Marsala Chai fills kitchen with scent of holiday spices

Simmer Some Holiday Spices in Masala Chai

This blog was written as a guest post for The Skinny on Low Cal site. You can access the original post here.

The biggest competition on Thanksgiving Day doesn’t happen on a football field for me. Instead it’s a battle between the spices taking over my kitchen. The heady bouquet of sage and thyme takes an early lead in the day, but the intoxicating aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg always wins when it’s over.

Now I’ve discovered a way to surround myself with that scent all year long by making Masala Chai!

“Chai” is Hindi word for tea and “masala” chai is simply spiced tea. Traditional recipes for this ancient Indian brew are made by a process called decoction. It involves gently simmering loose black tea, assorted whole spices and a sweetening agent in a mixture of milk and water, then straining it before serving.

Popular versions available today include pre-seasoned tea bags that can be steeped in hot water so you can add the milk and a sweetener of your choice. Chai can also be purchased as a dry instant mix or liquid concentrate to prepare as iced tea or a shake. And when you’re in your favorite coffee shop you can even find chai latte made with steamed milk.

If you’re ready to try making Masala Chia at home there are endless ways to create your own signature version. The type of tea and spices you use will deliver that inviting fragrance and zesty flavor (especially if using pepper and ginger), while your choice of sweetener and milk will enhance the flavor and control the calories.

TEA – loose or bagged: black, green, white, oolong or pu-erh tea from Camellia sinensis plant; flavored tea such as Earl Grey or jasmine; herbal infusion teas such as rooibos or chamomile

SPICES – whole or ground: allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fennel, ginger (dried or fresh), peppercorns, star anise

MILK – whole, reduced-fat, low-fat or fat-free: fresh cow’s milk, powdered milk, canned evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk (replaces milk and sweetener), soymilk, almond milk

SWEETENERS – powdered, granulated or syrup: white or brown sugar, honey, molasses, date sugar, palm sugar, coconut sugar, agave syrup, no- and low-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame, stevia, sucralose


Serving Size- 2 cups


1 cup water
1 cup fat-free milk
2 teaspoons loose tea leaves or 1 tea bag
1-2 teaspoons spices: ¼ tsp. cinnamon + ¼ tsp. clove + ¼ tsp. nutmeg + 2 black peppercorns + 1 thin slice fresh ginger
1 packet low calorie sweetener, equal to 2 teaspoons sugar


1. Combine water, milk, spices and sweetener in a pot and heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until just below a boil. Be careful not to boil the milk.
2. Turn off heat, cover and let simmer 2 minutes.
3. Pour through strainer into individual tea cups or teapot to serve.

TIPS: Stainless steel or nonstick pots work best for even heating. Keep heat at medium-high so milk doesn’t burn. A combination of fresh and dried spices can be used. Strain immediately for best flavor. Refrigerate unused portion.

Registered dietitian and nutrition expert Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN has more than 30 years of experience counseling patients and teaching at the university level. She is also the author of two books on nutrition. Follow her on Twitter @EverydayRD

Use a low calorie sweetener in place of sugar to make cranberry relish

Cranberry Relish Without All the Calories

This blog was written as a guest post for The Skinny on Low Cal site. You can access the original post here.

What ingredient on your holiday menu grows in sandy bogs and marshes, was once used as a medicine to draw the poison out of arrow wounds and helped sailors prevent scurvy on long sea voyages? If you’re serving cranberry sauce with your Thanksgiving turkey look no further for the answer. Whether you prefer jellied or whole berry sauce, there is little doubt some version of this bright red fruit was part of the very first Thanksgiving meal, and the tradition has continued ever since.

Native Americans had many uses for cranberries when the Pilgrims arrived (besides the poultice that removed arrow poison). They made dyes for their rugs and blankets from them and a type of “jerky” using mashed cranberries that preserved deer meat. In return, the Pilgrims were the first to sweeten the tart berries to make pies, puddings and the ever popular cranberry sauce!

If you’ve ever popped a fresh cranberry into your mouth without knowing its tart little secret, you’ll never forget it — cranberries make you pucker! That’s why they’re always combined with other fruits, juices and sweeteners in recipes to make them more palatable. The only problem is it takes a lot of sugar to reduce their pucker power, and that adds calories. Using a combination of fruit and a low calorie sweetener with cranberries provides a calorie-smart solution.

Since I don’t happen to like sweet condiments on my savory food, I never have cranberry sauce with my turkey or catsup on my burgers, but I love the Cranberry-Orange Relish we always serve at Thanksgiving. So I started using this low calorie cranberry relish recipe and eat it all year long on toasted baguettes smeared with soft goat cheese, mixed into my fat-free Greek yogurt, or stuffed into a baked apple.

I hope you’ll try it and discover ways you, too, can enjoy cranberries on many more occasions than the annual harvest meal!

Registered dietitian and nutrition expert Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN has more than 30 years of experience counseling patients and teaching at the university level. She is also the author of two books on nutrition. Follow her on Twitter @EverydayRD

Heartburn does not have to be part of Thanksgiving dinner

Is Heartburn on Your Thanksgiving Menu?


Just in time for your Thanksgiving feast, here’s a short primer on heartburn, the worst part of any holiday meal. While there are many different causes of heartburn, and some people suffer with it all year long, overeating is one cause that can trigger this uncomfortable burning sensation in anyone enjoying a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

Heartburn is the feeling people get in their chest, often described as indigestion. It can lead to nausea, a bitter or sour taste in the mouth and burping.

Acid reflux is the action that produces those sensations. Gastric acids are moving up the esophagus, or food pipe, that normally carries chewed food down into the stomach. The esophagus does not have the same protective mucous lining that the stomach is coated with, so the acids burn the lining of the esophagus when they come into contact with it.

A weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is the cause of the problem. The LES is a ring of muscles at base of esophagus that are only supposed to open to allow food to enter the stomach. If they are weakened or compromised in any way, they may open and allow the contents of the stomach to pass up again.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, is the condition when this occurs regularly. The 30 million who suffer from GERD may not be able to tell you what it stands for, but they know it as the sound they make when they have it.

Factors contributing to GERD:

Obesity, pregnancy, smoking, hiatal hernia and certain medications for high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia and asthma.

Foods that can trigger reflux symptoms:

Citrus, chocolate, drinks containing caffeine or alcohol, fatty and fried foods, garlic, onions, mint flavoring, spicy foods and tomato-based foods.

Recommendations to reduce discomfort:

Wear loose-fitting clothes, eat smaller meals, don’t lie down after eating, don’t smoke, avoid trigger foods and beverages.

Other treatments to get relief:

Calcium-based antacids neutralize acid for short term relief, proton pump inhibitor drugs decrease the amount of acid produced in your stomach, H2 blockers lower the amount of acid released in the stomach.

What will you do differently this year to avoid the pain of heartburn?

Stress can be removed from holiday traditions so original intent can be enjoyed

Don’t Let Stress Become a Tradition at Holiday Meals


The biggest family meal of the year is just a week away, and that can trigger a big jump in the stress levels of everyone at the table. Traditions are supposed to provide a reassuring foothold in otherwise uncertain times. But that can only happen when everyone shares a common memory of how and why the tradition started. Once the memory of those origins fades and expectations change, anxiety sets in.

Of course, any six year old can tell you the story of the first Thanksgiving meal shared by the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. Or at least the version taught in schools. Yet somewhere along the way the tradition that evolved from that event got side tracked into debates over who bakes the best pie and disputes about how the kids are being raised.

Family and friends who don’t get together often may indeed have different expectations about a lot of things. But Thanksgiving is not the day to express our differences. It’s about a tradition of giving thanks, no matter what is on the menu or who is winning the football game.

Here are some suggestions to help make your day less stressful and a whole lot more enjoyable for generations to come.

  1. Smile – It’s the quickest way to relieve tension. The change in countenance on your face does wonders for you and anyone around you. Try it, you’ll be amazed!
  2. Breathe – Take a deep breath, hold it a few seconds, then exhale fully. It’s called a “sigh of relief” because it has the power to relieve what worries you.
  3. Refocus – Stop fretting about the crumbs in the carpet and look at the faces of those in the room and what each person means to you. When you stay focused on the big picture, the little stuff won’t matter.
  4. Love – Give and get it as often as you can. Find a small child to hug or a furry pet to pet. Look into the eyes of someone dear to you and tell them how much you really love them. The expression of unconditional love is powerful antidote to all that ails you.
  5. Forgive – First be prepared to forgive yourself if everything is not perfect. Then be willing to forgive others who have been thoughtless so you don’t have to feel the burden of that resentment.
  6. Simplify – Take some short-cuts, scale back, do less. Remember why you’re together.
  7. Help – As in “I need help!” No one knows you need it until you ask.
  8. Stretch – Give yourself a mini-massage by tightening and relaxing individual muscle groups, working from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Close your eyes while doing it and visualize a peaceful place.
  9. Listen – Find someone in the group you haven’t seen in a while and ask them to tell you what they’ve been up to. Offer praise for their accomplishments and they will be immediately uplifted, and take you along on their high.
  10. Smile Again J – If this can lead to a good belly laugh, all the better!

Wishing You All A Traditional Thanksgiving Day Without Any the Stress!