Taos has always held a fond place in my heart. There’s something so special about its many micro climates, of vast horizons over the sage spotted mesa, the white cotton candy-like clouds painting shadows and light across the expansive views, the cold mountain streams tracing pathways through the aspens. It takes my breath away every time.
My dear friend and I have been making annual trips to Taos for the last four years. During an afternoon hike down to the hot springs in the gorge, we had the vision of bringing a group of women out to the lands where we each had found our own peace, clarity and connection. Combining her work as a yoga and energetics teacher/flower essence therapist and mine in ayurveda, yoga and nourishment, we launched Alchemy of Spirit Retreats. Now our second year in Taos, each retreat takes you through a journey of the chakras using food, breath, movement, sound and ceremony. We ate meals outside under the apple orchards and willow trees, took our guests on adventures to the mountains and meditated each morning with the sunrise over the mesa.
The menu for our Taos retreat was designed to incorporate locally-grown food and regionally-inspired flavors. As a fully plant-based menu, it was a fun challenge to create balanced meals using Ayurvedic principles with the rich cultural food history of the region. Corn – think posole and atole – is a big ingredient with strong roots in New Mexican cooking. We were lucky to find Taos Family Farms, a new company that celebrates the beauty of native, heirloom non-gmo blue and yellow corn, was located just a field’s walk away from our retreat home. We couldn’t more local than that! We met owners, David Frazer and Jason Seck, at the farmer’s market and learned about the mission behind this small, sustainable agriculture initiative.
Jason’s wife is also owner/founder of the lovely local restaurants, The Love Apple and its newer sister, Manzanita Market. The Love Apple is nestled inside a charming 1800’s adobe chapel and serves the most divine cast-iron baked blue corn muffins with a savory chive butter and sweet apple cinnamon butter. For us, the Love Apple has always been a pilgrimage site and these blue corn muffins the holy grail.
It only seemed fitting to include our own version of these heavenly muffins on our retreat menu. We used Taos Family Farm’s blue corn flour to make these, and served them with an ample side of whipped cinnamon apple butter. If you’re in Taos or Santa Fe, you can find their heirloom blue corn and yellow corn flour, ground meal, chicos and parched corn available at the Manzanita Market in Taos, Modern General in Santa Fe and at the weekend farmer’s markets.
What does Ayurveda think about corn? In the Vedic tradition, corn relates to the moon and symbolizes nourishment and fertility, similar to the history of Native American and Central/South American cultures where the many wide varieties of maize provided a staple sustenance and correlated to their creation stories. Corn’s qualities are light, warming, dry and rough, making this a great grain for reducing kapha in late winter and springtime when our outer environment is often damp and cool. The addition of ghee in the base mixture and the added topping of sweet apple butter makes this a vata friendly food as well. As with anything, eaten with moderation and in total blissful enjoyment meets the needs of each dosha.
BLUE CORN MUFFINS
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
4 cups blue cornmeal
1/2 cup tapioca starch
2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
2/3 cup melted ghee (or coconut oil)
4 eggs (or 4 flax eggs)
Preheat oven to 400F. Rub a muffin tin with ghee or coconut oil. Mix the vinegar with the milk and set aside. In a large bowl mix, combine all of the dry ingredients – cornmeal, tapioca, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted ghee or coconut oil, maple syrup, eggs and milk/vinegar mixture. Fold in the wet mixture into the dry, slowing mixing until uniform. Lightly grease the muffin pans with oil, then divide the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tins. If you want a really moist and crispy topped muffin, try a cast iron muffin pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the top is firm and the edges are slightly browned but not too dry. Remove from the pan and let cool on a wire rack for 10 – 15 minutes before serving.
Makes 18-20 muffins
WHIPPED CINNAMON APPLE BUTTER
1 cup softened organic salted butter (or swap for ghee!)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp coconut sugar
3 tbsp apple sauce
1/2 tsp sea salt
Optional: 1⁄2 tsp vanilla bean powder (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer, whip until light and fluffy. Taste and adjust flavors as desired. Store in airtight container in refrigerator until ready to use.
Makes roughly 1 cup