Chai-Infused Hot Cocoa [Single Serving]

Chai-Infused Hot Cocoa [Single Serving]

Chai tea is a weakness of mine, and I really like going for the good stuff. Hey, I’ll admit it: I was an ardent lover of whatever Starbucks was slinging for years. Growing up in the sticks, I would always excitedly go to Starbucks whenever I visited my family in NYC just for their amazing chai. It was such a novelty for me! Then, as I got older, I saw what real chai tea was (thanks, in part, to the dearly departed Chaiwalla in Salisbury, CT, my Yelp review circa November 2010 still shining bright); while always good in a pinch, my love for mass-produced sugar-laden chai concentrates largely fell by the wayside. Brewing chai with black tea and aromatic spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, anise, black pepper, and cardamom, is so warm and satisfying. It’s far more guiltless as the amount of ingredients can be controlled. Less sugar? Plant-based milk? More cardamom? Experiment as you please!

I also love a good cup of hot cocoa. I love how I preached steering away from aforementioned chai concentrates in the preceding paragraph, yet I’m about to drop this gem: I LOVE DUNKIN’ DONUTS HOT COCOA. Good lord, that stuff is addictive! I occasionally throw caution to the wind. I think to myself, “Is it bad to consume Silicon Dioxide and Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate every so often? Is it?” Okay…well…yeah, it’s not. Ha! Regardless, it fills a hole in my soul every now and then. However, at the end of the day, I always try to eat recognizable ingredients; I often make my own cocoa at home, where the ingredients are merely milk, cocoa, sugar, homemade vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. That I can recognize. I don’t recall where I got this recipe from, but I’ve been making it this way ever since I was in high school. It’s definitely tried and true!

Chai-Infused Hot Cocoa [Single Serving]

I love putting a hit of cinnamon into my cocoa every now and then, when I remember to grab a little before drinking it. The slightly sweet spice really brings out the richness of the cocoa. Then I started conjuring all of the flavors that border on sweet and savory that complement chocolate so well: curry, coconut, pepper, salt, et al. Why couldn’t a nice chai mix work well in cocoa?

Chai-Infused Hot Cocoa [Single Serving]

I have often made my own chai mixes with individual spices and black tea, but I’m Sandra Lee-ing this recipe with some chai tea bags. Trust: It’ll make life easier. Be sure to check the ingredients! I found this Pure Leaf Chai Tea on sale at my local grocery store, and the ingredients are solid: black tea, cinnamon, ginger root, cardamom, chicory root, cloves, black pepper, and marigold petals.

Chai-Infused Hot Cocoa [Single Serving]

By the way, best mug ever right? RIGHT.

Enjoy your cocoa, friends.

Chai-Infused Hot Cocoa [Single Serving]
(Serves One, but of course!)

Ingredients:

– 8 – 10 ounces milk, dairy or non-dairy (milk amount depends on your mug size!)
– 2 tablespoons cocoa
– 1 – 2 tablespoons sugar or sweetener of choice, to taste
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– Dash of salt
– 1 chai tea teabag (I used Pure Leaf)

Before We Get Started…

– Of course, it’s very easy to expand the proportions of ingredients to make this with multiple people! I have not tried; I’ve only developed this single serving recipe. If you have success making expanding the serving sizes of this recipe, please share in the comments!

Directions:

1.) Place a small saucepan over medium heat and add milk; bring to just below boiling, then whisk in cocoa until combined. Add sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk to incorporate. Lower heat to low and add chai tea bag. Seep tea bag in milk for 3 minutes, then remove from heat. Allow tea bag to steep for an additional 3 – 5 minutes. Remove tea bag and pour cocoa into mug, preferably a cute one with some cheeky illustrations or phrases.

2.) Enjoy!

– – – –

NOTE: This post was not sponsored by Pure Leaf, but I’ve got to give them a shout out because their chai blend worked wonders for this recipe!

turkey kale delicata squash bowl

Turkey, Kale, & Delicata Squash Bowl

Seriously, I am beyond confused as to how quickly 2016 has flown by! It’s already been a week and a half since Thanksgiving, so it’s only 20 days until Christmas, 19 until the start of Hanukkah, the new year will be upon us soon…

*pumps brakes*

Okay, I’ll try to slow down a little bit!

turkey kale delicata squash bowl

I’m pleased to announce that my second recipe on Yoga By Candace has been published today! This Turkey, Kale, & Delicata Squash Bowl is absolutely to die for. If you are a die-hard Thanksgiving fan, you’ll love the ground turkey. It melds well with the cruciferousness of the kale and the naturally sweet flavor and surprisingly creamy texture of the delicata squash. It tastes like a holiday meal without overwhelming your stomach. It’s truly the best of both worlds.

Head on over to Yoga By Candace to gank this excellent recipe!

turkey kale delicata squash bowl

 

cream of tomato soup cashew cream vegan

Creamy Tomato Soup with Cashew Cream [VEGAN]

Nothing compares to the mouthfeel of cream. It’s such a luxurious and comforting texture to me. I refuse to drink anything less than whole cow’s milk; 2% milk is a watery hell. I often use almond milk and coconut milk in cereals and oatmeals, namely because they have a longer shelf life than dairy milk. They work to wet my flakes and Cheerios, sure, but the bowls as a whole are lacking that creamy complementary texture. Cashew milk, on the other hand, is the closest plant-based milk that can hold a torch to cow’s milk regarding its texture. I remember the first time I had cashew ice cream, and I was taken aback. A few months ago, I had some cashew cream on some tomatillos, and I fell in love!

cream of tomato soup cashew cream vegan

The idea of making cashew cream has long intimidated me. I won’t even mince words here: if I blend something for too long in my trusty but relatively-old blender, the scent of grinding metal is a bit disheartening after a few minutes. (Haaa.) However, if proper precautions are taken (i.e.: you soak the cashews for a nice long time), the results are worth it, even in the shoddiest of blenders. A Vitamix would be a nice kitchen accessory; until I’m at a point in my life where blowing $1,276 on my share of the rent, utilities, and a student loan payment during the first six days of the month doesn’t make me cry, it’s not exactly on my shopping list. Here’s hoping for a nice salary increase in 2017, eh?😉

cream of tomato soup cashew cream vegan

Another fact: I’ve never made homemade tomato soup before! I try to avoid processed foods as much as possible, but a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup is classic, comforting, and damn delicious. I will defend the awesomeness of that soup to the death! That being said, I figured knowing how to make a good creamy tomato soup from scratch would be a good recipe to store in my mental annals.

cream of tomato soup cashew cream vegan

I am genuinely surprised how much I love this soup. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I took my first few bites and got a little bit giddy! You’ll love it, vegans and carnivores alike! Well…if you’re allergic to cashews, perhaps you won’t be as big of a fan of this soup. I apologize. Haaa.

cream of tomato soup cashew cream vegan

Creamy Tomato Soup with Cashew Cream [VEGAN]
(Cashew cream portion adapted from Pinch of Yum’s recipe for Five Minute Cashew Cream)
(Serves 4 to 6)

For Cashew Cream:
– 8 ounces raw cashews (do not use roasted cashews!)
– 5 cups water, divided into a 3-cup portion and a 2-cup portion
– 2 cloves garlic
– 1 teaspoon salt

For Soup:
– 28 ounces (1 can) tomatoes, unseasoned
– 1 cup water or vegetable broth
– 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
– 2 cups chopped onions (white or yellow)
– 1 cup parsnip, diced, or 1 cup celery, sliced (see Before We Get Started…)
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 teaspoons salt
– 1 tablespoon dried basil
– 1 tablespoon oregano
– 1 teaspoon ground coriander
– 2 teaspoons sugar
– Chopped herbs, for garnish (optional)

Before We Get Started:

– I absolutely ganked the cashew cream sauce from Pinch of Yum, full credit! (I love that blog. How can you not?) This is a wonderful and versatile sauce. For this recipe, I stuck to the original recipe and added the garlic into my cashew cream, but if you are adverse to garlic or don’t want as much (as there is garlic in the base of the soup), feel free to omit. That being said…that clove garlic truly makes all of the difference.

– A lot of recipes call for celery as, what I consider to be, a filler vegetable. Its addition bulks up the dish it’s added to. Honestly, I hate buying giant packs of celery. I’ll use a stalk or two for a meal, then the rest will sadly go to waste. Locally, I can never find loose celery stalks for sale, but I’ve started using parsnip as my filler for some recipes, as I can easily find loose parsnips. I love it! I’d recommend whichever you prefer, as both bulk up the soup but do not add overwhelming flavors to the batch.

Directions:

1.) Place cashews into a large bowl and cover 3 cups water. Allow to soak for 2 hours before draining and rinsing. In a blender, add cashews, 2 cups of water, garlic, and salt. Start blending ingredients on low, increasing to a higher speed after ingredients start to incorporate; continue to puree until smooth, roughly 3 – 5 minutes. If necessary, add additional water to thin out the consistency of the sauce. Set aside.

2.) In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and celery or parsnip. Cook for roughly 5 minutes or until onions and celery or parsnip are translucent; do not allow them to brown! Add garlic and cook for another two minutes.

3.) Add tomatoes, water or broth, the blended cashews, and stir. Add all spices and stir to combine. Bring soup to a gentle simmer and cook until it begins to thicken slightly, about 10 minutes. Blend, using an immersion blender, until smooth; if you do not have an immersion blender, blend soup in small batches in your blender. (NOTE: Do not blend more than a cup or so at a time; hot liquids and blenders are NOT the best of friends. Unless you want to wipe hot soup off of your kitchen walls, blend in batches!) Return to pot and taste to adjust seasonings; add more to taste.

4.) Serve warm, topped with optional herbs. If you have any leftover cashew cream, feel free to spoon some on top! If not eating immediately, store in containers to refrigerate or freeze.

cranberry cobbler dessert martha stewart

Cranberry Cobbler

Yes, I know, I know, I’m posting two cranberry recipes back to back. *shrug* This is just too good not to share right now!

How was your Thanksgiving, dear reader? I had a lovely holiday up in my hometown in Northwestern Connecticut. Despite cracking my rib and pulling a muscle in my mid-left back, I traveled up on MetroNorth, loaded with hospital-grade disposable heating pads and a lot of Extra Strength Tylenol.

cranberry cobbler dessert martha stewart

The quirky wonderful kitchen of my childhood home.

I had a lovely time with my family, from my rambunctious teenage cousins to my wacky (I say with much affection!) aunts to my uncles that just go with the flow. It was a wonderful afternoon filled with delicious food and some great memories. One of my aunts put me on dessert duty; I had lots of ideas, but was unsure what to execute. I knew she was making an apple pie and another aunt was bringing pumpkin pies. Well, there went my top two ideas!

Thank you, Google. Typing in “Easy Thanksgiving Desserts” saved my hide.

cranberry cobbler dessert martha stewart

This recipe is unique as it’s not quite what you or I would consider a traditional cobbler. I correlate “cobbler” with something a little juicier with a biscuity topping. This recipe yields a cakey batter that is wonderfully springy with a fantastic buttery flavor; there is almost an entire stick of butter in this baby. (Beat still my beating heart! Like…literally. That butter might clog it up. Ha!) The cranberries are tart, yet they slightly mellow out when baked.

cranberry cobbler dessert martha stewart

My two teenaged cousins, Erik and Colby, love to eat ALL OF THE FOOD, but can be picky as well. When they saw this cobbler and ate half of it themselves, telling me how much they loved it, I took that as the ultimate compliment.

cranberry cobbler dessert martha stewart

Thank you, Martha. Girl, you saved me this Thanksgiving.

cranberry cobbler dessert martha stewart

Cranberry Cobbler
(Adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe for Cranberry Cobbler)
(Serves 8)

Ingredients:

– 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
– 1 & 1/4 cup fresh cranberries
– 3/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 & 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup whole milk
– 1 large egg
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1 tablespoon water

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or grease a round 10″ pan and set aside.

2.) Combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Whisk together milk and egg in a separate bowl, then slowly stream in and whisk melted butter until combined. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and combined thoroughly. Pour into prepared pan.

3.) In a small bowl, combine cranberries, water, 2 tablespoons sugar, and cinnamon. Gently drop cranberries on top of batter in pan.

4.) Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until cake is springy to the touch. Remove, place on cooling rack, and cool for at least minutes until serving.

cranberry shortbread tart

Cranberry Shortbread Tart

Come this time of year, when bag after bag of cranberries shimmer their ruby red presence all over my favorite grocery stores, I rack ’em up and use them any way I can. In fact, I usually keep a bag or two in my freezer for when it’s mid-winter and I need that cranberry kick in a bunch of scones or in a hot bowl of oatmeal. However, as we’re well into November and quickly approaching December, I make my favorite cranberry recipe – the quintessential cranberry sauce – quite often. In fact, I make it like it’s going out of style. What do I eat it on? Turkey? Chicken? Mixed into oatmeal? Nine times out of ten, I just eat it by the spoonful. I love cranberry sauce that much. Do my stomach, esophagus, and teeth enjoy this acidic treat? I’ve never bothered to ask them, nor do I care.

That being said, I oft have an extra bowl or bag of it in the back of my fridge, and I don’t want it to go to waste.

cranberry shortbread tart

Come the holidays, we all eat our fair share of delicious dishes, but let’s be honest: we waste some of it. It’s not ideal, but it happens. We end up pitching some of that leftover turkey in the trash. Some of those roasted veggies may end up in the compost bin. It’s always best to re-purpose leftovers, if possible. Don’t waste that precious cranberry sauce if it’s been languishing in the back of your fridge for a few days. Breathe some life back into it by layering it onto a delicious buttery shortbread crust.

cranberry shortbread tart

I love this tart because it’s a little freeform, a little rustic, and a little messy, too. Don’t wear light colors while eating this and have a few napkins handy.😉

cranberry shortbread tart

Cranberry Shortbread Tart
(Makes 9 – 12 slices…well, depending on how you slice it!)

Ingredients:

– 2 cups fresh cranberry sauce, chilled (Please see Before We Get Started…)
– 1 cup flour
– 1 stick butter (traditional or vegan), chiiled and cubed or frozen to grate (Please see Before We Get Started…)
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher

Before We Get Started…

– DO NOT USE CANNED JELLIED CRANBERRY SAUCE FOR THIS RECIPE! Yes, this statement is worth the caps lock.

– If you do not have leftover cranberry sauce and are making this dish completely from scratch, please follow the directions on your bag of cranberries to create a sauce. It’s basic and you can’t go wrong!

– Also, if making fresh cranberry sauce, you can alter it as you please. I prefer to boil my cranberries in either 3/4 cup apple cider or orange juice (whichever I have at the time) and 1/4 cup water. Due to this, I cut the sugar down to about a 1/4 cup instead of the traditional 1 cup the average cranberry sauce recipe recommends; said average recipe recommends boiling them in water, which does not have additional sugar in it. (Am I  perhaps stating the obvious? Ha!) What’s great about making homemade cranberry sauce is the fact that you can easily control the amount of sugar that’s in it.

– My way of cutting butter into flour involves grating it with a cheese grater, a method I have mentioned a few times in this blog. Please refer to my Orange Ginger Scones recipe for more specifics. This method is a godsend! 

– I have made vegan shortbread in the past using Earth Balance, and it has worked! That being said, I haven’t tried it for this specific recipe. If you feel inclined, substitute Earth Balance or your favorite vegan “butter” for the traditional butter in this recipe; likewise, use your own favorite vegan shortbread recipe, if you please! I’ve read many blogs that state that using coconut oil makes for a tasty version.🙂

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 8″ x 8″ x 2″ baking pan with parchment paper; fit to bottom of pan and allow 1″ – 2″ of paper hang off of the sides, as this will allow you to easily lift the tart from the pan when it’s finished. Set pan aside.

2.) In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, and butter; combine with hands or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembled a fine meal. Evenly press mixture into the bottom of the baking pan; using the bottom of a bottle or a measuring cup can help ensure an even surface.

3.) Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove and place on wire rack to cool.

4.) Once shortbread is cooled, spoon cranberry sauce on top and spread evenly. (If making cranberry sauce from scratch and not using pre-made / leftover cranberry sauce, allow sauce to cool before placing on shortbread.) Place in refrigerator for one hour before serving. Remove from fridge, and carefully lift tart out of pan by the parchment paper’s edges. Cut and serve.