corn

The Kitchen Witch

November, 2018

Wicked Simple and Easy Black Beans and Rice

Every Thanksgiving, I make a huge dinner for my son and myself and sometimes his father – if he is in town from Florida – and maybe one or two other people. I always make homemade bread stuffing for the turkey that I lovingly roast. I make garlic mashed potatoes with creamy gravy. There is always some kind of squash on the table – butternut squash or acorn squash or perhaps a nice creamy mixture of several squashes, delicately seasoned. I can’t imagine any meal without a salad, so of course there is a large bowl filled with mixed greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, sliced red onions, and other salad goodies. Neither my son nor I are great fans of cranberry sauce but if I have guests who crave some of that condiment, I happily cook down fresh cranberries, sugar, some citrus and spring water into a toothsome treat. And of course, there has to be some corn and some beans. I used to make either succotash or a green bean casserole – both yummy dishes – but now I make beans and rice. There are several reasons for this. The first is that I can make it up a day or two before the holiday and reheat it in minutes before the meal and it’s always yummy good. The second is that if I happen to have any vegetarians at my meal, I don’t have to worry about them not getting a nutritionally complete meal – beans and rice are a complete protein all by themselves. The third is – of course – I can have corn and beans on my table all in one luscious dish!

I make beans and rice all the time. It’s one of those things that I make a little differently every time I make it, depending on what I have on hand – I almost always have leftover rice, so I make a batch of beans and rice usually once a week. I prefer black beans over all other beans but I will use red beans or garbanzos or black-eyed peas or lentils or any kind of bean at all.

But for this recipe, you are going to want a can of black beans. I used day-old leftover rice but if you make it fresh, you will need a cup and a half. You will also need a half a can of corn, a medium-sized green pepper, a small onion or half a medium-sized one, some chunky salsa, and about two tablespoons of olive oil. And your seasonings: dried cilantro, dried parsley, garlic powder, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Start by chopping the green pepper and onion. You can have a rough chop on these. You need about a cup of each.

Put the olive oil in your pan and heat for sautéing and then add the peppers and onions. Give them a good stir and let sauté in the hot oil for about two minutes.

Then add the rice and mix well. Reduce the heat.

The next thing you want to do is add the black beans, but before you do that, you need to drain them and rinse them or else the liquid in the can will stain the entire dish. This is the only time I strain black beans.

After making sure there’s no moisture left on the beans, add them to the rice and peppers and onions mixture, mixing well.

You are not going to need the entire can of corn – if you want to buy a smaller can, go ahead but that’s much more expensive and there’s always something extra corn can be thrown into – soups, casseroles, potpies – so I don’t mind using half a can of corn and then saving the rest for some other use. And of course, you can always use frozen corn – the amount comes out to about 2/3 cup. And maybe you like lots of corn! And you want the entire can in there! Who knows? We’re all different. Anyway – add the corn and mix well. It’s looking really pretty, isn’t it?

After mixing the corn in, I add the salsa. I have to admit – I was a little light in the salsa department but there was enough to make it pretty and give it flavor. I also seasoned it with garlic powder, dried cilantro, dried parsley, sea salt and lots of black pepper.

At this point, it’s ready for serving or for putting into a container for saving for Thanksgiving dinner. This works well if you make it twenty-four hours in advance but I wouldn’t try to make it three or four days in advance. The peppers and onions don’t sit around that long very well.

Whether you are making this for your Thanksgiving dinner or just a quick meal on a chilly winter night, you can’t go wrong with the perfection of Wicked Simple and Easy Black Beans and Rice.

Until next month, Brightest Blessings!

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

August, 2017

Bright Blessings!

 

August already!

 

(pinterest.com)

 

Depending on your tradition, you will likely celebrate either Lammas, or Lughnassadh, and while I’ve written about Lughnassadh, I’ve delved into little about Lammas.

 

(drieddecor.com)

 

The difference lies in what is being harvested. Lughnassadh is about corn harvest, and Lammas is about wheat harvest.

 

The underlying principle is the same. Both wheat and corn were very meaningful to the people who grew them, and both crops can be used in multiple ways. Meal is ground from corn, while wheat makes flour, and both can be used to bake spectacular things tons of different ways. Both also store well, and were important food for our ancestors. While many shun both corn and wheat these days for reasons ranging from wanting to avoid carbs to stay thin, to gluten intolerance, ancient people relied heavily on these foods. They celebrated the success of the harvest of these important foods, and thanks was given to the gods.

 

Many modern Pagans don’t grow wheat or corn, let alone rely on those foods like our ancestors did. However, Pagans still celebrate harvests. For those like me who are gardeners, carrying in the first fruits and vegetables to feed your family with makes you prouder than most anything else. Imagine how much more proud the people were of a successful harvest whose livelihood depended on the work they did on those foods in the fields.

 

For most of us, this is the first of three harvest celebrations, the next being Mabon, and the final Samhain. We typically celebrate symbolically, and ascribe the term harvest to things we have accomplished in our lives. Maybe there was a pay raise, or a new baby is on the way. Maybe a new furbaby joined the family! Maybe you were able to get into grad school, or earned good grades for the year in your classes. Maybe a loved one got over an illness, or maybe there was reconciliation in a relationship that was thought beyond saving. We all have our own personal harvests to celebrate, no matter how great or small they happen to be.

 

Unexpected Harvests

 

What about the things we feel like we failed to do? The goals we have been unable to reach? What about when we had big goals we planned well for, worked towards, and we watched them crumble before our eyes?

 

What do we celebrate during the times we feel like he failed ourselves, and feel we have nothing to be proud of, or thankful for?

 

I hate to say it, but if you live long enough, you might feel this way about yourself.

 

Fortunately for us, the ambitious species we are, we are also an intellectual species, and we can shift our perception.

 

The trick is going to be to focus in the unexpected things you DID accomplish, no matter how small they were, as opposed to grieving the things you were unable to do.

 

Sometimes, we pick the wrong goals, and our attention, and time are better spent on things we are able to do. You would never expect a blind person to pilot an airplane, would you? No, because that would not be fair. It’s equally unfair to expect yourself to do things you are not meant to do.

 

Then again, there are times when you just need to dig your heels in, and keep trying!

 

It’s difficult to know which is the case when it seems you are failing. Nobody but you can decide whether to keep trying, or to go try something else.

 

When I think of all the things I have tried to excel at in my 41 years, it makes me chuckle. Hell, at least I tried, but you never know whether you are gifted with something UNLESS YOU TRY IT FIRST.

 

I’m not sure what is on your list of things you tried, and moved on from, but mine include music, math, dancing, being skinny, trying to make my first marriage work, trying to get pregnant, trying to be tan (I burn), trying to be “normal” , being politically correct, keeping mosquitos from eating me ( OMGS, they LOVE me!!!!) and much more!

 

Every last time I do not excel or accomplish something, I beat myself up over it, and take it as a personal failure, and I get all upset for days on end.

 

Eventually, I have to stop boo hooing, pick my ass up, and start doing something else, instead of feeling bad.

 

I don’t know what the list of things you are a success in are. Mine are being a good cook, and mastering new foods regularly, learning to crochet, being a good customer service professional, graduating college, and then getting a professional certification beyond that, moving cross country and traveling all I wanted to- much of which was done on my own, btw, gardening, raising furbabies, a happy second marriage, reading tarot professionally, and much more, including writing for this amazing ezine!

 

If I only focused on what I could NOT accomplish, I would never have achieved any of the wonderful things I have in life.

 

None of us would. These things are our unexpected harvests. The things we accomplished and are thankful for that were not our number one plans! These are the things we were meant to do while we were making plans to do other things! These Unexpected Harvests are sometimes the most abundant, and joyous things in our lives.

 

Keeping this in mind, I will share a very simple personal working you can do for Lammas to celebrate these Unexpected Harvests.

 

Saoirse’s Unexpected Harvests Working

 

This is a very personal working, and you don’t have to share if you don’t want to.

 

There are two ways to do this.

 

First, you can do this alone, with nobody else knowing about it, or two, you can do this with a group.

 

For the group working, do circle, or open circle as you prefer, and for the working part, pass out pencils and paper to participants.

Have everybody write ten things they accomplished or “harvested” since Midsummer- or if you want to, a longer timeframe, even for the whole year.

 

Then, have each person read their list out loud, and give a gift to thank their person gods for their help in accomplishing these things. Feast and do fellowship as you prefer! People can keep the lists, or discard them as they prefer. Another good thing to add to this working is a gift exchange. That way each person gets a little gift, or treat for their good work towards their harvest. You can have everybody wrap the gifts, and put them all on a table together. People can draw numbers, and choose their gift in the order of number they drew.

 

If you are doing this alone, I suggest a longer list of twenty or more things. You can sit down all at once and do it, or you can work on your list for a week or more. When you have finished, give thanks and gifts to your gods who helped you, and reward yourself with a little something. Hey, after all, you put work in to do the harvest, didn’t you? Yes, you did, and you deserve a little gift!

 

You can cast circle, light candles, or not. Be as simple or as detailed as you would like to be about this.

 

You can seal your list up to read at a later time if you like, or you can discard it as you see fit.

 

I personally, like to burn my papers, and release the ashes to the wind. However, saving your list to read another time is always beneficial to show you how far you have come. You can even make three lists. One Lammas, one Mabon, and a final one at Samhain.

 

May you have a Blessed Lammas.

 

Blessed Be!

 

 

GoodGod!

August, 2017

Meet the Gods: Barleycorn

Merry meet.

Lughnasadh is celebrated this month – traditionally on the 1st, astrologically on the 7th. It is the first harvest, a festival of grain. While traditionally in Europe, corn meant grain, many Americans have come to think of corn only as maize. Because I know of no fields of rye, oats or barley here in Connecticut, maize has been my go-to grain.

While it’s found its way into my rituals as corn muffins, corn dollies and fry bread – to go with the bounty from my garden – I had never sought to welcome the corn god to my circle. This year I will.

Most cultures have a god of grains, fields or agriculture.

 

(Frey)

In the Norse tradition, Frey was the Corn God, the Lord of the Fields. He rode a great white horse and his hair was the golden color of wheat. Every year, he rode into the field where only the last sheath of grain remained standing. He sacrificed himself as it was cut, dying for the good of all as his blood enriched the field to assure next year’s harvest was bountiful.

 

(Osiris)

In Egyptian mythology, it is Osiris who is associated with grain and its lifecycle. He is represents fertility as each year he is harvested and killed. The dead Osiris is put into the ground as seeds which grow to be grain, bringing him to life again.

 

(Yum Kaaz)

The Maya god of corn and wild vegetation is Yum Kaaz, Lord of the Forest.

He is portrayed as a young man with an ear of corn growing out of his head,” according to AllAboutHistory.org.

 

(Centeotl)

Centeotl is the Aztec God (or Goddess) of Maize. Farmers would offer him fruits and grains from their fields that he might protect their fields from wild animals.

Perhaps the best known corn king and harvest god is John Barleycorn. In the English tradition, August 1 marked the sacrificial death of the Horned God in his incarnations as the Corn King or John Barleycorn whose reign began on the Summer Solstice. He is the personification of the lifecycle of grain – from planting to harvest, then malting to make whiskey and beer, and then to planting again.

There is a ballad sung about him.

 

John Barleycorn is the spirit of the fields that at this time are full crops given life by the sun. And it is in the last sheaf or stalk harvested that his spirit is strongest, so he’s dressed in fine clothing, or formed into the shape of a man and this effigy would be cut and typically burned with much celebrating. His sacrifice for the land, for the people and for the goddess became beer and malt whiskey and bread.

The Druid’s sacrificial burning of a larger-than-life wicker man may have been the inspiration for Burning Man. Both rituals are associated with death and rebirth of the god of the grain.

Lughnasadh is a time of transformation, of rebirth and new beginnings. It’s a time of plenty, a time to reap the bounty of your efforts and celebrate abundance that will sustain us as the wheel turns.

After calling the quarters, plan to light a candle shaped like an ear of corn to welcome one or more of these gods. Meanwhile, I would like to know how you’ve worked with them in your practice.

Merry part; and merry meet again.

 

WitchCrafting: Crafts for Witches

December, 2016

Sorghum Besom

Merry meet.

There’s something special about crafting your own magical tools. I just completed making a besom and it was simple enough you might want to try it.

I had been sweeping my floors with corn brooms for more than a decade before I heard the term broomcorn. Flipping those two words triggered a brainstorm. Corn. I could grow corn. I could make my own broom.

The first challenge was to find the seeds at a nursery. An employee consulted reference material to tell me the scientific name was sorghum bicolor.

On Beltane, I planted a row about nine feet long and after thinning the seedlings, I ended up with about 45 stalks, a few growing alone, most growing in clusters.

Being a dry summer, I watered often. At Lughnasadh, I picked one stalk, but let the rest continue to grow, harvesting them under the full moon just before Mabon. I tied them in bundles and hung them upside down to dry.

My intent was to make the besom while on a Mabon weekend retreat, but it ended up being Samhain night before I sat down to do it. By now, the stalks were extremely dry. Although the YouTube video I had watched called for combing off the seeds and soaking the broomcorn for several hours, I did neither.

Using a witch hazel walking stick I had purchased several years earlier as the handle, I pounded a small nail into the wood about eight inches from the bottom. To that, I anchored a thin hemp cord typically used in beading.

Selecting a variety of colors, I placed stalks around the stick, trimmed them to the same length and wrapped the cord around them as tightly as possible. A few inches lower, I secured them with more cord.

I then selected more stalks, trimmed them to about the same length, and using another length of cord, again secured to the nail, I wrapped it as tightly as possible around the second layer in two places.

My intent was to have three layers, but with the seeds left on them, it was heavy. Most people would probably comb off the seeds – storing some in a paper bag for next year’s crop and feeding the rest to the birds – leaving just the tassels for the broom.

I continued to wrap twine tightly around the stalks until the space between the two sections were connected. By this time, the cording had cut through skin on two fingers in my efforts to keep it taut, and I decided to stop.

Grasping the broomcorn several inches below where it was wrapped to add another band of cord turned out not to have the desired effect of keeping the tassels more upright when the besom is stored with the handle down, which is the way I typically keep them. Other options are being explored, include covering the cord with leather, and adding embellishments such as gemstones and the phases of the moon.

Meanwhile, the besom was offered to the energies of Samhain, passed through smoke, sprinkled with salt water and held up to the next full moon while awaiting use as a tool in its first ritual.

crafting1

crafting2

crafting3

crafting4

crafting5

crafting6

crafting7

1Merry part.

And merry meet again.