Spicy Chai

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The weather here has definitely been turning colder, and when I’m done with work and I step outside into the cool, windy air, all I want to do is get home and sit on some warm chai. While I love Oregon Chai, my recent-college-grad food budget just won’t allow me to purchase as much chai as I would love to keep on hand. Luckily for me, Une Deux Senses, the first blog that introduced me to the beautiful world of food blogs about a year ago, has a DELICIOUS spicy chai tea latte recipe. A few weeks ago I made a quick trip to the store on my way home to buy spices in bulk, and before I knew it, I was hooked. This recipe is simple, adaptable, and most of the ingredients can be stored for a long time. (Not that the shelf life of your fresh ginger is really an issue when you’re making this recipe every other day because it’s just THAT GOOD.)

The chai flavor is derived from the mix of spices that are used: ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, peppercorns, nutmeg, and sometimes star anise. For this recipe I did not use star anise, but it can definitely be included. Besides using these basic spices, much of this recipe can be adapted according to your preferences. You can choose your own black tea base. I use english breakfast, but other black teas such as darjeeling, will also work. You can also use brown sugar, honey, or agave syrup to sweeten. You can add more milk or water to cut the spiciness (or if, like me, you just want more chai!). Perhaps one of these days I will experiment with all the possible variations of this recipe. Chai tea tasting day, anyone?

Spicy Chai:
Adapted from Une Deux Senses

4 bags black tea
1.5-2 cups milk
2 inch piece of ginger, cut into pieces
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp cardamom seeds
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp ground nutmeg
3 whole cinnamon sticks
brown sugar, honey, or agave syrup, to taste

Combine the peppercorns, cardamom seeds, and cloves in a small plastic bag and seal. Use a mallet or some other heavy object to crush the spices into coarse pieces. (In my case, I had to get creative because I don’t happen to have a mallet in my kitchen. I improvised and used a small – but heavy – cutting board as a mallet to grind the spices.) If you aren’t able to grind the spices well, don’t sweat it. The more they are ground, the more flavor will come through in the chai, but even whole spices will give flavor.

Add crushed spices, chopped ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, and milk to a saucepan over medium heat. Allow the milk to come to a gentle boil (note: it’s best to heat milk slowly, so for you impatient types, resist the urge to flip the heat to high because your milk will burn!), then cover and turn off the heat. Steep for 15 minutes.

While the milk is steeping, bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil. Combine the 4 tea bags with the boiling water and steep for 5 minutes (or more, if you prefer stronger tea). Discard the tea bags and add the tea to the spicy milk. Use a fine mesh strainer to remove the spices and ginger. Add sweetener to taste. You can also add more milk or water if the chai is too spicy.

Serve warm. Enjoy!

Mama’s Chicken Enchiladas

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At this time last year I was pretty much vegetarian. I never bought meat or cooked with it, though I would eat it if it was served to me, and I sometimes ordered it when I ate out. I had several reasons for eating vegetarian, such as the lower fat/sodium diet, being conscious of how animals are treated and meat is processed, and because it’s cheaper on a tight food budget to not buy meat. All those reasons are still true, but in the past couple months i have found myself craving meat all the time. So, I caved, bought chicken for the first time, and since then I’ve been diving into the chicken recipes of my childhood. I pretty much grew up on chicken (one of the few meats that everyone in my family liked), and this chicken enchilada recipe was one of my all-time favorites.

This recipe comes from my mom, who originally got it from her friend Annie, and she graciously passed it on to me (written from memory!).

Chicken Enchiladas:

1-1.5 lb chicken breasts
2 diced onions, divided in half (one large onion could suffice)
1 can chopped green chiles
3 T flour
8 oz. sour cream
2 cups chicken broth (can use water and bouillon cubes, or 1 can chicken broth and 1 can water)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided in half
flour tortillas
salsa, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Boil the chicken breasts in a pot of water until cooked, usually about 20 minutes. If you are using frozen chicken, you can add the frozen chicken to a pot of cold water and slowly heat to a boil. Let chicken cool and chop up.

Chop onions, set aside half for assembling enchiladas. Saute remaining onions in oil or butter for 1-2 minutes. Add chopped green chiles and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add flour and let it cook with the onions and chiles. It will form a paste. Next, add the sour cream and cook until thoroughly heated, stirring continuously. Add chicken broth. If you prefer a saucier liquid, you can add more water at this stage. Continue to stir sauce over medium heat. The sauce will thicken. When the sauce is as thick as you want it, turn off heat and add 1 cup shredded cheese. Stir until cheese has melted. Set aside.

Now it’s time to assemble the enchiladas! For my enchiladas, I use chopped chicken, chopped onion, shredded cheese, and salsa. My family includes some picky eaters who preferred only chicken and cheese in their enchiladas. Feel free to create your own version with a different filling – this recipe is adaptable! Using your flour tortillas, simply put the desired amount of filling in the tortilla, and roll.

Spray the cooking pan with non-stick cooking spray. As each tortilla is filled, add it to the pan. Once the pan is full, pour the enchilada sauce over the tortillas. This should fill the pan. Bake for about 25 minutes. Check for crispiness around the edges, which will occur if the tortillas are not covered with sauce. You can cover the pan with foil if the enchiladas begin to get crispy.

Remove from oven, serve immediately. These enchiladas keep well and taste great as leftovers.

Bon appetit!

Everything Granola Bars

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Recently I have been on a baking streak, as my housemate can attest to – “You’re baking like a mad woman!” It’s fall and my cupboards (and fridge and freezer) are bursting with pumpkin, apple, cinnamon, and chai treats. After weeks of baking cakes, breads, and cookies, I knew I needed a change. That’s when I found this granola bar recipe from one of my favorite food blogs.

These bars are so versatile – you can pretty much add whatever you want to them! I scoured my cupboards and decided on four of my favorite ingredients: walnuts, golden raisins, dark chocolate chunks, and coconut flakes. Of course, if you had less of a sweet tooth than I do, you could load up on the dried fruits and nuts – that’s the beauty of these granola bars. Personally, I loved the taste of these bars. The peanut butter and dark chocolate gave them a rich, satisfying taste, although the amount of white sugar that I added was less than you would find in the average granola bar. I did have some crumbling issues with these bars, which I attribute to the chunkiness of my ingredients. It wouldn’t hurt to toss large walnut and chocolate chunks into a food processor to cut back on the chunkiness. Finer-ground ingredients will adhere better with the peanut butter and oat flour. For future attempts, I may play around with the amounts of PB, flour, types of sweetners, and additional ingredients. Did I mention these bars were adaptable? 🙂

Everything Granola Bars:
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks or chips
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/8 cup agave syrup
1/8 cup pure maple syrup (feel free to substitute corn syrup or honey for the 1/4 cup agave + maple syrup combo)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 7″ x 11″ x 2″ pan with parchment paper. You can also use a 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan if you prefer thicker bars.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter, liquid sweeteners and water.

Toss the wet ingredients with the dry and peanut butter until the mixture is well combined.

Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan.

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges and top. They may seem soft but they will set as they cool.

Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. Alternatively, you can remove the bars from the pan by lifting the parchment paper out of the pan. Bars may retain their shape better if you leave them in the pan, but they will take longer to cool. You may also chill the pan and bars in the fridge for about 30 minutes so that the bars will better set.

Once they are cool, cut the bars into your preferred size and enjoy! To store, wrap the bars in plastic or store in an airtight container. According to Deb at Smitten Kitchen, these bars also freeze well!

A new food blog is born

Hello! My name is Sarah and I am a recent college grad with a passion for food. Now that academia is taking a backseat in my life, I’m dedicating some of my newfound freedom to cooking and baking all the recipes I can get my hands on. This blog will be a place for me and you, my dear readers, to keep track of all the recipes I’m trying – complete with photos of the process. Be sure to check out my links to other incredible food blogs for more inspiration.

Bon appetit!