Make up a batch or two of rich and spicy chai tea syrup - one for you and one to give away as holiday or hostess gifts. Take a sip and feel the cares slip away.
Yes, the holiday fever has hit, and sometimes I feel in panic mode when I think of all the things to do before Christmas. I so love this time of year and all the wonderful holiday warmth and traditions. And when I feel that sneaky stress feeling building up, I have a solution.
I make myself a big mug of tea, put on the Michael Bublé Christmas CD, or maybe the Bing Crosby or Boney M one, and sit by the tree to regroup and reflect and just breathe.
Christmas is not about all the hustle and bustle and panic and stress of fighting the crowds and finding just the right gift and sending off the parcels and pulling out the decorations and cleaning and entertaining and frizz-frazzling. Though I do find myself getting pulled into that maelstrom if I'm not conscious of slowing down.
I have to be very mindful to remember what Christmas really means, and to just be thankful for the loved ones I have to share it with. And as I wrap my hands around my colourful dutch bowl mug and take a big deep sip of chai tea, it comes back to me.
After a few minutes of stillness and reflection, I am ready to return to the kitchen and finish the preparations for this weekend's entertaining - with a joyful heart and eager spirit.
Maybe I'll make another batch of Chai Tea Syrup - I know a friend who could use some holiday spirit-refilling, too.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: A small jar of this Chai Tea Concentrate with instructions attached, makes a splendid gift for hostess, teacher, bus-driver or most importantly - yourself!
Plus, the smell of this fragrant syrup simmering infuses your home with the essence of Christmas.
Chai Tea Syrup
- 1 cup (240ml) water
- 1 ½ cups (315gms) light brown sugar
- ¼ cup (60ml) coarsely chopped fresh ginger, unpeeled
- 4 cinnamon sticks (about 3½ inches long each)
- ½ teaspoon whole cloves (about 18)
- 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- 12 whole cardamom pods
- 1 medium bay leaf
- 1 star anise pod (optional)
- a few strips of the outer rind of an orange - not the white part
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) pure vanilla
Break the cinnamon sticks into two or three pieces and place in a small plastic bag. Lay the bag on a cutting board and gently smash the cinnamon stick pieces with a rolling pin or the bottom of a can until they are crushed into smaller pieces, but not pulverized.
With the bottom of a spice bottle, press down on the cardamom pods to crack them open and loosen the seeds inside.
Place all the ingredients except the vanilla into a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Then lower the heat to medium and boil gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and cover with the lid. Let steep for 30 minutes.
Strain through a fine-meshed strainer into a bowl or measuring cup. Stir in the vanilla, then pour into smaller jars. Decorate with a pretty ribbon and give one to a friend.
Keeps refrigerated for a month.
Makes 1¾ cups syrup.
To serve: Brew a strong cup of black tea (I like English Breakfast or Earl Grey), filling a large mug about two thirds full. Add several tablespoons Chai Tea Syrup, to taste. Fill the rest of the way with hot milk, any kind (or cold milk and reheat in the microwave).
Put on the music and go sit by the tree. And if it's not Christmas, just go put your feet up on the coffee table and pretend you're on holiday.
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