Easy Cold Brew Coffee in A Mason Jar

img_3207     With all the Cold Brew coffee on grocery store shelves and in coffee shops, I can never find any decaf cold brew.  I also wanted something without syrups in it.  So after combining tips from several youtube videos, here’s an easy way to get smooth, delicious cold brew at home without any fancy equipment.  This quick method makes a smooth concentrate that you can dilute with water, ice or any plant milk.  I like coconut creamer in mine, and about 1/2 teaspoon of agave syrup.  This will last about a month in the fridge.  More photos below.

EASY COLD BREW COFFEE IN A MASON JAR

Makes about a quart

INGREDIENTS
3/4 Cup freshly-ground coffee beans
water

DIRECTIONS
For cold brew, we want a medium grind.  I have the simplest little old $20 Krups coffee grinder that I also use for spices.  Place the beans in the Krups and pulse 12 times for a basic medium grind, waiting about one second between each pulse.  This might look a little bit coarser than you’re used to, but don’t worry about it.

Place grinds in jar and add filtered water, filling it almost to the top, stopping when the water is about 1 inch below the jar threads.  Place lid firmly on jar and tilt/invert jar gently a couple of times to mix the grinds with water.  Place jar in fridge for at least 16 hours, up to 24 hours.

Now strain the brew a couple of times.  The first time, strain through a sieve to get out the large particles.  When straining, tip the jar gently and slowly so as to leave most of the saturated grinds sludge on the bottom of the jar.  The second straining can be done through a paper coffee filter, changing the filter once or twice when the dripping slows way down, but be warned this is a bit time consuming.  Cheesecloth might be faster but you also might wind up with some tiny fibers in the coffee, not sure.  What I do is filter it through a nylon nut-milk bag and it’s done in 15 seconds.  There are many nut milk bags to choose from on amazon.com.

Notes:  I prefer freshly-ground organic coffee for smoothest flavor.
img_3196  This Medium grind was achieved by PULSING a simple Krups coffee grinder 12 times.
img_3198  After chilling in fridge for 16 hours, there’s a thick “sludge” at the bottom.”  You will carefully strain the cold brew, while trying not to disturb this sludge.  This is about how full the jar should be.
img_3201  First strain.
img_3203  Second strain.  If you don’t have a nut milk bag, or cheesecloth, dampen a paper coffee filter and use that.  It will be slow, and you will have to change the filter once or twice.  Do other things while it’s dripping.  Unbleached coffee filters are best.

Beet and Lemon Shrub using canned beets

IMG_2079     Cheers and Happy New Year  to you!  This recipe was inspired by a mocktail I had at Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia.  On the menu, it was called Pickpocket Soda, and it was described as a Beet Sage Shrub with Lemon.  My recipe here is adapted from the Beet and Lemon Shrub Cocktail from Russ and Daughters delicatessen in New York City, and (after three tries) it tastes remarkably like the drink I liked so much at Vedge.  I found the Russ and Daughters recipe a bit too watery, so I’ve reduced the water by 20%.  I increased the vinegar to be closer to the normal shrub ratio, and I also switched to a white balsamic vinegar (rather than plain white vinegar) which gives a smoother flavor.  My big trick here is that I used canned beets, which might seem like blaspheme to some, but it came out delicious, and it makes this so quick and easy to throw together.  This is a cold-process sweet shrub, to give a bright and fresh flavor.  One reason for using canned or cooked fresh beets is that many people cannot eat raw beets or drink raw beet juice because it can cause an allergic reaction or a sore, swollen throat, which can be dangerous.  Of course, many people can enjoy raw beets, so you could try to eat a tiny sliver of raw beet and see if your throat reacts.  I tried eating a sliver of raw beet and had a sore throat all day.  Please see my post on growing beets for more of an explanation.  Back to the recipe–you can use this shrub in a variety of beverages, from sodas to cocktails.  I don’t drink alcohol, but Lars made a cocktail with about 4 oz. of shrub, a couple splashes of seltzer and a shot of fancy gin, and he says it’s really good.  The cookbook Shrubs by Michael Dietsch is a great little guide to this ancient and historic libation.  If you really want to go crazy, you can try this drink called The Hot Pink, but it only makes enough for one drink, unlike my base  which makes plenty!

BEET AND LEMON SHRUB

Makes somewhat less than two quarts, I think.

Special Equipment:  a juicer

INGREDIENTS
2 15 oz. cans whole or sliced beets, drained  (or equivalent amt. of fresh cooked beets)
1 Cup fresh lemon juice  (from about 5 large lemons,  or 6 medium lemons)
1/2 Cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 Cup vegan cane sugar
4 Cups filtered water
chilled seltzer water to add some fizz to individual drinks, if desired

DIRECTIONS
Squeeze lemons and set the fresh lemon juice aside.  Drain the beets and discard any liquid from the cans.  Juice the beets (you will end up with approximately 1/2 Cup of pure beet juice).  In a large glass (non-reactive) container, whisk together all ingredients until sugar is fully dissolved.  Refrigerate 48 hours before using.  Some people prefer to leave shrubs at room temperature for a day or two before refrigerating, to let more fermentation occur.  Some online sources say a shrub should last several months to a year in the refrigerator.

Notes:   I tried using Lakewood bottled lemon juice and the flavor was significantly better with the fresh lemon juice.  I also tried using the beet liquid from the cans, but it muddied up the flavor–don’t do it.  Chlorine and Chloramines interfere with fermentation, and a shrub is a fermented beverage.  If you cannot get filtered water, leave tap water out for a couple of days–long enough for any chlorine to evaporate.  You can check with your water supplier to find out if your tap water has chloramines in it, which do not evaporate and cannot be boiled off.  Filtered water is best.  Other beet posts on this site include Growing BeetsCinnamon Stick Quick Pickled BeetsRoasted Beet Salad, and Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion.

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IMG_2177  One of my essential old kitchen tools that really came in handy for this recipe.  Lemon squeezer by IMUSA.  Tip: cut the ends off the lemons to get the best squeeze.

Lemonana

IMG_2104     We had frozen “Limonana” (Lemonana) at Dizengoff in Philadelphia recently and I was struck by the herbal flavor of it, and by how well it went with their very excellent hummus.  Lemonana is basically lemonade with a generous dose of mint, and it’s been called the national drink of Israel.  This aint your Grandma’s lemonade–it’s assertively tart with a divine herbal edge.  It can be made in a good variety of ways, but I know they make a mint syrup at Dizengoff, and they choose to serve it frozen.  I looked at a bunch of Lemonana online and developed this easy recipe, which tastes a lot like the one at Dizengoff.  I’m convinced, however, that Dizengoff uses a secret ingredient–some savory herb or something.  I’ll be trying that in future, but in the meantime, this is so good and refreshing that I’m satisfied.

LEMONANA

Serves:  2 to 3

Mint Syrup
1 Cup water
1 Cup sugar
1.5 oz. fresh mint
Combine water and sugar in a very small saucepan and simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and wait 10 minutes for the syrup to cool slightly.  Stir in fresh mint, cover and let steep for 15-30 minutes.  Remove and discard mint leaves or strain syrup through a mesh sieve and allow to come to room temperature.  Store in a sealed glass jar or bottle in refrigerator for up to one month.

Lemonana
1/2 Cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup water
2/3 Cup mint syrup
2 drops orange blossom water  (optional)
20-30 ice cubes

DIRECTIONS
To a blender, add lemon juice, water, mint syrup and orange blossom water, and stir.  Add ice and blend until frozen, adding a little more ice if necessary.  Taste.

Notes:  My ice cubes are those smaller crescent-shaped ice “cubes” that come out of an ice dispenser in my freezer.  You may need more ice than this, unless you’re using the old-fashioned, big rectangular ice cubes.  Any leftover mint syrup can also be used in iced tea, of course.  To save time, make mint syrup ahead and have it well chilled.  Two photos of Dizengoff below.  Dizengoff has a cult following for their hummus and their pita bread.
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Anti-Aging Smoothie with Red Grapes and White Mulberries

IMG_1653     Right now, organic grapes are plentiful and so I bought a bunch on sale.  Froze half of them and this resveratrol-bomb smoothie was born.  It has the summery grape flavor I loved as a kid, when I would eat grape popsicles and grape slushies.  This is natural, bright grape flavor in a delicious treat that makes a healthy breakfast too.  Red grape skins contain resveratrol, and so do the white mulberries.  Maqui powder is made from berries that have the most antioxidants of any fruit ever tested to date.  The grapes are naturally sweet, but if you’ve got a sweet tooth, I threw in an optional Medjool date.

ANTI-AGING SMOOTHIE WITH RED GRAPES AND WHITE MULBERRIES

Makes 1 medium smoothie or two small smoothies

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup frozen red grapes
1/4 Cup dried white mulberries
1 teaspoon freeze-dried maqui powder
1 Medjool date, pit removed (optional)
1/2 Cup coconut water
2 two-inch pieces frozen banana
1 Cup ice

DIRECTIONS
Blend everything but the ice.  Add ice and blend again until smooth.

Notes:  This is also good with granola sprinkled on top. If you don’t have a high-speed blender, you can put the coconut water, mulberries and date in the blender and let it sit for 5 minutes, to soften the ingredients.  Don’t let it sit longer than 5 minutes, or the mulberries will thicken too much.  As with chia seeds, smoothies that contain mulberries should be consumed within an hour for the best texture.  Grapes are part of the Dirty Dozen and can have up to 50 pesticides, so organic is best.  Wash and dry your grapes and freeze them on a dinner plate before putting them in container(s).

Superfood Smoothies by Julie Morris

IMG_0281    If you can’t tell by my Instagram, I’m currently a bit obsessed with Superfood Smoothies  by  Julie Morris.  To date, I’ve made eleven of the smoothies from this book and am crazy about some of them.  My favorite so far is the Pistachio Cherry,  with the Lucuma Macadamia coming in at a close second.  Sometimes we want a lighter, fruity smoothie for breakfast, and then a creamy rich smoothie for an afternoon snack.  Some of these smoothies are on the level of luscious desserts but are actually good for you, body and soul.  Superfood Smoothies has opened my eyes to a whole new world of true superfood ingredients, such as Maca, Maqui, White Mulberries, Goji Berries, Hemp Protein Powder, etc.  I started out buying one superfood per week, and found them to be cost effective in that most of them had long expiration dates–some up to two years.  And a little goes a long way on most of them.  For example, even 1/4 teaspoon of camu berry powder is effective.  Each superfood is profiled in the front, with tips on what form to buy it in, how to store it and the exact benefits.  Each recipe has a row of simple graphic symbols above it, to indicate its bonus benefits (such as a little red heart for cardiovascular health).  There’s a Smoothies by Benefit Index in the back so you can tailor the smoothies to your needs, like Bone Strength, Low Calorie, Protein, etc., and all the smoothies have multiple benefits.   Julie Morris is a firm believer that smoothies must taste good, even when incorporating vegetables like beets or broccoli.   Although I juice a couple of times a week, this gorgeous book has me excited to try new smoothies.  To see more from Julie Morris, check out her other superfood cookbooks on amazon, or check out her Youtube channel.
IMG_0285  Grapefruit Pomegranate
IMG_0329  Cacao Mocha with Soyatoo Rice Whip on top
IMG_0275Orange Goji

Sip-N-Glo Juicery – Philadelphia

IMG_0080    Here’s another post for the vegan Philadelphia categorySip-N-Glo Juicery is located at 932 South Street in Philadelphia.  After an amazing dinner at Vedge the night before, I was jones-ing for juice on Sunday morning.  Real juice, where they make it in front of you, because seeing is believing.  And Sip-N-Glo Juicery did not disappoint.  From the easy parking at the Whole Foods across the tiny street, to everything else, including the clean kitchen, quick service, and delicious juice, I was happy.  When I asked if I could have a Green Beast but with added carrot and light on the ginger, the reply was, “Of course!”  Check out their stellar menu here.  They offer juice cleanses, shots, and a Kids Menu.  My only regret is that I didn’t buy a t-shirt.  I’d be at this place every week if I were lucky enough to live in vegan-friendly Philadelphia!
IMG_0084  No seating, but easy parking directly across the tiny street, at Whole Foods.
IMG_0085  See your juice made to order in a clean kitchen.
IMG_0087  Lots of add-ins, big menu, t-shirts!

Vegan Honeydew Matcha Bubble Tea

IMG_2593     This vegan Honeydew Matcha Bubble Tea or Boba is delicious, and much healthier than anything you can buy in a mall, where they generally use fruit powders and sugar syrup.  Matcha green tea is an acquired taste for some, so if you’re not sure about it, omit it from the recipe, and then just add a pinch or two to your own individual drink.

Makes approximately 2.5 Cups,  or 2 to 3 servings

VEGAN HONEYDEW MATCHA BUBBLE TEA

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups raw honeydew melon chunks (bite-size pieces)
3/4 Cup black tapioca pearls  (boba)
1 Cup almond milk
1/2 Cup So Delicious Creamer
1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder
2 teaspoons light agave syrup  (not dark)

for Simple Syrup to store tapioca pearls in:
1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup sugar

DIRECTIONS
For the Simple Syrup:  In smallest saucepan, bring the 1/2 Cup water just to a boil.  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve any visible sugar.  Reduce heat to a simmer and let simmer a few minutes (less than 5 minutes).  Turn off heat and set aside.

In a large pot, bring 8 Cups of water to boil.  Stir the water and slowly swirl in the tapioca pearls and stir gently to keep pearls from sinking to bottom of pot.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 more minutes.  Rinse a pearl under cool water and chew to test for softness.  In a colander, drain and rinse pearls under cold water.  Put pearls into a glass jar.  Pour the Simple Syrup over the pearls and let cool uncovered and unrefrigerated.

In a blender, puree Matcha, almond milk, creamer, melon and agave syrup, making sure to put the matcha into the blender first, so it doesn’t poof powder all over the top of the blender.  If you do not have a blender, use a food processor to puree the melon and then mix it with everything else.  Chill in refrigerator.  When ready to serve, add 2 Tablespoons cooked tapioca pearls (drained of syrup) to each glass, and top with honeydew milk tea.  A straw is nice.  I like paper straws so I serve with a long, skinny ice-tea spoon to scoop up those chewy, chewy pearls.  In Mandarin, this perfect, toothsome chewiness is called QQ.

Notes:  The tapioca pearls can tend to harden a bit in the refrigerator.  To soften, drain the pearls, cover them with water and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, testing after one minute.   You can stretch the batch of tea a bit by adding an extra 1/2 Cup of vegan creamer.  You can freeze any leftover melon chunks for future use, if you want.  For inspiration, I visited Kitchen Simplicity.  To make it cruelty-free, I specify almond milk and agave syrup.  Upon reading the ingredients of several large boba chains, I noticed they use non-dairy creamer as a base in their bubble teas, so I have done the same.  Never heating the matcha helps minimize its natural bitterness.  I found the boba (tapioca pearls) at an oriental grocery in Salisbury, MD, but there are good sources online, and boba pearls come in various colors.

Nutrition values for the entire batch, not including boba:  Calories 328.  Fat 3.  Saturated fat 0.  Trans fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 214.  Potassium 150.  Carbs 64.  Fiber 2.  Sugars 59.  Protein 3.  Vitamin A 14.  Vitamin C 106.  Calcium 4.  Iron 6.  Nutrition values for 2 Tablespoons of boba:  Calories 41.  Fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 23.  Potassium 3.  Carbs 10.
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IMG_2587  I was able to find this locally.

Cantaloupe Vanilla Smoothie

IMG_2542    This Cantaloupe Vanilla Smoothie is incredibly refreshing in the heat of summer.   Sweetened with dates, only a few ingredients but packing a wallop of nutrition, and it tastes like good vanilla ice cream.    It’s almost like magic.  Thanks to Gail, my lovely neighbor who delivered three monster cantaloupes from her garden yesterday.

CANTALOUPE VANILLA SMOOTHIE

Serves 2 to 3

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups frozen cantaloupe chunks
2 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1 Cup organic soy milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Scrape seeds out of cantaloupe, and cut into chunks .  Freeze chunks on dinner plates or a cookie sheet, for several hours.  Freezing the cantaloupe chunks is important so you get individual chunks of cantaloupe, not big lumps of frozen-together cantaloupe that won’t fit into the bottom of your blender.   Soak dates in hot water for 10 minutes, then discard pits and chop dates.  Put all ingredients into blender and blend just until smooth.  Enjoy one of the most refreshing shakes ever.  This makes 2 medium smoothies or three small shakes of about 3/4 Cup each.

Notes:  You can stretch this a bit by adding another half cup of cantaloupe.  You may need to add a little more liquid to finesse the blender.  If you want it less sweet, use only one date.  If using smaller dates, adjust accordingly (the Medjool dates are big).
IMG_2534  Frozen chunks of cantaloupe on cookie sheet.

Strawberry Vanilla Date Shake

IMG_2227    My wonderful neighbor Gail stopped by on Memorial Day weekend with pounds and pounds of freshly-picked strawberries out of their impressive garden.  We ate some, but there were so many I decided to create a shake smoothie worthy of them.  Sweetened with dates, and enhanced with natural vanilla, it’s the bomb.

STRAWBERRY VANILLA DATE SHAKE

Servings:  2 to 4

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups frozen strawberries
4 dried dates, with pits removed   (chop each date into about 4 pieces)
1.5 Cups plant milk
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean,  or  1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Add all to blender and blend.  If your blender gets stuck, a good trick is to slide a long teaspoon down the sides of the blender container or give a quick stir to allow contents to settle once again.  Add a little more liquid if you need to.

Notes:   Using store-bought frozen strawberries is just fine.  To freeze fresh strawberries, rinse them with cold water just before you need them, and lay them on an old dish towel to dry.  Use an old towel in case they stain your towelHull the strawberries using a paring knife, and discard the green tops.  Freeze strawberries on dinner plates until they are frozen.  Then place frozen strawberries into a freezer container.  This method will prevent the strawberries from freezing together in a solid mass.  If you can, organic strawberries (whether fresh or frozen) are worth buying, because strawberries are in the Dirty Dozen (among the most pesticide-laden produce).  If you do not have a high-powered blender, you might want to soak the dates in almost-hot water for 15 minutes before pitting and blending.  Here are good tips for splitting and seeding a vanilla bean.   Make sure to look in the bulk section of your local health food store for vanilla beans, for cheaper prices.  If you really want to gild the lily, add a few Tablespoons of granola to this shake after it’s out of the blender.  This is great with almond milk too.  My favorite soy milk is WestSoy Organic Unsweetened.

Approx Nutrition info for the whole batch:  Calories 489.  Fat 7 gr.  Saturated Fat 1 gr.  Polyunsaturated Fat 4 gr.  Monounsaturated Fat 2 gr.  Trans Fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 45.  Potassium 1538.  Carbs 106.  Fiber 20.  Sugars 78.  Protein 16.  Vitamin A 4%.  Vitamin C 180%.  Calcium 14%.  Iron 27%.

Carrot Pear Almond Smoothie

IMG_1435    When I don’t have time to juice, I turn to smoothies.  After the mornings of alkalizing green juices, smoothies feel like dessert, but this is serious nutrition too.  Because I juice and blend what I’ve got on hand, it always varies, but every now and then, some serendipitous combination hits the mark and I know it’s a keeper.  Here we have the sandy sweetness of a fully-ripe D’Anjour pear with frozen banana, creamy vegan yogurt, almond milk, a little almond butter and raw carrots.  A literal pinch of ground cinnamon is very faint, but it marries them all into a happy ending.  You can play around with this–omit the banana for a slightly thinner consistency, change the nut butter, plant milk or spice, etc., but this is the way I like it.   p.s. You will not be hungry after this vegan smoothie!

CARROT PEAR ALMOND SMOOTHIE WITH A HINT OF CINNAMON

Makes enough for 2 to 4, depending on serving sizes.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 frozen banana, cut into chunks
1 ripe Anjou pear
1 large carrot,  or 2 small-to-medium carrots
1/2 Cup vegan yogurt,  plain or vanilla flavor
1 Cup almond milk
1 Tablespoon almond butter
pinch cinnamon  (1/16th teaspoon)

DIRECTIONS
Blend all, and enjoy!

Notes:  Peel and cut the bananas before you freeze them.  You could add some ice during the blending process too.  The yogurt is providing probiotics.   After drinking a smoothie, it’s a good practice to rinse your mouth well with water, to help rinse the fruit sugars off your tooth enamel.

Vegan Butterfinger Milkshake

IMG_0998    We recently tried the Butterfinger Milkshake at Café Blossom, and it was really good.  The key to this recipe is that old-school candy called Chick-O-Stick, because Chick-O-Sticks taste pretty much like the orange-colored center of a Butterfinger candy bar.  You can also get a vegan Butterfinger milkshake at Terri restaurants in New York City, but I haven’t had theirs.  Here’s my own delicious version of the Butterfinger Milkshake.

VEGAN BUTTERFINGER MILKSHAKE

Makes 3 to 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
6 oz. soy yogurt in plain or vanilla flavor  (I used So Delicious brand)
1 Cup cold almond milk  (or soy milk)
3 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
2 dried dates (pits discarded), roughly chopped
8 Chick-O-Sticks  (sticks, not bites)
1 Cup ice

DIRECTIONS
Spoon vegan yogurt into ice-cube tray and freeze.
When yogurt cubes are frozen, get out your blender.
Set aside 4 Chick-O-Sticks
Into blender, put almond milk, peanut butter, cocoa powder and pitted dates, and blend until almost smooth.
Add the yogurt cubes and blend until almost smooth.
Add the ice and 4 of the Chick-O-Sticks and blend until almost smooth.
Add the last 4 Chick-O-Sticks and blend just a bit, so there are some tiny chunks of Chick-O-Sticks still intact.
Serve immediately.

Notes:  More photos below.  I put half the complete milkshake into the fridge, and it was still a nice, thick consistency an hour later.  I experimented, making this shake several times, trying different ingredients and mixing up the order of blending, in order to figure out better flavor and consistency.   I found the pretty paper straws at Target in their Thanksgiving paper-goods display, 40 for $3, and you get two different color combos (orange and brown in this case).

IMG_0993  I got the Chick-O-Sticks from amazon.com.
IMG_1000  I used only one 6 oz. container of yogurt.

Chia Fresca

IMG_0709    I’m late to the party on Chia Fresca, but here’s how I like it.  Now, if only I could run like the Tarahumara Indians!  Vegan Mofo 2013.

CHIA FRESCA

Makes 2 Cups

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups Water
1.5 Tablespoons chia seeds
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons agave syrup

DIRECTIONS
Mix all in a container, and shake or whisk.
Let it sit for 30 minutes, shaking or whisking every now and then.
Drink as is, or chill first.
Store any leftovers in the fridge overnight.

Notes:  You can find lots of info. on chia fresca online, on sites like this oneWhole Foods and health food stores usually have chia seeds now and they’re much cheaper in bulk.  You can also buy organic chia seeds.

Easy Vegan Chai Latte – Santiva Chai Latte

Here’s my personal Chai Latte recipe, and it blows Starbucks out of the water.  Easy and quick, it’s evolved over the years.  It tastes rich without that sickly-sweet quality that coffee-shop drinks have.  In rural parts of India, they use jaggery sugar, but here I’ve substituted 1 Tablespoon of palm sugar, and you could also use coconut sugar, Demerara or brown sugar.  It’s traditional to use black tea and I prefer Assam for this, but you could also use Darjeeling, or even Oolong, with great results.  Or you can do like I did, and make your own personal chai blend by switching up the teas and spices.  You could add a single star of anise, for example.  The almond milk brings it over the top flavor-wise, and adds nutrition and protein.  This takes about 10 minutes to make and then you can keep the rest in the fridge and have it iced.  Remember that scene in Monsoon Wedding, where the prospective groom takes his fiance out into the streets to the best Chai Wallah in Delhi?  Over chai, Aditi confesses her adultery with a married man, puts her cards on the table so she can leave that old affair behind, and begin anew on a foundation of truth with this new man in her life.  Love that movie!

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Santiva Vegan Chai Latte

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
2.5 Cups water
3 teabags of Assam tea (or Darjeeling or Oolong)
1 Tablespoon palm sugar (or coconut sugar or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger,  or a 2-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger, sliced.
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 inch cinnamon stick
6 inch vanilla bean, cut into 1″ pieces, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 whole cloves
3 Tablespoons agave syrup
2 Cups organic almond milk (plain flavor)

DIRECTIONS
Set almond milk aside.
In a saucepan, bring water to boil, toss in teabags and all other ingredients except almond milk.
Reduce heat and simmer 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add almond milk, bring just to a boil and remove from heat.
Strain and serve hot, or in tall glasses filled with ice.
Refrigerate any leftover.

Notes:  You can stretch this by adding another tea bag, another half cup of water and/or almond milk, it’s very forgiving.   Because we use sweet, rich almond milk, nobody gets hurt, and no veal calves are killed.   Also, by using organic almond milk, no farm workers are harmed by pesticides, nor is the earth.  Santiva means “Aiming at Peace.”

GT’s Synergy Organic Raw Kombucha

I first heard about GT’s Synergy Organic Raw Kombucha from Erin Red on Red Radio.  Her enthusiasm is catching and so I was thrilled to see this at my local health food store (Earth Origins).  So far, I’ve tried Cherry Chia, which has little chia seeds that are pleasant to pop between your teeth,  and I thought the flavor was OK.  However, Guava Goddess is delicious.  I used to have two different kinds of guava trees and the taste of this brings me right back.  Although my Dad used to make kombucha tea back in the early 1990’s, I was too grossed out by it back then to do more than have a few polite sips.  I’m just learning more about kombucha now, and will post more about it in future.  There’s some good information about brewing your own kombucha tea in The Art of Fermentation,  and the January 2013 issue of National Geographic has a good article entitled Small Small World, about microbes and humans.  You see, kombucha culture is used by millions to replenish good flora in the gut.  The NG article says microbes help us digest our food, absorb nutrients, manufacture vital vitamins and anti-inflammatory proteins that our own genes cannot produce, and they train our immune systems to combat infectious intruders.  It goes on to say that antibiotics wipe out helpful microbes and that widespread use of antibiotics early in life may have more profound effects over time.  Scientists are still figuring all this out, but they realize that our bodies are an ecosystem, and that we should take greater care with antibiotics, and increasingly, use targeted probiotic treatments to improve health.  Some kombucha enthusiasts believe that in this toxic world, our bodies are constantly assaulted and we must help our immune systems.  Others drink it to recover from workouts, and to help move things along in the digestive system.  As someone who was on a lot of antibiotics in childhood, I want to learn more.  I just ordered a kombucha starter kit from Oregon Kombucha through Vegan Cuts, and will post on that when I get it going.  In the meantime, I plan to try more of the many flavors offered by GT’s Raw Organic Kombucha.  I think I paid about $3.75 per bottle for the GT’s, but I’m drinking only about 4 ounces of it per day or every other day, so it can last me a week if I want it to.  There are many articles online, pro and con, on kombucha, and here’s a good one I found.  Others say home brewing is too dangerous.  You can be the judge.

As an aside, I emailed GT’s and asked about caffeine content, and here was their prompt and satisfying reply:
 

Many thanks for reaching out and for your interest in our products! GT’s Kombucha is considered naturally decaffeinated and contains anywhere from 8 mg to 14 mg per 8 oz. serving. (By comparison, coffee has 100 mg of caffeine per 8 oz. and decaf has 5 mg per 8 oz.).  The reason it has any caffeine at all is because we cultivate Kombucha in a medium of black and green tea combined. The live Kombucha organism breaks down most of the nutrients in the tea, including the caffeine, and cultures an elixir naturally rich in probiotics, essential enzymes and organic acids. Hope that helps!

Peace & blessings,  Karla

Strawberry Limeade

This is my take from a recipe in the cookbook Blissful Bites by Christy Morgan, The Blissful Chef.  When I was a little kid, I would always chose the Lime Mr. Misty at DQ, instead of ice cream, and so this brings back that taste of sweet and tart and cold.  Certainly this is a lot better than soda, and it’s a great way to take advantage of the strawberries of Spring.  You can find many versions of this drink online.  The author uses fresh mint in her drink, and so that’s an option, but not one that appealed to me.  I want the sublime flavors of fresh lime and strawberry uncluttered.  I stuck a sprig of mint in there anyway, since I always have a pot of it going in warm weather, and it makes a beautiful presentation.  If you don’t have mint, you could always put a strawberry on the rim of the glass, or a thin slice of lime.  There’s also a great recipe for Old Fashioned Lemonade on this site.  We had too much Strawberry Limeade for the two of us, so I ended up making popsicles with it too, in our Tovolo popsicle molds.

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Strawberry Limeade

Makes about six servings (?)

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups fresh strawberries, tops removed
Juice from 3 limes
Zest of the limes
1/4 Cup agave syrup
1/4 Cup maple syrup
1 Cup water
2 Cups ice

DIRECTIONS
Zest the limes.
Take juice from limes, and throw away spent limes.
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Serve cold.

Note:  I zested the limes and then juiced them in my little Breville Compact Juice Fountain extractor, because I was juicing anyway.  Later, I used the Vitamix to make the actual drink.

Classic Bloody Mary Mix

I adapted this mix from an old Martha Stewart magazine from December 2005.   After some searching, I did find the original recipe online.  I can tell you from experience that this is delicious without alcohol too.  It’s quick to throw together and you can make it a few days ahead.  I just recently put a batch in a nice Mason jar and sent it to a party as a hostess gift.  To fill up a quart jar, you might need to add a bit more tomato juice, but this recipe is so flexible, it doesn’t matter.  Here’s the way I like to do it.
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CLASSIC BLOODY MARY MIX

Serves: 8 drinks if using alcohol (vodka)

For each drink, combine three ounces of mixer with one ounce of vodka, and pour into a glass filled with ice. Garnish with celery stick and/or lemon wedge. You can salt the rims of the glasses with celery salt or fine sea salt, too, if you like.

INGREDIENTS

3 cups store bought tomato juice

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish (Kelchner’s plain is vegan)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Juice from half of a lemon
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (I like Wizard brand)
3/4 teaspoon hot sauce (I use Tabasco)

DIRECTIONS
Stir or whisk all ingredients together.
Pour into an airtight bottle.
Mixer can be refrigerated up to one week.

Garnish with a celery stick, lemon wedge, caper berry, or all three. Dip the very rim of glass in the tomato juice and then into a small plate of celery salt, for a savory edge.

Note: Delicious without alcohol too! For some reason, I can only find the Kelchner’s plain horseradish in the seafood section of my local grocery store, not on the main shelves. Their horseradish sauce is not vegan, but the plain horseradish is.

Apple-Pie Spiced Cider

I made this delicious spiced cider recently as part of a holiday supper.  It’s a Martha Stewart recipe and has good reviews and a video you can watch.  It’s quick and easy, and you can spike it with apple brandy if you want, or not.  My only change was to reduce the sugar a bit, because apple cider is about as sugary as it gets.  This smells great as it’s heating up, and is a perfect winter drink.  I was wondering what the difference is between apple juice and apple cider, so I looked it up.  Apple cider is less filtered and can sometimes appear to be cloudy, which is fine.  Apple juice has a longer shelf life.  I think either one would be fine here, but I like things that are less processed and the cider was available.
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APPLE-PIE SPICED CIDER

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
1.25 quarts apple cider (I used 1.6 quart or 1.5 liter)
2 Tablespoons firmly packed light-brown sugar (or regular brown sugar)
1 whole cinnamon stick, plus 6 sticks for garnish
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves  (1/16th teaspoon)
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (1/16th teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup Calvados (French apple brandy) or other brandy (optional)

DIRECTIONS
In a medium saucepan, whisk together cider, sugar, spices and salt.
Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
Remove from heat.
If desired, pour in brandy.
Strain into a pitcher, and discard solids.
Serve in mugs, garnished with cinnamon sticks.

Vanilla Praline Smoothie by Ani Phyo

Because I subscribe to the amazing VegNews Magazine, I got an email with this recipe in it.  Ani Phyo is the Queen of Raw Food and this is her recipe.  My twist of using soy milk means this is technically no longer a totally raw recipe, but to me, it’s sort of raw.    Remember to slit open the date and remove the pit (see photo below).  There might also be a tiny piece of dried stem on one end, which you can simply cut off with the tip of a sharp knife.  So, the flavor of the smoothie was surprisingly delicious.  I kept trying to figure out exactly what it tasted like–maybe like a cross between a malted milk shake and a vanilla shake, if you get the idea.  I did find the taste just a teensy bit too strong and sweet, so I modified it just slightly.  But man, this could really take the edge off any craving for milk shakes, no kidding.  I’m guessing that some people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between this and a less-healthy milk shake.   So, here’s my only-slightly-modified version below.  And here’s the original recipe by Ani Phyo.
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Vegan Vanilla Praline Smoothie

INGREDIENTS
1/2 Cup raw pecans
4 Medjool dates, WITH PITS REMOVED
2 teaspoons real vanilla
2 cups cold soy milk (or filtered water or rice milk, etc.)
1/2 Cup ice, or a little more

DIRECTIONS
REMOVE PITS from dates!
In a blender, combine all ingredients until smooth.

Note:  My favorite soy milk for this type of thing, where you want a rich flavor, is WestSoy Organic Unsweetened Soymilk, yum.

Old Fashioned Lemonade

This recipe is from Everyday Dish TV.   At Whole foods, I found a 2 lb. bag of organic lemons for pretty cheap.  I only used 5 lemons for this recipe, and had 3 or 4 left over.    This was a snap to make with this lemon squeezer I’ve used for years with no trouble.  I know organic costs more, but when we buy organic, we are helping to create the world we want to live in.  I’ve never been one to care about having a new car (as long as it runs) but I’m passionate about buying organic, non-gmo, etc.  I’m dreaming of summer, can you tell?
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Old-Fashioned Lemonade

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup boiling water
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (approx. 5 lemons)
About 4 cups cold water

DIRECTIONS
In a large heatproof pitcher or measuring cup, whisk together the sugar and boiling water until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Stir in the lemon juice, stirring well.
Add the cold water.
Adjust the lemonade to taste.
Serve in glasses over ice, with optional lemon slices.

Strawberry Lemonade:  Thaw frozen strawberries, and puree until smooth. I like to use a stick/hand blender or regular blender for this. Stir strawberry puree into prepared lemonade, adding to taste.

Lemonade Soda:  Top off glasses of lemonade with chilled sparkling water.