Chai is the name for a spiced Indian tea that is generally served milky and sweet. I particularly like chai in the winter, as it is hearty and warming, but I find it quite satisfying as iced chai tea in the summer as well.
As with most food, there is no rule with chai, it is all about personal preference. Find the flavors you like. Experiment with them. Add more, add less of others. In India, chai, like curry, is no one mix. Different regions use different flavors, and even one particular family may make their curry or chai in a completely different manner than the family next door. Basically, find the flavors you like and play with them until you find your preferred taste.
What I do is simple, I take a black tea that I like (it can be a malty Assam, or a lighter Ceylon, or any thing in between. Using a tea bag from the store will work well too since a lot of flavor comes from the spices that steep with the tea, so heck, go ahead and use that bag that came with your Chinese food last night.
My chai ingredients:
Green cardamom (crack the pods open)
Cinnamon (whole or small pieces, powdered will work, but won’t filter out easily)
Vanilla Extract (just a few drops)
Steep the mix in hot water for about 3 minutes. Add milk and sugar to your taste, it’s really that simple.
I find the best way to make chai is with an infuser basket. Place your selected ingredients in the basket in your cup, and remove when done. You could always toss all the items in a pot and pour the tea through a strainer, whatever is easiest for you.
Winter is here (sort of) and that means hot chocolate (or hot cocoa if you prefer). I always make my hot chocolate from scratch, and while there are plenty of mixes, it is neither hard nor time consuming to make hot chocolate yourself. While there is nothing wrong with hot chocolate from a mix (yes there is), if you want to make a memorable hot chocolate there is no better method than using the simplest of ingredients and taking the few minutes to mix it yourself. I like to one up everyone else by turning my hot chocolate into a liquid Reese’s peanut butter cup. It only takes a few minutes to make and you will not regret dirtying a pot for such a delicious treat.
2 tsp cocoa powder (I prefer Droste, but any high quality cocoa powder will do)
2 heaping tsp sugar
1 cup +1 tsp milk
1 heaping tsp smooth peanut butter
1. Heat 1 cup of milk in a pot until steaming .
2. Combine the cocoa powder and sugar in a cup.
3. Add 1 tsp of milk to the cup and stir the cocoa powder and sugar until you make a paste.
4. Add the warm milk to the cup, and stir until the paste has mixed well.
5. Add the peanut butter and stir slowly until it has melted into the hot chocolate.
6. Drink and think about how much better your hot chocolate is than your friends’.
N.B. There are a number of things that you can add instead of peanut butter to make a fantastic, warm winter drink. Try any of the following for something interesting: cinnamon, instant coffee, hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico), almond liqueur (Amaretto), peppermint schnapps, whipped cream, orange zest, vanilla, Nutella, or anything else that you like with your chocolate. Or do as the Aztecs did and add a bit of chili pepper, it is pretty interesting (while they didn’t use milk, who cares?)
mojito - lime, mint, and rum, yum!
On a warm summer day, when the kids are playing in the yard making themselves dizzy, I often join in the fun with the adult version of the trampoline, the mojito. It’s been so unusually hot here recently in the Great White North that I’ve gone through more limes in the past month than the previous year. The only way to beat the heat seems to be with limes and alcohol, as the Cubans have told me for years. The key is making the drinks one at a time rather than a whole pitcher at once. The sugar dissolves more easily, and the drink blends better, and mine will blow yours away if you dare make a lot all at once (actually it will blow anyone’s away, but that’s because I make them with love and sweat, and my sweat is very sweet and tastes a little like lime). Follow the leader to the best of the classic Cuban Mojito recipe (and leave the 7-up behind, restaurants don’t know how to make a good mojito, just a fast one).
1 tsp powdered sugar
the juice from 1 lime (or 2 ounces)
1 small handful mint leaves (to taste, I use about 6 leaves)
2 oz white rum
2 oz club soda
1 sprig of mint (for garnish)
1. Place the mint leaves in a glass with the lime juice and sugar and mash them together with a wooden spoon (for best results, or use whatever is handy).
2. Add ice to the glass, crushed is the most commonly used, then the rum.
3. Stir in the rum, then add the club soda and garnish with the sprig of mint. Feel free to add more or less club soda to taste.
N.B. Some people use simple syrup instead of powdered sugar as it dissolves very easily in cold liquids. There is no reason not to if you prefer, just play around with the proportions to suit your taste. There are some people who prefer a more dry mojito, and some who like it sweet. There is no rule but personal preference, and anyone who says otherwise needs to be high-fived in the face.
I’ve found a way to make iced tea with no bitterness, and it doesn’t become cloudy. It’s called cold-brewed iced tea. Iced tea is something I have around all year, but there’s something about a cold glass on a hot day that makes me shiver with anticipation, and iced tea is still a nice winter beverage for those who like cold drinks. The tannins in the leaves can add astringency (which equals bitterness) to iced tea that I prefer to avoid. By cold brewing the iced tea rather than using warm water, you can still extract all the great flavors without a lot of tannins. Don’t even get me started on “sun tea.” The bacterial levels in that stuff are enough to make me sick just thinking about it; leaving a jar of tea in the sun for a few hours is just not a good idea. “Sun tea” is a potential bio-hazard and iced tea made this way should be avoided.
I’ve been cold brewing my iced tea for years, and this really works. This iced tea is great, and incredibly easy to make. I only wish I had known about this when I was younger.
1 cup loose black tea (or 10 teabags), or flavored tea of your choice
12 cups water
1. Place the tea leaves or bags in a large pitcher with a top (you can use only 1 cup of tea leaves, or fewer bags if you prefer a lighter tea).
2. Add the water and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, I generally let them soak overnight.
3. Strain the tea or remove the bags and drink!
I like to put in a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint, but you can do anything you like. I sometimes add mango nectar, but any fruit juice works very well too. You are only limited by your imagination. Iced tea combines with almost any fruit flavor, so any juice works well.
For “Sweet Tea” I just add a little simple syrup, which dissolves easily in tea unlike sugar. Having a southern belle for a wife I always have a lot of tea and simple syrup around and my iced tea is her sweet tea.