Winter Drink Mixes: Instant Chai and Cocoa (gift ideas!)
I love hot cocoa, I love chai, I love hot winter drinks and fancy eggnog lattes…but I don’t like paying upwards of $3 for a small (excuse me…”tall”) cup of Something at the local coffee joint, complete with disposable cup and ridiculous numbers of calories.
And yes, I’m the person who, when I do break down and hit Starbucks, orders hot chocolate with skim milk but says yes to the whipped cream. So sue me.
Since this is the time of year when gifts and holiday Stuff is on people’s minds, I’ll probably be joining the rest of the mommyblogosphere over the next couple of weeks posting DIY ideas for gifts and yummies, especially the kind that can be substitutions for otherwise processed or heavily packaged goods.
For some unknown reason, back in July of all things I posted recipes for homemade hot chocolate–both the stuff you make by the cup in your own kitchen, and a mix that you can just add water to. Seriously, these are both way way better than the stuff that comes in the little packets, much more chocolaty and just plain tasty than that chick with the braids on the commercials peddles. (Er…does the Swiss Miss still look like that? It occurs to me that I haven’t seen one of those commercials in ages…)
Recently I also found a recipe for homemade chai tea mix, which is another thing I tend to buy at the coffee shop from time to time, and which I likewise hate shelling out the money for. The recipe, unfortunately, had a high level of Coffee-Mate in it, like so many recipes for hot drinks one finds on the internet, and that stuff is verboten in my kitchen. So I futzed a little and have put together a recipe that just uses powdered milk.
Instant Chai Tea Mix
In a blender, mix:
- 1.5 cup powdered nonfat milk
- 1-1.5 cup sugar
- 1-1.5 cup instant unsweetened tea mix (the stuff that under ingredients says “100% tea”)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamon
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
Blend to a fine powder. Store in dry airtight container. Multiply recipe as desired.
To serve: in a cup, put 2-3 tbs. mix; pour 8 oz. hot milk or water over it and stir. (Milk is better…water is lower cal.)
(VERDICT: the milk version is really lovely and rich and tastes a lot like what you’d buy at the coffee shop. The water version is still good, but obviously not as rich. I like two tbs. mix in the milk version and 3 in the hot water version…)
That’s it! If you’re just making it for yourself to drink at home, you don’t even have to do the blender thing; the powdered milk looks funky and doesn’t mix quite as well unless you blend it, but it still works and tastes really good.
Homemade real chai is even yummier, and also just as easy if you have already-blended chai tea bags–just brew them in hot milk instead of hot water, sweeten with honey, and you’re good to go. (That’s the downside of the mix; there’s not really a practical way to get honey into it, and honey is part of what makes chai taste so nice. I suppose you could eliminate the sugar from the mix entirely and just sweeten on your own…)
So have fun! Cocoa and chai both do really well as gifts packed in nice dry jars with a little instruction sheet alongside.
And by the way…another little trick I discovered along the way was that instead of coughing up the $$$ for an eggnog latte, I can just make my own coffee at home and put in a little eggnog (homemade or store-bought) instead of milk or cream. It’s my downfall, because every year I’m able to get a little away from coffee, but then once the holiday season hits I’m drinking down the coffee because I want an excuse to drink just a little bit of eggnog every day…it’s sort of pathetic.
Tomorrow I’ll post my recipes/methods for making our own winter tea blend (another gift idea) and mulling spices.