A Multi-Fold Harvest

This year has brought some serious changes to our lives. It’s taken so many turns, it’s almost unreal. In my life, it’s been a multi-fold harvest in many ways and, despite the challenges that come with it, I’m thankful for every bit we’re blessed with.

A Literal Harvest

This year has kicked in my inner prepper. I’m trying harder than usual to prevent waste and keep stocked up, especially with food. My garden didn’t get as far as we intended it to. Still have the beds to build; the budget’s just too tight for all the materials we need (especially the soil and 1/2″ hardware cloth!). But, earlier in the year, I signed on with a local pantry that delivers.

We’ve received so much produce! In fact, we’ve gotten more than we can eat before it goes bad and we’ve even given quite a bit away to loved ones. That said, there’s still plenty and I’ve been trying to put it to good use…for later. The cherry tomatoes are great to dry and store. Onions and peppers can be sliced/diced and frozen. Many fruits can be dried or frozen also. For a load of citrus fruits we got (lemons and limes), we zested the skin and juiced ’em.

Dried maters…SOOOO tasty!!

Personally, I’ve focused on freezing and drying for preserving. I’ve never canned before and have that bit of apprehension many get. I do think I’ll try to can the apples though, as a sauce or butter, if I don’t dry them all. I’ll use some organic lemon juice as the acid and waterbath ’em. I don’t own a pressure canner (yet), which is why my green beans and corn got prepped for freezing too.

Meats and dry goods are being stocked too, as much as my budget can manage. Some comes from the pantry, some from the grocery, and some from the farmer’s market. If I wind up with a bulk package (say, of meat), I separate it into meal-sized portions, season/marinade and prep to freeze like that. I sort of winged it on the seasonings. If they turn out good, I’ll post the recipes I made up. All in all, I expect they’ll make for some tasty, quick meals on busy days.

I’m hoping to make time to put out some kind of fall garden, to ensure cool weather crops for fresh eats as Autumn sets in. Carrots, lettuces, kale, beets, turnips, and radishes are top on the list. Fingers crossed we can make this happen in time!

A Spiritual Harvest

This year has been trying for most of us and led us into new directions to cope. In my case, it’s shaken me out of my years long “out-of-practice” mode, spiritually speaking. I have a re-newed vigor for my Pagan faith and am looking to get back into old practices (like tarot/divination and herbalwork), as well as explore new ones (like journeywork and crossing the hedge). It feels like doors that have been closed are all opening back up at once. My empathic abilities are hitting new levels very quickly.

Puma illuminates the path, helps overcome
anxiety, and sees beyond what’s “normal”.

In prayer one morning, I asked for a sign of guidance, so I can be sure of my direction. You see, I’ve felt myself lost/stuck at yet another of life’s crossroads. To my right, just ahead of me, I received an immediate answer – my totem. It’s curious how I lean European in my Craft but my totem is decidedly Native American. I do have Native ancestors and felt this may have been sent by one of them. It was exactly what I needed and the answer came to me much quicker than normal. So, now I’m exploring Puma and the medicine she brings to one’s life. My Minister recently told me “step into your power”…it’s advice that matches up with my totem perfectly!

Another area that’s opened up is my innate desire to help others. I hate to admit it but, growing up, I encountered a lot of “takers” in my life. Sick of always being drained and taken advantage of by bad actors, I shut down. I think it was a protective mechanism, so I can heal the damage it caused (mentally and energetically).

Lately, it’s re-opening and I can’t help but feel it’s because the world needs so much healing right now. All the healers are likely being called at this moment. I’m still on an intensive healing mode, but I finally feel ready to begin helping others as well. I only hope I’m not jumping in too soon, or over-exposing myself to harm again, and serving only to further deplete myself. That won’t be helpful to anyone. Fingers crossed here as well that I can meet the call in full capability.

A Creative Harvest

This is another area I’ve felt has been shut down the last few years. The designing, the concocting, the sewing, the poetry and short stories…all of it seemed to have left me. It was like The Muses abandoned me or something and I couldn’t figure out why. Maybe because I was so depleted in so many areas of my life. It felt like a slow, painful death of everything that makes me Me.

Slowly, it’s coming back to me. Basic designs and words/phrases come out, asking to be brought to light. New skills are begging to be explored, like canning and embroidery. I have a renewed interest in things like making salves and tinctures. I suddenly can find the energy to at least start the processes of moving these things back into the forefront of my life. It feels like waking up from a terrible nightmare and realizing you’re safe in the warm sun of morning.

From Darkness, Light Is Inevitable

I can’t shake the feeling that things are likely to get worse before they get better, especially here in America. I encourage everyone I know to prep what they can and to encourage others to do so as well. I hope I’m over-reacting; this feeling is so strong. But, if I’m not, we’ll all need a stocked supply of necessities and each other’s help to maintain and pull through.

That said, I believe these dark times can be overcome. There will eventually be a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s inevitable because you can’t have one without the other. In the push-pull of it all, we will get to the other side of it and prove stronger than before.

Has the year shown you who you are? Are you prepared/ing? Have you received a call (of any kind)? What do you make of the lessons of 2020, personal or societal?

As The Wheel (of the Year) Turns…

It’s officially Winter again, y’all!  Depending on where you live, the weather may have given the impression much sooner.  In my neck of Appalachia, though, it’s been wishy-washy.  Some days were incredibly cold; others, not so much.

Today’s warm enough that a long sleeve shirt or light jacket may be all you need.  The forecast for Christmas day is 55 degrees F.  No White Christmas this year.

There have been many changes at the ol’ homeplace, as I’ve landed a job outside the home, so we’re figuring out our Yule holiday for this year a bit on the fly.  Obviously, I’ll be lighting our Oak Yule log and probably anoint the candles in it with Pine essential oil.  Frankincense and Oakmoss oils are also under consideration.

Christmas_with_the_Yule_Log,_Illustrated_London_News,_23_Dec_1848(If you’ve missed my previous post on Yule, it touches on the almost-universal holiday tradition of lighting candles and the Celtic tree associations…Oak (my personal favorite) represents wisdom, strength, and protection while Pine represents prosperity and good health…planning on a more comprehensive post on those at some point)

I’ll likely make pork for dinner and drink some bourbon or egg nog.  If I can find some gingerbread cookies when I hit the store later (as I ran out of time to make any), that’ll be a plus too.  But, the important thing is being together as a family to celebrate the heralding of the Winter season and all that it represents – a season of:

  • Contentment and contemplation
  • Planning the next year’s “busy seasons” at a more relaxed pace
  • Enjoying the bounty of the previous season’s harvest
  • Slowing down and taking the moment as it is, for what it is

Whether you celebrate Yule, one of the many other Winter holidays, or even none at all, I hope you all have a great time with loved ones and get a chance to relax.

 

For more on Yule traditions, recipes and Celtic tree associations, check out the following links:

Sacred Earth Journeys – Yule Traditions & Symbols

Earth Witchery – The Yule Log

What’s Your Sign – Celtic Meaning of Symbolic Trees & The Ogham

Recipes for a Pagan Soul – Yule

Greenhaven Tradition – Preparing for Yule  (includes detailed info and holiday rits)

Leftovers 2.0

Thanksgiving dinner is full of homemade wonders.  Grandma’s holiday fudge.  Mom’s pumpkin pie.  Dad’s turkey that comes out perfect every time.  It goes on and on.

Often, though, the meal is so huge that there’s more leftovers than you know what to do with.  After a couple plates, even the best stuff gets a bit “same old”.  Those tasty morsels need a re-boot!  Here’re some tips to use up holiday leftovers, without wasting a bite.

Turkey

Extra poultry makes a great soup or sandwich. Chop turkey into chunks and stir into gravy (dilute with water or make from scratch, if there’s none to work with).  Add vegetables, cheese, herbs, or anything else you think will dress it back up.  I plan to make my own turkey soup, with gravy (my step-son made a ton of the stuff, making soup a no-brainer!), peas, thyme/garlic/pepper, and some gruyere I bought at the farmer’s market.  I may also add some carrots.

Or, you can take those turkey slices and use them in a grilled cheese style sandwich.  Butter one side of bread and slather some sauce (mayo-dijon, cranberry, etc) on the other side.   Layer turkey with other ingredients, such as cheddar or gruyere and veggies, then fry/grill/panini it to perfection.

Cranberry Sauce

This is one of those ingredients where, if you like it enough to serve it, you tend to either kill it all on Day One or have extra that goes to waste.  The tangy, sweet flavor pairs well with several foods.  Especially well with sweet and creamy foods.

A “take two” serving could include yogurt and oats, goat cheese and crackers, cream cheese and a sprinkle of cinnamon, etc.  I’m thinking I might use the rest of mine with cream cheese and herb-seasoned biscuits, since I don’t have any goat cheese or crackers on hand.

Ham

Ham’s often done either savory or sweet, depending on your taste.  I like it both ways myself.  Like the turkey, this protein also makes great soups and sandwiches.  Personally, I wouldn’t go too far outside of its sweet or savory profile, unless sure of the new pairing’s taste mix.

Savory ham makes a great addition to a corn chowder and your leftover green beans can get tossed in there too!    Or, it can be fine-sliced, or diced, and added to a pasta dish.  Breakfast casserole also comes to mind.  A sweet ham (maple, honey, or brown sugar glazed, etc) can be added to baked beans and heated through, a great idea if you also serve baked beans for holiday meals.

Mashed Potatoes

Leftover mashed potatoes can be made into potato-cakes the next morning.  Simply mix in 1 egg, 1t. butter, 1T. flour, and a splash of milk (if too thick) for every cup of mashed potatoes.  Add whatever else you want…onion, garlic, cheese, ham/bacon, etc…and form into thin-ish patties. Skillet fry in butter/oil till golden brown and serve as desired.  If using ham, either sweet or savory work for this.

Another winner is to coalesce various holiday meal ingredients into a sort of shepherd’s pie.  Use your mashed potatoes to top it off before baking to re-heat.

Sweet Potatoes

These can be treated as potatoes and made into tasty breakfast cakes.  If my sweet potato casseroles yielded leftovers, I’d do this and serve them up with maple syrup.  Maybe add in some chopped sweet ham.

I’ve heard of others who make baked goods with theirs…cakes, muffins, etc.  Others, still, concoct sweet-spicy mixes with them.  The thought of adding cumin, ancho, chili powder, or chipotle to my sweet potatoes makes my mouth water…may have to give that a try sometime…

There are so many ways to dress up leftovers for an awesome Take Two meal.  With a bit of creativity, the sky’s the limit.  Or, if Black Friday and the shopping season leaves you with no time, the old Inter-webs has lots of recipes to choose from, to make it easy.

Hope your holiday was filled with great times with loved ones…and tasty, tasty food!  If you have any holiday meal re-dos you like, feel free to comment and share them!

 

*Image, taken by Ben Franske, found at commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TraditionalThanksgiving.jpg

Crunchy Bayou Baked Chicken

A tasty chicken recipe that’s crunchy enough to be fried…but isn’t.

My family still protests my posting the recipe to my famous meatloaf (they’ve put it in the “too-good-to-share-so-keep-it-a-secret-till-we-open-a-restaurant” category), but I think I can get by with posting my baked chicken without incurring their wrath. 🙂

I got the inspiration for this from a cozy mystery I was reading a few months ago, Murder with Fried Chicken & Waffles.  It included some good soul food recipes, with a fried chicken one I adapted to my taste and for baking.  I’ve only actually made it a handful of times but it always seems to come out amazing – well-seasoned without being too spicy (great for picky kids), crunchy on the outside and super tender on the inside!

Pick Your Protein:

I typically use about 2lb. of chicken thighs for this.  Bone-in or boneless work equally well.  You could sub breasts, drumsticks or whatever you want.  Heck, I thought about maybe trying it with de-shelled crawfish, if it’d hold up to the dredges without being overwhelmed by them.  Probably need to adjust the cooking temp and timing, but why not?  The other day, I used 3-4lb. of drumsticks and just added a bit more flour, panko and 1 more egg on my dredges.

Flour Dredge:

  • 1/2 – 1c. flour (any kind you wanna use, I used organic white flour)
  • 1t. each pepper and Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2t. salt
  • 1/2t. garlic and onion powders, if desired

Egg Dredge:

  • 2 eggs, beaten (I used an extra egg for the 4lb. batch and it worked well)

Crunch Coating:

  • 1 1/2 – 2c. Panko breading
  • 1 – 2t. Cajun seasoning (or as much as you wanna use!)
  • 1/2t. each garlic and onion powders

The Process:

Prep your dredges and chicken (de-bone, dry, etc), then preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Dredge chicken in flour, coating thoroughly, then run it through the egg wash real good before coating with your Panko crunch mix.  Place on a baking dish big enough to hold it all without crowding together and cover loosely with foil (slit in top to vent).

Bake for about 45-60 minutes, depending on type and quantity of chicken.  If desired, you could remove foil hat for the last 10-15 minutes.  I’ve found it doesn’t affect the crunch much but it does seem to help it brown.  Corn, taters and cornbread are natural accompaniments (I bet buttermilk waffles and collard greens sauteed in bacon grease would be heavenly) but you could serve it with anything you want.

Now, I don’t know the nutrition info but baking is healthier than frying and, personally, I tend toward organic and/or farm-fresh ingredients anywhere I can, which tends to be healthier than conventional.  Use what you got and what works best for you.  And, if you try it for yourself, lemme know how it turned out, what you served it with and all that.

Enjoy!

Fall into Mabon

It’s that time of year again.  The leaves are falling, garden harvests are happening, and back-to-school schedules are being settled into.  We’re on the cusp of my favorite season – Autumn.  Time to celebrate Mabon!

Mabon, or the Autumnal Equinox, is the second harvest celebration of the Pagan year.  Today, day and night are in equal balance, with the Wheel turning toward the coming winter.

Often celebrated as a wine festival and widely known as a Pagan Thanksgiving, it is a time of balance, relaxation, and completing tasks.  Mabon offers a brief respite between harvesting summer’s bounty and storing it away to last the winter.  It is also a time of reflection, as we look on the year thus far to see what worked for us and what didn’t.  What didn’t work is a lesson on improvement and a plan to look ahead, to do better next time.

My Autumn Doll
This is Autumn, a doll I made at a spirit doll workshop a few years ago.

Many foods and drinks are associated with Mabon, as it is a time of plenty.  The cornucopia is overflowing!  While wine is a common component, apples (cider…mmmm!) and root veggies also play a role.  Fall leaves, acorns and pinecones are frequent decorations on the Mabon altar, representing the continuity of life even as the world turns increasingly cold and dark.

Ways to celebrate are as unique as those celebrating.  From a simple meditation to creating gourd art to a full-blown ritual with the coven, pick what works for you.  So, pour a glass of wine/cider, eat a little root stew and sit outside to enjoy the fall leaves blowing about you.  Or have a bonfire and usher in Fall with some good friends and music.  Or teach your kids to make gourd art.  Or….oh, just get out there and have fun already!

 

*Featured photo isn’t taking caption…photo by OakenHoof, found at http://cloggin.co.uk/content/incredible-edible-harvest-festival

Maple Apple Bourbon Sauce

One of the things I wanted to do with this blog is share recipes, both my own and those I find.  This is one I created a couple years ago when I needed a sauce for pork chops.  It’s quick, easy and so tasty…enjoy!

 

1/4 c. apple butter

1 tbsp. dijon mustard

3-4 tbsp. REAL maple syrup

2-3 tbsp. bourbon/whisky    (any you like will work…I plan to try apple pie moonshine next time I make it)

garlic & pepper, to taste  (small dashes work well for us…just enough!)

 

Combine ingredients and stir together.  Add to chicken or pork, either before or after cooking.  Yields us enough for a 4-person meal (4-6 chops or so)…increase as needed.