Saturday, December 26, 2015

Post holy days malaise

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be mini-Martha Stewart's at the holidays... Perfect meals, perfect platings, perfect decor.... that's a lot of perfect. 

The fact, however, is that we're not perfect. Far from it! Those beautiful imperfections are what make the holidays so great. 

That's Milo- he wants you to relax and smile. 

So as we have one last day to celebrate, think on the coming of 2016 and decide how resolute you're going to be about next year. And, if you're going to make a resolution, make it that you'll finally accept your imperfection and just enjoy. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cooking up Yule

If you're anything like me, you make GRAND plans for how to spend the holy days... long menus, lists of crafts to make, decorations to hang, people to invite...

and half the time you end up making one or two things for you and your SO, with at least one candle lit, and holding a small ceremony instead.

The problem with the holy days is we have lives that don't always play nicely with our plans for celebrating. The loss my family suffered in September has made celebrating at all this year all the more painful, and even holding a ceremony at Samhain was difficult. So in the midst of the sparkling lights and decorated trees, Yule has snuck up on me.

The rest of my family celebrates at Christmas, and even that has approached like a ninja - I'm mostly unprepared. Thankfully I still have a little time, and the things people want this year aren't the sort of things that need to be shipped to me first. Even still - this time of year is so rushed, so hurried, that it is exceedingly easy to forget, to overlook, and to get exhausted before our holy day actually arrives.

mmmm... olive oil..... 
So how, in the midst of sad remembrances and hurried shopping, do you actually stop and celebrate? Well, for me it'll always be in the kitchen.

Life is better when I'm in a kitchen, busy with activity, hot from the oven and burners, fragrant with whatever I'm making at the moment.  (my SO has a habit of saying "it smells good in there" even before I'm halfway done - he's just smelling ingredients at that point)

Bread is one thing I absolutely adore making - there is nothing like bread still warm from the baking. So, here's my go to bread recipe that's perfect for the busy holiday season. 

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons Kosher salt (or pink or grey - really, it's all good)
1/2 teaspoon Instant or Rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 cups room temp water
roughly 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Mix ins: rosemary, Asiago cheese, sun dried tomatoes... sorta whatever you want to put in there 

Mix the dry ingredients together with a spatula in a large metal bowl. Mix the extras into the flour mix. Make a well in the center and pour in the water. Start mixing, pushing down a little with the spatula as you do so the water gets through the dough. Pour in the olive oil (so here, what I usually do is just up end the bottle over the bowl and keep pouring till it looks right... it's about 2 tablespoons, sometimes 3... just don't do more than that) 

Mix until the dough is wet all the way through. Leave it in the bowl and cover it with saran wrap. 
Let it rise for between 18 and 20 hours. Yes, you read that right. 

Come back the next day and the dough will have risen to fill most of the bowl, and will have LOTS of air bubbles. The bubbles are important. Grab some flour, sprinkle some on the counter in front of you and a very little over the top of the dough, and slowly roll the dough out of the bowl onto the floured surface. Gently roll the dough around till it's more or less a ball and is lightly coated in flour (this is so it doesn't stick to anything). 

Grab a covered baker (like this one) and stick it in the cold oven, empty.  Now heat your oven to 500 degrees F. 

Once your oven is up to temp, CAREFULLY take the baker out, remove the lid and drop your ball of dough into the baker. Try to do this gently, but don't burn yourself. Put the lid back on, and the whole thing back in the oven. 

Bake for 30 minutes. 

Remove the lid. 

Bake for 15 minutes. 

CAREFULLY remove the baker, remove the loaf and let it cool. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Having the right tools

There is nothing worse, to me at least, than being in the middle of baking something important (like the umpteenth batch of lemon truffles for the Yule party) and not having the right tool at your disposal.  Yeah, you can get by... you can make do with what you have and everything will come out great but at the end of the day, it's not right and you know it. (no one else does, but you do)

In some ways it breaks your concentration. You're focused, you're working with intent and folding into the mixture in your bowl the ingredients for your spell and for your recipe, and you need another spoon/ladle/whisk/etc and.... nothing. You don't have it so you stop, wash something, go back to it...

Granted, this isn't an all the time thing, and naturally it's not horrible to have reached for the right tool and come back with a decent substitute but oh what a wonderful moment when everything is going perfectly and you reach for the tool and it's there, and you don't miss a beat and come the end of the venture you have before you exactly the dish you wanted, exactly as you imagined it...


When I was first starting out as a kitchen witch, having the right tools was secondary to my practice. It didn't matter to me all that much - I made do, and muddled through with what I got from the dollar store. I worked with what I had, I didn't buy a lot and felt that this was "more pure" a way to do things - never mind that my spoon was splintering, or the spatula was near dead, or my can opener didn't really cut anymore.  I didn't have a juicer, so most of it ended up on my hands instead of in my recipe. It was a mess.

just don't microplane your fingers
As I got more into my practice, it took a little more time and funds but I started to realize how very important the right tools were. I noticed the change in my final dishes too - how having a micro-plane to zest instead of trying to rely on me mincing fine enough made all the difference in my orange almond cream scones.

it's so much better when it's all cooked..
How having the right baking dish meant my baked dishes came out perfect instead of burnt around the edges and on the raw side of done in the middle.

Edible... but not totally right.

Happiness with the space you're practicing in is key. It's the difference between a smooth ceremony and one where the candle falls because the holder was insufficient and the knife doesn't cut well because it's dull.

My altar is as important as my kitchen - they're one in the same most of the time. A well appointed kitchen is imperative to being able to pull off the recipes that I want to, when I want to... and that's an excellent thing to do.

To that end, I've become a Pampered Chef consultant. It's high end kitchen utensils and gadgets and etc... and all at prices that a freelance photographer and kitchen witch can actually afford.

And before you go getting all up in arms, no - I won't be hocking my wares in every single blog post. This isn't a Pampered Chef blog - this is a Kitchen Druid blog. I will, however, be posting links to gadgets that I use during my recipes so, if you chose, you can use the same gadgets I am.

Blessings on you as we head into Yule.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The frustration of "Making it Real"

We have all, at some point or another, wished desperately to "know", that is, really physically know on the same level that you "know" you physically exist and you "know" things about the material world, that your magic is working - that it's real. We have whispers of its reality, tingling notions on the edge of our mind and shivers on our spines hinting at tangibility... but it's not Harry Potter where we can see the manifestations of our magical working.

So we envision it - we use the creativity of our minds and meditate on the fruition of our work. We sit still, light the candles, and see with our mind's eye the circle of power we just wrought. We feel with our non-physical senses for the non-physical parts of our work.

We trust it's there, we trust it's working... that takes a lot of intent, and it takes a lot of trust.

So what happens on those days where you really would love to be able to snap your fingers and see the cars in front of you in traffic suddenly pushed to the side so you can go home? What happens when you'd love to pull your wand out and scream in latin a phrase that silences the person screaming at you?

What do you do when you want it to be
 as it is in the movies and it isn't?

The fact is, magic isn't what you see in the movies. It's more than that, and less. 

Our magic is tangible, but in ways other than seeing the books fly across the room to our hand or seeing the dishes do themselves after a good swish and flick. We can see the magic we do, but there are no chimes when we wiggle our noses unless we ring them ourselves. We can see the effect of our magic in the people around us, but not because their mouths disappear when we mutter the right phrase. 

Our magic is subtle. It is quiet, no matter how loud the drum circles get. It is private, no matter how many spectators watch our Circles.  It is invisible, no matter how many inscribed candles sit around. And why? Simply put - people only know what they see, and if they don't see what the movies show them, it's simply not there.  The good part is that we know better. 

We cannot infect someone with chicken pox with the point of a finger, but we can use an incantation to strengthen our resolve against the bully. We cannot remove the obstacles in traffic with the wink of an eye, but we can grip tight a charm bag and draw on the calm we've placed there. 

There are times where movies and reality come close - potions, for one. Everyone knows Potions class... "As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses... I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death—" (Snape, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) - but even still, how many of us are like the First Year's that don't believe it's magic because there are no long incantations or skyclad dancing? 

The beauty of being a hedgewitch is exactly this - we have the power to do a great many things and most of what we need we can get at the corner grocery store. If the need rises, I can stop into any grocery store in the country and get the ingredients to fix the problem magically. That is power. 

So I ask you - when the need for magic rises in you, will you despair because you can't Transfigure something into what you need, or will you remember your training and call on the magic you do have?