Tag Archives: #kitchen-witchery

Witching Up a Recipe

Nothing says summer picnic to me like sweet and tangy pickled beets. You can buy your fried or broasted chicken at any number of fast food places. Purchase a pint of potato salad at the deli counter, and pick up a watermelon from the produce stand. But pickled beets—really good pickled beets, are a work of kitchen magic.

My mother was an excellent cook, the kind who used a pinch of this and a dash of that, a few cups here, a handful there—stir and taste until it’s just right. When she cooked from scratch the results were five star.

She was also a busy woman and her forte was “doctoring” things up. That meant sometimes starting with store bought sauce, packaged macaroni and cheese, or other convenience packaged, canned, or frozen mainstay. Then she added her own magic touch. I do the same, but I prefer to call it witching things up.

Back to the beets. My mother made, hands down, the best pickled beets I’ve ever tasted. Judging from the request she received for the recipe, they are the best pickled beets just about anybody has ever tasted. And it takes less than 10 minutes to make them.

Refigerator Pickled Beets

  • 2 Cans Sliced Beets (with liquid)
  • I Medium to Large Onion
  • 1.25 Cups White Sugar
  • 1 Cup Vinegar
  • 4 Whole Cloves
  • 1 Quart Jar (with cover)

Pour juice from both cans of beets into saucepan, about 1.5 cups. Add generous 1 cup, (up to 1.5 cups) vinegar. I use half apple cider and half white vinegar; I like my pickled beets a bit tangier than they are sweet. Add sugar sliced onion and cloves. Bring to boil. Fill jar to 1/4 with canned sliced beets, then pour brine with onions to cover. Repeat this process until jar is filled, alternating beets and liquid with onions. Cover jar, let cool then put in refrigerator. Wait at least 24 hours before serving. If you can, wait a little longer to give the flavors a chance to develop and blend—it’s worth it. These will keep several weeks in refrigerator—but once you open the jar you’ll eat them all before that.

I alternate adding beets and liquid into the jar simply to distribute the onions throughout. You can add more vinegar or sugar to your personal taste, and yes, taste the brine while cooking until you get it just right . . . I wouldn’t know any other way to cook.

You can make this recipe with fresh beets, and I’m not going to argue that it will enhance the already delicious ambrosia. Simply clean, peel and precook the beets, and use the beet water. But honestly, if you buy a good quality of canned beets this recipe is hard to beet (lol) for it’s flavor and ease of preparation.

It’s up to you whether you share the bounty—or share the secret ingredient . . . “You’ll never believe I made it with canned beets!”

When I’m asked what the secret is, I just say, “It’s magic.”


Family Recipes & Simple Magic


Scrolling my social media today, I saw a photo of absolutely delicious looking meatballs in a saucy gravy. Someone had already asked for the recipe share.

“Sorry, It’s a secret recipe.”

When it comes to simple witchery at my house, most of it is in the kitchen. Literally, cooking is alchemy—a seemingly magical process of  combination, transformation and creation.

If you want an example, try combining milk, butter and sugar over heat. Depending on the temperature reached and briefly maintained, you’ll be rewarded with smooth caramel sauce, soft chewy caramels, melt in your mouth toffee, or (if you let it get too hot for too long), a hard-as a-rock, burnt mess and a pan you may as well recycle into a planter.

But there is something else that goes into the preparation of food, the final element of magic if you will, and that is the intention and energy of the cook. As with all magic, the more thought and mindfulness you give it, the better the results.

If you’ve made chicken soup for a soup-562163_640sick friend or family member, you are practicing kitchen magic. And why? Because even if all you do is open a can, add water and heat it up, you approach it with the intent to make somebody feel better. If you have a secret recipe,  add things like garlic, extra pepper and a dash of lemon juice—oh baby, there is no denying you are a kitchen witch!

That magic in cooking is especially present in traditional recipes handed down through generations, secret or not.

My grandmother’s peanut butter cookie recipe turns out delicious cookies every time, tender like shortbread (as opposed to soft and chewy), just the way I like them. Recently I wanted to make a batch and didn’t have all the ingredients I needed. I decided to practice a little kitchen magic of my own.

I was short on flour, but I had some finely ground almonds I’d processed for a paleo pancake I tried out. I added the almond meal to my flour to get me up to snuff. I was also short on butter, so I added some coconut oil. The batter seemed a bit loose, so I pulverized a cup of potato chips in the food processor and tossed that into the mix.

The potato chip magic is one I learned from my best friend’s mother as a young girl. They add a bit of bulk, a hint of salt, extra fat, and starch. Yeah, I know—but cookies aren’t exactly health food to begin with.

Talk about magical, those cookies disappeared!

Honestly, I have to say the little bit of tweaking, the personal energy I put into those cookies, elevated them beyond good to exceptional. I can’t give you the recipe because I didn’t accurately measure anything. If you have a peanut butter cookie recipe you like, and you consider yourself a kitchen witch, you’ll figure it out.

Chicken soup, pot roast, spaghetti sauce, bundt cake, and even Jello salad with tiny marshmallows; the meals you bring to your table, that once graced the tables of your ancestors, are magical. The act of preparing and partaking of them unite you through time and place.

Near the end of October and early November we have special days to honor our deceased loved ones—Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve, All Souls Day and Día de los Muertos.  Try cooking up some of your traditional family favorites, and set an extra place at your table in remembrance of the generations that came before you and their love that created you. Honor them, and the nurturing and nourishing that has sustained you thus far.

~ Blessed Be Your Journey

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Pieces of April

The climate in my northern realm usually puts us about a month behind the adage, April showers bring May flowers, but every so often we’re blessed with a good year; this year is holding promise to be just that. The snow melted away nearly a month ago and the frost has worked it’s way out of the ground. Green shoots are poking up in the flower beds.

violets and lilly of the valleyI spent the morning in my gardens, picking windblown leaves from around emerging daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, rhubarb, wild strawberries and mint. I can barely wait to pick my first bunches of violets and fragrant lilly-of-the-valley to fashion into fairy bouquets, though their bloom time is a good six weeks away.

It felt good to be scratching in the soil again after a long winter. By noon, I kicked off my shoes and socks to reacquaint my feet with mother earth—Gaia’s spirit and mine connecting. Barefoot, I padded around my little acre checking for signs of green life.

April is a month of transition, a wild woman changing her moods with capricious will. Rain turns to sleet, then to fluffy flakes and back again to rain—all in a matter of minutes. Sun and sixty degrees mid-morning gives way to a cold chill on the wind and thunderstorms rolling in by late afternoon. A late season blizzard can bring two feet or more of snow; with the only consolation knowing that it will melt away in a day or two.

Geranium leafNo matter the unpredictable weather, April holds the promise of summer ahead. I found that promise in the bright green leaves of my wild geranium, rocketing up from the soil in a sunny southwest corner of the garden. They were pungent with the spicy, concentrated sap of spring. I plucked a handful of the leaves to whip up a batch of my Gardener’s Hand Scrub.

I’m co-teaching a class on using garden variety flowers, herbs and plants in home remedies. Though technically not a remedy, making a scrub is entry level herbalism. I want to bring samples for the students, so the little handful of wild geranium leaves was a happy surprise; they’ll add a clean, refreshing scent to my Gardener’s Hand Scrub.

I keep a jar of hand scrub by my kitchen sink all year round, but I especially appreciate it when I’ve given my hands a good workout in the yard or garden (I don’t wear gloves as often as I should). The grit of the sugar or salt powers off the grime, exfoliates my hands and cleans up my cuticles, while the oils condition my skin and nails. I just scoop out about a teaspoon full and work it into my dry hands, scrubbing and massaging, especially around my cuticles, then thoroughly rise with warm water and pat dry with a soft towel.

Basic Sugar or Salt Scrub

  • 1 cup of sugar, sea salt or Epsom salt.
  • Approximately 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vitamin E oil
  • 1 or more Tbs of aromatic herbs of choice, chopped.

Pour about 1/4 cup of sugar or salt in food processor, add herbs and pulse until herbs are finely chopped. This will result in super fine sugar or salt, and depending on the moisture content of the plant material it may become  pasty. Remove mixture from processor and add to remaining salt or sugar, stirring to incorporate. Add vitamin E oil. Add olive oil (start with about half the amount) and stir all together. Continue adding oil until the mixture reaches consistency of thick paste. Place in a clean jar or other container with tight lid. If it seems too dry, add more oil. Too loose, add more sugar or salt.

It isn’t necessary to use a processor; you can make your scrub by simply mixing the sugar or salt, oils and aromatic herbs in a bowl. I like the method above for breaking down the plant matter and releasing the volatile oils.

So what’s the difference between salt and sugar in a scrub? Sugar is a more gentle exfoliant because the shape of the grains are more rounded, less sharp that salt. The glycolic acid in sugar moisturizes and conditions skin. Sugar scrubs are also stickier than salt scrubs. Salt not only offers a more vigorous exfoliation, it also contains beneficial minerals; salt has long been used for purification and healing, though it can be more drying than sugar. Can’t decide which one to use? Mix it up with a half of each.

You might also try putting all of the sugar and/or salt into the processor. The superfine consistency results in a very gentle scrub. Your scrub should keep for 4 to 6 weeks (the more plant material in the scrub, the shorter the shelf life; check your scrub often to be sure it isn’t spoiling). Keep it by your sink and use it every day! Try these common herbs and plants in your scrubs:

  • Mint leaves
  • Marigold petals
  • Rose petals
  • Lemon balm
  • Citrus zest (may shorten shelf life)
  • Lavender (buds or leaves)
  • Cedar

Try combining two or three for your own, custom aromatic blend.

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