Home Rituals – Maple Pecan Pie

I’ve had slow-cooked foods on the brain lately: French onion soup, barbecued ribs and pecan pie. Slow-cooked foods are ideal in the winter and when my body is craving certain foods, I listen.

I’ve wanted to make a pecan pie for ten years. My inspiration came from the Shoshoni Yoga cookbook, which I discovered after a day trip to the Rollinsville, Colorado center.

Even more outstanding than the high frequency of the beautiful mountain ashram or the gentle yoga class was the food…

The yoga class was held in the main hall next to the kitchen where I could hear the cooks chanting mantras (mantra: to protect).

The summer meal consisted of Mexican vegetable soup, salad with avocado dressing, and sopapillas with refried beans and cheese. I felt so nourished from eating these foods and left wanting to know more.

I studied every page of that cookbook. All great recipes (especially the desserts section) but the pecan pie was the most impressive. Why?

They use maple syrup instead of corn syrup.

I didn’t know you could substitute the two. Corn syrup is a standard ingredient in pecan pie. It’s also one of the sweeteners that I avoid.

Maple syrup is packed with nutrients and anti-oxidants. Combined with pecans’ massive health benefits this dessert is a phenomenal superfood.

“One saintly Ma from Bangalore tells us, “We need to eat a little sweet on occasion, so we stay sweet.” – Yoga Kitchen: Recipes from the Shoshoni Yoga Retreat

I’d been hesitant because I wasn’t sure how to do it. I didn’t want to mess up or waste good ingredients. But after a two week Personal Yoga retreat I felt more courageous and aware of my body’s messages.

It became clear that I needed more information. So I did some research which led me to this recipe. It’s similar to Shoshoni’s version and has more detailed instructions.

A Personal Spin

I used pre-shelled pecan pieces (slow food is great but ain’t nobody got time to shell 2 1/2 cups of pecans) and added a little nitrate-free bacon fat to the pie dough (bacon fat prevents the crust from burning). You could go straight butter – just keep an eye on the edges. [Is Lard Healthy?]

Maple Pecan Pie

Prep: 8 hours or overnight

Servings: 8

One 9″ Pie Crust

  • 3/4 cup white flour, chilled
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, chilled
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 5 Tbsp butter, chilled
  • 3 Tbsp bacon fat, chilled
  • 4-6 Tbsp ice water

Filling

  • 2 1/2 cups toasted pecan pieces
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp Bourbon (optional)

Prepare the Crust

  1. In a food processor pulse to combine the flours and salt. Add chilled butter and fat and process until the mixture has the consistency of cornmeal. Add 4 Tbsp ice water and pulse until the dough gathers into a ball. Add 1-2 additional Tbsp of water if needed.
  2. Transfer dough to a piece of parchment paper. Form dough into a round disk, handling as little as possible. Wrap dough in parchment paper and place in a sealed ziplock bag. Place in freezer for 30 minutes.
  3. Unwrap dough and lightly flour a rolling pin. Roll dough into a 12″ circle. Transfer to a 9″ pie plate. Press rolled dough to fit pie plate. Shape edges into a fluted or decorative design of your choice.
  4. Chill crust for 30 minutes.
  5. Line pie crust with parchment paper and dry rice or pie weights. Bake crust at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then remove paper and weights.

Filling

  1. Prepare the filling while the pie crust is baking. In a medium saucepan melt the butter, brown sugar and salt. Remove from heat and add maple syrup, vanilla, and Bourbon.
  2. Stir in the toasted pecan pieces. Option: to infuse the pecans add them to the vanilla-syrup while they are still hot. Let cool completely.
  3. In a small bowl whisk the three eggs. Stir into pecan mixture in three additions.

Pour filling into hot, pre-baked pie crust. Reduce heat to 275 degrees. Bake pie for 20-40 minutes. I recommend reading the Bojon Gourmet’s article for how to determine when the pie is done.

Let the pie cool completely and refrigerate. One hour before serving cut into slices and bring to room temperature.

If you enjoyed this article you might also like:

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Self Teacher Study: Mind Body Tune Up

Hot Logic Mini

hot-logic-mini-parkDisclaimer: I am not paid to endorse the Hot Logic Mini. I am simply sharing my appreciation for the intelligent design of this product with my readers.

So I’ve never blogged about a product before, but this is one of the best things that I’ve come across in a long time. And it ties into past discussions about alchemical cooking, health, the Slow Movement, etc.

The Hot Logic Mini is a personal portable oven that uses what the company describes as a “low-slow conductive heating system.” According to their website:

The Hot Logic Mini is ideal for those of us who don’t like microwaves… busy people who don’t have time to cook… truckers / delivery drivers / travelers who don’t have a lunch room… food preppers & fitness enthusiasts… folks with food allergies or special dietary concerns who want to carry a safe, healthy, hot meal with them anywhere they go.

I can’t stand microwaves. Just the thought of ruining a good meal by wicking away all of the nutrients makes me feel pretty sad. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t like to eat out very much. I prefer to cook my own meals because I know exactly what’s going in them and how they were prepared.

When I go out into the world for work or school, microwaves tend to be the only available option. I am a firm believer in the necessity of eating hot meals. Hot food is as essential for good health as hot beverages are – especially in the colder months.

I am the kind of person who carries a toaster oven around with me. [Taoist Travel Tip: they do come in handy on the road.] But toaster ovens are bulky and can take up space, and it’s not so easy to be discreet with them. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered my new favorite thing:

The Hot Logic Mini

I just spent a month playing with my new toy. I paid $40 for it on ebay and didn’t want to take the risk of having someone steal it. So I kept it my car and used a portable jump starter with a USB outlet and a 100 watt car inverter (the Mini uses 45 watts).

I use glass pyrex containers for food storage. Glass is preferable to plastic or aluminum foil, because glass keeps the food safe from harmful chemicals that leach into the food when it’s heated. Glass is also non-porous so it doesn’t absorb food or germs.

hot-logic-mini-quicheSo what did I make? I tried a bunch of different things. Indian food packets with rice are easy and delicious. Pasta dishes reheat super well. Any kind of stew (like chicken pot pie with a mashed potato crust) is ideal.

hot-logic-mini-chicken-pot-pieI don’t recommend soups with the pyrex containers because they’re not leakproof. And spills are kind of a pain in the butt. The inner seams of the bag are not so easy to clean. But that’s really my only criticism of the Mini’s design.

hot-logic-mini-pastaMy favorite discovery was the defrosted breakfast burrito. I did heat them in the paper wrapping but they reheat really, really well that way. I could probably unwrap the burrito and put it in a glass container. But convenience won me over on busy mornings.

hot-logic-mini-breakfast-burritoAs far as heating time goes, you’ll want to turn on the Mini 60-90 minutes in advance of when you’ll be eating. The burritos dry out a bit if they’re left in any longer than that. But any dish with moisture can sustain even longer heating times. It’s kind of like a crock pot in that way…

Which brings us back to the topic of slow food and yoga. Slow cooked foods are ideal for many reasons. The longer you slow cook certain foods (such as beans) the more chi or vital life force is infused into the food. It’s kind of like adding a bottle of fuel treatment to your gas tank. Slow cooking helps you increase the power, function and mileage of your body-vehicle.

If you’d like some recipe ideas you’re welcome to check out my Pinterest. If you enjoyed reading this article you might also like:

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mind-body-mandala-mums

Get Your Evolution On

Sri Aurobindo Superman Evolution

With the recent release of the new action film Lucy it seems fitting to discuss the controversial topic of superhumans. As a small disclaimer, this subject requires the willingness to go beyond what some might consider to be a “rational” thought process. By all means, I encourage you to exercise your discernment muscles. But I will say that it helps to approach yoga philosophy with an open mind…

There are many different kinds of superhumans which can essentially be divided into two categories-natural and artificial. According to Wikipedia, “A super race is a future race of improved humans that is proposed to be created from present-day human beings by deploying various means such as eugenics, genetic-engineering, yoga, nanotechnology, and/or brain-computer interfacing to accelerate the process of human evolution.”

The branch of superhuman development that involves yogic technologies is part of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga:

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) developed a system of yoga called Integral yoga to transform selected humans into a new super race called the Supermen that would have a fully and permanently awakened kundalini and thus become siddhas with various siddhis (paranormal powers) such as the ability to observe chakras and auras with the third eye, to travel by astral travel at will, to be able to subsist adequately with full bodily functions on small amounts of vegetarian food, to go long periods without sleep, to communicate by telepathy and to levitate. The function of this new super race would not be to dominate others but to lead humanity toward world peace. – Wikipedia

Paranormal powers without the use of drugs, surgery or technology might sound more like fantasy than science fiction. Social conditioning based on the 300-year old system of Western science has made it difficult to comprehend such things. No matter what your belief system may be remember that there is no one-size-fits-all method to learning. I recommend that you use what works and leave the rest. Personally, I don’t believe that vegetarianism is the ultimate superhuman diet.

The science of yoga is designed to assist with paranormal evolution. The siddhis are part of the journey but they are not the end result. It takes a long time and a lot of hard work but ultimately the Slow Path is the best way. While the quick fix of hotwiring our brains and bodies into an artificial state of advanced evolution may seem tempting, it is unlikely that these future technologies will be available to anyone but the super-elite. And if by some slim chance they were available to the general public I wouldn’t trust them. The potentially damaging effects to the subtle body isn’t worth the risk.

What do you think about super-humanism? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

Taoist Travel Tips

Taoist Travel Tips Canal St

I had a bit of an adventure today – two train rides and one dash through Manhattan via the subway. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some ways that I streamline these kinds of big travel days.

Travel Tip #1: The Train is Awesome.

I love the train – it beats riding on the bus every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Some of the views between the city and upstate are simply fantastic. The train rocks my world for so many reasons, including:

  • The train is much more time efficient than the bus
  • I can actually work or read without getting motion sickness
  • The chance of getting stuck in traffic in minimal
  • There’s no risk of crazy drivers.

Instead of dealing with all that, I’m can sit back and do a bit of writing while sipping on hot tea.

Travel Tip #2: A thermos makes a trip ten times more enjoyable.

The train is far less stressful than other kinds of travel (except for maybe riding a bike). Airplanes are much more time efficient but the altitude swings are pretty tough on the body. As for boats… despite growing up on the coast of Maine I’m not a huge fan of boats. To each their own, but the train is the best form of Taoist travel that I’ve found so far.

Beacon Waterfall

I call it Taoist travel because Taoism teaches us to move through life much like moving with the current of a river. This doesn’t mean living in complete submission to whatever happens to you – it’s about learning how to engage skillfully and navigate life more effectively.

One example of Taoist travel is to avoid wasting energy by fighting unnecessary battles (this includes dealings with unsavory people). You can see this principle in nature, where animals instinctively know to conserve their energy by traveling the paths of least resistance.

Taoist Travel Tips Emily Seymour

Travel Tip #3: When it comes to stuff, less is always more.

What would you pack for a two month trip? I pretty much live this way. Schlepping my gypsy carriage (which consists of a roller suitcase, backpack, cooler bag and yoga mat) has taught me that as little stuff as I think I might have it’s always too much. Try lugging a suitcase up two flights of stairs in a busy subway station and you’ll know what I mean.

Travel Tip #4: Escalators and elevators are like gold.

As much as possible, try to save yourself from unnecessary strain. Take the escalator or elevator whenever possible. A little hard schlepping never hurt anyone (it probably builds character) but try to balance the effects by switching your carrying arm regularly.

Travel Tip #5: Take your time.

There’s no need to rush. Give yourself plenty of time to figure out where you’re going, to eat slowly, and to find your connections, gates or exits. When you’re able to enjoy the journey your mood improves. You might even find yourself smiling at strangers.

Do you have any Taoist Traveler’s Tips to share?  Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

You might also enjoy reading: More Taoist Travel Tips

Taoist Travel Tips Brooklyn Bridge

Winter Retreat Recipe – Potatoes au Gratin

Potatoes au Gratin

When the weather’s cold and gloomy all I feel like doing is eating comfort foods. Potatoes smothered in cheese have been on my mind so I decided to whip up a batch of potatoes au gratin. This is one of my “go-to” winter recipes. The potatoes, cayenne pepper and onion are all “warming” foods and the sharp cheddar cheese sauce is full of good fats and protein. In the winter slow-cooked foods are where it’s at!

A few tips about this dish.

I used organic potatoes so I left the skins on. You could peel the skins if you wanted to but if you leave them on you’ll get an extra dose of fiber. I don’t recommend leaving the skins on if you’re using conventional potatoes though.

A great way to reduce your prep time is to slice the potatoes and onions in a food processor with a slicing blade attachment. Slicing by hand takes a lot longer and the pieces tend to be uneven. You can also shred your cheddar cheese in the processor, just switch to the cheese grater attachment.

Cayenne pepper is a powerhouse superfood.

I always use cayenne pepper instead of black pepper. Many people don’t know this but black pepper is mildly toxic. Cayenne lowers cholesterol, increases circulation and even strengthens the stomach lining [to learn more read: Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper].

It does takes a while to make this dish (about 2 hours) but it’s SO worth it! And your kitchen will smell amazing. For even more flavor you can garnish your potatoes au gratin with a splash of hot sauce. You could also sprinkle some chopped nitrate-free cooked bacon or lay a couple of fried eggs on top. Enjoy!

Potatoes au Gratin

makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium organic russet potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • salt and cayenne pepper
  • 3 Tbsp butter plus extra for greasing pan
  • 3 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt + more for seasoning the potatoes
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 & 1/2 cups shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 10″ x 8″ x 3″ pyrex baking dish.
  2. Cut the potatoes in half and cut into thin 1/8″ slices (or use a food processor).
  3. Layer half of the potatoes in the baking dish. Season generously with salt and cayenne. Set the other half of the potatoes aside.
  4. Cut the onion into thin slices and layer on top of the potatoes.
  5. Layer the remaining potato slices on top of the onion slices. Season again with salt and cayenne.
  6. In a medium-size saucepan melt 3 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the flour and 1/2 tsp salt and stir constantly for one minute.
  7. Add milk and continue to cook and stir until thickened.
  8. Add the cheese and continue stirring for another minute until the cheese has melted.
  9. Pour cheese sauce over potatoes and cover dish with aluminum foil.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 & 1/2 hours (or until the potatoes are fork tender).
  11. In the last fifteen minutes of cooking remove the foil to brown the top layer.

Potatoes au Gratin Hot Sauce

So good with a splash of hot sauce!

Personal Retreat Reflections

Personal Retreat ReflectionsI’m on a personal retreat right now and have been diving into my practice. I’ve wanted to take an inner-teacher sabbatical during the holidays for years. I feel blessed to have an abundance of uninterrupted practice time. It puts me back into alignment with my own rhythms. And my inclination is to find ways to share this bounty with others. So here goes…

Winter is a time for hibernation.

The life-giving source of energy that comes from the sun is in short supply. Winter is also the season when apana, the downward current of energy is most prevalent. Apana is the force of energy that governs elimination in the body (excretion, urination, menstruation). Psychologically, it’s best described as a state of introversion. In nature it’s the force that draws sap down into the tree’s roots.

The holiday season presents an interesting counterbalance, which typically requires a great deal of output – emotionally, socially, financially, and physically. These cultural pressures don’t necessarily align with the laws of nature. Being extroverted can be very challenging when we’re disconnected from our natural rhythms. And with so much emphasis on externalization it’s easy to fall into the mental trap of thinking that we are not enough.

We might try to power through the season like a marathon runner but that’s a great way to make ourselves sick. Eating foods that we don’t typically eat, drinking excess amounts of alcohol and running around in the cold can take a significant toll on our physical health. Over stimulation and stress can make us feel like we’re wearing an invisible suit of armor.

While it is possible to cultivate energy through the holidays, it’s very important that we have enough gas in our tanks. So how to do this? Here are some simple suggestions of ways to practice “refilling your cup.”

  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of room temperature, filtered water.  Add a little fresh lemon or lime juice if you have them on hand.
  • Eat the most beautiful food.
  • Be mindful of CATS (caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, sugar).
  • Turn off your television.
  • Avoid violent movies and fear-induced media hype.
  • Go outside and spend time in nature.
  • Don’t read the news when you’re eating.
  • Go to bed when you’re tired or take a nap.
  • Slow down.
  • Meditate. Light a candle or sit by a fireplace (the ultimate television).
  • Exercise. Move in ways that your body enjoys.
  • Breathe. A lot.
  • Relax in the sunshine.
  • Play, laugh, love.
  • Drink tea.
  • Sing your songs.

What are some other ways to nourish your spirit during this time of year? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

Is Power Yoga the Anti-Yoga?

Is Power Yoga the Anti-Yoga

A friend sent me a coupon for a week of free yoga classes so I decided to check out a studio in Manhattan. I’d heard good things about this place – that it’s one of the better studios in the city. On their website they describe their signature style as being based on the chakra system. I let go of any pre-conceived ideas of what this could mean and went with an open mind.

There was a strong MTV element.

The walls were painted with graffiti and one wall displayed a mural of Ganesha holding a boom box and a stack of dollar bills. The floor was covered in glitter and pink hearts that were arranged to help students align their mats so they wouldn’t kick one another in a packed room.

The studio owner came in sporting an Obama tee shirt and a half sleeve. I’d never seen such a blatant political advertisement by a teacher (yoga is not political BTW). The music was bumping from start to finish and the sequencing included some creative variations. The predominant theme of the class was fun, Fun, FUN! It must be what the student-clientele are willing to pay $18 a class for.

I had a hard time concentrating.

The over-stimulation was a stark contrast to my usual “studio” of parks and nature. It felt like I was in a dance class rather than a yoga class. I didn’t experience anything about the “signature style” to indicate a relationship with the chakras. It may have not been a part of the lesson that day (which I honestly don’t remember).

A few days later I received an email from a Buddhist Dharma teacher who shared his reflections on the benefits of Slow Yoga. He said that Slow Yoga helps his students with their meditation practices and that they believe that power yoga is the anti-yoga, or at least anti-enlightenment in the same way that guided meditation is anti-meditation.

With the MTV yoga experience still fresh in my mind, I had to agree that power yoga presents an obstacle. It’s not to say that power yoga can’t be used as a stepping stone but its primary function is aerobic entertainment. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that guided meditation is anti-meditation though…

What do you think? Is power yoga the anti-yoga? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.