NWK

NWK

Friday, May 30, 2008

Eating as meditation: How to prepare Prasada

Source: http://www.dharmacentral.com/articles/prasada.htm

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
mercy (prasada).

Guidelines

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.

Aloo Dhaniya (Potatoes and Coriander)

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.

Annpurna, goddess of food




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

More mushroom information

Below is a link to a website that gives information many edible mushroom varieties. You can also click on the link to Zedral's AStore to the left and browse the selection of books available through amazon.com. There are books about cultivating your own tasty crops of edible fungi, as well as books on identifying various types of mushrooms throughout the United States.

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.

http://www.phillipsmushroomfarms.com/pcivariety.html

Mushrooms - magical, moony, magnificent

What do you think of when you think of mushrooms? Do you think of dark, damp places, like the basement or a fallen log? Those little ‘toadstools' that pop up in your yard after a heavy rain? Or do you think of those mass-produced, flavorless button mushrooms found packaged in styrofoam and plastic in the neighborhood supermarket? Or, like some people, do you think of the mushrooms that can open your third eye and bend the edges of reality. Or, like other people, do you just think ,"Yuck! I'm not eating a fungus! Don't they grow in poo?"

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
Kosher salt
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
http://en.wikipedia.org
www.foodnetwork.com

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Magical Egg

Eggs are a symbol of life, creation, birth and rebirth. Over the centuries, eggs have been revered, cursed, collected, broken, eaten, buried, filled, and used in innumerable ways by humans desiring to tap their mysterious energies (Cunningham, 1996). Some see the earth itself as an egg. Eggs provide protein, which sustains life, as does the earth.

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).



Springtime Frittata

1/2 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
6 eggs
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

Food from the Water

Let's talk fish and shellfish. Fish and shellfish are ruled by the element of water, of course, and like other foods that are ruled by this element, are used to promote love, psychic awareness, peace and happiness, purification, healing, sleep and friendships.

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
5 eggs
2 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper

Sauce

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

Mint, wonderful mint






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.

Peppermint Tea

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.

Catnip








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.

Catnip Tea:

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

Oregano, Parsley and Thyme




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.

Marinara Sauce

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.





More herbs and spices - Cilantro

I just wrote a novella extolling the virtues of rosemary. It is, as I mentioned, one of the herbs that I am growing outside my apartment. I am also growing cinnamon basil, chives, catnip, oregano, thyme, parsley, and cilantro.

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.


Magical properties of common herbs and spices, part 1


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

Prosperity Shortbread


Fehu - the rune for prosperity

Prosperity Shortbread

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

Books I like




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.

Introduction

Greetings. I guess I will use this first post to introduce the theme of my blog and what I hope to give anyone who reads it.

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.