Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Samhain!

Happy Samhain, or Happy Beltane! Whatever you're celebrating today, may it be full of love and blessings.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy (almost) Halloween!

The photo quality is a bit shit, but this is more or less what my face looks like:

This was my inspiration. It's a work by Angelique Houtkamp, a Dutch artist and tattoo artist.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lugosi's Revenge - Homemade Blackberry Cordial

This post comes from my friend, Miriam, a fellow West Virginian and Mountaineer. She's a fantastically creative, intelligent, beautiful mother, daughter, and domestic goddess.

We had an abundant berry harvest this summer which I took full advantage of, freezing about fifteen pounds of black raspberries and about fifty of blackberries. So, after we'd made multiple cobblers and a few batches of jam I started pondering what else I could do with this abundance of frozen fruit. Doing something involving booze just seemed to be the natural course to take!

This a recipe of my own that I partly invented and partly snagged from other sources aka random stuff on the internet. My first batch was primarily a learning experience and this is the result. This can also be done with store-bought berries and no-one will judge you for it.

I call it Lugosi's Revenge in honour of my favourite old horror star. :)

You will need:

1 750-ml bottle of decent quality unflavoured vodka
1 pint of mid-grade brandy
5-6 cups of fresh or frozen blackberries (you can replace part or all of that with black raspberries)
Two cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4'' strip of lemon zest about an inch long

Large glass bowl
Medium saucepan
A glass jar or bottle large enough to hold about three quarts with a tight-fitting lid
Two wire mesh strainers, one coarse, one fine
A couple yards of multilayer cheesecloth
Bottles to hold the finished product (I keep the empty vodka and brandy bottles for putting the cordial in)

Put the berries in a large microwave-safe bowl and add about a cup of the sugar. Heat the berries in microwave until steaming, stirring in the berries and crushing them to release the juice. (This can also be done in a saucepan as long as you're careful not to let the berries burn at all.) Strain the resulting pulpy mess and pour the syrupy juice into a medium sauce pan. Be sure to squeeze as much juice as possible from the seedy pulp that will be left behind as every bit of it will intensify the flavour of your cordial.

Put the pot of juice on very low heat, gently bring it to the lowest simmer and stir occasionally for an hour and half or however long it takes to reduce the sweetened juice to a syrup. It will black, thick, very sweet and intensely flavoured. Let it cool in the pot (it will congeal and become fairly jelly-like; good luck resisting the urge to taste it less than three times and daydream about ladling it over ice cream).

Add the vodka and brandy, stirring it about in the pot to collect all the berry flavour. Pour it all into the large jar or bottle and add the vanilla and lemon zest. Close or cover tightly and put it away in a dark, cool spot for anywhere from two to four weeks. About once a week or so swirl the contents of the bottle and put it back.

After two to four weeks you can start the straining process. You can strain the cordial as much or as little as you like. (I prefer it clearer and more filtered, my boyfriend prefers it more murky and less filtered; it's all a matter of individual taste.)

I like to pour it through the fine mesh strainer (and you will have to stop and rinse your strainer from time to time as it clogs with residual berry pulp) at least twice before starting with the cheesecloth. I've found that starting with one layer of cheesecloth and then increasing it each time you pour the cordial through results in a nice clarity. This will consume a fair bit of cheesecloth as it also will get clogged fairly quickly. However, by the time you're done, you'll have a glorious little beverage to sip on cold winter nights.

Also, it's great when added to Sprite, ginger ale, or champagne for a sweet fizzy drink with a nice berry kick to it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Guest Post by Sachiel: Mead

Mead is one of the oldest fermented beverages produced by man. It was made by ancient peoples all over the world, from South America, to Asia, Africa, and Europe. Mead is a fermented mixture of honey, water, and yeast. It can be that simple, or it can be complex. Mead can be super sweet, it can be dry, it can be flavored with berries, or fruit, or spices, flowers, or even herbs. The variety of meads are only limited by imagination.

Why is mead so prevalent in ancient times? Easy. Honey is antibacterial, antiseptic, and antifungal. Mother Nature's selection process has evolved particular yeasts that can survive and thrive in honey/water solutions. Finding and using these yeasts to turn honey into an alcoholic drink was easier than turning fruits, grapes, or grains into drinks. And the yield is much more likely to produce a quality beverage.

Modern mead making is assisted by our knowledge of sanitation practices and their importance in killing all unwanted bacteria and yeasts. Assuring that all surfaces and instruments that will touch the honey water solution are sterilized will assure that the mead turns out just as expected.

My first experience with mead was at a Beltane fest in 2011. It was wonderful, and delicious, and amazing. I had never tasted anything like it ever in my life. It was sweet, very sweet, with the smell and taste of the flowers of the high New Mexico desert. I sipped on my glass for an hour or more. I wanted the taste to last. It was the last bottle of that batch of mead, never to be duplicated again.

I have done a bit of research into mead and it's making, and all the wonderful flavors and varieties available or even possible. I did six months of looking into mead, trying out local made meads, finding what kinds of mead I like and what kinds I don't like. And at the beginning of October 2011, I finally felt confident enough in my knowledge to start my own batch of mead.

I decided to try a version of that first mead I ever had. I did not want to duplicate it, because that would not be possible. I would start out simple. I bought a 5 gallon glass carboy, a vapor lock, and a stopper and the yeast from my local wine making supply store in September. The honey I found was full of Rocky Mountain wildflower goodness – the best honey I have tasted. The water comes from my own well. The yeast was “Sweet Mead” from Vintner's Choice.

Ingredients: 20 pounds of honey
1 pack of Sweet Mead yeast by Vintner's Choice
2 organic vanilla beans, whole
water to fill

I started by sanitizing the carboy, funnel, spoon, deep enameled pot, the stopper, the vapor lock, and a one gallon plastic bottle. I used EZ Clense, and rinsed everything thoroughly.
I placed the honey in the sink, and filled it to ¾ of the way up the honey bottles with hot water. This makes the honey flow freely.

I then decided to start the yeast activation, as the directions on the pack say it will take 15 minutes.

Then in the deep enameled pot, I heated 1 gallon of water, and added all the heated honey. I let this heat up for a while longer ( I did not measure the temperature), but I did not let it boil.

As I stirred the honey and water, I spooned off the foam that rose to the surface and deposited it into a cup. The sink was too far to not make a mess. After about ten minutes of heating and stirring, I took the pot with the honey water and placed it in a sink full of cold water. This helps bring the temperature down rapidly, and makes it safer to pour the honey through the funnel and into the glass carboy.

If you get splashed by hot sticky honey syrup, it will stick and the burn produced will be more intense than if it were hot water alone.

After I poured all the honey water solution into the carboy, I added the yeast, and gave it a sloshing, and then filled with water to a few inches below where the neck starts – allowing for foam formation.

Then I added two organic vanilla beans, whole pods, no scraping, into the solution, capped with the stopper, and then inserted the vapor lock filled with rum.

I moved the carboy and contents to a closet where the sun will never enter, and once a week I stir up the solution slowly.

I do not remove the air lock, and I do not want to force the rum out of the air lock. When I am done with the stir, I add a tiny bit more rum to make sure the air lock does not go dry.

I stirred it for the second time yesterday, and am very pleased with the color progression. It has gone from the dark color that the honey originally was to a nice golden opaque color that will continue to lighted and clear over time. By Yule, I should be bottling the 5 gallons and beginning the long 2 year aging process. It will be ready for the harvest fests in 2014.

In the mean time, I will occupy myself by starting another mead – maybe 15 pounds of honey, with 5 cloves, two orange rinds, and a stick of cinnamon, to be ready for Yule, 2014. And maybe a mead with raspberries and raisins....

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Moroccan-Spiced Honey Roast Chicken

This was one of the courses served at my Walking Dead premiere party last week, and it was a big hit. I wish I'd had a chance to snap a picture of the chicken. You get crispy skin, plus a deep golden color from the honey. The Ras-El-Hanout also lends a warm sweetness to this recipe.

Moroccan-Spiced Honey Roast Chicken

1 3 ½ -lb chicken, giblets removed, washed and patted dry
3-4 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter
1-2 tablespoons Ras el Hanout (recipe given in an earlier post)
1 lemon
4 tablepoons honey, heated
1 cup water
Salt and pepper

Combine 2 tablespoons of the oil and butter with the Ras El hanout . Loosen the skin of the chicken and put this paste between the meat and the skin. Cut the lemon in half and place it in the cavity. Rub the other 1-2 tablespoons of oil or butter onto the skin of the chicken and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 450 F. Place the chicken on the rack of a roasting pan, breast-side down. Pour the water in the bottom of the roasting pan. Roast the chicken at 450 F for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 400 F and continue roastingfor another 35-45 minutes. Flip the chicken and brush with the honey. Return to the oven and roast another 10-15 minutes.

When the chicken is done, the juices should run clear and a meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh should read 180 F. Discard the lemon. Let the chicken rest 10 minutes before carving.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Mute Supper

Picture courtesy of www.shelterness.com

Hosting a mute supper for Samhain is practiced by some Pagans and Wiccans of various traditions. I think it’s a lovely tradition and would like to have a group with which to hold one. My plan would go as such:

Set the table with a black cloth, black plates, and black utensils. Place a white candle at the head of the table. Place black votive candles at the place(s) of the ancestors. Your guests may wish to place candles for those they are honoring. The chairs should be shrouded. You could use anything from fake cobwebs to a black trash bag. Use whatever you have on hand. If you have some black sheets, those would work nicely.

Before the guests arrive, the host or hostess should cast a circle, light the white candle, and invite the divine (however you see it) into the space. After this point, no talking is permitted.

Standing at the head of the table, the host/ess should light the first black votive candle to the left from the spirit candle. The guests should light each other’s candles in a clockwise motion.

The host/ess should serve the plates of the dead first, and then the guests from oldest to youngest. Since no one may speak during the supper, food may then continue to be passed family-style around the table. Before guests begin to eat, they should join hands and silently welcome their ancestors to the meal, and to ask for blessings upon the food and the ritual, if desired.

After the meal is over, guests should leave the table silently. They may take their ancestor candles with them, or leave them on the table. The host/ess should then silently close the circle in his/her usual manner. Leave the spirit candle to burn.
Everyone may then go on to practice divination, or hold a separate ritual.

Mute Supper Menu
Persephone’s Salad
Butternut squash cannelloni
Rosemary remembrance cookies
Chai-spiced Cider

Persephone’s Salad
8 cups mixed salad greens (whatever is in season and looks good)
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
½ red onion, thinly sliced
2/3 cup candied walnut pieces (recipe follows)
Seeds of 1 pomegranate (about ½ cup)

For the dressing, combine:
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup olive oil
Mix first three ingredients together. Whisk in olive oil slowly. Season with salt and pepper.
Toss the dressing with the greens, onion, apple, and nuts. Toss well to combine. Top salad with pomegranate seeds and serve.

Candied Walnuts

2 cups walnut halves or pieces
2 egg whites
½ cup brown sugar

In a bowl, lightly whisk the egg whites. Toss the walnuts to coat. Sprinkle on the brown sugar. Mix well with your hands until the nuts are all evenly coated. Spread the nuts onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a 300-degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Butternut Squash Cannelloni**

1 butternut squash, roasted, scooped out and mashed (instructions follow)
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
3 small shallots, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh sage
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 ½ cups ricotta cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese
Salt, white pepper
12 lasagna noodles, cooked until almost al dente (flexible)

5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
Salt, white pepper
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the shallots on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and sage and cook 2-3 more minutes.
Scoop out the halves of butternut squash and mash in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the shallots, garlic, sage, thyme, and ricotta cheese. Season with salt and white pepper.
Take one of the drained noodles and lay flat on an oiled baking sheet. Spread some of the butternut squash filling on the noodle, leaving some space at both ends. Roll the pasta and place seam side down into an oiled 9 x 13 dish. Repeat.
In a saucepan, melt the butter for the béchamel. When the butter is melted, stir in the flour. Cook 4-5 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Simmer the sauce until thickened, 8-10 minutes. Season with salt, white pepper, and nutmeg.
Pour the béchamel over the rolled pasta. Sprinkle with the Parmesan. Bake at 400 F for 20-25 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and cheese is brown.

To roast a butternut squash, cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Heat the oven to 400 F. Brush a tablespoon of oil over each half. Roast, flesh side down, until tender, 40-45 minutes. Cool, scoop out the flesh, and transfer to mixing bowl. You can mash the squash with a potato masher or a fork.

Rosemary Remembrance Cookies
1 ½ cups softened butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vaniila
5 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs and vaniila. Mix in the rosemary. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover and chill the dough for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface ¼ inch thick. Cut into shapes with seasonal cookie cutters, or use gingerbread men and women-shaped cutters so the cookies resemble people. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 6-8 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Chai-Spiced Apple Cider

This warming libation is full of ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. This makes a good love blend and is a perfect match when combined with a food of love – the apple.
1 gallon apple cider
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup brown sugar
In a cheese cloth or piece of muslin, combine:
7 cardamom pods, lightly crushed (or you can use ½ teaspoon ground cardamom)*
1-2 star anise
4-5 peppercorns
9 whole cloves
2-3 cinnamon sticks (or use 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon)

Pour the cider into a large pot and begin heating on medium heat. Dissolve the ground ginger and sugar into the cider. Tie the other ingredients in a piece of muslin or cheese cloth. Tie closed, whack lightly with a rolling pin to crack some of the pods, and pop into the pot. Simmer the cider and spices together for 10-15 minutes. Remove the bundle of spices with a slotted spoon and discard. Serve hot.
• If you’re using ground spices instead of whole, simply add them when you add the sugar and ground ginger.

All recipes are from the autumn cookbook I am currently working on. They may not be reproduced without permission. All that copyright hoopla that's over here ---> applies.

** You can just layer the lasagna noodles and make butternut squash lasagna if you don't feel like rolling up each noodle. They're slippery with oil and usually pretty hot!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Samhain is on its way!

And so is the first post in my Major Arcana series! Make sure you check it out!

Monday, October 17, 2011

My State IS Great!

Click on the title of this article to go over to The Secret Life of the American Working Witch and check out what makes West Virginia so great. Take me home, country roads!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Kitchen Tip

This tip comes from Mario Batali. One morning when I was watching "Molto Mario", I learned that biting on a wooden spoon helps get rid of tears when you're chopping onions. I tried it and lo and behold! it worked! I was chopping shallots today and I remembered that little tidbit of information. I grabbed a wooden spoon and held it (horizontally, of course) in my mouth and my eyes stopped burning!

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

This was an experimental recipe. I haven't cut into it yet, but I did lick the bowl (raw eggs and all!) and it was pretty damn tasty.

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake (cobbled together from various sources and my own mind)

3 8-oz blocks cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 beaten eggs

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup sugar

Process the chocolate graham crackers until crumbly. Mix with the sugar and melted butter and press into a 9 " spring form pan. Bake in a 350 F oven for about 6 minutes.

For the cheesecake, combine the softened cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Mix in the sour cream and peanut butter, mixing well to combine. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat again. Pour the batter into the crust and bake in a water bath for 55-65 minutes.

I topped mine with 1/2 cup hot fudge ice cream topping and some crushed peanuts.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Samhain Pumpkin Seeds

Wondering what to do with all the leftover seeds from your pumpkin carving? Pumpkin seeds, known as pepitas in Mexico, are a tasty, nutritious snack that is easy to prepare. You can be as creative as you wish. Here I have included two recipes for pumpkin seeds - one with Indian spices and one with the warm, fragrant spices of a pumpkin pie - ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Pumpkin seeds make a delicious addition to your Samhain festivities, and if you're the type to stay up all night in remembrance, these will give you the energy you need to keep going.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds with Indian Spices

1 cup pumpkin seeds, washed and dried
1 – 2 teaspoons garam masala
1 tablespoon melted butter or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Lay the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and drizzle with the butter or olive oil. Toss to coat. Sprinkle on the garam masala and salt. Toss again to coat with the spice mixture. Place in the oven and roast until crunchy, about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Seeds

1 cup pumpkin seeds, washed and fried
1 tablespoon melted butter or olive oil
1 to 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Lay the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and drizzle with the butter or olive oil. Toss to coat. Sprinkle on the sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Toss again to coat. Place in the oven and roast until crunchy, about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Spice Blends

I use a lot of garam masala in my Indian recipes, and I'm starting to discover the joys of the Moroccan spice blends, such as Ras-el-Hanout. both of these mixtures can contain several spices. Ras-el-Hanout can contain dozens of spices. This can put some people off, thinking it is too pricey to gather all the ingredients. True, you can buy both of these spice mixtures online, but you may also have many of the ingredients in your pantry already.

I have cobbled together a recipe for each, in case anyone is interested in trying their hand at making their own. Spice blends are fun to experiment with. Just make sure your spices are fresh. If you can't remember when you bought something, it's probably older than you think. Old spices don't have much flavor, and it takes more to get the same taste. When you buy your spices, write the day that you bought them on the containers. You may also wish to buy whole spices and toast and grind them yourself in a dedicated coffee grinder. This will give you the freshest mixes possible.

Ras – El- Hanout
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground mace
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground anise seed
Pinch of saffron threads, optional
½ teaspoon ground cayenne

Combine the spices in a bowl. Transfer to an airtight container and store in a cool, dark, dry place.

Garam Masala

1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons black pepper

Combine spices in a bowl and transfer to an airtight container. Store in a cool, dry, dark place.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Join My Facebook Group

Join my facebook group and help me vote on the recipes to send to the publisher!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

AMC's The Walking Dead

I'm hosting a party on Sunday night for the first episode of season 2 of The Walking Dead. I love, love, love this show. Anyone who knows me knows I'm nuts for zombies.

I'm also going to be testing out four, yes FOUR recipes for my autumn cookbook.

Moroccan-Spiced Honey Chicken
Orange-Butter Broccoli
Persephone's Salad
Butternut Squash Cannelloni

Saturday, October 8, 2011

One Book, or Four?

That's the question that is currently on my mind. Should I publish one book with all four seasons, or should I work with one season at a time so I can include more recipes? Which would you like to see? Also, e-book, or print? Or both?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Foods of October: Sweet Potatoes

As sweet potatoes were discussed in an earlier post (from Mabon), I thought I'd just make with the recipe. This recipe originally started out as a carrot soup, and you could include some chopped, peeled carrots in this soup as well. Just make sure you increase the broth by about another cup or so.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4-5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 14-oz can coconut milk
1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
1 chili, chopped, optional
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons oil

Heat the oil in a soup pot and cook the onion until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chili and cook for 3-4 more minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and the broth and bring to a boil. Drop the heat and simmer until sweet potatoes are very tender, 20-25 minutes.

When the sweet potatoes are cooked, puree the soup either in a blender or with a hand blender. Puree until completely smooth. Pour in the coconut milk, garam masala, and salt and pepper. Reheat the soup on medium-low heat, making sure it doesn’t boil again.

Garnish with some chopped fresh cilantro, if desired.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Foods of October: Parsnips

Parsnips are related to carrots. They have a much stronger flavor, and roasting really mellows them out nicely. Because they are related to carrots, I would say they are also ruled by Mars. Their element is fire and sex is the energy.

Glazed Carrots and Parsnips

2 lbs each carrots and parsnips, peeled and sliced into ½” rounds
5 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter,melted
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
I teaspoon fresh thyme, optional

Place a sheet of foil on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss the carrots and parsnips with the oil. Season with salt and pepper and pour onto the baking sheet.

Roast, stirring once or twice, until tender, 35-40 minutes. Mix together the melted butter, honey, thyme (if using) and balsamic vinegar. Pour over the vegetables and stick the pan back into the oven for another 5 minutes.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Foods of October: Cabbage

Cabbage is another food of October, and a relative of the Brussels sprout. Cabbages are ruled by the moon. Their element is water, and their energies are protection and money. The many green leaves remind one of currency, and thus make an excellent visualization tool if you’re trying to attract more money. As you consume the leaves, you can visualize taking more wealth into your life, into your bank account, etc.

Information courtesy of Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen

Lion’s Head Casserole

This is my version of a Chinese dish. Pork and cabbage together make a powerful prosperity dish. Eat this on New Year’s Day, the Chinese New Year, or any time you want to attract more money into your life.

1 lb ground pork
2 tablespoons grated ginger
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, finely sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 head Napa cabbage, cored
2 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon corn starch
Black pepper to taste

Mix together the pork, green onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, brown sugar, and pepper flakes. Form into golf ball-sized meatballs.

Take the cored cabbage and gently lower it into a pot of boiling water. Leave for 3-5 minutes to soften the leaves. Remove with tongs and place into a bowl of cold (ice) water. Remove the tough stem from the leaves and pat the leaves dry.

Take a leaf of cabbage and wrap it around a meatball. Repeat until you have wrapped all the meatballs.

Heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking dish. Place any remaining cabbage leaves on the bottom of the baking dish. Place the wrapped meatballs on top.

Mix together the other 2 T of soy sauce, corn starch and pepper with the chicken broth and pour mixture over the casserole.

Cover with foil. Bake until meatballs are done and cabbage is tender, about 45-50 minutes.

Foods of October: Brussels Sprouts

I love Brussels sprouts. They are one of my favorite vegetables. Fall is also a time for chestnuts, so why not combine the two into one scrumptious side dish? The cream makes it extra-rich but is completely optional. Feel free to toss in a sprig of thyme, stripped and chopped, to bring love, psychic awareness, and purification to your Samhain table.

Brussels Sprouts

Planet: Moon
Element: Water
Energies: Protection

Add Brussels sprouts to protective diets. Cooking them with garlic and chili will up the protective energies of the dish, if the intent is there.

Source: Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen

Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts

2 shallots, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
6-8 slices bacon, cut into 1” pieces
1 ½ lbs Brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed, cut in half
1 lb peeled roasted chestnuts
Salt and white pepper to taste
½ cup water, broth, or white wine and broth
¼ cup cream, optional

Cook sprouts in a pot of boiling water until barely tender, 4-5 minutes. Drain and shock the sprouts by putting them into a bowl of ice water. This will stop the cooking process and keep the color bright. Drain and pat dry.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove and drain, reserving the drippings. Cook the shallots and garlic in the bacon drippings until barely soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the drained sprouts and chestnuts to the skillet and sauté another 5 minutes, until sprouts are brown. Pour in the broth and simmer until sprouts have finished cooking and liquid has evaporated, 3-5 minutes. Add the cream, if using, and cook until cream is slightly thickened. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Toss with bacon and serve.

If you don’t eat bacon, you can leave it out and just cook the shallots and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil. Use olive oil and vegetable broth and leave out the bacon for a vegetarian-friendly side dish.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Foods of October: Apples

Apples are in season in October. Glorious, round, red or green crunchy apples. What is more autumn than that? Autumn is the season of crisp air, colorful falling leaves, mugs of cider, football (if you’re into that sort of thing), and apple picking.

The apple is a fruit of love. It is ruled by the planet Venus and its element is water. Its energies include love, health, and peace.

Apple seeds play a part in Halloween divination. A young lady would take three apple seeds, name them each for a suitor, and stick them either to her forehead or cheeks. The last one to fall off was her true love.

Another apple divination is to throw the peel (whole) over your left shoulder. It should fall in the shape of the initial of the person you're to marry. I don't know which initial.

For love, bake an apple pie with cinnamon and cloves, or simply carve a heart into an apple and eat it with intent.

Applesauce Loaf Cake

• 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
• 1 egg
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons butter, softened
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• ½ cup sour cream
• 1 cup raisins (optional)
• 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a large loaf pan (or 2 smaller ones) with nonstick cooking spray.

In one bowl, mix together the butter and sugar. Add the applesauce, vanilla, sour cream, and egg. Mix to combine. Sift together the dry ingredients and stir into the wet ingredients 1/3 at a time. Fold in the raisins and nuts, if using.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Honoring Shakti

During this time of the year, the great Mother Goddess is celebrated in India. Navratas began on September 28. Tomorrow, October 3, is the beginning of Durga Puja.
“Navratri” means “Nine Nights” . The lore and legends associated with this holiday all go back to the Mother Goddess, Shakti.

The first three days of Navratri are dedicated to Goddess Durga (Warrior Goddess) dressed in red and mounted on a lion. Her various incarnations - Kumari, Parvati and Kali - are worshipped during these days. They represent the three different classes of womanhood that include the child, the young girl and the mature woman. The next three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity), dressed in gold and mounted on an owl and finally ,the last three are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati (Goddess Of Knowledge), dressed in milky white and mounted on a pure white swan. (Source: festivals.iloveindia.com)

Adults and children alike dress in new clothes, wearing a different color on each night. Special sweets are prepared for the celebration. In some communities, people fast for the nine days. The celebration culminates on Mahanavani. Kanya Puja is performed on this day. (Puja – prayers) Nine young girls representing the nine forms of Goddess Shakti are worshipped.

The nine forms of Shakti are:

 Durga, the inaccessible one
 Bhadrakali
 Amba or Jagadamba, Mother of the universe
 Annapoorna devi, The one who bestows grains (anna) in plenty (purna: used as subjective)
 Sarvamangala, The one who gives joy (mangal) to all (sarva)
 Bhairavi
 Chandika or Chandi
 Lalita
 Bhavani
 Mookambika

(Source: en.wikipedia.org)

In honor of the specially prepared sweets, I offer you one of my own invention: Rani's Rice Pudding. ("Rani" is "Queen")

1 cup Basmati rice, washed
2 ½ cups whole milk
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2/3 – 1 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you like it
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ cup slivered almonds or pistachios
½ cup dried pineapple chunks
1 mango, sliced, or 1 can of mango slices, drained

In a large pot, bring 2 cups of water and the rice to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until almost all the water is absorbed.

Add the milk, coconut milk, sugar, cardamom, nuts, and pineapple. Increase heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens (about 25-30 minutes). There should still be some liquid left.

Cover with a piece of plastic wrap placed directly onto the surface of the pudding. This will help prevent a skin from forming. Chill. Top with sliced mangoes and serve. Garnish with extra almonds or pistachios, if desired.
Serves 6-8

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Foods of October: Pork

In an earlier post, I gave some information about the pig and its meat. I associate the meat with Earth and prosperity. For a long time, only the rich had meat on any sort of regular basis. Pork is lovely served fresh at Mabon and Samhain, and preserved (ham, prosciutto, etc.) at Yule.

The following recipe uses salty smoked bacon. It also features onions for protection, sugar for love, and maple syrup for money attraction. (Cunningham, 1990). I also used a bit of smoked sea salt for extra saltiness and smokiness. This is optional, but if you can get it, do try it. It’s amazing. I ordered mine from www.spicesinc.com. Look for Pacific Smoked Sea Salt.

Bacon Jam (Adapted from www.marthastewart.com)

This recipe uses a slow cooker. If you do not have one, you can simply cook it on low on the stove. Just keep an eye on it and make sure the sugars do not burn.

This bacon jam would be awesome spread on some Brie, wrapped in puff pastry, and baked until the cheese is oozing.

1 lb bacon, cut into 1” pieces
2 medium red onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
½ c apple cider vinegar
¾ c dark brown sugar
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¾ cup coffee
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Smoked sea salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

In a large skillet, fry the bacon in batches until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Pour out and reserve all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat.

Cook the onions and garlic on medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes.
Mix together the brown sugar and the liquids. Pour into the pan with the onions, scraping up all the brown bits on the bottom.

Pour into your slow cooker and add the bacon. Cook on high, uncovered for 3 ½ - 4 hours. Season with paprika, salt and pepper. Store in sterilized jars in the refrigerator.

I got maybe 2 ½ - 3 cups from this recipe. It did not cook down that much in the slow cooker, so I left some of the liquid behind.

This could possibly be canned with a pressure canner, but since I don’t have one, I’m not going to mess with it.

It may look revolting, but it tastes like caramelized onions with some bacony bits for texture.

Music for Rocktober

Foods of October: Hazelnuts

Planet: Sun
Element: Air
Energies: wisdom, conscious mind, fertility

Another name for Halloween is “Nutcrack Night”. Hazelnuts played an important part in divination on this night. Hazel trees are thought to be guardians against lightning. Hazelnuts are thought to bestow wisdom on those eat consume them. They stimulate the conscious mind. Eat hazelnuts before taking an exam or brainstorming for your next project. A symbol of fertility, hazelnuts were once placed into small bags and given to brides on their wedding days.

Source: Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen

Hazelnut Baklava

1 16-oz. package phyllo pastry, thawed, sheets cut in half
1 stick of butter, melted
1 lb. hazelnuts, coarsely ground (don’t grind too finely or you’ll end up with paste)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons sugar

For the syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
½ cup honey
Zest of 1 lemon

Butter a 9 x 13 pan and preheat the oven to 350.

Unroll the phyllo dough and cover with a damp towel.

Grind the hazelnuts with the sugar and pour into a bowl. Mix with the cinnamon.

Place 1-2 sheets of phyllo into the pan. Brush with butter. Repeat until you have 9 sheets.

Sprinkle with 1/3 of the nut mixture. Layer on more phyllo, brush with butter, and repeat. You should have three layers of hazelnuts in between layers of pastry.
Brush the top layer with butter, cut into triangles, and place in the oven. Bake until crispy, about 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the syrup by boiling the water, sugar , honey, and lemon zest together. Simmer about 15 minutes, until thickened. Cool slightly.
When the baklava comes out of the oven, pour over the syrup.

Cool completely before serving. Store uncovered so it doesn't get soggy.