Twice a year, I pack my car full to the ceiling and drive three hours to cook for a yoga retreat deep in the woods of Kentucky. The kitchen - my station for the weekend - overlooks an expansive lake, although its view is mostly blocked by thousands of huge trees. Little streaks of blue peek through the green leaves; more or less, depending on the season. Late fall means more visibility of the water. Although I love the fullness of the oaks, maples and birches in late spring just as much.
I watch hawks circle above the tree line while I chop vegetables and listen to the group of 20 or so women practicing in the great room that’s open to the kitchen.
Cooking is a form of meditation for me, no matter the location or kitchen. But in this scenario, everything I love about it is amplified.
There is a rhythm I fall into that is as restorative for me as the asanas are for the yoginis. The openness of the kitchen to the living-room-turned-studio obliges me to tune into the tempo of their practice. When they are in meditation, I move slower, more deliberate. I am quiet. This is not the time to load the dishwasher or do heavy chopping. I save those tasks for the active part of the practice. I can bang around a little when they’re up doing headstands and backbends.
Being tuned into the pace of their practice becomes my own practice. As I work, I listen to the teachers’ lesson for the day. Whether she’s talking about the history of the goddess or the secret life of trees, I listen along and sometimes stop to take a note.
I am at perfect peace there; and laugh when the women express their guilt that I am working while they relax. They don’t understand: this is how I relax.
The yoginis always want this chocolate pepita bark on retreat. That's fine with me. It's super easy, requiring only two ingredients, not counting the sea salt or any other little exotic garnishes. Pumpkin seeds are one of the healthiest foods on the planet, full of phytonutrients, minerals and fiber. (Research here.)
But no doubt it's the crunch + chocolate + salt factor that makes these non- negotiable for the weekend's menu.
There are countless types of chocolate you can melt to drizzle over the toasted seeds. I suggest a semi sweet chocolate chip of your choice. I love the Enjoy Life brand of chocolate chips: they’re soy, gluten and dairy free. The also have a dark and milk chocolate version.
Buy raw pumpkin seeds and toast them yourself. That gives you total control over the level of crunch. I love to let them go almost to the edge of burnt. They pop as they roast. You could just as well leave them raw, if you like.
Notice the chips on the right side of the bowl. When all the chocolate has turned that lighter shade, then you can stir.
½ pound raw pumpkin seeds
12 ounces vegan or regular semi sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350.
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Spray the paper lightly with olive oil pan spray.
Spread half a pound of raw pumpkin seeds out evenly, in a single layer as much as possible.
Toast for 12 to 15 minutes until they start to brown.
Let them cool down but make sure they stay evenly spread over the pan. Gently shake the pan to redistribute them, if need be.
In a sauce pan that comfortably fits a stainless steel or glass bowl, bring an inch or so of water to boil. You could also use a double boiler here, if you possess one.
Spread the chocolate chips out in the bowl in a single layer and set over the water. Leave the chocolate undisturbed until every last morsel has melted, when all of them have faded into a lighter shade.
Whisk until the chocolate is smooth with no lumps at all. Dip the tip of a teaspoon into the chocolate and drizzle the chocolate across the seeds, with staccato flicks of your wrist as if this were an abstract expressionist painting. Do maintain control though or you’ll find strings of chocolate on everything outside the rim of the baking sheet.
Cover as much of the seeds as possible, but know that some will inevitably fall away later, when you break the mass into long chards. Throw those stragglers in a bowl and eat them too.
Once you've covered all the seeds, you can sprinkle some sea salt or candied ginger over the chocolate if you like. The yoginis love them both. There are infinite other possibilities: dried lavender? Pink peppercorns? Chili flakes? This is your work of art - you decide.
Set the pan in the fridge for half an hour or so. Then carefully break up the bark into pieces and serve. Leftovers should be kept cool and dry.
Click the link here to print the recipe:
prana is the common thread running through everything i love....the sun on my face...the sunlight through my camera.... breathing the ocean air... the sound of my breath...laughing with family + friends.