Iced Experiments

While I’m not a caffeine addict these days, I still enjoy a nice warm comforting beverage to start my day – lately decaf coffee or a mug of tea.  Yesterday morning after Kona’s early walk the thought of drinking a hot beverage was not so tempting.  Instead, I thought of one of my favourite treats from Starbucks – the chai latte, which is also delicious as an iced latte. 

Via

I treated myself to one yesterday (it was delish!), and thought that this is something I could try making at home.

There are a bunch of recipes out there for both hot and iced chai lattes but many of them involve using a black tea base (i.e., orange pekoe) and adding spices.  I wanted to keep this as simple as possible, so I chose to make mine using store bought chai tea bags.  The ones I had on hand were made by PC Chai, although my favourites are the Tazo Chai, Stash Chai Spice Black or Green tea and Tea of India – Cardamom Chai

I based my method on a bunch of different iced tea recipes.  I wanted to make a concentrate to dilute with milk.  The method I followed was:

  • Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. 
  • Turn off heat, add 2 tbsp of honey and 6 tea bags.
  • Cover and steep for 6 minutes.
  • Remove tea bags and let cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes).
  • Chill (refrigerate) for minimum 2 h (I left mine overnight).

In the morning I tried 2 different combinations of tea concentrate and milk (I used 1%).  The first was a 1:1 ratio.  This had the level of creaminess that I was going for, but the chai flavour was not as strong.  The second batch was a 2:1 tea to milk ratio.  This had stronger chai flavour but was not as creamy as I would like.  In both cases the sweetness level was subtle – certainly less than what you’d get at Starbucks, but I would prefer it less sweet. 

Both versions were tasty, but I would prefer the 1:1 ratio with a stronger concentrate.  Next time I would add another 2 teabags (for a total of 8) to the boiling water – several of the sites suggested that to make stronger iced tea add more bags since steeping longer would increase the bitterness.  I also think a different brand may have a stronger flavour so once our current stash runs out I’ll likely try the Tea India brand next. 

Another idea I might try is using sweetened condensed milk as a sweetener to each serving.  I have a feeling this would take it closer to the Starbucks sweetness level!

I’ll definitely continue experimenting with the method until I get it *just right* but for now it is more than tasty enough to enjoy!

 

 

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Saturday Successes and Disappointments

Saturday P and I hosted my parents for a dinner that was in honour of several special occasions.

The first was to celebrate a belated Mother’s Day and an early Father’s Day.  We couldn’t get together with my parents on Mother’s Day as it was the day before they left for three weeks in Ireland… Hence, the second reason for the dinner was to welcome them home!

On Saturday they shared many stories from their travels.  I was super excited to see them – while I’ve never been homesick before, I was “parent-sick” the entire time they were away.  Luckily they had created a twitter account for the trip (yes, my dad is tech-savvy!), and I spent my days obsessively checking to see if new tweets were posted.

The third and final special occasion was to watch the Belmont Stakes in hopes of witnessing the first Triple Crown winner in over 30 years.  My family, who are not horse-racing fanatics of any kind, have an annual tradition of watching the Kentucky Derby every year.  I’m not sure why, but my parents have always done so as far as I can remember.  The last time a horse won the Triple Crown was the year that my mother was pregnant with me.  Needless to say, we were super excited to watch…

Unfortunately, Canadian-owned “I’ll Have Another”, who won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness this year, had to withdraw from the race due to an injury.  So our hopes for a Triple Crown winner were dashed.  On the plus side, that was the only disappointment for our evening!

With the weather cooperating, we treated them to grilled Lime-Cilantro Marinated Salmon Skewers (recipe below), a Provencal-style potato and asparagus salad, and carrots with coriander, cumin and mint.  The two veggie recipes are courtesy of MediterrAsian.com, one of my go to sites for cooking inspiration.

Everyone enjoyed the vegetable recipes and I would definitely make them again, although with a few modifications.  I found the potato salad was a little under-seasoned.  I loved the flavour, but there wasn’t enough of it for my liking.  Next time I’d cut the amount of potatoes in half, but keep the dressing amount the same.  I also more than doubled the amount of asparagus in the salad.

The carrots on the other hand were almost over-seasoned!  While I was the only one to think so, I found them a bit too salty.

For dessert, I prepared a No-Bake Strawberry IceBox cake.  To give it a little extra oomph (and to reduce the obscene amount of whipping cream), I substituted a cup of lemon curd for one of the cups of whipping cream.

Since I was adding the sweet lemon curd, I omitted the sugar called for in the cake recipe. The verdict?  Divine!!!!  While the recipe definitely made too much for 4 people, P and I were happy to have leftovers to enjoy on Sunday!

I made the lemon curd from scratch using the following recipe (a blending of several I saw online):

Lemon Curd

  • 1/4 cup butter (softened) or margarine
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon

Method:

  1. Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  2. Add juice and zest.
  3. Heat over medium-low, stirring constantly, until it is thick enough to hold marks from a whisk and the first bubbles start to appear (Mine thickened around 6 minutes, and was finished at 9 minutes).

Lime-Cilantro Marinated Salmon (Source:  Looneyspoons)

  • 1-1/2 lbs boneless, skinless salmon fillets, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey mustard (or 1-1/2 tsp honey, 1-1/2 tsp mustard)
  • 1 tbsp ketchup or barbecue sauce
  • 1 tsp grated lime zest
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp each cumin, ground coriander, salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients except salmon in a small bowl, mix well.
  2. Place salmon chunks in a large, heavy-duty, resealable plastic bag.  Add marinade and seal bag.  Turn bag several times to coat salmon with marinade.  Marinate in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (I try to marinate for at least half a day).
  3. Preheat grill or broiler to high setting.  Remove salmon from marinade (reserve marinade) and thread pieces onto skewers.  Coat grill rack or broiler pan with cooking spray or brush lightly with oil.  Grill or broil salmon for 3-4 minutes per side, brushing often with reserved marinade.  Salmon should be just slightly pink in the centre.  Be careful not to overcook the salmon or it will be dry.  Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings.