Chai Concentrate: Instant Comfort in a Cup

After a hard day sometimes you just need some good old fashioned comfort, and you need it NOW.  Problem is, comfort usually takes time and on days like that I’m not into delayed gratification.  So what I need is a little kitchen magic and some make-ahead planning.

My crock pot is the closest thing I have to a magic cauldron.  I can make the most wonderful concoctions in it with almost no effort and I use it often, especially for that heavenly elixir, chai tea.  Frankly, I’m too cheap to buy the stuff in a box or bottle, and I tried the homemade instant mix but I don’t like the idea of coffee creamer (I mean what IS that stuff anyway?).   For me, it’s not just about how a dish looks, it’s also about how it’s made and what kind of ingredients go into making it yummy.  Now, I love chai, hot, cold, with or without milk.  It’s delicious, comforting and a special way to unwind after a busy day.  The trouble is I want my comfort now and not half an hour from now after I’ve assembled all the ingredients, found that I’m completely out of cinnamon sticks, gone to the store, come back, steeped the tea and spices and poured out that first cup.  No, I want it fast, easy and ready to use.  With a little research and a few of my own contributions, here is my version of Chai Tea Concentrate.   There are no actual rules here, so use the spices you like.  So drag out that slow cooker and let’s make some comfort in a cup.

Chai Tea Concentrate

Makes slightly less than 2 quarts

 Ingredients:

  • 8 cups water
  • 8 individual tea bags (black or green)
  • 1 cup sugar or 3/4 cup honey or brown rice syrup (I use half regular sugar and half light brown sugar) – you can always add more to taste
  • 6 slices (rounds) fresh ginger
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 8 cardamom seeds (they’re tiny but strong)
  • 6-8 peppercorns
  • 1 nutmeg, or 1 1/2 teaspoons of grated nutmeg
  • Peel from one fresh orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel powder (you could substitute additional fresh orange peel or orange zest)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried lemon peel powder (you could substitute 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Chai Concentrate Ingredients 1

 

 

 

 

 

Directions:

Pour the water into the crock pot, add sugar and stir to dissolve.  Once the sugar is dissolved, add the tea bags, and all of the remaining ingredients except the vanilla.

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Set the crock pot to hi and let it simmer for 2-4 hours.  It will have reduced slightly and is very strong, so if you’re sensitive to caffeine you should use decaffeinated or your favorite herb tea.  MON 006

Turn off the heat and let cool slightly, then add the vanilla.

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When the concentrate is completely cooled, strain and store in the refrigerator in a glass container.

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Magic in a cup.  Enjoy!    Wed Chai 003

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Warmup with French Onion Soup

French onion soup sounds like one of those time consuming, only eat it in restaurants kind of dish.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  French onion soup is really easy to make and one of my favorite homemade winter day treats.  So break out the slow cooker and get started.

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 5 large onions, sliced thinly and separated
  • 1 tsp sugar, divided
  • 3 ½ pints beef broth
  • 4 tbsp ruby port
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup of your favorite melting cheese (provolone and/or mozzarella cheese, swiss, gruyere) grated
  • 6-8 slices sourdough bread, lightly toasted – I like to use a full baguette from the  bakery

Directions

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Cut the onions in half and slice the halves. Sliced Onions

 

 

 

 

Heat the butter in the slow cooker until melted.

Butter and garlic

 

 

Add the onions, cover and cook, on low, until the onions are soft and just beginning to brown.

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Next I add the port, beef or vegetable stock, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.

Divide the soup into individual oven-proof bowls and place the bread slices to cover evenly.onion soup 014 Sprinkle with the grated cheese and put under the broiler about 6-inches from the heat until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes.

Enjoy!