Recipe: Chai Tea From Scratch

So, I bought the most amazing chai tea a long time ago.  Then, I ran out of it…because it is SO yummy.


After watching a cooking show where the host went to India and bought what he claimed was the best chai tea in that town (I forget where…but it was in India) and learning that it was simply milk, sugar, black tea and lots of ginger…I decided I wanted to make my own chai tea mix.


Now, the chai tea I had bought, the base is actually rooibos tea.  I didn’t find a pound of loose rooibos tea when I went shopping, so I defaulted to my own beloved black tea.


Here is what I bought:


1 pound of loose black tea

2.6 ounces of dried ginger*

3 ounces whole dried green cardamon*

2.6 ounces dried mulling spices**




*(that is simply how much was in the packet–I didn’t go out looking expressly for that exact amount)

**I had had a list of other ingredients, like cloves, and cinnamon, and whatever else.  The mulling spices packet had all that I wanted and then some, so I grabbed it.  The mulling spices packet contained: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cardamon, and mace.


I dropped everything in a large plastic container that I have.  I put the lid on it and held it while I shook the whole thing.  I wanted to make sure everything was well incorporated.


After that, I poured the whole lot into a gallon-sized plastic freezer bag, which I put inside another gallon-sized plastic freezer bag to add another layer of protection.  Things break and tear a lot around here.


Then, I set it up in the back of my tea cabinet (yes, on cabinet has the ‘special occasion’ dishes and as much tea as I can stuff into it) and I left it alone for at least six weeks or more.  The point of doing this is so everything infuses together.


After that, I use it at will.


How do I make chai tea from my own mix?


I have one teapot specifically dedicated to making chai.  It holds maybe six cups, maybe eight.


I throw in two tablespoons of chai mix; then I fill it with water.  I put it on the heat until it starts to whistle (this means it starts to boil) and then I turn it off.  I leave it on the burner for fifteen to twenty minutes.


I pour a good half cup or more of honey into a pitcher, usually a half gallon pitcher.  I strain the tea into this pitcher over the honey.  I add milk, or almond milk, to fill the pitcher up.  I stir to combine.


You can drink it as warm as it is then.  You can heat it all back up.  You can pour it over ice.  You can put it in the refrigerator and chill it and drink it cold that way.


Whatever you fancy.




The Things We Are Learning…

Do you know what we learned here at home this past week?

That English muffins are not baked at all–they are grilled.  Like on a griddle, or in a pan.

We watch as much The Great British Bake Off as we possibly can on Netflix–there are only three seasons available…but we watch every single episode over and over–except the show stopper on one episode because we feel so bad for the person who went home (forty seconds, indeed!)…but we do watch episodes over and over and over of the three seasons we have available here…and we have begun to do several things.

I do have to say I am very grateful for this show…I am now cooking a lot more…and I haven’t wanted to cook in a long time.  Dinner tonight was homemade bread with homemade cottage pie…and the family is too happy about that one.

One: the teen girl is baking like mad.  She makes her own fondant, with marshmallows, so it’s the “quick” fondant–but she is way too happy with it.  She makes cakes, cupcakes and other bits from scratch now.  She made a coconut crème pie this weekend–and that includes making the crust from scratch, making the whipped crème from scratch…she is having a field day.

Two:  I have made things like, oh, English muffins.  I have a cast iron pancake skillet (or at least that’s what I call it–it is not a fry pan–no raised sides) and we worked out our first batch and they are yummy.  It was a test batch–they rose for too long on the first rise–but at least I know what I did wrong…they puffed up all mighty mighty when I fried them.  So the next time, I will adjust accordingly.

I also got to make an Apple Betty Crisp for my darlin’ man.  What is an Apple Betty Crisp?  Well, I took an Apple Betty recipe and I combined it with an Apple Crisp recipe…and voila…Apple Betty Crisp.  Why did I do it that way?  The Apple Crisp recipe had way too much sugar, and not enough crumble for the crisp…I like to improvise.

Three:  this week-end, for St Patrick’s Day, we had our celebration on Saturday, for the most part–I still have cupcakes to make, but Sunday was another busy day…and he girl had to make her coconut crème pie, so I wasn’t fighting to make cupcakes…although I did make my own buttercream…

I found out…the teen girl (as opposed to the teen boy) loves cabbage.  Cabbage.  Who knew?  And all I did was chop a head of cabbage up, toss it in water with two packets of onion soup mix, and let it boil until tender.  I pulled out, drained it all–I used the left-over broth to boil our ears of corn in…and that was nice and tasty.  But the cabbage, I chopped up finer for eating, tucked them into a bowl and let butter melt all over the top.  Nothing more than that.  And the girl cannot get enough.  Cool.

For the teen boy, I asked him what he needed to have at a St Patrick’s Day celebration–I received one request.  Green bread.  That’s it.  Not cakes.  Not cupcakes.  Not puddings.  Not jellos. (The youngest wants green and orange jellos, but no one else does.)  Plain old green bread.  I used a basic white bread recipe, in my bread machine on the dough cycle…and it took a lot more green food coloring than you would think to turn it a nice deep shade of green–versus a pale pastel Eastery sort of shade of green…it turned out quite yummy.

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My oldest son's st pats day request. .. green bread

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Although the youngest, who normally cannot get enough of homemade bread when it’s baked here…he won’t touch it…even though when asked how he turned the bread green (his sister was teasing him) he said as he is a super hero he used his super powers to turn the bread green–and that he did it because he is a super hero and that is what super heroes do.  Just so ya know there.

I do plan on making cupcakes tomorrow…I have the green buttercream.  I am making either vanilla or lemon cupcakes.  Maybe even both.  The funny thing is–I probably won’t eat any.  It’s why I don’t really bake more, because it doesn’t always get eaten.  Believe it or not, the toddler is not all that into sweets.  He loves to help cook and bake, but not so much eat.  Although since last week, that has been slowly changing…so we’ll see where he sits when I start up with the cupcakes again.  He is a picky one, that boy.


We Cooked The Mushrooms Here…


So, we are mushroom people here.  I admit, I like to collect certain type of mushroomy kitschy bits here and there, but overall, we are a mushroom eating family.

My daughter LOVES to eat mushrooms.  This post is for her.

We had a container of mushrooms, not quite baby, but small portobellos, in the refrigerator.  I had gotten them for a reason, for some particular meal I was to prepare…and then…well…chronic illness…sometimes I achieve my plans; other times…I totally forget about them.

These mushrooms languished in the fridge for a bit (a couple of weeks).  My daughter spotted them and brought them to my attention.  I checked them out…and they needed to be cooked.  Quickly.

They were slowly starting to slime.  Now, slimy mushrooms, in this case, are not a good thing.  I had to toss three mushrooms due to slime, but the rest were fine.  I washed everything under running water and gave them a rough pat dry.  Then I sliced them, long and a bit thick.  I threw the stems out.  They had gone too woody.

I put a few tablespoons of oil olive in a pan, along with some salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cardamon, and cloves.  I turned the heat under the pan on to about medium and tossed in the mushrooms.  I sautéed these a bit, until the olive oil absorbed into the mushrooms, which was not the plan at all.  So, I checked the fridge, grabbed a pumpkin ale–hey, all I wanted was a beer–I didn’t care what kind really–this pumpkin beer had been sitting there a while because my partner didn’t like it–and my idea on beer is more about cooking with it than drinking it…except for Murphy’s Stout…but that’s me…I dumped the beer in with the mushrooms.  Because I needed them to cook fast–starving teenager and all, you know–I cranked the heat up to medium-high.  Now, I stirred these things often before I added the beer.  To keep everything from sticking.  Once the beer went in, I deglazed the bottom of the pan, scraping every little bit I could free from it.  After that, I kept an eye on it and I stirred it periodically.  Once the beer began to cook out, I stirred it a bit more often to keep it from sticking to the pan.

As soon as all the beer cooked off, I set it aside.

Here is where the girl made some pasta, just your basic spaghetti noodles.  Nothing special.

We took hot spaghetti noodles and threw some of the mushrooms over them, with a little bit of olive oil.  Stirred it a bit to combine…and ate it.

Voila–all done.

Ok, so I know you have questions–like how much of stuff.  Like–really? cardamon? why?

I opened my cabinet and asked the mushrooms what they needed.  Seriously.  I jut trusted my intuition there.

I probably used 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil while cooking.  I might have used at least a teaspoon of the salt, the garlic, the onion powders.  Maybe a half of teaspoon on the pepper (freshly cracked and grated–by pepper mill).  Cardamon, maybe a fourth of a teaspoon.  Cloves, maybe about the same, maybe a little bit more.  I would have used whatever beer I found in the refrigerator, but I prefer to cook with darker brews–but then again, I prefer to drink darker brews.

Whatever you make of it, my daughter loves it…and so do I…and we are looking forward to re-creating it, frequently.

Let us know if you try it…or something like it.



Smoked Pumpkin Soup And Ginger Rolls


1 large onion (I used white), diced

2-4TB olive oil

6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped

salt to taste

pepper to taste

1-32 ounce container of chicken stock

1-32 ounce container of vegetable stock

4+ cups of smoked pumpkin*

2 pre-cooked sweet potatoes (you can bake them–I zapped these in the microwave due to time), skins removed

1 1/2 cups half and half

1 TB curry powder

1/2 TB turmeric powder

1 TB ginger

1/2 tsp cardamom

1 tsp Chinese Five Spice


To prepare:

Add diced onion and olive oil to your soup pot.  Add salt to taste. Saute until the onion becomes translucent.  Add chopped garlic.  Continue to saute until everything turns brown and fragrant.

Add about a cup or so of stock (either one) and use that to deglaze the pot.  Scrape the sides and the bottom of the pot to incorporate all the yummy brown bits into the soup.

Add the rest of the stock.  Both containers.

Add the insides of the sweet potatoes and the pumpkin.

Add all your herbs and spices, including more salt.

Bring to a boil and allow to simmer.  I start with medium-high heat.  Once it comes to a boil, I turn it down to medium heat and allow it to go.

Stir as often as you feel called.  Beware of splashing soup.

After twenty to thirty minutes, the pumpkin and potato should be breaking down softening and becoming more soupy than structured.

Turn the heat down to low, as low as you can.  Wait for the bubbling to stop.  Puree all of the soup.  I used an immersion mixer.  Everything should break down.  You may have some chunks, but as long as they are small, it’s not an issue.  Puree more if you want to be rid of all chunks, or leave more chunks, as you like.

Leave the heat on low.  This is when my soup began to spit back at me, so be careful.

Carefully add the half and half.  Stir to incorporate.  Add salt or whatever other seasoning you need to get the soup where you want it.

I let that cook on low for about fifteen more minutes.

Serve in a bowl, topped with pumpkin seeds.

We also served ginger rolls** with our meal.


*How to smoke a pumpkin.

We ran into this by accident.  We were smoking chicken and corn on the cob  on the grill one evening recently.  We had bought a very large pumpkin the week before…and I was dreading baking it in the oven because it was so hot outside.  It hit me that the coals from the grill stayed hot a long time once our dinner was taken off.  So, I chopped the pumpkin in half, scooped out all the guts, and put the pumpkin on the grill.  I put the pieces skin side down.

After an hour I went back to check on it.  The pumpkin was cooking nicely, but had a long way to go before it was done.  I pierced one single hole in the bottom of both pieces of pumpkin to allow the collected fluid to drain off slowly without putting out the fire.

An hour after that, the pumpkin was soft all over, inside and out…and smoked (with mesquite chips) to perfection.

I removed all the skin once the pumpkin had cooled.  I put it in gallon storage bags and used it as needed.



**Ginger Rolls

Please note, I made the dough in my bread machine and baked it in the oven.


1 1/2 cups room temperature water

2 TB butter

1/4 cup molasses

1 tsp lemon extract

4 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 TB ginger

1/2 tsp Chinese 5 spice

2 tsp yeast (dry)

I put everything into my bread machine, set it to dough cycle and let it go.

After the dough was done, I pulled it out of the machine.  I put it on a floured surface and kneaded it down.  I formed it into a long but thick tube.  I cut this into six equal (ish) pieces.  I formed these into small loaves and set them on a greased baking sheet.  I covered them with a damp towel and let them rise for 65+ minutes, until doubled.

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and baked them for about 25-30 minutes.  Bake until they sound hollow when tapped.





Recipe: Beef And Mushy Potatoes

Basic Ingredients:
One 8 ounce package of sliced mushrooms
One beef roast (ours was roughly 2 ½ lbs)
One medium onion (we used red)
32 ounce of beef or vegetable stock (we actually used chicken stock, because we grabbed the wrong container—and it worked great)
1 TB herbes de provence
Salt to taste
One potato per dinner guest

The morning before you plan to serve this meal for dinner…or the night before if you plan to serve this for lunch, add to your crockpot: the onion, sliced roughly—the roast—the sliced mushrooms. Add the herbes de provence and the soup stock. Turn heat to low and let cook.
Please note—cooking time for your roast may vary, depending on size and type of roast. Please cook your roast thoroughly, until it is done enough to shred without effort.
An hour or so before serving time, heat your oven to about 400 degrees. Bake your potatoes until done, roughly an hour, depending on their size.
Once your potatoes are done, let them cool while you prepare the gravy.
For the gravy, carefully remove all the mushrooms and onions from the crock pot and place into a blender. To do this, I first removed the roast and put it aside on a plate. Add just enough of the soup stock to help the blender move the mushrooms and onions without issue.
Blend the mushrooms, onions and stock until it is as blended as you like it. You may blend it out completely so that your sauce is smooth—or you may want your mushrooms and onions a bit more whole, so you would blend less.
Add the freshly blended bits into a saucepan. Then pour all remaining stock from the crock pot over that. Before going any further, replace meat in crock pot and cover to keep it warm.
I make gravy using Wondra. If you make it another way, insert your way to make gravy here. For me, I turned the heat under the sauce pan to a medium low heat. I added about a TB of Wondra and used a whisk to incorporate it. I let the gravy simmer a minute before adding another tablespoon of Wondra. I whisked that in and let it simmer. I continued this pattern until the gravy was as thick as I wanted it. I left that covered to sit while I worked on the beef.
Shred the beef, using a fork if the meat is too hot. I actually use two forks if the meat is too hot. One to hold the meat steady and one to shred the meat. The meat should just fall apart as you touch it if it is done through.
Combine the shredded beef with the gravy. Set aside.
Put one baked potato per plate. Cut potato open. Ladle beef and gravy mixture liberally over potato.
Repeat for each potato to serve.
That’s all there is to it.

Recipe: Pumpkin Rice Pudding

We love rice pudding here…and we have a ton of pumpkin to play with this year.  It seems as if every time we go to the store, we come home with yet another pumpkin…so here’s a recipe.

A note about the pumpkin I use: I do not use pumpkin from a can.  I don’t think I have used can pumpkin in over ten years.  We buy a pumpkin, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and innards, and then put it in the oven to bake … until it is all soft and squishy when I push on the outer skin.  Once cool, that outer skin peels right off, no issues.  I freeze this once cool.  I do not process the pumpkin if it is chunky…I just go with it.

Also, the recipe I am about to give you is inspired by at least twenty other recipes, some of which I have used, and some I have not.  What I needed when I made this was a recipe that called for left-over rice, as in already cooked and ready rice.  Rice pudding for us is always something we make after we have rice left over from one meal or another.  When I did my original search online for “pumpkin rice pudding” I found no recipes that called for such rice.  All the recipes had the rice cooking incorporated into the cooking process.

So–before I started this project, I already had my 1 cup of cooked pumpkin ready.

I also had rice.  I had prepared two cups of dry rice per package directions (2 cups of rice, 3 cups of water, in my rice cooker until done for ours).  We used about 1 cup of cooked rice…and whatever was left over was what we used to make this dessert.

Helpful, aren’t I?  You can prepare 2 cups of uncooked rice and use all of that rice in this recipe.

So–here are the ingredients:

Your cooked cooled rice

3 cups of milk (any kind)

1 cup pumpkin

3 eggs

3/4 cup brown sugar — add more if you like it sweeter

1TB vanilla extract (yes, one tablespoon–you could use 1 tsp and be fine)

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 ground cardamom

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375.

I used my kitchen aid for this.  First I put in the milk and eggs and mixed those thoroughly while adding the vanilla extract, spices and salt.  Then I added the brown sugar and let it mix a bit.  Then I added the pumpkin and I let it mix awhile since the pumpkin was a bit chunky.  The mixing broke it down more.  Then I slowly added the rice a bit at a time, allowing everything to incorporate and soak together.

I poured all of this into a 9in x 13 in casserole dish.

I baked this for 55-65 minutes.  I started checking at 55 minutes.  It was cooked through, but not browned on top, so I left it in until the top browned.

Now, rice pudding in this house means no way is anyone allowing it to cool before eating.  We scooped some up into bowls, added a bit of milk over the top–although you can top with heavy cream, half and half, or whipped cream, as you like it…and then we all happily munched away.