Sunday, August 31, 2014

Double Layer Pumpkin Spice Latte Cheesecake

So, I made a thing:  

Pardon my crappy pictures, but I took them just a little bit ago.  It's 4:23 am right now.

I think the drink is vile, but I thought it would translate well to cheesecake form.  It did!  OMG this cheesecake is sooooooooo creamy and rich. I didn't use too much sugar, either.  You can kind of see the individual layers, but the colors are pretty similar.

·         1 box gingersnaps, finely crushed  (I had about 1 ½ cups of crumbs)
·         6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Mix butter and gingersnap crumbs and press into bottom and partially up the sides of a 9” spring form pan.

Latte Layer:
·         20 oz. softened cream cheese (2 ½ packages)
·         2 eggs
·         ½ cup sour cream
·         1 ½ tablespoons espresso powder
·         1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
·         ¾ cup sugar

Pumpkin Spice Layer:
·         20 oz. softened cream cheese
·         2 eggs
·         ½ cup sour cream
·         1 8-oz. can pumpkin puree
·         1 cup sugar
·         1 ½ tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
·         1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 F.
Combine ingredients for latte layer until smooth.  A food processor works best.  Spoon into the crust.
Combine ingredients for pumpkin spice layer until smooth. Spoon evenly and gently on top of latte layer.
Wrap bottom of pan in foil Place pan in a water bath.  I used a large skillet for this, but you could use a roasting pan or whatever the spring form will fit in.  (Heat some water and pour about ½ - ¾ inch into the other pan.)

Bake cheesecake at 325 for about  1 ¾ hours, until middle is set.  Run a knife around the edge. Remove from roasting pan/skillet.  Cool.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.   

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Autumn is a-cumen in!

September is a little more than a day away here.  Are you as excited as I am?  Temperatures are still pretty warm, but thunderstorms are coming to cool us down a bit.  Mabon will soon be here, and then...Samhain!  The countdown to Samhain began ages ago for me, but I'm not about to forget the autumn equinox, oh, no!

Our second harvest festival in the northern hemisphere, the autumn equinox/Mabon is a time to start turning inward a bit more.  It's a time to start focusing on things we want to get rid of at the end of the year, a time to meditate on future goals, and a time to really start connecting more with our inner selves.  It's a time to get in touch with our spirituality and prepare for the long, dark winter.

At my parents' house, it's a time for canning and freezing everything from the garden.  Tomatoes, peppers, and green beans are being preserved in jars. Pickles have been made.  Corn is going into the freezer.  My parents are enjoying delicious turnips, raw with salt and pepper.  Here, since I have no garden, I am getting ready to de-clutter the house.  I have bundles of clothes to give away, books to organize, and other assorted bits of junk to get rid of.

Celebrating the second harvest and enjoying the beginning of autumn are joyful activities. The air will soon grow cool and crisp. The days are already noticeably shorter.  Pumpkins already decorate the front of the grocery store.  Today, I baked a pumpkin spice latte cheesecake. The time is nigh!

Below is a list of activities and foods for the autumn equinox. If you're having trouble thinking of ideas for decorations, activities, or dishes, perhaps it will help you.

Mabon  Ideas for Heart and Home

·         Simmer water with cinnamon sticks and whole cloves on the stove.

·         Smudge with rosemary, sage, and thyme.  Simmer some of the herbs in water and add it to your mop water.  Clean the floors, counters, and cabinet doors.  Add some sea salt for extra protection and cleansing.

·         Decorate with autumn leaf gardens that you can purchase from a craft store.

·         Place leaves on a canvas or piece of foam board. Dip an old toothbrush into some orange, red, brown, and yellow paint.  Splatter. Remove the leaves.

·         Can the rest of the fresh green beans and tomatoes.  Make pesto with the last of the summer basil and freeze it.  Freeze the corn.  Hang bundles of herbs to dry.

·         Fall cleaning.  Get rid of clutter and give away anything you don’t use or wear.

·         Make a besom. Scent with cinnamon oil.

·         Meditate on Persephone’s descent into the Underworld.  Eat pomegranate seeds while doing this.
·         Harvest seeds.  

·         Think of your goals for the coming year.

·         Think of what you want to get rid of at Samhain. What is cluttering your mind and your life?

·         Make corn dollies.

·         Make dried apples for snacks and decoration.

·         Decorate the altar with bundles of corn.  Hollow out apples to use as candle holders. 

·         Squash soup
·         Corn bread
·         Apple pie, crumble, or cake
·         Pinto beans cooked with smoked ham
·         Sauteed  greens
·         Stuffed onions
·         Sweet potatoes – mashed, baked, in pie form

Friday, August 29, 2014

R is for Ritual

What do you think of when you hear the word “ritual”?   Does it evoke images of smoking incense, candles, a wand, chalice, and athame?   Or do you associate it with your pre-Pagan days?  Prayers murmured in unison, standing up, sitting down, hymns?   All of the above?

I personally don’t do rituals, per se.  The last time I was in a formal circle, it felt very hollow and a bit silly, even.  Calling the quarters.  People using pen flashlights to read notes.  I dunno, there just wasn’t much appeal. 

Instead of formal acts of worship, I prefer daily practices.  I’ve written before that ritual, for me, largely includes cooking and feeding people.  I see those things as an act of worship – of nature and of the Divine.   The principle is similar, and the practice also has some similarities.  Instead of a wand, I use a wooden spoon. Instead of a cauldron, I have pots and pans.  I sometimes light candles when I cook or bake, and I use herbs, but in a different way most of the time.

I think that acts of reverence for the Divine and for nature are things that should be a part of my daily routine.  That’s one of the reasons my head is always covered.  I try to remain prayerful throughout the day.  I try to give thanks for many things throughout the day.   I personally don’t need to gather together with a group of people and make circle to do it. 

Sometimes it’s nice to be in the company of others, and I do attend gatherings from time to time, but I don’t participate as much as I observe while thinking my own thoughts and conducting a celebration in my own mind.  That’s just what works for me.  Everyone’s practice is different, which is how it should be. I believe the path to the Divine – however you see it – is deeply personal, and no one can tell you how or where to walk it.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Free Recipe Download

I've never done this before, so I hope it works!

As you may remember, I have been working on some recipes to go along with the calendars of meatless meals that I have planned for the time between Nov. 1 and Dec. 20.    Well, here they are!   If you're interested in cooking anything that I have planned to make during that time, here is your chance.

The recipes are yours to use and adapt as you see fit.  I've included some menu ideas that are similar to the post I made with the calendars, but there are some variations.  It's a total of 39 pages.  I didn't include every single recipe because some of them, such as spaghetti, are rather basic.

Please let me know if you nab the PDF file, if you cook anything, and how you like the recipes.  What worked? What didn't? What did you change?

Thank you and enjoy!


Monday, August 18, 2014

A Passing

My Samhain table will have a new guest this year.  My grandmother has passed beyond the veil.  

I love you, Grandma. So much. I hope you can feel that, wherever you are.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Q is for Queen of Heaven (music)

Mediaeval Baebes: Salva Nos

Salva nos, stella maris
Et regina celorum
Salva nos, stella maris
Et regina celorum
Que pura deum paris
Salva nos, stella maris
Et per rubum signaris
Nesciens viri thorum
Salva nos, stella maris
Et regina celorum
O virgo specialis
Salva nos, stella maris
Sis nobis salutaris
Imperatrix celorum
Salva nos, stella maris
Et regina celorum
Tu mater expers paris
Salva nos, stella maris
Manna celeste paris
Et panem angelorum
Salva nos, stella maris
Et regina celorum
O parens expers maris
Salva nos, stella maris
Partu non violaris
Paris sanctum sanctorum
Salva nos, stella maris
Et regina celorum
Celeste manna paris
Salva nos, stella maris
Lux cecis, dux ignaris
Solamen angelorum
Salva nos, stella maris
Et regina celorum
Salva nos, stella maris
Et regina celorum

Q is for Quick Kitchen Magic

Feeling stressed? Anxious? Having a bad day?  Want to bring more abundance and prosperity into your life and home?  You only need look as far as the kitchen!

Sometimes, the quickest and simplest things are the most effective for our needs at the time.  Here are just  few really fast and easy things you can do with kitchen/food items to improve the energies in your home and/or bring prosperity and abundance into your homes.

Burn herbs and/or spices over a charcoal.   Use sage to cleanse and purify.  Cloves work nicely for purification as well.  Place the charcoal in a dish on top of a bed of salt.

Mix up a floor wash to wash away negativity or introduce love, peace, and/or harmony.   Boil some lavender  and/or rose buds into a tea.  Mix with a little white vinegar.  Add to your wash water to cleanse the cabinets, counters, and floors to bring in some love energy. Rosemary and/or citrus work for cleansing away negativity.  Add some salt to this mixture, too, if you wish.  You can also place the concoction into a spray bottle.

 A dish of sesame seeds, changed periodically, will help attract prosperity.

There you have it:   just a few easy, quick little things you can do using kitchen items and ingredients.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Here We Go

There are a lot of things in this world that I do not understand.  One thing that really burns my toast and really confuses the crap out of me is the thought that there is some kind of universal contest to see who has the most chronic illnesses or mental illnesses.   I know people who introduce themselves by what is “wrong” with them before almost anything else.

Something else that ticks me off is that meme that talks about how depression is a sign of trying to be strong for too long.  Fuck you.   The causes are not immediately known.   Stop trivializing something so serious.  Also, stop diagnosing yourselves as bipolar, depressed, or having anxiety disorders.  You aren’t qualified to do that.  Dr. Google isn’t a real M.D. 

Yes, everyone likes attention.  It makes us feel special.  It makes us feel good.  Who doesn’t want to feel unique once in a while?  Well, you’re going about it in the wrong way.  Believe me when I say you don’t really want clinical depression.  It’s a screaming, lying, horrible demon that shrieks horrible things at you.  It eats at you and wears you down until there’s nothing left. Until you can’t go on.   It’s hard not to listen when you hear that shit all the time.  It’s not fun. It’s not a game.  It doesn’t make you better than someone else.  Seriously, though, if you are jealous of someone who has a legitimate illness or disorder, then, yes, there probably is something wrong with you.   Seek help.

I haven’t really said a lot about the death of anyone who has committed suicide, celebrity or not.  I don’t like to glorify this sort of thing.   It sucks. It sucks big-time.   Yet, I understand why.  I’ve been there.  I’ve wanted to.  I’ve been so close that I’ve had to be placed somewhere safe.   Since I’m not famous, it isn’t the sort of thing that would get a lot of attention.   I’d rather be recognized for things I do in life, not how life ends. I am not what I have. 

Those of us who do have actual disorders, those of us who have been diagnosed by trained, experienced professionals DO seek help. We DO talk to people. We DO take our pills like good little boys and girls.  Usually.  It isn’t a question of reaching out, however.  It’s a question of the hand on the other end.  Does it take our hand and help pull us out of the darkness?  Does it hold on and offer comfort?   Is there anyone or anything there at all?  

I’ll admit to reaching out and coming up empty-handed because people who just want to suffer from the latest thing are already taking up all of the support.  It seems so much easier to help someone who doesn’t really need it, doesn’t it? 

I guess what I really want to say is this:  If you think it’s a contest, you’re an asshole.  If you think it’s a game, you’re an asshole.  If you think it’s something I can turn on and off at will, you’re an asshole.  If you think people who permanently remove themselves from the pain and suffering they cannot otherwise escape are selfish, you’re an asshole.

I’ve been dealing with clinical depression since my teens.  It sucks.  If you really, really want it because you think it’s cool and it will get you all sorts of attention, please take mine.  If you just want to be speshul and yuneek…see above.

Thank you. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Planning for Autumn

Yes, already!  September will be here before we know it.  While I haven't made plans for my Mabon meal yet, I have started thinking about the vegetarian meals I will be making for Nov.1 - Dec. 20.    On Oct. 31, I will fast until sundown, and then I will eat my last bit of meat until Thanksgiving.  I decided to allow myself to have some meat at Thanksgiving because last year, I prepared a lovely vegetarian feast that was delicious, but...unsatisfying.  I ended up eating a burger from Sheetz.  Yeah.  *hangs head in shame*

As always, I plan too much.  I am going to have to try really, really hard to be more organized this year so I can cook on the weekends and freeze dishes for the week.  My work schedule and my boyfriend's work schedule leave me feeling exhausted during the week.  Having only one car complicates things when one person gets off work by 5 and the other works until 9.  If I can make Saturdays my shopping days and Saturdays and Sundays cooking days, it should work.  I also plan to make Sundays in November pizza days because it's easy to put together.  I actually use a calzone dough recipe from allrecipes.com, and it works wonderfully.

Here are the plans I have made for the in-between time of the year:

I hope those aren't too difficult to read!  I'll be sharing recipes when it gets closer to the time.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

P is for Pagan Modesty

  [mod-uh-stee]   noun, plural mod·es·ties.
the quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness,etc.
regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc.
simplicity; moderation.

Now, a lot of people might see that word and think, “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”  and run screaming.   Keep reading before you run away, though, if you can.

When the concept of modesty is mentioned, people often picture plainly-dressed Quakers, or possibly Amish folk.  Perhaps you picture people (mostly woman, I’ll wager) from other Abrahamic faiths, with their long sleeves, dresses, and head coverings.   It’s what we’ve come to associate with the word. 

Now, if you look at the definition, dress is only part of it.  The definition deals mainly with manner and practice, as opposed to just what people put on their bodies.  

What I put on my body doesn’t make me modest.  There’s no such thing as “more modest than thou” because that is kind of the opposite of the meaning of the word.   I cover my body and my head for other reasons, reasons that I have outlined before. 

Do I consider myself a modest person, a modest Pagan?  Wellllllllll…no, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m all that modest.  In dress, sure.  I don’t boast about achievements and accomplishments that much, either.  I’m a rather atypical Leo in that regard.  (I blame it on the fact that I came early and was actually supposed to be a Virgo. Hehe.)

Am I vain?  No, my self-esteem is actually pretty damn low most of the time.  That’s another story for another time, however.  I may vlog and blog, but I don’t enjoy just talking on and on about myself, even when I’m asked questions.  It makes me uncomfortable to be in the limelight.

Let’s look at the second use of the word.  Regard for decency in dress?  Again, I wear long sleeves and long dresses over leggings. I wear a head scarf.  Therefore, I guess we can say that I am modest in dress.  Do I judge other people for not covering up as much as I do?  Hell no.  If you got it and want to flaunt it, go nuts.  I’m fat and uncomfortable having my pudge hanging out, flapping in the breeze, but that’s just me. 

Speech and behavior?  Do you know me?  Have you seen the amount of swear words I’ve used in this post alone?  Okay, not that many…yet.   Every time I’m outside smoking a cigarette (smoke-free campus), I kind of laugh to myself and wonder what people might think, seeing a woman with flowing dresses and weird scarves out there, puffing away on a menthol.  

The conclusion?   I would not consider myself a modest Pagan.  I consider myself to be someone who chooses to cover up in order to protect my energy and to feel more comfortable.   In my experience, a lot of people use the term modesty very loosely and go against it by boasting about how modest they are.   Kind of like Weird Al’s lyrics for “Amish Paradise”:  I’m a million times more humble than thou art. 

I just like to blend in with the scenery.

You get away with a lot more that way.