Monthly Archives: November 2012

Life-Changing Chai

My name is Brie and I’m a chai-a-holic.

I didn’t go searching for this chai…I just kind of stumbled upon it…and for that, I am grateful.

It started innocently enough with a trip to Trader Joe’s. I was checking out the various nut butters when my boyfriend (probably impatient with my nut butter indecisiveness) made a beeline for the free samples in the back of the store. He came back with the tiniest cup I had ever seen and told me to try a sip. Two seconds later, I was on my way to claim a sample for myself.

Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Chai Tea Latte Mix is a mouthful…a mouthful of deliciousness, my friends.

I promise you that this drink doesn’t taste salty – so please don’t let the “salted” part scare you off. There’s simply a hint of – something – and it serves to highlight the sweeter side of this drink. The caramel flavor really comes through first, followed by more traditional and complex chai flavors, like cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. Honestly though, what had me smitten at first sip was how ridiculously rich and creamy it is. I immediately assumed there had to be some kind of catch. How could something from a canister taste so good? I had to find out.

So, I approached the gentleman working the chai station and asked what kind of milk he was mixing with this stuff. Maybe it was almond milk? Could it be coconut? No…it had to be some kind of exotic milk I had never heard of before.

“I just added hot water,” the Trader Joe’s employee said with a smile, instantly making my day. Not to be outdone, my boyfriend snatched up a can when I wasn’t looking. Consider yourself officially one-upped, Trader Joe’s chai guy.

I’m usually a glass half full kind of gal, but when it comes to this chai, my mug empties out pretty quick.

The friendly cashier who rang us up said that the second ingredient in this chai is crack. Clearly, he was kidding – but all joking aside – the man has a point. The addictive quality of Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Chai cannot be denied…so I have no choice but to accept my obsession.
Chai3

Fill up my mug and call me a crackhead!

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Loaded Apple Cider Oatmeal Muffins

Make these sometime soon. Your mouth will high-five you and your stomach will thank you.

Mmmm...muffins!Please don’t judge me, but I’m not a breakfast person. Well, let me clarify – I’m not a weekday breakfast person. During the late 80’s/early 90’s, you could find me Monday through Friday mornings in the midst of a war of attrition with my breakfast. I would stare down at that bowl of cereal through my coke bottle glasses…knowing full and well its contents would only get soggier…and that my mom would make me eat every mushy bite before the bus came. Thanks, Mom!

Now that I’m on my own, I do breakfast on my terms. I’ve found that the quickest, most convenient option for me is to make a protein shake in the morning so that I can grab it and get out the door. Is it the sexiest breakfast in the world? No. Does it get the job done? Each and every time.

The best part is that my protein shake holds me over for a few hours, but when snack time rolls around, I’m ready for something with a little more substance.

I switch my snacks up all the time – sometimes, my decisions are based on what I’m craving or what I’ve already got in the house. Other times, I’m inspired by something I see on another food blog, which is the category into which these muffins fall. I’ve only slightly modified this recipe from Jessica over at How Sweet It Is. This girl is brilliant – everything I’ve tried off her site goes on repeat in my culinary repertoire and these muffins are no exception. They’re hearty without being heavy – and while the cider adds a hint of sweetness, the tart apples keep that sugar in check.

And for those of you wondering…no, muffins aren’t just for breakfast. They are the perfect snack option for non-breakfast folks like myself.

Loaded Apple Cider Oatmeal Muffins

Adapted from How Sweet It Is

Yield: 12 muffins
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:
2 granny smith apples, diced
3 tablespoons apple cider
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pinch of nutmeg
1 large egg
1/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons butter, browned, melted and cooled
1/3 cup apple cider

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat and add 2 tablespoons butter. Watch carefully and wait for butter to bubble and then brown, about 3-5 minutes. Pour brown butter from pan into a little bowl and set aside. Return skillet to burner over medium-low heat and add diced apples with 3 tablespoons apple cider, and a pinch of cinnamon and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft, about 8-10 minutes. In a bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside. Line a muffin tin with liners.

In a large bowl, whisk egg and brown sugar together until smooth and no lumps remain. Add in vanilla extract, butter, apple sauce and apple cider, whisking again until smooth. Gradually add in dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Fold in diced apples. Do not over mix! Fill each muffin liner 2/3 of the way full with batter (I use a cookie scoop to get the muffins to be of equal size).

Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until tops are no longer wet and become slightly golden.

If you’re like me and you have a giant muffin pan, which makes six at a time instead of the standard twelve, you’ll want to increase the baking time to about 30 minutes.

Then, congratulate yourself for only eating one mega-muffin instead of two (or three) inferior ones.

So Thank…Full

I can’t think of a better time of year to begin a food-focused blog than now. It’s the holidays, people…and we all know what that means. Take Thursday, for example. I don’t know about you, but I pretty much ate my way through Thanksgiving, which is completely ok by me. Now that it’s over and I’m slowly recovering from my food coma, I realize there’s no better time than now to reflect on all I have in my life to be thankful for.

I’m thankful for my family…even though you all are slightly overwhelming at times…seriously…there are just so many of you. I am also thankful for my boyfriend’s family…probably because they are my family’s polar opposite.

I should also give a shout out to turkey, stuffing, carrots, corn and peas…you guys were great. The salad on my plate really camouflaged the extra stuffing underneath it rounded out the rest of the veggies very well. Plus, the butternut mac and cheese…if I could be best friends with a food I think you would be the one.

Oh, and apple crisp? Yeah, you. You tasted even better the second time around. Thanks for being a dessert I can feel good about eating…twice in one day. You know, because you’re apples and all.

It’s important to note that I’m actually most grateful for the man cheering me on during the said second helping of apple crisp.

One last thing: thanks, leggings. Without you and your unlimited elasticity, none of the aforementioned indulgences would have been possible.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday filled with friends, family and of course…food.

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