Tiny House Creature #3
Big batch chai, Bill Nye, and a 90's trend that won't die.
We’re home from a wonderful whirlwind of a trip to Mexico! It felt extremely luxurious to wake up, walk outside to a beautifully set table and have coffee, orange juice, fruit, cake/cookies, mini tamales, and some kind of egg dish every morning. We had huevos divorciados, migas, enchiladas, and more… it was a major treat, and most days, we weren’t even hungry for lunch, which is really saying something for the two of us.
I ate a lot of new foods, and tried so many new flavors - zapote negro ice cream, bacanora margaritas, oyster mushroom ceviche… it was all awesome and got me so excited about cooking.
So I did what I always do when we get home from a vacation; I went bonkers in the kitchen. I think I do this for a number of reasons, one is I feel inspired by all of the amazing food we’ve eaten while away, another is I get anxious when the fridge is empty, and lastly, I think cooking is just a really deep part of who I am, so I feel a little weird when I can’t do it. When I get home and into the kitchen it’s like finally being able to scratch that itch in the middle of my back.
In the past two days, I’ve made wild rice soup, anadama bread, flourless soy sauce brownies, jollof rice, plantain frittata, and a big batch of chai, which I’ll be telling you all about today!
Big Batch Chai
A lot of people like a chai concentrate but I’m not one of them. I used too much chai concentrate in my years working as a barista, and now it gives me the heebie-jeebies. This recipe makes 3 to 4 liters of chai, depending on your milk-to-water ratio. This big pitcher of goodness will keep in your fridge for a week. I love making a big batch of chai this time of year because you can heat it up in the microwave on cold days, pour it over ice on warm days, or freeze it in ice cube trays to blend into a frappe for scorcher days - it’s comforting no matter what’s going on outside.
Like most recipes I share here on House Creature, this is completely adaptable to your likes and dislikes and what you have available. I’ll share amount ranges for you to play around with.
1-2 cinnamon sticks
10-16 whole cloves
10-16 whole allspice berries
1/4 to 1/2 nutmeg (berry…? ball…? nut…? what is a unit of whole nutmeg called?!)
10-12 whole black peppercorns
1-2 whole star anise
10-16 green cardamom pods
2-4 inch piece of fresh ginger sliced, or 1/4 to 1/2 cup crystalized ginger chopped
1/4 to 1 cup sweetener (brown sugar, honey, sweetened condensed milk, etc…)
1 full carton milk of choice (I used oat)
1/2 to full carton of water
6-12 bags, or 3-6 tablespoons black tea (I used a mix of decaf and regular)
Using a mortar and pestle (or a can of beans and a plastic bag) lightly crush all of your dried spices. You want to be able to strain them out later, so don’t pulverize them.
Put the spices in a large pot over medium heat. Toast the spices, shuffling them around constantly so they don’t burn. Stop when spices are very fragrant, about 4-5 minutes.
Pour in the milk, then refill the carton with as much water as you’d like (I typically do half) and pour that in as well. Add the ginger and sweetener of your choice. Stir to dissolve the sweetener and bring to a gentle simmer. Allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes.
Add in your tea and steep for 4 minutes, then turn off the heat and strain immediately. Serve hot, or allow it to cool and serve over ice. Store in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze in ice cube trays and blend into a chai frappe.
And now onto a couple of things you can read or listen to while you sip your chai…
Food Science with Bill Nye on The Sporkful — Things I loved about this episode: 1) We get a little update from Bill - he’s been busy since gracing the large TV on a rolly cart from my elementary school! 2) He’s open about how his opinions have changed over the past couple of years, and how he lets scientific findings change his mind. 3) He answers questions about the 5-second rule, lab-grown meat, pasta water, and more.
The History of Bath Beads and Why They’re BACK! I didn’t know how nostalgic this was going to be until I started reading.
“As a girl aspiring to be a woman in the 1990s and early 2000s, everything I coveted was shiny, squishy, and made of plastic, from the silver jellies on my feet to the blue blow-up chair in my bedroom that I won at a bat mitzvah. In my eyes, sophistication meant rolling multicolor body glitter onto my skin with a plastic applicator and applying thick layers of sweet-smelling gloss straight from the Lancôme Juicy Tube. It was truly the glazed donut of design eras.
Bath oil beads were the perfect manifestation of these 1990s trends—colorful, plasticky capsules made of hard gelatin that melted when submerged in water to release a stream of fragrant bath oil, turning your tub into a slippery deathtrap.”
My grandmother in Florida had a fancy glass vessel full of beach-themed bath beads: dolphins, shells, and the occasional starfish. One time I touched a starfish while my hands were wet and it started melting, but just a little bit, so it just got stuck to the dolphins and shells nearby. When we went back to visit again months later, my melty starfish was still attached to his bath bead brethren, no one had touched them. In fact, the bathroom they were in didn’t even have a bathtub. This is the power of the bath bead - how often do we purchase items, knowing with 100% certainty we are never going to use them for their intended purpose?
Anyway, this article is a gem. If you need a little educational fluff in your life (don’t we all?) then take 5 minutes to soak in the joyful world of bath beads. AND please tell me about the bath beads of your past!
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