks. My Angora Fire escape was doable (it did have its own challenges with uncertainty of the fire, three critters in a strange place, and away from the comforts of home), I do remember some comforting moments. For one, room service at the dog-friendly hotel was heavenly. One night I ordered cheesecake and strawberries paired with coffee. The decadent dessert soothed my spirit and the coffee gave me physical-mental energy to cope with the disaster that hit our people and pets on the South Shore. By Fourth of July, it was serene again around the lake. I, like locals, tourists and onlookers around the globe, won't forget our wildfire and its fury, nor will I ignore the sense of calm I got from the sweet superfoods that were there for me.
New York Style Cheesecake with Berries
1 premium store bought New York Style golden baked plain cheesecake, thawed
1/2 cup fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (60 percent cacao)
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (citrus flavored)
Slice pieces of cheesecake and place on plates. Top 1/2 cup each of berries, sliced. In a bowl place chocolate chips and olive oil. Put melted chocolate in a small plastic ziplock bag (cut tip of one corner) and drizzle the chocolate in a zig zag design on top of each cheesecake slice. Top with with 1/2 cup each of sliced berries. Serves 1 to 8.
Double Iced Coffee
1 cup fresh brewed flavored coffee (hazelnut, French vanilla, chocolate mint)
1/4 cup organic half-and-half
1 teaspoon honey (orange blossom or sage)
1 large scoop premium all-natural coffee ice cream
1/2 cup small ice cubes
1 dollop of real whipped cream
Dash of cinnamon to taste
Pour coffee into a tall glass or mug. Add milk and honey. Chill in fridge. Add ice cubes and ice cream.
Top with whipped cream and cinnamon. Include a spoon and straw. Serves 1.
Cheesecake and coffee can be doable or superb. If you go the extra mile and spend the extra amount for the best cheesecake (New York cheesecake is rich and dense, with a wonderful smooth texture) it will be worth the effort. Freezing it works if you aren't serving a group of people and don't want to eat the whole thing. This year, as we edge into the Fourth of July celebration (and are on guard with fire prevention), savoring fresh summer berries and sipping ice cold coffee makes me appreciate Mother Nature. Happy Independence Day!
Motto: Special foods can be celebrated year-round. Adding special touches to superfoods on holidays will help you feel special during life's ups and downs.
- Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include "The Healing Powers" series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. "The Healing Powers of Coffee" and "Animal Attraction: A Collection of Tales & Tails" will be released this summer. Her website is www.calorey.com.