Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fall - Time for Spiced Chai

This is the season for chai. Hot and spicy, it warms you up and is good for you. It's a good way to strengthen your immune system before the onslaught of winter.

I start my chai by putting fresh ginger, cardamom seeds (taken out of the pods), and cinnamon stick in the crock pot overnight. The next day, after I turn off the crock pot, I add black tea and let that steep for a few minutes. I make a large batch. I make it strong, then put it in the refrigerator for easy use at a later time. When I want some, I use about half a cup or so, add multi-grain milk and honey then heat.

There are hundreds of recipes...find one or make up one. Here is an article from the Herb Companion newsletter with 3 recipes following:

"Sensuous, soothing and simply irresistible, chai is the ideal accompaniment for savory scones … a perfect break on a busy afternoon … a satisfying finish to a holiday dinner with family and friends.

Derived from the Chinese chá, “chai” means tea in much of the world, including Asia, Eastern Europe, parts of Africa and Brazil. Masala chai is an aromatic blend of black or green tea with warming spices. Sugar and milk often are included, as well.

Travel to India, Nepal and Tibet, where masala chai originated, and you’ll likely see vendors peddling the tasty brew on street corners or at train stations. According to Ayurvedic tradition, masala chai boosts the immune system, enhances metabolism, relieves stress, aids digestion and sharpens the mind.

You can find hundreds of chai recipes associated with different locales, restaurants and even families. Preparation methods vary, too—some aficionados insist on boiling the tea, spices and milk together, while others take a gentler approach, briefly steeping the tea leaves and spices in hot water, then adding hot milk and sweetener last.

The following recipes are three twists on this long-loved delight. Experiment by adding fennel seeds, coriander seeds, nutmeg, star anise, and lemon or orange peel to create your own favorite blend."

Basic Black Chai

• 1½ cups cold water
• One 2-inch piece cinnamon stick, broken
• 2 heaping teaspoons black tea
• Seed of 3 cardamom pods
• One ¼-inch-thick slice fresh ginger
• 3 whole cloves
• 2 black peppercorns
• ¼ to ½ cup milk
• 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar

1. Bring water to a boil in small saucepan. Add cinnamon, cover, remove from heat; steep 2 minutes. Return pan to heat; bring to a boil. Add tea, spices, milk and sugar; cover, and remove from heat. Steep 3 minutes.

2. Pour mixture through fine wire-mesh strainer into warm teapot, discarding solids. Garnish with cinnamon sticks.

Gentle Green Chai

This is a yummy variation of kahwah, a Kashmiri green tea.

• 1½ cups cold water
• 2 heaping teaspoons green tea
• Seed of 1 cardamom pod
• 2 whole cloves
• 2 strands saffron (optional)
• 6 blanched almonds, chopped
• ½ cup milk
• 1 tablespoon honey

1. Combine water, tea, spices and almonds in small saucepan. Cook over low heat until hot (do not boil). Partially cover; steep over low heat 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in milk and honey.

2. Pour through fine wire-mesh strainer into warm teapot, discarding solids. Serve.

Tulsi Chai

In India, Tulsi Chai, made from holy basil (Ocimum sanctum), is used to treat colds and reduce stress.

• ½ cup holy basil leaves
• 2 cups cold water
• 2 heaping teaspoons green tea
• Seed of 1 cardamom pod
• One 1/4-inch-thick slice fresh ginger
• One 2-inch cinnamon stick, broken
• 2 whole cloves
• Pinch of nutmeg
• 1 tablespoon honey
• Milk, to taste

1. In small saucepan, boil basil and water. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in tea, spices and honey: bring almost to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and steep 3 minutes.

2. Pour mixture through fine wire-mesh strainer into warm teapot, discarding solids. Serve with milk. Garnish with skewered crystallized ginger cubes, fresh basil leaves and grated nutmeg.

Read more

Monday, October 17, 2011

Edible Mushrooms Growing in my Living Room!

A couple of weeks ago I had a booth at the annual harvest event at Laguna Farms in Sebastopol. I was selling my herbal products and giving flower essence readings.

They offered many classes including one on growing edible mushrooms. I made two 'bags' full of rice hay and mycelium.

Two days ago they sprouted. I was so excited! Mushroom babies! I spent some time trying to find out what kind they were then finally identified them - Pleurotus ostreatus var.columbinus blue oyster mushrooms! I wasn't sure how long to let them grow before harvesting, but after I did a little research, I figured it out.

This picture shows them on the second day after they pop out of the plastic bag. They get as big as cookies and lighten in color when they are ready to eat. Once they start, they grow fast.

I have been eating them for two nights now. Although they are not supposed to do this, I notice my dreams are more vivid and active than they had been before. I am very sensitive to new energies, so it might just be me. But I do feel different. I cut the fresh mushrooms, cook and eat them in minutes. They are so alive, the first time I cut them I apologized.

I am hooked! Growing my own edible mushrooms is so easy! I always heard that, but now that I've done it and eaten the results I am a believer.

Today, the universe said YES, and sent me the latest catalog from Fungi Perfecti. I knew I had one, but couldn't find it. I have been listening for guidance about the direction I am to take next and now I know I will be growing mushrooms.

Since I live in the woods, my place is cool and dark most of the time. I have the right kind of place for growing mushrooms, both indoor and outdoor. You can eat them and it's legal!

The first time I ate them, I wanted to taste their natural flavor, so I did not use any seasoning. They were so delicious,with a mild and delicate flavor. I sauteed them briefly in a little olive oil and butter. Yummm!

Last night I mixed them with roasted eggplant and garlic over linguini sprinkled lightly with fresh grated parmesan. It was a gourmet meal.

Tonight I'm going to cook up a batch and freeze it. They are producing so many mushrooms I can't eat them all. I will cook them up, freeze them, then used them in a sauce over polenta that I will bring to a Halloween party potluck.

Not sure if they grow a second time, but I'll see. My next experiment will be to grow some medicinal mushroom like Reishi and Lion's Mane.

Here are some useful websites I found in my research:

To start "growing your own" I suggest going to the website by Fungi Perfecti, because they are totally reliable and they have been doing this for a long time.
Try growing your own. It is so amazing. A great project for kids. You can grow them on your kitchen counter. They don't take up much room and you don't have to do anything. No watering or weeding! ha ha