Happy almost 2018, friends! It’s that strange in-between week after Christmas but before the new year where we’re half easing back into everyday life, half hanging onto the holidays because they’re not quite over yet. And thank goodness! Because I have one more festive recipe to share for the season, and it’s perfect for ringing in the new year if champagne isn’t your thing. If you’ve never had a brandy alexander, it’s a smooth and creamy blend of Cognac, Creme dé Cacao and fresh cream shaken with ice until it’s nice and chilly. The combination of strong, spicy Cognac with sweet, chocolatey liqueur is pure bliss and the cream makes it a little more mellow and immensely sippable. I infused the cream with Stash Orange Spice Tea for a kick of citrus that makes this brandy alexander even more perfectly suited for winter-yum! The whole thing is topped off with a sprinkle of freshly ground nutmeg for extra spice.
It’s been cold, gray and rainy here in Portland and when dreary weather hits the Northwest, there’s only one thing to do: embrace it, because it’s not going anywhere for the next several months! To me, that means bundling up, staying inside and eating and drinking everything cozy and indulgent – like this rich and silky black forest hot chocolate. If decadent, made-from-scratch hot chocolate isn’t made for this season then nothing is. This one’s a mix of melted chocolate, cocoa powder, vanilla and milk that’s been infused with Stash’s Black Forest tea. It warms you up from the inside out and is the perfect accompaniment to wool socks, a good book or your latest Netflix binge (anyone else excited about the new season of Stranger Things?).
This was my first time trying black forest in non-cake form and I’m happy to report it’s just as tasty in a mug! The tea’s chocolate and cherry flavors aren’t overpowered in the hot chocolate–instead, you get a nice, subtle taste of black forest in every sip. It’s a black tea, too, and I very much appreciate the little caffeine kick now that the days are shorter and I have trouble staying awake past 5 pm. This hot chocolate is super rich thanks to the melted chocolate I stir in, so I like to keep the other flavors on the subtle side. But feel free to add a few more tea bags when you infuse the milk for even more black forest flavor! The same goes for the whipped cream–I only used a couple tea bags to infuse the cream because I didn’t want it to turn “tea” colored, but for a stronger flavor you can always use more. The lesson here is that you can’t go wrong with chocolate, cherry and vanilla. Mmm.
If you’ve spent much time around the blog, you probably know how much tea I consume. Coffee for me is an occasional treat; tea is the stuff of everyday sustenance. For most of the year I sip hot tea throughout the day to keep warm, and nibble tea-infused desserts to satisfy my sweet tooth. In the heat of summer, though, turning the oven on to bake sounds like torture and the last thing I want to drink is a steaming mug of anything. So instead of tea I drink…oh, wait, I still drink tea! And lots of it. In fact, I store away some of my favorite teas just for summer, because drinking them cold brings out all their tasty flavors.
Stash’s Organic Matcha Mate is one of those teas. When they came out with this tea – a smooth blend of Japanese matcha, green tea and yerba mate – earlier this year I liked it hot, but knew I’d love it cold come summer. It’s a nice, strong tea for early mornings and lazy afternoons when I need a little caffeine boost, but without the bitter flavor that sometimes accompanies robust teas. I’ve enjoyed it on its own several times, but I think the matcha and mate flavors are at their best in slightly sweetened latte form. I brew the tea hot and strong, then pour it over ice with a generous drizzle of honey and a splash of cold almond milk, resulting in a silky and immensely sippable tea latte that’s made for hot days. The distinct tea flavors come through and, if you ask me, they’re actually made stronger by the dash of sweetness in the latte.
Have you ever tried drinking a shrub? Wondering how that would work, what with all the leaves and pointy bits? Not to worry – I was mystified, too, when I first saw shrubs on a cocktail menu. Fortunately, I’m not suggesting you drink greenery! No, this kind of shrub is much tastier and goes down a whole lot more smoothly. Shrubs are a sweet-tart mixer made by letting fresh fruit sit in vinegar, then adding sugar to the infused vinegar and boiling it all down to a syrup that brings sweetness, acidity and a punch of flavor to your drinks. I love that since shrubs are so full of flavor, they don’t require extra juices, herbs or liqueurs to make them immensely satisfying and drinkable. This shrub, made with fresh blackberries and minty licorice delight tea, is sweet, tangy and also has some tasty herbal notes. I didn’t want to obscure any of those flavors, so I mixed the shrub with sparkling water, and wow. The flavors all came through, and the sweetened vinegar makes them more intense than they would be without that acidic element.
The choice of tea made all the difference here. This was my first time making a shrub with tea, and while I knew I wanted to use an herbal one, I didn’t think a mild tea like chamomile or lavender would stand up to vinegar. Enter minty licorice delight! This is a new tea from Stash, and now that I’ve tried licorice and mint together, I don’t know how I got along with out them for so long. I’ll admit I’m not usually a fan of licorice. But in combination with the mint, it’s light and refreshing, and the perfect herbal complement to the blackberry and vinegar. While the blackberry is what hits your tastebuds first, it’s the minty licorice that lingers and makes you want to take another sip. Next time I’m going to try my shrub as a cocktail mixer – I think it’d pair well with an herbal liqueur like amaro or an elderflower cordial. The possibilities are endless, as is my appetite for shrubs! Have you ever tried making or drinking shrubs? I’d love to hear your favorites!
Happy weekend, everyone! I have a lot to be grateful for this weekend and I can’t help but share my excitement. First, it’s almost officially spring! Second, tomorrow is my birthday! I’m not that big on celebrating my own birthday – I’d never throw a real party because being the center of attention like that makes me want to slide under the table and hide. But I am excited about sharing a nice meal with my husband and parents. Oh and last but not least…we finally got a house!!! Our offer was accepted on an old craftsman bungalow not far from where we live now. It’s going to take years and a lot of elbow grease to restore it to its former beauty, but we’re looking forward to the adventure and can’t wait to dive in next month. Lots of DIY posts are on the way!
Back to springtime being just around the corner. These last few months, steeping and drinking tea has become a daily (okay, five times daily) habit. It started out of necessity – my apartment’s frigid temperatures make hot drinks mandatory – but has become a ritual I savor and want to continue as the seasons warm. So, I’ve been playing around with cold tea drinks, like this rose and honey tea latte that’s currently on repeat over here. I pour it over ice, which brings out subtle flavors that would be lost if it were served hot. I love rose, but only in small doses, and steeping rose buds in milk gives the latte a delicate flavor that’s floral but not overpoweringly so. It’s lightly sweetened with a spoonful of my dad’s raw blackberry honey that satisfies my sweet tooth and makes it a little fruity. I highly recommend picking up some raw, fruit-pollinated honey at a farmer’s market if you can – the extra bit of flavor makes all the difference.
My favorite thing about this drink? You can make a big batch ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for later! I’ve been taking a mason jar full of pre-made latte whenever I leave the house because I’m completely hooked, and I’m willing to bet you will be too. Read on for the recipe.