Archive for April, 2017

April 28, 2017

How to Make Ghee (Clarified Butter)

ghee newsletterI was first introduced to ghee on a backpacking trip with my mom in India. Mom had some scratches on her legs that were getting sorer and more worrisome by the week. We were in an Indian ashram and the morning prayers had just been done with the purifying fire ritual. When our teacher saw my mother’s legs he exclaimed, “That has to be treated now!” He promptly pulled some burnt, ghee-soaked, coals out of the ceremonial fire ashes, ground them between his fingers, and explained that the holy healing properties of ghee, further purified by fire and morning prayers, would be the most powerful remedy possible. We were doubtful, but had already tried all of our travel pharmaceuticals, and so she rubbed this black, greasy powder all over her angry wounds. As you are probably by now expecting, the cuts promptly healed and disappeared. It was only later that we learned, in addition to being an integral part of traditional Indian healing practices, ghee is also an Indian cooking staple.

Ghee is clarified butter. It is heated carefully until the milk solids separate and is then strained into a translucent yellow oil that has a yummy, buttery, slightly-nutty flavour. Ghee has a very high smoke point, making it an ideal cooking oil because you can cook it at a higher temperature than many other oils without losing its health benefits.  It is also rich in fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D and E.

Ghee can be bought in supermarkets but is very easy to make at home. I love the buttery smell it makes in my kitchen, as well as the satisfaction of pouring the glistening finished product into mason jars. While many are intimidated by the idea of making their own ghee it is actually a pretty simple process. Just follow the steps below to make this tasty health elixir and cooking oil.

You Will Need:20170314_081849

  • A medium size sauce pan (with a heavy bottom if possible)
  • A stirring spoon
  • A fine sieve
  • Enough cheesecloth to form several layers
  • A large measuring cup with a pouring spout (optional)
  • 454g (4 cups) of unsalted butter (organic if available)

Instructions:

  1. Cut the butter into cubes.
  2. Melt the butter on Medium heat in the sauce pan.
  3. When it begins to bubble excitedly
    turn heat to medium-low.
  4. The ghee will slowly bubble more
    quickly, the bubbles will get bigger and bigger, and eventually you will see the milk solids separating and floating to the top. Depending on the quality of your pot you may need to stir occasionally.
  5. Eventually the milk solids will sink to the bottom and a
    white layer will form on the top. When you separate this top white layer yo20170314_081831u will be able to see all the way to the bottom of the pot. The ghee will have become translucent.
  6. Continue to cook until a second energetic boiling begins. The bubbles will start again as clear small bubbles, as originally seen on the first boil. At this point the ghee is ready to be removed from heat.
  7. Arrange the cheese cloth in many layers in your sieve and place over a large measuring cup, or another pot.
  8. Pour the ghee through the cheese cloth to leave just the clear translucent ghee in the receiving pot.
  9. Pour into mason jars and leave only lightly covered at room temperature until it cools. It will take a day or so before the ghee solidifies.
  10. You can keep this is your cupboard for a few months or store in the refrigerator for longer.
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April 27, 2017

Shakti Books: Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett

 

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My well worn copy

Truly Profound Yogic Silliness

As I prepare to spend the Summer in the Himalayas where the seat of the Tibetan government is in exile I felt compelled to re-read Terry Pratchet’s comedic take on Buddhist traditions, Thief of Time. I know what you might be thinking, but in my defense I also watched Kundun (the life of the Dalai Lama) and read a lovely book by his holiness as well. These more sober activities were educational for sure, however Pratchet’s ridiculous and hilarious take on humanity, with a dab of Buddhist (kinda) philosophy, partially set in a monastery (sorta), was, hands down, the most fun part of setting the tone for my travels. As with most of Mr. Pratchett’s books it is as profound and truthful as it is ludicrous.

20170421_093502I have been in a love affair with Pratchett’s Discworld series for years but never thought to recommend one on my blog since the yoga focus seemed to make it a bit off topic. Yet, having pulled this book out in anticipation of being surrounded by Buddhist teachings this year I began to think back on all the other times I have also brought up these books in lighter Yoga Teacher Training discussions. I finally decided that to dismiss the yoga in these comedic works would do a disservice to the message of laughing Buddhas everywhere. Who said that joy could not be had in the yogic quest to find our own true nature?

When Terry Pratchett died in 2015, I was hit by the most intense celebrity-loss grief of my life. It was at first an immensely selfish grief, as I came to terms with the reality of never again starting a new Terry Pratchett book….ever. I have since however settled into a healthier place of gratitude for the many hours of pleasure that his books have brought, and continue to bring on every re-read (a bit of a lesson in aparigraha or non-grasping in here for sure).

death-crop.jpgFor those who have never read a Terry Pratchett book I will attempt to give you a bit of an idea of what to expect. The fact that you would find him in the Sci-fi/fantasy section of your local book store would be somewhat illuminating, however not the full story. His books are indeed littered with witches, dwarfs, vampires, and pretty much every other fantastical creature you have ever read about. There is also a whole cast of, let’s call them “interesting”, human beings. These characters are not the point however, Pratchett was obviously a student of eastern philosophy and human folly, his books are unerringly intelligent societal and philosophical commentary that somehow also never deviates from the main goal of being laugh out loud absurd.

With a house overflowing with yoga practice and philosophy books in a to-be-read cue, his books have been the only non-fiction I have allowed myself to read in years. They make me laugh out loud, they make me think, they make me not want to put them down even on the 3rd or 4th read. In fact, when I need a work break I often pull out a random Terry Pratchet Book and start reading wherever it falls open.

time-wheels.jpgIf you decide to read this book as a yogi, look forward to the most interesting (and non-traditional) take on Tibetan prayer wheels, and monastic lifestyle that you have ever read, as well as the funniest and most spot-on insight into what it might be like for non-corporeal energy to learn the ins and out of residing inside a physical body (think purusha to ahmkara for students of yoga philosophy). If this is your first Terry Pratchett book I cannot tell you how envious I am that you will be getting to read it for the first time.

And finally, best of all, the book even lends itself appropriate to be read with an open box of very high quality chocolate at your side. You won’t understand what I mean until you read, but it will not hurt to be prepared. If you are reading in St. John’s I recommend a dark box from NL Chocolate with lots of George Street and Longs Hills, or Purdy’s maple creams if you are out west, or Anne’s Dairy creams if you in P.E.I,

…or (while I wouldn’t do it this way) you could just read the book.