Tuesday, December 23, 2008
My mother put roasted chestnuts in her stuffing every Thanksgiving. The smell of fire-roasted chestnuts brings back warm memories of helping my mother shell them in our kitchen the night before Thanksgiving. I also used to eat them raw! I still do, when I can get them. Fortunately chestnuts are very, very cheap here. I bought a 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) bag for just a few Turkish lira. Something that would've cost me about $15 in the States cost about 3! Sadly, the reason chestnuts are so expensive in the United States is because of scarcity. The fungus brought over on Asian species wiped out most of the trees on the East Coast.
The chestnut carries the property of love, and chestnuts were often worn to attract love. This fruit is also very nutritious. The leaves and bark are high in tannins, making them anti-inflammatory and very astringent. Chestnuts contain no cholesterol and are very low in fat. These fruits were also thought to be the original ingredient of polenta. Ground, they can be used to make bread.
Here is a recipe that is packed with nutrition (plus butter!) - Brussels sprouts with chestnuts. This is going to be a part of my potluck offerings for Thursday's feast, a lovely way to welcome the sun and impart some love into the guests' lives.
Recipe courtesy of The New York Times
Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts in Brown Butter Sauce
New York Times 11/14/07
2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup very thinly sliced shallots
3 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups hot chicken stock
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup roasted, peeled chestnuts, halved if large.
1. Bring 4 cups salted water to a boil, add brussels sprouts and cook 10 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water. Drain again.
2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Add shallots and cook over medium heat, stirring, until light brown. Pour contents of pan through a fine strainer into a dish, pressing to remove as much butter as possible from shallots. Place shallots on paper towel to drain. Return butter to saucepan.
3. If serving immediately, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place saucepan over medium heat and cook until butter has a nutty aroma and is turning brown. Whisk in flour and cook until mixture is light brown. Whisk in stock and cook until sauce has thickened. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and nutmeg. Add chestnuts and brussels sprouts, folding ingredients together.
4. Transfer to an 8-cup baking dish. Scatter shallots on top. Bake about 15 minutes. Serve.
This may not be the recipe to serve to your love if s/he is not a fan of Brussels sprouts, however. If that is the case, I can provide links for ordering kestane sekeri from Turkey. I am sending my mom chocolate-covered kestane this year!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Hot Buttered Rum
- 1 lb butter
- 1 lb powdered sugar
- 1 lb brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 quart vanilla ice cream (at room temperature)
- 1 1/2 ounces rum
- boiling water
1Cream together eveything then put in the freezer until needed.
2To serve add rum, 2 tablespoons batter (or more) and fill with boiling water to fill cup.
3sprinkle with nutmeg.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
First of all, let's talk about alcoholic drinks for the adults.
This is a good Yule recipe, even though it is frozen. The cold, slushy consistency reminds of us of the snow outside, while the warming sensation from the brandy and the color remind of us of the heat of the sun.
2 c. sugar
6 c. water
1 (12 oz.) can frozen lemonade
1 (12 oz.) can frozen orange juice
2 c. Peach brandy
Dissolve sugar in water over low heat; cook until clear. Add other ingredients. Mix well. Place in freezer for 24 hours. The alcohol will keep the mixture from freezing solid, resulting in the "slush". Mix half slush and half 7-UP (diet or regular) in punch bowl and serve.
Mulled Wine Recipe from Cooking by the Seasons by Karri Ann Allrich
This is a good drink to have on hand to warm you after a outdoor ritual. It could also become part of your Yule ritual.
1 bottle red wine, Burgundy or cabernet
1 cup orange juice
1 cup apple brandy
1/2 cup sugar
1 red apple, washed
1 orange, washed, sliced into rounds
4 cinnamon sticks
Gently combine wine, orange juice, brandy, and sugar in a large sauce pan and heat over low-medium heat. Stuf the washed apple with cloves and float it in the mulled wine mixture, along with orange slices and cinnamon sticks. Keep at a low simmer for 15 minutes. Serve from a warm slow cooker or crock, if you have one, or heatproof serving bowl. Let the merrymaking begin!
If you're into egg nog (and I personally am not), I have included the link to a website that lists many recipes for this traditional holiday beverage. Don't forget the rum or bourbon!
Now, not everyone imbibes, due to age restrictions, health, personal belief, or an addiction to alcohol, so not every holiday beverage needs to include spirits. In lieu of mulled wine, you could serve mulled cider. It is just as delicious, and cheaper to prepare.
The following recipe comes from the same book by Ms. Allrich. It is one of my favorite cookbooks. Check it out through my Amazon store.
1 quart fresh apple cider
juice of 1 orange
1 orange, washed and sliced into rounds
1 apple, washed, sliced horizontally to reveal the center star
3 cinnamon sticks
Pour the cider into a soup pot or slow cooker and squeeze in the orange juice. Add the orange slices. Stuf each round apple slice with 5 whole cloves. Gently add them to the cider and toss in the cinnamon sticks. Heat the cider on low heat for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Whatever you choose to serve your guests, your Yule ritual and feast will surely be merry.
Monday, December 8, 2008
1 fully cooked ham (approx 6 pounds)
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup apricot preserves or orange marmalade
1 TB crystallized ginger (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
Preheat oven to 325.
Place ham in a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes per pound, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 140 F.
Place the glaze ingredients into a saucepan and simmer until thickened. About 20 minutes before the ham is done, brush the glaze over the meat.
3 lbs small red potatoes, scrubbed
2 TBS herbs, optional (rosemary, thyme, etc.)
finely minced garlic, optional
Boil the potatoes until almost tender. Drain and place on an oiled baking sheet. Using a heavy glass, lightly crush each potato. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
Place in a preheated 375 F oven until the outsides are golden brown and crispy.
If using the herbs and/or garlic, sprinkle onto the potatoes before adding the olive oil, or mix with the oil and use a pastry brush to coat.
I will be posting more recipes and ideas later on. Right now, however, the city of Istanbul calls to me. I must go do some Yule shopping! We have Christmas Day off and are planning a party for the weekend after. We may even have ham, courtesy of a co-worker who visited Prague back in September!
Winter is a time of turning inwards, of taking stock of our gifts, and ridding ourselves of things, such as excess negativity, prejudices, regret for things we did not accomplish or things we should have done differently.
This is the time of the Crone, She who awaits us at the end of our journey through our present lives. She is the granter of wisdom, the one who helps us realize our potential, and the mother of the Sun King. We await his rebirth, lighting candles, burning a Yule log, decorating our homes with boughs of evergreen, blood-red holly, and golden-orange suns. The time of darkness is upon us, but it grows shorter every day. We await this joyous occasion.
There are many Yule tales out there. I invite you to read a few and share them with your coven, your family, whomever.
Now it is dark, it is cold, and perhaps snow covers the ground where you live. In the past, fresh food was scarce, if available at all, and people lived on the foods they preserved especially for this time of year. Dried fruits, cured meats, pickled vegetables, and grains made up the diet. For some, even the meat was a luxury. If the harvest was small, many people went hungry. Some starved.
These days we have supermarkets in many places, and many people have access to abundant sources of food. Sadly, however, some do not. One of the ways we can celebrate this time of year is by donating food to local food pantries, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. Visit this site for more information on how you can help hungry people in your area (in the US): http://feedingamerica.org/default.aspx?show_shov=1
Also consider visiting http://www.thehungersite.com/ or http://www.care2.com/, where daily clicks generate donations to help the needy. It can't hurt, and it may help.
This is also a time to feed our feathered friends. Hang a bird feeder filled with various seeds and nuts. There are many websites which provide information on the types of birds in your area, as well as what to feed them, and where to place feeding tables and houses.
Wherever you are, I hope your table will be filled with Mother Earth's bounty. Be thankful for it. Share what you can, and stay tuned for some recipes and ideas.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Kurban Bayrami commemorates Ibrahim's near-sacrifice of his son. Muslims sacrifice a goat or sheep in remembrance of the ram that replaced Isaac/Ismail. Tomorrow these animals will be sacrificed and their meat shared with family and with the less fortunate.
Some Americans eat lamb, but few have tasted mutton or goat. Lamb has a much stronger flavor than beef, and mutton (older sheep) and goat taste stronger still. It's an acquired taste, much as elk or venison is to our palate. You could take these recipes and adapt them for beef and serve them at Lammas, Mabon, Samhain, or even Imbolc, but I would probably use lamb for Imbolc.
The following recipes are from a Turkish recipe site, yemek-taifi.info. They are simple in their preparation and do not include many ingredients.
Etli Kuru Fasulye (White beans with meat)
400 grams butter beans (cannellini beans)
15 grams tomato paste
250 grams diced lamb
40 grams margarine or vegetable oil
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1- Soak beans in plenty of cold water overnight. Drain and rinse under water. (or you can buy these in a can from your local store, which is what I do)
2- Cook beans in water until tender.
3- Brown meat and onions in margarine or oil. Allow any juices to evaporate.
4- Add tomato paste and stir through. Add chopped tomatoes and cook for three minutes.
5- Place enough water to cover meat, cover and cook meat until tender.
6- Rinse beans again and add to meat. Stir. If water is low add a little more.
7- Add salt to taste and simmer until cooked.
Ankara Tava (Ankara lamb roast)
1 Tbsp butter
5 cups water or meat stock
1 onion, chopped fine
1 cup peas
2 cups plain yogurt
salt and ground black pepper
2 lb boned leg of lamb, cut into 4 pieces
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp paprika
1 Melt the butter in a pan and fry the lamb pieces until evenly browned. Add the water or stock, the onion, carrot, and peas, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
2 Preheat a 375 F oven. Transfer the lamb and vegetables to an ovenproof dish, reserving the cooking liquid. Mix 2-1/2 cups of the liquid with the yogurt, flour, and seasoning to taste. Pour this sauce over the lamb and vegetables.
3 Beat the egg lightly and pour evenly over the dish. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the paprika and serve.
Keskek (hulled wheat and mutton neck puree)
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1/4 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons margarine
2 large onions
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1000 gr. mutton neck
1000 gr. soft, white wheat
Soak wheat in cold water and allow to stand for 8 hours.
Put the wheat, the mutton neck cut into 4-5 pieces, and enough water to cover, into a saucepan, and boil till the wheat and meat become tender. Strain the necks and bone them.
After straining the wheat, add the meat and salt and blend well with a wooden spoon.
Dice the onions and saute in sunflower oil till golden. Drain the onions and add to the meat and wheat, and blend with a wooden spoon till the mixture becomes pasty.
Top with melted butter and cinnamon before serving.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
For those of you who may not be familiar with it, I will give you a very quick rundown. This holiday actually begins at midnight on October 31, and lasts until November 2. At this special time of the year, people visit the graves of their loved ones who have passed on. The graves are cleaned, fresh flowers and candles are placed there, and the family stays to visit, pray, sing, and feast. People make brightly colored calaveras (skulls) out of sugar.
The souls of the deceased are presented with their favorite dishes. An ofrenda may be set up with flowers, candles, special foods, the deceased person's favorite beverages, photos, etc. The life of the dead person is celebrated. It is believed that the candles will light that person's way back to their family so they may partake in the feast that has been laid out in their honor.
Pan de Muerto, or Bread of the Dead, is present at many celebrations. The bread dough can be used to form skulls and/or bones, and a miniature (non-meltable) skeleton can even be concealed inside.
For more information on el Dia de los Muertos, visit http://www.mexonline.com/daydead.htm
Receta para Pan de Muerto
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
5 to 5-1/2 cups flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon whole anise seed
1/2 cup sugar
In a saucepan over medium flame, heat the butter, milk and water until very warm but not boiling.
Meanwhile, measure out 1-1/2 cups flour and set the rest aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 1-1/2 cups flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and sugar. Beat in the warm liquid until well combined. Add the eggs and beat in another 1 cup of flour. Continue adding more flour until dough is soft but not sticky. Knead on lightly floured board for ten minutes until smooth and elastic.
Lightly grease a bowl and place dough in it, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours. Punch the dough down and shape into loaves resembling skulls, skeletons or round loaves with "bones" placed ornamentally around the top. Let these loaves rise for 1 hour.
Bake in a preheated 350 F degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and paint on glaze.
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then apply to bread with a pastry brush.
If desired, sprinkle on colored sugar while glaze is still damp.
It is interesting to note that anise seeds are also present in Easter Bread. Anise seeds are from the pimpinella family. This family, which includes dill, parsley, and cumin, is used as food by some species of butterfly. Butterflies are a symbol of change, of resurrection. Hm....
I first made Pan de Muerto when I was in high school. I personally do not care for the taste of anise seeds. I still include them, but I don't use quite as much as the recipe states.
Monday, September 15, 2008
I suggest an appetizer of white bean salad (a favorite of mine), dolma (stuffed vegetables), chicken marinated in yogurt, fried eggplant with green peppers, baklava and Turkish coffee.
Dolma is the term used for stuffed vegetables. The following recipe is for the rice filling that goes inside the vegetables or grape leaves. It is so delicious and the ingredients can be obtained anywhere.
1 lg Tomato
1 oz Currants
1 c Water
Salt and pepper
1/2 c Olive oil
1 pn Thyme
1/2 lb Long grained rice
1 md Onion
Few sprigs dill & parsley
1 oz Pine nuts (pignoli)
1 ts Sugar (more to taste)
This stuffing is for eggplants, pepper, tomatoes and zucchini. It is made with olive oil and served as a cold vegetable dish. Slice onion very finely, skin and roughly chop tomato and wash the rice until the water runs clear. Heat the olive oil in a deep pot and fry the onion until it becomes soft. Add the tomato, pine nuts, currants, sugar, thyme and season and then stir in the drained rice and fry them together for two or three minutes. Cover with just enough water to come half an inch above the level of the rice and then boil out the water and steam for a few minutes until the rice mixture is dry. Allow to cool. Stuff veggies with mixture, arrange in a flat roasting pan, cover each one with its lid (after insides are scooped out and sprinkled w/ salt). Pour around them enough water to come half-way up their sides. Bake in a 350 oven for 45 min. or until they are well cooked through & soft, but have not lost their shape. Sprinkle w/ chopped dill and parsley.
White Bean Salad
1 c dried small white beans
1 tbsp dill weed
5 c water
salt and pepper
1 lg. Onion chopped
1-2 med. Carrots, scraped and chopped
1/4 c olive oil
1 stalk celery chopped
1 sm. Clove garlic
1/4 c parsley, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
Wash the beans well and soak them overnight in five cups of water. The next morning, boil the beans in the water in which they were soaked. Continue boiling until the beans are tender (1 hr) Sauté the onion, celery, carrots and garlic in olive oil, stirring until tender (about 15 min.). This should be done in a large saucepan. Add the parsley, dill and drained beans to the sautéed vegetables. Mix them well. Add the lemon juice; simmer, stirring frequently, for 20 min. Salt and pepper to taste. Cool and serve chilled.
This is also fantastic with the addition of black olives and diced red pepper.
Tavuk Izgara (Yogurt Marinated Chicken)
1 whole chicken, cut into parts (or 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks)
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 yellow onion, grated
3–4 cloves of garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 TB ground cumin
1 TB paprika
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1. Cut each chicken breast through the bone into two or three smaller pieces. Separate the legs from the thighs. 2. Mix together the yogurt, onion, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. 3. Put chicken pieces in a bowl and add marinade. Toss to coat each piece completely. 4. Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight or at least 8-10 hours. 5. Grill over medium to medium-high heat, 7–10 minutes per side or until chicken is cooked through. Breast will cook faster. 6. Serve with your favorite fruit chutney.
Fried Eggplant with Green Peppers
2 tb Olive oil
1 1/2 c Olive oil
4 md Tomato; peeled, seeded and ;coarsely chopped
2 lg Garlic cloves; peeled and;thinly sliced
1 ts Salt
1/4 c Salt
1 Eggplant; (about 1 lb.)
2 md Green peppers; seeded; deribbed and cut lengthwise; into quarters
In a heavy 8 to 10 inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over moderate heat until a light haze forms above it. Add the tomatoes, garlic and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Mashing and stirring frequently, cook the tomatoes briskly until almost all their liquid evaporates and they become a thick, somewhat smooth puree. Set aside off the heat.
With a large, sharp knife, peel the eggplant and cut off the stem end. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into inch thick slices. Then one at a time lay each slice flat and cut lengthwise strips at inch intervals starting at the wide end and cutting to within about 2 inches of the narrow end. the slices should now look like fans. Combine 1 quart of water and the remaining 1/4 cup of salt in a shallow bowl or baking dish, and add the eggplant sections. Turn them about to coat them evenly with the brine, and let them soak at room temperature for about 10 minutes to rid them of any bitterness. In a heavy 12 inch skillet, heat the remaining 1 cups of oil over high heat until a light haze forms above it. Pat the eggplant completely dry with paper towels.
Regulating the heat so the eggplant colors evenly without burning, fry it 3 or 4 slices at a time for about 5 minutes on each side, or until it is lightly browned and shows no resistance when pierced with the tines of a fork. Transfer the eggplant to paper towels and fry the remaining slices.
Add the green peppers, skin side up, to the oil remaining in the skillet, adding more oil if necessary. Cook the peppers over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, turning them over with tongs. When they are soft but still somewhat firm to the touch, drain them on paper towels. Peel off the skins with a small, sharp knife.
Mound the eggplant slices in the center of a serving platter and pour the tomato sauce over them. Fold the peppers in half lengthwise and arrange them attractively around the eggplant. Serve at room temperature.
1-cup milk, warm to the touch
1 Tablespoon dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
2-¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water for glazing
1 teaspoon black sesame seed
Combine the milk, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Stir and cover. Let stand for 15-20 minutes. Place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the milk mixture in the center and knead lightly for a few minutes until you obtain soft dough and the mixture pulls a bit from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and leave it in a warm place until doubled in volume, for two hours. Grease a shallow-sided baking pan. Gently punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured countertop, tabletop or a large cutting board. Gently knead the dough for one minute. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a ¼-inch thick circle and 10 inches in diameter. Cover with the dish towel and leave it again to rise about half an hour. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Dimple the surface all over with your fingers. Using a basting brush, glaze the top with egg yolk mixture and sprinkle with black seed. Bake until golden brown about 20 minutes. Remove to a serving dish or basket and wrap with a decorative kitchen towel or large cloth napkin. Serve fresh from the oven.
This bread is only available in the stores during Ramazan (Ramadan). It's so delicious. Also, Mabon occurs during Ramazan this year, so I thought it appropriate.
And to round out this bountiful harvest feast, baklava and Turkish coffee, of course!
Sugar 3 ¼ cups
Starch 2 cups
Water 2 ½ cups
Butter or margarine 1 ¼ cups
Lemon juice 1 teaspoon
Pistachio nuts (uncrushed) 2 cups
Flour 4 ½ cups
Salt ½ teaspoon
Olive oil 1 ½ tablespoons
Servings: 12 Place the sugar and 2 cups of water in a saucepan, boil for 10 minutes, add the lemon juice and bring to boil again for a short time. Remove from heat and leave to cool. Crush or grind the pistachio nuts. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add salt and and mix. Slowly pour the oil, make a hole in the middle and add the eggs and very slowly add the water. Knead into a medium stiff dough. Cover with a damp cloth and leave for about 10 minutes. Divide the dough into balls and roll each ball out very thin, sprinkling with starch until half a millimeter thick. Place half of the rolled out dough into a baking pan of 35-40 cm. diameter. Sprinkle pistachio nuts on the top sheet. Place the remaining sheets. Cut the layered pastry sheets into squares or diamonds. Heat the butter without burning it and pour over the pastry. Bake in a barely moderately heated oven for approximately 40-50 minutes until it is golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside for 2-3 minutes and then pour the cold syrup over the pastry, cover and let it soak the syrup.
Turkish coffee - Turk Kahvesi
1 tbsp Sugar
3/4 cup Water
1 tbsp Pulverized Coffee
1 Cardamon Pod (optional)
1 Combine water and sugar in an ibrik or small saucepan. 2 Bring to a boil; then remove from heat and add coffee and cardamon. 3 Stir well and return to heat. 4 When coffee foams up, remove form heat and let grounds settle. 5 Repeat twice more. 6 Pour into cups; let grounds settle before drinking
Thursday, September 4, 2008
The connection to the gods and goddesses are still very strong, even though Islam is the predominant religion here. Amulets in the shape of large blue eyes protect buses, businesses, homes and bodies from the evil eye. Many people still hold tightly to beliefs that have been passed down from generation to generation. Livestock roam freely. Bread is a sacred food, a staple of life. The old ways are still very much alive here.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Keep checking back and I'll have something soon.
Monday, July 7, 2008
As many of you have noticed, the day lilies are once again in bloom. Many gardeners eschew this plant, for its lifespan is exactly as long as its name implied. Many of us are fortunate enough to find daylilies along almost every road in the summertime. These beautiful flowers are only suitable for viewing, due to their proximity to the road. If you find daylilies in a pesticide-free area that is not close to a road or highway, rejoice in the knowledge that all parts of this plant - the sprouting leaves that appear in the spring, the buds and blossoms of summer, the leaves and even the rhizomes - are edible.
Could it be true? Did Mother Nature put these beautiful flowers here for us to gather and consume, free of charge, as part of her bounty? Why yes, she did. Well, not completely free of charge. We have to take care of the land and take care of the plants if we want them around.
Daylilies are considered a delicacy amongst some cultures. They have a long history with the Chinese, both in cuisine and in medicine.
There are a couple of harvests , starting in the early spring, when the tender young foliage appears. At this time, you can cut the 3- to 5-inch outer leaves from their grassy clump, taking care not to damage the flowering stalks. These young leaves are reported to have a flavor similar to creamed onions, when cooked in butter or oil.
The second harvest occurs during the summer when the daylily flower buds and blossoms appear. These are the sweetest parts of the plant and can be eaten raw or cooked. Half-opened flowers can be dipped in batter and fried tempura-style, much like squash flowers. Buds can be eaten in salads or sauteed.
If you decide to partake of this delicious plant, do so with caution. Start by tasting a small bit of the plant. Wait. Check for allergic reactions - itching, swelling, difficulty breathing, etc. If it tastes bitter or strange, don't swallow it. If you don't have any reactions, continue, but don't overindulge the first time.
Please don't forget to consult a guide on edible plants. I do not recommend hunting for your own mushrooms, but a good guide with color photographs will help you find food from plants and flowers growing in your yard. Just make sure nothing has been sprayed with pesticides (and rinse off any dog wee), or grows too close to the road. Oh, and don't take all of the plant. Leave some for later, and thank the plant and the Mother for the gift you are about to receive.
Daylily-Bud Saute From A Witch in the Kitchen by Cait Johnson
1 handful daylily buds per serving
1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt or tamari (soy sauce)
1 garlic clove, crushed (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped onion (optional)
Gather a handful of buds for each serving you wish to make.
Saute the buds over medium-high heat in 1 to 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season to taste with the sea salt or tamari. Throw in a clove of crushed garlic, if you wis, or a tablespoon or so of chopped onion for each serving. Enjoy every marvelous bite.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Corn is a symbol of life. Some cultures believe that men were created out of corn. This recipe honors the Corn Mother, but it can also be made in honor of the Green Man or the horned god. It's a spicy dish that captures the heat of the summer sun.
Spicy Southwestern Polenta
4 cups water or broth (broth adds an extra layer of flavor and I prefer to use it)
1 cup polenta cornmeal
1/2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 small onion, diced
1-2 jalapeños, minched
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Preheat the oven to 350.
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onions, garlic and jalapeños and cook until they begin to get tender.
Pour the water or broth into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and the cumin. Pour the cornmeal into the boiling liquid in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Turn the heat down to low and keep stirring to avoid lumps. Gently cook the polenta for 20 minutes, stirring regularly. The polenta is done when it beings to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Pour the polenta out into a shallow, oiled baking sheet. Put aside to cool.
When the polenta has cooled, slice it into inch-thick pieces. Place the slices onto an oiled baking or broiling pan. Brush lightly with more olive oil and gently broil the polenta until it browns around the edges.
You can also melt some cheese on top, or top it with salsa, black beans, etc.
I apologize for the delay, but I have been extremely busy lately. This weekend we will continue our exploration of various kitchen deities by looking at Zao Jun.
Most of the kitchen deities with which we are familiar are female. Zao Jun, however, is the Chinese kitchen god. There are many domestic gods in the Chinese household, but Zao Jun is considered the most important. It is Zao Jun who, just before the Chinese New Year, returns to heaven to report every household's activities to the Jade Emperor, who rewards or punishes the households accordingly.
Zao Jun has been worshiped as a kitchen deity since at least the second century BCE (Before Common Era). There are several myths that explain just how he become a kitchen god. One of the most common stories states that Zao Jun was once a mortal man named Zhang Dan.
Zhang Dan started cheating on his wife with some pretty young thang. As punishment for cheating on his wife, he was plagued with bad luck and stricken blind. He was forced to resort to begging. (Good.)
One day, while out begging for alms, Zhang Dan happened upon the house of his former wife. Being blind, he did not recognize where he was. His former wife took pity on him, invited him into her house, and cooked him a meal. He told his wife what had happened to him since he left her. He began to cry and his tears miraculously restored his eyesight. Recognizing the kind woman as his wife, he was overcome with shame and threw himself into the hearth. He did not realize that a fire was burning in the hearth and was consumed by the flames. His wife tried to save him, but all that was left was a leg. His wife created a shrine to him in the fireplace, and this began Zao Jun's association with the stove or hearth in Chinese homes.
Traditionally Chinese homes keep a paper effigy of Zao Jun (and his wife, who writes down everything that happens in the house so her husband can report bad to the Jade Emperor). Offerings of food and incense are left for Zao Jun on his birthday (the third day of the eighth lunar month) and also on the twenty-third day of the twelfth lunar month, when he reports back to heaven. On this day the lips of the effigy may be sweetened with honey, or perhaps glued together with the sticky substance. The old effigy is burned and replaced with a new one. Firecrackers are also lit in order to help speed his way to heaven.
Food for Chinese New Year
Jiaozi, or dumplings, symbolize wealth and prosperity because of their resemblance to the silver ingots once used as currency. Family members traditionally stay up all night making the jiaozi, which are eaten at midnight.
HOT WATER DOUGH:
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups boiling water
In a stainless steel bowl mix flour and salt. Slowly add hot water to flour in 1/4 cup increments. Mix with chopsticks until a ball is formed and the dough is not too hot to handle. On a floured surface, knead dough until it becomes a smooth, elastic ball. Place back in bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rest for at least 1 hour. Working on a floured surface with floured hands, roll out dough to form a long 'noodle', 1-inch in diameter. Cut 1/2-inch pieces and turn them over so the cut sides are facing up. Flatten with your palm and roll out thin using a rolling pin. The dumpling wrapper should end up about 3 inches in diameter.
PORK AND GINGER FILLING:
2 cups chopped napa cabbage
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 pound ground pork (Don't get lean pork, the fat is good for juicy and flavorful dumplings)
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons thin soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 to 2 cups chicken stock or water
Sprinkle cabbage with the 1/2 tablespoon of salt and let stand for 30 minutes. Place the cabbage on a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth and squeeze out any water. The dryer the cabbage the better. In a large bowl thoroughly mix the cabbage with all of the other ingredients, except the chicken stock. Cook a tester to check the seasoning.
MAKING THE DUMPLINGS: Place a small mound of filling in the middle of the wrapper. (Be very careful not to touch the edges with the filling as this will impede proper sealing of the dumplings. Nothing is worse than dumplings breaking during cooking.) Fold the wrapper in half to form a half moon shape. Starting on one end fold/pinch the wrapper tightly together. Proceed with this fold/pinch method until the dumpling is completely sealed. There will be approximately 10 to 14 folds per dumpling. Rest the dumplings with the folded edges straight up.
COOKING THE DUMPLINGS: In a hot saute pan coated well with oil, place pot stickers flat side down and cook until the bottom is browned. Have pan cover ready and add 1 cup of chicken stock, cover immediately. Be careful, the liquid will splatter! The stock will steam the pot stickers. Check them in 5 minutes as more stock may be needed. The trick here is that once the dumplings are firm and fully cooked the stock will evaporate and the bottoms will crisp-up again.SPICY SOY DIPPING SAUCE:
1/3 cup thin soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup sliced scallions
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sambalCombine all and serve in a small bowl.
(Recipe source: Foodnetwork.com)
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Hestia, in the high dwellings of all, both deathless gods and men who walk on earth, you have gained an everlasting abode and highest honor: glorious is your portion and your right. For without you mortals hold no banquet, - where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last.
~Homeric Hymn to Hestia~
This weekend we are going to take a look at another kitchen goddess - the goddess Hestia/Vesta. In Greek mythology, Hestia was the virgin goddess of the hearth (private and public) and of the home. She presided over the making of bread and the preparation of the family meals. She was also the goddess of the sacrificial flame and received the first offering at every sacrifice in the household.
The hearth was the life of a home. It was the cooking fire, a source of light and warmth, and the sacrificial altar. The fire was never allowed to go out, unless ritually extinguished.
Hestia is the eldest daughter of Rhea and Cronus, the sister of Zeus. Cronus, fearing the prophecy that stated one of his children would grow up and usurp the throne, swallowed his eldest child, along with her siblings. Following the birth of Zeus, Rhea tricked her husband and caused him to vomit up his children. Hestia, being the first one swallowed, was the last one to be disgorged, making her the first- and last born. This story is really the only one in which she appears.
Hestia did not travel or have adventures. She chose, instead, to remain home. Hestia is a tender, dependable, caring goddess, and seemingly very forgettable, as she is virtually unknown today. Isn't that like many of us kitchen witches? We are a constant, always around, always dependable, and easily taken for granted. We spend a lot of our time in our kitchens, around our modern hearths, providing comfort and nourishment.
Most homes do not even have fireplaces anymore, unless they are gas or electric. Our stoves and ovens are as close to the hearth as we can get in this day and age. So what, then, is the modern kitchen witch to do in order to contact this goddess? Well, The Urban Primitive (R. Kaldera & T. Schwartzstein, 2002) suggests speaking to your pilot light, a candle flame, or the fire in a hibachi. These fires, especially cooking fires, are her messengers.
Make an offering to her. Talk to her while you cook, especially when making bread. Making bread provides an excellent opportunity to pray or meditate. The kneading is rhythmic and soothing, and it gives you a chance to really put your intent into the food. Find a picture of her (there aren't many) and include it in your kitchen altar, if you have one.
Leave an offering of pita bread, feta, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, and a few olives by your modern hearth - your stove. If you don't have a pilot light, light a candle for Hestia. White or green will be fine. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Visualize the energy of your home and kitchen, and visualize Hestia's love filling that room. Ask her to be with you as you prepare food for yourself, your friends and your family, and help you to nourish body, mind and spirit.
Whole Wheat Pita Bread:
* 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
* 1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 2 cups wheat flour
* 3 cups all purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add honey and stir until dissolved. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until water is frothy.
Combine white flour, wheat flour, and salt in large bowl.
Make a small depression in the middle of flour and pour yeast water in depression.
Slowly add warm yeast water, and stir with wooden spoon or rubber spatula until dough becomes elastic.
Place dough on floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes.
When the dough is no longer sticky and is smooth and elastic, it has been successfully kneaded.
Coat large bowl with vegetable oil and place dough in bowl. Turn dough upside down so all of the dough is coated with oil. Allow to sit, covered, in a warm place for about 3 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
Once doubled, roll out in a rope, and pinch off 10-12 small pieces. Place balls on floured surface. Let sit covered for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 deg F. and make sure rack is at the very bottom of oven. Be sure to preheat your baking sheet also.
Roll out each ball of dough with a rolling pin into circles. Each should be about 5-6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick.
Bake each circle for 4 minutes until the bread puffs up. Turn over and bake for 2 minutes.
Remove each pita with a spatula from the baking sheet and add additional pitas for baking.
Take spatula and gently push down puff. Immediately place in storage bags.
Friday, May 30, 2008
This article discusses not only yoga as meditation, but also eating as a form of meditation and God-realization.
Authentic Yoga is also sometimes known as the Prapatti Marga, or the path of complete self-surrender to the grace of God. One of the unique features of this form of authentic Yoga spirituality is the concept of Prasada-Meditation. The Sanskrit word "prasada" is literally translated as "mercy," or "grace." Specifically, prasada refers to the divine grace of God. Everything we do, are and think should be done in a consciousness of dedication to the Absolute, with love and devotion (bhakti). Such a state of active devotional meditation will ensure that we make continued progress on the spiritual path and in our own individual Yoga practice.
For the Yogi (practitioner of Yoga), this meditative practice of devotional surrender is all encompassing, and is extended even to the preparing and eating of food. With Prasada-Meditation, we make the preparing of food, the offering of food to God with devotion, and the eating of the food offered, into a powerful devotional meditation. If, as a meditative discipline, we can offer our food to God with devotion before eating it, not only are we not implicated in the karma involved in acquiring the food, but we can actually make spiritual progress by eating the offered food. Our devotion, and God’s grace, subtly transforms the food offered from material nutrition to spiritual
Before we can offer any food to God, however, we must first follow some important guidelines while preparing the food. First, God only accepts purely vegetarian offerings - offerings that are acquired without pain and suffering on the part of any creature. So, we have to strictly avoid cooking any meat (including chicken; a bird is not a vegetable!), fish and eggs. Second, we can’t offer any onions, garlic or mushrooms. This may seem like an odd proscription; but the Vedic scriptures, as well as the ancient natural medicinal system of Ayurveda, explain that these foods excite the more passionate elements of the human psycho-physical constitution. Third (and this can sometimes be tough), we must not taste the food before it is offered to God. The preparing of prasada is done as an active devotional meditation. So the goal is to prepare delicious foods, not with our own satisfaction in mind, but thinking only of the satisfaction of God. Therefore, He should be the first to "taste" the fruits of our labors.
Keeping this meditative goal in mind, it is important to have an atmosphere in our kitchen that is conducive to creating a meditative and devotional state. We should be in a calm, peaceful and contemplative frame of mind while preparing food for God, thinking to ourselves as we prepare the food that we are acting for God's satisfaction, and not just our own.
Finally, as in any spiritual endeavor, it is important to maintain a high standard of cleanliness while preparing, cooking, and offering the food. The kitchen, utensils and foods used should be clean. We ourselves also should be clean and bathed before beginning Prasada-Meditation, or any other meditation for that matter.
If we can follow all of the above guidelines and, most importantly, maintain a meditative consciousness of love and devotion for God as we are performing these activities, then God will gladly accept our offering.
There's more, but I'll let you read the website. I am very interested in Indian culture and Hindu beliefs, but I understand that not everyone shares this interest. I am also keenly aware of the fact that what I believe is only slightly similar to actual Hindu beliefs, outside of the gods and goddesses. I'm okay with that, and I believe the gods aren't upset with me either, as I am still honoring them, albeit in my own way.
Now, I am all for preparing food in a spiritual, meditative manner, and I am certainly all for offering some of this food to the gods and goddesses who provided it in the first place. For me, however, the similarities pretty much end there.
I am not a vegetarian. I did actively try vegetarianism once, but it did not work for me. It doesn't work for everyone, and that's okay, it really is. Just as we all have our own individual spiritual paths that are right for us and us alone, so do we have our own dietary needs and guidelines. There is no religion that's better than the rest, and there's no diet that's morally superior. Some people may have you believe that their vegetarian or vegan diet is spiritually or morally superior to yours, but I don't really think that truly enlightened people have to run around telling people just how enlightened they are... There you have my two cents on the matter. I can make it a nickel if you want, just ask.
One diet might be healthier, certainly, but a person isn't automatically more enlightened because s/he would rather eat a bland, jiggling block of tofu instead of a bloody slab of grilled cow flesh. (I made both dishes sound so tasty, didn't I? Something to offend everyone!)
Now, back to the food preparation. When offering food to a deity such as Lord Krishna, it is important that the food be all vegetarian and free of garlic, onions, and mushrooms. Instead, cooks prepare food using asafoetida/hing. The reason devotees to Lord Krishna do not use these foods is because they fall under rajasic (passion) and tamasic (ignorance) categories in Ayurveda. Sattvic (goodness) is the other category.
Now, I love garlic. Love it. And onions. Mushrooms are also one of my favorite foods (as you can plainly see from the blog posts about them). Does that mean I cannot make and offer food to one of the Hindu deities I honor? Does it mean I have to run out and buy something that contains the words "ass" and "fetid" (okay, not exactly)? Absolutely not. There are plenty of dishes that can be offered. Here is a recipe for a dish that makes a suitable offering.
Large bunch fresh coriander
3 T ghee (clarified butter)
3 cups peeled potato, cubed
1 t Salt
1/2 t red chili powder
1/2 t Turmeric
1 t ground fresh green chilies
1 t grated fresh root ginger
Wash and finely chop or blend the coriander leaves in a food processor. In a little ghee fry the potatoes, salt, red chili powder and turmeric. Cook on lowest heat setting for 5 minutes, or until potatoes are par-cooked. Add the coriander and fresh chilies and mix once. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or until potatoes are fully cooked. Stir from time to time to prevent mixture from sticking to the bottom. If the potatoes are cooked but liquid remains, cook uncovered until it evaporates. In a small frying pan add the ghee and grated ginger and cook on low heat for 1 minute or until brown. Pour on top of the vegetables and, without mixing, offer.
Anna means 'food' or ‘grains' in Sanskrit, and purna means 'filled completely'.Annapurna is a Hindu goddess of food and cooking. It is believed that she is empowered with the ability to supply food to an unlimited amount of people. Annapurna is an incarnation of the other Hindu goddess Parvati, the wife of Shiva. She symbolizes the divine aspect of nourishing care.
Images of this goddess can be found not only in the home kitchen or dining area, but also in restaurants, where food is prepared and served only after receiving Annapurna's blessing. By first getting her blessing, people believe that they will never be without food. Annapurna blessed converts the food into Amruta, a Sanskrit word for delicious, healthy food that grants immortality.
The story of the worship of Annapurna begins in the distant past, when the world's food disappeared. People were in danger of starving to death. The people petitioned Lord Brahma for assistance. Brahma consulted with Lord Vishnu and they decided to awaken Lord Shiva from his ritual sleep and give him the responsibility of restoring prosperity to the land. Shiva invited the goddess Annapurna to earth. He then begged her for rice, which was then distributed throughout the land. Shiva and Annapurna made an agreement. If she would look after the people of the sacred city Kasi and ensure they did not go hungry, Shiva would then grant them moksha (freedom from the cycle of birth and death).
Annapurna promises food to those who come to her. Statues or idols of this goddess are always depicted with a small bowl of food, ensuring a lifetime of food to her worshipers. She is also known as "Mother of the Three Worlds".
Annapurna is like a mother goddess because she provides nourishment as a mother does. She gives food freely and continuously to her followers.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Again, if you are going to hunt mushrooms, do so at your own risk. Take a class and go with an expert if you simply cannot ignore the call. I adore mushrooms, but the morel is the only type I will search for. I haven't had any luck either, darn it! But fortunately for me, my grandmother knew someone who was a successful (and generous) morel hunter.
Personally, when I think of mushrooms, I think, "Mmmmmmmm, you can do so many things with them!" I've only met one variety of mushroom that I did not like.
Mushrooms have long been regarded with suspicion. There is something very mysterious (and some would say unsettling) about our friend the mushroom, from their magical appearance after a heavy rain, to the very colors and shapes of these fungi.
Every variety of mushroom has its own shape, color palette and flavor. Some have a dark, earthy, woodsy flavor, while others are lighter and more reminiscent of shellfish. They come in tan, creamy white, and muted shades of grayish brown. Some are golden or black! And the inedible ones have more vivid colors, such as the Amanita Muscaria, with its white-splotched red cap.
They grow in clusters on logs, in fields, or even in areas that have burned in forest fires, like my beloved morels. With all of these factors in mind - their appearance, the way they seem to magically pop up overnight - it's no wonder mushrooms are a common feature in fairy tales, spellbooks, folklore, and stories about witches.
Mushrooms have long been a part of the human diet, but cultivation did not begin until the 18th century in France. The Pharaohs of ancient Egypt ate mushrooms, with the belief that mushrooms brought immortality. Pharaohs, who were seen as godlike, were the only ones allowed to consume mushrooms. Other people, such as the Romans, believed eating mushrooms increased one's physical strength. Some cultures even thought of them as an aphrodisiac.
Mushrooms have been used medicinally for many years as well. Chinese black mushrooms, known as wood ear, contain an anticoagulant-type substance, which acts as a blood thinner. In 1960, a scientist at the University of Michigan discovered that shiitake mushrooms contained an antiviral substance that could stimulate the immune system.
Psilocybin mushrooms have long been used by ancient peoples. Hallucinogenic species of Psilocybe have a history of use among the native peoples of Mesoamerica for religious communion, divination, and healing, from pre-Columbian times up to the present day (Wikipedia). They are a popular (and illegal) recreational drug in the United States. If you want to find out the effects of this type of mushroom, do so at your own legal risk.
Mushrooms are ruled by the moon, that mysterious orb that sails through the night sky and has its own set of myths, stories and superstitions. Their ruling element is earth, and it's no surprise that their ruling energy is psychic awareness. You can get the benefit of increased psychic awareness by adding everyday culinary mushrooms to your meals. Just remember to keep the intent in mind and visualize heightened psychic awareness as you eat. Burning a blue candle while preparing meals can also help.
Remember that there are many safe, edible varieties of mushrooms available, but there are also many deadly types of mushrooms as well. Several accidental deaths still occur each year when amateur mushroom hunters pick the wrong mushroom by mistake. Even with a good field guide, I wouldn't recommend gathering your own mushrooms. It takes a lot of experience and one mistake can send you to the hospital, or worse. The only mushroom I would condone hunting is the morel. It's easy to identify, but not very easy to locate and most mushroom hunters prefer to keep their locations a closely guarded secret.
Instead, I will include links to sites that sell dried mushrooms and starter kits so you can grow your own morels, shiitakes, and more.
The following recipe comes from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. Cream of mushroom soup is one of my favorites. Enjoy.
Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup
5 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
5 ounces fresh portobello mushrooms
5 ounces fresh cremini (or porcini) mushrooms
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/4 pound (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 carrot, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme plus 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel. Don't wash them! Separate the stems, trim off any bad parts, and coarsely chop the stems. Slice the mushroom caps 1/4-inch thick and, if there are big, cut them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
To make the stock, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot. Add the chopped mushroom stems, the onion, carrot, the sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid. You should have about 4 1/2 cups of stock. If not, add some water.
Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the remaining 1/4 pound of butter and add the leeks. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the leeks begin to brown. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are browned and tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the mushroom stock, minced thyme leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the half-and-half, cream, and parsley, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and heat through but do not boil. Serve hot.
Sources for this article:
The Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen, Scott Cunningham
Saturday, May 24, 2008
In Hindu mythology, Shiva created an egg out of which the earth and sky were formed. Other deities associated with eggs include Osiris, Aphrodite, Venus, and Eostra. In many mythologies throughout the world, eggs are linked with the divine.
According to some, eggs not only produce life (when fertilized), they also symbolize life itself. The shell represents earth; the membrane represents air; the yolk is fire; the white is water. Eggs have even been used to save human lives, being sacrificed in place of humans in some ancient cultures.
Although most eggs that are consumed come from chickens, other birds' eggs are also used. Quail eggs are often seen in Asian cuisine, as are duck eggs. Gull eggs are considered a delicacy in England and Norway.
Besides being a nutritious food source, eggs also have many magical uses. Eggs were thought to give protection, possibly because of the white color of many shells. In ancient Egypt, eggs were held in the hand while reciting protective invocations, as a method of protecting people on ships from drowning. (Cunningham, 1996). In Thebes, Egypt, the tomb of Haremhab, built about 1420 BCE, shows a depiction of a man carrying bowls of ostrich eggs and other large eggs, presumably those of the pelican, as offerings. Perhaps this man was asking for protection, or giving thanks.
Eggs have also been used for divination. The first egg laid by a hen is thought to possess special powers. Records show us that eggs have been used for divination in Europe since the 17th century. The egg white was dripped into a basin of water and people gazed at the shapes made by the whites. This practice was brought to America in the 17th century as well, and some believe that this little "game" was the start of the hysteria that lead to the Salem Witch Trials.
In some cultures, an egg was rolled across the marriage bed to promote the conception and birth of healthy, male children. Jewish women used to eat double-yolked eggs in an attempt to cure sterility.
Eggs are added to fertility diets, as well as diets for spirituality, protection and grounding.
If you like eggs and are not allergic to them, enjoy them any way you wish. Just remember, moderation is key. Also be careful when consuming products that contain raw eggs. Raw eggs should not be consumed by children, the elderly, pregnant women, or those with compromised immune systems.
The following recipe is one that I make for my mother on her birthday. As her birthday is in December, I substitute broccoli for asparagus (see notes).
1/2 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons water or milk
1/2 cup grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
4 oz ham or prosciutto, diced
salt and pepper to taste
olive or Canola oil
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the asparagus for about 5 minutes, until tender and wilted. Remove, strain, and run cold water over it in a colander. Preheat oven to 350 F.
In an oven-safe skillet, heat approx. 2 tablespoons oil. Cook the onion 5 minutes, until tender. Add cooked diced ham or Prosciutto, if using.
In a large bowl beat the eggs with milk or water. Season with salt and pepper. Add cheese. Pour mixture into the skillet, covering the eggs and ham. Arrange trimmed asparagus on top.
Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until eggs are almost set but not brown. Place skillet in the oven and cook the frittata until the top is browned and eggs are completely set.
Slip a spatula around the periphery of the frittata to loosen it and slide it onto a serving plate and serve hot.
Notes: Feel free to leave out the meat if non meat-eaters will be present. Serve with crusty rolls and a salad of spring greens (dandelion greens, for example).
This is also a good recipe to have at Yule. The yellow of the egg yolks reminds us of the returning sun. If making this at Yule, omit the asparagus and substitute broccoli. You may also wish to add some red bell pepper, whose bright red color adds a little extra fire energy.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Water is life. We need it to live. In fact, we, like our Mother Earth, are about 70% water. What do you think of when you think of water? Rivers? Streams? Oceans? What about fertility? When I think about water, I think about the ocean, which turns my mind to the waters of the womb. These waters cushion us, nurture us, keep us safe until we are ready to breathe air. So, are fish and shellfish sacred to the Goddess? I believe so. Coming from the oceans and rivers, they are the fruits of Her womb.
Unfortunately, we are poisoning these waters, and many fish have high levels of mercury. Because of this, we need to limit our intake of certain fish, such as tuna, King mackerel, shark and swordfish. Nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury, but those have some of the highest.
This entry is going to focus on one of my favorites, shrimp. Some people avoid shrimp because of its cholesterol, but consumed in moderation, it has not been known to adversely affect cholesterol in the body. Some people are allergic go shrimp, and I am so very, very sorry. My heart goes out to those who cannot enjoy this tasty crustacean. Some people do not eat shrimp for other reasons as well, such as religion.
Do try to buy shrimp that have been fished, as opposed to farmed.
The following recipe is a recipe that can be used to celebrate life and fertility, or to promote it. It includes eggs, which are a symbol of fertility here on the land, but which also have strong ties to the womb. They are also a symbol of transformation, of nurturing, and of creativity. Eggs contain the essence of life and have been revered for their mysterious energies, as well as used as a high-protein food source, for hundreds of centuries. Eggs are ruled by the moon, which rules the tides.
So, here we combine the symbol of creation and life itself, the egg, with a fruit of the ocean, a creature that swims in the Mother's waters, the shrimp.
Prawn Omelette with Oyster Sauce
Ingredients for the omelette
2 dried Chinese mushrooms (You can sometimes find these in or around the produce section of the grocery store. If not, just chop up some canned straw mushrooms)
12 oz raw prawns or shrimp
3 Tbsp oil
2-inch piece of ginger, finely grated
1/2 cup drained, canned bamboo shoots, roughly chopped
6 green onions, chopped
2 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2 Tbsp oyster sauce (this can be purchased in the Asian section of a grocery store, as well as from specialty markets)
1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine (if you can't find this, you can omit it)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp corn starch
1 Tbsp water
finely sliced green onion, for garnish
1. Soak the mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes or until softened; drain and slice, discarding the hard stem.
2. Peel and devein the prawns and roughly chop the meat.
3. Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in a wok and stir-fry the ginger and the prawn meat over very high heat for 2 minutes. Transfer to a place. Add the bamboo shoots, green onion and mushrooms to the wok and cook for 1 minute. Transfer to a plate and wipe the wok clean with paper towels.
4. Beat the eggs, water, salt and pepper in a bowl until foamy. Add the remaining oil to the woke, swirling it around to coat the base and sides. Heat the wok until it is extremely hot and the oil is slightly smoking. Give the egg mixture another quick whisk and pour it into the very hot wok, swirling the wok a little so the egg mixture coats the side to 1/4 inch thickness. Cook for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon to drain away any juices, carefully and quickly spoon the prawn and bamboo shoot mixture over the omelette. Gently lift the edge of the omelette with a spatula and tilt the wok so some of the uncooked egg from the center runs underneath. Cook for about 2 minutes until the base is a crisp brown and has set. Divide the omelette into 4 or 5 sections, cutting it with the spatula, and turn each section over to cook the other side. When each section is lightly set underneath, transfer it to a platter, arranging the slices as they were in the wok.
5. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce and rice wine to the woke. Mix the corn starch and water and add to the woke, stirring constantly until the sauce boils and thickens slightly. Spoon over the omelette, garnish with the green onion and serve.
Notes: You can eat it without the sauce too, if you prefer.
I will write more about the egg in a future entry. There is much to say!
Recipe source: The Essential Asian Cookbook
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Today we are going to look at mint. Most people are only familiar with peppermint and spearmint, but there are many varieties. How about chocolate mint? Pineapple mint? Those are two of approximately 600 types of mint native to the Mediterranean and western Asia. Mint is a general term for plants from the "mentha" family, which also includes pennyroyal.
Mint is ruled by the planet Mercury, the element air, and the deities Pluto and Hecate. Its powers include money, lust, healing, travel, exorcism, and protection.
Mint is kept in the home for protection. To attract money, simply carry some mint in your wallet, or rub it where your money is kept. To clean an area before ritual, sprinkle salt water with a sprinkler made of marjoram, rosemary and mint.
In the kitchen, peppermint tea is used to aid digestion and relieve stomach discomfort and gas. The tea has also been used since the days of the ancient Greeks for stimulating interest in sexual activity.
Put one tsp of dried peppermint into a tea cup. Add nearly boiling water and steep for at least 1o minutes. If your goal is purification, let it steep for 13 minutes.
Mint is added to diets for purification along with bay, black pepper, horseradish, thyme, and turmeric.
Cucumber-Yogurt Raita with Mint
1 cup plain yogurt (preferably Greek style, but you can make Greek-style yogurt by straining regular yogurt through a piece of cheese cloth)
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
pinch of salt
Combine these ingredients and chill. Serve this cool, creamy sauce with spicy Indian fare and fresh naan.
I'm sorry it's been so many days since my last post. I just do not have much time during the week. Today's herb is catnip. Many of you are familiar with catnip, especially if you have or have had kitties. The following information comes from Cunningham's Encyclopedia of MagicalHerbs.
Oh, and the picture above is my own catnip plant. :)
Catnip is ruled by Venus. Its element is water and its energy is considered feminine. Catnip is attributed to the Egyptian goddess Bast/Bastet, the cat-headed goddess.
Powers: cat magic, love, beauty, happiness
Magical uses: Given to your cat, catnip creates a psychic between the two of you. It is also intoxicating to the cat.
Catnip is used in love sachets, usually in conjunction with rose petals. If you hold catnip in your hand until it is warm, then hold anyone else's hand, they will forever be your friend, as long as you keep the catnip you used in the spell in some safe place.
Grown near the home or hung over the door, catnip attracts good spirits and great luck. Catnip is also used in spells designed to enhance beauty and happiness.
Large catnip leaves are pressed and used as bookmarks in magical texts.
Catnip has a lot of non-magical uses as well, besides intoxicating Kitty. I was interested to read that the oil isolated from catnip by steam distillation is a repellent against insects, particularly mosquitoes, cockroaches and termites. Those of you who know me know how I feel about cockroaches! I can barely type the word without shuddering. (And here I am applying for jobs in Georgia!)
For Kitty, one must know that about 2/3 of cats are susceptible to the chemicals in catnip. According to Wikipedia, this phenomenon is hereditary, and cats in Australia, for example, are not affected by catnip. Netpetelactone is the chemical produced by the plant.
Now, for us humans, catnip also has benefits. When taken as a tea, catnip reduces fever, and also helps relieve the symptoms of respiratory infections. A cup of hot catnip tea is also a good way to get a good night's sleep. Ladies, if you are having serious menstrual cramps, a cup of hot catnip tea will help ease some of your discomfort, as well a tea made with red raspberry leaves.
Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon of fresh catnip, or 1 tsp. of dried. Let the mixture steep for about 20 minutes. Add honey to sweeten, if desired.
More information on catnip can be found here: http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_catnip.htm
Sunday, May 11, 2008
I would've included pictures of my oregano and thyme plants, but they're still growing. :)
I know, I know, I know. It should be "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme", but I'm not growing any sage.
Oregano is ruled by the planet Mercury. Its element is air and its energy is peace. Use oregano as a peace-inducer. Sprinkle it into sauces and soups, or even onto cheese pizza to give a peaceful energy. Scott Cunningham writes that using oregano on a pizza that contains meat will cancel the peaceful effect.
Parsley is ruled by the same planet as Oregano, but its energies are protection, sex, and money. Many, if not most, leafy greens (including herbs) are used to attract money. Parsley has a lot of magical uses. For example, gardeners in Europe sow curses into the soil with parsley seed to ensure proper germination.
Normally we see parsley used in restaurants and on salad bars as garnish. At one time, placing parsley on a plate was thought to protect food from contamination by evil.
For a money-attracting bath, place 2 cups of fresh parsley into a cheesecloth and tie the ends to make a parcel. Add to your bath. As you soak, visualize the herb bringing money into your life.
Source: Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen
Fresh parsley is also good for preventing bad breath. It is also a diuretic. You can also eat a bit of it every day in order to strengthen your personal protective "armor".
Thyme is ruled by Venus. Its element is water and its energies are love, psychic awareness, and purification. Thyme was once used to cleanse Greek temples. Thyme is useful in purification diets. It is also beneficial when added to psychic foods (more information to come).
For love: Place one tsp of a mixture of thyme and marjoram into a tea cup. Add one cup hot water. As it steeps, visualize yourself enjoying a satisfying, two-sided relationship. Sweeten with honey if desired and drink the tea, continuing to visualize. (Cunningham)
Keep a mixture of dried basil, oregano, parsley and thyme to add peaceful, loving energy to foods. This mixture is especially good added to tomato sauce, as the tomato is a fruit of love.
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 - 2 Tablespoons dried herb mixture (mentioned above)
2 32-oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 dried bay leaves
1 - 2 tsp sugar, as needed (optional)
In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, herb mixture, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Simmer uncovered over low heat until sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Taste for seasoning. Add sugar if desired. Discard bay leaves before serving.
Note: If using fresh herbs instead of dried, add them toward the end of cooking (last 15 minutes or so), except the parsley, which should be added last. Also, if you are using fresh herbs, you will need to increase the amount to about 2 tsps. of each.
Cilantro, if you remember from my last entry, is considered an herb and a spice. The leaves and stems are commonly known as cilantro, while the fruits (commonly known as seeds), which are usually toasted and ground before added to food, are known as coriander. In the UK, coriander is the all-purpose name used for both the leaves and stems of the plant, as well as the fruits.
Coriander/Cilantro, also known as Chinese parsley, is from Asia and Africa. Like rosemary, its element is fire and its energy is masculine. The ruling planet is Mars. Its powers include love, health and healing. Powdered coriander is added to wine to increase lust.
In Iran it is used in folk medicine as a way of reducing anxiety. In India, coriander and cumin seeds are steeped together in a tea, which is then drunk as a digestive aid. It reduces cramps and flatulence, and if you've ever had Indian food, you know that the resulting flatulence can be pretty spectacular! (This information comes from the TMI files.)
And now, to stir up some love and lust in the kitchen:
Guacamole (this recipe is perfect for Beltane and Midsummer)
2 avocados, scooped out of their rind (love)
2 cloves garlic, minced (courage; protection; sex; health)
1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced (remove the seeds and membranes if you want the flavor without the heat) ( same properties as garlic)
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro (don't tell me you've already forgotten the properties!)
1/3 cup minced red onion (protection; healing; lust)
juice of 1/2 lime (same properties as garlic and jalapeño)
salt to taste (cleansing; protection)
In a medium mixing bowl, scoop out the avocados and mash them with a fork. I usually leave mine slightly chunky, but you could use a food processor if you want yours to be totally smooth. Add the lime juice to keep the avocados from browning too quickly.
Combine the rest of the ingredients. Check for seasoning, Add the juice from the other half of the lime if desired. Chill lightly before serving.
I imagine that after such a long title you are expecting to read something with quite a bit of substance to it, no? In one of his latest blog entries, PaganDad briefly talked about spices that are not commonly used in your average American kitchen. My kitchen, then, must not be average, for I use spices such as cumin, coriander, cardamom, garam masala (Indian mixture that basically means "hot spices"), and others.
This entry will discuss some herbs and spices that some of you may use regularly, but with which many of you may be unfamiliar. This blog being both culinary and spiritual, I thought I would first go over some of the more "witchy" properties of the following plants. Then perhaps we can talk about what to do with those herbs and spices. Think of it as an education for both soul and palette.
First I am going to talk about the herbs that I am growing in little pots on my balcony. I might even post a few pictures of my garden when the weather gets better (and I remember to get my camera out of the car.)
Before I begin discussing my herb garden, I think I should first make a clarification. Some of you may not know the actual difference between an herb and a spice. I think that many people use the two terms interchangeably. This, then, from Horticulture and Home Pest News:
We often use the words herb and spice interchangeably. Herbs and spices are obtained from plants. (Salt is neither a spice nor an herb. It is actually a mineral.) Herbs and spices are used primarily for adding flavor and aroma to food. And both are best used fresh but can be saved by drying. While there are similarities, there also are subtle differences between herbs and spices.
Herbs are obtained from the leaves of herbaceous (non-woody) plants. They are used for savory purposes in cooking and some have medicinal value. Herbs often are used in larger amounts than spices. Herbs originated from temperate climates such as Italy, France, and England. Herb also is a word used to define any herbaceous plant that dies down at the end of the growing season and may not refer to its culinary value at all.
Spices are obtained from roots, flowers, fruits, seeds or bark. Spices are native to warm tropical climates and can be woody or herbaceous plants. Spices often are more potent and stronger flavored than herbs; as a result they typically are used in smaller amounts. Some spices are used not only to add taste, but also as a preservative.
Some plants are both herbs and spices. The leaves of Coriandrum sativum are the source of cilantro (herb) while coriander (spice) is from the plant's seeds. Dill is another example. The seeds are a spice while dill weed is an herb derived from the plant's stems and leaves.
Back ground information aside, it is now time to proceed with the herb info.
Rosemary is the first herb. Rosemary is ruled by the sun, giving it masculine energy, and associating it with the element of fire. When burned, this plant emits very powerful cleansing and purifying energy. Some people cleanse an area for ritual(or before divination) by using rosemary to flick about droplets of salted water.
Rosemary essential oil is excellent for the scalp. Some even believe it can help retard or reverse hair loss. Others use the oil to aid memory or ease the pain of headaches. For these purposes the oil need only be sniffed.
Other energies include protection and love. Rosemary was considered to be the flower of Mount Olympus, home of the gods.
Add rosemary to protective foods, especially those that also include tomatoes. Drinking rosemary tea to increase mental alertness and the ability to think clearly. Add it to food for the same purpose. Rosemary is also useful in diets designed to maintain good health and to stimulate the body's natural healing abilities. It is also added to love-inducing foods (as is the tomato), and used for remembrance.
Rosemary Remembrance Cookies - Samhain
- 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
- 1 c. butter or margarine (softened)
- 1 egg
- 2 t. vanilla
- 1 t. almond extract
- 2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
- 1 t. baking soda
- 1 t. cream of tartar
- 1 1/2 T. chopped rosemary
Heat oven 375 degrees. In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, almond extract, and rosemary until creamy. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture. Beat until dough forms and refrigerate for three hours. Divide dough into halves. Roll out one portion to 3/16 of an inch on a floured surface. Cut out with gingerbread women or men cutters and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat rolling and cutting with second portion. Bake for 5-7 minutes.Thanks to the following site for the recipe, a copy of which I used to have... http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/7039/AshlinCC.html
Okay, I got a little long-winded. It happens. Let's wrap it up here with rosemary, and I will continue momentarily.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Fehu - the rune for prosperity
This is a recipe that really works. I tried it one day when I was snowed in. I was wanting to bring some good things into my life - prosperity, a new job, etc. I was very, very unhappy in my current situation. So I took a cue from Scott Cunningham and went into the kitchen. I used a basic shortbread recipe and included some special-purpose additions.
4 ounces unsalted butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/8 cup each finely chopped pecans and sesame seeds
Toast pecan pieces and sesame seeds in a dry skillet, stirring constantly. Cook them over medium to medium-low heat for a few minutes, until they smell toasted. I stirred the rune "Fehu" into the nuts and seeds as I toasted them. I put them in a bowl and charged them with my intent - a better teaching job for me (personal prosperity and job-hunting), and prosperity for anyone else who eats a cookie.
In a bowl cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. I used the same motion when mixing those things together. I added the flour and mixed it in with my hands, then I added the nuts and seeds.
I pressed the mixture into a baking sheet, cut them into squares, and inscribed each square with Fehu. They're in the oven right now, at 325. The recipe says about 20 minutes, depending on thickness. Check them after about 12 minutes.
Oh, yeah, I got that new job . :) I ate most of the first batch of shortbread myself, and made a second batch for a potluck. Not long after, the work situation changed.
Friday, May 2, 2008
These are a few of the books I like. Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen doesn't have a lot of recipes, but it does have a lot of valuable information about the magical properties of many foods. There are some nice recipes toward the end. His book of magical herbs has some of the same herb information as this book.
Cooking by The Seasons is my personal favorite. Karri Ann Allrich has recipes for each of the seasons, as well as ideas for which dishes to serve at each Sabbat.
Witch in the Kitchen has a lot of really simple recipes and food ideas. The part I like most is the section on creating a sacred space in the kitchen. Cait Johnson also provides meditations and chants for each season.
I am a Pagan woman. I live in one of the most beautiful states. Its beauty inspires me, makes me feel alive. I really feel the presence of the God and Goddess when I look around me. I don't practice with a group, mainly because I haven't been able to meet people. So I guess I'm mostly solitary, which means I'm very lazy and rarely do any rituals outside of the kitchen, unless you count gardening. My garden consists of pots of herbs, so it's still kitchen witch-related.
That's right, I'm a kitchen witch. I prefer to work my magic in the kitchen. It's the heart and soul of the home. Food is sacred. It sustains life. Natural foods also have their own magical properties, as many of you already know. The kitchen witch is the person who can combine foods with similar properties in a way that is both appetizing and powerful. We take the food into our bodies, and so we also take the magical intent into our bodies.
The Lord and Lady provide such a bounty. My goal is to take what they have made and put it together in an appealing way, but I really can't take that much credit for the way the food tastes. They made it. I just put complimenting items together, but the tastes were already there.
Food nourishes us and comforts us. It's also harming us, because of the strange things that have been done to plants, as well as all of the fast food that we put into our bodies. I myself am just as guilty as the next person. I don't do a lot of cooking for myself, and as I live alone, that means I don't do very much cooking at all. Feeding people is one of my main pleasures in life, and I try to feed the people I care about things that are good for them.
I want to give you all some recipes for foods that can help you attain your goals. I also want to give you ideas for things to serve after rituals, and foods that you can offer your own patron gods and goddesses.
We'll see how it goes. I guess that's about it for now. I'll post a tried and true prosperity recipe shortly, along with the story of how it worked for me.