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The Kitchen Witch

March 1st, 2018

Corned Beef and Cabbage

This is not going to be an essay of whether to celebrate St. Patty’s Day or not. I know that many Pagans do not celebrate St. Patty’s day with the righteousness of Jehovah Witnesses not celebrating Christmases and almost every other holiday. I am not one of those people. When I was growing up Catholic in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Saint Patrick’s Day was a secular holiday that was celebrated in my public school – it didn’t have anything to do with the Catholic Church at all – nor did Valentine’s Day, for that matter – another thoroughly secular holiday, only celebrated in my public school.

I am the type of person who believes in celebrating everything. Living in Buffalo, New York, this is really the way it is here – everyone celebrates everything, regardless of religion or cultural background – we are a partying people. Google it – Buffalo rivals much larger cities New York, Boston and Chicago in its St. Patty’s day celebrations. We have two parades on two separate days in two separate neighborhoods and they are both well attended. It’s not all Christians out there wearing the green. Everyone’s Irish – no matter if their last name is Mueller or Paderewski or Brucato or Khun.

I long ago stopped partying as hearty as I could – it just doesn’t work for me anymore. But I still like to eat the traditional foods as much as I can. And whether you are cooking for St. Patty’s Day on the weekend of March 17, 2018 or you are having a group of people over for an Ostara ritual, a plate of corned beef and cabbage is always a springtime delight.

According to my Joy of Cooking, corned beef got its name in Anglo-Saxon England when beef was preserved with salt the size of a kernel of wheat – called “corn” – not the yellow corn that Americans know, that would be “maize” – and unknown to Europe at that that time, anyway. Note the similarity of the words “corn” and “kernel”. “Corning” was a type of preservation so that meat could be kept for months. Salting meats and fish was ancient – every culture has ways of doing this to preserve food through the lean months. The way it was done in the middle ages meant that the meat was much saltier than we would recognize it nowadays – probably much saltier than we would find palatable! Modern refrigeration and brining methods has changed this and the corned beefs and pastramis that we eat today are much less salt and much more flavor than their medieval ancestors.

Usually corned beef is on sale this time of year. Look for either a good-sized brisket or round – I like a brisket because it’s more traditional but a round generally has less fat and will cook down less dramatically. You can get them from a butcher but generally they are prepacked in heavy plastic, with the brine and a small pack of seasonings included.

You can cook it in a slow-cooker – it takes about six to eight hours. I looked up how to do it in the Insta-Pot pressure cooker – it would take 90 minutes for the meat and another 10 or so minutes for the potatoes, carrots and cabbage. But I opted to do it the old-fashioned way – on the stove-top, in a large pot. The package also has instructions on how to cook it.

You need:

a corned beef, between 3-5 pounds.

Enough cold water to cover the meat.

Contents of the seasoning packet.

4 to 6 small white or red potatoes, or larger ones, cut into quarters.

Several small white onions or a larger one, cut into wedges.

3 to 5 carrots, cut into pieces.

Half a cabbage, cut into wedges.

Take the corned beef out of the packing and rinse it off. Set it in the pot and cover with cold water. Add the seasoning packet. Put on the stove and bring to a boil.

You don’t have to do this, but I do: I add a stalk of celery, a carrot and a piece of onion to the water. Just for added flavor and general food magic.

When the water comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer. You’ll notice that there’s “scum” on the top of the water, so take a spoon and skim it off and discard it.

Now – some recipes say to cover the meat and let it simmer for several hours – some say to leave it uncovered. I personally always cover my corn beef as it cooks. Once in a while, I take the cover off and poke it with a fork and turn it over. But generally, I leave it alone and go about other business.

After two or so hours, you will notice that the meat has shrunk quite a bit! The aroma of the corned beef spiced should be drifting through your kitchen and making you hungry for dinner. This is when you should remove the celery and carrot and onion that was added when you first started – if you did add them. If not, just add the potatoes, carrots and onion wedges.

Cover the pot again and after about a half-hour to forty-five minutes, add the cabbage wedges. These only take fifteen minutes to cook! Dinner is almost ready! Set the table!

My son was over the day I cooked this and I almost forgot to take a picture of a fixed plate of the finished meal! We were having such a good time together, as we always do. But here is it:

Naturally, that’s my small plate and not the large one I prepared for my son. I should have taken a picture of that plate but he had it almost finished before I had mine even served up!

Anyway, this is a meal that always satisfies. I usually take the leftovers and make corned-beef hash – just chop everything up and fry it all together with a little butter. But that’s if there is any leftovers! Usually the meat gets all eaten up and there’s just a few potatoes and carrots left and a wedge of cabbage. There’s never any complaints when I cook up this meal.

So try this one out. It’s wicked easy – it practically cooks itself! If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is! Brightest blessings this Ostara season!

References

Rombauer, Irma S. and Marion Rombauer Becker. Joy of Cooking. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1975.

For Amazon Information Click Image

 

Dex and Ken. “How Do You ‘Corn’ Beef?” https://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2153/how-do-you-corn-beef/

***

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.

Mexican Wedding Cakes

When it comes to holiday cookies, Mexican Wedding Cakes are among my very favorites. I do have to admit – I only eat the ones that I make myself. The reason is this – I use my mother’s recipe and her recipe is the only one that has honey in it. Every other recipe for this little snowball of a cookie omits this important ingredient and the result is a dry, crumbly cookie. I know people who hate Mexican Wedding Cakes and refuse to eat them because they’re like eating “rolled up dust and nuts,” as one of my boyfriends once complained.

But these cookies will melt in your mouth and your guests will beg you for the recipe.

You only need seven ingredients: soft butter, honey, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, flour, and chopped nuts.

 

Place the butter in a large bowl and cream it well.

 

Then you add the honey and you mix it well. I use an organic honey made from wild flowers that I bought at a farmer’s market and it smelled HEAVENLY.

After that, add the confectioner’s sugar. It’s a good idea – if you have the equipment – to sift the sugar before adding it to the creamed butter and honey mixture. It’ll make mixing it in and making a uniform creamed unit that much easier.

 

Don’t forget to add the vanilla! I forget it all the time and have to add it at the end.

Sift and add the flour. I add a little at a time to make it easier to mix in. It seems dry but if you mix it well, it should have the consistency of Scottish Short Bread.

You have to chop the nuts very fine. I used to have a food processor but I gave it to my son so I did it the old-fashioned way, with a cutting board and knife, which seems more witchy anyway. I prefer pecans but I used walnuts this time because I was on a short budget. Either one works fine.

After mixing in the nuts, put the dough into a container and chill it at least six hours. I usually put it in the fridge and go back to it the next day. There’s always something else I need to do.

Raw dough alert: this dough tastes AWESOME. If you are the kind of person who eats raw dough, it’s really easy to end up with half or less the amount of cookies you’re supposed to have. And there’s no eggs to worry about. So be warned.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375. Roll the cookies into little balls about the size of small walnuts. Depending on the size of your pan, you can bake twelve to fifteen cookies on each pan.

Bake them for ten to twelve minutes, depending on your oven. You want the bottoms to be lightly browned and the rest of the cookie to be golden. When you take the cookie tray out of the oven, let it set for a minute before taking the cookies off the pan or else they will crumble into yummy pieces of cookiness and you’ll be forced to eat them.

While they are still warm, roll them in a bowl of confectioner’s sugar. Again, be very careful – these are fragile cookies! I usually set a paper underneath the cooling rack to collect any sugar that falls off to make clean-up easier.

When they cool, roll them in confectioner’s once again. Sometimes I add a few sprinkles of red crystals so that some of the cookies have a more festive look. These cookies keep really well if you put them in an air-tight container.

So try this recipe! I guarantee – you will never go back to whatever Mexican Wedding Cake recipe you were using before! And please – have a wonderful Yule season! Brightest Blessings!

 

My Mother’s Recipe for Mexican Wedding Cakes

Cream together: 1 cup soft butter

2 tablespoons honey

½ cup sifted confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Add: 2 ¼ cups flour

¼ teaspoon salt

Mix in: ¾ finely chopped walnuts or pecans

Chill dough at least 6 hours.

Preheat oven to 375. Roll dough into balls the size of small walnuts. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are lightly brown & cookies are golden overall.

Let sit a minute after taking out of the oven. Roll in confectioner’s sugar and again when they have cooled. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

***

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.

Bountiful Beef Salad

I eat salad every day. Usually for lunch, but sometimes for dinner, my salads are small meals in and of themselves. My base salad is a bowl of mixed greens, sliced red onion or Vidalia, slices of seedless cucumber, garbanzo beans and chunks of cheese – usually sharp New York State Cheddar, but sometimes Colby-Jack or Swiss. Depending on what I have on hand, I may add chunked or sliced tomatoes, salad shrimp, pieces of cooked chicken, ham or turkey, albacore tuna, avocado, sliced green pepper, celery, carrot or whatever other strikes my fancy.

One thing I always thought was strange – you see salads with almost every kind of meat on them but very rarely a salad with beef. I suppose souvlaki is a kind of salad with beef on it – or lamb – but generally, salads just don’t come with red meat on them.

Until I heard of “Bountiful Beef Salad”. It was back in the days of AOL – perhaps you remember when AOL was the big thing on the internet – the chat rooms and the screen names – I had several screen names, including “Saladqueen999” and “luvapl40” – and I eagerly joined recipe clubs, along with so many other groups that are now defunct. But I still have the recipes that I printed out. “Bountiful Beef Salad” is one of these.

As usual, get out your ingredients before you start.

I have to confess, I didn’t have the exact ingredients as listed in the recipe but I have never let that stop me from making a dish if I wanted it – and salads are easily changed to conform to what you have on hand. I have to say that I did miss the avocado but it was a delicious salad so don’t let the lack of an item get in the way of making this!

Just put it together. Make a nice base of salad greens first.

Then add the rest of your vegetables. I’m not particularly anal about this, but generally I add the onions, then the cukes, then the tomatoes, but sometimes I mix up the order. I don’t want to get too OCD about it!

The beef I used was from a leftover round roast I had a few days ago with my son. This is actually the fifth meal I made from the leftover meat! I rarely eat red meat anymore but when I do, I make it last! This salad works with leftover roast meat or with steak – it’s really good with grilled steak. The charred meat is an excellent counterpoint to the crisp greens and sweet tomatoes. Whatever kind of red meat you use, make sure it is sliced very thin

I had a hard-boiled egg, so I added that and some chunked swiss cheese.

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And then the topping – Thousand Island dressing. You can use whatever dressing you like, of course but Thousand Island dressing really makes this salad! And it was what called for in the original recipe.

Here’s the original recipe:

Bountiful Beef Salad

½ pound cooked roast beef

2 tomatoes, sliced

1 avocado, peeled & sliced

3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

¼ cup red onion rings

1 10-ounce package mixed salad greens, washed & dried

Thousand Island Dressing

Arrange meat, tomatoes, avocado, eggs & onion over the greens on a platter. Serve with the Thousand Island dressing. Serves 4.

As you can tell, I did tweak the recipe just a bit, since I was only serving myself and I didn’t have any avocado on this particular day and I used a Vidalia onion instead of the red onion called for in the recipe. And I added chunks of Swiss cheese. But these are small changes.

This is a wonderful main-dish salad that is great for lunch and wonderful for dinner, especially if you accompany it with a creamy mushroom soup and some crusty bread. All you need is the beverage of your choice and viola! Meal magic!

***

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.

Quinoa Pancakes & Waffles Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

 

1 1/2 cups Quinoa flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/4 cups milk

3 eggs beaten

2 Tbsp of butter melted

2 tsp of honey

 

 

 

Mix together & make into pancakes.

To make waffles, just add another teaspoon of milk to the mixture above.

 

I suggest you use real Maple Syrup and KerryGold butter.  

I am gluten-free and these were so light and delicious. This has become our go to dinner if we are wanting something quick and sweet. 

Sauteed Zucchini with Onions and Mushrooms

 

Since my last posting, I have moved into a new home and I finally have a real kitchen again! It’s so nice to have counter space and storage space! I am still getting settled but I have lots of plans for magical meals and witchy ways to make your culinary life more charming.

It’s the height of the summer harvest season and everywhere you look, there’s zucchini! Your garden is overflowing with the bountiful green squash, at work, your co-workers bring in extras from their gardens, every farmer’s market has baskets filled to the brim with zucchini and summer squash both.

There are literally hundreds of zucchini recipes – from stuffed baked zucchini to pickled zucchini to zucchini salad to zucchini bread – and every one of those has a dozen subsets of recipes – honestly, you could make a zucchini dish every day of the year and never repeat yourself. There’s even a mock apple pie recipe using zucchini – which I have never made – but it tastes like the real deal. All you need is vanilla ice cream.

One of my favorite ways to use zucchini is to saute it with onions and mushrooms. This is a recipe I got from my mother. Of course – like so many of her recipes – it’s not actually a recipe at all – it’s just something that she did. I learned how to make this simply by watching her do it.

It’s wicked simple. All you need is:

1 to 2 tablespoons of butter &/or olive oil &/or a mixture of both

1 or 2 zucchinis or a zucchini and a summer squash

1 small onion or half a large one, sliced

2 cups sliced mushrooms

¼ cup white wine

Sea salt & freshly crushed black pepper to taste

You start by melting some butter in a pan – or heating some olive oil – whatever your preference is – I use a mixture of the two. While this is happening, slice your zucchini. I generally use a mixture of zucchini and summer squash, because I like the look of green and yellow in the pan. Slice your onions and if your mushrooms need slicing, do them as well.

Toss all of the vegetables into the bubbling butter-oil mix and saute until just tender-crisp. Add the white wine and stir until it cooks off. Season with sea salt and freshly crushed pepper and serve.

This is a great side dish to any meat or fish. You can also put it on top of pasta or rice for a vegetarian meal.

Harvest Stir-Fry with Shrimp

 

     If you are like me, you either make too much pasta or not enough. Generally, I err on the side of too much. So I often use leftover pasta in stir-fries. Pasta reheats fabulously in the stir-fry pan, and absorbs the flavors of the cooking oil, vegetables and other seasonings.

     The other day, I went to the farmer’s market in Downtown Buffalo. I bought these wonderful purple and pale green peppers, as well as cherry tomatoes and zucchini. I decided to use them in the stir-fry with the leftover pasta. I also had onion and shrimp.

Here is the recipe and how you prepare this yummy stir-fry:

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium zucchini, cubed (about 1 cup)

1 purple pepper, diced (about ½ cup)

1 pale green pepper, diced (about ½ cup)

¼ cup diced red onion

13-15 cherry tomatoes, halved

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

2 cups leftover pasta, broken into pieces

¼ cup white wine or chicken broth

10-12 medium cooked frozen shrimp, thawed, with tailed removed

Fresh parsley and basil to taste.

     Heat the olive oil in a heavy cast iron pan or wok until just about smoking. Add the vegetables and toss in the hot oil. Season with salt and pepper and keep moving in the oil. Add the leftover pasta and stir it in well. Add the white wine or the chicken broth, stirring well. Add the shrimp, then the parsley and basil. Toss a final time and serve. With a salad, this is a perfect light dinner for two people.

Enjoy! BB!

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