breads

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

May, 2016

We are in between Sabbats. Many of us just celebrated our Beltaine, and may not have even packed up all our ritual supplies yet and already are planning for Summer Solstice! Because I’m going to wait until next time to write about Solstice, I decided to write about one of my favorite topics. Food!!!

The weather is shaping up and we are beginning the warm weather festival season. What would festivals be without the food? If you go to big mainstream community gatherings, you pay to eat from food trucks and grilles- but for us Pagans, many of our festivals are smaller, private, and akin to family barbeques. Thus, Pagans love to potluck. I am sure there are plenty of people who eat Sabbat specific dishes- deviled eggs at Eostre, holiday cookies at Yule, Wassail for Samhain or Yule, ice cream pie at Imbolc- but many of us just take whatever is practical to take along depending on what the site for the Sabbat allows.

Because my friends put up with it, I have been able to do a lot of hosting from my own home. That allows me to serve whatever I please. I usually make a pot of hot stew to serve when I am hosting at home. And I always brew copious amounts of coffee, hot teas, and serve all the alcohol people want.

Sometimes, we book a gathering at a local community center instead, when we want a larger group, and I like to go for gatherings with other groups as well. While the good old fashioned crock pot is always an option if you’d like to serve hot foods, there is not always a plug-in available! I have also found that there may not always be room in the fridge. So, I have gotten in the habit of taking things that can stay fresh for a several hours out of the fridge, and that don’t need heated up. I also try not to purchase pre-made foods. How many potlucks have you attended where everybody brought packaged chips, cookies, candy, and sodas, and that’s all there was to eat? Now, I understand that not everybody is gifted in the kitchen- but I am, so unless there is some extenuating circumstance, I try to make a fresh dish. I am going to provide some of my favorite recipes for potluck foods for when I am going to a gathering. I hope you enjoy them.

Something fresh!

Salads and fresh fruit and veggie platters are a must have at these gatherings. Not everybody can eat the rich foods, and we have a lot of folks in our communities who are vegan. A lot of the folks who do not cook will buy a fruit or veggie platter from the grocery- but have you seen how much they charge for those? Ridiculous! It takes a bit longer to chop up the foods yourself, but will save a lot of cash in the long run.

For salads, since I never know who will come to a gathering and what their allergies or food restrictions may be, I have the greens in a big bowl by themselves, and have the various toppings in smaller bowls on the side. I do find it more convenient to have grape or cherry tomatoes, but it costs far less to buy roma tomatoes and cut them myself. A tradition my mother started was to have a bunch of green onions chopped up to top the salad with, and I have continued that. Also, cucumbers were a staple for me growing up, so I almost always have those for salads. But you don’t need to stop there for salad toppings. Mandarin oranges and radishes combined with red onion are fantastic on spinach with a sweet raspberry vinaigrette. Strawberries and grapes sliced and scattered over greens with a balsamic dressing are marvelous too. And who can resist sunflower seeds or pine nuts in salad? I never put dressing on the salad, but put the bottles on the side for people to use as they prefer. Yeah- I admit, I will chop up a salad, but I’m too lazy to make the dressing. I find so many good options for dressings, that I don’t even need to worry about good taste. My favorites are Cardini’s Champagne Vinagrette and Brianne’s French Vinagrette. The Champagne Vinagrette is also great to throw on cold pasta and green onions, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and capers and copious amounts of fresh garlic and crumbled feta cheese.

Fresh fruits are an easy solution as well. I find a pineapple chopped up with the tassled top stood up decoratively always gets eaten right up- or a whole watermelon or cantaloupe cut up in a bowl! But I have also never had plain old apples and oranges chopped up and layered on a plate turned down. To keep the apple slices from turning brown, squeeze a lemon or orange and toss the apple slices in the juice. If you can’t stand your sliced fruit plain, the produce section of the grocery usually sells chocolate and caramel dips!

One of the things I love is fresh green beans or asparagus boiled or steamed until lightly softened and then chilled and served with spinach dip and cubes of pumpernickel bread on the side. I also like to include on a veggie platter sliced up bell peppers, carrots and celery, sugar snap peas, radishes- OMGS radishes!!!!- and fresh , raw mushrooms.

Relishes

When I was growing up, all the ladies in the family had these gorgeous glass relish plates with divided sections for different things. And on all these plates were pickles, olives, and glorious glorious CHEESES with crispy, crunchy crackers. If you are like me, you could eat this for three meals a day. I have not found any one kind of pickle to be more or less favored, and if I serve the plain old Spanish green olives, those don’t get eaten any less voraciously than the gourmet olives that cost three times as much. My mom used to chunk up cheddar and colby jack, and my ex-husband was fond of gouda and edam. My current husband’s family, being from Eastern Europe, have taken their cheese and olive platters to new heights, and serve a mouthwatering feta and with black Greek olives and pita as opposed to crackers. Nobody loved sweet pickles like my mother- and she served the tiny gherkin sweet pickles-but I have discovered something even better- SPICY pickles with peppers by Frog Ranch. You will love them!

Maybe you aren’t like mom’s family, and don’t have the fancy relish platters- or maybe you are accident prone like me, and are worried you might break said pretty platters. Chunked up cheese and the crackers served on a paper plate and an open jar of pickles and olives on the side has never been turned down by anybody.

Comitting “carbicide

Many gatherings see folks bring in breads and starchy foods. Our editor told me she loves carbs. Don’t we all? I have fabulous recipes for bagels, potato salad, and a strawberry bread recipe everybody loves.

Bagels

This recipe is based on the one from allrecipes.com, My friend, Kasey, who made these with me in the video is an expert on yeast breads, and instead of using the instant yeast the recipe calls for, used dry active yeast, and proofed it first. We made a video to show you how- and to make you laugh. These will not be turned down, and you will be lucky if there are any left. They are perfect for brunch, a morning meal after a group campout, or even to put sandwiches on. They take about three or four hours to make due to long rising time, but they are 100% worth it, I promise.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e1FnROaTzc

Lime and Thyme Potato Salad

I get bored with the ordinary. Food is no exception. I got tired of the plain old mayo and mustard potato salad it seems like most everybody makes without any deviation. I was tickled pink when I found my potato salad recipe, which is from the July 2001 issue of Better Homes and Gardens- and it’s on page 175. I always make a double or triple batch, as it goes fast, and it keeps well. There’s never any left, though!

Toss 4 cups cooked potato cubes in a dressing made from 1/3 cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup dairy sour cream, ½ teaspoon finely shredded lime peel, and the juice of a lime. Stir in 1 tablespoon of snipped fresh thyme and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. If salad seems too stiff after chilling, stir in a splash or two of milk. Serves 4.”

Narragansett Strawberry Bread

I wish I could tell you where I got this recipe. I Xeroxed it years ago at a library , and have no clue what publication it is from. It is a modern version based on strawberry cornbread, first recorded in 1636 by Roger Williams, who said indigenous women made this.

Narragansett Strawberry Bread

½ cup butter

¾ cup maple sugar

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup cornmeal

½ cup finely ground walnuts ( I use a coffee grinder)

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Milk enough to make a stiff batter

1 cup wild strawberries, rinsed and stemmed, or cultivated strawberries, rinsed, stemmed, and quartered

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the egg, and beat until smooth.

  3. Add flour, nuts, baking powder, and salt. Stir, and add enough milk to make a stiff batter.

  4. Gently fold in the strawberries, and turn batter into an 8-or 9- inch square baking pan. (round works just as well.)

  5. Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

  6. Let cool before slicing.

And Then a Spot of Tea!

The perfect place for info about how I do tea-to-go belongs under the sweet bread, methinks! You could always grab Nestea or some other mix, and it would get drank, but truthfully, nothing tastes better than freshly made tea. While there is a plethora of offerings of expensive flavored teas that everybody absolutely loves- none of that is necessary, nor is it as affordable as what I do.

First, buy a gallon jug of water- or save and wash one from when you finish your milk. Make sure this jug has a screw top as opposed to a pop on top so it doesn’t spill. Either fill the jug with tap water or use the water that was in it when you got it at the store, and pour all that water into a big pan and bring it just to a boil and turn it off immediately. There are sixteen cups of water in the gallon- so if you are using regular teabags, put ten of them in this. If you are using loose tea, put in twelve or fourteen teaspoons depending on how strong you prefer your tea. I don’;t just do plain tea, though. Sometimes, I jazz it up a bit. I throw some dried lavender in with jasmine tea sometimes. Most any Asian market carries Fujian’s Jasmine tea and it comes in both red and golden yellow tins. About three or four tablespoons lavender to fourteen teaspoons of jasmine tea of is enough. I also like to use dried rose petals, easily found at Middle Eastern markets in with black tea. I do recommend, if you can find it, and flavor of tea by Ahmad teas. The cardamom and Earl Grey they make goes over especially well at gatherings. Don’t leave the leaves or bags in the tea for long. Usually three to five minutes is long enough for teabags and five to ten minutes for loose tea. Just taste it to judge when it’s perfect. Then strain all of that out as soon as it is strong enough. Let the tea cool, and then pour it back into the gallon jug using a funnel and refrigerate it until time to head to the gathering. I never sweeten my teas, and just take sugar along in case folks want to. If you are taking the tea, take along cups as well!

Dessert

Even if you don’t eat sweets, a lot of other people do. While the simplicity of cookies makes for convenient eating at a potluck, there is nothing, and I do mean NOTHING more beautiful than a homemade cake at a gathering. My very best cake recipe was given to me by my friend, Inger many years ago, and I am not sure where she got it from. We both have become known for this cake. All you have to do is bring this along ONE time, and it will make you famous amongst your friends.

It is a good one to take for gatherings, because it is baked in a 9 ½ by 13 inch glass baking dish and just left in the pan to be iced and devoured a piece at a time. It’s a carrot cake with a cream cheese icing and it includes a lot of goodies besides just the carrots. You can always justify a piece because it has so much fresh, natural goodness in it. Ready?

Inger’s Kick Ass Carrot Cake

Cake

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cup oil

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

2 ¼ cup flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups shredded carrots

1 eight ounce can crushed pineapple AND it’s juice

2 cups flaked coconut

1 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Combine sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla and blend with a wooden spoon.

  2. Stir in flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt, and mix well.

  3. Fold in carrots, coconut, pineapple, and nuts until all is incorporated.

  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes and let cool.

Next, ice the cake!

Icing

6 ounces room temperature cream cheese

½ cup softened butter

¼ cup milk

3-4 cups powdered sugar

¼ teaspoons salt

Combine all ingredients but the cream cheese- add that last. Blend well, and spread over carrot cake.

Well, these are just a few of the foods I share at gatherings that never fail to make folks happy. I hope you enjoy the Summer festival season with your loved ones and that good food is a big part of that!

Blessed Be!