Saturday, November 19, 2011

Yogi Chai

"Hospitality consists in a little fire, a little food,
and an immense quiet."
-R.W. Emerson

We are very fortunate to have a multitude of friends from all over the world.  Spending time with these friends throughout my twenties I received a wonderful gift and lesson, the gift of hospitality that comes so naturally to so many other cultures.  There is nothing like visiting with kind people, feeling nurtured and cared for, feeling loved.  Hospitality is very important to us, so one small way we like to make our guests feel at home, especially on cool autumn or blustery winter days, is by serving a sweet, warm cup of homemade chai.  Now if you are looking for a recipe for authentic Indian chai, this is not it.  This is more of a modified version I made up, a cross between my desire to use medicinal herbs as food and my love of sweet, warm, creamy, drinks.  I have been told by many that it is quite good, so I hope you enjoy.  And don't be discouraged by the lack of precision in my recipes.  Just try it and make it the way you like.  I guarantee you will fall in love with the spicy way your home smells from the all day brewing, not to mention how good the ingredients are for you.

Yogi Chai (adapted from Recipes For Living In Big Sur)

Herbal Ingredients and some of their properties:
Cinnamon bark- aromatic herb, stimulates digestion, relieves indigestion, useful in early stages of flu, relives sore throats
Black pepper- digestive tonic and liver support, relieves flus/colds, sore throats, stimulates circulation, combined with clove/cinnamon boosts immunity
Fresh ginger root- stimulant of peripheral circulation, promotes perspiration in fevers, promotes gastric secretion, relieves flatulence and colic, an effective gargle for sore throats
Whole cardamom pods- useful in reliving colds/flus, coughs, sinusitis, aids digestion, respiratory problems, poor circulation, and boosts immunity
Whole cloves- relives stomach ache, indigestion, flatulence, nausea, toothache, useful in colds/flus
Fennel seeds- relieves flatulence and colic while stimulating digestion and appetite, increases flow of mother's milk, calming effect on bronchitis and coughs
Astragalus root- immunomodulator, helps anemia and chronic immune deficiency

 half of a handful of green cardamom pods

Add half a handful of cinnamon bark (or several cinnamon sticks), black peppercorns, green cardamom pods, whole cloves, whole coriander, fennel seeds, a generous amount of fresh ginger root cut into slices, and a few slices of astragalus root to a large stock pot filled with filtered water.  If you are serving this for guests, start the chai in the morning or several hours before you plan on serving.  Bring to a boil and let simmer all day. Enjoy the heart warming aroma that fills your home.  As the chai simmers it will turn a rich, dark color.  Eventually you should taste for desired spiciness because the black pepper and ginger can give a really strong kick.  This is also the point where you would add your black tea bags if you must.  Before serving, sweeten with honey and add the milk of your choice.   I use whole milk or (half and half) but if you're vegan or lactose intolerant I think almond milk is good in the chai too. 
Yogi chai will keep in the refrigerator for several days if you haven't added the milk yet. 

Enjoy your cup of happiness!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I have always had a passion for wild foods, fungi in general I find quite mysterious.  However, the warnings about those species that can be fatal have been a deterrent for me to gather wild mushrooms myself, even after taking several classes and reading a handful of books.  I still feel the best way to harvest mushrooms is with an expert!  A recent hike in our local parts with a new friend and neighbor of ours (who happens to be a mycologist) led us on an expedition to find chanterelles.  These delicious wild mushrooms have a wonderful scent some say smell like apricots but I think they are sweet and earthy with a delicate meaty flavor.

We learned that any and all edible mushrooms should be well cooked before consuming, as raw mushrooms have carcinogens which over time can be toxic.  (So much for those white button mushrooms in your salads.)

To prepare the chanterelles first gently wash the dirt off, being careful not to rub the gills to much since all the flavor is in there.  Then remove any brown parts, cut or tear the remaining clean mushrooms into small pieces and saute in lots of butter with an onion.  It is important to saute them for a long time, until the water is all cooked out and they start to look very meaty.  They also need to be cooked right away after being harvested.  I washed and cooked a huge basketful then put them in pint jars to freeze.  I will pull them out here and there for omelets, quiche, pasta dishes, or whatever we like mushrooms with (except these are way better than any grocery store mushroom).  You can really eat them with any meal they are so yummy!