Category Archives: Sides

Israeli Couscous “Risotto” Primavera

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March has officially become one of the busiest months for me! I have something happening every single weekend this month. Let me prove it (because I know you’re all dying to know ;)…):

  • March 2 – We celebrated our friends birthday last weekend, and had a night on the town. It was so great to catch up with everyone!
  • March 9 – Attending a day conference for work (hooray developing skills!) and then in the evening I get to see Diana from Veggie Next Door!! She and her fiance (squee!) are visiting their friends in Ann Arbor and I’m so excited to see her again, and hopefully make some new friends!
  • March 16 – I’ll be in the Chi for St. Patty’s weekend to visit the seester and my friends out there. Taking a nice long weekend from work to just kick back and have fun.
  • March 23 – SHOOTING MY FIRST WEDDING! Can I even begin to tell you how excited I am to be doing this? One of my best friends and I have been asked to photograph the wedding of someone she knows, and she and I are over the moon about it. I’ve also already planned to assist another one of my amazing photographer friends with weddings she’s doing this spring and summer. Yay! It will be amazing experience and hopefully slowly get my feet into the whole biz ;)
  • March 30 – GARBAGE! I have wanted to see Garbage live since I was in high school! Yes, I’m almost 30 and yes my friends and I will likely be the oldest people there. But then again, maybe we won’t. I’m sure there are still 30+-year-olds living in their 14-year-old bodies who are as excited as I am ;)

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Another happy news announcement: I’m registered for my first 5K! I’m doing the Color Run in Ypsilanti May 11 so I’ve been hitting the gym to run until I reach the 3.1 mile mark. I can’t wait for it to get warm outside so I can do some running outdoors. I think anyone can agree that running outdoors > running on a treadmill indoors.

So yeah, March is going to go by fast I’m sure, and there’s so much more exciting stuff happening almost every weekend after, but I’m ready for all the fun! Plus I’ll get to cross off a handful of things on that lovely list I have going ;)

So to celebrate and live in the fun and also help prep my meals for the week, I decided to make risotto. Since it’s one of my favorite foods, it had to be done. The biggest difference this time was I used Israeli couscous instead of Arborio rice. I just used more couscous, and less stock and added a whole lotta veggies. In the end it tasted like the real deal but wasn’t as heavy. The great thing about risotto is you can add whatever you want to it and it probably won’t taste bad. For this one, I used carrot, zucchini, baby Bellas and asparagus spears. I could see all kinds of veggies going into this though: leeks, artichokes, roasted eggplant, peas, peppers.. have fun with it!

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Hashtag dopeshow anyone?

Yeah, I said it.

5.0 from 1 reviews

Israeli Couscous “Risotto” Primavera
 
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Tastes just like classic risotto primavera, but lighter and creamier!
Author:
Recipe type: Risotto-ish, vegetarian
Cuisine: Italian-ish, vegetarian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup carrot, diced
  • 1 cup zucchini, diced
  • 8 oz. Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 10 oz. frozen cut asparagus, thawed
  • 1¼ cup Israeli (pearled) couscous
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups unsalted vegetable stock
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to a large pan over medium high heat until melted.
  2. Add the chopped zucchini, carrot and sliced mushrooms and cook until tender and softened, about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, add 3 cups vegetable stock to a saucepan and keep warm over low to medium heat.
  4. When the vegetables are done, remove from pan, set on plate and set aside.
  5. In the same pan, add the remaining oil and butter.
  6. Add the couscous and cook 2 minutes or until lightly toasted
  7. Add the white wine and cook 1-2 minutes or until alcohol is cooked out.
  8. Next add stock about ½ cup (or ladle) at a time, stir until absorbed. When the couscous has absorbed some of the stock, add another ½ cup.
  9. After 2 cups of stock have been added, pour the cooked vegetables back to the pan with the couscous. Continue ladling ½ cup until all the stock is gone.
  10. Add the thawed cut asparagus, cheese, salt and pepper and stir until all combined and the couscous is cooked.

Cookbook Challenge #1 – Isa’s Quinoa Salad

Remember that list of 31 things I want to do before I turn 30? The 31 Before 30 list? Yeah, I kind of forgot about it, too. I always do this to myself. I make an awesome list, set of goals, or even resolutions and usually only get 75% done.

So I happened to take a peek at the list, scrolled through it, and came to number #25 and literally said, “Oh shit.”

Read it and weep, Aparna:

Prepare and cook at least two recipes from each cookbook I own.

Now for any normal person, this is not a big deal. This is actually something very easy to accomplish for most. But for someone like me, who constantly forgets she owns cookbooks because she either alters recipes she finds online, puts a twist on her mom’s recipes, or creates new recipes all together, this is a problem.

I don’t even own a lot of cookbooks. I own, like….[counting] 11 cookbooks. So this should be easy. That’s 22 recipes I need to get done in a year. Well, at least 22 recipes (damn technicalities).

The only one I’m kind of pissed and/or worried about is cooking from The Pioneer Woman’s cookbook aka ALL MEAT, BUTTER, FAT AND CARBS RAWR. Quite frankly, I’m not as big a fan of hers as I used to be, and I don’t even know why I have this cookbook or ever wanted it. Her demeanor, her show and her overall premise is not very appealing to me nor do I relate to it in any way. [Pause for gasps and people leaving blog]

But I digress…

So as I was perusing through this cookbook, and on the phone with REB as he was driving home from work, we were playing the “what should we make for dinner?” game. It’s a game we hate and one we play almost every night. I mentioned I was reading Isa Chandra’s cookbook to him and maybe an idea for dinner would come from it. He seemed intrigued. Actually, he didn’t, but he did say, ” Yeah, that sounds good.” I’ll take that as intrigue and interest.

I love Isa Chandra. I love that I relate to her food aesthetic and I love her recipes. I looked through her cookbook and post-it’ed the hell out of it with recipes I want to try. And while on the phone with REB, came across this recipe, which we happened to have almost all the ingredients for in the kitchen.

Isa’s Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Toasted Cumin Seeds was perfect. Everything in the Appetite for Reduction cookbook is 400 calories or less per serving, uses fresh ingredients and is full of proteinalicious recipes! REB and I are newbs to quinoa, and we can’t get enough of it. It’s easily becoming our favorite substitute for pasta or rice. Plus, anything with cumin seeds? Duh. Has my name all over it.

So one recipe down, 21 (excuse me, at least 21) to go!

Quinoa Salad w/ Black Beans and Toasted Cumin Seeds
 
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Our twist on a low-cal, full-of-protein, fresh-ingredient salad! Adapted from Isa Chandra
Author:
Recipe type: main dish, vegetarian, quinoa
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 4 on-the-vine tomatoes (it’s all we had. I would prefer Roma), finely diced (remove some excess liquid if you can)
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted in dry pan
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ⅓ cup scallion, chopped
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (more if you need it – we didn’t)
  • Juice of two limes
Instructions
  1. Cook quinoa according to directions on package. Once cooked, put into a mixing bowl, and let it cool.
  2. In a dry pan, toast cumin seeds until aromatic. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a separate large mixing bowl, add chopped tomatoes, lime juice, honey, olive oil and cumin seeds and mix.
  4. Stir in the cooled quinoa, add the salt, scallion and black beans.
  5. Enjoy at room temperature or cold!
  6. Optional garnish: chopped scallion or cilantro
  7. Vegan option: use agave nectar instead of honey

Storms and Sunshine

 

I’m alive!

Well, sort of. I have been so freaking busy with work it’s ridiculous. I started a lead role (hooray!) at work, but I have been so busy (phew :-[) but I love it (hooray!). REB has been busy with work too being the big shot network admin guy on campus and that has meant we've either come home from work super late, or we've had other things going on after work.

I hate having off weeks with the hubs. We try to do a date night once a week, but it doesn't always happen. Truth be told, one of my favorite things is being able to just sit and have a meal with him. At least we still work out together at night! Hooray weights! Hooray cardio! Hooray hooray!

Anyway most of our dinners have been quick things like veggie burgers on salad, savory stuffed sweet potatoes (one guess who those were for :)), or fending for ourselves in general. Awful. I should be a good Indian wife and have dinner on the table for my man every night! [pause for jokes]. OK I take that back. I did make baked samosas a few nights ago. But really, my sister made the filling and had brought me the extras. I merely put it into poked puff pastry and baked it off. HEY. That took time! And they were tasty.

Where was I? Oh yeah. We’ve been so busy that I was determined to cook my man (and me!) a meal that would be satisfying and not too heavy.

Enter sunshine and summer in a bowl.

Or in layman’s terms: Caprese Israeli couscous with heirloom tomatoes.

It’s seriously the one thing I needed after these past few weeks! And let’s not forget how depressing the weather has been. If it isn’t 90 or 100 degrees outside, it’s storming. I decided to change all that today. It was the first night we both got home at a reasonable time, I had enough time to replenish our fridge and pantry thanks to Trader Joes, and I even had enough time to be one of those people who buys flowers at the store “just because.”

I also managed to pick up those little beauties you see in the bottom right. Just call me super woman. I told REB I wanted to make something fresh and light for dinner and that’s exactly what I did. Nothing screams fresh to me more than heirloom tomatoes, a light vinaigrette and a grain I haven’t had in ages.

I expressed interest in making couscous, but also wanted caprese. BOOM. This was born.
What we ended up with was a caprese couscous with a deconstructed pesto….lemon…dressing…thing. It was good. And you should make it. Because I said so.

Did I mention I started a lead role and I’m now more assertive than ever?

No? Oh Ok. I started lead role at work! Hooray!

Caprese Israeli Couscous
 
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Author:
Recipe type: entree, side dish, vegetarian, heirloom tomatoes, couscous, pearled couscous, basil, pine nuts
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • COUSCOUS:
  • 1⅓ cups Dry Israeli (pearled) couscous
  • 1¾ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup mini heirloom tomatoes, halved, quartered, whatever
  • 4 ounces (1/2 container) bocconcini (baby) mozzarella, halved
  • 10 whole basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • DRESSING:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 whole lemon, juiced
Instructions
  1. Start by bringing the water to a boil.
  2. In a separate pot or sauce pan add the couscous and olive oil and cook over medium heat until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally.
  3. When the water is boiling, slowly add it to the couscous.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and let it simmer for 12 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. While the couscous is simmering away, wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. The small ones you can leave whole. Set aside. Do the same with the mozzarella. Stack the basil, roll tightly and slice thinly to create ribbons.
  6. In a small dry pan, add the pine nuts and cook over low heat until toasted. Remove from heat. Keep your eye on them so they don’t burn!
  7. Once the couscous is cooked, transfer to a bowl. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and toss lightly. The heat from the couscous should melt the mozzarella a little.
  8. For the dressing, combine balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over couscous, add the tablespoon of olive oil, give it one good toss. Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top and enjoy!

 

The best thing is having leftover to take to work tomorrow. I think once I get into the groove of things, I’ll be back to my old self. At least I have the weekend to look forward to. I hope to have some culinary adventures! Stay tuned :)

Do you ever get into cooking slumps and do “fend-for-yourself” nights?

Happy Birthday America!

Hello hello! I hope everyone had a really fun and safe Independence Day! We had a really fun time with our friends Amber and Richard; we invited them both over for some dinner. It all started with them bringing one of their dogs so Gryff could meet him. The four of us are renting a cottage in Northern Michigan for the last week of summer, so we thought it might be good for our dogs to meet and make sure they get along!

It should come as no surprise that Andy and Gryff got along wonderfully! Now we just need to have him meet Dex, the other pup, and we’ll be all set! Anyway, so we had them over for dinner and we bought a grill so we could grill up black bean burgers and corn! Mmmm grilled corn is probably one of my all time, favorite foods of summer! We ended the night with some vino, beers, sparklers, drunk “golfing” on the golf course, and watching stand up on Netflix!


So anyway, onto the other parts of our dinner. I wanted to make potato salad. I love potato salad, but I hate gloppy, disgusting mayonnaise-based potato salad. REB and I are not a pro-mayo household. It’s unhealthy, tastes like pure salt and has the texture of mucus. Sorry to anyone out there who has the Jones for it. Point blank: it ain’t our cup of tea. So I made my own version with a mustard vinaigrette.


Lookie how patriotic we are! It was REB’s idea to use the red, white and blue potatoes, too. Glad he decided to do that! I was going to be happy with just redskin potatoes.

Perfectly roasted and vinaigretted, this salad turned into a huge hit. We also have leftovers, which is good because any holiday food that is saved for the day after the holiday is always a good thing. Speaking of holidays, how many people thought Thursday felt like Monday again?? I had the hardest time getting my butt to work. It didn’t help that our power went out from a freak thunderstorm at 3 a.m., and I had shower and get ready in the dark thereby making myself look like the world’s hottest bag lady. Keep your hands off. I’m all REB’s! Poor guy.

I hate the humidity that comes with thunderstorms. It makes my cute blow-dried, straightened, Aveda’d hair turn into a frizzy ball of dry nast. Sexy, I know.

Heat and humidity aside, we had a fun July 4 and I hope the rest of you did too!

So, happy birthday America!! Here’s to you and your big 236! Can’t wait to celebrate again next year! :)

Roasted Potato Salad
 
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Recipe type: roasted potato salad, rosemary, mustard vinaigrette
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • POTATOES:
  • 2 pounds baby potatoes; half or quarter the bigger ones
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE:
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon French’s yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 cup (3 stalks) celery, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, drizzled in
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Half or quarter the baby potatoes, leave the small ones alone, and spread onto a baking sheet in a single layer
  3. Drizzle olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary on the potatoes and coat well
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until slightly browned and fork tender
  5. Once the potatoes are done, let them cool completely for 15-20 minutes.
  6. In a small bowl combine the mustards, vinegar, celery, shallot, salt, pepper and stir. Then whisk in the olive oil until it’s smooth. Taste and add more pepper if you need more oomph.
  7. Transfer the potatoes from baking sheet to bowl and pour enough dressing over the top to coat well without being too heavy. Combine and give a potato a taste. You can add more dressing as needed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 hours so the flavors really sit. Enjoy!

How did you spend America’s Birthday?

Parmesan Baked Pita Chips

 

Hello hello! I was reading Sarah’s blog the other day and she had mentioned something about how she starts her posts. She said she usually starts with a greeting as if she’s in a conversation with her readers, instead of just listing a random fact. I realized I do the latter most of the time. I’m going to try doing what she does – greeting all of you! I do love that I’ve gotten more response on my blog this year than I ever have since starting this thing back in 2007. No lie. I am so grateful for all of you and that some of you really do like coming by and reading! I hope you all continue to do that.

OK enough mushy stuff. Onto the chips!

In the last post about the guacamole dip, I mentioned you could serve it up with baked Parmesan pita chips.

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That’s exactly what I did. Why buy them when you can make them and make them without frying? Much healthier, less greasy and ridonk easy. Yes, ridonk.

Here’s what you need!
•Whole wheat pita (I used 4 and made two batches)
•2 tablespoons olive oil
•1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
•Pinch of salt and pepper
•1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (more if you want more, less if you want less)

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Next cut each pita in half and then in thirds (to get triangles). Then pull them apart so you end up with 6 pieces per half. Lay the pieces on an ungreased cookie sheet.

In a small bowl combine the oil, garlic and S&P. Brush a little on each pita triangle and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Keep your eye on them because if you’re like me, you’ll burn a batch. I’m not saying I burned a batch, but it’s possible that my second batch was more crispy than the first.

Serve it up with hummus, salsa or make that guacamole dip I was talking about! The great thing about them is that you can season them how ever you want. Other options: curry powder, cumin, garam masala or cajun seasoning (for a spicy twist!). You could even go the sweet route and do cinnamon and sugar and serve with your favorite sweet dip!

Either way, they will go fast so either make enough or eat them all before they disappear. Now, I’m not saying we ate them all in one day, but I’m also not saying that we didn’t ;) Enjoy!

Have you ever made homemade chips before?

 

Caprese Salad

The colors of Italy never looked so good! This super simple, and very popular salad is one I love anytime of year. However, having this salad in the summer with fresh ingredients is how I like it best.

What you’ll need:
•1 tomato, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
•Fresh mozzarella, sliced in to 1/4-thick slices
•9 fresh basil leaves
•Balsamic vinegar
•Olive oil
•Sea salt
•Freshly ground black pepper

You’ll need three slices of tomato and three slices of the fresh mozzarella. Layer tomato, mozzarella, two basil leaves until you have a little stack.
Take the remaining basil leaves, roll them up, and slice them (chiffonade) into ribbons. Sprinkle that on top, along with a splash of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. It’s as simple as that!

Baked potato wedges


A very simple recipe and I’m sure most people can figure out how to do it. I thought I’d share how we make ‘em! Sure beats deep frying some potatoes for super oily, greasy french fries.

Here’s what you need:


•3-4 potatoes. We figured about 1 potato per person, but I love potatoes, soooo..really we split up 3-4 potatoes between us ;) Don’t worry, I worked it off after dinner (damn you, Jillian Michaels!)
•Cookie sheet
•Olive oil
•Sea salt

You’ll also need a potato brush.

A what?


This. Really, we just bought a soft-bristle brush to clean the potatoes. Any brush will do.

So first thing is preheat your oven to 350ºF


Clean the potatoes under cold water with the brush. You don’t want to scrub too hard to rub away the skin. Just get the dirt off of ‘em.


All clean! Clearly I rubbed too hard on some of them, but I guess really it’s OK ;-)



Cut the potatoes length-wise and then into wedges or strips.


Drizzle olive oil on them and some sea salt, then toss around. Arrange in a single layer and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, they should be fork tender. Turn the broil on and stick them under the broiler for 5-7 minutes until they turn crispy and delicious.

You can add some seasoning salt right when they come out of the oven, or keep it simple with salt and pepper.

The last time we made these, we actually sprinkled rosemary and olive oil on them and baked them off that way. They were soooo good! You could also mince some garlic and do Parmesan cheese and garlic or something. The possibilities are endless! What I do know is that they’re delicious and definitely a better option than deep frying in oil. Enjoy!

RLB’s Warm Pasta Salad

REB’s brother makes the most amazing warm pasta salad. We’ve made it a few times and I’ve posted pictures of it on Flickr, but I decided it was time to post the recipe since I actually asked REB to tell me how much of what he put in.

This pasta salad evolved when REB and his family were in Vermont, where they vacationed every year when they were growing up (right through college, actually). They own a share out there and trek out there for a week. Apparently one time while out getting groceries, they wanted to get this pasta salad that looked uber delicious, but cost quite a bit (common in Vermont: the land of organic, delicious food). REB’s brother, who we’ll call RLB (/wink), said he could probably make it, so they bought some ingredients, went back to their share, and he made it. It was a success.

The first time I had this dish I was in heaven. it’s so simple and reminds me of summer and also reminds me of REB’s family. We try to make it a few times a year, but it makes a TON so be prepared to have leftovers for 3-4 days. This easily serves about 8-10. I’m sure it should be served as a side dish, but it always is a main dish for us.

Here’s what you’ll need:

•1 1/2 pounds Penne (that’s 1 1/2 boxes ;))
•1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
•1 red bell pepper, chopped
•1 orange bell pepper, chopped
•1 green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
•1/4 cup (basically cut a smaller half) red onion, chopped
•1 8 oz. block fat free mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
•1 can medium whole black olives (or whatever olive you prefer…we think black works better than green in this dish though) NOTE: save about half the liquid from the can
•1/2 cup olive oil (I know that sounds like a lot, but you’re making it in a big vat, so it’s not THAT bad
•1/2 cup Franks Red Hot Sauce (more if you want a real kick)
•1/2 cup red wine vinegar
•1/2 the liquid from the can of olives
•Couple splashes of balsamic vinegar (you don’t want this dish to be sweet though, so 1-2 splashes will be fine)
•S&P to taste

A disclaimer:


In addition to the block of mozzarella cheese, we also buy fresh mozzarella. We don’t use the whole thing, but this is what we top the whole dish with (just a few pieces) so it kind of melts into ooey-gooey-cheesy-heaven as you eat it. This is totally optional and you’ll have leftovers of this cheese to make an antipasti platter or Caprese salad or whatever.

On to the cooking!

Boil water and cook the pasta according to the package. Drain and set aside. Add the dressing/liquid, half the cubed cheese and stir. Then you add the vegetables and the rest of the cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Top with the fresh mozzarella if you want, or it’s ready to go! We eat it warm, but it really tastes best if you let it sit a day and then reheat it. I don’t know why, but it does. Or you can have it cold as a side dish.


It’s the perfect summer dish and yes, it has a lot of dressing, but it’s well distributed so it’s actually quite light. I love it! And the best part is eating it for the next three days. Enjoy!

How To Make Chai

Having the sniffles, stinks.

I woke up this morning feeling as if I’d swallowed a softball. Blech. My nose was pretty stuffy and my sinuses ached. I stayed home from work and did nothing all day.

Then it occurred to me: What is the one thing that could make me feel better? My mom’s Chai.

Well, my mom lives an hour away and I needed the Chai right then and there.

So I made some. And it was amazing. Chai is the traditional spice tea that people in India drink almost every day instead of having coffee. It’s delicious and so easy to make at home.

And now I’ll tell you how to make it at home, too.

My moms Chai is the cure for the common cold. I’m not kidding. It’s spicy so it clears up your sinuses, it’s hot so it soothes and it makes you sleepy so you’ll rest.

If I don’t fall asleep halfway through writing this entry, please applaud me.

Here’s what you’ll need for 1 serving of Chai (I’ll explain each ingredient after):
•Black Cloves
•Cardamom (in the pod)
•Cinnamon stick
•Black peppercorn
•2 tea bags


I use a British tea, often referred to as Darjaleeng, which is what you see above. It’s the most common type of tea used. You can use loose-leaf tea if you want, but tea bags are much easier (and easier to dispose).


There are probably like 5-8 whole black peppercorns in there. Now, this ingredient is totally optional. In fact, my mom told me she only uses peppercorns when she’s sick since the spice and heat from the pepper helps clear the sinuses. So obviously, I used some today.


5-6 pieces of cardamom, in the pod.


Cardamom is a staple ingredient in Chai. If you don’t have any of the other ingredients, this is the one you should have if you want to make Chai, or garam masala. It’s spicy, sweet and smokey. I love it! Now, a lot of people will wonder why you need the pods because if you open the pod, you get cardamom seeds that look black like what I used when I made garam masala. I use the pods because I like the flavor even from the skin so it’s not just the seeds that help create the distinct flavor of Chai.


Cinnamon stick. Powder won’t cut it. This adds another spicy-sweet flavor. A “mulling” spice, if you will.


You need a pinch of whole black cloves. This adds a SUPER intense smokey flavor that I just love.

Let’s make some Chai! Because I’m still surprised I’m awake…

You’ll need a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one, they aren’t expensive to buy. You could grind everything up in a grinder, but I don’t think having a powder works quite as well.


I’ve mentioned before how much I love mine. It was a wonderful gift from my parents and a perfect use for making Chai.


Since I made Chai only for myself, this is 1 1/2 cups of water I put into a sauce pan to heat. Let the water get a little hot before you add in the tea.

So while that’s happening, you can make your Chai mixture.


Break up the cinnamon either with your hands or with the pestle (the “bat” used to crush things)


Place all the ingredients into the mortar and pestle and go to town to crush it all up!



This is what you end up with. I inhaled this mixture about a million times, and that alone made me feel a ton better. All the oils were released and it smelled so wonderful.



When the water is hot (not boiling), add in the tea bags and stir. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes.


It’ll turn a lovely mahogany color as it’s steeping. Soooo pretty!

Add in the Chai mix to the water and tea bags. Let it heat through another 5 minutes or so and stir well. As you do, you’ll really smell the Chai and your nose will grow impatient.


When it’s all done, pour the tea into a measuring cup. This will make for easy pouring into your cup.


Using a strainer, pour the tea into your cup.


The strainer will catch all the tea mixture, but leave the great intense flavor in your cup.


Traditionally, Chai is served with milk and sugar. It’s how I’ve always had it growing up, so having tea just straight black, tastes horrible to me.


You really only want enough milk to turn the Chai into a beautiful chestnut color. You’ll need to add quite a bit of sugar to help sweeten it. If you don’t, it’ll be REALLY strong. I mean, I guess you could leave it that way, but I like it sweet.

So there you go! It’s definitely not hard to make your own Chai and beats what ever they serve you at your local coffee shop because that’s almost always pre-made. That’s definitely not my BAG. Heh heh. Sorry, the puns are thanks to the cold. Although, my sniffles have reduced a ton thanks to this tea. I’m not kidding: cure for the common cold. Well, at least I like to think so.

How To Make Garam Masala

Garam masala is the one spice mixture you need for Indian cooking. Store-bought doesn’t cut it for me. Call me high maintenance, but you can’t skimp on good flavor and spice!

I make a lot of curries and most every recipe,  if not all of them, requires 1 tablespoon (I like my curries spicy!) of this incredible spice. This is actually a combination of six different spices ground together into a fine powder.

Up until now, my mom made the masala for me because she makes huge batches and loves to share. But now I’m a grown up, so making it at home is super simple and now I’m going to let you in on the secret of how to make it!

Now, you could use the old fashioned method of making your own masala with a mortar and pestle. However, that isn’t ideal if you want to make big batches, like I did tonight.

This guide will show you how to make your own at home! It’s super easy and believe me, once you make it, you won’t ever buy store-bought again.

What you’ll need:
•2 tablespoons black cardamom seeds
•2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
•2 tablespoons cumin seeds
•2 tablespoons coriander seeds
•1 cinnamon stick
•2 whole dried red chilies

You also need a grinder. Like I said, you could use a mortar and pestle, but a coffee grinder would be a better choice. My mom actually has two: one for grinding coffee, and one for spices. Great investment.


Beautiful sight isn’t it? These are the spices you’ll need to make this masala. There are many variations to this recipe and I’m sure you can find them all online, but this is what my mom uses. So by default, this is what I use ;-) It’s all relative (ba-dum-bum pssh!)

Let’s talk about those spices in detail, shall we?


Coriander seeds are little tan seeds, which add a super strong, pungent taste to your masala.


Whole peppercorns don’t need any explanation. They’re spicy and necessary.


One whole cinnamon stick. This is going to add a spicy-sweet flavor to the masala. Don’t worry, you won’t use the whole thing (that would be WAY too overpowering), but this will add just a hint of sweet spice in the background. I guess kind of like nutmeg, but not as mild.


Whole dried red chilies. Yum! These will add such a kick. There is no such thing as “mild” garam masala, so don’t skimp. Add the heat.


Cumin seeds add a lovely smokey flavor to the masala. It’s not quite spicy, but it’s not bland either. I can’t explain it, except that it’s wonderful. Cumin seeds are used a lot on their own in other curries.


And finally we have black cardamom seeds. Cardamom is a very distinct spice used a lot in Indian cooking. Most people know cardamom as one of the main ingredients in Chai. That kind is the green pods, but these black seeds are used in garam masala. The more you know.

So those are the spices! They’re lovely and don’t fret. They aren’t as expensive as you might think. Most Indian grocery stores sell them in decent-sized bags for between $3-7. And believe me, they’ll last a long time, so it’s well worth your money.

To prepare the garam masala, you simply dry roast all these ingredients in a skillet over medium heat for 15 or so minutes.


Dry roasting is essential when making this. This will release all the oils in the spices and will create and incredible depth of flavor.


Every few minutes, lift the skillet off the heat and swirl it to stir the spices around. You want to dry roast the ingredients for up to 15 minutes, or until the air is aromatic. And believe me, you’ll know when it’s done.


Once it’s finished, turn off the stove and place the skillet on a cool burner. Let it cool completely (5-10 minutes) before you grind it.


Remove the cinnamon stick from the skillet and if you have a mortar and pestle, break it up and place only a few pieces back into the spice mixture. So basically what I did was roast the cinnamon to infuse the flavors into the skillet and then only using a little bit of it in the actual mixture so that it’s not overpowering. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, just use a rolling pin or anything hard to help break up the stick. Save the rest of the cinnamon, too! You can use it in another dish or grate it over tea or cider.





Once the spices have cooled, you can take a little bit at a time and grind it down to a fine powder as shown above. Do this until the entire mixture is a fine powder.


The end result is this amazing little spice mountain of decadence. Store it into an jar or air tight container and it’ll keep for up to 6 weeks! You only need to use about 1/2 a tablespoon at a time when you add into your curries. Unless you’re me. Then you’ll be adding 1 tablespoon or more for that heat.

So that wasn’t too hard, right? The hardest part is finding all the spices, but once you get them, it’s smooth grinding from there.