Wednesday, January 28, 2015

WDW: Probiotic Power Punch!



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It's sickie season, and though I usually escape illness fairly well, this season I've gotten a couple of mild colds and a nasty infection.  

So, I'm trying to be proactive about eating lots of greens, fresh veggie juices, vitamin and antioxidant rich fruits, and probiotic foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and the like. Probiotics are especially helpful to boost all that good bacteria in your gut (where most of your immune system operates).   Today's recipe is a favorite new breakfast that I tweaked from this yummy chia seed pudding recipe  (except I sub in maple syrup for the sweetener in the above).   

I'm a HUGE fan of raw dairy products, and we are fortunate to have Organic Pastures dairy here in California (and we are fortunate that raw dairy is LEGAL!).   My local Sprouts market sells their products, including their raw kefir.   Kefir has more probiotics than yogurt, so I buy it often and mix it into smoothies or pour it over some fruit.   I decided to blend my love for the chia pudding with my desire to eat more probiotics.  The result was smashing!  Try it soon!

Kefir Chia Pudding
Serves 1 

1 cup raw kefir (or at least use organic, unsweetened if you can't get raw)
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
fresh berries of choice
real maple syrup
toasted coconut, (or granola, nuts, etc.)

In a serving bowl, stir the kefir and chia seeds together.   Chill at least 45 minutes.
Top with a drizzle of maple syrup and toasted coconut. 



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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Chai Tea

  
So, Rich and I have suddenly become addicted to Chai Tea.   

Now, I don't mean a cloyingly sweet Chai Tea latte, or even a Tazo Chai tea bag, but a true cup of traditional Chai Tea.  Our love for it just came out of nowhere, but we are really enjoying this new ritual.  It's sweet and spicy and very comforting in cold weather.

But, since I'm a decaf girl, and since for some reason decaf Chai tea does not exist on this planet (at a reasonable price anyways), and since I'm sort of a do-it-yourself-er at heart, of course I set out to make my own Chai Tea Blend.

I began researching.  There are different approaches.  Many use a variety of whole spices, crushed and added to whole tea leaves.  I was about to order all my spices and do it, when thankfully, I stumbled upon this blog, which contained a trusted family recipe that seemed easier.  The approach was different.  You take all the spices in ground form and add them together, making a Chai Masala spice blend.   When you want a cup of Chai, you simply add some of the masala to whole leaf black tea, and steep it traditionally over the stove with water, milk, and honey.   I liked this idea because 1) I already had all the spices on hand in ground form, and 2) It seemed like you would get a more consistent taste doing it this way.  It seemed to me if you mixed the whole crushed spices with the tea in a big jar, the spices might settle and you might not get the true blend of taste you're looking for when you take out a portion.  

So I tried it.  Using my trusty digital kitchen scale, I made 1/4 of the Masala recipe to begin with, because I wasn't sure if I'd like it.  It made a good amount, almost 1 cup of spice.  In a small saucepan, I put a 1/4 tsp. of the Masala Chai blend, 1 1/2 tsp. organic loose leaf English Breakfast tea, 1 Tbsp. raw honey, 1/2 cup whole milk, and 1/2 cup water.  I heated it over med-high and stirred as it came to a gentle boil.  I then lowered the heat and simmered it 5 minutes.   We purchased plain empty tea bags so I just put the tea in there and didn't have to strain it (but you can also use a tea ball or just throw the loose tea in, and strain it out).   

When I tasted the Chai, I got really excited.  It was AMAZING!!  It's really flavorful, warm and spicy.  In fact, it was a little too spicy so I added a little more of everything except the pepper to tame it a little. The ease of making a traditional cup of Chai is now a snap!   Below is my modified recipe (after I reduced the pepper by about 20%). Feel free to taste it and then tweak it as I did to your own personal liking.


Chai Masala blend


125 g. black pepper, finely ground, (3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp)

125 g. ground ginger (3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp)

50 g. ground cinnamon (1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp)

50 g. ground cardamom (1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp)

5 g. ground cloves (2 tsp)

5 g. ground nutmeg (2 tsp)

Mix all spices together and store in an airtight jar.

Chai Tea Recipe

1/8-1/4 tsp. Chai Masala blend
1 1/2 tsp. loose leaf black tea (or any black tea bag)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk (do NOT use skim, you need the fat to bring out the Masala taste)
1 Tbsp. raw honey (or more if you like)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Place over medium heat. Allow to heat until small bubbles appear around the perimeter of the milk.  Stir the Chai, scraping the bottom to avoid scalding the milk.  When the milk comes to a boil, turn off the heat and stir well.   Allow to steep for 5 minutes.  Strain carefully into a cup, and serve.


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Monday, January 12, 2015

Winter getaway

Rich doesn't generally get to take time off from work during the holidays.  But, he does often take off the first week of January-- which is kind of fun!  Just when I'm feeling a little sad that all the holiday festivities are over, I get my husband for a week.  Works for me!  He had a little honey-do list to work through for some of the time, but we also got away for a few days to the Palm desert area. It's been so cold here; it was sure nice to get a little time to soak in the sun. 

We started out Saturday morning with a stop at a new place in Pasadena I've been wanting to try, Lavender & Honey Espresso Bar.   Rich enjoyed his chai tea while I had their honeybee latte... yum.   Since it was breakfast time, we also had something from their "toast" bar.    I had the L & H toast which was toasted walnut bread spread with goat cheese, drizzled generously with honey, and topped with lavender flowers.  It was delicious and I've been making it at home ever since with Berolina's whole wheat walnut bread.  Rich had the Lemon & Sugar toast which was toasted  french bread buttered and then topped with a lovely lemon marmalade with powdered sugar.  Cute and cozy little place, I'll definitely be back.

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We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells for two glorious nights.    
It's secluded, quiet, and far from the Palm Springs scene. 
We like that there's a Starbucks in the lobby so you don't have to rush out to breakfast.  :-)  
Drinking coffee in bed just screams VACATION to me.
We also had a great time playing tennis, relaxing by the pool, and trying out some new food finds.
Above is the lovely view from our room.  You can't tell, but there was snow on the San Jacinto mountains.  It wasn't so warm in the mornings, but in the afternoons, we enjoyed mid-70's poolside.

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We are definitely "sit and read by the pool" people (and sit on the beach and read people for that matter.  :-)  We can do this for hours, and never get bored.
Rich was engrossed in one of Michael Pollan's books on food.
I enjoyed starting a new Francine Rivers book, Voice in the Wind.

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Notice there is no one in sight.  It's not quite the high season yet out there, and we kind of liked that.

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Early January in California can't be beat!

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Food eaten poolside is just EXTRA lovely, isn't it??

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Ahi sesame poke nachos at Cork & Fork
(to die for)


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Sun-dried tomato & feta frittata AND blueberry vanilla french toast
at Wilma & Frieda

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Quite possibly the most perfect eggs Benedict ever.
also from 
Wilma & Frieda


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It's ALWAYS a good day when you get to share some Tiramisu with the one you love. It was ALMOST as good as Sisley.  :-)
We LOVED  Bucatini Trattoria in La Quinta.
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