Yearly Archives: 2014
Post by Alison Hein.
The spiced tea blend we know as “chai” is actually called “masala chai” in the part of the world where it originated. “Chai” is simply the word for tea in Hindi. It’s the “masala” part that captivates us – an aromatic spice blend that calls for all kinds of exotic flavors. Tangy ginger and mysterious cardamom often dominate these blends. Everyone has their own secret recipe, though, and the list of possible additives is long: allspice, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fennel, liquorice root, nutmeg, peppercorn, and even rose petals. Strong black tea leaves are boiled with the spice blend, then mixed with warmed or steamed milk to create masala chai.
In our usual manner of American abbreviation, it is now possible to purchase a packaged liquid of chai tea latte concentrate. This mixture is simply mixed with an equal amount of milk, warm or cold, to conveniently create an instant chai tea latte. And, with some experimentation, I’ve found that it makes a sweet and spiced scented muffin base. You can try this with your favorite recipes – simply substitute half of the milk called for with chai tea latte concentrate (a recipe calling for 1 cup of milk is now converted to ½ cup milk and ½ cup chai tea latte concentrate).
I plan to continue experimenting in the future – think chai tea pancakes, waffles or scones. But in the meantime, give these muffins a try. The aromas emitted while baking are mysterious and mouthwatering. Not too sweet, and warm from the oven, they are curiously lovely with a cup of strong black tea… curiously lovely for an exotic breakfast in bed.
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup chai tea latte concentrate
½ cup milk
2 cups white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Stir in chai tea latte concentrate and milk.
In separate bowl, mix remaining dry ingredients. Combine dry ingredients with chai mixture. Spoon into lined muffin tin and bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool slightly on rack before removing muffins from tin.
Makes 10 to 12 muffins.
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce.
Liam may only be twelve years old, but he’s a very large twelve-year-old. As in, he looks well older than he is. Stubble, height, the whole nine yards. Although for a long time that made Liam feel like an outcast, he begins to realize that he could use this to his advantage. Did I mention that he is also extremely intelligent? Like too smart for his own good? Well hie is. And when he is sitting at a park with his friend Florida and he realizes that people mistake him for her father, the gears begin to turn. After nearly convincing the Porsche dealer to let him test drive a car, Liam sets his sights higher. Like space higher.
When he finds himself once more confused for an adult, he decides to go for broke on this one, especially because he was selected as one of five dads to take their children to try out the newest, most secretive thrill ride in the world. When the thrill ride turns out to be a rocket? Well, he’s just going to have to be the dadliest of the dads to be selected to take the children on the short trip to orbit.
Okay, so the premise is AWFULLY implausible on this one. But the story itself is still compelling and the underlying theme, about being treated as an adult simply due to his size, is an interesting plot line in itself. Some of the story feels a bit like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but that’s not a bad thing. It’ full of clever humor and interesting, if completely unbelievable, scenes. It’s a fun and entertaining book from the author of Millions which was made into a movie a few years back. Worth a read.
Post by Mark T. Locker.
I had completely forgotten about this movie. We just rewatched it last week. I first saw it when it came out I don’t remember when that was. 2009? I enjoyed it. It’s very Wes Anderson. If you have seen more than one of his movies then you know what I mean. I happen to like his aesthetic so it’s okay. This may be the only movie he has done that is based on a children’s book “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” was written by Roald Dahl and first published in 1970. We have seen other Dahl novels turned into movies, most notably Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but also James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, Matilda. Probably more I can’t call to memory.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox has a feel that is very different from these other adaptations. I grew up watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and nothing can ever touch that (except the song “Cheer Up, Charlie”. You can touch that.) Aside from that, I think this one is my favorite. It’s got a great subtle humor and an attention to detail which is pretty incredible. And it’s all done in old-fashioned stop-motion animation! The story is basically about a fox who used to steal chickens for a living but when he learned he was having a child he changed his ways. But deep down, a fox is a wild animal. And he can’t resist going back for one last big steal. But the men he goes up against are almost as determined as Mr. Fox is. The question is: Who will one? May the most Fantastic be the victor.
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
If you want to connect with nature on a higher level or if you just want to feel like a kid again, a tree house might be just what you need. I never realized how prolific tree houses were until I started watching a new show called Tree House Masters on Animal Planet. You’d think there would only be a couple episodes, max, to squeeze out of what has to be a very niche market. However, there are actually a lot more tree houses out there than you may have realized. There is even a tree house community in Costa Rica. Very cool!
For those of us without the tree, the space, the budget, or the willingness to take the extra step of building a home in the trees, there are lots of other ways you can create the feel of a tree house in your own home. Check out what has been questioned as as the best kids bedroom design ever. Spoiler alert, it looks like a tree house! There are lots of other examples of children’s bedrooms that have been transformed into indoor tree houses too, have a look here.
If you prefer the experience without the hassle of building and owning your own tree house, or designing your home to look like one, there is a tree house hotel in Sweden. Can you imagine falling asleep to the gentle sway of the tree and sounds of the wind rustling through the leaves, and then wake up feeling refreshed to one of the most breathtaking views ever? Sounds amazing to me.
While tree houses aren’t for everyone, they certainly do make you wonder about the different ways people live. Personally, I don’t think I could live in one as my main residence due to size constraints. I also have enough frustration navigating the numerous elevators to get out of a modern high rise. That said, a tree house would make a very cool guest house, home office, or simply a relaxing get away —definitely something to think about.
Post by Alison Hein.
Enough with this winter already! Snow, ice and an iffy furnace have caused the chill to permanently settle into my bones. So, I decided to start the day with a little extra heat, in the form of petite and piquant jalapeño peppers. These little green jewels can pack a surprising amount of kick, so strew them with caution if you are sensitive to fiery flavors.
Whole wheat tortillas stuffed with a tangy Mexican cheese blend host the fresh, fragrant jalapeños. Serve these quesadillas straightaway as an aromatic starter or snack, or breakfast-ize them, as I did, by enhancing with a gob of fluffy scrambled eggs. A dollop of sour cream mellows the spice, while a smidge of fresh chopped tomatoes and cilantro enhance the Latin flavors and add dramatic color.
So fight back – bundle up, cover up. Or fire up – a breakfast in bed guaranteed to melt some ice.
1 jalapeño pepper
1 whole wheat tortilla
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup Mexican cheese blend
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon milk or cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon sour cream (or queso fresco)
1 tablespoon diced fresh tomatoes
1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a small baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
Wash jalapeño pepper. Slice off stem end. Remove seeds and ribs with paring knife. Slice pepper into thin rounds and set aside. Place tortilla on a flat work surface. Brush lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle about two-thirds of the cheese on top. Strew about two-thirds of the sliced jalapeño on top. Fold tortilla in half. Brush again with olive oil, and sprinkle the remaining cheese and jalapeños on top, retaining a little of each for garnish if you like. Fold tortilla in half again to form a quarter round. Brush with remaining olive oil. Add a sprinkling of cheese and jalapeño on top, if you like. Place in preheated oven, and bake until cheese is melted and beginning to bubble, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Cook eggs while quesadilla is baking. Melt butter in small, heavy pan over medium low heat. Break eggs into small bowl and whisk well with milk or cream. Add eggs to heated pan and allow to cook slowly and gently. Stir and lift frequently with wooden spoon to avoid sticking. Season with salt and pepper.
Place quesadilla on plate. Spoon eggs out gently on top of quesadilla. Top with sour cream, chopped tomatoes and cilantro. Serve with hot sauce on the side, if you like.
Makes 1 serving.