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Tuesday 20 September 2011

Chai, the spiced drink of life!

At L's wedding, I got to wear a Lengha!
The Back Story
About a decade ago a dear friend of mine went to live in Africa and has since found her permanent home there with her now young family.  However, whenever we have a chance to see one another it is always over a cup of chai (aka tea).  The last time she returned home she brought me a new variation on spiced chai called Shaax.  Shaax is the African version and is made with canned evaporated milk instead of fresh (try keeping milk cold in some of the hottest places on the planet!) 

I was sixteen when I tried my first sip of Masala Chai ('masala' means spiced, while 'chai' means tea in many cultures).  I was at an Indian restaurant in the city where I live and they brought out this little pot with whole spices floating around in the steaming milky liquid.  I was in love at first taste and have never tired of making  this incredibly warming and delicious tea for myself and anyone who needs a chat and a chai.   

FYI: I always know the chai is ready when I boil it over all over the stove!  May I recommend keeping a close watch on yours until you get the hang of it or until you accept your fate as I have.... I will share both recipes so you can decide for yourself which you prefer.  I use a stove top glass tea pot with a built in strainer at home, but it was a long time before I was given this ingenious pot so I will write the recipe with instructions regardless of
the tools you have.

A quick word to my sweet friend:  Sweet L, I miss you!  How does the time go by so fast and how did our families grow so much?  I cannot wait till you meet my girl, she and Sophia are going to love each other! I think of you often and look forward to our next cherished cup of chai together.  I lift you and your family up and love you dearly.  Please hug your daughter for me, and your husband, and yourself and the new life growing inside of you.  All my love, Katie

Masala Chai
As with every spiced dish, once you read this, the recipe is yours to do with as you wish, so experiment and enjoy!  The recipe for Shaax is linked here on My Recipes.

1 x 3" piece cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
8 whole cloves
8 whole green cardamom, lightly crushed
6 whole black peppercorns
4 slices fresh ginger
2 cups water
2 Tbsp loose black tea or 4 x tea bags (Darjeeling is preferred)
2 cups milk
1-2 Tbsp Sugar or more to taste (sugar is traditional and helps bring out the complexity of the spices)
1 tsp vanilla

1.  In a stovetop tea pot, medium saucepan or tea kettle combine the dry spices, ginger and water.  Bring to a boil.  Add the tea and continue cooking for 1 minute.

2.  Reduce the heat, add the milk and simmer on low for 10 minutes in order for the spices to infuse and the tea to get good and strong.

3.  Remove from heat, stir in sugar and vanilla and if using a glass kettle, serve.  If using a saucepan use a small strainer to carefully lift the larger spices out of the pot and them pour the whole mixture into a tea pot with a built in strainer small enough to catch the remaining spices (don't worry if you don't have the right tea pot, the tea I was served when I fell in love with this drink always had spices floating around). If using a tea kettle, place a small strainer over each cup as you serve the tea in order to catch the spices as they pour out (be prepared for a little spilling).

4.  Gather sweet friends or neighbours and enjoy one anothers company over a cup of chai!

Note:  You can also turn this recipe into a spice syrup you can then just stir into hot milk when you feel like it.  To adjust the recipe, just omit the milk and all but 1/2 cup of water and increase the sugar to 2 Tbsp. Cook to dissolve sugar, strain, chill and keep in a squeeze bottle for easy access.  You will likely use about 2 Tbsp of syrup for a nice big cup or a small pot of masala chai.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Sweet and Salty Popcorn!!

As with most things in my life, this blog has finally arrived back at food.  It`s not that I am obsessed or anything, it`s just that food makes me happy.  More importantly, it makes the people I love happy too.  Family BBQ`s, Sunday Football Snacks (GO SKINS!), a spoonful of peanut butter for my toddler, a handful of fresh picked tomatoes from the neighbours garden.  All of these shared food experiences make my people happy, and that makes me happy!  Go to the `My Recipes` page for Sweet and Salty Popcorn at Home.

Perhaps this is simplistic, but I think my husband loves me more because I feed him well.  I know he could love me if I never cooked again, but that would be cruel given the sheer joy on his face when his belly is full of fresh and flavourful food!  Even Tricia gets these looks on her face when she eats something delicious, realizing she is happy with what is in her mouth.  I kid you not, some days she barely eats.  The next day she makes up for it with twice the food.  It`s a sight to see.  AND she know what she likes!  Giver her a carrot stick but not a pepper.  Giver her broccoli but not a cucumber.  Giver her grated cheese, not a slice of cheese.  Wow, we are all unique.  When she gets a guava Popsicle I can tell she is disappointed (but we have to eat them up) since she knows what she likes and it is not guava, its LYCHEE!

The point is, my background is food and I feel like my future is food too.  It`s in me to make good food and I believe part of the reason for this is that I was taught to eat, to taste and to feed people.  My mother is an amazing cook, my sister too.  My grandmother was a pastry genius and the years she spent cooking at hunting camps gave her an incredible knack for taking simple things and turning them into feasts (hello moose meat pie!).  Growing up I also learned to preserve through canning and not waste anything.  I remember gagging when my mom would tell to cut around the bad spots in an apple or tomato since the rest was still ``perfectly fine``, ughh.  Remarkable to find myself years later telling my kitchen staff the exact same thing about a bushel of pears or a case of peppers.  Much to their chagrin, I`d happily grab some slimy carrot, hold it up and declare it good to go (in certain applications only of course and it wasn`t just one, it was 50 lbs worth, hah!).  The truth is, all the best food experiences have humble beginnings.  Even a slimy carrot, once peeled, blanched, refreshed and sauteed with a little salt yields a more than palatable end.

Making food experiences matter for Tricia will take some effort, but a worthwhile effort it will be.  No one with fabulous food memories can disagree.  I want her to love to eat, share, taste, create and get up to her elbows in the creation of food.  So while we will focus on healthy eating in our home, I will also have to confess that I found my passion for food in candy making.  My mom wasn`t going to buy it, so I made it instead!  So much fun was had, just not by my mother`s kitchen!  She was a good sport though, always asking if I had in fact read the recipe the whole way through before I launched into one of my creations.  Ultimately she got her reward; a certified chef, the manager of a neighbourhood cafe, a happy home cook with a good set of taste buds, a good eater with many favourite things and great kitchen in which to play!

Today`s recipe is intended to save us all some money!  I`m sure you all know that oh-so-good sweet and salty popcorn you can buy for $4-$5 a bag.  It`s all the rage.  Well, it`s also rediculously easy to make.  Here`s my recipe after some careful trial and error, I hope you enjoy!  Note:  there is one special piece of equipment needed so check out `Stuff I Like` for the details on where to get your own Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper!!


Thursday 8 September 2011

One fish two fish red fish blue fish

Dr. Seuss has officially re-entered my life!  I missed those books and am happy to see them back again.  In fact, many of the books which are Tricia's favourites are books written before either of us were born.  A classic is a classic and good things don't go out of style.  For this post, I would like to get back to my point form stylings and give you some Classic Franks North updates.

Popsicles, or "popdicalle" as they are sometimes called - You may recall Tricia loves her popsicles.  So much so that in the mornings when I wake her up (she's always sleeping in) she often groggily informs me that it is not time for a Popsicle just yet, "no popdicalle, not yet".  I agree saying something about after lunchtime.  Tricia is often reminding Ryan and I that there have been boundaries placed.  Just last night she told Ryan in some sort of run on sentence that "no hit, just gentle; no soapy; no more potty treats, just one; and no suit." As the weather has changed Tricia has been a little depressed that she can't wear her swimsuit everyday....

Best Homemade Popsicles  
(thank you neighbour Amanda for this!)  

1.  Go to the juice section at the grocery store and buy tetra pack gourmet juice (i.e. the not from concentrate kind where the first ingredient is the fruit itself)
2.  Return home and open the box.  Pour into clean popsicle moulds.
3.  Freeze until solid and serve to everyone who needs one.

Note: After some experimenting our house fav's are Lychee fruit and Mango Nectar, they're uh-mazing! Please see Stuff I Like for the best ever Frozen Jewel Popsicle Molds.

Foster Family for Dinner - Another milestone this past week was a visit from our dear and lovely Foster Family.  I literally can't say enough about Tricia's guardians from birth to July of this year.  These dedicated sweet people aren't just caring for babies until they find homes, they are creating a home and a relationship that children can re-visit and stay connected with.  Sure Tricia is exceptional and even Dodo and Roy will tell you they have a special place in their hearts for her, but these folks treat everyone with such incredible care and having them to our house for dinner was an honour.  The best part was how little time it took Tricia to remember them and get right back in their arms for snuggles.  She even provided a pre-dinner dance show that wouldn't have ended if supper hadn't been ready!  When I dreamed of my ideal adoption scenario it looked a lot like this reality.  A whole group of people invested in Tricia's well being, willing to love her as she grows and in love with her because of who she is.  It doesn't get much better than that!  Since their visit last week every time I ask her if Dodo came for supper she exclaims "DODO, ROY, RAY" with tremendous enthusiasm and laughs at her own memories.  We can't wait for the next visit....

Letter to birth mom - Just wrote it today.  Kept it simple, caring and open with little tidbits about our girl.  If you think of it, we would love to have this letter lifted up in thought and prayer that it would be received in an appropriate way and that it might be the first of many.... thank you!

Ryan's Birthday - The Skins come to Toronto, and we've got tickets!! - Ryan is 31 and we celebrated with Breakfast in bed.  Then we washed all the bedding since we had that much fun with Tricia and Miley joining us, so fun.  We also took a trip to the zoo with Josh and Katie, had a family feast and had some special calls from Franks Central.  The big news of the day however was Ryan's gift from his oh-so-lovely wife of tickets to see our beloved Washington Redskins play at the Rogers Centre in October - woohoo!!  Dream come true!  Now, who wants to babysit??

Potty Training Update - #1s are off to the races, with almost no accidents and no diaper needed during nap time.  Hooray!  #2's are a different story and despite Tricia placing her baby dolls on the potty for "poopy" we haven't seen much progress.  She is upset when things go "a-muck" but not enough to make any changes.  Her newest funny thing is pretending to poop in a serious way with her face going red and not breathing she is "pushing" so hard.  Only problem is she is not on the potty and doesn't need to go.  Oh pieces, please come together, we're so close....hah!

Upcoming.... Swim Lessons - I will do anything apparently (including be in a swimsuit in the middle of winter) for my child.  No but seriously, it'll be fun.  We're going with friends and it's high time Tricia started learning some water safety, the girl is obsessed with water in any form and needs to know how to be safe.

Curry Feast for Nicole - let's link it to a stand alone page, cause it's that good (it might not be up right when this gets posted so be patient with me)! Recipes and how to's for a do-it-yourself curry feast just like we had for Nicole's birthday this past winter. xoxo my sweet sis-in-law. Link:

Keep the comments coming!  This tool has been therapeutic for me, the new mom, but I would love to hear from you (my readers) too.  Share your own story with us, or picture or anything at all.  I love my community of people from near to far, from here to there, and interesting things are everywhere!

PS - my sister Bethany and I are starting a little business and are preparing for launch as we speak.  More to come on that but we will hopefully soon have both our Etsy shop and website up and running.  For now I'll just share the name, Firefly Creations by Katie and Bethany, can't wait!