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August 28, 2014
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Labor Day weekend feel-good foods

If you’re looking for a down-to-earth late summer-fresh salad, Greek salad comes to the rescue. Its main stars include greens, tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, olive oil and vinegar. This concoction has been tagged “country salad” and “peasant salad” –a dish with my name on it. As a hardworking, local mountain woman with city heart living on the South Shore this is so me.

After all, I am a vegetarian with aspirations of becoming a vegan. Some folks believe salads are mere side dishes or rabbit food. I disagree. Salads with superfoods can be a satisfying and delicious meal in itself. A Greek salad is easy to make from scratch and you’ve got control of exactly what you want to be in your mound of vegetables year-round.

Salads, like this Greek treasure, take me back in time to salad bars at closed Tahoe restaurants—like Marie Callendar’s Restaurant on Highway 50. I remember one afternoon right before Labor Day a dear companion animal friend of mine, an orange-and-white cat, 14, Alex had used up his nine lives. I forced myself to visit this eatery known for its pies. But the salad bar, warm cornbread and butter are what helped comfort me during a time coping with loss of the animal-human bond. Sometimes, we cannot control events but eating good for you comfort foods amid Mother Nature help us to deal.

Greek Salad with Mountain Stuff

1 cup Roma tomatoes, halved

¼ cups red onion, sliced in half-rounds (optional)

1 cup feta crumbled cheese with Mediterranean herbs (cubed feta can work, too)

1/2 cup pitted ripe colossal olives

2 cups baby spinach

Red wine vinegar to taste

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil to taste

In a bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, and spinach. Set aside. Chill for an hour. Add cheese and olives. Drizzle vinegar and oil over the salad mixture. Serves 3-4.

Berry Cornbread Squares

1 brown egg

2/3 cup 2 percent low-fat organic milk

1/3 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon 100 percent whole wheat flour (for high altitude)

2 more tablespoons 2 percent organic low-fat milk (for high altitude)

1 1/2-2 cups fresh blueberries (whole) (strawberries, sliced, can work, too)

European-style butter (for greasing dish), spreading on top of cornbread

Raw honey

In a medium bowl, mix egg, oil, flour, milk and box of cornbread mix. (It tastes better than cornmeal.) Fold in berries. Spoon batter into buttered 8-inch by 8-inch by 2-inch glass dish (or use a muffin tin for muffins). Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until firm on top. Cut into squares and spread with a bit of raw honey and butter. Serves 12.

Greek salad is colorful with its bright red, green, and white hues, ideal for a delicious festive brunch, lunch or light dinner during Labor Day weekend. It reminds me of that sad day when I lost Alex to the angels. I recalled he was a gentle cat who loved nature. I passed on pie. The salad and bread were sweet enough, like my boy Alex who enjoyed his last years in the sierras.

Motto: Keep it simple with nature’s finest foods during the best and worst of times.

— 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. Her website is

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Aug 28, 2014 07:52PM Published Sep 2, 2014 09:45AM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.