Gluten free, Sugar free, No Bake Apple Pecan Pie

no bake apple pie
Two years ago at our Yoga Therapy Training, I served a gluten free, dairy free, no sugar added, homemade apple pie. The recipe was requested. It has taken me these years, but at long last, here, finally, it is.

Unfortunately, when I first came to write it up last month I couldn’t find the recipe. Fortunately, that meant I had to try it a few times before it came right again, and that meant a lot of apple pies this autumn. Yes, we are blessed!

raw-gf-apple-pie

The saying An apple a day… is truer than everApples support your liver to help your body process and releases toxins in our air, water, food – more important now than ever. Apples help clear your colon, also more important than ever – as everyone, even mother earth, needs extra support now in eliminating waste.

Apples are good for your bloodeyes, skin. Apples are cool, so they are Pitta-reducing and anti-inflammatory. They are sweet, so they are Vata-reducing and tonifying – especially when sliced, tossed in fresh lemon juice, and sprinkled with cinnamon, as in this recipe. They are also light enough to be good for Kapha, reducing blood sugar and helping you feel full with less, thanks to so much fabulous fiber.

That makes apples tridoshic, meaning they love everyone, so everyone gets to enjoy this super food, super “free”, super pie!

sweetie apple

Be sure you use your favorite apple. Since they aren’t going to be cooked, they will taste in the pie the way they taste in your hand when you eat straight from the fruit basket. I used “Sweetie” apples, but anything fresh, crunchy and sweet will be good.

For the decoration, I wanted some red so used a Fuji, but a crispy green apple would give a lovely color, too.

apple pecan pie

I added a bit of almond butter to make it an extra high protein, high fiber, high nutritional meal I could have for breakfast, or for the kids as a midday snack. The almond butter makes the filling a bit more caramel-y, but if you feel that is too nutty for you, leave it out. It’s still great.

Also, if you are allergic to nuts you can skip the pecans and just make a crust of dates. Yes, just dates. Or, if it’s safe for you, add a tablespoon of coconut oil, and/or toasted sunflower seeds,

If you want it fully raw, skip the pecan toasting. I’ve done it that way and it works, too. But toasting draws the divine essence from pecans, giving golden, nutty grounding to the crisp, sunburst of the apple.

glutenfree apple pie

Easy, No Bake Apple Pecan Pie

Pie Crust:

2 c Pecans
10 Medjool Dates, pits removed
1 T Coconut Oil
A hearty pinch of Himalayan Salt
A pinch of Cinnamon
A dash Nutmeg

Pie Filling:

6 Apples
6 Medjool Dates, seeds removed
1 Lemon, juiced
2 T Almond Butter, optional
1 T Raw Honey, also optional
1 hefty pinch of Himalayan Salt
1 hearty dash of Cinnamon
1 light dusting of Cardamom, optional
1/4 c Chia Seeds

To make the crust:

Toast the pecans until they are very lightly brown. Put them aside. In your electric blender, macerate the dates. Add the coconut oil and spices and mix. Toss in the pecans and pulse lightly three times, just enough to break up and integrate with the dates, but careful not to turn this into pecan butter.

Press the crust into a pie dish (mine is 9.5″). Cover with a plate facing up so the slight bowl of the plate presses into the crust and so that the crust is entirely covered. Place in your refrigerator if you have a few hours before filling, or into your freezer if you don’t.

To make the filling: 

Again, start with the dates. Blend on high speed until they are completely mashed. Juice your lemon and set aside 1 tablespoon for later. Add the lemon juice, almond butter honey and spices to the dates and blend well. Slice your apples and add. Blend until the mixture starts resembling a very chunky apple sauce. Add the chia seeds. Pulse a few times to blend thoroughly. Pour this mixture onto the pie crust. Spread evenly. Cover (I turn the plate that was sitting on the crust over and use to cover) and place in your fridge. Allow to set at least four hours.

apple pie

Garnish: 

This doesn’t need a topping, but if you like the apple rose on top, just core an apple and slice very, very thin. To keep the slices from browning as you slice, put each slice as you cut into a bowl with that remaining lemon juice. Once all the pieces are cut and in the bowl, sprinkle a dash or two of cinnamon and toss. The set each piece, one by one, in an overlapping circle around the outer edge. Continue making smaller circles towards the middle until the pie is covered. Then set a pecan or a few thin slices of lemon rind in the very center.

This is so simple and so quick: apart from the 4 hours in the refrigerator to let the chia seeds do their work, you can make this start-to-finish in 15 minutes.

apple pie

I guess you could call this a trick on a treat, because it seems like dessert, yet it’s delightfully good for you. Let me know if you try it, and any variations you enjoy.

being silly at the bay: napping after a yoga therapy training picnic
being silly at the bay :: protecting from the sun :: napping after a yoga therapy training picnic

What sort of tricks or treats are you doing this hallowed e’en?

Six Reasons to Celebrate with Chocolate

Raw Chocolate Truffles on Daniel Max’s Blog

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Best day of the year, or commercial imposition? Invention of the Hallmark industry, or a wonderful reminder to love, love, love?

However you see it, most of us seem to agree ~ the day presents a delicious opportunity to enjoy one of nature’s most luscious gifts: Chocolate. Scientifically named Theobroma, or food of the gods, chocolate treats us to a heavenly experience, pointing to the feast that is our divine nature.

Being divine means that chocolate is good for you ~ as long as it is raw, unfussed, and minimally processed, of course. Here are six good reasons why.

Six Reasons to Celebrate with Chocolate

Chocolate Reduces Pitta

Chocolate will transport you from peeved to passionate in one time-stopping, evocative bite. When my Pitta clients sheepishly admit to a daily indulgence in dark chocolate, I congratulate them. Sometimes there is nothing better than chocolate to help you release stress and restore a deep, sweet breath. Just one bite is the perfect medicine.

The Science: My friend Nicole Plaisted, Herbalist, Medicine Woman, co-founder of San Diego Herb Co. and a Theobroma Expertoma explains, “Chocolate contains PEA, a chemical known as the molecule of love. This same chemical is found in Blue Green Algae and is known to increase concentration and focus by balancing the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It is one of the reasons we crave chocolate.”

Chocolate is Anti-aging

Chocolate helps keep you looking young and feeling great, while quietly, potently staving off disease.

The Science:  Chocolate is off the charts on the ORAC Index, which measures antioxidants. According to Nicole, “Cacao has the highest antioxidant content of any known food. Antioxidants slow the aging process by preserving cells and preventing their decay.”

Italian researchers found that eating 100 grams of dark chocolate a day for 15 days lowered blood pressure in a 15-person study. This University of L’Aquila team also found that the body’s ability to metabolize sugar was improved. Both results are credited to antioxidant levels.

Chocolate Makes You Smart

Chocolate is loaded with minerals that feed the neural networks, balancing brain chemistry, enhancing memory, increasing clarity and combating depression.

The Science: “Mineral rich foods can be hard to come by but fortunately the food that we love most of all is one of the most mineral dense foods we can eat,” says Nicole. “High in magnesium and iron, Cacao nourishes our nerves, brain, heart, bones, and supports the free-flowing life forces in the body. It is also full of trace minerals which, combined with enzymes from raw foods like fruits and vegetables help to build new cells which can extend the life of the body.”

Chocolate May Help with Weight Loss

A chocolate bar processed with hormone-laced milk solids, artificial fats and vats of chemically altered sugar is not slimming. But pure, raw cacao seems to be.

The Science: Cacao seems to diminish appetite, thought to be due to its monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors (MAO inhibitors) which allow more serotonin and other neurotransmitters to circulate in the brain. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, MAO inhibitors facilitate youth regeneration and rejuvenation, and encourages weight loss naturally.

Chocolate is Bliss

The Science:  “Another reason to love chocolate is the molecule of bliss called Anandamide, from the Sanskrit word Ananda for bliss. This molecule is a cannabinoid neurotransmitter and mimics the endorphins you get when working out,” says Nicole. Cacao contains enzyme inhibitors that decrease our bodies’ ability to breakdown anandamide. This means that anandamide may stick around longer, making us feel good longer, when we eat cacao

Chocolate is Seductive

To really draw out the flavor of chocolate you have to warm it in your mouth, press it up against the palate, slowly allow it to melt, and gently roll it around so all its various tastes can be enjoyed across the landscape of your tongue.

Have you ever tasted Fortunato no. 4? Listen to chocolate farmers and chocolatiers describe their first tasting of this sensuous delight.

Nicole’s Hot Cacao

“Now that you know your favorite food is so good for you, all the more reason to enjoy it,” says Nicole. “Try this yummy, guilt-free hot chocolate recipe: 1 can coconut milk, 1 can water (use the coconut milk can), 2 tbsp Cacao powder, and your sweetener of choice. Add 2 cinnamon sticks and let it simmer on low heat for 15 mins. Enjoy with your loved ones.”

~

Happy Valentine’s Day. May you remember that, even though chocolate is delicious and good for you, love requires no person, no element, no thing ~ for love is an energy that eternally abides within.

If you really knew how much love is in you, seeking you and surrounding you, your heart would burst.  So have a cup of hot cacao and sip on that.

Namaste!

Tapioca Tribute

 Apricots add a Springtime flavor to our Tapioca Treat

Yesterday I made a Tapioca Treat for my Father’s birthday, which I have to share with you because it is one of those “too good to be true” desserts.

I can’t say my father loved it. It has been a long time since we’ve celebrated with him in person. He would have been 75 this year. But he has been gone almost 20, so now it is a celebration of the heart, an internal tribute to a life that gave life, a personal thanksgiving for his everyday example of nobility in action.

In addition to the endless love, encouragement and opportunities my father showered on us, his five children, he was, for me, a great “spiritual” teacher. He didn’t love the formalities of religion: he was young when his mother died and the Priest who said the Funeral Mass read from the script of another bereaved family, using all the wrong names and describing a very different mother.

That early loss and betrayal preceded the break-up of his family and long, lonely, later-forgotten teen years. Yet, my father was Sattvic ~ wise, clear-minded, generous, curious, fair, smart, philosophical, broad-minded, brave, kind, a safe refuge, and a lot of fun. I often say to myself, not harshly but compassionately, that I haven’t, and may never, live up to the promise of being George L. Plumb’s eldest. But I do my best to pass on the best he gave to us.

Dad

When we were little, he loved gathering us all into the kitchen on a Saturday afternoon 
to make Tapioca and I wanted to remember that with my stepson. So in his honor, I made a special dessert and shared it with my own family, as a flavor of a man they will never meet.

This is a perfect treat for my father’s April birthday not only for its tastes of love reviving connections long lost,  but also because Tapioca is “Kapha-reducing” ~ exactly the action we want from our meals in Springtime. In the Spring, we look to significantly reduce dairy, sugar and heavy grains, while increasing the fibrous foods that make us lighter and warming spices that boost metabolic fires. This Tapioca Recipe is just that. It combines all the digestive benefits of Lassi, with fiber and heart-loving betacarotene from Apricots, and the low-calorie, high-energy boost of Tapioca ~ without any sugar added. I hope you enjoy it!

Tapioca Pearls

Apricot Tapioca Pudding

Tapioca Pearls, 1/3 cup
Water, 2 cups
Dried Apricots, 10-12
Ghee, 1 Teaspoon (Coconut Oil for Vegan)
Cinnamon, 1/2 Teaspoon
Ginger, 1/8 teaspoon
Clove, 2 Shakes
Cardamom, 2 Shakes
Nutmeg, Dash
Asafoetida, Dash
Rock Salt, Pinch
Honey, 2 Tablespoons
Plain Yogurt, 1 cup

Boil 1 and 1/3 cups of water and add the tapioca pearls. Stir, reduce heat, cover. After ten minutes, check. It is done when the pearls have dissolved and it looks like melted glue.

Meanwhile, melt the ghee in a saucepan on medium low heat. Add the spices and saute one minute. Toss in the apricots and stir to coat throughly. Turn up the heat and add the remaining water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and allow to simmer about ten minutes, until the tapioca is done.

Put the apricots with the water, now more of a juice, into a blender. Mix until the apricots are minced. Add the yogurt and the tapioca and blend lightly. If the mixture is cooled to a temperature that does not burn to the touch, add the honey and blend one final time. Otherwise, you can drizzle the honey over it once served. It should be the consistency of pudding with a light peach color.

You can also just stir it all together if you don’t have a blender. That is how I made it for my Ayurveda Spring Detox Cooking Class. Just be sure, if you do it that way, that you give the apricots a good fine chop before you stew them.

Garnish with a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg, a mint or basil leaf, chopped glazed pecans or pine nuts, a touch of orange zest for color and zing. Or, just grab a spoon and dig in. Yum!

Apricot Tapioca Pudding

Not too long ago, referring to my father, my college roommate said, “We all want our own George.”  He knew how to lift you up, make you laugh, nourish your mind, feed your soul. He would impart wisdom in easy gestures, subtle ways.

Even in making a straightforward dish like Apricot Tapioca Pudding, for example, I wonder at the world: its diversity, flavors, inventiveness, and above all, the potency of Mother Nature to create such delicious, substantial, cleansing foods. For the thought spirals that go from tapioca pearls to cosmic chemistry, while vividly appreciating the simple sensuous tastes of Spring’s profusion, I have my Dad to thank.

I just wish I did more of that while he was here. Thanking, that is. He knew all along what it has taken me decades to painstakingly learn; that is, how to live a Sattvic life, and feed the body according to the seasons.  For that example, and so much more, I am deeply grateful.

My first Yoga Teacher

Thank you, Dad!

Buche de Noel

Our Christmas Dessert

Morgan and I love to bake, so yesterday he invited friends over and we had a holiday-treats-baking-party.

Morgan is creative, adventurous and very clever. Ask him what he wants to be when he grows up and he will tell you, as he has been telling people most of his 13 years, “An Inventor!” If you show interest, he will tell you, too, of the details, features and purpose of the numerous, extraordinary designs he is already imagineering.

This year he led his Robotics team to the Regional Championships where they demonstrated a “Nanobot” designed to eliminate cancer. With organizations like Dean Kamen’s First our children have terrific opportunities to imagine and engineer solutions that will make us all  safer, happier, and healthier. We are dedicated to that, so we do what we can to keep his curiosity and creativity engaged.

Yesterday, that meant setting an Invention Challenge in the kitchen. The mission was to create  a new recipe, without looking anything up, for a divine Chocolate Peppermint Brownie that would make the boys say, “We HAVE to make this again!” But it had to be made without flour, milk, eggs, sugar, or anything we couldn’t pronounce, or anything that comes in a can, box or freezer ~ and it had to be so good we could devour it in one sitting, but so healthy that we would still feel great after we did.

Demonstrating their great technical prowess, the boys created a success, although what we made didn’t exactly come out like a brownie. It had more of a pudding consistency, but it wasn’t that, either. Morgan’s friend suggested we call it a “Prownie” as a merging of the two, which led to a whole chorus of linguistic possibilities, but ultimately we decided to call it a Buche de Noel.

We had two reasons. First, once it is served on the plate, it does look like a Yule log. Second, while it accidentally tastes much like the traditional French Christmas dessert it is named for, we think that most people won’t know what a Buche de Noel is supposed to taste like, so they won’t arrive at ours with preconceived expectations that might otherwise divert them from enjoying ours as much as it deserves.

There may be a third reason:  is it possible that it tastes even more divinely delicious with a name, itself, so divine? The beat of the “B,” the bass of the “Ooo,” the soothing “Shhh” that sounds like a sled whirring through snow.  Sleigh bells ring, Are you listening?

We called it a “Buche de Noel”

AN AYURVEDIC CHRISTMAS: BUCHE DE NOEL

This recipe makes a tremendously satisfying treat. Read on for the health benefits of its two main ingredients, almonds and peppermint.

2 cups Almonds, blanched and skinned
8 Dates
1/2 cup Almond Milk
2 tbsp. Maple Syrup
2 tsp. Peppermint Oil or Extract
3 shakes Cinnamon
1 shake Nutmeg
Pinch of Sea Salt
1/4 cup Coconut Flakes
1/4 cup dried cherries
Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cacao Baking Bar, broken into small pieces
1 tsp. Earth Balance Buttery Spread (or Ghee, if you are not Vegan)

Begin by soaking the cherries in fresh water. Place the coconut flakes on a toaster tray and toast for one minute. Watch carefully, as coconut can burn easily. Put the remaining ingredients except chocolate and “butter” in a juicer or food processor and blend, blend, blend. You may have to stop and start a few times, scraping the sides often, until you get a smoth consistency.

Melt the “butter” in a medium size pot over a very low heat. Pour in the almond mixture, add the chocolate pieces and stir. Keep stirring until the chocolate is melted and  thoroughly integrated into the mixture.

Transfer to a serving pan and spread the mixture evenly across the dish. Dry the cherries and sprinkle them with the toasted coconut over the top.  You can also add a crushed candy cane to decorate the “buche,” if you are not too strict about the no sugar rule. Allow it sit for one hour before serving.

“Buche”

Health Benefits

If you are planning on making treats this holiday season but don’t want the sugar blues, consider a little deconstruction, and focus on the basics. Many of the traditional Christmas aromas and flavors, like clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts and peppermint are also considered medicine in Ayurveda.

Almonds, for instance, are highly regarded in Ayurveda for their nutritional value and their Vata pacifying benefits. They are demulcent, expectorant, and a great tonic. Almonds are good for coughs, wasting diseases of the  lungs and kidneys, muscle tension and pain. They lubricate the skin and the microcirculatory channels, supporting all the tissues of the body, and strengthening the immune system. Almonds provide several essential nutrients and are 20% protein. From an ounce of almonds (about 24 nuts) you get about 5.6 grams of protein. They are also rich in Vitamin E and magnesium and contain calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.

Peppermint

Peppermint has anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. It is an excellent stomach digestive, soothing for colds, flu and fevers, relieving for sinus allergies. Stimulating to the mind, it enhances concentration, calms the nerves, develops emotional endurance and is extremely effective for taking the edge off tension headaches. No wonder it is so omnipresent this time of year!

Mother Nature wants to nourish you. Her food is medicine to help you to be your best. Allow her to support you this season, so you can feel the love that is the essence of all life, and the true reason to celebrate these holidays.

The The Yoga Journal Online has a tidy overview of Ayurvedic Healing Foods, including the almonds, dates and ghee we used in this recipe.

Happy Holidays!