Milk-less Chai “Milkshake”

I don’t know why I do it, but every few months I forget my prior experiences and decide to pick up a new tea flavor at Trader Joe’s.  Their prices are always so great, and the flavors of the Trader Joe’s brand of tea always sound a bit exotic.  Let it be known that I am a huge fan of Chai tea, even without the milk and honey added, and I recently discovered a love for Rooibos tea.  So when I spotted their Rooibos Chai, I thought, “That sounds too perfect, maybe this one is different.” 

Drats, they captured me once again!  You see, the Trader Joe’s brand of tea is horrible.  Perhaps it is just my personal taste buds, but they seem to produce almost lifeless tea.  No spark, no zest, no nothing really.  It was most certainly the most bland Chai or Rooibos (let alone a combination of the two) that I had ever tasted. 

I pondered iced tea, but this often requires a stronger tea if anything.  Then, I thought maybe, just maybe, I could chill the tea and use it in smoothies?  After all, the package referred to their Rooibos as antioxidant rich, it would be such a shame to waste it.  Curious if anyone had trialed tea smoothies, I set out on an internet search.  I certainly found a few green tea concoctions, but those used mostly green tea powder.  Slowly, I began to unearth various creamy teas, and I was surprised by the method.  Rather than brewing and then chilling the tea, they just ripped those bags right open and tossed the contents in.  This sounded easy enough.

My cool and creamy beverage turned out to have more of a milkshake-like consistency, though the texture is inevitably up to the individual.  Honestly, it wasn’t bad.  It was still a weak bunch of spices, but at least their full essence was captured in this recipe.  The spicy twist to my otherwise ordinary shake was also a welcome enhancement.

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Sugar-Free, Dairy-Free Chai “Milkshake”

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 1 chai tea bag (I used the Chai Rooibos from Trader Joe’s, but I am sure there are better!)
  • 1 frozen ripe banana, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon almond butter
  • ice (optional)

Blend it all up!  If your mixture is too thick, add more almond milk.  If it is too thin, add more frozen banana or ice.

I think the perfect dairy-free / vegan “milkshake” would be a simple blend of the tea with some vanilla non-dairy “ice cream,” maybe Whole Soy & Co or Soy Delicious, some milk alternative, and your tea bag of choice.  However, since I am trying to keep added sugars out of the picture as much as possible, this banana and almond mixture seems to work quite well.  I even used unsweetened almond milk, but you don’t need to go that far.. I believe regular vanilla almond milk is still quite low in sugars, and it has a nice mild sweetness that will surely be welcomed by any beverage.

Fast & Inexpensive Meals … Finally, a Cookbook I am Actually Using!

I truly love perusing recipes … in fact I used to be a recipe-clipping addict.  Luckily, my frugality kept me from purchasing every cookbook in sight, especially considering I have only trialed about a dozen recipes from the little cookbook collection I am already housing.  Clipping, marking, and emailing recipes is one thing, but actually making them… for some reason that was always my stumbling block.  But a cookbook I recently received sparked something in me.  At long last, I was venturing new foods in the kitchen! 

The magical book? The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook … true, the name may not sound enticing to some, but the recipes within were so simple, so intriguing, and so filled with ingredients that I typically buy anyway, it was really a natural fit.  As someone who hadn’t tried a new recipe in months, I made guess how many recipes in just over a week… okay, I can’t hold it in… six.  That’s right, I tried six new recipes just like that.  Okay, I am counting the chocolate covered raisins and the saffron rice, but I gradually became more adventurous.  Here is what else I made…

First (or third if you count the first two recipes) up was Raf’s Cuban Beans & Rice.  These slow-cooked black beans were easy to prepare, as I left them to simmer for about 2 hours, stopping by to stir occasionally.  I drained the beans, assuming this step was required, but perhaps not. The honey can easily be replaced with maple syrup for a vegan pot of beans.  Serve with rice (I steamed a mix of red rice and brown rice) and a salad for a full vegan meal.  For my meaty husband, I served the beans and rice alongside some freshly made Italian sausage (on sale for $2.99/lb) and a serving of steamed broccoli. (sorry, this first pic is horrible, they do get a bit better!)

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Second up was the Penne with Cauliflower and Olives.  This was a very simple but tasty recipe.  I opted to stay vegan on this entrée, “beefing” up the penne with some extra sautéed veggies.  Our brown rice pasta had some issues, not cooking and sticking badly.  That was the only bummer of the whole meal.  Basically, you steam up the cauliflower and mash it with a fork for a chunky, clingy ingredient.  Add in the finely chopped olives (I recommend the canned pre-chopped olives, they are actually cheaper ounce for ounce, and easier), some fresh parsley, olive oil, garlic, and season with crushed red pepper flakes and salt to taste.

Penne with Cauliflower

Third up was the Falafels.  This was a fun one; I had never made falafels.  These are actually baked, rather than fried.  Lacking pita bread or even a tortilla, I served the little patties overtop a bed of jasmine rice and lightly steamed caught-it-just-in-time organic spinach.  While the author (Cybele Pascal) recommended her tahini sauce, I was lacking in tahini.  So I made a hummus sauce (I had some pre-packaged Trader Joe’s hummus on hand – picture is pre-sauce).  Really, this was an easy, tasty, and vegan entrée, that even my meaty husband positively loved.  I will be making these again!  As a side note, the recipe calls for oat flour.  A cheap and easy shortcut is to grind regular old oats in a spice grinder ($9 at the grocery store, best investment I have ever made) for about 30 seconds, until a nice flour develops.  Gluten-free consumers can by “safe” oats and make oat flour using this method too.

Falafel

Fourth up was the Creamy Avocado Chicken Salad.  I give this one a not bad.  Really, our fridge was running low.  No bread for a sandwich and no lettuce for a salad, so this chicken salad went atop quinoa.  The avocado dressing was a bit sweet for my tastes, but overall it was pretty good.  The chicken tenders were actually on for a cheaper price than the chicken breasts (always keep an eye on this) and they made for convenient preparation.

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The Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook is free of the big eight allergens: milk, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, eggs, fish, and shellfish.  While there is a good-sized “meaty” section, I wouldn’t write Whole Foods Cookbookthis one off completely for vegans.  The egg-free, dairy-free nature makes for many excellent vegan baked goods and desserts (note: occasional small amounts of honey that look easily replaceable with another liquid sweetener), salads, dressings, snacks, and as you can see from the recipes I trialed, entrees and sides.  Actually, the vegan options easily won out taste-wise in our household.

So what was the damage?  Well, aside from a whole pile of dishes, I calculated that each full meal cost less than $3.00 to serve (and satiate) two of us, just $1.50 per full individual meal, or less really.  While I love eating out, I must admit this is quite a good deal for some easy recipes.  Thanks Cybele!