It is autumn… time to reflect on the seeds we have planted in spring, and nurtured in summer, and watched come to fruition in the fullness of time. And while I am speaking here of metaphorical seeds, what better way to celebrate the turning of the seasons than by baking a pie?
But why bake a pie, you may ask, when it is so easy to grab a package of pre-made sweetened carbohydrates from the local grocery emporium?
If the consumption of sweetened carbohydrates is your goal, then have at it, I say. But if you are interested in achieving transcendence through gastronomic excellence, then follow me. For what I propose is that we embark on a journey of transformation worthy of the fall season, an experience that will allow us to reflect, and inhale the aromas of exaltation, and experience the profound transformation that comes from turning the fruits of a year’s worth of labor into a truly superlative dessert.
The goal is to craft a confection so mouthwatering that people will still be talking about it next spring. And I propose to do all that using nothing but healthy, organic ingredients, producing a sumptuous confection for a meager number of calories per slice. Still with me? Then let’s dive in!
To begin, we will need to snag us some punkins my dears. While it might be tempting to take the easy route and just open a can of prepared pumpkin puree, don’t do it. (Get thee behind me, Satan!) Since we are making a transcendent dessert using no flour, sugar, cream or other traditional purveyors of deliciousness, it is incumbent upon us to use every trick in the book to produce deliciousness in other ways.
One way to do this is to start with the freshest, ripest, juiciest, most organic, locally grown pumpkins you can find. So run along to the store and have fun picking those juicy pumpkins out, my dears. Mother Rebecca will busy herself with some embroidery about the homestead until you get back. Take your time! Have fun! Don’t text and drive. Run along now. I’ll wait. And while you are at it, dears, be sure to get the kind of pumpkins that are meant for making pie (NOT the kind that are meant for carving Jack O Lanterns). Trader Joe’s has exactly the right kind, right now, and they look like this:
Back so soon? Well then…..using a sharp knife and being careful not to let it slip, carefully cut away the stem of the pumpkin, leaving a flat top. Make a cut in the pumpkin’s side to allow steam to escape as it cooks.
Put the pumpkin on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil and bake it at 375 F (in a regular oven) for about an hour. It should start to smell delicious after a while.
As the pumpkin is baking, send it loving thoughts, reflecting on the symbolic meaning of harvesting sweet fruits that have taken a long time to ripen on the vine.
After an hour, the pumpkin should be ready.
Go watch an episode of Shark Tank while riding your exercise bike, until the pumpkin is cool enough to work with. (Multi-tasking, patience, logistics, and timing are some of the virtues of making Transcendent Pie.)
Once it’s cool, cut the pumpkin open, whispering sweet words as you thank it for its sacrifice. Scoop the seeds out into a colander. Peel off the skin and put the chunks of solid pulp into a bowl to cool in the fridge.
While you are up to your elbows in slimy goo, ponder the meaning of life: how the fruits of our labors contain not only rewards we can enjoy today, but the seeds of what we will embark on in the future.
Cover the bowl with the pulp in it and put it in the fridge to cool. Rinse off the seeds to get them clean and then let them sit in the colander to drain. Throw the pumpkin skin away, realizing that it’s the only part of the pumpkin you can’t use. Understand this as a metaphor for how the structures that once supported and contained our lives eventually become superfluous and peel away.
Put the pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet covered in tin foil and bake at 300 F for half an hour to dry them out.
Then spray them with olive oil spray, sprinkle lightly with Himalayan salt, toss, and return to the oven for another 20 minutes or until they are crisp and crunchy.
Put them in a covered container in the fridge to enjoy as a snack.
Feel proud of yourself, as if you were a Native American using every part of the buffalo. (Push to the back of your mind the realization that eating pumpkin pie is a tradition stolen from the Indians and then, in a blatant act of cultural appropriation, used to celebrate their removal from their own land, in annual observation of a feast to which they had graciously invited their future oppressors, who would have starved in the wilderness and had no idea what to do with a pumpkin, otherwise. Accept the fact that life is full of ironies, that karma is a bitch, and that there is probably going to be hell to pay, but that in the meantime, we are going to enjoy our pumpkin pie, while not denying the oppressive historical realities that make it possible.)
Ok darlings, we have now completed the preliminaries and it is time to get down to some serious pie making. Are you ready? Can you handle it? Have you accepted the fact that making a Transcendent Pie from scratch is a process that is going to consume an entire day of your life, and can’t be rushed? But that it is well worth it?
The concept behind this pie is that it is not only going to be delicious, symbolic, and totally organic (hence, its transcendence) but also will contain no wheat, refined sugar, or dairy products. Not a mean feat my dears, but Mother Rebecca is a professional. (A professional WHAT has yet to be determined. We will let you know.) In the meantime, we would say “don’t try this at home”, were it not for the fact that trying this at home is exactly what we are doing, even as we speak. So yes, do try this at home, and listen up:
You are going to need some whole pecans. You are going to need 2 cups of this delectable tree fruit. You are going to put said PE-cans in the BLEN-der, set it to “grind” and give it a wee pulse, just long enough to turn the PE-cans into crumbles (but not long enough to make pecan butter, heaven forfend). It will work better if you grind one cup of pecans at a time. Put them in a bowl and add the following spices, which you have conveniently measured aforehand and shaken to blend: 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger, ¼ teaspoon cloves. Shake those combined spices onto the ground pecans and stir it all up with a fork. Get a second bowl and use it for the wet ingredients, which consist of two egg whites and two tablespoons each of maple syrup and organic unsulphured blackstrap molasses (good for what ails you). Whip that sucker up using the hand-held blending gadget you should have gotten as part of your wedding registry (if you are not married, or forgot to put it on the registry list, or have stingy relatives who couldn’t care less if you are ready to make Transcendent Pie on a moment’s notice, you are going to have to go bat your eyelashes at the neighbors and borrow theirs. Or, you could go to Mother Rebecca’s convenient old time Digital Emporium, located right on this site, to conveniently purchase one with the help of the shopping experts at Amazon.com. You can also find the Sweet Leaf Stevia and blackstrap molasses called for later in this recipe, there if you need them).
Keep blending till it’s nice and frothy and has about quadrupled in volume. Pour the pecans and spices into the wet ingredients and mix them all up together with a fork or spoon. (Your choice. Life is full of choices, and this is one of them). Put it into a fairly deep pie pan and smooth it out evenly with a spoon, and bake that baby up at 325F for 20 minutes.
While the crust is baking, you can start to assemble the filling ingredients. This is where the rubber (spatula) meets the road on the Route 66 of pie making, my dears.
Take a deep breath. Say OM. You can do this. Ready, set, begin…
Take the bowl containing the pumpkin pulp out of the fridge and measure out 6 cups of pulp, which should be just about all of it. Put it into the biggest bowl you have. Add ½ cup of unsweetened organic almond milk. Shake the following spices (that you have already measured out and shaken together in a covered plastic container) on top of all that: 1 tablespoon cinnamon, ½ tablespoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground cloves. Measure out ¼ cup of organic maple syrup and 2 tablespoons of organic unsulphured blackstrap molasses, throw em on in. There’s a party happening in that there bowl! Keep it coming… now we need a dropperful each of lemon drop flavor and vanilla flavorSweet Leaf Stevia, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Yes, darlings, let the sweetness begin! Sprinkle on a grind or two of pink Himalayan salt, because how can we appreciate the yin of sweetness without the yang of salt?
You are almost done, but we need something to hold all this together, because we are making pumpkin pie, not pumpkin soup. So for that we are going to use six egg whites (and egg whites only, because, cholesterol, and my doctor may be reading this). Crack each egg over a little bowl at the edge of the sink, pouring it back and forth melodramatically like one of those fancy sushi chefs at Benihana’s, then put the egg white into the bowl and throw the shell and yolks into the garbage disposal. (Mother Rebecca has learned just recently that egg shells are actually good for your garbage disposal. They clean the blades on the way down. And a side benefit is that there will be no messy egg yolk trash leaking out of the trash bags all the way to the dumpster, lucky you!) Repeat for all six egg whites, adding them to the big bowl with the pie filling in it, one at a time so that if one egg is bad it won’t mess up the whole pie. Contemplate the analogy of what this means in terms of keeping bad things from getting into your life.
Put the whole bowl in the sink (making sure the faucet can’t drip into it) and pound it with a meat mallet to break up the pumpkin. Once the pumpkin is largely mashed, fire up your handy dandy hand mixer (yours, or your neighbor’s, as the case may be) and start blending it all up. Start at a slow speed to control the amount of spatter that gets all over your walls (this is why Mother Rebecca instructed you to put the bowl in the sink. You did listen to Mother Rebecca, didn’t you?) Once you’ve got it somewhat blended, turn the speed up to medium high or high and keep blending until everything is thoroughly mixed and it’s starting to look like a (very lumpy and pulpy) cake batter. Once the filling is really smooth, you’re ready to pour it into the pie crust.
(You did remember to take the pie crust out of the oven after 20 minutes, right?) It should be a bit cool by now. Now turn the oven to 425 F. Get a big spoon and start to ladle the filling onto the crust.
Once the pie pan is completely filled, you are going to realize that you still have plenty of filling left. What to do? Use it to make pumpkin muffins! Line a muffin tin with paper liners and scoop the extra filling in with a spoon or coffee scooper. Bake these along with the pie, for the same amount of time.
Put the pie and muffins into the oven at 425F for 15 minutes. (Set a timer so you don’t forget). After 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 350 and keep baking for another 45 minutes to an hour. Check to see if it’s done by inserting a knife into the center of a muffin and/or the pie… when the knife comes out clean, it’s done. (If the knife is not clean then keep baking for a little longer and check again.)
Pull the pie and muffins out (remember your oven mitts!) and cool the pie on a rack, lightly covered in a paper towel, for an hour or two. At this point you are not going to be able to resist sampling a muffin, so go ahead, you’ve earned it. They are especially delicious with a little smear of Trader Joe’s organic unsalted crunchy peanut butter on top. Just saying.
Put the remaining muffins into Ziploc bags and throw them in the freezer. They are good frozen (again, with peanut butter) and take longer to eat that way. The muffins are like little pumpkin souvenirs that will allow you, the hard working chef, to continue to savor the fruits of your pie-making marathon long after the pie itself is gone. Also since each muffin is basically just pumpkin pulp, part of an egg white, and a few teaspoons of sweetener, they don’t have many calories at all (28 to be exact!). And. …fiber! It’s all good.
Once the pie has cooled down, wrap it in copious amounts of tin foil, from both the bottom and the top. Encase it completely in a tin foil cocoon, as if you were a crazy lady trying to protect your precious pie from alien gamma rays. Place it in the refrigerator and let it sit there for about six hours, to let it solidify and let the flavors gel. Your pie has been through a harrowing experience….heating, pounding, whipping, beating, and it needs to settle down and get a hold of itself. It is no longer what it was…. a motley collection of unrelated elements consisting of ground gourd pulp, tree spices, chicken embryos, and minerals….but has become a new synergy, with its own identity: a pumpkin pie. It needs to recover from the beating it took, and settle into its new role. Realize this is a metaphor for YOU, for how you have put together the random ingredients that have made up your life of the past year, taken your licks, made sure you are not half-baked, and now you are ready to calm down and accept this radiant new thing you have become, this new delectable you. Like you, your pie will accept and embrace and settle into its new identity… but it needs about six hours in the fridge to do it.
You need some cooling off time too, and you can start by cleaning up the godawful mess you made in the kitchen. (Did you think Mother Rebecca couldn’t see you? Mother Rebecca sees all, knows all…)
While the pie is cooling off and getting itself together, protected from alien gamma rays, you are returning your sink to pristine condition, till it shines:
Because pumpkin pie just tastes better with a shiny sink. (The expert on shiny sinks, at whose feet, or at least, whose website footer, Mother Rebecca learned all this, is Flylady. When Mother Rebecca was busy being an actual mother (of a young child, as opposed to of the whole world, as she is today) Flylady’s advice about shining your sink was a lifeline in a sea of domestic chaos. Here it is for anyone who may have missed it the first time around: http://www.flylady.net/d/getting-started/flying-lessons/shine-sink/)
Ok then! Your sink is clean, your pie is cool, and now it is time to enjoy! For this phase of your pie consumption experience you will need hungry people, preferably those with whom you share deep bonds of affection (or to whom you owe money or other favors and are hoping this will hold them off for another year). Assemble your people and feed them something else first, such as chicken and vegetables, because as we all know, pumpkin pie is not the main course, it is dessert. And you can’t have dessert until you’ve eaten your vegetables. (Because…mothers.)
And now, as is so often the case, comes the time of reckoning. How much has all this deliciousness cost us, and how much has it provided to us, in terms of nutrients and calories?
The wonderful people at My Fitness Pal (may they be forever blessed) have provided an incredibly handy way to track the nutritional value of any recipe, including those you make yourself. You can see the results for the pumpkin pie (including the crust) here:
And for the muffins, which have no crust, here:
How does the pie compare to a more traditional pumpkin pie?
The biggest calorie bite in Transcendent Pie comes from the crust. Each piece contains ¼ cup of pecans which is 200 calories. That means that you can turn your 259 calorie slice into a 59 calorie slice simply by not eating the crust. Or eat half the crust and enjoy a 159 calorie slice, which seems like a reasonable compromise.
As so wisely stated in Mother Rebecca’s favorite movie, Top Gun: “A good pilot is compelled to evaluate what’s happened, so he can apply what he’s learned. “
What could we do better next time we take off into the stratosphere of transcendent pie-making? Mother Rebecca’s next goal is to work on lowering the amount of fat and calories in the crust, while maintaining the deliciousness. She may switch some of the pecans out for flax and chia seeds next time. Feedback received from some of the pie-eaters was that a little more maple syrup might be good, to increase the sweetness of the filling, too.
Stay tuned for the next episode of “Pie and the Meaning of Life” (imagine cheesy background elevator muzak playing in the background) …coming to you sometime before Thanksgiving.
This is Mother Rebecca, darlings, wishing you a delicious and radiant day.
Over and out.
PS: All the instructions needed to make your own Transcendent Pie are included in this blog post. The printed recipe (with any future upgrades to lower the calories and fat in the crust, and increase the sweetness a bit) will be included in The Princess and the Pea Cookbook: Healthy Food for Picky Eaters (by Yours Truly, Princess-at-Large). To be placed on the mailing list to be notified when the cookbook is available on Amazon.com, email email@example.com and put “Cookbook” in the subject line.
Are you intrigued by the adorable tiny pumpkins on top of the pie? They are from Trader Joe’s, you can read all about them here.