Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Mabon Kitchen Blessing

This is what I alluded to earlier. I decided today would be an excellent day to work on a kitchen blessing for several reasons. Mabon may not be as popular as Samhain as far as autumn festivals go, but it's the beginning of my favorite time of year. It's a time to cast off the old and welcome the new. Today was also the first day of my cycle, so I decided to channel that feminine energy into something productive - cleaning my kitchen! I wanted to clean it to get it ready for the blessing. There's no way I would welcome Hestia into an oven with baked-on nastiness! So I did some scrubbing and mopping earlier today.

Now, I'm not going to tell you how to do a blessing in your own kitchen. It's YOUR space and you can do anything you want. You can also honor any kitchen or hearth deities you choose. I chose Hestia because I've always felt like she was one of the main hearth deities for me. Others are listed everywhere in books and on the internet and include Annapurna, Brigid, etc.

Recommended but by no means required:

*A pinch of sage
*A sprig of rosemary
*Candles of various colors - purple, orange, yellow, blue, or just plain white will suffice
*A bowl of salted water
*Incense - cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, more sage

I used white candles in colored candle holders to welcome the elements. I then lit a yellow tealight and a purplish red one, plus another white one. I don't do rhymes and I rarely write anything down. The words are up to you.

I burned a little pinch of sage and put the rest into the water. The rosemary sprig was used to fling the salted, blessed water around the kitchen to cleanse it. I cleansed the space of ignorance, negativity, and illness, and welcomed acceptance, health and love.

The last thing I did was invite Hestia in. I placed the white tealight into the oven as a symbol of the hearth flame.

The corny words went something like this:

“I consecrate this hearth in the name of Hestia
May all who enter this home feel its warmth
May the sacred flame burn away negativity
Let all who enter this home and partake of my food
Be filled with love and protection
All who enter will be fed
All who enter will be nourished in body and soul
I ask of this in a good way, Goddess of the Hearth
So Mote it Be”

I told you I don't do the rhyming thing. Yeah, I suck at talking. BFD. It felt right, at least!

I put the candle on top of the stove and let it burn out. The elemental candles were extinguished after giving thanks. There you have it. My fall cleaning and my little Mabon kitchen blessing ritual thingie.

Oh, yeah, then I ordered Chinese food because I didn't want to mess up the kitchen I spent so much time cleaning! *L*

Happy Mabon, y'all.

Happy Mabon

Mabon Blessings to you and yours. Best 'witches' from my kitchen to yours! :)

More later.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

So much to do

First of all, I would like to with you all a happy, blessed Mabon. I would love to know what you are cooking to celebrate!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I started working on the introduction to the cookbook. I was feeling inspired to get off my butt and start doing some serious word. Then I started going through my notes and recipes and am now feeling completely overwhelmed! There are still so many recipes to test or re-test and exact measurements to figure out and write down. This is gog to take a while. I'm going to concentrate on fall and winter right now, and worry about spring when it gets here. This cookbook project won't be finished while I live overseas. I'm going to have to reutn to the US at some point, if only to have easy access to pork and cheaper alcohol!

Anyway...Thanks for all who read, follow, and comment. You inspire me and keep me going! I am really grateful.

Started the Intro

I felt inspired today and started writing the introduction to the cookbook. My goal is to have at least one season done so I can send it to the folks at Llewellyn (and wherever else) and see if there is any interest. I could use some feedback if anyone is interested in seeing what I have so far. Well, right now it's just one paragraph, but I'm working on it! I'm going to do some more work this evening.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Little Mabon Feastie

Today I decided to cook something nice for myself. Since it's so hard to cook for one, I tend to avoid cooking for myself, but sometimes I just have to get into the kitchen! I've had a craving for quiche lately (thanks to reading the Julie/Julia Project blog) so I decided to make one. I used Julia Child's pastry recipe, albeit slightly modified (I can't get shortening here so I only used butter) and made a bacon and onion quiche for dinner. Bliss!

On the side was some spinach. I simply cooked some frozen spinach leaves in the same skillet that held the bacon and onions (instant flavor!), sprinkled on some salt, and added a teensy bit of freshly ground nutmeg. It was the perfect accompaniment.

There you have it. I had a "take care of myself" day and made a lovely dinner. It was undoubtedly chock full of saturated fats, but it was delicious! I took some pictures of the quiche but the lighting was all wrong.

Anyone else have a favorite Dinner for One? If you're dining solo, what do you normally eat?

Friday, September 18, 2009

More Recipes for Mabon

Corn Chowder for Mabon

There are several ways you can spice up this delicious chowder. You can give it some southwestern flair by adding chorizo instead of bacon, and seasoning it with cumin and chile. Or you can keep it traditional, with bacon and even potatoes.

Version 1

2 T oil or butter
1 T flour
1 large onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed (small)
4 cups stock
6 slices bacon, cut into small chunks
3 cups corn kernels, fresh, canned or frozen
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil or butter in a soup pot. Add the bacon and fry for 2-3 minutes before adding onion and celery. Cook the onion and celery for a few minutes. Add the garlic and stir, cooking 2-3 minutes more. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to combine, cooking another 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the corn and potato. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the potato is tender, 15-20 minutes. At this point you can puree a ladleful or two of the soup and return it to the pot. Stir in the cream and check the seasoning. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.

Southwest Corn Chowder

2 T oil or butter
1 T flour
1 chorizo, casing removed
1 large onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small chile, deseeded
1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons (t) ground cumin
1/4 - 1/2 t ground chipotle powder
4 cups stock
3 cups corn kernels
salt and pepper
1/2 cup cream
chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil or butter in a soup pot. Cook the chorizo, crumbling with a wooden spoon. Remove the cooked sausage and reserve. Drain all but about 2 T of oil. Cook the onions and chile for 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes, then stir in the flour. Add the spices, salt and pepper, and stock. Simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add the corn and simmer the soup for 10-15 minutes. Again, you may choose to puree a cup or cup and a half of the soup before stirring in the cream. After stirring in the cream, add the reserved chorizo. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

As with the black bean soup, you may also garnish with sliced green onions. You can also sprinkle on some grated Monterrey Jack, and/or some chopped canned green chiles. Yumyumyum!

Note: If you make the meatball soup, black bean soup, or this version of corn chowder at home, please let me know! By making these recipes at home you are helping me tweak and perfect them for the cookbook and I would be most grateful. If something needs adjusted, let me know what you did at home. I'll continue to develop and test things here as well.

Mabon Recipes

Mabon is almost upon us. Many consider Mabon to be the Pagan version of Thanksgiving, and some prepare large feasts to mark the occasion. Whether you are hosting a dinner, a potluck, or just taking some post-ritual refreshments, a question you may have is, ‘What do I prepare in honor of this holiday?’ Never fear, the kitchen witch is here!

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, autumn is here. The weather begins to cool down and the produce of summer dwindles. This half of the earth is preparing for rest and for shorter days and colder temperatures.

Mabon marks the second harvest. The fertility of the land is dissipating as the goddess begins to embrace Her Crone aspect. Grain gods and goddesses are in their element. Grains are a very appropriate food for this time of year, especially corn. We can honor the Corn Mother, Demeter (remember that non-Westerners used the word ‘corn’ to mean any type of grain), and Mesopotamian goddesses such as Ashnan, Nissaba, and Ninbarshegunu. * Honor Thor and the Green Man, among others.

Besides corn, squash and beans are appropriate foods for Mabon. Prepare a satisfying pot of corn and bacon chowder, or a stew made with corn, beans and squash, the three most important food plants to Native Americans. Bake a fresh loaf of whole wheat or rye bread and offer some to the gods. Purchase some locally brewed beer if you can.

Another thing you can do to celebrate the harvest is to help those who do not have enough food. Make a donation to your local food pantry if there is one nearby. If not, visit www.thehungersite.com and click daily to generate food donations. May all be fed! That is one of this kitchen witch’s goals.

Now, on to some recipes.

My Spicy Black Bean Soup

2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, diced
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups broth
4 cans (15-16 oz each) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon cumin
¼-1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (or cayenne)
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch cilantro, washed and finely chopped

In a soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the onion for about 5 minutes until it softens. Add the garlic and stir, cooking another 2-3 minutes. Add the broth and about ½ cup water, beans, lime juice, cumin and chipotle. Stir to combine.
Turn up the heat and bring to a simmer. Cover and lower the temperature and simmer for about 10 minutes. Check to see if you need more liquid. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
Take about ½ of the beans and put in a blender. Add enough of the soup liquid to make a puree. Add about 1/3 cup cilantro before pureeing. Stir this mixture back into the rest of the soup.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls. You can add a scoop of white rice to the middle and garnish with the reserved cilantro. Other garnishes: sliced green onions and finely minced jalapeno (seeded if you don’t want so much heat).

(This recipe will be in the cookbook, should I ever get off my duff and finish it!)

Z’s Family Cornbread

My mom has been making this cornbread for years. I think the recipe actually came as part of a grade school project when I was in the third grade. I don’t know who to credit; I just know it’s delicious and it goes wonderfully with the soup.

3/4 c. cornmeal
1 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 tablespoon (T). baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (t. ) salt
1 cup milk (1 1/4 for buttermilk)
1 egg
2 T. shortening

Mix ingredients and pour into greased baking pan.
Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

Decorate your altar and/or table with vines and miniature squash and light candles of orange, purple and yellow. Raise a glass of wine or beer and give thanks for the second harvest.

For dessert, serve up an apple or pumpkin pie, or maybe a nice gingerbread. (The Williams-Sonoma recipe for carmelized pear upside down ginger cake is so unbelievably delicious! I’ll link anyone who wants it.)
Mabon blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

From Hedgewitch Hollow

This post was originally credited to Magpie Girl.

Quoted from the site:
Everyone has another personality that shines through from time to time. Maybe you are secretly a sports legend when you play in the rec volleyball league. Maybe you’re a pop star while singing in the shower. Perhaps you are convinced you were with Mark Anthony in a past life.

How do those secret identities shape you? Does your superhero identity effect your Monday-Friday life at the Daily Planet? Are you you really a zen master, a yogi, and happy homemaker under there? What’s your stripper name say about you? Your nom de plume? The uniform in the back of your closet? And if you feel like an old soul, what where you up to last century and how is it influencing you today?

1. Zedral Z - or Zedral Ziller - This is a name I've been using for a long time. The name "Zedral" came to me when I was 4. I don't know the source. Just a young child's imagination at the time, I guess.

2. Nar - Turkish for "pomegranate". I think of myself as Nar sometimes when I dance (badly) in my apartment.

3. Zubaida - Arabic for "marigold". If I were a better belly dancer, this is the stage name I would use. I saw a Discovery Channel program about a young girl named Zubaida, a young girl from Afghanistan who was severely burned as a child. She traveled to America and a surgeon helped restore her outer beauty. I fell in love with that beautiful, brave little girl during that program and also fell in love with the name.

4. The kitchen witch - me in the kitchen, trying to stir up prosperity or feelings of love and comfort

5. A young Middle Eastern girl - I have what I think might be a past life memory. It first came to me during a sweat, then during a meditation. I don't know much. I don't know my name or where I was. I vaguely remember tripping and breaking a water jar. I'm sure I was severely punished.

6. Auntie Brandy - that's who I am to some of my friend's kids. I don't have any biological siblings so I enjoy any chance I get to be an auntie. Let me spoil your kid rotten and then give him/her back to you! >:)

7. Teacher - To most of my students I am just called "Teacher". I like it. It sounds better than "ma'am", for sure!

8. The constant worrier - Paranoid hypochondriac and worrywart. A professional fretter. I drive myself (and those around me, I'm sure) nuts with with my constant what-ifs. I'm reassuring and calm around other people, very level-headed in an emergency, and rational and logical. For others. Then I get by myself and go nuts. I need more hobbies!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Just to Liven Things Up

In order to try to liven things up and light a fire under my ass so I start working on my cookbook (SERIOUSLY working on it, not half-assed as I have been!), I want to try a couple of things here. It will, of course, depend upon the participation of my readers. Are y'all up for it?

First, talk to me about your favorite comfort foods. What are they? When do you enjoy eating them? What are some feelings and memories associated with them? Who first made this food for you?

Second, I want you to challenge me, sorta. Give me a purpose - prosperity, love, etc. - and let me see if I can find some good ingredients to combine into a recipe. Keep in mind my budget and the fact that I can't really get pork here, unless someone sends me pre-cooked bacon or canned ham. I'll see what I can do to come up with a dish, make it, photograph it, and feed it to friends and coworkers.

Finally, I am toying with the idea of making some short videos to post on my blog. I can't really record myself doing a cooking demonstration. I suppose I could ask someone to do it for me, but I don't really have the editing capabilities. I could make short videos on things that I have already cooked and show the finished product. I'm also thinking about posting short little videos on my favorite kitchen witch books.

Ideas? Suggestions? I don't have too many work-related responsibilities until classes begin on October 12, and if I just sit around the house doing nothing, I tend to get really depressed and develop paranoia and hypochondria or something *L* Save me! :D

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Let's Talk Potatoes

Who doesn't love potatoes? Many Americans, when asked to name their number 1 comfort food, will name mashed potatoes. French fries/chips are the most popular "vegetable" side dish in many restaurants and homes. The Potato Famine in Ireland drove a couple million people from their homeland and into America to avoid starvation. Clearly this is an important crop. But what do we know about it?

Potatoes are from South America, specifically Peru. People in Peru first began cultivating this plant around 34000 B.C.E. That's a long damn time! The potato didn't make it to Europe until the 1500s.

Like the tomato, it is a member of the nightshade family. Also like the tomato (which we know is a fruit), the potato is used for protection. Potatoes are ruled by the moon and their element is earth.

Potatoes are an excellent full-moon food and also good for grounding. Potatoes eaten for protection should be seasoned with onions, chives, rosemary, parsley, or dill for maximum effect. Potato dishes are good to eat after energy has been raised, in order to help ground the participants. I have served potato soup after meditation workshops to help people ground themselves.

If you're looking for a warm, comforting soup to serve this autumn, here is a recipe for maximum comfort: Loaded Baked Potato Soup. Who doesn't love a loaded baked potato, with cheese, sour cream, bacon and green onions or chives? My mouth is watering just thinking about it!


8 ounces bacon, chopped into small pieces
2 1/2- 3 lbs potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and cut into cubes
1 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons AP (all-purpose) flour
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
2 cups shredded cheese - Colby, Cheddar, what you will
3-4 green onions, sliced thin, for garnish
sour cream, for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the bacon in your soup pot until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon but reserve the drippings. Cook the onion in the bacon drippings until soft. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook about 1 minute. Whisk in the broth and milk. Add the cubed potatoes and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cover Cook until the potatoes fork-tender, 7-10 minutes. (Cut the cubes fairly small so they will cook more quickly.)

Remove about 2 cups of cooked potato cubes and set aside. Puree the rest of the soup in a blender or using a stick blender. Reheat the soup over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese to melt. Return the reserved pieces of potato to the pot. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with crispy bacon, sliced green onions, and dollops of sour cream.

I think I'll be making this over the weekend. A friend of mine returned to the United States yesterday and gave me some bacon before leaving. Woo hoo!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Meatball Soup for a Cool Autumn Day

Here is the recipe I plan to make this evening. It's full of veggies, beans, pasta and little meatballs. This is a hearty soup and needs only a few accompaniments - good bread, maybe a salad, and a nice red wine.

For the meatballs:

1 lb ground beef
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
¼ chopped parsley
2-3 tablespoons grated onion (you can also use dehydrated minced onion, but only use 1 tablespoon)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Use your hands to fully incorporate all the ingredients. Roll the mixture into 1-inch meatballs and set aside.

For the soup:

½ cup small pasta (e.g. thimble, ditalini, small shells, etc.)
2 cups cooked white beans (I used frozen)
2 carrots, washed, peeled and sliced into rounds
2 small zucchini, diced
1 onion, diced
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen green beans
2 banana peppers, cored and sliced into rings
1 red pepper, cored and chunked
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
2 tsp fresh basil, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 pints stock or ½ water, ½ stock
Salt and pepper

Optional: 3 Italian sausages, sprinkle of chili flake
If using the sausages, brown along with the meatballs. Slice before adding to the soup.
(I would add the sausages if I could find them, but they aren’t available here. Most pork products are not readily available here.)

In a soup pot, add 2 tablespoons oil. Lightly seal and brown the meatballs so they don’t lose their shape when cooking. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Lower the heat and add the chopped onion and pepper. Cook for 5-6 minutes until slightly tender, then add garlic. Cook for 2-3 more minutes. Add the zucchini and carrots and allow them to cook for a couple more minutes.

Combine the rest of the ingredients (except for the pasta) and bring to a near boil. Skim off any foam from the meatballs. Reduce heat and allow soup to simmer until meatballs are cooked and veggies are tender. You may need to add some additional liquid during the cooking time. Keep warm water or stock handy. Don’t use cold as it will reduce the temperature of the soup.

While the soup is cooking, bring salted water to a boil in another pot. Cook the pasta until just al dente. Keeping the pasta separate will keep it from getting mushy. To serve, put some pasta in the soup bowl and ladle over the soup. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Notes: The ingredients are really flexible. If you're super short on time, use all frozen vegetables. You can buy frozen onions and peppers together as well as frozen Italian vegetable mixes. I'm using frozen barbunya again like I did in the chili recipe because the canned beans can be too mushy. You could even use frozen meatballs but I think they're rather disgusting and prefer to make my own. I can't get a lot of frozen products here, anyway.

Use chicken or beef broth or stock in this recipe. Feel free to leave out the tomato paste if you want a less "tomato-y" soup. Use dried herbs or fresh, but remember to use about half the amount of dried. I have some bush basil growing on on my balcony, and rosemary grows in front of one of the apartment buildings here.

A warming autumn meal

Well it seems as though the rainy season has arrived in Istanbul! We've had lots of rain and flash floods this past week, and I'm sorry to say that some poor unfortunate souls have lost their lives. The rain is supposed to continue for quite some time.

As a way of combating some of the depression that sets in when the weather is so lousy, I've decided to host a dinner tomorrow evening. I'll post recipes as I go, but the menu is as follows:

Pesto stuffed mushrooms
Rosemary-olive bread (Williams-Sonoma recipe)
Pasta e fagioli - my version of this soup, with the addition of meatballs
Carmelized pear upside-down ginger cake (Williams-Sonoma)

Autumn is my favorite season. I love to be in the kitchen during this time of year. Still, with the days growing shorter and the weather getting bad, depression settles on my shoulders and I drive myself nuts. Hopefully it will pass before too much longer!

How many of you feel a bit down during this time of year? What do you do to combat it? Do you cook? If so, what do you like to make? I'm thrilled to have a house full of people to cook full. I can't wait for my friend Daniel to get here at the end of the month. I fully intend to fatten him up a bit before he goes home to Chile!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Quick Veggie Chili

This chili is chock full of protective ingredients, it's quick to throw together, and it's pretty darn tasty.

I used:

1 650-gram bag frozen beans (barbunya) +
1 small can red kidney beans
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 banana peppers, seeded and chopped
1.5 cups frozen corn
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
2 tablespoons chili powder (I can't get this ingredient here, so I left it out)
salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 1 cup TVP (textured vegetable protein), reconstituted for 10 minutes in boiling water (another ingredient I wasn't able to acquire)

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

Start by cooking the onion in a heavy soup pot. Soften for about 5 minutes. Add the pepper and soften for another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Adding a little salt will let the allow the vegetables to "sweat" and should be added when the peppers are put in.

Stir the spices into the onions and peppers. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste and stir well. Put in the beans and add enough water to cover them. Allow the beans to simmer until they are thawed and tender (if using frozen). If only using canned beans, add beans and corn at the same time. Simmer for 20-25 minutes. Chili is better the longer it simmers, but you can certainly eat it after 25 minutes. If using cilantro, add it at the end of cooking so the flavor stays fresh. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

The chipotle powder adds a really deep, smoky flavor, plus a touch of warmth. I used a type of frozen bean because they are more common than canned and I didn't have time to cook dried beans. You can use any combination of beans that you want. I had red kidney beans and a type of white bean with flecks of red. They're known as "barbunya" here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Lazy Kitchen Witch

I apologize for not posting anything lately. I guess I'm in a bit of a rut. I'm also enjoying all this free time. Classes were supposed to start Sept.29, but now it looks as though my department won't start teaching until October 12! The new campus is still unfinished and it will probably still be mostly unfinished by the time we move in.

I haven't been doing a whole lot of cooking lately. I made some vegetarian chili for last night's chili night at the boss's house and it was quite good. I can post the recipe if anyone is interested. I was going to add TVP but the store didn't have any this time (surprise), so it was two-bean chili. It was still very nice. I haven't done a lot of cooking for myself lately, though. My band was adjusted a couple of days ago and I haven't eaten much lately. That's the idea, though!

On the subject of herbs, I have access to rosemary. I can't find it in the stores, but there are 6 rosemary bushes growing in front of one of the apartment buildings near me. I walked up the hill last week and snipped off one little sprig and brought it back to put in my roasted potatoes. Yum!

Tomorrow and Monday will be very busy days. We're administering the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) twice tomorrow, and on Monday we have to read several hundred essays. I'll get back to posting soon though, I promise! I want to talk about superstitions about food and the kitchen, and I have a couple of bean recipes that are nice this time of year.