Archive for the Cooking Category

Winter Storm Mac & Cheese

Posted in Cooking with tags , , on December 29, 2012 by theredlass

Suffering through the snow dunes and frigid winter winds? Here is a little recipe to help stave off the chill.

1 lbs hickory smoked bacon
1 cup elbow macaroni
1 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 cups cheese (extra sharp cheddar/pepper-jack/mozzarella)
flour
butter
salt
pepper
parsley

1) Cook the bacon till nice and crispy. Chop up and set aside but BE SURE to save the grease!
2) Cook the noodles AL-dente (still a wee bit firm) and rinse off.
3) While the noodles are draining, heat the grease lightly and sprinkle flour into the grease. Whisk till it is a smooth texture and add butter, salt, pepper and parsley.
4) Slowly start adding the cheese in small handfulls and whisk till it’s melting. Keep back a little bit for the toppers!
5) Start adding milk & chicken stock and whisking it in as you keep the heat low. Whisk briskly till it is a smooth, creamy texture. Add chopped bacon.
6) Stir in noodles thoroughly! Serve generously with a bit of cheese on top. Serve with crispy French bread and butter.

You will be perfectly content to sit and eat this till spring.

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IGOR! HAND ME…THE PUMPKIN SEED OIL

Posted in Cooking, Herbals Oils, Salves with tags , on June 25, 2012 by theredlass

MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!!!

Part of the fun of getting into herbal concoctions and such is the joy of experimentation. Fiddling around with different oils and scents, decoctions and remedies. Have wicked bad rosacea problems today? Try cool lavender tea with a little drop or two of olive oil. Mix it all up and dampen a soft washcloth with it. Lay that across your face (be sure you can breath!) and let the soothing solution relax your blood vessels.

Want to know how I came up with that? My wifey has rosacea and it was really irritated one day. I started fiddling around with some compresses and stuff and after some trials we discovered this worked.

Want to kill a sore throat and chest congestion? Take dark, natural honey (look for dark or local, grocery stores often cut honey with corn syrup), and cook it on a double boiler with a generous helping of chopped ginger root. Does wonders for clearing your sinuses and phlegm. Figured that out last allergy season when I was drinking tea like crazy and tried some raw ginger root and honey together. Did wonders and actually made it so my chest didn’t crackle.

The point is, when you are getting into herbalism and home health care, you start to take a stronger notice of what happens to you and family when you use certain things. You notice that you aren’t having such bad allergy problems after eating spicy foods (it’s the capsaicin). How a plate of handmade cinnamon rolls makes everything seem just a little bit easier to cope with.

All these things are important to observe and remember, and good basis for experimentation. Most of the time you start out from a simple recipe you found on-line, in my case from a lip balm recipe I got from Mountain Rose Herbs. Then after you get down the basics you expand on it, trying it with peppermint, pumpkin seed oil…all sorts of stuff.

You have to be careful of course. ALWAYS careful, especially if you are selling the stuff like me. Making sure you don’t use herbs that could provoke a bad allergic reaction or ones that shouldn’t come into contact with skin (like cinnamon). My rule of thumb is TRY IT YOURSELF FIRST! if you made something that you aren’t secure enough in to use on yourself on a frequent basis, then it probably isn’t a product you want to make a lot off. Also, always start small. Small batches, small amounts, small orders. Don’t drop $50 on something you’ve never made before.

EX: I was bound and determined to make a nice, thick body butter to sell in my shop. I had done lotion but body butter is a different animal all together. I used shea and coco butter and the essential oils I wanted…well…when I had melted everything together and mixed in the scents how I wanted I was (after an hour of stirring) left with a gloopy, melted mess of sloppy lilac smelling STUFF. I fiddled and worked and worked and fiddled and after 3 hours it still wasn’t a viable product. I was so sick of it at this point I didn’t even want to look at it any more! Not even to throw it away. i tossed it in the kitchen and went to bed. Well I must have kitchen faeries or something because when i got up in the morning it was smooth, creamy and whipped just the way i wanted. Yes it turned out well, but it could have been a gigantic fuck up that would have wasted around $30 of product right there.

So experiment, but in small steps.

St. Patrick’s Day

Posted in Cooking, Mead with tags , , on March 14, 2012 by theredlass

A lot of wiccans talk about how many holidays the Catholic church stole from our “traditions” in order to help bring pagans to Christ. Well in all truth…I don’t care. I really don’t. They weren’t doing anything hundreds of religions have done through out time and frankly it feels as though we stole a lot back (in wiccan rituals and alters at least). Part of the reason holidays exist around certain times of year is because there has ALWAYS been some sort of celebration regarding the cycle of seasons and changing weather. Therefor I have no compunctions about celebrating secular holidays right alongside the formatted pagan ones.

That being said…

I’m gonna wear green (even though green is technically for the Catholics and orange is for Protestants) and get drunk.

The Spring Equinox is coming up and I’m planning on starting a new batch of mead! The last one went wonderfully well and thankfully I have friends who are more then willing to provide me with honey in exchange for future meads. I am actually surprising myself by being not entirely sucky at this! I will still need to sweeten it before it’s bottled in April but beyond that I am just having a blast!

Mead Making

Posted in Cooking with tags , on February 16, 2012 by theredlass

Now I’ve never been one to pretend I’m patient. Not in the least, but few things make me tap my feet more than having to count down days. And few things drive me more nuts than being on the day before something. So needless to say, mead making is an exercise in patience for me. One I desperately need to work out more often.

I went with a very simple recipe the first time through because I have never tried something like this before. Just some oranges and raisins to help make flavor and for the first week I have been monitoring the brew, cheching on it, watching for the bubbles (which yes I discovered are not really necessary for a functional mead) and then…waited…

…and waited…

.and waited…

…and kinda forgot about it for two weeks…

…and then my phone went off to remind me there was only a few days left until I needed to change the mead over and remembered I needed to sterilize everything to siphon it over.

It was an exciting moment for me! Not just because I was relieved to open up the bucket and see that everything looked the way it should.

*sigh of relief*

Also I feel the lack of engineering expertise when I’m trying to figure out how to work a siphoning hose. Yeah…doing it for the first time folks, remember that.

Spilled a little bit on myself and tasted it. Not sure how it should taste at this stage of the game but it was a little sour. Most mead I’ve had is sweet. Need to drop by Got Mead and see if it’s okay and if not what I can do to sweeten it up.

Now it’s sitting comfortably on my table, ready to sit and brew for another two months before being bottled. In another month I am going to start another recipe. I’m thinking something with ginger & peaches in it.

Mead Making-Learning How

Posted in Cooking, Experience, Fun and interesting, Ritual with tags , , on December 27, 2011 by theredlass

I would like to add, before anyone reads the rest, that I am in the beginning process of learning how to make my own mead. What comes below is not the words of an expert, but the comment of someone delving into the experience for the first time. I strongly advise doing your own research before taking me at mine and learning about the history.

Furthermore, I would DEARLY love to see what other people have done to create this golden delicacy, your recipes, advise and suggestions. I will promise to include photos when I start on my first batch!

Ah mead! What is there in this world greater than the sweet sharp flavor of honey wine! More than just an alcoholic beverage, it is a staple of modern pagan culture. You’d be hard pressed to find an experienced witch or pagan who does not brew, rock and share their own bottles. Recipes are held as dear as spells and rituals within the grimoire. It is found at most pagan summits, festivals and at no few coven gatherings.

The brewing of mead has been called an art form. It’s creation is sacred and magical, not to mention a ton of fun! It has been known in multiple locals but is most widely attributed to the Norse Vikings. Though the method has changed greatly from the early “sextarius of rainwater and pound of honey”, there is a long and fruitful history of brewing. Mead was a way of producing alcohol in places where grapes would not grow and (until taxation) was a tradable good.

Mead also plays a strong role in mythology. The Mead of Suttungr (Norse origin), was said to turn whoever drank it into a scholar, due to the fact that it has been made from the blood of the near omniscient Kvasir. Dionysus, (Greek god of wine) was said to have great festivals and cult rituals (Dionysian Mysteries) in which everyone became so drunk they turned mad and lost all manner of self control or civility. The Lacandon people (Mayan) believed the brewing and drinking of the mead was a way of communicating and becoming one with their gods. The Finnish Walpurgis Night (coinciding with Midsummer) is considered a good night to brew sima (mead) as it has connections with The Wild Hunt in Norse mythos.

There are a variety of meads, usually named according to the region and ingredients used. It is easy enough to research them yourself, so I won’t go into it here.

The best way to experience mead is to make it yourself! Materials can be expensive to come by, but the easiest way to get everything is to buy a wine makers kit. A good one comes with everything you will need expect the water, honey, fruit, campaign yeast and bottles. It is easiest to start with about a gallon batch as larger batches can be difficult to store and get more expensive. All recipes are for that amount.

Mead Recipe

Tools

Time

Purpose

Instructions

-1 gallon spring water-1 lbs. honey-large spoon

-stainless steel pot

-hydrometer

-wine/champaign yeast

-1 cup room temperature water

-syphon tube

-2 glass/plastic jugs

-cool dark place

-airlock

-cork

-funnel

-Initial Preparation: 2 hours
-First Fermentation: 1 Month-Racking: 1 hour- Secondary Fermentation: 1 month-6 weeks

-Aging: 6-9 months

-to create a basic mead mixture from which any amount of flavors and or spices can be mixed or one that can be drunk straight -put the stainless steel pot on the stove and heat a ½  gallon of water to simmer (not boiling) slowly-put in 1 lb. of honey and mix till dissolved-while that heats, get ½ cup of water (room temperature) and drop in yeast and gently stir it to activate

-let it sit for about 15 mins.

-let the mixture cool on the stove and make sure to skim off the foam that forms at the top. Allow to cool to room temperature. This mixture is called the must.

-Once it has cooled, pour it into your jug.

-At this point you can start adding ingredients into mix to create different flavors. Recipes are included for ideas down below.

-Pour in the rest of the room temperature water till it hits the top of the body before the shoulder. (Image below)

-stopped the bottle and shake it with a firm motion for about 10 minuets. It should start bubbling.

-Pit the yeast (pour it in) using the funnel. Cork the jug again and gently stir it around.

-Fill your airlock half full with water and plug it firmly into a cork with a hole in it. Place it tightly into the jugs neck.

-Within a day or two the airlock should start bubbling actively. Store in a cool, dark place.

ONE MONTH LATER

-You will need a second plastic/ glass jug and your syphon tube.

-Start syphoning the liquid over into the new jug gently, leaving behind the dead yeast (or sediment) at the bottom. Any ingredients you mixed in before to soak should be left behind as well and cleaned out later.

-Check your airlock, perhaps add a bit more water if it needs it, and transfer it over to the new jug.

-Allow the mead to age for at LEAST another month. Watch for the airlock to cease bubbling entirely. Wait two weeks after this and then you can begin racking.

-At this point you can transfer the mead to bottles or let it age in the jug. You can even start the tasting process and smell it to get a sensation and to make sure everything went well.

-Most people suggest racking the mead for 6 months to a year before it is ‘drinkable’.

Don’t Waste That Pumpkin! (pictures forthcoming)

Posted in Cooking, Fun and interesting, Herbals Oils, Salves, Samhain with tags , , on October 26, 2011 by theredlass

As Samhain passes us by and the dark half of the year closes in, many people begin storing up what they need for the long winter. For the every day person, this means everything from stocking cabinets with canned foods to making sure you have salt for the sidewalk and snow boots. For the witch, this can mean a little bit more.

When Irish immigrants turned up on the shores of America, they brought with them many of the old legends and traditions that comprised the Celtic culture after the Christianization of much of Europe. One of these was carving a lantern out of a turnip in order to provide a light to frighten off wicked and mischievous spirits from ones hearth. The turnip was quickly dropped, however, in favor of the easier to carve pumpkin. This traditions has lasted through the centuries till you can hardly see a house during the fall that does not have pumpkins and Jack O’Lanterns decorating the porch and yard.

But has the ability of the pumpkin been overlooked? Where does your pumpkin usually end up once it’s been carved and the 31st of October passes into November? In the trash or in the road, smashed to bits. Oh what a waste of such a virile and generous gourd. In truth, the modern pumpkin has many uses, from oils to salves, decoctions to poultices, the ripe orange rind offers a litany of useful products to the patient witch at work.

First off, you need a large, orange pumpkin with as little spot on it as possible. As you begin to carve the top off and scoop it out, make sure to save the seeds, innards and meat of the pumpkin separately, as each is a valuable resource. You can choose to scrape the meat out bit by bit, which is necessary if you want to keep the pumpkin for decoration. But if you have plenty for you and your family to carve up, it won’t hurt to use one just for these recipes. Let’s start with the most basic:

Pumpkin Seed Oil
-2 cup pumpkin seeds
-cookie sheet
-olive oil
-1 pint mason jar
-strainer
-pot
-ceramic/ glass bowl
-stove/ oven
-paper towel
-mallet

INSTRUCTIONS
-Clean and pat dry the pumpkin seeds and lay them flat on the cookie sheet.
-Cook for 10 minutes or until thoroughly dry. DO NOT LET THEM BURN!
-Take out and allow to cook, then crack open using a mallet and paper towel.

-Gather the seeds and add them together until you have at least 1 cup of shelled pumpkin seeds.
-Fill pot with 4-6 cups of water (depending upon size of pot) and heat it to boiling on the stove.
-Reduce heat to a low simmer and place the bowl on top of the pot. The water should be close but not touching the bowl.
-Add in seeds and oil and stir liberally until all seeds are coated.
-Continue to stir once every 2 hours for the next 12-24 hours.
-Have jars ready and dry.
-Place strainer over bowl and make sure it is stead.
-Using mitts to handle, slowly pour contents of bowl into strainer, letting the oil drip through into bowl.
-Allow too cool for a few minutes, then use cheesecloth to press down and squeeze any remaining oil from the seeds. This takes pressure and time but it’s worth it as you don’t want to waste oil.
-It may take several straining to filter out the seeds entirely, so just go back and forth between the two bowls until it’s fairly clear.

USES
-Pumpkin seeds are said to have a unique effect on prostate cancer and contain fatty acids that help with blood vessels, nerves and tissue. Feel free to enjoy with bread, salads, and (my person favorite) mix the leftover seeds and a little oil with hummus and goat cheese for crackers!

And of course the joy doesn’t stop there. You can also melt down beeswax in a double boiler (1 oz of beeswax per cup of oil) and add in the oil to make a splendid pumpkin salve that works for as an anti-inflammatory aid and helps with dry skin during the winter months.

Pumpkin Infusion
-6 cups water
-2 cups pumpkin meat cubed
-1/4th cup honey
-bowl
-pot
-stove
-strainer

INSTRUCTIONS
-Heat water to a boil and add in pumpkin chunks.
-Let simmer for 4 hours
-Strain pumpkin chunks and set aside for blending (See Pumpkin Poultice recipe).
-Add honey to mixture while mixture is still hot and stir till dissolved.
-Pour into storage container and refrigerate for later.

USES
-Pumpkins, as you can tell by the orange color, are high in beta carotene, which helps with eye sight. It also contains potassium and is very good for your heart.
-Pumpkins also produce Vitamin A, which helps with heart disease and cancers. It can also help regulate in insulin in your body.
-If you want to make an Infusion into a Decoction, reduce the amount of water to 4 cups and boil for 4 hours instead of simmer. You can also add some of the blended pumpkin meat back into the Decoction while it’s still hot for an extra kick.

Pumpkin Poultice
-1 cups pumpkin innards
-1 cup pumpkin meat boiled until soft

INSTRUCTIONS
-Scoop innards from pumpkin and remove seeds. SAVE THOSE SEEDS! (Seed Pumpkin Seed Oil)
-Put the pumpkin innards in a food processor.
-Take the meat of the pumpkin and chop it up into small cubes.
-Cook the cubes in water like potatoes until they soften enough to process.
-Strain the pumpkin into a bowl. SAVE THAT WATER! (See Pumpkin Infusion)
-Blend the innards and meat together until it forms a smooth, thick paste.
-Save in mason jars and refrigerate until needed.
-When needed, heat till warm and place between cheesecloth and apply to affected area.

USES
-This poultice can be used warm to help relieve swelling or an abscess after it has burst.
-Pumpkin can also be combined to help ease a sunburn when used as a cold infusion or mixed with other herbal oils to help relieve dry skin or achiness.

So before you throw out those gorgeous gourds, take a moment and try out some of these simple recipes. Your body and family will thank you for it!

Mabon Equinox

Posted in Cooking, Fun and interesting, Life, Mabon, Ritual with tags , , on September 23, 2011 by theredlass

Today is the Fall Equinox, otherwise known as Mabon. The time of year when we recognize the decent of the goddess into the underworld and the light begins to fall from the world. We say farewell to warm skies and green fertile earth and open ourselves to the warmth of out hearth and family.

This is the time of year when people start having harvest festivals and culture festivals. Most don’t recognize it for the pagan beginnings it has and see it merely as a quaint traditions and something to do before cold weather forces most of the people indoors for the next 4-6 months. An source of constant amusement to me are the churches that hold “Harvest/Fall Festivals” in place of Halloween because of it’s association with witchcraft and “satanism”. I always wonder if they realize how much closer they are to the real thing than any sort of ritual a satanist would concoct.

But for me, Mabon, as well as Ostara, are times to clean house. Back when I lived in Texas it didn’t matter so much. Our winters only reached about 30 degrees at their coldest and it only dusted snow every decade or so. But up here, where there is a guaranteed blizzard every other year and at least two or three weekends you can’t make it out of the drive due to ice, or snow, or hail or something. It pays to have a clean house to be trapped inside of. So before the weather starts to head to cold and it’s still crisp enough to enjoy the temperature and scent of the breeze, I clean out the whole house, bottom to top, go through the cupboards and see what we need to stock up on, and just generally try to get everything in order so the house feels renewed before winter. At Ostara, it’s the reverse of that. The house has been closed up so long that it all needed to be aired out to feel fresh again as spring returns to us.

Before I do anything else, I set up my alter to my little Hearth goddess. She is a simply statue I made and set up on the dining room table. It is my personal belief that the kitchen is the heart of any home and from there, she can oversee all domestic needs. She is given incense and the three candles are lit behind her and I start my work. She doesn’t require much more really than a clean house and fresh air. She seems most contented when I cook and is greatly displeased when I let my work get piled up behind me. (Which frankly I often do. Cleaning is not my favorite chore by a LONG shot.)

I take my time in each room, instead of the once over it usually gets. My typical regiment is wipe the surfaces, sweep the floor, and make sure stuff is put away. But today I did everything from clean out the fridge to steam mop the tiles and shampoo the carpet. I even went so far as to turn over the couch and dust the bookshelves. All and all I must have spent most of my day today cleaning up and I’m not even done yet!

The only room I point blank refuse to do is the bathroom. The chemicals are too harsh and it drives my asthma crazy having to mess with it. My girlfriend is lovely and gets down on her hands and knees to do the scrubbing in there. But I think one room out of five idn’t too much to ask. 😀

This is also the time of year when I start to feel a strong urge to cook from scratch and do a lot of baking. I have to pace myself though because last year I baked so damn much we couldn’t eat it all and half of it went bad! I especially love making sweets and enjoying hot drink again like apple cider, hot teas, hot coco and all again. I don’t even mind it when it rains. To me it’s as good an excuse as any to brew up a pot of red clover and peppermint, snuggle down with the tv off and a book in my hand and not move for six hours.

I intend to use the dark half of the year to continue my study in herbalism and work on some of my remedies. With cold and flu season just getting started there is bound to be a need for cold and cough cures as well as preventative medicines.