The holiday balancing act: an apple tart that’s off the butter chart

Vegan apple tart with a whole wheat crust

This post was originally published at the Magazine of Yoga

Out there in Consumerland, aka Target, where one must venture forth for toilet paper, laundry soap, and other mundane necessities of life, I spotted signs pointing to impending anxiety. As I added the bags of Halloween candy to my cart, I averted my eyes at the sight of snow globes and ornaments. The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming! Just the thought of the approaching madness of the season made me break into a cold sweat. I vowed to stay out of the stores until January, but I know that won’t be entirely possible. (I forgot the Kleenex.)

Still, I realized it is time to start planning to ward off the stress that will inevitably arise if my mind is not in pre-emptive mode. So I am making my list and checking it twice. I’ll start the list with all the crazy stuff I think I should do in the next month or two. Then I’ll give it a go over and cross off at least half of it. Wow, that’s efficient. Only a few days into November, and look how much I’ve accomplished!

You are probably going to be reading a lot about how to manage holiday stress. Those articles will be mixed in with special projects and recipes to brighten the season, as in, more ideas for stuff you can do to drive yourself nuts. While managing your stress.

Not to be a Scrooge or anything, but wake me when it’s over.

So I’ll share my special holiday plans and projects with you here, in the form of another kind of list:

1. Breathe. That’s kind of a given, since we all need air to stay alive, but I’m planning to breathe consciously at every stop light and in every line, to try and center myself and feel what’s going on inside, while noticing my thoughts and feelings without judgment. That’s a tall order, but it doesn’t take more than a few seconds of my ‘precious time.’ 

2. Practice. Speaking of time, I am going to commit to fifteen minutes of ‘practice’ a day. That’s a commitment I know I can keep. For me, practice is simply to sit quietly and tune in. If I start with the fifteen minutes I know I can do, I may extend it, but I’m not going to go all nutty and achievement-oriented on this.

3. Unplug. I am scheduling some unplugged time every day. I want to see if the world goes away if I’m not watching or plugging in. I am pretty confident of the outcome of that experiment.

4. Forget multitasking. Since I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time anyway, I am not worried about this project. Still, I want to focus on one thing at a time while noticing my mind racing on to the next thing, so I can pull myself back to the task at hand. Um, is that multitasking?

5. Put a little distance between self and family dynamics. Boy, this is a killer challenge, since the holidays potentially bring up plenty of old stuff. The key is to watch and learn. Maintaining a teeny bit of detachment from emotions and reactions to situations is healthy and necessary anytime, but especially during the holidays when the past jumps up and tries to grab you. Keep your head when family members make unreasonable demands and you start feeling guilty because they really, really annoy the bejeepers out of you, and you’re trying ever so hard to be loving and kind. Of course, this is general advice—I’m not talking about my own family here.

6. Look at the light. I am enthralled by Christmas tree lights and must remind myself to spend a few quiet moments staring at them when the dark closes in. Even one candle in the evening is symbolic to me of how little it takes to lift oneself out of the darkness we all experience, especially noticeable at this time of year.

7. Stay balanced. With so much activity in the next few months, I have to make a special effort to keep up exercise routines and eat well.

I am not a vegan, but the thought of how much butter I usually consume from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve is a scary one. That led me to experiment with this olive oil pastry crust. It has a hefty amount of whole wheat flour, but paired with walnuts and apples, it is quite good in an earthy, crunchy sort of way. As a butter-trained pastry chef, I needed to mentally prepare myself for a different experience, and I was quite pleased with the result. I can tell you, it goes down a lot easier, with fewer regrets, than the buttah-fied version.

Don't be afraid to add flour when you are rolling this crust; it is a bit crumbly. Scrape an offset spatula under it as you roll to keep it from sticking. It is very patch-able as well, so don't fuss if it breaks.

Find the recipe for this vegan apple tart at the Magazine of Yoga. 


  1. Looks great! I like olive 0il pastry, although I've never tried it with a whole wheat crust - ok, I've never tried a ww crust. Super pictures, as usual, particularly the follow-along ones for the tart. The landscapes are charming, but you don't need to wash your hands between shots while strolling down the path. Ken

  2. Oh wow, the tart looks so beautiful!

  3. I am not ready to say goodbye to butter yet, but I might just try with this olive oil pastry crust. Looks so perfect, can't believe there is no butter in it. A must try!
    Your pictures cannot go unnoticed. Kept me mesmerized the whole time I was reading your blog. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Great recipe and absolutely incandescent photos, Sal!

  5. Sally, beautiful. My mother taught me how to make crust, and her crust used vegetable oil. So I have actually never made a full butter crust, and have always loved them. And I have a gluten-free version that's really, really good, if any of your readers need that. Beautiful tart and a lovely, lovely post.

  6. This is one of the most beautiful tarts I've seen this week. Beautiful post, breathtaking photos. Cheers!

  7. I've never made a tart and now I really want to. Great reminders about how to stay centered!

  8. I have made a whole wheat pastry crust - it's nothing to be afraid of -- really. The family wasn't thrilled with it though and I have gone back to the standard methids.