Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside + Masala (Chai) Spices for Tea

It is cool and dreary here today in Manhattan, Kansas – the kind of day that makes a person want to stay inside and curl up with a good book and a cup of tea.  So, I made some Masala Spice Tea. Hmm, wonderful!

ChaiSpiceTea

Masala (Chai) Spice Blend

7 T. granulated sugar

2 1/2 t. ground cinnamon

2 t. ground ginger

2 t. ground cardamom

2 t. ground cloves

1/2 t. ground allspice

1/2 t. ground nutmeg

1/2 t. ground black pepper, optional*

Combine sugar and spices in a 3/4-cup glass jar. Close the lid and shake the jar until ingredients are well blended. Store at cool room temperature.

Suggested Uses: sprinkle on top of buttered toast, or on top of muffins or coffee cakes before baking; use instead of sugar in Chantilly Cream, coffee, tea, hot cocoa, or hot cider.

* The black pepper yields a hot flavor that works well in coffee, tea and hot cocoa; but I omit it for use in baked goods, hot cider and Chantilly Cream. If you are not used to hot flavor in your beverages, the pepper might become an acquired taste.

To make Masala (Chai) Spice Tea

2 c. water

2 T. + 2 t. Masala (Chai) Spice Blend

2 T. + 2 t. Assam or Darjeeling black tea, Jasmine green tea, or Honeybush herbal tea

2 c. milk, almond milk, or soy milk

Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add spice blend and tea leaves. (It your tea is bagged, leave it in the bags because the crushed tea is more difficult to strain.) Stir in milk, almond milk, or soy milk. Simmer gently for 5 minutes. Strain tea into a warmed pot and then strain again into warmed tea cups. Enjoy!

More on this week’s photo challenge

Mint: It Grows Like a Weed, but That’s Okay

Herbs in the mint family are known to be so invasive that it is generally recommended that they be grown in pots rather than directly in the ground. A few years ago,  I started a couple of large pots of spearmint by the back steps. I still have those pots of mint. Kansas winters can’t kill them off, but grasshoppers can do some damage.  While the leaves are still pristine, having not yet been gnawed upon by the voracious grasshoppers that seem to plague my garden during the summer and are already appearing, I’ve decided to harvest some of the mint. So I have been thinking of its culinary uses. (In the post immediately following this I give a cocktail recipe that I created for using homemade mint products.)

Tip: To harvest mint, make sure that it has been well watered for several weeks prior to cutting. Cut mint in the morning before the heat of the day has started to set in and, preferably, cut only stems of mint that have not yet started to flower. Clean with cold water. Use only undamaged leaves.

Uses

(1) Mint Tea

Place a large quantity of leaves in a teapot. Pour fresh boiling water over leaves and let steep for about 5 minutes. Strain to serve. Variations: add lemon balm leaves, chamomile flowers, black or green tea leaves, orange or lemon peel, and so forth.

(2) Mint Simple Syrup

Add 1 cup cold water and 1 cup granulated white sugar to a non-stick pot. Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved. (No need to simmer.) Place 2 c. mint leaves in a large glass bowl. Carefully pour simple syrup over mint and allow to sit for 5 to 15 minutes. Squeeze juice from leaves into syrup. Stain into syrup into a glass jar.

Use in cocktails such as Mint Juleps or Mojitos.  Use to sweeten lemonade or  to sweeten black or herbal teas  (hot or iced). Toss a small amount with fresh fruit such as honeydew or grapefruit segments for a minty fruit salad.

(3) Mint-Infused Vodka or Rum/Mint Extract

Fill a glass jar with fresh mint and top off with vodka or white rum. Cover tightly and shake. To make infused-vodka, store in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Strain out mint leaves and pour vodka into a glass bottle. To make extract, allow the mint leaves to sit in the vodka for 2 weeks before straining. While the mixture is sitting for the 2 weeks, remove any leaves that float to the top and turn brown.

Use vodka or rum in cocktails. Use extract in brownies, cookies, or whipped cream.

(4) Dried Mint Leaves

Hang bunch of leaves on stems 4 – 5″ long and hang in a warm, dry place or dry leaves in an oven or food dehydrator.

Use for teas or  in middle Eastern and far Eastern dishes.

That’s all that I came up with for today. What are your favorite ways to use mint, whether spearmint or some other variety? I’d love to hear your suggestions.