It’s funny how even the post-holiday season can be pretty busy. Last weekend was Ricky’s birthday, so we had lots of fun stuff on the agenda (and a little bit of work to prepare for the fun stuff). We had friends over on Saturday night to play some board games and then had a big shindig with his family on Sunday. He had both a birthday cake and a birthday pie, so I would call it a definite success! Even though the weekend was crazy and we didn’t sleep as much as we usually do, I came out the other end of this week feeling pretty rested and happy. This surprised me a lot, since I often struggle with keeping my energy levels consistently high.
Compared to friends and family, I need quite a lot of sleep and often get worn down easily if I’m not properly taking care of myself. I have been burnt out before (during a particularly nasty period of my undergrad degree), and ever since then I have never quite regained my ability to push myself physically and mentally without really feeling rough. Don’t get me wrong, I worked my fair share of hours during law school and articling, but the chunks of time where I was working like mad always felt half as long as the time it took to get my head screwed on straight.
A surprising positive that’s come from this is that I have really learned how to take care of myself. I recently weened myself off of a caffeine addiction that I have had since high school (more on that later), and since then I have felt more energetic, positive and upbeat than I have in the last few years combined! A large part of this is because I’ve been working really hard on finding a healthy balance in my life and focussing on really prioritizing self-care.
I had a conversation with my mom recently about how our society really treats personal time as a luxury that only lazy people practice. It seems like we are always supposed to be ‘doing something’ even when we have a few moments of quiet time. Really though, taking it easy now and then is super beneficial. Even taking just a few chunks of times per week to indulge in our favourite relaxing activities can make such a huge difference in our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Finding time to get the right amount of sleep, eat, work, exercise and play can be tricky enough by itself, let alone making time to do things that we find relaxing. In order to try to work this more into my daily life, lately I have been consciously trying schedule some “down time” into my week. I’ve really found that once that time has been put aside, it’s a lot easier to use that time to actually do something relaxing like yoga, painting, taking a bath, watching a movie or whatever I feel like might chill me out on a given day. The combination of making sure I get my 8 hours of sleep every night, getting back into being active, and making sure I get that down time in has made my energy levels soar. This is great, because not only fo I feel really good, but I can get more done in my day and I’m generally a way more positive person to be around. Amazing what not being burnt out will do for you, huh?
So this week, in celebration of prioritizing self-care and staying charged up, I’m sharing my recipe for perfect vegan chai tea. Chai is a ritual at Ricky’s house. His family drinks it first thing in the morning and at the end of every day. It is comforting, creamy and so delicious, and can be perfect for getting ready for your day or for winding down when you’re taking a break. Ricky first showed me how to make this Indian staple in 2010, when I was living in Vancouver with one of my very best friends. So when I got a text from her recently asking how to re-make this magical stuff, I knew that I had to try my hand at making a healthy, vegan version.
Part of what makes authentic chai so good is the process of heating the milk in the pot. This cooks the naturally occurring sugars in the milk and makes it taste like liquid caramel (yum!!). Obviously, plant-based milks don’t behave quite the same way, so to try to make up for that in my vegan chai, I usually boil in a little bit of coconut sugar instead. Coconut sugar is produced from the sap of cut flower buds of the coconut palm. Because it’s not refined, coconut sugar retains many of the nutrients found in the coconut palm. This includes iron, zinc, calcium and potassium, along with some short chain fatty acids, polyphenols and antioxidants. It also contains inulin, a fiber that slows glucose absorption and gives coconut sugar a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar.
If, like me, you’re trying to steer clear of caffeine, you can easily substitute the traditional black tea for some red rooibos. Rooibos isn’t actually a tea – it’s an herb! Interestingly, red rooibos tea is said to have a number of medicinal qualities including reducing cancer, heart disease, premature aging and other serious conditions. This is in part because rooibos contains polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antimutagenic qualities. Not to mention it tastes really nice when it’s been doctored up with a masala spice mix.
So there you have it – down time and a little bit of vegan chai. I don’t know about you, but I definitely know what I will be doing for the rest of the evening.
- 1½ cups water (measure with the mug you plan on drinking from)
- 1 cup hemp cream or other non-dairy milk
- 2 heaping tsp loose black tea (or plain red rooibos tea)
- 2 whole, open green cardamom pods
- 2 whole cloves
- ½ to 1 tsp minced/grated fresh ginger (or to taste)
- ⅛ tsp cinnamon powder
- 2 tsp coconut sugar
- In a small deep pan at medium heat, add water, sugar, tea leaves and spices. Bring to a bubbling boil for 4 to 8 minutes
- Slowly pour the non-dairy milk into the mix. Bring the mix to almost a boil
- Strain into a cup and serve hot
- Note: some non-dairy milks tend to separate when added to the hot water. Add a tbsp cold/room temperature water to the boiling water to bring the temperature down before pour in the non-dairy milk to avoid this