Spiced Chai Concentrate

I’ve been thinking a lot about the kinds of posts I’d like to share with you on my blog now that I’ve started up again. I’ve never been one to stick to a single topic, though I know I’d probably get more “engagement” that way, but I have to think about why I’m sharing what I’m sharing, and my strongest motivations are personal. I post because I want to remember moments in time, favorite recipes, garden projects, house projects, adventures we take as a family… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reference my own blog to pull up an old standby recipe, or to try and figure out which plants did well in the garden in previous years. I mean, when it comes down to it, maybe I just blog because I have a really bad memory, and this helps me keep track of the things I’ve done in my life.

In any case, I know for sure that I want to share all the recipes I turn to again and again, and especially those that are seasonally inspired. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what I like to do with the food we harvest when I’ve got baskets and baskets of it staring me right in the face. It can get pretty overwhelming in those moments, so it helps to have a list of favorite recipes in a centralized location I can turn to.

Some of the recipes I’ll be sharing, like this recipe for spiced chai concentrate, are recipes I’ve already posted on my old blog, but I want to bring them here and perhaps talk about how they have evolved over time or how they’ve been used in our household. 

For instance, this chai concentrate recipe is one I’ve made every year since discovering and posting about it back in 2011. I usually make it in fall when the weather turns cool because the transition between summer's heat and autumn's wind and rain can be abrupt here, so it’s nice to cup your hands around a cozy beverage for warmth. Plus, the warm spices that flavor the tea are very autumnal.

Over the years, I’ve tapered off my use of refined sugars, so I tend to use honey exclusively as my sweetener rather than a combination of honey and brown sugar. If I make this for guests, I still use the brown sugar, though, because I know most people aren’t as accustomed to the strong flavor that the honey gives off when it’s used on its own.

I also play around with different milks. You really need a rich, thick milk to cut the flavor of the concentrated tea to make this beverage really work, so I tend to stick with goat or cows milk, or I’ll use homemade almond milk because I can ensure that it’s nice and creamy. Soy milk would probably work, too, though I’ve never tried it.


INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 stick cinnamon, broken in pieces
  • 1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 7 whole cardamom pods
  • 2 whole star anise pods
  • 10 whole cloves
  •  5-10 peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest (or a couple strips of orange peel)
  • 10 bags of black tea
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar or honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla (optional)

Pour the water and the spices in a saucepan. Bring water to a boil and remove from heat. Add the honey and the brown sugar (optional) and the tea bags. Allow mixture to steep for 15 minutes. Remove tea bags and stir. Taste to check for sweetness and add more honey or brown sugar as needed.

Strain the mixture into a quart sized mason jar, discarding the spices. To serve, mix 1 part concentrate with 1 part milk. Heat for a warm beverage, or pour over ice to enjoy cold.

Place lid on the jar with the concentrate and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. 

Autumn Vibes

Autumn, I can't believe you're finally here. I've waited so, so long.

The weather is still warm where I live, but the sun feels different in the sky, even when it's hot. We harvested the last of our tomatoes and peppers from the garden boxes last weekend, and Matt went out to the family plot and brought home tons of pumpkins and acorn squash of all shapes and sizes. I've been roasting, pureeing, and freezing the pumpkin puree to keep as baby food for Ella because, out of all the foods we've given her, pumpkin has been her favorite so far.

Ella and I even managed to curl up together in bed to read a good Gaiman book about graveyards and ghosts, which put me in the mood for Halloween, Harry Potter (especially Prisoners of Azkaban), crunchy leaves and pumpkin-flavored anything. This really is my favorite time of year, and I'm trying to slow down my crazy life so I can take a few moments to enjoy it.

This time last year, I was nearly three months pregnant, and saw my future a little differently than the way my life is now. I had always fully intended on quitting my job and becoming a stay-at-home mom, so it took me by surprise that I would actually want to keep working part time after Ella was born. It was a nice surprise, really, but it never occurred to me to prepare for the fact that I wouldn't have as much time to spend on my favorite hobbies.

My hobbies are really important to me. Knitting, gardening, reading, writing... They help keep me centered and balanced, and make me feel rejuvenated, so you can imagine that it has been hard having enough time to devote to all (or any) of those things. In fact, my anxiety levels have been through the roof this past week, and I suspect that it has to do with how out of balance my life has become lately.

But somehow, with all the crisp autumn vibes surrounding us,  there's a part of me that's saying Slow down! Read a book. Don't go out tonight.

So I'm going to try to listen and embrace my homebody nature for awhile. We'll see what happens.