Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rising From my Mabon Food Coma

Cooking Adventure: Venison Medallions with Chipotle Cranberry Sauce
Source: Food and Wine
The Mabon Soundtrack:Big Country by Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck & Mike Marshall 
Prep Time: 20-30min.
Cook Time:20min.

You know you've found a good guy when you slip into the best food coma of your life when he cooks. My husband isn't Wiccan, or Pagan, or any spirituality really. My husband is a secular humanist with a very large love for nature. And while he doesn't quite feel right participating in ritual (can't figure out why he's calling guardians or where the heck these watchtowers are supposed to be), he has happily agreed to be the official sabat kitchen witch. This Mabon he whipped up a dish that would definitely please the gods. And, since the gods have a hard time physically eating offerings, I guessed that the only civil and honorable thing to do would be to enjoy it for them.

If the gods can taste vicariously through my taste buds, then they must have been pretty spacey and blissful too. The chipotle gives it this really great overall spice. And the cranberry makes it sweet, and the roasted pecans - OH! The roasted pecans! - they make you want to act out the"When Harry Met Sally" scene. This is one of those dishes where you try to cut the smallest pieces possible so you can taste it longer. And it's one of those ones that makes you slump down in your chair with a dazed look on your face. If this were your last meal, you'd be perfectly fine with skipping down to the electrical chair while licking your lips for extras.

This Mabon feast was especially good because the venison came from a doe my father-in-law shot last hunting season. My father-in-law is a seasoned forester and home grown naturalist, so any deer he shoots is guaranteed to be killed as humanely as possible. This was I and my husband's personal thank you to his father, and to the earth for providing us with our meals and the meals to come (I think there's leftovers still in the in-laws freezer.). :)

Since he did the cooking magick, my husband also gets the honor of picking the soundtrack this time around. The song, "Big Country", is his favorite, and he says, "Embodies everything I think of when I think of home." We're going up to his folk's house in northern Wisconsin tomorrow - a place I know that, Mabon or not, he's very thankful for.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Practical Magic Blog Partying!

"Oh, I've been looking for that. That's his, um, party trick! Right, Sal?"

I will always wonder how they got a toad to cough up a ring in the movie. But I also enjoyed the use of toads throughout the story. In dream interpretation, toads represent death, rebirth and the transformation between them. In European mythology, toads were believed to house a "toadstone" in their skulls. Toadstones were thought to cure poison and heal epilepsy. The toad is also typically depicted as a witch's familiar and a symbol of the devil.

It will always make me smile that in Practical Magic, the toad is not depicted as evil or good, but rather an important mess anger of the realm of death. When it coughs up Jimmy Angelove's ring it's introducing the first physical contact Jimmy has with the living world - thus making it very clear that death is not the end or something to be toyed with.

I came up with this little guy after my Saguaro pancake experiment went awry.The original pattern had him as one piece, but I switched it up a bit and hinged the mouth from the body, gave him a red mouth, and sewed in a secret pouch in the mouth. Now it's my very own Practical Magic frog!

In celebration of the Practical Magic Blog Party, and over 50 followers, I'm hosting my first giveaway! If you'd like a jewellery toad for your very own self, here's the drill:

One point each:
 - Leave a comment on this entry
 - Blog about the giveaway
 - Follow me on Google or Facebook

The winner will be announced in two weeks on October 9, 2010.
And check out the other PMBP sites. There are a few people with some darn yummy looking recipes for Midnight Margaritas!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

May you all have many things to be thankful for. Brightest blessings!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Chicken Mix and an Elusive Pagan Neighbor

Cooking Adventure: Monty's Cajun Spice Mix
The Bellydance Soundtrack: Feel Good Vibe by Feel Good Productions
Prep Time: 5-7 minutes

The last few days have been pretty hectic around here. Getting back from a five hour Minnesota drive, getting back to work and then getting over a cold has meant that not a ton of cooking has been going on. Luckily, I've been saved by the power of chicken and an ample amount of cajun seasoning.

The recipe comes from Monty's Blue Plate Diner in Madison, WI - a place I would gladly camp out at for their Eggs Florentine. If you're ever kicking around Madison, I recommend a stop in for breakfast or lunch. But if you find yourself not being able to access the restaurant itself (especially if you're in New Zealand), then I highly recommend checking out the book and trying your hand at cooking up your own bit of Wisconsin cuisine. The chicken seasoning is especially good, because the recipe gives you about 1 to 2 cups worth. So on nights like tonight when I really just want to relax for the first time in a week, I can whip out a chicken breast, slap it with seasoning, fry it up and make a sammich.

And tonight, as I was finishing up my Cajun "sammich", I heard the sound of a key being turned. I did the first thing any normal person would do. I shoved my plate on the counter, bolted to the door and jammed my eye up against the peep hole. You see, ever since moving in two years ago, I hardly ever see my across-the-hall neighbor, so it has become a sort of indoor safari game in which I attempt to catch a glimpse via the peep hole. Granted, I have seen her outside a bit more lately, and I've actually made eye contact and exchanged words, but the game still continues. An added contest is to find out if she's Pagan without directly asking her. She keeps a witch door decoration up all year, and she said she liked our bumper stickers right after I put up a wiccan one. Those are probably good hints. Perhaps I shall leave her a "Happy Equinox" card on her door and see what happens...

Also, thanks to everyone wishing me well. I actually felt really good yesterday. Hardly any sniffles at all!Yay for the healing power of witches in groups! :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Being Sick Looks Neat

Okay, well, maybe I don't look neat right now. It seems my immune system wasn't quite prepared for the beginning of the school year and the mass of germy preteens. I clawed my way out of a NyQuil induced coma this morning at 6AM, determined to get to work... and am now home again after inevitably sliding back into the land of pjs, soup and amassing Kleenex kitten armies.

It isn't all bad, though. At least it gave me a good excuse to wade through my hot tea supply. I'm not usually a tea person, but I'd drink red hot magma if it meant my sinuses would clear up. I ended up whipping out my supply of blooming lavender tea flowers. Taste wise there's not much too it, (Although maybe I should try it with a fully functional set of taste buds next time...) but man, is it fun to watch.

For anyone interested to try out the process themselves, sans the getting sick part, Mountain Rose Herbs has a good selection of their own blooming flowers that come with additional flavor mixtures.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cupcake Giveaway!

For those of you who just can't get enough of cupcakes or mini crocheted things, Sarah Dickson over at Displaced Art is hosting a giveaway for one of her newly amigurumi-ed cupcakes! Be sure to check out the rest of her site where she shows off other equally wonderful amigurumi, felting and drawing projects.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Color Orange

Cooking Adventure: Carrot & Red Pepper Soup
Source: Nutrition MD
The Bellydance Soundtrack: Sabah El Kheir by REG Project
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30-40 minutes
I'll admit it. I own several Silver Ravenwolf books. Way back when I was a fluffy witchlette I worshipped the woman. And as much as we like to rag on her for her unfortunate advice towards newbies, we have to give her a bit of credit for being one of the only Wiccan authors at the time to directly address teenagers. Having said that, I would also like to point out that now that I'm in my twenties, the SRW books have quite the amount of personal notes written in the margins. The note next to her section on color magick in To Ride a Silver Broomstick, reads:

Why does she associate orange with business dealings, legal matters, and career goals? Where did she get this from? Is this a traditional color interpretation?

Really, if anyone has an answer for this I would love to hear it. To me, color meanings can very much be in the eye of the beholder, so it's hard to put any specific meaning on any of them. While some people see red and think of roses and hearts and kisses, others might have blood, guts and zombies on the brain. Heck, when it comes to elements the Chinese have five. So even that is up for debate.

When I think of orange I think of fall, and a time of change. I think of the part of the fire that's exactly right for browning marshmallows (although I usually burn mine to a crisp). For me, orange represents the changes in life that involve the least amount of gambling. It's the end and beginning of things (sunrise and sunset). And I suppose that it could also represent a desire to be a clown fish, but that's a stretch.

If orange really does stand for general success and business ventures, then I must be close to getting a humongous raise with all the orange food I've been eating. This last week I kept up with the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart meal plan and tried out carrot & red pepper soup. And, since I don't tend to like carrot soup ,& because I'm not vegan, I added my own toppings along the way.

1 onion, chopped
6 carrots, thinly sliced
2 cups water or vegetable stock
2 red bell peppers
2 cups soy milk (**Regular milk works just as well too)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons  balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Place onion and carrots into a pot with water or stock and simmer, covered, over medium heat until the carrots can be easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.
2. Roast bell peppers by placing them over an open gas flame or directly under the broiler until the skin is completely blackened. Place in a bowl, cover, and let stand about 15 minutes. Slip the charred skin off with your fingers, then cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds.
3. Blend the carrot mixture along with the bell peppers in a blender or food processor in several small batches. Add some of the soy milk to each batch to facilitate blending. Return to the pot and add lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Heat until steamy.

***For non-vegans: Add a dollop of sour cream to the middle, sprinkle with paprika and thyme.

For next time: Make more!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Whack Cat Crotches For Only 75 Cents!

Just driving into St. Paul, Minnesota, across the street from one of the buildings voted "Ugliest in the Twin Cities", and tucked up next to some old, brick apartments, lies an absolute treasure trove of stuff. Axman is a surplus store that carries everything you never knew was an electrical component. They have glass beakers in all shapes and sizes, stickers, an entire wall of marbles arranged by color & size, and everything else under the sun and moon. It's fun going through all the bins and coming away with a bag full of gizmos, but you haven't enjoyed the full experience until you've read the signs the employees make for each item. These are from the group jaunt out to the store a few weeks ago...

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Great Pancake Rebellion

 Upon signing up for the Practical Magic Blog Party, I had the great intention of attempting saguaro cacti pancakes. Alas, the shapes I was hoping for were not to be, and my last attempts seemed to be in vain when my pancake promptly gave me the finger. 
 In response, I ate him. Despite his malformedness, he was extremely tasty. :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Finding Our Paths - Kiki Style

I suppose most eclectic solitary Wiccans come to this point one way or another. That nagging feeling, urge, or even pressure to choose a tradition. I've hit that mark in my personal chronology and I think I would  gladly trade it for several days of household chores. 

When asked about my religious preferences by other members of the magickal community, my first response is always: eclectic solitary Wiccan. The eclectic is because I just don't clique with most traditions, and the solitary, well, because of the former. This becomes a huge problem for me because being alone and working with a smattering of gods and goddesses is not the best set-up for me (Trust me. I was a student that did not do well in high school independent study classes.). I need structure and guidance - especially in the books I read and the people I meet. If there is such a thing as a skeptical witch, I'm that. I need to have bibliographies, footnotes, educated authors, and researched data. Being solitary means I get to determine the credentials, but it can also be lonely and without purpose.

As frustrating as this process is of researching on my own in a desperate, and what seems like futile, attempt to define my path is, I can take comfort in the fact that I'm going it the Kiki way. For those who love Miyazaki films (Spirited Away, Howl's Flying Castle, etc.), you know what I'm talking about. For those who are thinking, "What?" go watch his cutest movie ever. Go ahead. I'll wait. Watched it? Near dying from a severe overdose of cutesness? Excellent. 

Kiki didn't really choose to start a flying delivery business. She worried a bit about what kind of witch she would become, but didn't agonize over it. She lived her life, did what she loved, and fell into it. I'm hoping that, like Kiki, I'll stumble upon the type of witch I want to be too.

Is this right? Has anyone else hit this weird Pagan funk? Or, if you're another kind of religious, a religious funk?

If so, I invite you to share, and to join the Kiki crowd... amigurumi style! Woot! I made her with no pattern! Now she needs her mini flying gear. (Oh, and yes. That is her underwear showing, because her underwear is always popping out in the movie. Scandalous!)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Stupidity Killed the Witch

The following conversation occurred between the Blue Faerie and her husband on the morning of Saturday, September 4th, has just now been recalled, and went as follows:

TBF: You know, witches in fairy tales really get the short end of the stick.
H: How so? Well, aside from the fact that they usually die.
TBF: They all just happen to run into their one weakness that ultimately destroys them. Take Snow White for example. Sure the witch was captured and forced to dance in red hot iron shoes until she dropped down dead, but her ultimate downfall was dwarves.
H: Alright then, witches are weak against dwarves. ...Hold on, are we playing Dungeons and Dragons? ...Let's think up another example. How about Hansel and Gretel?
TBF: Chicken bone. She mistook it for a finger. So we can add chicken bones to the list. Then again, how could anyone mistake a chicken bone for a child's finger?
H: But she was blind, wasn't she?
TBF: I suppose then you could say her downfall were her cataracts, but even then there's no way anyone could mistake a bone for a finger! Besides, if she's blind aren't her other senses heightened? That's a pretty stupid witch.
H: Plus she was actually dumb enough to show Gretel how to get ungodly close to the oven. That's like those cartoons where someone demonstrates, themselves, how to hold a stick of dynamite. And how did she live in that house anyway? It was all made of candy! The structural stability alone would make it unlivable!
TBF: Maybe the gingerbread and candy canes were so old that they were stale enough to act like concrete.
H: That makes Hansel and Gretel morons too. Trying to chew on a frickin' old candy house. Plus they threw bread crumbs in the woods expecting to be able to follow them back.
TBF: Okay. So it's determined. "Hansel and Gretel" is one big tale of idiocy.
H: Yup. ...Hey, what about "Rapunzel"? ... I don't think her hair could have grown that long by her mid teens.
TBF: Duh. She had a weave. ...A super weave...

Next week's episode: The Tale of Rapunzel and Her Superweave

Monday, September 6, 2010

Couscous and a Physics Lesson

Cooking Adventure: Couscous Confetti Salad
Source: Nutrition MD
The Bellydance Soundtrack: Disco Arab by Bayhas
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'll never go vegan, but I will gladly mooch off their recipes. Today starts the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart from the PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine). In slapdash Internet tradition I signed up for their three week email plan with the best fake name I could muster:Miss Marla J. Fluffnstuff, and skipped out to go grocery shopping.

The result of this impromptu trip was, of course, the couscous salad, but also a real-life version of The Incredible Machine. For you who may not have been around yet or had the optimal amount of geekiness, The Incredible Machine was a PC game that encouraged its players to build their own machine by clicking and dragging on the available parts. The player had to use things like see-saws, pipes, candles, rockets, mice on running wheels and other strange, cartoony items to make a basketball go through a hoop, a cat eat a mouse, etc. And it was sweet! But I digress.

The point was: I really should have thought of this game before I decided to cleanse the kitchen with the element of fire by lighting a candle in my copper cauldron hanging 6 inches from my cabinet by a plastic and metal hook. Several minutes later as I was chopping onions I heard the inevitable clang as the cauldron hit the counter. Yes, physics had worked its own magick, and had led the heat from the flame to melt the plastic holding the hook in place. Um... it might have also melded some of the plastic to the underside of the counter.

There's a reason I wasn't born under a fire sign.

Thanks to Chronicles of a Dairyland Vegan for the meal plan tip!

1.5 cups dry whole-wheat couscous
2 cups boiling water
3-4 green onions, finely chopped, including tops
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 carrot, grated
1-2 cups finely shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup golden raisins or chopped dried apricots

1 juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1. In a large bowl, combine couscous and boiling water. Stir to mix, then cover and let stand until all the water has been absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
2. Add green onions, bell pepper, carrot, cabbage, parsley, and raisins or apricots.
3. In a small bowl mix lemon juice, vinegar, oil, curry powder, and salt. Add to salad and toss to mix. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

No Meeting But...

I thought I had a dance related meeting today (Funny, those Labor Day weekend dance meetings.) so I threw on my backpack, hopped on the bike and headed downtown. The thing about Madison is that it's on a low-isthmus - meaning that the outlying neighborhoods are all up hill. This means that biking into downtown is fine and dandy and requires little to no pedaling whatsoever.

After discovering that I'd mixed up the days for the meeting though, I had to bike back. And what went down must then go up - a plodding, sweaty, agonizing, crotch-maiming up. But pain or not, I was able to stay downtown long enough to take a few photos of the Madison skyline from the eleventh floor of University Square. And for that, the drudge uphill back home was definitely worth it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Shimmying Our Pants Off

I was kicking around the blogosphere today and caught Belly Whisperer's post on going into the dance instructor business in January. I have to give a heart felt congratulations on that one. I started teaching two summers ago, and the months leading up to the first class were filled with quite a bit of anxious shimmying up and down the halls of my apartment.

But teaching adults isn't the only form of instruction out there. And while grown men and women have the ability to express the sensual part of the dance where kids can't, you still gotta love 'em on the grounds that little kids trying to bellydance is just frickin' cute. :) I offer up for your consideration this 2009 footage of my niece with her first hip scarf.

We're behind you, RetroKali!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hot Stuff for Hot Days

Cooking Adventure: Chicken Tortilla Soup
Source: Me
The Bellydance Soundtrack: Pa' Bailar by Bajofondo Tango Club
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes

You would think I would wait for Beltane. You would think I would go for something cold like gazpacho. You would think I would get tired of making food that turns out orange. Okay, that last one has a hint of truth in it. However, when I've got a craving for something no amount of confusing holiday decorations or butt-sticking-to-and-peeling-off-from-plastic-chairs heat is going to stop me. And last night I was craving this.

Looking back though, I do kind of wish it would have been Beltane - or at least Valentine's Day. Why? I have never found a more guaranteed way of literally heating up any date. I gave this recipe to a friend who was planning on cooking for her boyfriend of a few weeks. The directions I included were simple:

Use hot salsa. Both of you take a big spoonful at the same time. Swallow. Kiss. And not that wimpy little kiss either. I mean give it some tongue! Okay... ew... not that much tongue.

The result is... Well, I'll leave the results up to you and your significant other. I will say that my friend came over the next day swooning all over my dorm room singing, "Tortilla soup! Tortilla soup! I love tortilla soup!"

6 cups chicken stock
1 lb chicken breast
1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
2 cups red salsa (Get the hot stuff! I recommend Mrs. Renfro's. One jar is just about 2 cups.)
1 cup boiling water (I just use the really hot tap water.)

Fresh cilantro
Grated Parmesan cheese
Sour cream
Multicolored tortilla chips
1. Bring chicken stock to boil in a large pot, and add the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook until the chicken is tender and opaque throughout - about 10 minutes.
2. Using a slotted spoon remove the chicken & set it aside to cool.
3. Set the stock aside.
4. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the vegetable oil. Add onion & cook until soft - about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until soft - about 3 minutes.
5. Add the salsa, onion/garlic mix, and the 1cp. boiling water to the chicken stock.
6. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
7. Shred the cooled chicken with your fingers (If it's not cool you can run it under cool water a bit.) and add it to the pot. Stir a bit and simmer over medium 3-4 minutes to blend the flavors.
8. Garnish with sour cream, Parmesan cheese, cilantro and tortilla chips around the sides (Don't wait too long or the tortilla chips will start to get soggy.)

For Next Time: Make it be Valentine's Day.