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The Kitchen Witch

June 1st, 2016

Skillet Pork Chops with Rice and Tomatoes

There is nothing like an heirloom recipe. I cherish the ones I have from both of my grandmothers and my mother. To me, it’s a way of preserving the magic that they instilled in me from an early age – that of kitchen witchery. I doubt that they would have looked at it in that way – I know my mother wouldn’t! – but magic in the kitchen is magic in the kitchen, no matter how you term it.

This is an old recipe of my Gramma Mac’s. Like so many recipes of that era, it doesn’t give very good directions and in the ten years or so that I have been making this, I have tweaked it numerous times to improve it.

The original recipe called for four pork chops but I think that chops must have been must smaller in the old days because it never works for me with four whole chops. I generally get three or – like I did this time – I get pork steaks. Personally, I have never been a fan of pork steaks but, as they say, “the price was right”!

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Take them out of the package, salt and pepper them, and then brown them in about a tablespoon of olive oil. When they are browned on both sides, add a cup of onion slices (it depends on the size of your onion, but half a large onion, sliced) and half a green pepper, sliced.

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Let them cook a little bit and then add a third of a cup of rice. My grandmother’s recipe said half a cup but I’ve found that a third of a cup works better. You want to spread the rice around so it browns a little bit in the flavored oil.

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At this point, my grandmother’s recipe said to add a can of whole tomatoes. I used to do this and I would break up the tomatoes to facilitate the cooking process. And I started adding seasonings… At first, Italian seasonings – basil, oregano and parsley but that didn’t seem to work too well. So then I started adding chili powder and cumin and that worked much better. So that’s how I do it now.

BUT. This particular time I did another cool tweak! I bought this can of tomatoes:

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If you don’t have this particular brand in your store, I am sure you can find something similar – Ro-Tel or something like that. Adding this instead of the whole tomatoes meant that I could cut the seasonings in half and WOW! What a flavor!

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Of course, after you add the tomatoes, you will have to add a little water to the pan to give it enough moisture to cook the rice. If I have white wine, I’ll add the wine but if not – water is just fine! You just want enough fluid to cover the meat and vegies. Cover it up and let it simmer for twenty or so minutes.

And here it is, all ready to serve:

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So, give this a try and maybe give the recipe a few tweaks of your own. And create some kitchen witchery of your own!

The Magic of Applesauce

Applesauce is so easy to make I honestly don’t understand why anyone ever buys the stuff they sell in the supermarket. The last time I ate any of that – um – substance was several years ago, and it was in a bag of food I got from a food pantry. It was so bland and watery that I couldn’t even tell that it was made out of apples. I refrigerated it and eventually used it in a cake.

I always have apples in my house. An apple is the perfect snack. And apples work so well in pies, kuchens, coffee-cakes and other baked goods. It’s also the side dish for many pork entrés and works perfectly with potato pancakes. I often eat it for breakfast with my oatmeal. Naturally, I always have applesauce on hand. Here is how it’s done.

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First you have to peel and chop up the apples. I was making a major amount this time, since I had a lot of apples that were getting really soft. But generally I use 4-6 apples and put them in a quart pan and then cover them with water and a dash of salt.

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Apples float. They’re not heavy like potatoes. So when you add the water, they’re going to be on top of the water. Just take a spoon and press them down into the water. Put the heat on high and bring the water to a boil. Then turn the heat down and let them simmer.

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The beauty of making your own applesauce is that you can make it as sweet or as spicy as you want. I prefer brown sugar and cinnamon in my applesauce, but if you like white sugar, then use that. If you like nutmeg and cloves, then throw that in. Do it differently each time! Experiment! A kitchen witch plays with her food!

Your kitchen – your entire home – will smell heavenly when you are making applesauce. It is one of the very best aromas in the world. Talk about creating a magical atmosphere in your home! You have to simmer applesauce for a good long time, since you have to reduce the liquid – let it boil off – and create the syrupy sauce. If you want a smoother sauce, take a potato masher and mash the apple chunks.

Cosmic Crabmeat Stir-fry

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This is an easy and simple meal that can be put together in under thirty minutes. It’s a recipe I got from the father of my son – it’s the only thing I think he knew how to make!

You only need a few ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small green pepper, chopped

¼ red onion, chopped

4 ounces (half a package) moonlight mushrooms, sliced

1 package imitation crab meat, broken up a bit

1 28-oz can of whole tomatoes

Dried parsley, oregano & basil to taste, as well as salt & pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan. Sauté the green peppers, red onions and the moonlight mushrooms until half-way soft. Add the crab meat and stir and cook for about a minute. Then add the tomatoes, smashing them up a little. Add the seasonings and then let simmer while you prepare the pasta or rice on which you will serve the stir-fry. Don’t forget the grated cheese!

The day I made this, I didn’t have any mushrooms but it was still very good. I served it on angel hair pasta. One thing about this dish – it doesn’t work very well the next day. I love leftovers but Cosmic Crabmeat turns into Cosmic Catfood after twenty-four hours. So if you plan to make this, plan to eat it all immediately. What you’re looking at here will feed four decent appetites – especially if you have a salad for a side dish. And maybe a nice hunk of bread as well!

Baked Whole Rainbow Trout

The best food is the freshest food. There is nothing better than food out of your own garden or bought from a local farmer’s market. Some of us are hunters, spending long hours in the woods and field, in order to return home with the bounty of Artemis. Other of us prefer to fish the creeks and ponds and lakes. Yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to go trout fishing. It was a perfectly cold spring day. There was frost on the grass and we could see our breath. But the fish were jumping!

I must confess that I did not catch any fish at all. But my companion caught several small ones, lost what must have been some bombers and then brought in this beauty:

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Now, that’s fresh!

A few hours later, it was cleaned and ready for the oven. I preheated the oven to 400 and prepped

a shallow pan with aluminum foil. First got out my herbs and cut my lemon and onion. For herbs, I used parsley, basil, and tarragon. I also used garlic powder, lemon pepper, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

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I put about a tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of the foil and then placed the fish on the oil, turning it so it was oiled on both sides. Then I stuffed the fish with the lemon slices and onion and some of the herbs, perhaps a quarter teaspoon of each. I use tarragon leaf very sparingly – a little goes a long way. But that’s me. Maybe you like it better. And maybe you like a different mix of herbs – thyme, perhaps or rosemary – any mixture will do.

After stuffing the trout, sprinkle some more herbs on top and spritz with lemon juice. If you have white wine, add this to the packet but if not, just add a few tablespoons of water to keep the fish from drying out when cooking. I didn’t have white wine when I cooked this particular trout and I have to say I never missed it.

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Then wrap it up and put it into the oven. It’ll take about a half an hour to cook. You want the flesh of the fish to be flakey when you touch it with a fork. The spinal column of the trout will come out easily after it is fully cooked but there will still be some little bones so be careful!

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I like to serve trout with rice and a green vegetable like broccoli or fresh green beans.

Even if you’re not the kind of person to go fishing, you can go to your local fish market and usually find a whole fish like this. Trout is yummy good! And good for you.

Heirloom Holiday Cutout Cookies

I have been studying and practicing the skills associated with the Pagan and Wiccan religions for over thirty years now. My Book of Shadows, once a small spiral notebook, has grown to three large notebook binders, organized by subject and carefully maintained. Much of my information was copied from library books but nowadays I am more likely to print directly from the internet.

I am a fairly eclectic witch – I live with the seasons and work to develop my divinatory skills – as a solitary, my rituals are very quiet and quite Zen-like in their simplicity. I am also unapologetically Dianic and see no reason to invoke a male god.

Like my BOS, my personal culinary notebook has grown from a slender binder to two large binders with pockets for recipe cards. I collect cookbooks and read cooking magazines and have more subscriptions to cooking blogs than I really have time to read. Like so many of us magical people, I am a kitchen witch – I grown my own herbs and I enjoy my time in the kitchen.

The holidays are my favorite time of the year. Starting with Samhain and ending with Twelfth Night, it is a time to feast with family and friends. Many of us have specialty recipes that we only cook this time of year.

“Heirloom Holiday Cutout Cookies” are what I call a recipe that has been in my family for generations. In my personal cookbook, the name is “Christmas Cutouts” but I have been changing names of cookies to reflect a more multicultural bias. Anyway, these cookies are a rich butter cookie – the very best cookie of its kind. I insist that you only use butter – not margarine and not shortening. And use whole milk. And real vanilla. It makes a big difference. Also, make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before you start mixing them together and that your butter is truly soft.

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Heirloom Holiday Cutout Cookies

1 cup soft butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

3 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ cup milk

Cream together butter & sugar until smooth. Add eggs & beat well. Add vanilla.

Mix together dry ingredients in another bowl. Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk.

Chill dough several hours. Roll out to desired thickness & cut, using cookie cutters. The fatter the dough, the more cake-like the cookie. Also, the fewer cookies produced.

Bake at 375 until lightly browned.

Frost cookies with Buttercream Frosting (below) & decorate as desired.

Buttercream Frosting:

½ cup soft butter

3 cups confectioners sugar

Enough milk to make it spreadable

1 tsp vanilla

Bread and Butter

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Merry meet
Consider making bread and butter part of your Imbolc ritual.
There is a focus on dairy this sabbat – because it is the festival of the lactating sheep – and nothing is more simple and pure than turning some organic heavy cream into butter.
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One way is to let the cream come to room temperature and then pour into a jar, filling it about 2/3 of the way. Secure the lid and shake. It will take less than 20 minutes.
First, the cream will turn into whipped cream. Continue shaking. One recipe I saw called for adding a clean marble to the jar. After it felt like I was getting nowhere with the whipped cream, I dropped in a smooth round gemstone and continued to shake. Slowly, curds began to form and then clump together, separating into butter and buttermilk. When a lot of liquid is again sloshing around in the jar, you’re done. Drain the contents.
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One cup of cream yields about half a cup of butter and half a cup of buttermilk. You can add a bit of salt to the butter, as well as herbs or honey.
I’d like to be able to pass a few jars around our circle on Imbolc, putting into it our desires for the coming year, singing and chanting as we do.
With a bit of preplanning, the butter can be ready at the same time as a fresh loaf of bread. While some associate bread with Imbolc, it also makes something special for cakes and ale at the close of the ritual.
Using about half the bag of organic multigrain pizza dough I bought at the store, I cut it into thirds and rolled each one into a rope about 3/4” thick, then braided them together. Cutting it into quarters, you can form Brigid’s Cross.
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Greasing a pan, I put the bread in and waited for it to double in size … which on a snowy, windy wasn’t happening, so I helped it along by putting the pan atop a skillet of hot water.
I then brushed the top of the dough with some of the buttermilk and baked it at 375 for about 20 minutes – until it was golden brown and had a somewhat hollow sound when tapped.
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Remove and serve with the butter.
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Since Brigid is associated with the hearth, it would be appropriate to conduct your ritual make both the bread and the butter in the kitchen – which, if I host, I plan to do this year.
Merry part.
And merry meet again.

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