The winter months are often dark, dreary, and a bit bleak. It rains. It snows, The sun spends most of the time covered by thick and ominous looking clouds. Add in the stress and expectations of the holiday season and you might find yourself with a case of the blues.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is no joke for some folks. If you’re prone to depression, this can be a tough time of year indeed.
Red & Green To Chase Away The BluesMat Auryn, Patheos Blogger and Author, posted “As witches, most of us are trained at the foundational stages to understand the Hermetic Principles. The Principle of Correspondence teaches us, “As above, so below; as within, so without.”
I believe we can apply the Principle of Correspondence to the way we prepare the foods we eat and, in doing so, help mitigate the effects of SAD. And it’s as simple as adding bright, festive, eye-catching ingredients to each meal.
It’s pretty common knowledge that eating foods of different colours, shapes, and textures is good for you. Red and green and orange and yellow and blue foods have all sorts of excellent vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants in them. But there’s another benefit too that most folks don’t know. Foods that are rich and varied in colour also stimulate our brain.
You see, we eat with our eyes long before we eat with our mouths. Our appetite and our curiosity are piqued when our meals are engaging to look at. Being curious and stimulated and excited to taste what’s on our plate, quite literally wakes up our senses, sending all sorts of helpful chemicals, signals, and hormones through our bodies. If you’ve got the blues, adding some red and green and yellow and purple foods to your meals can change your brain chemistry and your outlook.*
Here’s A Simple Recipe To Chase Away The Blues
I make this for two people and it’s a lot. One key here is to serve it in the biggest bowl you have. Not because there’s so much food, but because you can really see the colours. I originally found this recipe here a few years ago but I’ve adjusted it a bit.
This salad absolutely sparkles. The pomegranates are like jewels or ornaments you might see on a tree. It’s a real feast for your eyes and your taste buds. Feel free to add thin slices of red peppers or slices of orange if you like that sort of thing.
Enjoy your bright, exciting, salad. I hope it helps to chase those winter blues away.
*Depression is real. If you need help, reach out. If your depression gets to the level of suicidal tendencies, please do not hesitate reach out for help.
Saturnalia is coming! Hail Saturn! I’ll raise a glass of conditum paradoxum and exclaim “Salus!”, the Latin equivalent of “Here’s to your good health.” If you are fresh out of conditum paradoxum, you can make a bottle of this delicious, sweet wine for yourself. I’ll show you how. It’s pretty easy.
But before the wine, a little historySaturnalia grew to be one of the most popular festivals on the Roman calendar. Initially, it was a one day festival that started on December 17th but it’s popularity grew so much that it turned into a multi-day event usually lasting from December 17th through December 23rd. Observance of the festival lasted for centuries.
Writings from the 2nd century BCE reference Saturnalia banquets, and reports of Saturnalia revels persisted well into the 5th century AD. The influence of Saturnalia on the December holidays as we know and celebrate them today is unmistakable and profound.
Saturnalia was a giant Roman street party, er…I mean ritual. Saturnalia paid homage to the god Saturn. Saturn was a god of abundance, among other things.
The festival itself was a celebration of a mythical golden age when humankind was free from labor and could generally swan about together in idyllic bliss sipping wine and enjoying plenty of free nosh.
So let’s talk about that wine!Conditum Paradoxum is a spiced wine. Romans typically drank this wine chilled but it could also be enjoyed warmed too. Fortunately for us, the popularity of Saturnalia and the Roman proclivity to write things down we have a recipe.
“Put six sextarii of honey into a bronze jar containing two sextarii of wine, so that the wine will be boiled off as you cook the honey. Heat this over a slow fire of dry wood, stirring with a wooden rod as it boils. If it boils over, add some cold wine. Take off the heat and allow to cool. When it does cool, light another fire underneath it. Do this a second and a third time and only then remove it from the brazier and skim it. Next, add 4 ounces of pepper, 3 scruples of mastic, a dragma of bay leaf and saffron, 5 date stones and then the dates themselves. Finally, add 18 sextarii of light wine. Charcoal will correct any bitter taste.” – Apicius, 1.1″
Okay. I’m right out of sextarii measuring cups and my brazier is being cleaned right now. So here’s a modern day version for you. I make this in party sized batches because, well, if the Romans could throw a seven day ritual the least I can do is make enough wine so each guest can have several drinks*
2 bottles of viognier but sauvignon blanc will do just fine.
2 cups of honey (if you can get honey with lovely floral notes, even better)
2 dates or 3 dried figs (but not both). If you have neither, use one of those snack pack sized boxes of raisins.
2 teaspoons of black pepper (the Romans loved black pepper)
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
4 bay leaves
Several strands of saffron
Grab a nice big saucepan and pour in the two cups of honey. Add 1 cup of the wine and the dates (figs or raisins). Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring as you go, until all of the honey is incorporated and dissolved.
When the honey is dissolved and the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and add all of the other ingredients. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Next, grab a kitchen funnel, a coffee filter and a carafe (or just reuse the wine bottles). Put the coffee filter into the funnel and pour the wine through the filter, collecting the spices and sediment. Discard the filter and anything in it. Now you’ll have a your very own conditum paradoxum. Put the bottle(s) in the fridge and chill. You can also reheat the wine in a saucepan if you like the mulled wine effect.
If you can stand to wait a few hours before drinking, you’ll really notice all of the spice notes and fruit coming through. This is a sweet, sweet, sweet, concoction so sip rather than gulp…Or gulp, no judgement here!
Happy all the things you might celebrate at this time of year. Mine’s a double thank you very much.
*Drink responsibly. Don’t drive. Don’t drink if you know you shouldn’t drink.
I believe magic can be decadent and delicious. It’s my considered opinion that magic is quite wonderful when it focuses on joy. I’ve decided that the magic I participate in, as often as possible, will leave my stomach and my soul, equally satiated. It is to that end, this seeking of magical pleasure, that I offer you the sublime magic of eating cake.
The Cake in the picture above, to be exact!
Eating Cake Is Magic?
Yes. Yes, it is. Think of the classical witches you’ve read about in literature. What where they doing most of the time? They were brewing potions and poisoning apples and toiling over bubbling cauldrons. I imagine that after a long day collecting herbs for her Awen brew, Cerridwen wanted nothing more than to put her feet up, get a neck massage from her husband Tegid, have a nice cup of tea, and enjoy a slice of Bara Brith.
Eating cake is absolutely a magical act. Here’s an experiment. Think of yourself without cake. Now think of yourself with cake. Which “you” is smiling and feeling altogether wonderful about your present situation? Is it “I don’t have any cake. I wish I had cake” you. No. It’s not. It’s “look at this delicious slice of chocolate cake. Mmm…I can’t wait to eat it” you.
One very well known definition about magic is “the art of changing consciousness at will”. I suspect if you have the will to indulge yourself by cramming half a black forest gateaux down your cake-hole, you’re consciousness will be dramatically changed, and for the better.
Eating Cake on Sunday
As you can probably tell from the photo, I ate this cake on Sunday. There was nothing remarkable about Sunday, other than the weather was quite nice for the time of year. But, and this is a big part of my kitchen witchery, I was feeling a little blue and so was my dear partner, and I wanted that to change. So this cake happened.
And you know what? We sat at the table, forks in hand, and just tucked in. In between shoveling forkfuls of rich, chocolate cake stuffed with layers of raspberry jam into our mouths, we talked. We talked about the book we’re writing together and the state of affairs with various magical communities and our upcoming holiday to England, Scotland, and Wales. As the cake slowly disappeared, we planned and plotted and conspired about all manner of magical activities we’re planning for the next 12 months.
Would this have been possible without cake? Maybe. But let’s be honest here, we had plenty of time to talk about these things before eating cake, and the conversations didn’t happen. Then there was cake and the eating of cake, and the dialogue began.
Thoughts About Eating CakeI realize you might be saying to yourself “but I don’t like cake”. It’s not the cake that’s important. It’s the effort and the time. It took a bit of effort to bring this cake into existence. It took time to sit with another person and eat it, to engage in the sacred silliness of having much too much cake for two people to eat. We fed each other. Tea was made and, most importantly, space was made for us to chat. And in that chatting there was laughter and joy and the magick of shared plans.
Maybe you’ll do this over kale salad or a bowl of cereal or teriyaki seitan (Hail Seitan!…I couldn’t resist). Maybe you don’t need cake at all*. But I do encourage you to spend time with someone, over food, and talk with them about the magick you’re bringing to the world.**
*To be honest, I think you do need cake, but that’s just me.
**In person is best but Skype dates totally count (as long as there’s cake)
Samhain Supper For Two
So what's on our Samhain Supper menu? It's a perennial favourite. Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon, warm,crusty bread, and a full, deep, dark bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Julia's recipe isn't the most hip or the most convenient to make, but it's a recipe that pretty much perfect in every way. I've tinkered with it over the years, but basically I come right back to the original.
There's something particularity fitting about cooking the stew the same way Julia did, especially at Samhain. It's like I'm paying homage and remembering a cookery ancestor.
It's likely I'll make the bread from scratch. I have a sourdough starter, named Pablito. Pablito came from a dear friend and mentor of ours. His sourdough starter is called Pablo. Making this bread connects us to the microbes in our environment and to our friend's house, where we've sat an enjoyed many magickal meals.
And the Cabernet is a gift from this land we call home. The wine is sumptuous and velvety and black as ink. Drinking the wine together connects us to all the times we've stared into each other's eyes, over a candlelit table, and just made googly eyes at each other. A secondary connection is to the high priestess and high priest of our coven, fast friends, beloved, magickal co-conspirators, and fellow oenophiles. Drinking wine reminds us of many a "cakes and ale" with our coven, and a wonderful celebration in the Napa Valley.
The whole meal connects us to the living and the dead and to this very moment that we're sharing, right now.
Samhain Supper For Two Ingredients
Gather and prepare your ingredients prior to cooking. Chop the bacon, chop the beef, chop the veggies, smash the garlic… Preparing your ‘mise en place’ will help things go smoothly once you’ve fired up the stove.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Arrange the beef chunks in a single layer on a tray lined with paper towels. Use additional paper towels to thoroughly pat the beef dry.
In a large dutch oven pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for several minutes, until the bacon is browned and has released most of its fat. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon, leaving the fat in the pan.
Over medium/medium-high heat, brown the beef in the bacon fat for a minute or two on each side. Do not overcrowd the pan. The beef should quickly develop a nice caramelized brown on the surface. Turn the beef to brown on all sides, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat until all of the beef has been browned.
Once all of the beef has been browned, add the carrots and onions to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until they develop a golden brown color. Then, carefully pour out the excess bacon fat, leaving the veggies in the pan.
Add the beef and bacon back into the pan. Toss with salt and pepper. Then, sprinkle the flour over the mixture and toss again. Place the pan, uncovered, on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the mixture, then cook for 4 more minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the heat to 325 degrees.
Add the wine*, beef stock, tomato paste, garlic, and thyme. Add just enough beef stock to barely cover the beef.
Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Then, cover the pan, and place it in the oven. Cook, covered, for about 3 hours. Adjust the temperature slightly, if necessary, so that the liquid maintains a gentle simmer throughout the cooking time.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
For the onions:
Heat the butter and oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan to allow the onions to roll around in the pan and brown on all sides. Then, add the beef stock. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer slowly for about 15-20 minutes. Check the pan towards the end of the cooking time. Most of the liquid should have evaporated and formed a brown glaze around the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
For the mushrooms:
Heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Season with salt and pepper, then set aside.
Once the beef has finished cooking, carefully pour the mixture through a sieve or strainer. Allow the sauce to collect in a large measuring cup (the 4-cup kind) or glass bowl. Return the beef and bacon to the dutch oven pan. Discard the carrot and onion pieces.
Arrange the brown-braised onions and sauteed mushrooms over the beef.
Allow the sauce to rest for a few minutes. The excess fat will rise to the surface as it rests. Use a spoon to collect and discard the excess fat. Repeat until much of the excess fat has been discarded.
You should have about 2 – 2 1/2 cups of sauce. If you have much more than this, pour the sauce into a small saucepan and simmer uncovered until it’s reduced a bit. It should be quite flavorful and thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired. Pour the sauce over the beef, mushrooms, and onions.
Serve over boiled potatoes.
Full Transparency, rather than retyping this recipe from start to finish, I "borrowed" this recipe from The Gourmand Mom.
There’s a good chance you’ll be celebrating Samhain Season this month. Maybe you gather with your coven in some secret place, go to a ritual, or plonk down on your couch wearing your black cat slippers and stripey witch socks, it’s all good. Here’s a little magick potion you might want to try. I call it “Samhain Sippers” because “Samhain Slammers” might give you the wrong impression. But hey, you know you, so whether your a sipper or a slammer, enjoy!
Samhain Sippers SpellSamhain is a transition time. There’s a liminal quality about this season. Leaves are changing colours, once verdant fields are falling blissfully fallow, night time comes a little earlier. It’s well known that Samhain is a time when the veil thins and our ancestors are, perhaps, a little more accessible than usual. And yet for all the apparent falling away and endings, it’s a time of year that ushers in dinner parties and magickal gatherings and twinkle lights and decorations.
There is some magick involved in this recipe, beyond the alchemy of blending ingredients together. The recipe calls for blackberries and rum (among other things). Blackberries are an element of the late summer. Sweet and full. Rum is sweet too and works s a reminder that life is sweet and precious. Rum is a traditional offering to guardians of gateways in various occult traditions. In my case, rum was my dad’s favourite tipple, so there’s a connection to my ancestors there too.
As you drink, think of what is sweet in your life right now. Ponder which door are opening for you this Samhain tide and which might be closing, forever. Celebrate your ancestors, be they ancestors of blood or magickal lineage, or those that have passed that influenced your life.
Samhain Sippers RecipeThis recipe takes 10 minutes to cook (if you make the simple syrup yourself) and 5 minutes more to whip together. I’m including two versions: one for making yourself a cocktail and a cauldron sized for your Samhain get together.
To Make Blackberry Simple Syrup
What you need to make the cocktails
Let’s Get To Making This Thing Already!
Making simple syrup:
In your favourite saucepan, add the sugar, blackberries, lime wedges, juice, and water over medium heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the sugar is fully dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and mash up the blackberries. You can use the back of a spoon to do this.
Pour the blackberry syrup through a mesh strainer into a bowl. You can use that spoon again to help push the mixture through the sieve.
If your not making the cocktail right away, you can store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To make two cocktails
Add 6 ounces of simple syrup, 3 ounces of the rum and a good squeeze of a lime wedge into to a cocktail shaker with ice; shake vigorously. If you don’t have a cocktail shaker use your travel mug or something else with a lid. Strain into an ice filled glass. Fill up each glass with soda. Top with a lime wedge.
To make 8 cocktails
Mix up 2 cups rum, 1/2 cup fresh lime juice, 1 and 1/2 cups simple syrup, and 2 cups soda. Pour all of this into your favourite pitcher, punch bowl, or cauldron. Add some fresh blackberries and lime wedges.
Happy Samhain Sipping!My recipe is based on something I saw a bunch of years ago and have played with. Here’s the original recipe, which is a little more summery.