I have been sick. Really sick. It is cold season in Chicago and I got caught in the cross fire. Being sick is never fun and even less so for those of us afflicted with an epicurean bug. When you are sick everything tastes like cotton balls and aluminum foil. You can’t taste or smell or enjoy anything delicious. That would just be a waste. So, I spent a better part of two weeks eating viciously spicy Thai food and drinking gallons of tea.
Don’t get me wrong, I love tea. But amid the monotony and the misery of being sick, there came a moment when I JUST COULD NOT DRINK ANOTHER CUP OF TEA! I got to thinking, why do we drink tea when we are sick? It seems that’s mostly because it is warm and soothing and comforting. I have had it with lemon, with honey, with a cinnamon stick. But I still craved variety. So, I got to thinking about hot beverages. If variety really is the spice of life, how about adding spices to create variety? I had nothing but time on my hands. A vast collection of spices. A willing cold-afflicted subject – me. So, for all of you who like it hot, test drive these spins on popular hot beverages.
My friend Jeff graciously shared his recipe for “tea” brewed entirely with spices. Bring water to a boil. Add a few whole cloves, cardamom pods and star anise to a metal tea infuser, then dunk the infuser in a large mug of water until desired intensity. If you really want a strong tea, throw the spices in with the cold water before bringing to a boil. This is a very aromatic infusion, perfect for fall and full of essential oils. It is delicious on its own or with a little milk and honey.
For all you, caffeine junkies, adding some of your favorite spices to your daily jolt can be a refreshing change of pace. Almost anything goes here: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves. My personal favorite spin is cardamom infused coffee. Toss a few pods into your French press, let them steep with the grounds. Voila! Not your regular cup of jo. For a more luxurious beverage, top the coffee with cardamom infused whipped cream.
This time of year everyone loves hot cider. Pssst! Let me tell you something. Cider is nothing more than run of the mill apple juice, sometimes unfiltered. I don’t know about you but, in my opinion, hot apple juice begs for a little pizazz. I love to slow simmer cider with orange and lemon slices, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries and fresh nutmeg. Adding a dried hot chili or two has been known to happen in my home as well. Spiced cider is like apple juice all dressed up.
Spiced Hot Chocolate
Finally, nothing brings as much comfort on a cold day as a mug of hot chocolate. It is a throwback to childhood. But my home is a Swiss Miss-free territory. I don’t like pre-packaged powdered stuff. I use this recipe from the Queen of Sweets, Gale Gand. It makes delicious, rich and smooth hot chocolate. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t add a spin on it. I generously dust the top of hot chocolate with some pure chili powder. For my version, I like to mix cayenne and ancho chili for heat and smoke. Spicy hot chocolate is delicious. Try it and you ‘ll be hooked. A grown up version of a childhood favorite.
It’s true. This time of year, some like it hot. So, break out the spices and play with your favorite hot drink. Variety is indeed the spice of life. Even when you are sick.
My name is Tatiana or call me Gourmet Rambler. I love food too much to be skinny. I am too loud, too sarcastic, tell too many inappropriate jokes and watch too much reality TV. I am not dainty or graceful unless I am cooking AND eating! Hungry? Want more? Follow me on twitter at Gourmet Rambler.