Classic Chai + Spring is Coming

Spring is on its way! The birds are singing every morning and the weather is slowly getting warmer. It has been mostly overcast and rainy in Atlanta the last few weeks but I'm looking forward to all of the Spring growth that the rain will eventually bring. Daffodils and a few other flowers and trees have already begun to bloom and grow. I love the anticipation that comes with the changing of each season.

While it is getting warmer, it's still pretty chilly most days so I've been keeping warm with a double batch of my go-to chai.

Classic Chai - serves two

- 1 cup water
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves       
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp black tea (Assam or Ceylon)
- 1-2 tbsp honey, to taste

1. Heat water and milk over medium heat until simmering.
2. Turn off heat and add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, pepper, ginger, and salt. Stir to combine.
3. Cover and steep for 20 minutes.
4. Return milk mixture to medium heat until simmering. Stir often to keep it from boiling over and scalding the milk.
5. Turn off heat and add the tea. Steep for five minutes.
6. Strain chai and add honey to taste.

I generally store the chai in a jar in the fridge for no more than five days. Enjoy, friends!



Pudina Chai

One day at the coffee shop where I work, an older Indian man came in and ordered a chai latte. While he waited for it to be made, he asked if I had ever tried mint chai. I had never even heard about it. The gentleman gave me a basic recipe and, intrigued, I made a small batch a day or two later. The recipe mixes ginger, mint, honey, and tea to make a more mild and refreshing cup of chai. The ginger comes out more strongly in this recipe without the pepper and other spices to compete with it.

Pudina Chai - serves two

- 1 cup whole milk
- 1.5 cup water
- 1 inch fresh ginger, sliced
- 2 tbsp fresh mint leaves
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp black Darjeeling tea

1. Heat milk and water together over medium heat until simmering.
2. Remove from heat and add ginger and mint. Cover and steep for twenty minutes.
3. Return to simmering and add tea. Remove from heat and steep for five minutes.
4. Strain tea and add honey to taste.



Smoky Maple Chai

This recipe, an altered version of my basic chai, incorporates flavors and aromas of Fall. The smokiness of Lapsang Souchong black tea, traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood, brings out a fragrance reminiscent of campfires and time spent in the woods. Replacing cardamom powder with cracked black cardamom pods adds a savory, more complex spice flavor that balances the sweetness of the maple syrup. The pepper and ginger round out the recipe with the warmth of their heat, which lingers after each sip.
Smoky Maple Chai - serves two

- 1 cup water
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 black cardamom pods, crushed
- 1/16 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp Lapsang Souchong
- 1-2 tbsp maple syrup

1, Heat water and milk over medium heat until simmering.
2. Remove from heat and add the cinnamon stick, cloves, ginger, and cardamom pods. Cover and steep for 20 minutes.
3. Return mixture to medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
4. Add tea, stir, and steep for 5 minutes.
5. Strain chai and add maple syrup to taste.

Make a batch, grab a friend, and enjoy the season!



Tea Journal // Iced Chai + Coffee Ice Cubes

My current favorite summer drink is homemade chai with coffee cubes. The combination of the sweet chai and the strong coffee makes for a very dynamic drinking experience. At first, the creamy chai is the overwhelming flavor. Slowly, the coffee cubes melt into the milky tea, mellowing out the sweetness and bringing out a new flavor combination. This particular recipe combines iced caramel chai and coffee ice cubes made with Counter Culture's Nueva Llusta. I discovered the chai recipe earlier this year on Not Without Salt and savored every warm sip of it during the Winter months. So glad to have found a way to enjoy it during the hot Atlanta summer!

Caramel Chai
adapted from Not Without Salt's recipe

2 cups milk - I used almond milk
1/4 cup raw sugar
6 peppercorns
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
4 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp loose leaf black tea
pinch of salt

Add the raw sugar to a small saucepan and set over medium high heat. I always use a secondhand saucepan for this recipe as caramelizing sugar has ruined one of my nice pots in the past. Caramelize the sugar by letting it melt evenly until it's a dark caramel color. Make sure to watch it closely during this stage as burning the caramel even slightly will give the chai a bitter, harsh flavor rather than a lingering sweetness.

Once the sugar has caramelized, remove the pan from heat and slowly pour the milk into the saucepan. This will harden the caramel and stop the caramelization process.

Next, heat the pan over medium low heat while adding all of the ingredients except the tea, stirring occasionally as the caramel melts into the milk.

Once the caramel has melted fully, increase the temperature to medium high, stirring often. Once it is just about boiling, remove the mix from the heat and let the spices steep in the hot milk for twenty minutes.

Return the pan to medium high heat until almost boiling, remove from heat and add the tea. Allow the tea to steep for five minutes.

Strain the chai through a fine mess strainer into a lidded container. I use a 16 oz mason jar. If you are making iced chai with coffee cubes, leave the chai to cool in the refrigerator until cold. Otherwise, it is ready to enjoy hot!

To make the coffee cubes, simply make a cup of your favorite coffee and freeze in an ice cube tray. Once the coffee is frozen and the chai has cooled, combine the two and enjoy!



Greek Yogurt with Figs + Caramel

While I was in Florida last month, my Grandmother gave me a huge carton of figs to take home. So many figs! I started looking up recipes for fig preserves right away since I knew that I wouldn't be able to eat them all before they spoiled. During my search, I found a decent preserves recipe and also came across this one for figs with Greek yogurt from The Newlywed Cookbook. Out of the three fig recipes that I tried that week, this was the only one that really complemented the fruit. Not to mention that the cold yogurt mixed with the fresh figs and buttery caramel was divine. The recipe is posted below, both for your enjoyment and (mostly) mine.

Greek Yogurt with Figs + Caramel via The Newlywed Cookbook
Ingredients: 1/3 cup packed brown sugar // 2 tbsp water // 3 tbsp cold unsalted butter // 2 cups Greek yogurt // 8 fresh figs, halved

"Combine the brown sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves completely and begins to melt into a think sauce, about 8 minutes. Decrease the heat and whisk in the cold butter til it reaches the consistency of melted caramels. Remove from heat and spoon warm caramel over swirls of Greek yogurt and fresh figs."

Yesterday, a girl at work brought in a few figs from her garden for everyone. Guess what I'm going to make with mine? :)



Father/Daughter Road Trip: PCB

A few weekends ago, my Dad and I took a road trip down to Florida to visit family for a few days. Eddie and the rest of my fam were working or out of town for the weekend so it was the perfect opportunity to take a father/daughter road trip! We left early Friday morning and got to my Grandparents' house by lunch time. We spent the afternoon lazing about, napping, and catching up with my Grandparents. While we were chatting, my Grandmother took me out to see the fruiting fig tree in the backyard.
I've been to my Grandparents' house a hundred times, played in the backyard with my sisters and cousins for years, and never knew this now-giant tree was a fruit tree. Turns out that it's a fig tree and it's branches were full of ripening figs. It was so perfect that we were there, on a semi-impromptu trip, during the few days that the tree happened to be overflowing with fruit!
My Grandma took me out to the tree with a large bowl and a hook, which she used to pull the branches lower so she could pick the fruit off. My Grandma, Aunt, and I picked bowls and bowls of figs over the next few days. I'd never tried a fig before but I loved the sweet flavor and the snackable size.
I love the obvious and tangible picture of patience and abundance that the tree painted. It was planted almost twenty years ago but has only grown fruit for the last few years. It took it's time deepening its roots, growing branches, and preparing itself to produce such an amazing harvest by soaking up the sun and the rain. It's large, green leaves that provide shade and shelter for all the animals that live around it. My grandmother can only pick what grows on the bottom branches of the tree and the birds snack on whatever grows at the top but, even still, there is so much fruit that falls from the higher branches to the ground once it's overripe.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8

"Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers."
Psalm 1:1-3
My grandparents' whole backyard felt like an oasis. They have squirrels, turtles, and so many different varieties of bird that hang out in the yard. We sat out on the back patio in the morning and watched the birds eat from the bird feeders and from the fig tree. It was such a blessing to be able to spend a few days with my family!

On Friday night, we ate dinner at my Grandparents' neighborhood clubhouse. We had a tasty seafood dinner and watched the sun go down over the bay. At sunset, a guy set off a mini cannon to sound off the end of the day. 
We couldn't leave without going to the beach at least once! We spent a few hours at St. Andrew's on Saturday, walking by the water. It was drizzling most of the time and the water was an uncommon light green color because of huge amounts of seaweed floating near the shore. We walked down to the pier, watched for fish and sea turtles, and saw a few sweet beach weddings getting set up.
So thankful for the time we got to spend in Florida. I thought it would be a crazy whirlwind since we only had a few days but they were a few of the most restful days that I've had in a while!



Quiet Sunday

This morning Eddie and I slept in and went to the late service. The service stirred up a lot of thoughts and sparked deep conversations which we shared over a bowl of pho and a couple of bahn mi sandwiches. We spent the afternoon in relative quiet, processing and thinking through a lot. Digging deep into relationships and truly investing in the lives around me has been a challenge. I find that I stay on the surface with relationships, attempting to hold together a clean and presentable exterior, rather than diving into the uneven, sometimes messy areas of life with honesty and authenticity. I want to pursue the Lord, my husband, my path in life with a raw vulnerability, unafraid of emotion and conflict or strain.

Striving for a deeper level of vulnerability, authenticity, and honesty this week. At home, at work, in the quiet place.