Tag Archives: recipes

Homemade Chai Concentrate – the gift that reminds people why Starbucks is unneccesary.

Amazing, easy, and guaranteed to please...what else can you ask for in a tea?

I have a friend who has love/hate relationships with the Chai drinks she buys in coffeehouses.   She loves it when a place gets it exactly right; all the best flavors come out, not too heavy on the sugar, and the milk doesn’t wreck her stomach.  But there have been so many times she has seen the dark side of Chai…the pre-fab powder based mixes, the scorched milk, the weak and the sad Chais.  I want you to be exotic, comforting, balanced she thinks at the coffeehouse counter… but sadly, her purchase has not ended the way she had hoped.   Now that I have ingested 16 ounces of you, I can see that you are going to be twisting my guts in a few short minutes, she sighs.

And we can’t forget the fundamental problem of huge gaps between one retailer to another.  You like strong peppery flavors?  Too bad!  This place specializes in weak brown water that’s also intensly sweet!  You want to taste all the flavors of the anise, the cardamom, the nutmeg?  Nope!  Sorry!  Cinnamon is the only flavor that matters here, bub.  This one’s going to make sure you taste the hell out of that cinnamon.

I mean, I know they’re all close, and they’re all passable (mostly), but why do we need to play roulette with our drink purchases, hoping that maybe, maybe, this one will come out a winner?  There’s no reason, I say, when we can make them at home for ourselves and the people we want to save from this chai purgatory.  We can make them exactly the way we deserve to have them made.  Peppery?  You got it.  Strong orange notes with a follow up of ginger?  I’m on it.  Heavy on the cloves, easy on the sugar?  Not a problem at all, compadre.  Got a problem with lactose?  Hey!  Try your fantastic homemade Chai in unsweetened rice milk, almond milk, or soy milk at home!

So with that being said, this recipe is a guideline to be tinkered with and refined as you try it out a few times to pinpoint the parts that make you really happy.  It’s a great recipe, for sure, and versions of it can be found on Pinterest, all over the blogosphere, and the gazillion recipe finders around.  I started with recipes I found here and here, and then modified a few things as I went along.

Chai Concentrate

4 1/2 cups water
9 bags of black tea  ( I know. 9?  I couldn’t decide between 8 and 10, so…)
3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 inches fresh ginger, cut into thin coins
10 whole cloves
10 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg
3 star anise
1 tsp ground pepper (or whole peppercorns)
1 tsp orange zest
1 Tb vanilla extract
1 Tb honey (if desired for more sweetness)

Getting to use star anise in a recipe was reason enough to make this mix. Their cuteness can not be overstated.


In a medium saucepan, boil the water and sugar.  While you are waiting for the water to boil, take all of your teabags and tie the strings together into a knot, cutting off any paper tags.   Bring the boiling down to a simmer, and add all of the other ingredients except for the extract and the honey – it’s better if they don’t get too hot.

Let the ingredients simmer on low for 20 minutes, then pass through a fine strainer and into a bowl to cool.  If you don’t have a fine strainer, you can wrap all the ingredients (except the teabags and the cinnamon sticks) in a bit of cheesecloth and then just pluck the little package out once the simmering is over.

Once the mix has cooled, it will fit very nicely into a  quart mason jar and can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week, ready to make you happy that you went out there and found whole cardamom in the bulk spice section of the store.

To Serve:

Mix one part concentrate to one part milk, to half and half, or to my favorite – unsweetened almond milk 🙂  It is really nice served cold with ice, but as I am living in Minnesota in December, piping hot with a little crunchy treat nearby is my way to go.  And according to responses on the blog Tasty Yummies, I’m hearing that people are reducing the concentrate down and using it in really cool ways on desserts and in their baking!  I fully encourage this in others, I just know I won’t be adding any extra tasks onto myself until these holidays are over.  So have fun!  Explore!  And report back.


Vegetarian Chili with Smoky Adobos and Acorn Squash

Fall is a great time of year for tons of reasons…my favorite one being that my culinary habits get shaken up and I get to break out of the summertime ways of eating.

No more avoiding the oven for fear of the half day it takes to cool down in the heat of summer!  Big families of produce come back into play: apples, squash, pumpkins, and of course the whole potato clan are welcomed back into my kitchen.  Hearty and filling meals come back to the table, warming us up from the chilly, windy weather outside.

The biggest bag of apples ever seen.

Creativity is needed to get through all those bags of apples (I’m still trying to make it through this gigantic one that was gifted to me from a friend’s backyard apple tree!).

I love all of it.  Not to mention that I get to layer my clothes again.

And so, with all this fall love going around, it is only natural to want to make a big batch of chili to fill our tummies while we are out there enjoying it all.  This year I have cut out eating a lot of meat, so I knew that this chili would be vegetarian.  But nothing is more disappointing than a chili that loses its depth and heartiness when you take out the meat…it starts to feel more like a soup or veggie stew (which is also good, but not when you want thick chili!).  So in order to combat this problem, I decided I needed to add a veggie that could stand up to hot temps and not get mushy or disintegrate, one that would add some depth and take us out of the standard pepper/tomato combo, and of course one that would be amazing with strong Mexican flavors.  And that vegetable is the squash. Continue reading Vegetarian Chili with Smoky Adobos and Acorn Squash

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cornbread

I woke up this morning knowing that I was going to make chili.

I’ve been having this bug to make chili using adobo chipotle peppers, veggies and squash…but that’s a different post.  The point of this post is: where there’s chili, there should be some cornbread!  And as an extra plus for me, cornbread is one of those things that is pretty easily converted into a GF version.  I sign up for blog email updates just like everyone else, and as I was checking my email this morning I saw an update from Jules Gluten Free blog about all of her great recipes using pumpkin as the main ingredient.  Having just taken the whole family to our favorite pumpkin patch recently, I was in a cooking-with-pumpkin state of mind, and I checked out her email.  There were all sorts of recipes she had worked out for using pumpkin, from pumpkin muffins to pumpkin pancakes, and there at the bottom of her list was pumpkin cornbread.  I knew right away that I had found the match for my spicy, smoky chipotle chili. Continue reading Gluten Free Pumpkin Cornbread

Southwest Hash with Baked Eggs and Spicy Chipotle Hollandaise

Last night was the October meetup of the cooking group (find out more about our group here!), and this month’s theme was Breakfast for Dinner.

The hubby and I were the hosts, which meant that we had the main course.  I was a little torn on what to make…there’s always the old standard quiche/strata mash-ups with veggies and stuff, but it wasn’t exactly new territory for me.  Crepes seemed too fussy, making a big chunk of meat was out (since the hubby and I are cutting it out of our diets), and all then there was the whole gluten-free restrictions – I could find carbs to sub in, but it all seemed like more than I wanted to get into.

So I narrowed it down by figuring out what sounded good to me: I knew I wanted to use eggs, I wanted it to be vegetarian and filling, and I wanted it to be pretty easy to put together at serving time so that I could actually enjoy having people over.  Combine all that with my love of big Mexican flavors, and this is where I ended up – a southwest flavored veggie hash blending yellow and sweet potato, a hollandaise with smoky adobo chilis, and eggs baked right on top. Continue reading Southwest Hash with Baked Eggs and Spicy Chipotle Hollandaise

Veggie Stuffed Tomatoes

I would love to have a really bountiful garden in a spacious backyard at some point in my life.  Vines growing up stakes, butterflies flitting around pink coneflowers, barefoot kids learning to love the land…all that stuff.  unfortunately, I live in a place that doesn’t allow me to fulfill this dream, and so I make do by enjoying the fruits of other people’s homegrown labor.  My co-worker recently unloaded a huge bag full of tomatoes on me, because it was the end of the season and, as he put it, “We’re swimmin’ in the suckers”.

Some of those tomatoes had found their way into some pretty tasty soup (click here to check it out), but I still had a few more.  I had just finished making a pot of brown rice to keep on hand for the week, and I thought Yes! Those tomatoes…some rice…what else can I put in there?  Continue reading Veggie Stuffed Tomatoes

Spaghetti Squash with Garden Ragu

I really like using squash in my dishes, but the time it takes to roast them in the oven can become really tedious.  Today for example, I was famished and had a hankering for something with tomato sauce.  What I saw in my head was something like this:

…and I really wanted to make it happen.  I knew that I had a spaghetti squash that I wanted to use, but the thought of waiting 60 minutes to roast it and eat was too much to bear.  So, I decided that I would microwave it and get the show on the road.  I’m not a big microwaver, but after the success I had with using it today, I think it has become my go-to method of cooking squash! Continue reading Spaghetti Squash with Garden Ragu

Making your own Veggie Stock!

It’s that time of year when soups are made, rich sauces come out to play, and risotto begins to call to me.  All of these things have something in common:  they all start with good stock.  For me, that means vegetable stock!

What reason is there to spend $3.75 on one quart of decent vegetable stock at the grocery store when you can make a gallon of homemade stock from the veggies you were using anyway?  There’s no reason, I say.  If you have a large pan, a strainer, a couple of bowls and access to some water, you’re ready to go!

Here’s some easy guidelines:

1.  When you have done your shopping and your veggie drawer is bursting with all kinds of freshly purchased goodness, get yourself a container that you can use to store your veggie scraps in the fridge.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a gallon-sized baggie or a covered tupperware, just make sure it’s going to be big enough to hold a decent amount.

Don't throw those onion scraps away!

Continue reading Making your own Veggie Stock!