What is Yogic Cooking?
There is a simple and beautiful tradition established about 500 years ago in India, in which all people regardless of caste, religion, race or gender, sit together as equals and share in a blessed meal. No one has special seating or dishes. All sit on the floor and are served together. This is called Langar (also sometimes called a “free kitchen”). At the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, over 10,000 people are served every day in this way! The food is simple, usually dal (spiced lentil soup), chapattis (whole wheat flat bread) and sabjee (curried vegetables), and is of such a high vibration because it is prepared and served with constant chanting and prayer. All of the food and labor is donated. It is considered a blessing and privilege to contribute in any way.
We can easily bring this tradition into our communities, and I think the holiday season is a perfect time to do this. You can check with shelters in your area for the homeless, battered spouses, abandoned children…and ask about opportunities there to help prepare and serve food. Ask if they could use your help on a regular basis, even once a month.
If you are beset with a difficult challenge or wish blessings for a special event, whether it be great personal loss, a stressful important decision, or a family birthday…say a prayer, make some food, find some people (invite friends over, bring it to work, share it with your neighbors), and serve it. This act of preparing and serving food with love and prayer is very potent! Such an offering brings power to your prayer, a deep sense of fulfillment, and brings the hand of the Divine into the resolution of your affairs.
One day my husband came home and said he wanted to start serving langar to the homeless every Saturday. He made a few phone calls, I rounded up a few pots, and the next thing we knew we were preparing food for 200 people every week (we did this for over a year) and served it at the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles. As word spread of what we had undertaken, donations came in to help pay for the food and two 60-quart stainless steel pots manifested. A local market donated fresh vegetables. Someone donated baking trays (we made cornbread every week) and in no time it became a community project.
This is to say that it doesn’t take a lot for you to make a difference. When you do something with goodness in your heart, it generates more goodness. Who knows what lives you may touch? Even the smallest bit of love and kindness goes a long, long way toward making this world a finer place.
This month I would like to share with you a few recipes for cooking in large quantity. All you need are larger pots (or use a few 6-8 quart pots), big baking trays (the disposable aluminum roaster pans are fine), and another person or two to share in preparation.
1 large roaster pan (approx. 13″x20″x4″) or two 10″X13″X2″ pans (about 60 servings)
10 cups cornmeal
5 cups whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup powdered buttermilk
4 heaping tbsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. salt
3 1/2 cups safflower or olive oil
1 3/4 cups honey
7 cups nonfat milk
10-15 jalapeno chilies, chopped (use the seeds too!)
1 large red onion in 1/4 inch dice
Before mixing batter, have ready:
- Baking pan lightly sprayed with olive oil
- All ingredients handy
- Oven preheated to 350° F, pan of water in bottom of oven
Mix cornmeal, flour, buttermilk powder, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Add oil, honey and milk. Mix lightly. Add peppers and onion. Mix enough just to combine. Immediately pour into baking pan(s). Bake 350° F till toothpick comes out clean (time depends on size of pan, depth of batter), about 30-35 minutes for small pans, and up to an hour for one large pan. Once the top is browning (check after about 15-20 minutes), cover with foil to prevent over browning.
Santa Fe Special Soup
Makes a little more than 4 gallons (about 60 1-cup servings)
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup chopped garlic
8 cups chopped onions (about 2 1/2 lbs)
1/2 bunch celery, chopped
3 gal. water
2 tsp. cumin powder
1 tbsp. dry oregano
2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup vegetable broth powder
2 tbsp. New Mexican red chili powder
5 lbs. rose potatoes, cut into nice bite-size chunks
6 carrots, scrubbed and sliced
1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes
15 long green (Anaheim) chilies, roasted, peeled and chopped (I always use fresh and roast them myself, but you may use canned instead, about 12 oz.)
5 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped into 3/4 inch cubes
2 lb. frozen corn or cut kernels from 8-10 ears of corn
2 bunches spinach, washed and chopped
2 tbsp. salt (to taste)
Heat olive oil in 20-quart soup pot. Saute onions, garlic and celery until tender. Add water and seasonings. Bring to light boil. Meanwhile, prep veggies and add to pot as they are done. Add salt. Adjust seasoning. Simmer with all ingredients 30-45 minutes.
For a nice rich Tortilla Soup, take out about 6 cups of soup (with just a little broth) and puree until smooth. Mix this back into the soup. Just before serving, add 4-6 cups of broken corn tortilla chips.