By Erin McIntosh | Published December 2015

The soft light and drowsy chill of winter keeps us snug in cozy sweaters and drawn close to the hearth. Energetically, we find ourselves both reflective and festive this time of year, making rituals like sipping hot tea and baking spiced treats a satisfying pursuit. With the evocative scent of cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla twinkling through the air here in Eugene, we welcome a meditative time, as well as family celebrations, with our favorite recipes of the season.

Warming and pungent with just a touch of sweetness, chai is absolute wintertime perfection. This blend of vibrant color, potent aromatics, and flavorful spices offers an experience that is pleasingly stimulating to the senses, while also providing a bit of a medicinal bonus. The herbs used to make traditional Indian chai help stimulate digestion, which is important when we start to feel a bit sluggish or find ourselves indulging in holiday feasts. Chai spices are also gently diaphoretic, encouraging healthy blood flow to circulate warmth throughout the body. What could be better on a cold day?

Here are a few of my favorite recipes inspired by this classic spiced tea, including an alternative to the synthetically scented candles and air fresheners that are so popular this time of year. Enjoy!

Golden Coconut Chai

Ingredients:

2 cups water

2 cups organic coconut milk

2 tablespoons organic black tea

1 tablespoon organic cardamom pods

1 tablespoon organic dried ginger root

2 teaspoons organic dried orange peel

1 teaspoon organic dried turmeric root or powder

½ teaspoon organic black peppercorns

5 organic cloves

2 organic cinnamon sticks

¼ teaspoon organic vanilla extract

raw local honey to taste

Directions:

Lightly crush the cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods. Add all of the spices to a pot with 2 cups of water and heat just to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer gently, partially covered, for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and black tea. Heat up to a slight bubble for 3 minutes while stirring. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and honey. Strain out the herbs and enjoy warm.

Chai Spice Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup organic all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 teaspoon sea salt

1 3/4 sticks softened organic butter

1 cup organic sugar

1/4 cup packed organic light brown sugar

1 large organic free-range egg

1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups organic old-fashioned rolled oats

chopped dried cherries, figs, or currants (optional)

Powdered Chai Spice Mix 

3/4 teaspoon organic cinnamon powder

1/2 teaspoon organic cardamom powder

1/4 teaspoon organic ginger powder

1/8 teaspoon organic clove powder

1/8 teaspoon organic nutmeg powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, powdered spice mix, and sea salt together.
  3. In another bowl, beat butter and sugars until fluffy and creamy. Add egg and vanilla to the butter and sugar mixture and beat until combined.
  4. Gradually add flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until it just becomes smooth.
  5. Gradually add oats and fruit, and mix until well combined.
  6. Roll 2 tablespoons of dough into balls with your hands. Place on parchment lined baking sheets about 2 1/2 inches apart. Gently press down each ball to about 3/4-inch thickness using fingertips.
  7. Bake until cookies are golden brown, about 13 to 16 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool. Makes 22-24 delicious chai cookies.

Chia-Chai Pudding

Ingredients:

1/3 cup organic chia seeds

1 can of organic coconut milk

13.5 ounces of water

3/4 teaspoon organic cinnamon powder

1/2 teaspoon organic cardamom powder

1/4 teaspoon organic ginger powder

1/8 teaspoon organic clove powder

1/8 teaspoon organic nutmeg powder

1/8 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

1 tablespoon raw honey to taste

Directions:

Whisk water and coconut milk together until combined. Stir in the powdered spices, vanilla extract, and honey. Mix the chia seeds into the liquid and let stand for 1 hour. Stir again and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Chai Dreams Aroma Blend

Ingredients:

20 drops organic cinnamon essential oil

20 drops organic fresh ginger essential oil

15 drops organic clove bud essential oil

10 drops organic cardamom essential oil

5 drops black pepper essential oil

Directions:

Carefully drip each essential oil into a small glass bottle. Screw the cap on tightly and invert the bottle to blend the oils. If using a diffuser, fill your essential oil reservoir with water and add 5 drops of the Chai Dreams Blend. Operate as directed. If using the stovetop, heat 2 cups of water to a simmer and add 5 drops of the essential oil blend. Enjoy as your space fills with aromatic bliss.