Cinnamon Scent for the Holidays: Soothing Chai  (Caffeine free )

Happy Holiday Season. As I write, it is either Christmas or  the Eve of Christmas. It is also Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. I am sure there are other Holidays as well to celebrate, not just Festivus (Seinfeld…..I had always wondered where the Ugly Sweater thing had returned from.)

I will be celebrating quietly this year, spending the day cooking, doing yoga, and writing. Some of the things I love best.

As the days get shorter and colder, my feelings about the cheer of winter start to fade. So we celebrated the Winter Solstice, the return of lengthening days, last week, with a small ceremony with other like minded people.  It got us out of the house, doing something new. It was quite, and candle lit. Just perfect for our scattered nerves.

At the end of the week, we exchanged gifts, drank eggnog, and listened to (more) holiday music. I ate things I haven’t had in a long time; Candy, sugar, milk, eggs…(shivering in delight). I spent the next two days cleaning up the holiday mess! Now my daughter is off to the West for a second Christmas, my husband is off to save the world (nightshift in the ICU), and I am here enjoying the quietude. It’s simply perfect.

I do want a little holiday cheer, however, and I know just what to make.  Something that makes the whole house smell warm and wonderful.  Here is a very simple recipe for traditional chai.  It requires a few ingredients you may not usually stock, but once you make this, you will want to.  Caffeine free, Very very Good!

Recipe:  Chai Tea

Ingredients:

2 quarts of water

16 cardamom pods

16 peppercorns (optional to place in tea ball/strainer)

12 whole cloves (optional to place in tea ball/strainer)

6 slices of ginger root, ~ 1 inch of root (candied ginger will substitute)

3 large or 6 small cinnamon sticks (get them on sale post Xmas!). Break these up for better flavor

1/4 cup honey (or to taste)

1/2 cup of milk (or cream)

Optional: 1-2 Tablespoons Ghee (clarified butter)

Instructions:

Place spices and water in a stock pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20-60 minutes. Remove from heat, strain out spices. Add milk and honey to taste.

Options:

Tea balls/ strainers: I use these for the clove, because I can get overwhelmed by the clove pretty easily.  If left to sit, the clove flavor gets stronger and stronger, so I like to be able to remove them, and let the rest stew or sit a bit longer.  The pepper can be the same, adding real heat if left in. Sometimes I really like this.  I usually remove the clove ball at the end of the boiling, or 20-30 minutes, and leave the pepper ball in a little longer.

Ghee / Milk Fat: The lower in milk fat, the lower in fat calories. That being said, using a higher fat milk (2% or Whole), will make this richer, and much more soothing.  Ghee will serve the same effect, and is supposed to be very healthful. The reason this happens is the milk fat soothes and quiets us and our autonomic nervous system. Yep, just like a baby.

Nut and Grain Milk: Coconut milk is a nice replacer. It will add a little coconut flavor, but it blends nicely with the other spices.  Rice milk would be my second choice, I usually buy unflavored, but both the unflavored and vanilla have some sugar in them.  Other nut and seed milks might be an option for you to explore, if needed.  Will special diets, or for parties, I usually make the base recipe, but set some aside before adding honey and milk, for those with dietary needs to doctor up, as needed.

Happy Holidays!

by Tama Cathers

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