Cacao Rose Chai

Makes 5 C

Cacao Rose Chai

Sometimes nothing is better than a cup of chai.  It’s warm, spicy, sweet, creamy.  The blend of the spices and tea and milk (in this case coconut milk) are like a warm blanket on a cold day.  With a cup of chai, you slow down and breathe.  Literally.  According to Ayurveda, most of the spices used in chai are sattvic, or calming.  Sattva also denotes clarity, understanding and light.  Not bad for a cup of tea.

Chai is like curry.  There are a million and one ways to make it and they will vary quite a bit depending on what region you’re in.  This is exciting for 2 reasons.  First, for purists, there’s nothing like finding a traditional version…and really, it is quite special.  Second, it leaves room for plenty of interpretation and experimentation.  These recipes are made for the rest of us to get creative, to tweak and play with until they resonate with us.

I took the 2nd route and while this chai has many (not all) of the traditional spices, I decided to play with the tea.  Purists, I believe, would choose a black tea like Assam or Ceylon.  I chose Dark Obsession Chocolate Rose.  It sounds too good to be tea, and I assure you it is, but it’s still tea.  I try not to think too much about the decadent contradiction and just enjoy it.  Sometimes the best things just can’t be explained.  This special blend comes from Marie Belle’s in NYC.  If you can, go there.  It’s a treat like no other.  (So are gifts from there=) )

As for the nutritional aspect of chai:

Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices in history with uses in the Middle East, China and the Mediterranean.  Not surprisingly, it enjoys a long list of medicinal properties as well.  Cinnamon is known to improve circulation, counter congestion and treat nausea.  It is also a stimulant and an analgesic.  Cinnamon also aids in the absorption of nutrients, so feel free to use this spice in your savory dishes, too!

Star Anise is popular in Chinese and Vietnamese cooking.  Medicinally, it’s commonly used to aid digestion, as a diuretic and for pain relief.  It also does wonders for coughs.

Clove is a particularly strong spice that is also a digestive aid and treats nausea.  Cloves have pain-relieving and antiseptic attributes.  “Clove is also used to synergistically increase the potency of other herbal blends.”¹

Black Peppercorn was once the most important spice in world trade.  It is commonly used to support circulation, stimulate the flow of energy² and improve metabolism.

Cardamom is special.  Rebecca Wood describes it as tasting like lemon zest and eucalyptus.  She also says that cardamom acts as an antidote to the stress caused by coffee on the adrenal glands, which in my opinion makes chai a great substitution…if that’s what you’re looking for.  In addition to being a digestive aid, easing coughs, congestion and breathlessness and benefiting the lungs, kidneys and heart, cardamom also makes you happy!

Black tea isn’t often considered for its health benefits, especially not next to its more famous relative, green tea.  Still, it has some health properties to boast such as; inhibiting tumor cells, being high in antioxidants and strengthening the immune system.

I encourage you to get creative with your own recipes.  Maybe you like more cloves or perhaps you’ll try a green tea chai?  If you’re feeling a bit under the weather, definitely add some fresh ginger.  Whatever you choose, I assure you that this cup of chai will get you to slow down and smell the roses.

Enjoy, friends!

You’ll need:

6 C water

10-12 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

4-5 black peppercorns

1 star anise

3 whole cloves

2 T Dark Obsession Chocolate Rose

To make:

1. Bring water and all spices to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

2. Covered, let spices steep for 10 minutes.  Then, return to a boil and promptly remove from heat.

3. Add tea and let steep for 5-7 minutes

4. Strain and discard tea and spices.  Let tea cool to room temperature and then refrigerate.  Unless you’re having a cup immediately, then prepare as per instructions below, or to taste!

To serve:

1. While tea is settling, bring 3/4 C of milk (dairy or non-dairy) to a simmer and add to tea.

2. Add 2 T maple syrup or sweetener of choice.  (Optional-you could also add 1t vanilla extract.)

3. Serve in individual cups and ENJOY!

¹http://www.chai-tea.org/benefits.html

²Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

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Curry Chicken Salad

Serves 4

Adapted from The Cancer Fighting Kitchen

My husband’s current obsession, besides our daughter’s belly laugh, is curry.  He seems to be leaning more towards the Thai curries but he’s happy with any curry really.  Curry is a mystery.  And that’s just because it means so many things to so many people in so many places.  Even in Japan, a common lunch was curry rice which I always thought surprising since curry isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Japanese cuisine.

There is the curry leaf, which until recently I didn’t even know existed.  My mother-in-law planted it one year and the strong aroma quickly took over her herb garden.  It is used quite commonly in India and imparts a distinct curry taste, the original I guess!  The more well known is curry powder; a blend of varying spices that mimic the flavor of the curry leaf.  Curries are unique to each family and region, much like German towns each have their own delicious microbrew.  It’s one of the more amazing things about food.  A dash of this here and a bit of that there and you’ve got a completely new dish.  It’s beautiful and it keeps us and our tastebuds always wanting more.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the role of Ayurveda in this spice.  Ayurveda is a traditional medicine practiced in India for over 5,000 years.  It recognizes 6 tastes; sweet, salty, sour, astringent, pungent and bitter and they’re all found in curry powder.  Under Ayurvedic principles, eating all 6 flavors in one meal is both balancing and satiating.  If you feel balanced after a meal, you’re not likely to go searching for dessert (sweet) or any other flavor.  You’ll feel completely satisfied.  If you haven’t enjoyed an Ayurvedic meal, I highly recommend it, if only for the experience and then you can decide for yourself.

The superstar in curry is turmeric and I’m glad to finally get to write about this spice.  Turmeric is pretty ridiculous when it comes to its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial powers.  Turmeric is used to heal many conditions, one of which is cancer.  According to Rebecca Katz in The Cancer Fighting Kitchen, when eaten with a cruciferous veg (cauliflower, broccoli, kale, etc.) the curcumin present in turmeric has been shown to reduce the growth of prostate tumors as well as to keep tumors from spreading to other parts of the body.  It is used to heal wounds and is good for conditions such as arthritis.  It’s also a wonderful digestive aid.  And, it’s one of the highest known sources of beta-carotene.  Move over carrots!  Or better yet, sprinkle some of this spice on some roasted carrots!  Hmmm, sounds like another dish in the making.

You’ll need:

1 lb roasted chicken (I used legs and thighs), shredded

1 C seedless red grapes, halved

1 stalk celery, sliced

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 C cilantro, chopped

2 t fresh ginger, grated

1/2 t sea salt (or more to taste)

1 T curry powder

1 t lemon zest + 1 t fresh squeezed lemon juice

6 oz. Greek yogurt

To make:

1. Combine the chicken and the grapes and set aside.

2. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Add chicken and grapes and mix well until chicken is thoroughly dressed.  Let it sit for 15 minutes in the fridge to let the flavors mingle and blend:)

3. Serve over a crisp bed of greens such as romaine lettuce or stuffed into pita bread:)

4. Enjoy!

*Vegetarian option: Substituting extra-firm tofu for the chicken is a great vegetarian option.  I would cook the tofu as in this recipe, for a bit more added flavor, crunch and aesthetic, but it’s definitely not necessary.  Enjoy!

Carrot Fennel Soup

Serves 6

This is one of only 2 recipes that I don’t adapt, change, or alter in any way simply because it is so delish as is!  (Except that I eyeball amounts for everything instead of measuring…it’s a soup thing!)  It’s such a refreshing departure from the overused Carrot Ginger Soup.  Of course that one is quite delicious too, but it seems no one cooks carrot soup any other way these days!

I came across this recipe while working for a client.  She loved this soup so much, she even ate it for breakfast!  Rebecca Katz’s cookbook, “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen”, is a wonderful cookbook for everyone.  I have used several of her recipes in my own kitchen and have adapted many depending on who I’m cooking for.  But, leave this one alone.  I highly doubt anything can make this one better.

Fennel is a lovely, if peculiar looking, vegetable.  It’s delicious raw, pickled, sautéed, braised, you name it.  It is a digestive aid and is anti-inflammatory, thanks to its unique phytonutrients.  Anethole, a specific phytonutrient, has been linked to reducing inflammation and the occurrence of cancer.  Fennel also boasts high levels of Vitamin C (yay, more anti-oxidant power), fiber (think healthy colon and lower cholesterol) and folate (a good choice for you pregnant mamas).  It’s also a good source of potassium.

I just get so excited when something SO delicious is SO good for you, too!

You’ll need:

2-3 T olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1C)

1 medium fennel, chopped (about 1C)

3 lbs. carrots, cut in 1″pcs (OK, I don’t think I ever used exactly 3 lbs.  1 big bunch of carrots ought to be enough)

Zest from 1 orange

1/4 t ground cumin

1/8 t ground cinnamon

1/8 t ground allspice

7 C water or vegetable stock

1-2 T freshly squeezed orange juice

2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sea salt, to taste

To make:

1.  In a soup pot, heat oil over medium heat and add onion and fennel with a  pinch of sea salt and sauté until tender and fragrant.  Add the carrots, orange zest and spices and another pinch of salt and sauté until combined well.

2.  Add about 1/2 C of water/stock and cook for about 5 minutes before adding the rest of the water.  Cook until carrots are tender, about 20-30 minutes.

3. Let cool a tiny bit.  Ladle one cup at a time into a blender and blend until creamy.  Be sure to hold the lid down with a dish towel or the steam will send your soup all over the kitchen.  Repeat until the soup is completely creamy.  (I prefer to use a blender as opposed to an immersion blender because I have more control over the consistency of the soup.)

4. Return the creamy soup to the pot over low heat and add the orange juice and lemon juice.  Heat for a few minutes to incorporate the flavors.

5. Enjoy!  (We love this soup paired with The Ultimate Grilled Cheese.)