The first time I had homemade chai tea was at a yoga retreat years ago. It was made in a giant batch by a vegan, Ayurvedic chef and it was like nothing I had ever tasted. Sweet, spicy, warm, and creamy with notes and layers I don't even know how to describe all happening at the same time. I remember asking the chef how she made it as I gathered up my yoga props from the day's practice. She said she'd developed the recipe over the years and then listed off a dozen spices. I remember seeing whole spices at the bottom of the giant pot as I ladled myself cup after cup. It was incredible.
I've never been a coffee drinker, I'm convinced my husband and I are the last two people on earth who don't drink caffeine. So after I discovered chai I started ordering it at places like Starbucks and Argo tea. And let me tell you, it's been a story of disappointment after disappointment. I'm no expert, but these drinks don't even deserve to be called the same name as the stuff I had that day of the retreat. And from what I've read the main difference is that these places all use store-bought chai concentrate. Booo.
So I sought out to try and re-create that yoga retreat chai, whole spices and all. I researched all over the internet. I consulted Indian and Ayurvedic cookbooks. I experimented with different spices and different steep times. Different sweeteners and proportions. And I kept failing. Until now.
I don't know if this stuff is the real deal, and like I said, I'm definitely no expert, but this stuff tastes spot on to that magical drink I had two years ago. It's well-worth the two hour steep time, and makes a bulk portion of the best chai tea I've ever had. A warm mug of it is helping me get through winter in Chicago, but I'd imagine it would be just as good served over ice in the summer.
Notes: None of the spices were too hard to find. If you have a local Indian grocery store I recommend buying them in bulk from there. If you're in Chicago, I'm a huge fan of Patel Brothers on Devon (while you're there stock up on things like lentils, basmati rice, and rose water). I also ADORE The Spice House in Old Town, they have any spice you could ever possibly need and I don't know what I'd do without them! Last resort, check out Amazon!
Most recipes call for the finished chai to be topped with honey or agave but I found that the licorice added just enough sweetness for me. Feel free to add some in for extra sweetness.
Makes about 8 cups
Adapted from: Yogi Bhajan
8 cups water
18 whole cloves
24 green cardamom
30 whole black peppercorns
1.5 ounces fresh ginger (about a thumb size knob), roughly sliced
4 cinnamon sticks, each roughly 1 inch long
1 tablespoon diced dried licorice root
2 star anise
2-3 bags black tea (optional)
1 can full fat coconut milk
In a large pot combine the water and all of the spices, leaving out only the black tea and coconut milk. Bring water with the spices to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 2 hours. For a caffeine-free version (this is what I did) omit the black tea. If using black tea, add it to the pot after the 2 hour steep time and let it steep however long the package instructs (usually about 10 minutes). Remove the tea bags and turn off the heat. Pour in the coconut milk and stir until combined and warmed throughout.
You can serve immediately, as the spices tend to sink to the bottom. To store the remaining tea (it's good for about a week), pour it through a fine mesh strainer and discard the spices. I stored in mason jars. While re-heating, make sure the tea does not reach boiling point as this causes the coconut milk to separate.
These cookies smell and taste like a soft gooey version of girl scout's thin mints (without all the chemicals!). They're made with almond meal which makes them gluten-free and surprisingly loaded with protein. They're also dairy-free and made with coconut oil, which makes them sort of healthy, but still ridiculously delicious.
They're great right out of the oven but better the longer they sit. Topped with crunchy sea salt, they're crispy around the edges and soft and brownie-like in the center. I don't mess around when it comes to chocolate so I more than tripled the amount of chocolate chunks from the original recipe. Each cookie is filled with big puddles of chocolatey goodness. Also, they will make your house smell amazing!
Makes 18-20 cookies
Adapted from: Sprouted Kitchen
1 1/4 cups (137 grams) almond meal
1/2 cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (65 grams) brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (I used the frontier brand)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 heaping cup (120 grams/6 oz) dark chocolate chunks
chunky sea salt for serving
In a small bowl combine the almond meal, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar. Whisk to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut oil (make sure it's melted but not hot as you don't want scrambled eggs!), peppermint extract, and vanilla extract.
Gentle whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Pour in the chocolate chunks and stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate into the dough. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Note the dough can be made a day in advance.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a cookie scoop, place the dough balls onto the parchment then flatten slightly. Cook for 7-10 minutes until fragrant. Sprinkle with chunky sea salt. Best served when cooled completely.
This year we're hosting Thanksgiving with a small group of friends. Pre-grad school I would have planned the meal by now with a detailed google doc of all the ingredients broken down by recipe and organized a pinterest board of tabletop holiday decor. Ain't nobody got time for that anymore. I'm lucky if I have enough time to make dinner each night and make it to the grocery store. But breaks will happen and the holidays will come and for that I'm thankful. I'm looking forward to taking Friday after turkey day off and to explore the city a bit with a friend whose visiting us from New York. I do know there will be an apple cheddar galette and autumn kale salad.
I've been making these sandwiches all season long this year. The apples make them crispy and juicy with just enough sweetness from the honey and a bit of tang from the brown mustard. The ingredients list is simple, so like Ina would say, use the best you can find. Splurge on some really good cheese, go for the $1.50 a pop honeycrisp apples, and layer on some really good seedy brown mustard. These sandwiches became a post-farmer's market Saturday afternoon tradition back in October for us. They make me want to pack them in a picnic lunch with a big flannel blanket and some chardonnay and go sit outside somewhere and watch the leave change colors.
Makes 2 sandwiches
2 small demi baguettes
2 tablespoons seedy brown mustard
1/2 cup freshly grated gouda
1 large apple (I used honeycrisp)
1 teaspoon honey
flakey sea salt
1 handful arugula
Preheat the oven (or toaster oven) to 350 degrees. Slice the baguettes in half lengthwise and spread mustard on half of the pieces. Divide the cheese between the two sandwiches and sprinkle on top of the mustard. Heat the baguettes, open-face, in the oven for 2-4 minutes until cheese is melted and the baguettes are crispy and warm. Meanwhile core and thinly slice the apple.
Remove the baguettes from the oven and layer the apples over the cheese. Drizzle honey over the apples and sprinkle with sea salt. Top with arugula and serve.