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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Smashed Baby Red Potatoes

The potatoes in the foreground and panini in the background

I believe I may have mentioned before that I love potatoes. For some reason they seem to touch something primal inside of me. When I was a kid, every meal was meat and potatoes and though I still love that combination I don't actually have it that often any more. 

Today we're just as likely to have some form of rice (which I NEVER had growing up) or maybe even noodles as we are to have potatoes - but that doesn't mean I don't love them as much today as I did in the past, I just don't give in to that urge quite as often.

A few months ago I tried something new - well, new to me anyway. My wife loves it and told me I should share my recipe - especially since I made it last night and my daughter (who had never tried it before) seemed to love it as much as the rest of us.

Ingredients


  • 12 small red potatoes (you can use any small potatoes you like - my preference for this recipe is the red potatoes)
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil (just enough to cover the cookie sheet you'll be using and brushing the tops of the potatoes with later)
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste


Optional ingredients


  • Parmesan cheese to taste
  • Rosemary to taste
  • Oregano to taste
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Onion powder to taste

Use as many of these as you'd like or none of them. Some other herb or spice you like? Use that. You can use either fresh or dried, both work just fine. I like to use dried rosemary and grind it directly over the potatoes.

Directions


  1. Put the potatoes in a pot of water and boil and cook until they are fork tender. For the amount I did, once it was boiling it took about 15 minutes



  2. Drain the potatoes and let cool
  3. Take a cookie sheet and generously drizzle the olive oil onto it. You don't want to be too stingy here - this is what's going to help keep the potatoes from sticking
  4. Place the boiled potatoes on the cookie sheet leaving room between each potato


  5. Using a potato masher, gently press down each potato until it mashes slightly. Rotate the masher 90 degrees and repeat.
  6. Brush the tops of each crushed potato generously with more olive oil (or butter if you want to be really decadent!)


  7. Sprinkle the potatoes with the salt, pepper and herbs of your choice


  8. Bake in a 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown

That's it! Very easy to make and the combination of the crispy exterior and the creamy interior gives it an incredible taste/texture combination! In addition, these are vegetarian and, if you omit the parmesan cheese, they are also vegan!

Panini!!! (chicken or vegetarian). The sun-dried tomato pesto is the secret


Panini.  Flash back about fifteen years and if you mentioned panini to me I'd think you might be talking about a street name in Rome, but I wouldn't have thought of a sandwich.

When I first learned what it was I made them quite a bit, experimenting with all different types of meats, breads, toppings and spreads (see how I did that? nice little rhyme, huh?).

I liked all of them, but only one stuck with the entire family. It uses ciabatta (and really, how can ciabatta be bad in most anything?), chicken breast, baby spinach, fontina cheese, grilled onions and the key to the whole thing: sun-dried tomato pesto. I've come to believe you could put this particular pesto on just about anything and it will make it better.

My middle daughter just turned 22 this week and the tradition in our house is that for your birthday dinner you can name anything you want (well, within reason) and Dad will make it for you. This particular panini is one of her favorites and it's what she wanted for her birthday dinner. Actually, it was about time since I've been wanting to post it anyway but wanted to wait until I had pictures before I did.

VEGETARIAN VERSION!
This is also one of my wife's favorite dishes as well (and she's a vegetarian). Instead of chicken, I simply substitute a Quorn "chicken" patty or TVP (or equivalent). You could do the same or even make it vegan by using a portobello and leaving out the cheese (or making a vegan substitution) and doing the same with the cheese in the pesto.

Pan and weight that I use to make panini if I'm not using my press

I have an actual panini press though I don't usually break it out unless I'm making them for a larger crowd than I did this time. If you have a grill pan (available here), it works every bit as well - you simply need some weight to press down on top of the sandwich. I have one that was made specifically to fit my grill pan but you can easily use a bacon press or, as I've seen some TV chefs do, a brick wrapped in tin foil.  No, it's not fancy, but it works and that's all you really need.

Ingredients*


  • Chicken breast, sliced (or pounded) thin
  • Ciabatta rolls or loaf of ciabatta bread cut into sections
  • Sun-dried tomato pesto (recipe here or buy here)
  • Havarti cheese, sliced thin, available at most delis (by all means use a different cheese if you don't like havarti, but I'd suggest a cheese that melts well)
  • Baby spinach leaves, just enough to cover the sandwich
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (enough for sautéing chicken)
  • 2 tbsp butter (enough for sautéing chicken)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (enough to cover top and bottom of ciabatta rolls)
* I'm not many giving measurements here simply because it all depends on how many you're making. You want a piece of chicken large enough to cover the ciabatta roll you're using, a slice (or two) of cheese for each sandwich, and enough baby spinach leaves to cover the sandwich. I find that a pound of chicken cut thin will easily make three or four (or more!) sandwiches depending upon how large your rolls are.

Optional ingredients


  • *Seasoning salt (to taste)
  • *Pepper (to taste)
  • *Garlic powder (to taste)
  • *Freshly ground dried rosemary (to taste)
  • *Dried oregano (to taste)
  • Grilled onions
  • 1 cup red or white wine to make wine reduction sauce (which kind is really a matter of preference - for me, it all depends on what we have sitting around that I can use up since I like both!)
*I lightly season the chicken with all of these prior to sautéing - use whatever spices you'd like or none

Directions


  1. Heat butter and olive oil in heavy bottomed skillet (I like to use stainless steel for this) on medium heat
  2. Season chicken (if using seasonings in optional ingredients)

    Sautéing seasoned chicken in butter/olive oil
  3. Sauté chicken in oil/butter mixture until golden brown (3-4 minutes per side, depending upon thickness)
  4. Remove chicken from pan and set aside - repeat as necessary until all chicken is done, not crowding the pan (you may need to add more butter/olive oil to the pan depending upon how many pieces you are cooking)

    Making a wine reduction sauce
  5. If you'd like to make a wine reduction sauce, pour off the excess oil, then pour the cup of wine in the pan. It will sizzle and you can scrape all of the "bits" off the bottom of the pan. Turn up the heat until the wine is boiling and cook until reduced by half

    Ciabatta rolls split in half, ready to go
  6. Split the rolls/loaf in half if not already cut

    My panini "station" with everything I'll need
  7. This is easier if you set up a "station" with all of the ingredients you'll be using close at hand. Start by spreading the sun-dried tomato pesto on both both halves of the ciabatta. I use approximately a tablespoon per side, but that depends on how large your rolls are and how much you want per sandwich

    Both sides spread with pesto
  8. Next, place a slice of cheese on the bottom half of the bread, on top of the spread (you may need to cut/tear the slice of cheese to adjust it to fit the shape of your bread)

    Add the cheese...
  9. Cover the cheese with a layer of baby spinach leaves

    ...and the spinach leaves
  10. Place a piece of chicken on top of the cheese (again, you may have to cut the chicken in order to make it fit the shape of the bread)

    The chicken is next
  11. If using grilled onions (and it makes it taste SO much better if you do!), spread them out and place on top of the chicken

    Then the grilled onions
  12. If you made the wine reduction sauce, pour a tablespoon on the cut side of the top of the roll (over the spread you put on earlier)
  13. Place the top piece of bread on the rest of the sandwich

    Sandwich oiled and ready to go in the pan
  14. If you have a mister, spray the top and bottom of the sandwich with olive oil. If you don't have a mister, simply pour a bit on each side and spread it on with your hand. You don't want to skip this step - the oil is what will help give the panini the nice firm crunch that makes it so good
  15. Preheat your pan (or press). You want to do this for at least five minutes to give it time to get good and hot. If you're going to be cooking them immediately upon making them, you may want to move this step up just a bit so it's preheated when you've finished the sandwich making step
  16. Place the sandwich(s) in the preheated pan and put the weight on top. I typically press it down for at least a few seconds just to help flatten it a bit

    After being flipped once. The one in the front needs to be cooked a bit more.
  17. Cook until the bread is starting to brown on the bottom. I like to have dark grill marks (closer to black), so if you do as well, adjust the cooking time accordingly. It's important not to have the heat too high; if you do, the bread will burn before the interior of the sandwich is hot enough to melt the cheese. I find that a medium heat seems to work well. It's better to err on the side of not quite hot enough - once the interior is hot you can always crank the heat up to brown the bottom of the panini
  18. When the bottom is cooked the way you like it, remove your weight and flip the panini. Cook until the other side is once again turning brown. Done properly, the panini should be hard on top and bottom but soft just under the outer crust


  19. Remove from the pan. If you are cooking several you may want to put them in the oven on warm while you cook the next batch.


  20. Cut on a diagonal, serve and enjoy!


COOKS NOTE: You can do some of these steps ahead of time. I typically make a large batch of the sun-dried tomato pesto ahead of time so I have it whenever I need it. Likewise, you can sauté the chicken early as well so when you're ready to make your panini you simply have to assemble them using your premade pesto and chicken.













Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto



I think I may have mentioned before that I led a fairly sheltered "food life" until ten or so years ago. I had never heard of pesto, sun-dried or otherwise. When I discovered it I kind of went crazy with it, making several different kinds (and loving all of them). The two that have become my favorites are just the basic pesto made with basil and this one made with sun-dried tomatoes. If you've never had it you're in for a treat. There are many different ways to use it, including pasta, but my all time favorite is as a spread on a sandwich - particularly a panini made with chicken, a wine-reduction sauce, grilled onions, havarti cheese and baby spinach all on a grilled and pressed ciabatta roll. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Give it a try - you'll be glad you did!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (minus the oil they were packed in)
  • 4 tbsp fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tbsp toasted pine nuts (pignolis)
  • 4 tbsp grated parmigiano reggiano (or parmesan)
  • 6 tbsp oil from sun dried tomatoes (or olive oil)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Put all ingredients in a food processor and run until the mixture resembles a coarse paste. You may need to adjust the amount of olive oil to suit your preferences.
  2. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month - but you'll probably use it up long before then!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Pumpkin Soup

Incredibly yummy pumpkin soup topped with sour cream and chives

Maybe I've simply led a sheltered life, but until a few years ago I had never eaten anything made with pumpkins other than pumpkin pie (unless you count the Dunkin' Donuts inundation we get at a certain time of year with all of their muffins and donuts).

I had no clue exactly how versatile the pumpkin is - nor did I realize that in certain parts of Italy, the pumpkin is a staple in cooking and has been for centuries. I learned all of these things when I bought a cookbook a few years ago that has hundreds of recipes for using pumpkin. Who'd a thunk it? Pumpkin, this staple of pies in thousands (if not millions) of households every Thanksgiving, ALSO in hundreds of different recipes? I certainly never would have realized it!

One of those hundreds of things I hadn't tried until recently was pumpkin soup. Pumpkin and butternut squash can be used interchangeably and I have certainly made many different versions with butternut squash but for some reason I simply hadn't tried it with pumpkin.

I've since remedied that! Unfortunately, at this time of year here in New England, I had to settle for canned pumpkin (I much prefer roasting and pureeing a whole pumpkin myself but that's difficult to do when there are none to be had!). Even with canned pumpkin, it was still a hit even with my 17 year old that swears he hates pumpkin (he had two bowls!).

If you try it, let me know what you think in the comments.

Prepping the ingredients - I made a double batch
since it was going with us to a dinner party

Ingredients: 


  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1 cup chopped onion (approx. 1 medium onion)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 2 tsp mild curry (I use the Penzey's Sweet Curry exclusively - other curries can be WAY too hot for my wimpy palate)
  • 1 tsp salt (use more or less to taste) 
  • 1/2 tsp coriander 
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper 
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • dash nutmeg  
  • 3 cups chicken broth 
  • 15 oz. can pumpkin 
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light cream or half and half 
  • sour cream and chives for garnish 


Stirring in the spices after sautéing the onions and garlic

Method: 


  1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy bottomed pan
  2. Sauté the onion until soft (about two to three minutes)
  3. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds to one minute) 
  4. Add curry, coriander, salt, black pepper, rosemary, cinnamon and nutmeg and cook for one minute to toast the spices
  5. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil
    Stirring the chicken stock into the onion/garlic mixture
  6. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20 minutes 
  7. Stir in the pumpkin, cream, applesauce and sugar. Bring back to a simmer and cook for an additional five minutes 
    Stir in the pumpkin, cream, applesauce and sugar
  8. Either use a stick blender and blend well in the pan or allow to cool for ten minutes or so and pour into a blender in small batches and blend until creamy. Combine all batches from blender and stir well
    Using a stick blender to combine all the ingredients until smooth
  9. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives
    Ready to eat!

White Chicken Chili


White chicken chili served over rice, with a side of homemade cornbread.
As Alton Brown (my culinary hero) might say, "That's good eats!"
We had chili quite a bit when I was growing up - but never with chicken. It was always the red chili with plenty of beans and hamburger. I still love it that way but as I've gotten older I've also gained an appreciation for that other kind of chili - white chicken chili.

My wife is a sometime vegetarian but even she'll eat this - and my son much prefers it to a red chili. I'm not certain I could honestly say that I PREFER the white over the red, but suffice it to say I'm a fan of both and for some reason the chicken version at least SEEMS a bit healthier (which could very well be all in my mind).

So, here is how I make mine. Keep in mind that all of the spices can (and should) be adjusted to suit your tastes. We are not fans of hot and spicy chili (or hot and spicy anything else for that matter) in our house but I have plenty of friends that believe the hotter the better in the food department. Because of that, I'm aware that this recipe even more than many of my others needs to be adjusted to allow for the taste preferences of your household.

Likewise, I use homemade chicken broth and beans that I've soaked and cooked myself rather than from a can. Feel free to use canned broth and beans if that's what you prefer or have time for!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked chicken (Use more or less depending upon how much chicken you want in the recipe as opposed to beans. I used leftover chicken from a whole chicken I had cooked earlier in the week. If you buy rotisserie chicken from the store, this is a good way to use any leftovers. You can also bake, roast or poach chicken specifically for this purpose if you want. If you poach it, use the leftover liquid in place of the chicken broth further down in this list.)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (garlic infused if available, plain is fine if not)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 whole cans green chilies, chopped
  • 1 pound navy beans, soaked per directions on the bag - OR - 2 (14.5-ounce) cans white beans
  • 8 cups chicken broth (4 cups if using canned beans)
  • 1 whole roasted jalapeño or 1 whole chipotle, sliced (the best directions I've seen for roasting your own peppers are here - and if you're a wimp like all of us here in our household remember to remove the seeds)
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional ingredients
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp cornmeal
  • grated cheddar cheese, to taste
  • sour cream for garnish

Directions
Sautéing onions and garlic

  1. Pour the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan on medium heat
  2. Add onions and cook until just turning translucent (about two or three minutes)
  3. Add garlic and chopped chilies and cook until fragrant (about a minute)
  4. Add the cumin, coriander, chili powder and paprika and cook for another minute to toast the spices
  5. Add the chicken stock and beans and bring to a simmer
  6. If using uncooked beans, cook for two hours or until the beans are tender (if you are using canned beans, cook for about twenty minutes until heated through)
  7. Stir in the chicken and roasted jalapeño
  8. Add the cornmeal to the cup of milk and stir well (this step and the next are optional - I like the flavor and texture it adds to the chili. It thickens it at the same time. If you don't like cornmeal or if your chili is thick enough feel free to skip both)
  9. Pour the cornmeal mixture into the chili and stir well (optional - along with previous step)
  10. Serve chili in a bowl topped with cheddar cheese (or your choice of cheese) and sour cream. If you have cilantro on hand, maybe a slice of lime or some tortilla chips and salsa it would also make an excellent finish!
My wife loves her chili served over white rice. I had never heard of it before but I have since seen it served that way in a few restaurants as well. Now, we always have it that way and I have to admit it makes it even better!





Sunday, January 12, 2014

Roasted Garlic Infused Olive Oil

If you read many of my recipes, you may have noticed
Bottled roasted garlic infused
oil with the roasted garlic
that I frequently will allude to using flavored olive oil. It's one of those things that isn't really necessary (in most every case, unflavored oil will work just fine) but I LOVE the extra flavor you get from using it - not to mention that using it as dipping oil is heavenly.

The first time I made this, I did a lot of research - and found that making infused oils can actually be kind of dangerous. Not dangerous as in "it might explode", but dangerous as in "it can give you food poisoning if you're not careful" (and this isn't true of making all infused oils - but it is true of garlic infused oil).  

Because of that, I opted out of trying to make just garlic infused oil and went with the ROASTED garlic infused oil.  That eliminates a lot of the risk - you are heating the oil in the oven (with the garlic in it) to 350 degrees for an hour which will kill most anything that could possibly make you sick.  I also store it in the refrigerator which seriously reduces the other main problem that can occur with the NON-ROASTED garlic infused oil - which is something "growing" in it when it sits out.  In any case, I've made this several times now and haven't encountered any issues whatsoever - but thought it was best to let you know in case you want to try it yourself. 

The side benefit I found from making roasted garlic oil is that I actually like it better - roasting the garlic gives the oil a mellower flavor than if it's not roasted.  The best part of all is what's leftover - the roasted garlic!!  This is absolutely awesome to spread on a piece of crusty bread. It's like butter, only better!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups olive oil (I actually do something slightly different. I keep my oil refrigerated for the reason mentioned above, and pure olive oil can solidify in the refrigerator. This will NOT harm it in any way and will work just fine when it warms up - BUT I don't always have time to warm it up or simply don't feel like waiting, so instead of using strictly olive oil, I use two cups of olive oil and two cups of canola oil. I can't really taste the difference after roasting the garlic in it and it won't solidify in the refrigerator so you are able to pour it out for your favorite recipe without any "warming" time)
  • 8 heads of garlic, sliced in half
  • *4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • *2 fresh rosemary sprigs

*Optional - add these ingredients or any others you may like if you want that particular flavor in your oil as well.  Feel free to experiment and vary the type and amount used to match your tastes.

Directions:
Just before being covered by foil and going in the oven

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place halves of garlic heads cut-side down in a baking dish and cover with the oil. 
  3. Place thyme, rosemary or any other herbs you may be using in oil (this step is optional)
  4. Cover with aluminum foil, then place the dish on a baking sheet. 
  5. Roast for one hour.  
  6. Pour the oil through a fine mesh strainer.
  7. Remove the garlic from the strainer and set aside to drain on paper towels.
  8. Pour the oil into a tightly sealed container or jar. It should last a minimum of a month - I've never been able to keep it much longer than that simply because it's all gone before that time comes!
  9. Don't toss the garlic! After it has cooled, squeeze the cloves out of each bulb. Keep them whole or mash them with a fork, using as desired in a recipe or simply spread onto a piece of crusty bread. Don't let anyone else in the family know you have them if you want to have any for yourself (I have to hide them from my wife or they're all gone within a day)!
  10. Enjoy!
    Fresh out of the oven - it also makes your house smell incredible!


This is a different batch with garlic, rosemary and oregano - best batch yet!

Cashew Brittle (or Peanut Brittle if you prefer!)

I remember loving peanut brittle
Cashew brittle - broken up and ready to eat!
when I was growing up - the problem was, about the only time we had it was around the holidays when my aunt would make a batch for my dad and us kids didn't get much of it.

Fast forward MANY years - I had still never had it often but loved it. Then a very good friend gave me her recipe and introduced me to the homemade stuff and I never looked back (the same friend pretty much singlehandedly changed how I think about cooking and got me started on the path of loving it that I'm still walking today, for which I am eternally grateful).

To give you an idea about how good I think her original recipe is, I only made one minor change (the addition of vanilla).  Most recipes I get - even ones from my mother - I seriously modify (because I can't help myself, not necessarily because they need it) but this one is so good and yet simple at the same time that it didn't need any changes (the addition of vanilla is truly a personal preference - add it if you like it, leave it out if you don't).

That's when I found out that you could make brittle with something besides peanuts (yes, it seems pretty obvious now!).  My favorite is cashew brittle. If you like nuts, it truly is amazing. It's also incredibly simple - it takes just a few ingredients and small bit of time. In addition, it's vegetarian AND vegan so you can serve it to anyone (as long as they don't have a nut allergy that is).

I've followed in my aunt's footsteps and given it out for the holidays in a nice tin lined with wax (or parchment) paper and it was a huge hit. Today, I just made it because it sounded good and I hadn't had it in a while.

If you prefer peanuts to cashews, simply substitute raw peanuts for the cashews and it will come out fine.  I've also made it in the past with macadamia nuts, almonds and even pine nuts (pignolis) or a combination of the above.  Also, this is pretty thick with cashews as it is, but if you want even more, feel free to add more than the cup listed. You won't have to change anything else to make up the difference and it will taste fine.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
    Sugar, corn syrup and salt
    mixed together and ready.
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup raw cashews (if you choose to use raw peanuts, be certain they do NOT have the skins - I was told this initially when I got the recipe and tried using the ones with skins anyway because I didn't think it made any difference.  I was wrong.)  

Directions

  1. Prepare a cookie sheet by coating with Pam spray or a light coat of butter or oil (lately, instead of doing this I put a piece of parchment paper - NOT wax paper - on the cookie sheet and lightly spray that.  It makes cleanup a snap!). Place the prepared sheet close to the stove.
  2. Measure out one teaspoon of baking soda and have it close at hand. 
    After adding cashews.
    Note how light the color is.
  3. Combine sugar and corn syrup with the salt in a large heavy bottomed pan and mix together. 
  4. Turn heat on medium high.
  5. Stir continuously until the mixture comes to a boil.
  6. Stir in the cashews (or whatever nuts you're using).
  7. Keep stirring for approximately 8-10 minutes. What you're looking for here is a color change - it will turn from a white/clear to a golden/amber color. If you want to use a candy thermometer, it's approx. 300 degrees. It's VERY important to not overcook or your brittle will taste burnt.
  8. Remove from heat immediately when the right color/temperature is reached.
  9. Remember that baking soda we said to keep close?  This is when you need it. Dump it and the vanilla in the pan with the rest of the ingredients and keep stirring. It will start foaming and should be a golden/light tan color.
    Just before taking off the heat.
    Note the color of the mixture (and
    cashews) at this point.
  10. Quickly pour the entire thing onto the prepared cookie sheet and spread out evenly with a spatula or the back of a wooden spoon. Remove as many of the bubbles as you can. This step goes VERY fast and the candy is VERY hot. Be careful and do it as quickly as you can.
  11. Put the sheet on a cooling rack and let rest until cool - alternately, if you're like me and don't want to wait, make room in the freezer!
  12. Once it's cool, carefully turn it over and wipe the oil off the back. 
  13. Break into pieces and store in a wax paper lined tin (or other airtight container).
  14. Enjoy!

This is what the mixture will look like after
you add the baking powder.  It will foam up.
At this point, you have to work fast!
We buy all of our raw nuts at a local Asian grocery store (for anyone living in our area, A. Dong in West Hartford is a great place to visit!).  I know not everyone has an Asian grocery store close to them or they simply never have the opportunity to go to one so I've included links to Amazon for all the different types of nuts I mentioned - and it IS important to use raw nuts as opposed to ones that have already been roasted.
This is the cashew brittle cooled, waiting to be
broken into smaller pieces and eaten!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Instant Chai Tea Mix - just add water!

A cup of hot chai.
Perfect for a cold winter day!
Anyone that knows me knows that I drink iced tea.  Morning, noon and night, that is pretty much all I drink...until recently.  I've always liked chai (and I do have a brewed version that I make into iced tea) but I very rarely drink ANYTHING hot.  No real reason other than a personal preference for cold drinks.


A couple of weeks ago we were at our local farmer's market (Coventry Regional Farmer's Market - if you're close enough to attend, I HIGHLY recommend it).  About once a month they have a "swap". Anyone can do it - you simply bring something homemade (it can be edible or a craft item) and people swap items they've brought with items from someone else. We love doing this and try to attend them whenever we can.  At the last swap, someone brought an instant chai tea mix. We ended up getting it in a swap and brought it home.  I hadn't thought much about it until we had a party last weekend and several people tried it and absolutely loved it.

That was enough for me - I had to figure out how to make it. I visited a number of sites that had their own version and came up with one that I liked. It's a bit different than some of the others that I've seen out there but the great thing about it is that you can quite easily tailor it to your own tastes.  If you don't care for cloves, leave them out. Want some allspice or nutmeg? Put in a pinch (or more).  There are no hard and fast rules - put in what you like, leave out what you don't until you get a combination that you want to stick with. I know people that even like a small bit of ground white pepper in their chai. Likewise with the milk powder - if you want something a bit "creamier", add a bit more of the milk powder.  If you want more of a tea taste, add more of the instant tea. 

You get the idea - make it yours!

Just add a spoonful (or two) and you're good to go!

Ingredients


* If you don't have vanilla sugar, simply use 1 cup of French vanilla flavored powdered non-dairy creamer along with 2 1/2 cups of regular sugar instead.  If you do this, you can also cut the amount of dry milk powder down to 1 cup instead of 1 1/2 cups.  The important part here is simply getting the vanilla flavor into the mix in a dry format as opposed to liquid vanilla extract.

Directions

The final result should be a very fine powder like this.
  1. In a large bowl, combine milk powder, non-dairy creamer, vanilla sugar (or flavored creamer), and instant tea. 
  2. Stir in ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg and allspice and mix well. 
  3. In a food processor (or blender), blend 1-2 cups at a time, until mixture is the consistency of fine powder (you can skip this step, but it will dissolve better if you take the time to do it).


To serve: Stir 1-2 heaping tablespoons Chai tea mixture (depending upon taste) into a mug of hot water. If you prefer an even creamier consistency, you can add hot milk instead of water.