Monday, September 26, 2011

Recipe: My Chai

Nothing signifies Fall more to me than when I start making homemade Chai...and every time Fall rolls around, nothing makes me happier than getting out the ingredients to whip a batch.   I have been making chai for a long, long since college-long-time--long before Chai Tea Lattes were all the rage and I am pretty sure even before it came in a box.  In fact, the first time I had chai was in college and a friend actually made me a cup.  It was love at first sip: I loved the sweet, spicy warmth--it was such a welcome change from coffee and I was instantly hooked by all the exotic flavors.  I figured out, more or less, how to make it and have been making at home ever since.  

Here's how I make mine...

Gather your ingredients....this recipe serves 2 generously.

4 black tea bags
10 slightly crushed cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and split into 6 pieces
2 cinnamon sticks
2-3 whole black pepper corns
1/3 cup brown sugar

In a pot, combine 3 cups water with cardamom pods, cloves, ginger, pepper.
Bring to boil, simmer for 15 minutes--it will become very aromatic and smell delicious.
Turn off heat, add tea bags & cover; let steep for 3 minutes.

Strain tea thru a sieve and return to pot--add brown sugar, stir till disolved...set aside.  In separate pot, heat 1 1/2 cups of milk over medium high heat for 3 minutes; but don't let boil.  
When hot, add milk to tea.  
Serve in mugs with more brown sugar or honey on side if desired.

This is the perfect drink to sip on a Fall weekend day, while its raining outside or when its quiet because everyone is laying around reading or doing some quiet play...enjoy it because this never lasts too long!

Monday, September 19, 2011

un torta di susine -- a plum tart

I visited the Penn Quarter FRESHFARM Market last Thursday and was instantly under the spell of these deep indigo Italian plums...I bought two pounds, brought them home and continued to swoon over them...they were just lovely!!  And lucky for me, I had just zoned out with an episode of Barefoot Contessa the night before on tv and guess what she made??  

A plum tart!

perfect timing and time to start baking...

Plum Tart
2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties!, All Rights Reserved

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 45 min

1 (9 1/2-inch) tart

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), diced
1 egg yolk
2 pounds firm, ripe Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered lengthwise

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the flour, walnuts, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and the egg yolk. Mix, either by hand or with an electric mixer, until crumbly.

Press 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture in an even layer into the bottom of a 9 1/2-inch springform or tart pan. Arrange the plums in the pan, skin side down, to form a flower pattern; begin at the outside and work your way in.

Sprinkle the rest of the crumb mixture evenly over the plums. Bake the tart for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it's lightly browned and the plum juices are bubbling. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and transfer the tart to a flat plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

It is a cinch to make.  The walnut-based crust also doubles as the crumb topping and its really, really good.  I have discovered the riper the fruit, the better the tart--or should I say -- the sweeter the tart...Extra ripe fruit really made this delicious.  We enjoyed a slice last night after dinner and since it has all those heathy walnuts in it, the kids & I had a slice (warmed with a little cream!) for breakfast. 

 Pretty great way to start the week.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Welcome Fall!

Dear Fall,

I am so glad you are almost here!  I know your official start date isn't until Friday of next week (September 23, this year) but I just wanted to give you a little bit of an early warm welcome....I am one of your biggest fans...You are absolutely my favorite time of year and I have anxiously been awaiting your arrival. 

Although, you wouldn't have know it...we have all been a little side-tracked here in the greater DC area...there was this whole earthquake/hurricane/5 days of straight rain-flooding/threat of terrorist attack thing going on, so I kind of got a little distracted..BUT!! I am back and ready to celebrate you in all your glory.

I have the whole thing planned out...I will start making home-made chai this weekend and we will start eating lots of chili, corn bread & apple crisps...the leaves will start to fall soon and kids will jump and play in the big piles.  We will go for long walks down by the river with the dogs (and without the mosquitos!)...I wait until the last possible moment before turning over the garden and we will get the fire pit set up so we can gather around it on a crisp Fall evening..

We'll start leaning more towards long-sleeves and won't wear our flip flops as fact, it will be time to put all that summer stuff away.  We will delight as the leaves turn brilliant colors and hurry home just a little bit quicker as the days get shorter.  Butternut squashes will be much more frequent in our home and the oven will turned on a little bit more often.  We will bake every weekend.

I am especially looking forward to Halloween this year because of all my big haunted house plans that I have swirling in my head (even as write this!!),  Greg's birthday is in October and as for Thanksgiving, we are going home to New Mexico which, of course, will be some kind of wonderful...

But before all of this happens, Dear Fall...before you actually get here, I wanted to greet you with a simple gift of welcome...I made a wreath to hang on our front door to let everyone know how excited I am that you are here...nothing complicated or expensive...just a token of my appreciation for all that you represent: the harvest, giving thanks, the smells and the rituals...

I hope to instill in my kids the same appreciation for this wonderful time of year.

Thanks Fall...I think you are the best!!

lots of love,


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Today and My Daughter

How do you even attempt to explain what happened 10 years ago to kids who were born after it all even do you explain the hatred that flew those planes into places they were never meant to go to a six year old...

Do you even try to tell her at all? 

Maybe you wouldn't or you shouldn't but she already kinda knows about it somehow and you think because she does seem pretty smart that maybe you shouldn't try to hide the day or the meaning from her. She asks you all sorts of questions and she wants to know more... You really want your family to observe the moments of silence...and so you tell her...a little bit about what happened that day.

You tell her in a much more toned down way about what actually happened; but you do tell her about the planes, the crashes, the towers and that people died that day: many, many people died.  You tell her about the brave, brave men and women who responded that day--the firemen and the police officers, who risked their lives to save others...the heros; everyones' heros.  You tell her about the dogs who helped sniff people out of the wreckage and helped find loved tell her about the brave passengers who banded together and took a plane down into a field outside Shanksville, PA instead of letting it do even more harm...You tell her that even though there are people who do bad things in the world...there are so many more people that do good...

You tell her about her family that loves her: her parents, brother, grandparents, cousins, aunts & uncles...her friends and tell her about all the good people of the world, doing good work: about the doctors that heal us, the teachers that help us learn and the people that help grow our food.  You tell her about all the good people in the world that help take care of animals, of plants and of the earth.  You tell her that she too, will grow up to be a good person...that she, in her life, will contribute to the health and peace of the planet--that the world will be a better place because she is here...

And as you wipe away the tears from her face, as well as your own--you wonder if this was all too much...maybe it was and maybe she is too young...But she looks to you and she says that she will be a force of good in the world and she will help right the wrongs and then she puts her little hand in yours and you squeeze it so hard--you can't help yourself...she squeezes whisper to her that you love her, so very much, and she falls asleep in your arms...and for a moment...

the day is ok 

and you have hope that the world will be a better place for her.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pick Your Own...then CAN IT!!

This labor day weekend--like last labor day weekend--we went to a farm and picked some fruit and vegetables so we could can them.  Our garden didn't quite yield that 40 lbs. that I was hoping for so this year, on Saturday, we went to Lariland Farms near Frederick, MD and picked tomatoes...

Then, on Monday...with the HUGE help of my mother-in-law-- the kids and I canned them. 

14 quarts.

Not too bad and the tomatoes will be wonderful in the middle of winter.  The nice part is that when you pick over 20 lbs. of tomatoes at this farm-- the price drops to .49 cents a pound.  So, we figure each quart (32 oz) we canned cost .75 cents--which is awesome, but its not why we do it...I love for the kids to be in the kitchen, knowing where their food comes from and how to take care of it.  Plus I love the way the jars looked all lined up, full of summer-time goodness...just waiting to be plucked from the shelf for some cozy winter-time meal.

Then there was the raspberries!! and the peaches!!

Magda picked a pound of raspberries and we bought some peaches too...this was my first year to try pickles.  Grandmom picked up some baby cucumbers and for them: we added fresh dill, pickling spices (like mustard seeds, cloves, black pepper, allspice, mace, bay leaves) and whole cloves of garlic.  I made a brining solution with salt and vinegar and processed them in the canner for about 15 minutes.  I don't know why I thought it was going to be so was pretty simple actually.  Will let you know how they turned out.  I love pickles...SO MUCH!!

Happiness is--to me...canning food for my family.