Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Unexpected Chai Tea

What makes this Chai tea so 'unexpected'? It's the type of tea's I used to make it. I use a nice quality kukicha green tea and....drum roll please, Lapsang SouChong. If you have never had a campfire warmly taken in through your mouth and not your skin and nose, you are in for a treat! This is one of the most unexpected flavors in teas that I have found. It is very dark and smoky, the leaves are hand-picked, fermented and smoked over pinewood embers. This tea tastes as mysterious as it sounds and makes a mean chai. I hope you look for it today and try it out!

Unexpected Chai Tea

2 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
5 cardamon pods
5 cloves
2 quarter size pieces of ginger, sliced
1/4 tsp cracked pepper
1/2 tsp vanilla, pure
5 TB loose-leaf green tea
1 TB Lapsang Souchong
2 cups milk, (I use farm-fresh and raw)
4 TB honey

1. Place the first 7 ingredients in a sauce pan, stopping before you add the tea. Let this simmer for 10 minutes.
2. After 10 minutes, add the tea and let simmer for another 3 minutes.
3. Turn heat down to low and pour in the milk, add the honey. Taste and adjust any spices to your liking.

Just a side note: I like a strong, spicy chai. To make this stronger in flavor, I added additional powdered cinnamon, cardamon and a little more powdered clove. I use powdered forms of the spices that were previously steeped whole and it came out wonderful. This tea is not a science and adjusting it to your taste is really the only way it will come out perfect. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

To another winter day whittled away in the kitchen,

Friday, January 7, 2011

Chili Days!

When it is blowing COLD outside, a huge pot of chili can make it feel good! This dish is sure to fire you up, but if you need it a little more mild, you might want to cut the chili powder in half. For those of you that don't mind a HOT kick, I say throw it all in!


1/2 tsp butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 large carrot, small thin coins
1/4 cup white wine (or water if you don't have it)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 LG (40.5 oz) can kidney beans, undrained (or 2-3, 15 oz. cans)
1 can (7 oz.) tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can, fire-roasted tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup chili powder
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 TB garlic, minced
1 TB cumin, ground
2 TB paprika
1 TB oregano
1/2 lb ground sirloin (or turkey if you are watching calories) (always hormone/antibiotic free)

1. Brown the meat and set aside.

*Nutritional tip- Rinse your cooked meat under hot water in a colander. You will save yourself much fat and calories by getting in this habit. After the meat has been rinsed, place it back in the pan and add a few spices to flavor it again. Possible spice choices are pepper, parsley, garlic, or an Italian seasoning blend. You can use these spices in place of salt to help watch the sodium in your diet. Do this every time you brown meat to cut down on saturated fat.

2. Place butter in a stock pot. On medium heat, saute the onion and celery for 4 minutes. Add the garlic, wine, vinegar and carrots to the pot. Let simmer for a few minutes until carrots soften.

3. Place the undrained kidney beans, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes in the pot and add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and cilantro.

4. Mix in the cooked hamburger, simmer for 10-15 min. Stir well and serve.

This chili is great served with sour cream and tortilla chips! If it is too hot for you, then the sour cream can be used to tone it down!

Nutritional Tip:

Capsaicin is the component that gives peppers their heat. There are some interesting studies showing that eating hot peppers may help raise your metabolism for a few hours afterward. We are all aware of how eating hot peppers can make your mouth burn and your body sweat. By raising your metabolism you are changing how quickly your body burns off calories! The higher you can get your metabolism, the more calories you use up and not store as body fat.

Also, capsaicin is showing in some studies to release endorphins or 'feel-good' chemicals in us. Maybe that's the reason why chili is so good on a cold night? If there is enough chili powder in it, it could raise our core temperature for a few hours and give us feelings of comfort. You have to love a natural ingredient that can do that!

Let the wind blow, because we've got chili!

Much warmth to you all,