Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

Mix, bake, chill and enjoy. It's as easy as that to have decadent Crème Brûlée. As a twist for the holidays, I decided to make a Pumpkin Crème Brûlée. After serious contemplation on the best cream, egg to pumpkin ratio, I made a decision, and it turned out delicious. This creamy custard has the essence of pumpkin pie, but with a lighter, more velvety feel. Since there is no crust, this is a great gluten free dessert option. Wait a minute there is a crust, but it's made from caramelized sugar and it's on top. How can you go wrong with that? This seasonal delight is ultra simple and can be made a day ahead. I highly recommend investing in a small butane kitchen torch if you want to enjoy Crème Brûlée at it's finest. The best part, besides eating it of course, is torching the sugar on top! 

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

2 cups heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup organic sugar (plus more to sprinkle on top)
1 tablespoon organic brown sugar
1/2 cup organic pumpkin
1 vanilla pod (I used Madagascar Bourbon)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (I used Vietnamese Cinnamon)
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

Take your eggs and cream out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes ahead of time. The eggs and cream should not be too cold.

Preheat oven to 325.

Whisk together egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium mixing bowl until smooth and creamy. Whisk in 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Next stir in pumpkin, spices, fresh vanilla and blend well. Add cream and gently stir to combine, taking care not to mix quickly so as not to introduce extra bubbles. 

Place un-filled ramekins in baking or casserole dish and fill with hot water half-way up the sides of ramekins. Pour mixture into ramekins.

Bake 40-55 minutes, checking every 5 minutes after 30 minutes. Bake until the custards are just set in the center but not stiff.

Remove from baking dish and place ramekins onto clean dish towel to dry, set and cool.  Allow to sit for 15 minutes. Place in refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours to cool completely.

When ready to serve, sprinkle a thin layer of organic sugar over the top. Using a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar. Even better, invite your guest to torch their own ramekins. 


A Gift to Myself - A Yoga Retreat in Paradise

Give yourself permission to relax, without feeling selfish. A chance to reflect on your dreams and listen to your heart. Life can be stressful and if you don't find time to take a break and breathe, it can affect your health and well being. Slow down, so you can go faster. I wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle, go somewhere to reconnect with nature and focus on my own energy. A place that would recharge my soul and nourish my body. A gift to myself was an inspirational yoga retreat in Montezuma, Costa Rica. Pura Vida!

The most commonly used phrase in Costa Rica, is "Pura Vida", which literally means “Pure life”. The saying goes beyond the simple translation, it's a way of life. An attitude that believes life is wonderful, so enjoy it.

Montezuma is a small bohemian beach town located on the southern tip of the the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. There is a bounty of unspoiled wildlife, jungles, rivers, beaches and within reach is the ever present Pacific Ocean. From Los Angeles, it was a 5 hour flight to the San Jose Airport, then two shuttle rides and a ferry to get to the secluded little town of Montezuma.

I booked my yoga package through Montezuma Yoga. 
The accommodations were simple, rustic, and directly across the street from the ocean. The sound of waves and tropical birds were my constant background music...paradise!

Yoga classes were held every morning in the outdoor pavilion, just steps from my room. It was a spectacular way to start each day. Doing yoga amidst the sweet smelling ylang ylang flowers, with the jungle and the ocean as my backdrop, was a transcendent experience. My classes were lead by the founder of Montezuma Yoga, Dagmar Spremberg. I believe I'm forever spoiled by having Dagmar as my yoga teacher in paradise. Her grace, spirit, love and knowledge are captivating and contagious. She is my yogi role model.

Along with yoga, my package included an outdoor massage, canopy zip line tour and a daily brunch that was filled with fresh juices, a variety of tropical fruits, and my new favorite huevos con gallo pinto. Brunch was also served with an epic view.

The rest of my time was spent relaxing and exploring the many beaches, rivers and waterfalls with a girlfriend, who was my travel companion. The charming small town of Montezuma was a short walk from our hotel and had many restaurants with vegan and vegetarian options. The locals are friendly, colorful and all share the Costa Rican "Pura Vida" outlook. Every day is better than the last! We should all embrace this motto.

Upon reflection, I'm not sure if I found Montezuma or Montezuma found me. Either way, I have been changed by this experience.

Now back home in Los Angeles, I have continued practicing yoga with Dagmar's Yoga DVDs and I try to embrace the Costa Rican attitude of living in the moment. If a trip to Montezuma is out of the question, you can still enjoy the "Pura Vida" philosophy in your daily life. Paradise is a place I've been, but I've also discovered it's a state of mind.

Pura Vida!