Uh, that’s a rhetorical question. Still, at times, it feels literal. For instance, right now. For us Northerners, February is the longest month. But the other day, I went into the grocery store at 4:30 and came out at 5:00 and it was still light! Wow. Progress.
The reason I bring this up is not because weather is the most exciting thing happening in my life (okay, some days, it is) but if ever I were to feel stuck in a rut, it would be at this time of year. Just as every snowstorm is a sure indication that winter is endless, progress on plans or hopes or dreams can often appear to be at a standstill. Oh ye of little faith. It is exactly the time to hunker down, dig in and allow the possibilities to swirl. They are underneath the surface. At least, that’s what I keep saying in an attempt to keep myself from falling into the abyss of discouragement. After a while, that just seems like a pointless exercise. So now I am contemplating what is just around the corner. I am excited about changes that I know will come, just as surely as I know the snow will melt and my sad little garden will start to wake up. Meanwhile, I am going to make myself a cup of chai to perk me up while the forces of nature take their course in their own sweet time.
This chai recipe comes from my book Food for Friends: Homemade Gifts for Every Season. You can mix up a lot of it and keep it in your cupboard, so it's easy to grab a little during the three o’clock slump. A benefit to making your own mix is that you can add as much or as little sugar as you like. The same goes for the milk. When the weather warms up (and yes, I know it will) you can drink it iced—a nice change from ordinary iced tea.
Homemade Chai Mix (Makes about 20 cups of chai)
5 tablespoons cardamon pods
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
8 2-inch stick of cinnamon, broken into pieces
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 whole star anise
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1. Combine all of the ingredients except the ginger in a bowl and crush coarsely in a mortar in manageable batches. If you don’t have a mortar, use a rolling pin, or even easier, pulse briefly in a coffee grinder. Just don’t overdo it, you want pieces, not powder. Stir in the ground ginger and store in an airtight jar. (Note: if you use a coffee grinder: unplug it, wipe it clean and grind some coffee beans. Leave the ground coffee in the grinder for a while; it will absorb the spices.)
Chai for one (adjust according to you own preferences):
1/2 cup milk
1 rounded teaspoon chai mix
1 teaspoon or more brown sugar
1/2 cup strongly brewed Assam or other black tea
1. Combine the milk, chai mix, and sugar in a Pyrex measuring cup and nuke in the microwave for about 30 seconds, until hot. Let steep for 5 to 10 minutes while you brew the tea. Fill a mug halfway with the tea, and strain the infused milk into the cup.