A Few of My Favorite Things

In a recent post, I mentioned my unending search for go-to recipes. These recipes are like a favorite movie or book that never gets old. You can count on them when you need them most, and no matter how many times you revisit, they’re always there to greet you like an old friend. Two such recipes, I share with you today.

This first recipe is somewhat new to me, but I’ve made it so many times that it’s a golden oldie.

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Nandita’s Chai

My friend and college roommate, Ellie, introduced me to this recipe when we got together after she spent a year cooking in the woods of Washington State.

Ahh, college.
Ahh, college.

She visited me back in November and we had one main purpose: Recipe exchange. I asked her to introduce this recipe and she wrote back with an excellent description from start to finish.

Ellie: I was gifted this authentic chai recipe by a family I met in Washington when I began working as a cook. I had just started a year of volunteering in Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center located in the cascade mountains. It’s completely cut off from civilization: Only accessible by boat or by hiking, there are also no phones and limited internet capabilities. Needless to say I was feeling very isolated and lonesome. This family I had met on the boat ride to the village took me in for the first week of my stay, and taught me how to make this delicious Indian chai. They told me this particular recipe took them several months to perfect. They maintain the traditional tea time in their home by making a fresh batch of chai daily at about four o’clock.

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If done correctly the entire process should take about half an hour (for four servings). Do not try to rush the process; it makes your kitchen smell delicious, so enjoy it! Don’t add sugar until you are done and ready to drink it. I have also refrigerated my leftover chai, and it remains delicious. The recipe calls for whole milk, and I can attest to its superior flavor. However, I’ve also used rice milk, which has a sweetness of its own, and was pleased with the outcome. I was warned not to use soy milk because it alters the taste. I have never attempted to make the chai with anything other than black tea, though the recipe says this is permissible. I have used blended teas without issue (citrus adds a nice touch), but I’m not sure how a lighter tea would work.

Ingredients:

10 whole cardamom pods

8 whole cloves

1 small cinnamon stick

3 cups of water

1 1/3 cup of milk

1 rounded teaspoon of loose leaf black tea

Ellie: Boil 3 cups of water in a sauce pan with 10 cardamom pods, 8 cloves, and a small stick of cinnamon.

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When it boils, turn heat to low and cover. After 5 minutes, use a spoon to smash the cardamom pods, releasing the tiny seeds.

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Let simmer 10-20 minutes. Add 1 1/3 cups milk (whole milk = best outcome) and bring to a boil. Don’t let the milk boil over. When it starts to boil, remove from heat. Add 1 1/8 teaspoons of loose black tea (or whatever). DON’T stir.

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Let sit for 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Strain. Add sugar to taste. Serve.

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In her description, Ellie mentions using rice milk. I personally love this with unsweetened coconut milk, but play around with it and find what works for you!

This next recipe is one of Anden’s favorites. Every night, I’ll ask him if he has any ideas for dinner and all he has to do is look at me and smile, and I know exactly what he’s thinking:

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Sweet Potato Burritos

I don’t remember how this recipe began, but we made it over and over again until we settled on this particular variation. The filling is very straight-forward, just sweet potatoes, onions, peppers, black beans, and avocado. We played around with adding rice, tomatoes, and lettuce, but in the end, the simplest combination won out. I’ll often make a double batch of this and freeze away a bunch for lunch, but even the double batch doesn’t last through the week. We’ll eat at least two, maybe three burritos, at a time.

2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (two large)

1 red bell pepper

1 jalapeno pepper

1 small onion, diced

2 avocados, cubed

1, 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

2 tbsp lime juice

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Queso fresco, or shredded Mexican blend

1, pack of 10, flour tortillas

cooking spray, for roasting.

salt and pepper, for roasting

Pre-heat the oven to 425. Begin by peeling and dicing the sweet potatoes. Dice them about 1/3 inch thick.

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2 1/2 pounds is a LOT of potato, so I usually have to split them between 2, 9×13″ roasting pans. Spray the bottoms of the pans with non-stick cooking spray, then divide the diced potatoes between the two pans. Spray with a little more cooking spray to coat, then sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Bake the sweet potatoes for 10 minutes, then remove them from the oven. While the sweet potatoes are in the oven, dice the peppers. All of the heat comes from the jalapeno seeds, so you can adjust how hot you want the burritos by including more or less of them. Be careful when working with the jalapenos! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten those suckers caught under my nails and it burns for the rest of the night. As soon as you are done chopping the jalapeno, be sure to wash your hands really well and avoid touching your face for a while (especially the eyes).

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We kept most of the jalapeno seeds for this one!
We kept most of the jalapeno seeds for this one!

After you’ve pulled the potatoes out of the oven, add the peppers to the roasting pans (split between the two) and return potatoes and peppers to the oven for an additional 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the onion, avocado, lime juice and salt. Give it a good toss to combine all of the ingredients, then set aside until the potatoes and peppers are removed from the oven.

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After the potatoes and peppers are done roasting, add them to the bowl with the onions, beans, and avocado. Mix well.

To build the burrito, add a generous 2/3 cup of filling to the center of the tortilla, then crumble queso fresco or sprinkle shredded cheese. How much cheese to use is up to you, but when we use queso fresco, we usually crumble 1/2 ounce into each burrito.

DSCN2287There are several ways to roll a burrito, but this is how I typically do it.

As you are rolling the burritos, place  the finished ones back in one of the pans used for roasting.

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After the burritos are all rolled, put them in the oven for at least 10 minutes to melt the cheese. Let them cool slightly before serving.

These burritos are super easy to freeze away for later. We’ll often make a double-batch of these and bring them to work for lunch during the week. Just wrap them up individually in foil, or if you know you’ll eat at least three at a time, you can save on foil and wrap them up together.

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Hope these recipes serve you well! See you next week.

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