NWK

NWK

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Coming in 2010

Many people still, for whatever reason, insist on making resolutions for the new calendar year. Very few of us stick with such resolutions, however. Dieting to lose weight is probably the most common resolution. For 2010 I plan to share information on magical diets, including weight loss diets (courtesy of Scott Cunningham), along with food suggestions and recipes by yours truly. Let's see where this goes. Have a happy celebration, everyone, and be safe!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blue Moon Cheesecake

Here is the recipe. I mainly used Emeril Lagasse's recipe, but with a couple of teensy changes.

Crust:
3/4 cup toasted walnuts and pecans (I added the pecans)
3/4 cup toasted bread crumbs
3 Tablespoons melted butter

Process the ingredients in a food processor and press into the bottom and party up the sides of a springform pan.

Filling:
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
12-oz blue cheese, soft and crumbled
4 eggs
couple pinches cayenne pepper (my addition)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 Tablespoon fresh, chopped
2 small cloves garlic or 1 large, finely minced
salt and pepper

In a bowl combine the cheeses and mix until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend. Transfer to the springform pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until lightly golden and set in the middle.

Chill before serving.

Emeril served his with a salad dressed with pear vinaigrette. I'm just going to take pears and apples to slice, plus some candied walnuts and maybe some dried cherries. You could make a compote or maybe add some figs to this. I recommend cutting it into smallish pieces, as opposed to regular slices. It's rich, decadent, and gooooooooood! Yes, I licked the bowl. ;)

Once in a Blue Moon

The year 2009 has almost drawn to a close. I hope everyone who attends New Year's Eve parties has a safe night tomorrow night. How fortunate we are that the new year coincides with a blue moon! Tis surely hoped it is a sign of good things to come.

Tomorrow night I am going to attend a party at a co-worker's house in Istinye. In honor of the blue moon, I have decided to make a Once in a Bleu Moon Cheesecake. Yes, I said "bleu". This won't be a sweet dessert cheesecake, nosirree! I'm making a savory bleu cheese cheesecake.

A few weeks ago my uncle attended a dinner for some Catholic organization he belongs to. The dessert was a bleu cheese cheesecake with sliced apples. That got me to thinkin', as we say in W.Va. I thought, I could make that! I just need a recipe to use as a guideline, being terrible with measurements as I am.

I think I have found a good recipe to start with. I'll add my own touches to it, of course. I'm going to make a walnut crust, or perhaps walnut and pecan together. I think I will serve sliced apples and pears, as well as a selection of dried fruits (perhaps rehydrated into some sort of compote?) alongside. This is the sort of appetizer/party snack you want to serve in small pieces, as it sounds fantastically rich and decadent. Best to eat it now, so you don't ruin your new year's resolutions of diet and exercise. ;)

*Dairy foods such as cheese are good also good for Imbolc and Beltane
*Nuts are good grounding foods

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Prayer Request (and bonus video)

Greetings all. I hope you all had a lovely Yule/Christmas celebration with your loved ones. Today I am going to a post-Christmas dinner at the home of one of my co-workers. I will make a baked Turkish zucchini fritter to take with me. I will also take leftover rum cake that I made yesterday morning.

Now, on to the prayer request. A good friend of mine - actually we were best friends all through high school and part of college - is asking for prayers for her son. Jacob is 5 and a bright, beautiful little boy. I rarely get to see him but it's a pleasure when I do because he's a very well-mannered little guy. He has been plagued with ear infections most of his life, just as his mom was. He has also been having nasty headaches so his mom took him to the doctor where a cyst was discovered. He has a cyst on the right side of his brain. The doctors don't know if it's just filled with fluid or if it's something more serious. They have an appointment to see a neurologist on January 21. Please, please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.


Now, because you have all been such good boys and girls this year, Zedral Claus will give you the gift of song:



(I'm a bit obsessed with George Harrison.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Some Holiday Music for the Kitchen

While these songs are not kitchen- or food-related, they are still appropriate for the season. Here are a few songs to have on in the background during any celebrations that take place this weekend (I know some of you celebrate Christas with your families, or celebrate Yule on the 25 for simplicity).

Jethro Tull









Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstice Greetings

A very blessed Yule to my followers. May the newly reborn sun bathe you in love and blessings. I'm afraid I did not cook a solstice feastie, nor did I perform any elaborate ritual, but I do give thanks for all that has been bestowed upon me and to you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Been Busy

Obviously I haven't been busy blogging! I have, though, been cooking. Yesterday I made a homemade chicken pot pie for some friends. I now have an apartment full of sleeping Turkish boys, along with some embarrassing videos of them for YouTube. I promise I wouldn't upload those things to Facebook. Loophole! I'll post links to my friends and their dancing and other antics as videos are uploaded. It may not be food related, but you're sure to spray tea all over your keyboard. Try not to drink anything while viewing.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dark Goddess Series, part V: Hel



In Norse mythology, Hel is the ruler of Helheim, where she was sent by Odin. She is the youngest child of Loki and Angrboda. Hel, from which we get the term “hell”, is described as half alive and half dead, with the upper body of a living woman and the blackened, moldering lower body of a corpse. Her body represents both life and death.

Hel is the goddess of the inglorious dead - those who did not spend their lives raping, pillaging and burning. Those who died in battle were received into Valhalla instead. Even goddesses get rather unglamorous jobs, but Hel made the job and the domain her own.

Her domain is a damp, dank, depressing place. It isn’t the place of fire and brimstone. There are no souls being roasted over eternal flames. Rather, the wicked have the blood sucked out of their bodies by the dragon Nidhogg.

Some of the research I have found draws a parallel between Hel and Kali. There are some similarities in appearance, such as the black flesh, as well as similarities in position, as both goddesses sit in judgement on the souls of the dead.

Symbols of Hel include the elder tree and the holly. Wells are sacred to her, perhaps because they represent an entry into the underworld.

In all honesty, this was a difficult post to put together, which is why I hesitated earlier. There is a lot of information about Hel but some of it is a bit sugar-coated. None of it was terribly helpful in assisting me.

My domain is the kitchen, which is a warm, happy place (hopefully), although I would also welcome the elderly and the sick. I would provide them with nourishment and comfort as best I could before they had to depart this world. Maybe those who honor Hel don’t even know it. Maybe it’s the person who provides a person’s last meal, or gives that person some comfort before they die and release their soul to whatever good place they believe in.

My suggestion – not because I have absolute authority or knowledge, but because I’m sharing my personal ideas – would be to honor Hel in October, when the spirits of the dead are remembered. I think she should be thanked for keeping order over her realm, of receiving the sick and the old, and of sharing her provisions with them.
When you set a place on your altar or at your table for your beloved dead, set on in memory of Hel as well. Offer her some of your feast and light a candle for her, to let her know you respect her and her world.

Showing respect for her is showing respect for death and for the dead, and recognizing the end to which we all must come. The dark goddesses and goddesses of the underworld are there to remind us that death is a time of rest, a time of preparation for the next life.

As a goddess of the underworld, I would recommend offering potatoes, turnips and beets. Offer meat and bread as well. You can do this at any time, really, but I feel that around Samhain, even though that is more of a Celtic thing, would still be appropriate.







Now can I have the spout for my water pump back?

Fruits of the Season: Oranges

Oranges, like most citrus fruits, are good for purification. They also, according to Cunningham, carry love energy as well. Oranges are one of the fruits that are fresh during the winter and their bright orange color reminds us of the sun that slowly starts to return at Yule.

Oranges, tangerines and grapefruits are wonderful little reminders of the sun. Dried slices of these fruits can be used to decorate wreaths or hung around the kitchen as a garland for Yule. Just having a bowl of citrus fruits on the table in the kitchen or dining room can bring some cheer. Their bright hues add a splash of color to what is an otherwise drab time of year.

A garland of dried citrus slices can also add a nice touch to your Yule/Christmas/Holiday tree. Add some sticks of cinnamon hung with festive ribbon, a garland of cranberries, and some lights and you have a beautifully decorated tree.

To dry citrus fruits, slice them into ¼-inch slices. Squeeze out some of the excess juice and dry on a wire rack placed over a baking sheet in your oven. Set the oven to about 150 degrees F. Leave the door slightly ajar and dry for 5-6 hours.


Another idea for this holiday season is a pomander. What, you may be asking, is a pomander? Well, a pomander is basically a medieval air freshener. It’s a preserved orange, usually, that has been studded with cloves. They aren’t terribly difficult to make. You can find instructions all over the internet. For your convenience, I will include instructions below.





A pomander is a great thing to have in your house, not only because it smells good but also because of the combination of citrus and cloves. These make great protection/purification charms. Get together with your family or magical group and make these. Make some out of small tangerines and hang them on the tree. They make great housewarming gifts. I clearly remember the pomander hanging in the broom closet at my mom’s house when I was growing up. I believe my granny had at least one as well.

To make a pomander you need:

1 orange
1 ounce whole cloves
1 tablespoon each ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
Sandalwood oil or orris root powder *
Toothpick, ice pick, or something else to make holes in the orange
Tape
Paper bag
Ribbon

*Orris root powder comes from a type of orchid. One website recommends using the sandalwood as a preservative instead, as some people are allergic to orris root. It’s used to make ice cream here in Turkey, as well as sahlep, a popular winter beverage. You may not be able to find it, so sandalwood oil is probably your best bet.

1.Knead the fruit in your hands to loosen it up a bit.

2. Mix the spices together with the sandalwood oil (several drops).

3. Use masking tape to mark off a crisscross design on your fruit. This is where you will place the ribbon.

4. Using the toothpick or other sharp object, poke holes on the parts of the orange that aren’t covered in tape. Insert a whole clove into each hole.

5.Place the spice mixture into a paper bag. Roll the orange in this mixture until it is completely covered.

6. Leave the orange in the bag in a cool, dry place for 4-6 weeks until is it completely dried out. Roll the orange in the spice and oil mixture daily. If you notice any mold on your fruit, throw it out and start again. You’ll know it’s ready when it sounds hollow when you tap on it.

7. Shake off the spice mixture. Place the ribbon where the tape was. Sew the ends of the ribbon together to make a loop for hanging. Now your pomander is ready.

If you are using this as a protective charm, separately charge the spices and oil and the fruit. You can recharge the spice mixture every day when you roll the orange in it, or as you see fit.

New Blog

I decided to start a blog that lists recipes I've posted on this blog. I wanted to make it easier for people to find specific recipes without having to read through every single post. Feel free to follow that blog as well.

Join me at http://witchsrecipes.blogspot.com

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Weird...

A week or so ago I had planned to do an entry about Hel and give some information about her and her realm, as well as ideas for letting her know that the job she does is not unappreciated. Sometimes even gods get the short end of the stick. Well, writers block set in and I wasn't really sure what to say. How would one honor Hel? Would anyone want to? Well, someone wants me to write that article, I think. Yesterday I came home to discover the spout from my water pump missing. I've no idea what happened. It was on the pump when I left for work. I think someone or something is playing a trick on me. Loki, is that you? I guess a proper entry on Hel is coming up soon, folks.

Now bring back the spout to my water pump, please!

Winter's Bounty




In the Northern Hemisphere, winter is upon us. Many places are still enjoying mild or warm temperatures, while others are experiencing cold, rain or even snow. Long gone are the fresh, fragrant herbs of summer, the plump juicy fruits and crisp colorful vegetables. What’s a person to do? Surely we can’t be expected to sit in our homes eating uninspiring, lifeless junk food!

Fortunately we have the gift of agriculture to help sustain us, unlike our earlier ancestors, who had to live on preserved foods throughout the long winter months. We know have access to a huge variety of produce all year round. What could be wrong with this? Well, one issue is the fact that certain things just aren’t in season this time of year. Using hothouses to forcibly grow out-of-season produce wields tasteless, inferior products that are nowhere near as lovely or tasty as the fresh, seasonal foods.

Yes, we can go to the freezer section of the grocery store and buy lovely frozen spinach, raspberries, tender peas, and even asparagus. These fruits and veggies were picked at their peak and frozen to preserve their flavor and vitamins. Canned produce is okay too, but the quality isn’t quite as good as frozen. The taste, too can be a bit off-putting. I’ve found that beets, corn and beans are the only veggies that taste okay out of a can. Everything else, to me, tastes like, well, the can.

Happily we can still find fresh fruits and vegetables growing even in winter. Some things may still need to be shipped from one part of the country to the next, or from another country, but at least these things are being harvested while they are in season, as opposed to being grown in a greenhouse somewhere.

What can we eat at Yule? What about at Imbolc? Yule is right around the corner and some of you may already be planning your winter solstice meals. At Yule we celebrate the sun’s returning, This is the longest night of the year, and in some places it is very cold, so we need hearty, satisfying food to give us energy and to ground us after a ritual.

Let us first take a look at what the season offers us in the way of fruits and vegetables. Then we can begin discussing properties of those foods, and ways to prepare them.

Some of the vegetables available in winter include Brussels sprouts, leeks, cabbages, parsnips, sprouting broccoli, and kale. These vegetables pack a nutritional punch, contribute their green hues to the season, and are all protective foods! How nice that so many protective foods are available to us during this dark half of the year. We can begin adding these foods to our diet to fill ourselves and our homes with protective energy.

We also have turnips, rutabagas (I’ve never eaten one of these. Has anyone?), bok choy, artichokes, celery root, sweet potatoes, and chestnuts. Artichokes are also protective. Chestnuts and sweet potatoes are love foods.

Fruits of the season include citrus fruits such as clementines, oranges, blood oranges and grapefruits, as well as kumquats, pears, persimmons (another food I’ve never tried but have seen at the markets here in Istanbul), kiwi, bananas, red grapes, pomegranates, and cranberries.

Citrus fruits are good for purification. Many of the fruits available in the winter are a deep red or orange, the color of the sun we are welcome into our lives again. These fruits make lovely decorations for the altar or the table, as well as a tasty addition to your Sabbat feast.

As you can see, we do not have to have a boring diet in the winter. Even though our bodies crave heavier comfort foods such as thick stews and holiday sweets, we can still incorporate fresh produce as well. The next few posts will discuss ways of using some of winter’s bounty for food, magic, and decoration. We will also continue exploring dark goddesses. Keep reading!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reminder - World AIDS Day


Today is December 1, World AIDS day. Let us remember those who have died from this dreadful disease, as well as those who are still living with it. Hopefully one day we will find a cure and be able to eradicate this awful disease from the planet.

To people who say AIDS is a punishment, answer me this: What did the young children who are suffering from HIV/AIDS do to deserve it? Really? People like that make me sick. People who try to say a vengeful god is punishing people for their lifestyle make me so made I can't even see straight. That, however, is another rant for another time.

In honor of World AIDS Day, please visit http://virtual-candle.org/index.php to light a virtual candle in remembrance. Wear a red ribbon. Talk to people about HIV/AIDS prevention, and above all, if you know someone with HIV/AIDS, give that person your time, love and support.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday Leftovers - Protective Onion and Leek Quiche

I was going to write a bit more about the leek and onion quiche yesterday, but I ended up getting abducted by a horde of drunken Turks instead. Actually, no, that isn't true. This time I willingly traveled to them,instead of having them come to Sariyer to whisk me away. I had a nice little trip to the Asian side of the city on a ferry. I love how I can use a ferry or sea bus to travel from one part of this city to another!

Anywho, back to the quiche. According to Cunningham's Wicca in the Kitchen, eggs have also been used for protection. In Egypt, eggs were held in the hand while reciting protective chants. The Egyptians also consumed a diet heavy in beer, bread and onions, so in a rather roundabout way, this recipe could be used in honor of the ancient Egyptians, I suppose. Heck, why not. Get creative! Quiche is also an appropriate food for Beltain.

I took some pictures of the process but my camera isn't that great. I'm afraid you'll have to suffer through my mediocre attempts at photography.

Pate Brisee (That's crust, y'all)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup chilled shortening, cut into small cubes
1/4 - 1/2 cup ice water

If you have a food processor, this crust is super easy to put together. Put the flour, salt and fat (mmmm....two kinds of fat) into the food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the ice water a few tablespoonfuls at a time, pulsing in between. To test, pinch a little bit of the dough together. If it sticks together and isn't crumbly, it's ready.

Turn the mixture out onto a board or table and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for an hour.

After an hour, divide the dough into two pieces. (I actually used the whole thing for my 10-inch dish. The crust was a little thicker, which is how I like it.) Using a floured rolling pin and a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out into circles about 1/4 or 1/3-inch thick. Place in a buttered pie plate and poke holes all over the bottom. This will let steam escape and keep the pastry from being puffy.

Heat the oven to 375. Put a buttered piece of foil or parchment into the bottom of the crust and weigh it down with a handful of beans or a couple handfuls of rice. You can buy an expensive pie weight if you wish, but you probably have extra rice or dried beans lying around the house. You can't eat the beans or rice after, but you can store these items in a jar and reuse for future crusts.

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Filling

While the pastry was busy chilling, I started making my filling. I used:

2 leeks, split down the middle and sliced into thin rings **
1 1/2 white onions, thinly sliced
1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
4 eggs
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste

**Note on leeks: Leeks are notorious for being hard to clean. I find that the easiest way to get rid of the deep-down grit is to split them down the middle and slice them into the pieces I want to use. I discard the tough green tops. Then, put the slices into a bowl of water. The leeks will float and after a few minutes, all the grit will sink to the bottom. Use a strainer to scoop out your clean leeks.


Melt the butter in a skillet and add the onions and leeks. Cook on low, low heat until the leeks and onions have caramelized. The smell is just fantastic! They will become soft and brown and beautiful. Season with salt and pepper.

While I was cooking the veggies, I envisioned them releasing their protective energy. I sort of "smudged" myself with onion vapor. Yum. :)

When the crust has blind baked for a while, remove it and remove your homemade pie weight. Spread the onion and leek mixture onto the bottom. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream. Add salt and pepper. Pour over the leeks and onions and pop into the oven. Bake until set.

I didn't notice exactly how long mine baked. It seemed as though it were perfectly set after 15 minutes or so. Maybe it was because I had the oven on for a while. Whatever the reason, it baked quickly and was soon firm and lightly brown on top and OMFG delicious.

I served it with simple spinach, lightly sauteed with a smidge of butter, 2 small cloves of garlic, and a grating of fresh nutmeg. It was a truly decadent, delicious meal.



B.C. - Before Caramelization




Go ahead. Put your nose to the monitor and sniff. I won't tell!



Butter adds flavor and makes a flakey crust. Shortening makes it super tender.






I couldn't resist a light sprinkling of Parmesan.



I obviously need better lighting in my kitchen...



Sometimes you just have to take care of yourself. :)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ah, Sunday

I'm off tomorrow too! As most of the population of this country is Muslim, our holiday calendar is a bit different. We've been off since Thursday for Kurban Bayram, the sacrifice holiday. Today I gave my kitchen a thorough scrubbing and burned some rosemary for extra cleansing. Now I'm drinking some Turkish coffee (I'm still trying to prepare it just right. I'm getting better!). I think I will make a leek and onion quiche for dinner.

It rained earlier today but now the sun is out and the sky is a light blue, decorated with a few scruffy clouds. I'm sitting my apartment listening to the 100 greatest hits of 1986 and enjoying the hum of the dryer.

The leek and onion quiche is today's protective magic recipe. Leeks and onions are both ruled by Mars and their element is fire, making them excellent protective foods. They may not be ruled by the Sun, but fire-ruled ingredients will make a nice dish for Sun-day.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Leftover Magic

Thanksgiving leftovers? Never fear, the kitchen witch is here! I wasn’t able to enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving feast this year, but I am still here with ways for you to use up some of the leftover food you may have, and stir up some witchin’ in the kitchen to boot.

The following soup is just the thing to lift you out of the post-Thanksgiving slump. In fact, it’s good for helping lift you out of the winter doldrums, so it’s a good one to hang on to until spring. Plus, being a spicy soup, it’s good not only for warming and protection, but you can also serve it at Imbolc.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

First, let’s talk about that pumpkin. As we have discussed before, this is an excellent symbol of the harvest. Its round shape represents fertility and abundance. The seeds are also symbols of fertility and can be toasted and eaten, or dried and marked with runes for divination. If you like to do things the slower way, maybe you’ve purchased a pumpkin and roasted it yourself. If so, good for you. Roasting the pumpkin intensifies the flavor and brings out a lovely sweetness. If you’re short on time, however, canned or raw pumpkin will work just as well. This recipe is partially about the spice.

Ingredients:
2 medium onions, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ tablespoons fresh ginger, finely minced or grated
1 hot red chili, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 ½ cups pumpkin (used canned or roasted, whichever you have)
3 cups water
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth
1 14-oz can coconut milk
3 tablespoons butter or oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, melt butter and cook onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, chili, and spices. Stir to coat everything with the spice mixture and cook 2 more minutes.

Add the pumpkin, water and broth and simmer, covered for about 30 minutes. Add the coconut milk and continue simmering for another 5-10 minutes. Puree the soup in batches in your blender or use a stick immersion blender to blend until smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot. Soup can be thinned with a little extra water or stock if it’s too thick for your liking.

Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro leaves if desired.

Not in the mood for soup? You can also turn this into a satisfying, chunky curry to serve over rice. Use cubes of roasted pumpkin instead of canned, and omit the water and stock, keeping the coconut milk.

Dark Goddess Series, Pt. IV - The Callieach



Picture is from from The Goddess Oracle and is the property of Thalia Took (www.thaliatook.com).


The Cailleach, or Veiled Woman, is a Celtic hag goddess, associated with places in Scotland and the Isle of Man. There she is seen as a winter spirit, whose behavior on February 1 predicts the weather for the coming year. In other lore she is the symbol of winter that holds spring captive, by keeping Brigid prisoner inside a mountain. Upon her escape, spring returns.

Other lore features The Cailleach Bhéirre as a hideous old woman in search of love. If she finds love, she turns into a beautiful woman.

Druidry.org has this to say: “The early Celts savored the dark side of life. They embraced war like a lover, plunging into battle naked, singing gloriously boastful songs. They were fearless in the face of death, which their belief in reincarnation taught them was “…but the center of a long life.” It was not uncommon for a man to lend money and agree on repayment in a future lifetime. Their day began at dusk; the new year at Samhain, the festival we know as Halloween. Darkness was associated with new beginnings, the potential of the seed below the ground. In Celtic mythology and folk-lore, the wisdom of darkness is often expressed by powerful goddess figures. Whether in the natural, cultural or individual context, their role is to catalyze change through the transformative power of darkness, to lead through death into new life. A Dark Goddess of nature, particularly in Scotland, is the Cailleach, a name that came to mean “Old Wife”, but which is literally, “Veiled One,” an epithet often applied to those who belong to hidden worlds. To this name is often added Bheur: ‘sharp’ or ‘shrill’, for she personifies the cutting winds and harshness of the northern winter. She was also known as the daughter of Grianan, the “little sun” which in the old Scottish calendar shines from Hallowmas to Candlemas, followed by the “big sun” of the summer months.”

She is depicted as a crone with the teeth of a wild bear and/or the tusks of a wild boar, or she is seen as a one-eyed giantess. Her appearance, frightful as it sounds, makes sense, as she is the guardian spirit of reindeer, swine, deer, wild cattle, goats and wolves.

On November 1, a festival known as 'Reign of the Old Woman Cailleach' is celebrated annually in the Celtic countries (in Ireland it is known as 'Day of the Banshees'). ‘The End of Cailleach’ is also observed. It is held on the eve of Imbolc (Jan. 31 or Feb. 1), This fest signals the start of Imbolc and the end of winter.

Thalia Took, author and artist of the incredibly gorgeous Goddess Oracle Deck, says this about The Cailleach: “ Getting the Cailleach in a reading indicates a time of winter. Peer into the darkness to find the old and ancient bones. What do they cage? What new thing can they support? Is the Cailleach holding beautiful Spring captive, or will time transform the Hag into Spring Herself?”

What does this mean? Again, this is another goddess telling us to take time to look deep within, to face our darkest fears and realize our darkest desires. Only then can we begin to grow and flourish. We must first face the darkness of winter before we can bask in the light of the spring.

To observe The End of Cailleach at the end of January/beginning of February, prepare an altar or table with a bowl of snow (or freezer frost!) as a symbol of Cailleach. You can place candles around the bowl or in the bowl. Use red, orange, and yellow candles to welcome the sun. You can do this before your Imbolc ritual, or find a way of combining the two if you so choose. For Cailleach, I would use ice blue and dark blue candles, as well as black and white. Give thanks for the time of introspection, as well as the gift of life during the long, cold winter. Give thanks for the release of Brigid, so spring can come.

Foods:
Root vegetables
Irish soda bread
Preserved meat, such as ham

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup (Zedral Z)
1 small winter squash, peeled, seeded, cut into chunks
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
2 gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, or ½ teaspoon dried
4 tablespoons oil (olive, Canola, etc.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Homemade vegetable or chicken stock (or store bought), or water

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In an oiled roasting dish, combine the vegetables. Toss with oil, rosemary and salt and pepper. Roast for 40-50 minutes, until vegetables are fork-tender and the flavor has intensified.

From here you can either transfer the vegetables to a soup pot with 5-6 cups of warm stock and puree with a hand mixer, or use a blender to puree the vegetables and broth together in a blender. You may reserve some of the chunks of potato, carrot and squash for the soup, or puree it all until smooth. Reheat gently.

Irish Soda Bread - recipe from Cooking by the Seasons by Karri Ann Allrich

2 cups unbleached all-purpose (AP) flour
4 tablespoons (T) sugar
1 teaspoon (t) baking powder
½ t baking soda
½ t sea salt
1 cup currants
1 T caraway seeds
1 free-range egg
½ cup canola oil or melted stick margarine
2/3 cup milk or almond milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a round cake pan with stick margarine. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, currants, and caraway seeds. Whisk together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, and milk. Pour into the dry ingredients and combine with a wooden spoon, until moistened. Batter will be a bit sticky.

Mound the batter onto the pan, forming a rounded-shape loaf in the center of the pan. Smooth out the surface as best you can. With a sharp knife, cut an equal-sized cross into the center-top surface, about ½ inch deep, and sprinkle lightly with flour.

Bake on the center rack for 25-30 minutes, until the loaf is a golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack and cool before serving.

Cut the bread into wedges and serve in a basket, with plenty of butter or margarine.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dark Goddess Series, Part III: Hecate


I know I'm a bit late for the Night of Hecate but I've been very busy at work. Please accept this slightly late post and know that you can certainly honor Hecate at any time. :)


Who is Hecate? Today’s Witches and Pagans associate her with the crossroads, magic, witchcraft, and ghosts. She has also been associated with everything from childbirth to dogs. During the Hellenistic period she was depicted as a three-faced woman. The earliest depictions of Hecate, however, were of a single-faced goddess. Some neo-Pagans refer to her as a crone goddess, although this conflicts with her former characterization as a virgin.

Hecate was a pre-Olympian goddess, the only Titan Zeus allowed to retain any authority once the Olympians took over. Often classified as a moon goddess, Hecate actually reigned over the earth, sea and sky. Her ability to create storms or to hold them back made her the protector of sailors and shepherds.

Like her cousin, Artemis, Hecate retained her independence and solitude, remaining unwilling to give up this independent nature for the sake of marriage.

Another similarity between the two goddesses is the presence of sacred dogs, although the dogs, much like Hecate herself, were thought to each have three heads and the ability to see in all directions at once (and even the past, present and future). Hecate is depicted as either a beautiful woman with three heads, or a woman with the heads of a snake, a boar, and a horse.

Hecate became Persephone’s friend and confidant during the latter’s time in the Underworld. Her ability to see into the Underworld made her comfortable in the presence of those who would normally be shunned by others. Her friendliness toward Persephone gained her a permanent invitation to Underworld from Hades.

Hecate was not only called upon to help ease a mother’s labor and to aid her child’s transition into this world, but she was also called upon to help the dying make their journey. Hecate is there to help us when we have a journey to make. She waits at the crossroads, waiting to help us find our way.

Now that you have a tiny bit of background information on Hecate (and there is so, so much more that could be said, believe me!), it is time to think about how to honor her in the most sacred room of the home: the kitchen.

The first step is to thoroughly clean the kitchen. Scrub the grease off the stovetop, wash and put away the dishes, sweep and mop the floor, and take out that smelly trash! Next, spiritually cleanse the area.

Rosemary is one of those all-purpose herbs and can be used for protection and cleansing as well as remembrance and love. However, it is ruled by the sun, and as Hecate is a moon goddess, you may wish to find something a bit closer to the cool, silvery energy of the moon. Cleanse the area with sage, which is more traditional, and light candles of black, white and silver. Welcome Hecate into your home in the way you deem fit. If you need help finding your way, or have something you wish to be rid of, ask for her assistance. Again, you the words that you deem appropriate.

Some suitable offerings for Hecate are moon foods: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, coconut, lemon, lentils, melon, milk, mushrooms, potatoes, and pumpkins.

Some ideas (recipes provided upon request):
Lentil salad with lemon and cucumbers
Roasted Brussels sprouts
Potato-cauliflower soup
Potato-mushroom gratin
Pumpkin soup

Another suggestion is to leave some food outside for stray neighborhood dogs, or make a donation of dog food to the local animal shelter. Do this in Hecate’s name in honor of her sacred hounds.

A Tale of Thanksgiving

Actually this is a tale of giving thanks, as opposed to the holiday of the same name. This story is about Samhain, about giving thanks for life and for the harvest, and about remembering those who have passed. I know it's a bit late to be sharing a Samhain story, but it will be even later by the time it is actually finished.

I will continue the story on my own. I trust you will let me know if you wish to read more. 'Tis a rough draft, so there may be some spelling errors that I have missed. If you read this and find any, let me know. I'm terrible at catching my own errors, especially after reading other people's writing all day!


*************************************************************************************

Samhain. The end of the harvest. Maya knows it is almost time. She has been preparing all day and is eagerly anticipating the ritual. It will give her a chance to recover from her labors. All day she has been tying bunches of rosemary, sage, and thyme into bundles. The herbs were grown in pots around the perimeter of the house and brought inside when the weather turned cold. The fragrant herbs hang from the rafters of the kitchen to try, their earth aroma filling the air and mixing in with the smoke from the fire.

The cauldron bubbles over the fire, adding more delicious smells to the atmosphere. The flickering light from the fire causes shadows to dance upon the wall. Maya knows that spirits are also beginning to dance around the room. They too are awaiting the ritual. She knows that her grandparents are somewhere nearby; she can feel their presence. They have been waiting all year for this invitation to supper, for a chance to be remembered again.

Taking a bone-handled knife, Maya gathers a few sprigs of rosemary and lays them before her on the wooden table. She pauses for a moment, knife on the table beside the herbs. She smiles. “Remembrance,” she whispers, then proceeds to finely chop the rosemary. She hums a little tune to herself as she chops, a tune that her grandmother used to sing to her. A tear, small and shiny as a crystal, rolls down Maya’s cheek and mixes in with the rosemary. It is a tear brought on by the happiness of the memory.

Maya’s mother soon returns with her two sisters and their husbands. They have been picking apples at a local orchard and gathering a few acorn squash. Maya’s aunt Dilara sweeps into the kitchen, cheeks rosy from the cold autumn afternoon, and greets Maya with a hug and kiss. Wordlessly she places a small sack into Maya’s hands. She peers inside and gasps with delight at what she sees: chestnuts! She flings her arms around Auntie Dilara and thanks her for the treat. “They will be perfect with the squash, Auntie!” she exclaims. “Grandpa’s favorite dish.”

“Mine too!” Dilara winks at her niece. She crosses the room, pulls an apron off the peg, ties it around her waist and begins preparing the chestnuts.

“It smells wonderful in here,” Dilara’s husband remarks. “Kudos to you, Maya. Most people don’t know how to put a big fireplace like that to good use!”

“My little Maya is a true kitchen witch,” Maya’s mother said, affectionately squeezing her daughter’s shoulders. “She knows how to keep a coven happy.”

A little embarrassed by the praise, Maya ducks her head and resumes work. The rosemary will she minced earlier will go into biscuits to be served with the bubbling stew. She has prepared a special feast with magical ingredients to mark the evening’s ritual.

The coven, comprised mostly of family and friends of the family, plan to hold a Dumb Supper in order to honor their beloved dead. In the living room an altar has been decorated with pictures of the deceased, along with flowers, candles, and special mementos. Food will also be offered to them during the meal, which will be eaten in silence.

The table for the Dumb Supper is draped in a black cloth. Special black dishes, only used once a year, have already been set upon the table. Everything is black, including the clothing to be worn.

Maya had been working all day to prepare the stew made from pork and apples. This represents prosperity as well as love. It According to her mother, her great-aunt made the same dish every year, to bring luck for the coming year. The rosemary in the bread symbolized remembrance, which was the main purpose of the evening’s event. She would also prepare acorn squash stuffed with grains, vegetables, and chestnuts, to represent the final harvest of the year.

Dilara places the chestnuts in an old cast iron roaster and places them in the embers. Soon the smell of roasting chestnuts adds its special memory-evoking aroma to the air. Maya pauses during the rolling of the biscuit dough to breathe in the smell. She recalls earlier autumn festivities and can almost feel the chill in the air as she remembers her father carrying her through the pumpkin patch in search of the perfect pumpkin to carve. She can smell the fallen leaves mixed in with the smell of chestnuts being roasted in a small pit, along with freshly pressed, spiced apple cider. She takes a deep breath and sighs.

Dilara, noticing her niece’s sighs, looks at her and smiles. She knows the power of smells and how they can bring back memories of past events and remind people of loved ones. Taking the chestnuts out of the fire she brings them back to the table to cool. As they cool she takes a biscuit cutter and begins to help Maya cut the biscuits. As she begins to cut, she leads Maya and the other women in the kitchen in a chant:

Hoof and Horn, Hoof and Horn,
All that dies shall be reborn,
Corn and Grain, Corn and Grain,
All that falls shall rise again!


The women start softly, then increase in volume and tempo until Maya’s mother and aunt Maggie are happily twirling about the large kitchen, emphasizing the words of the song with hand gestures and elaborate movements that make everyone laugh. Their commotion draws the uncles into the kitchen and they join, stomping their feet and clapping their hands. This is what Sabbats were about in Maya’s family – everyone together, enjoying life and celebrating the wheel of the year. Maya, beaming, adds another happy autumn memory to her list. She has much to be thankful for.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Open to Suggestions

If anyone has a dark deity s/he wants to see here, please let me know. I have a couple more on my list, but I'd like to explore some of the lesser-known dark gods and goddesses. Whaddya got? Lay it on me!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kitchen Witchin': A Video

Here is my feeble attempt at making borek, or something that I hope at least resembles borek.

Ingredients:

Yufka - pastry
Spinach (cooked with onion)
White cheese

Not pictured: BUTTER








Making Borek from Hari Scruff on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dark Goddess Series, Part II - Baba Yaga




Baba Yaga (Baba Ye-gar) is prominently featured in many Russian tales. She is the stereotypical evil witch in appearance, with the long, down-turned nose, pointy chin, and numerous warts. Known also as “Old Bony Legs”, this fearsome hag flies through the air in a mortar, using the pestle to propel herself, and sweeping her tracks with a silver birch broom.

Baba Yaga lives in a house that is perched on chicken feet. The gate around her house is topped with human skulls and she is known as an eater of children. She has a very short temper, yet in some stories she has a helpful side.

She is also the keeper of fire, and the skulls around her home have a fire in each of them. In some stories the fire is green. She has three horsemen – a white rider on a white horse, a red rider on a red horse, and a black rider on a black horse – who represent day, sunrise, and night, respectively.

In one of the more famous stories, a girl named Vasilisa is sent to Baba Yaga by her stepmother. Vasilisa’s mother died some time before, but not before giving her daughter a magical doll. Sent by the stepmother to get coal for the fire, Vasilisa ends up spending several days in Baba Yaga’s house completing tasks such as separating poppy seeds from soot. As in Cinderella, Vasilisa is rewarded and the stepmother and stepsisters are punished in the end.

Vasilisa can be seen as the Maiden who must come into womanhood by completing certain rites of passage –i.e. the tasks Baba Yaga asks her to complete. Baba Yaga herself is, of course, the Crone. She is seen by some as evil, but to others she can be a source of wisdom and help, much as other Crone or dark aspects of the Goddess.

Baba Yaga is the arch-Crone, the wise one, the symbol of the death that we must all face. She is also a symbol of transformation, represented by the mortar and pestle she uses to fly. A mortal and pestle grinds course grains and seeds, wearing them down to reveal the newly transformed material. A poppy seed, for example, is transformed into oil, which is its next phase. So are we transformed through death and rebirth, from one incarnation into the next.

There are so many more things that can be said about this scary woman, but you can look into her information and wisdom on your own time if you wish. Does she really eat children? Is she really as terrifying as she is made out to be? Stories say that those who seek her of their own free will seem to fare better than others. I do not know.

Baba Yaga: The Black Goddess: http://www.mythinglinks.org/BabaYaga.html
More stories of Vasilisa and Marusia: http://www.oldrussia.net/baba.html

Now, if you are in the mood to honor the Crone and her wisdom, you can set aside the 20th of January to honor Baba Yaga/Baba Den, as they do in Bulgaria. Grandmothers, doctors, wise women and others who help bring children into the world are also honored on this day. Children visit and take them flowers.

For Baba Yaga or Baba Den:

Decorate the altar or table with birch branches to represent the broom she uses to sweep away her tracks. If you have a mortar and pestle, place that on the table as well. Burn sandalwood or patchouli incense. Place geraniums on the table and light candles in black, white and red. Do these also if you wish to request her aid in banishing.

Foods:

Banitza – Phyllo pastry with cheese

10-12 sheets phyllo/filo pastry (you can purchase this in the freezer case of the grocery store)
1 lb/500 gr. Brined white cheese, such as a mild feta
½ stick butter, melted
3-4 eggs
1 cup soda water
Pinch of salt

Butter a medium-sized baking dish. Put on a layer of pastry and brush with melted butter. Keep the rest of the pastry sheets covered under a damp cloth so they don’t dry out.

Sprinkle the crumbled white cheese onto the pastry. Cover with another sheet of pastry and repeat the process.

In a bowl whisk together the eggs, salt and soda water. Pour onto the banitza and allow it to soak in.

Bake at about 425 F for approximately 40 minutes, or until the banitza is golden brown and has risen slightly. Allow to cook for 30 minutes before serving.
You can add sautéed spinach to the cheese, or even sautéed cabbage.

Accompany this dish with mushroom stroganoff, buttered poppy seed noodles, and maybe a nice roast chicken with walnut sauce. This menu is a mixture of Bulgarian and Russian recipes, but you could skip the banitza and make (frozen) piroshky instead.

Oh, and don’t forget the vodka.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

After the Darkness, Light

It’s the dark half of the year and seasonal depression is kicking my ass. I could try to fight it but I know I would ultimately lose, so why not just go with the flow? Since I’m in a dark mood, I’ve decided to look at some of the darker aspects of the Goddess and work on dishes to honor them.

We shall begin with Kali, a goddess to whom I have long felt a closeness. Kali, whose name means “black”, is the Hindu goddess of time and change. She has often been looked upon as violent and bloody, and this concept of a goddess of annihilation still carries some influence. However, she is also viewed as a redeemer of the universe, and some new devotees look upon her as a benevolent mother goddess. In reality she is all of these. She is the beginning and the end, the creatrix and the destroyer, the one who births you and the one who removes you from this life.

Kali is the consort of Shiva, upon whose body she is often depicted standing. Kali, in her role of destroyer, became drunk from drinking the blood of the dead and found it impossible to stop her dance of destruction. Mythology tells us that Shiva lay down in front of her in an attempt to stop her. Another version states that Shiva was but an infant when he is sent onto the battlefield to stop her. She ceases her rampage and picks up the infant Shiva to comfort and nurse him. This is Kali in her mother goddess aspect, as aspect which is not as widely recognized in the Western world.

The lesson she has for us is similar to that of other dark goddesses: life cannot exist without death. If we are to accept her blessings in life, we most also face the terrors of the grave. This is an easy concept to pay lip service to, but when you really start thinking about it, or are actually faced with the prospect of meeting Her in death, it becomes quite different. I believe those who truly struggle with certain ailments – mental as well as physical- are closer to this reality than they would like to acknowledge. Suddenly the thought of the cycle of birth, death and rebirth is not so comforting. It becomes a rather frightening concept, or at least one that causes nervousness, discomfort, and worry.

What are we to do, then? We cannot avoid death. Our end is just as inevitable as it has been for everyone else who has walked upon this planet. I think it best to accept the fact that all of us must meet the same fate, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to happen anytime soon.

When I get into one of these dark, introspective moods and over think my own mortality, I find it best to do something to get my mind off things. I hit the kitchen. That’s what kitchen witches do, is it not? In the kitchen I am more at ease and am able to release some of my anxiety and some of my thoughts of the cold lonely grave and embrace life and joy through cooking.




When I want to open myself up to Kali, to receive any wisdom she wishes to pass my way, I cook up some Indian food. One of my favorite dishes is rajma masala, which is full of ingredients that are ruled by the element of fire. Fire is a good representation of Kali, as it an element that can destroy and purify at the same time.

*Note: Followers of Jainism and Vaishnavism , as well as devotees of Krishna, do not use onions and garlic. Instead, they use asafetida. As far as I know, Kali has no problem with onions and garlic.

Rajma Masala

2 cups kidney beans, soaked over night
Water
1-2 bay leaves
1-2 onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon each finely chopped/grated ginger
1-2 tablespoons finely minced garlic 1
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon asafetida powder, optional
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons red chili powder
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped, or one small can
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons ground coriander
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
Finely chopped cilantro/coriander leaves for garnish

Cook the kidney beans until they are soft. Some recipes recommend a pressure cooker but most people don’t have these. You’re more than welcome to use canned kidney beans, which most people can get. They’re safer. If you’re using canned beans, use two large cans.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet. Add the cumin seeds and let them sputter for a minute. Add the bay leaves, asafetida (if using), garlic and ginger. Stir-fry so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the onions and fry until lightly golden. Add the rest of the spices except the garam masala. Add the tomatoes. Fry for 5-6 more minutes.
Add the beans and either a ladleful or two of the cooking water, or a 2 cups of regular water. Add salt to taste. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

Add the garam masala last. Cover and turn the heat to low. Let the dish simmer on low heat for another 5 minutes. Garnish with the fresh cilantro leaves. Serve with Basmati rice.

Offer some of this with a prayer of thanks for life. Offer up your apprehensions regarding mortality and ask for a deeper understanding of the cycle. Breathe in the aroma of garlic, onion, and chili and visualize the dish’s ingredients warming you and revitalizing you.

Light flame-colored candles and decorate the table with marigolds or other golden flowers. Share this meal with your loved ones and know that this darkness will pass.

Suggested music
George Harrison: All Things Must Pass
Traditional Indian music
http://www.raaga.com/channels/sanskrit/moviedetail.asp?mid=S0000025

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Samhain and El Dia de los Muertos

Skull of sugar,
Bone of bread,
We offer these gifts
To our beloved dead


I hope everyone had a lovely Samhain. I suppose greetings for the new year are in order. Today is also El Dia de los Muertos – Day of the Dead. This festival coincides with the Catholic festivals of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which occur on November 1 and 2, respectively. On this day families in Mexico visit the graves of loved ones. The graves are cleaned and decorated with fresh flowers. Marigolds are traditional.

Altars, or ofrendas, are constructed. These will hold a variety of objects including flowers, candles, figures of the Virgin Mary, pictures of the deceased, and the favorite foods and drinks of the deceased. Candy or small toys might be added for children. Offerings of food are also taken to the graves.

Popular symbols of this day are the calacas – skulls made of pressed sugar that are brightly decorated. This is not a festival of grief and sadness; it is a celebration of life and of the end we must all face. La Catrina is another common symbol. José Guadalupe Posada created a famous print of a figure that he called "La Calavera de la Catrina" ("calavera of the female dandy"), which quickly became a popular figure.

Traditional foods and beverages include atole, tequila or pulque, tamales and Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead). The bread is often decorated with bones made from dough.

Many of you may have remembered your ancestors in ritual last night, while some of you may choose to continue the observances through November 2. Last year I posted a recipe for Pan de Muerto. For those of you who prefer a different approach, I offer the recipe for Rosemary Remembrance cookies.

Rosemary, as many of you know, is an herb used in purification. It is also good for remembrance. Rosemary is also used for healing and love, making it the ideal herb for this time of year and for the remembrance of those who have passed through the veil.

You can make shortbread cookies with rosemary, but this recipe is more of a sugar cookie. Use gingerbread men cookie cutters to give the cookies human form, or use animal shapes if remembering pets/familiars.

Ingredients

2 sticks unsalted butter or margarine (non-hydrogenated), at room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract (optional; use 2 tsp. vanilla if not using almond)
1-2 teaspoons very finely minced rosemary
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and salt until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla/almond extract. Mix well. Add in the flour slowly and mix on low speed (if not mixing by hand) until dough starts to come together. Sprinkle in the rosemary and gently fold in.

Divide the dough into two rounds and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375. Unwrap the dough on a floured table or counter. Work with half the dough at a time. Keep the other half in the fridge to stay cool. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough. Cut out your people and animal shapes, as well as pumpkins, skulls, bats, or any other shapes you desire. Place the cookies onto a nonstick cookie sheet. Give them room to bake by placing them about ½ inch apart.

Bake the cookies 6-8 minutes, or until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container if you do not use/eat them all.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hat!

The hat I won from Mrs. B's 31 Days of Halloween arrived yesterday. It's so freaking cute! I wore it to my first class. :) Thanks to Irish at www.bratboutique.net for making such an awesome witch hat! I absolutely love it.





Monday, October 26, 2009

Non-food Crafties

As I've stated before, finding anything that could pass as a Halloween decoration isn't easy to do in a country that doesn't know much about Halloween. Sometimes this works out because if you have time and are creative, you can make some pretty groovy things on your own. I, however, am not terribly artistic or skilled, lack patience and definitely lack the time and organization for larger projects. That and I'm just really, really bad at following directions. Some sort of temporary dyslexia takes over, I swear.

Anyway, a site that I really like is The Anti Craft (www.theanticraft.com). Many of the projects on the site involve knitting, which I cannot do, but there are other projects as well. The archives are grouped together by Sabbats. Scrolling through the Samhain archives, I came across a project that takes cheap, mass-produced badly-painted figurines from the dollar store and turns them into creepy works of art.

Example:



Exhibit A is a badly-painted magnet from a cheap store in town. The picture isn't very good but the lighting kind of sucks. The magnet is stuck to the can of black spray paint that I used to cover the peaches-and-cream flesh of this happy couple on their special day.

A little black spray paint and some ceramic or acrylic paint is all it takes to turn that into this:






Isn't that better? Well, the photograph isn't, but the results are. I started repainting nativity scenes while I was home for the summer and plan to finish the next time I get to the U.S.

So here's the plan

A lot of bloggers have been hosting incredible giveaways lately. Mrs. B has kept it up all throughout the month of October and I think she should be commended. She's put a lot of hard work and a lot of thought into this month. Plus, the people who sponsored giveaways have donated some amazing stuff. I won a great hat and will post pictures of myself wearing it as soon as it arrives.

All these giveaways have made me think about getting on the bandwagon. I live in Turkey, as most of you probably already know. That means shipping things costs a good bit and it takes 2-3 weeks for things to arrive. However, I send a box home for the holidays and will be sending out the annual box o' goodies sometime next month. What I do is included addresses and lists of who gets what and my mom is kind enough to send things to their final destinations once the box reaches the United States.

I would like to send a few Turkish goodies to someone. I was thinking of doing this if I reach 100 followers by, oh, mid-November. I'll send the box around the end of the month so it gets to the States on time. I have about 55 followers via Facebook now, I think. I don't know much about the random choosing and such but I can learn about proper giveaway hosting as time goes on. So, what do you all say? Care to spread the word about my silly little blog? I know it's not much, but I really don't know a lot about the world of technology. I just do the best I can and try to include pictures and stuff when I think about it.

I'm still working on my cookbook idea, but now that I've started teaching again, I've been using all my spare time to decompress and not think about classes! Plus, several recipes still need more testing and I can't test all of them where I am, due to lack of proper ingredients.

Y'all think about it while I go attempt to teach reading skills to my chilluns and I'll be back later. Ta!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Quick Question

I have a question for the more computer savvy of you. How does one go about making a blogger button? I have some buttons for the other sites that I visit, but I've no clue as to how or where they were made. How is it done?

Fanx! :)=

Fruits of the Season - Pomegranates


I am so happy that pomegranate season is here! I adore those lovely little seeds surrounded by juicy, garnet flesh. I've been meaning to get to a pomegranate post for a while now, but I first wanted to find a pomegranate seed meditation to share with you all. The one I had in mind is by Cait Johnson and it's in her Witch in the Kitchen book, which I don't have with me. I brought a few of my books back from the U.S. with me this summer, but I didn't have room for them all.

Anyway...pomegranates! In Turkish the word is "nar" and freshly-squeezed, antioxidant-rich juice is available all over the place these days. It's a beautiful deep ruby, deeper than blood.

Pomegranate juice is a symbol of blood, of life. The fruit itself is reminiscent of the womb, while the inside reminds me of an ovary, with the seeds representing the eggs. Seeds and eggs are both potential life forms, waiting for something to allow the life force within to burst forth and grow. It's no wonder the pomegranate is a symbol of fertility.



Pomegranates in Myth and Religion

Many of you know the story of Persephone and how she was abducted and taken to the Underworld. Her mother, Demeter, was distraught. She searched everywhere for Persephone, and in her sadness, refused to allow anything to grow. Zeus, in response to the cries of the hungry, forced the god of the Underworld to return Persephone. However, the Fates dictated that whoever ate or drank while in the underworld would have to remain. Persephone, having been tricked into eating a few pomegranate seeds, had to return to the underworld for part of the year - one month for each seed she consumed.

According to the Qur'an, pomegranates grow in the gardens of paradise.

In Judaism, pomegranate seeds are eaten at Rosh Hashana. The fruit is a symbol of fruitfulness. The symbol of the pomegranate is woven into the hem of the robe worn by the Hebrew High Priest. The pomegranate is also used in Christian religious decoration.

For Samhain

The pomegranate is a great food choice for Samhain. Decorate your altar with whole and cut pomegranates. Use the seeds as part of your ritual and simple feast. The red juice symbolizes the blood of life that continues throughout the coming winter.

The seeds can be consumed for physical or spiritual fertility. As you eat the seeds, think about Persephone and her time spent as Queen of the Underworld. Think about how this dark time of year is a time for reflection, a time to draw inside yourself and think about the goals you wish to realize in the coming year.

Here is a recipe that combines pomegranate seeds and nuts, both traditional foods for Samhain. Make these for your Dia de los Muertos celebration if you observe it.


Chiles en Nogada (Chiles in Walnut Sauce)
*Featured in Como Agua Para Chocolate


Chiles en Nogada (Chilies in Walnut Sauce)




You must start this dish one day ahead by soaking the walnuts for the nogada sauce overnight.
Ingredients

The Picadillo:
2 lbs of boneless pork
1/2 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 Tbsp salt, or to taste

6 Tbsp of lard or the fat from the broth
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
The cooked meat (about 3 cups - note if you use more than 3 cups, you will need to increase the amounts of the other ingredients)
A molcajete (mortar and pestle)
8 peppercorns
5 whole cloves
1/2 inch stick cinnamon
3 heaping Tbsp of raisins
2 Tbsp blanched and slivered almonds
2 heaping Tbsp acitron or candied fruit, chopped
2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 pear, cored, peeled and chopped
1 peach, pitted, peeled and chopped
Method

1 Cut the meat into large cubes. Put them into the pan with the onion, garlic, and salt and cover with cold water. Bring the meat to a boil, lower the flame and let it simmer until just tender - about 40-45 minutes. Do not over cook. Leave the meat to cool off in the broth.

2 Strain the meat, reserving the broth, then shred or chop it finely and set it aside. Let the broth get completely cold and skim off the fat. Reserve the fat.

3 Melt the lard and cook the onion and garlic, without browning, until they are soft.

4 Add the meat and let it cook until it begins to brown.

5 Crush the spices roughly in the molcajete and add them, with the rest of the ingredients to the meat mixture. (If you don't have a molcajete, you can use the blunt end of a pestle to crush the spices in a bowl.) Cook the mixture a few moments longer.

6 Add chopped peach and pear to the mixture.

The Chilies:
7 Put 6 chiles poblanos (and you MUST use this type of chili) straight into a fairly high flame or under a broiler and let the skin blister and burn. Turn the chiles from time to time so they do not get overcooked or burn right through. (See How to roast chile peppers over a gas flame tutorial using Anaheim chiles.)

8 Wrap the chiles in a damp cloth or plastic bag and leave them for about 20 minutes. The burned skin will then flake off very easily and the flesh will become a little more cooked in the steam. Make a slit in the side of each chili and carefully remove the seeds and veins. Be careful to leave the top of the chili, the part around the base of the stem, intact. (If the chilies are too hot - picante, let them soak in a mild vinegar and water solution for about 30 minutes.) Rinse the chilies and pat them dry.

9 Stuff the chilies with the picadillo until they are well filled out. Set them aside on paper towels.

The Nogada (walnut sauce)
The day before:
20 to 25 fresh walnuts, shelled
cold milk

10 Remove the thin papery skin from the nuts. (Note, these are Diana Kennedy's instructions. I have found it virtually impossible to remove the skins from the fresh walnuts that come from our walnut tree. The above photo shows the sauce which includes the skins. I think it would be creamier without the skins, but what can you do? We found that blanching the walnuts did not help get the skin off. Completely cover the walnuts with cold milk and leave them to soak overnight.

On serving day:
The soaked and drained nuts
1 small piece white bread without crust
1/4 lb queso fresco
1 1/2 cups thick sour creme (or creme fraiche)
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
Large pinch of cinnamon

11 Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until they are smooth.

To Serve
To assemble the dish, cover the chilies in the nogada sauce and sprinkle with fresh parsley leaves and pomegranate seeds.


** Recipe source: www.simplyrecipes.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Are Your Bones Chilled?

Is your spine tingling yet? Has your blood curdled due to the frightening pre-Halloween activities? Well, if so, I have concocted yet another hot chocolate recipe that will warm you through and through. Warning: This is a seriously spicy brew, so serve it if Samhain is chilly in your part of the world.

Zedral Z's Chocolate (pseudo)Mexicano:

1 1/3 cups milk
2-3 teaspoons sugar, depending on how sweet you like it
2 teaspoons good quality cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon crushed hot chili (a pinch, really)

Extracts:
Vanilla
Almond

Measure these in the little caps from the bottles. You want less than 1/2 a capful, say 1/8 teaspoon or just slightly under

Heat the milk on low heat. Whisk in the other ingredients and warm until bubbles form along the sides of your pan. Remember to heat the milk slowly and whisk often. You don't want the milk to scald and form that weird skin on top.

Serve it with a dollop of whipped cream and garnish it with a cinnamon stick, sprinkle of cinnamon, chocolate curls, or whatever you fancy. Me, I drink mine plain. I'm having some right now and getting ready to watch a scary movie.

Bonus: Serve this one to a loved one to increase passion. Cinnamon, chocolate and chili together make a potent combination.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Halloween Goodies - Eyeball Tacos

Since Halloween/Samhain is almost upon us, I thought I would devote another entry or two to fun foods for your celebration in addition to the posts about seasonal fruits and other edibles.

As I've mentioned before, I intend to put a Mexican twist on my Halloween party this year and sort of combine Halloween/Samhain and El Dia de los Muertos for my own personal celebration as well.

If you are interested in my hot chocolate recipe, Mrs. B has it in her 31 Days of Halloween archives under Oct. 15. You can leave out the instant coffee and add a pinch of hot red chili and a couple of drops of almond extract instead. Voila! Yummy Mexican-ish hot chocolate.

One of my previous entries included the black bean recipe I plan on using. Something else to do, especially if you're a sucker for Halloween-themed spooky/gross recipe ideas like I am is EYEBALL TACOS!

Since I'll be serving the beans wrapped in tortillas, I may just make my "eyeballs" without the benefit of a wrap. You, however, can use corn taco shells if you can find them. I, unfortunately, have only seen them at one store and they were verrry expensive.

For the EYEBALLS

1 lb ground beef
1 egg
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely minced onion (use a food processor if you have one)
1 envelope taco seasoning
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 F (If you need Celsius conversions, please let me know and I can find them for you. I'm sorry for forgetting!) Lightly oil a cookie sheet.

Put your finely minced onions into a skillet with about a tablespoon of oil and saute lightly for 3-4 minutes. Add to the rest of the ingredients. Combine with your hands and roll into 1 1/4 - 1 1/2-inch balls. Bake for about 12 minutes. This should yield somewhere between 12-14 meatballs, depending on how big you make them.

To serve these gruesome tacos:

Spread your taco shells with some refried beans (or my Halloween black bean dip) if desired. Add some shredded lettuce and grated cheese. Turn the taco shell on its side and tuck in two of the taco eyeballs. Add a tiny dollop of sour cream to each eyeball and decorate with a sliced olive iris. Bleack! I mean, Yum! Serve with extra sour cream and some salsa, if desired.



*Photo courtesy of Kraft, who recommends those nasty frozen meatballs.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Favorite Curry

I decorated my blog for Halloween. Whaddya think? I've always loved zombie movies. I've been looking for the perfect zombie design for a tattoo and I rather like the zombie pinup style, don't you?

Anyroad, in honor of Halloween, I thought I would share with you a recipe for my very favorite curry. I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients

1 small can diced tomatoes
1 medium onion
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1in piece root ginger
2-3 garlic cloves
2-3 mild green chilis
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground turmeric
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp yogurt
1 lime (or lemon)
a small bunch of coriander (cilantro) leaves
cooked Basmati rice, to serve

And the ingredient that really gives this recipe pizazz:




AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Get it? My favorite 'Curry'? Tim Curry! *wipes away a tear*
Well, I thought it was funny...

So, the first thing you need to do is catch your Curry. If you go to Los Angeles you stand a pretty good chance of bagging the Curry. Once you have coerced (or forced at gunpoint, whatever) the Curry into the trunk of your car, you must dispatch of it quickly. Curry is like lobster, almost. You really have to have it fresh. I recommend a quick blow to the head.

Next, you will have to wash your Curry. Rinse it well under warm running water. Don't scrub or you'll lose some of the flavor.

After the Curry has been rinsed and patted dry, you will have to shave the Curry. It can be a bit fuzzy, and wiry beard hairs are *not* good eating. Shave the Curry well and give it another quick rinse.

Next, take your sharpest, heaviest cleaver. You will also need your everyday kitchen chainsaw and/or hacksaw to cut the Curry into manageable pieces. I recommend 1 1/2-inch rounds for the arms and slightly larger on the legs. Don't worry about the bones, as they will be easy to remove once the meat is cooked.

As for the torso, I like to save half of it for stock and cut the rest into 2-inch cubes. This will take some time, as the meat will most likely be rather tough. Discard as much of the fat as possible. Save the organ meats for giblet stuffing for Thanksgiving.

Once your Curry is cut into nice cubes, you can begin preparing your sauce.


Finely chop your onion and fry it in a heavy pot for about 10 minutes, until it is soft and slightly golden. Add the garlic.

Grate the ginger or use a food processor. Finely chop the chili, removing the seeds if desired. If the chilis are very hot, you may wish to wear a disposable pair of latex gloves.

Add this mixture to the onions and garlic. Fry for a minute or two, then add the spices and fry for an additional 2 minutes. Don't let the spices stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Tip in the tomatoes and water. Reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Add your Curry, cover and allow to cook for 30-40 minutes until tender. Stir in the yogurt and lime juice and taste for seasoning. Serve over cooked Basmati rice.

*Please note your Curry may taste faintly of Marlboro Reds. This is normal. He would enjoy being served with a full-bodied red wine.

A Note of Thanks

I would like to thank Mrs. B for allowing me to participate in the 31 Days of Halloween. I was so happy you added me as a guest blogger! I think your blog is wonderful and the giveaways have been outstanding. Thanks to all who have visited my blog through hers as well. A very blessed Samhain to all. Stay tuned for more food information and recipes.

Halloween Treats

Oh, how I love Halloween! When I was younger it was all about the costumes and the goodies - caramel apples, popcorn balls and candycandycandy! Then as I got older and started exploring Paganism, it also became about the last harvest, about remembrance, divination, the thinning of the veils between worlds. Oh, and candy. :D

I love browsing Halloween magazines and websites and looking at all the disgustingly named foods - Swamp Dip, Brain Pate, Witches Fingers, etc. I'm not sure when Halloween changed from being about the spooky to the gross, but it's kind of fun.

What I like to do is put a Dia de los Muertos twist on my Halloween festivities, since the two holidays have so much in common and are so close together. El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is observed in Mexico on November 1-2. Families visit the graves of their loved ones, clean the stones, place fresh flowers there, and spend time visiting, eating, praying and sharing. Skulls made of pressed sugar and decorated with icing and non-edible items such as sequins and feathers are a popular symbol of this holiday, as is Pan de Muerto - Bread of the Dead. This bread is flavored with orange and anise (which symbolizes love), and decorated with bones made of dough.

Not being a fan of anise myself, I probably won't make the bread this year, although I have made it before. I still plan to put a Mexican twist on some of the foods I plan to provide for the party. The menu, so far, includes:

Black bean rollups
Toasted, spiced pumpkin seeds
Hauntingly Good Hot Chocolate
Jell-O shots - it isn't a Zedral Z party without them

I'd also like to make popcorn balls but I think that would be too much of a hassle. Caramel apples are another choice, and I did bring a bottle of corn syrup back from the U.S. with me, so I could do that.

If you want to make the black bean rollups (which I cut into little pinwheels), I suggest using a tomato/sundried tomato-flavored tortilla so you can have the orange and black colors together for the holiday. I can't get flavored wraps here, though, so I will have to make do with plain.

Ingredients: (adjust for the number you are feeding, of course)

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
big handful cilantro
1- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder OR 1/2 a canned chipotle plus a good dollop of the sauce - depends on how hot you like it, but remember that chipotle is a strong smokey flavor
salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

To prepare the tortillas, I lay the tortillas on a cutting board and slice off about an inch on two sides. That way you don't have beanless "overhang" when you roll. You can slather those ends in leftover bean dip and eat them. Cook's privilege!

Spread the tortillas with a layer of the bean mixture. You should get 4-6 tortillas' worth.

Topping options:

Sliced green onions
Grated cheese
Thinly sliced tomato and/or avocado

I normally just sprinkle on some sliced green onions and grated cheese. Use Cheddar or Monterrey Jack if you can get it. I use gouda with cumin seeds, which is delicious. Roll the tortillas and chill for at least 30 minutes. Slice into pinwheels and put a tray to serve. Oh, and stand back! These things move fast.

Halloween Recipes, part 1

Head on over to Mrs.B's at silvermoonwitch.blogspot.com where I'm one of her guest bloggers today. I have a recipe for a warm, spicy drink that will chase the chill from your bones!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pumpkin Recipes

I would like to share with you one of my favorite pumpkin recipes. It's also one of the easiest things to make. It takes a little time for the pumpkin to set, but during that time you don't have to do anything. It's a Turkish dessert called "Kabak Tatlısı", or "Pumpkin Dessert".

For this dessert you need:

1 Pumpkin, removed from the shell and cut into cubes
Sugar
Couple of whole cloves if you want them

To serve:
Clotted or whipped cream
Ground walnuts or pistachios

The ratio of pumpkin to sugar is 2:1. If you have 3 cups of pumpkin, use 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Place the pumpkin into a pot and sprinkle with sugar. Let it sit overnight. It will release water so you don't have to add any when cooking. The next day, add your cloves to the mixture (you can add a cinnamon stick too if you want), and cook everything until the pumpkin is soft, about 30-45 minutes. Let it cool and garnish it with the nuts and serve with cream. It's usually served with kaymak, which is Turkish clotted cream. It's simple and delicious. They also make a quince version here as well.


Pumpkin Seeds

I love pumpkin seeds. Some people crack the outer shell and eat the inner kernel like with sunflower seeds, but I eat the whole thing. I do the same with sunflower seeds! It won't hurt you and you might even get a little extra fiber.

Pumpkin seeds are very nutritious. They're chock-full of magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc, which we all need for healthy bodies. If you're going to be cutting into a pumpkin or two this season, you might as well save and eat the seeds. You'll be creating less waste and doing something good for yourself in the process.

The easiest way to prepare them is to wash off as much of the gunk as you can, dry the seeds off on some kitchen paper or a tea towel, and pop everything into the oven. The little strings and leftover bits of pumpkin "guts" will come off very easily once the whole shebang is toasted.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the seeds out in an even layer on a cookie sheet or baking sheet and roast until the seeds are dried out. Watch them, though, and make sure they don't get brown. They'll taste like burnt popcorn and won't be any good. Unless you like burnt popcorn, that is.

Once they're toasted and you've separated out the non-seedy bits, pop them into a bowl and drizzle with a bit of oil and salt. After that, get creative!

Sweet and spicy: Olive oil, salt, brown sugar, cayenne and/or chipotle chili powder (love and protection, no?)

To draw money: Olive oil, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch each of ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

For non-magical purposes:

Olive oil, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese
Olive oil, salt, a dash of garlic powder, cumin, chili powder and coriander
Olive oil, salt, garam masala, cumin, cayenne (optional)



Pumpkin Soup

6 ounces bacon, cut into small pieces (optional if making a vegetarian soup)
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds pumpkin, roasted at about 400 F until tender (or you can use canned in a pinch)
2-3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup half and half (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cook the bacon, if using, in a soup pot until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon. Cook the onions in the drippings (or in olive oil/butter) until soft. Add the garlic and cook 3-4 minutes. Add the roasted pumpkin, liquid (except dairy), seasonings and spices. Simmer 10-15 minutes. Blend with a stick blender or place in a blender in batches. Return to the pot and add half and half, if using.

Garnish with bacon and toasted pumpkin seeds.