Sunday, March 31, 2013

Flowers--More Than Just a Pretty Face! (And An Ode to Borage)

Lately I’ve been reading organic gardening message boards on the interwebs and it seems the most asked questions are, “what can I use in my garden to get rid of pests…” I have an easy solution to this! 


When planting your organic vegetable garden, you may want to consider planting flowers for numerous reasons. Yes, they are beautiful, making your back yard garden a pleasurable place to be, but flowers are the organic gardener's secret weapon and best ally! Flowers attract bees and butterflies and beneficial insects that eat the bad insects, and often support the growth of your veggies by providing needed nutrients! 

The following is a list of flowers that actually make your job easier as an organic gardener—they attract and enlist the help of beneficial insects that will eat the bad insects. I encourage you to do some further research to see how these plants can help you in your garden: 

Bergamot, Borage, Butterfly weed, Caraway, Cilantro, Cosmos, Dill, Fennel, Gloriosa daisy, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lobelia, Marigold, Parsley, Penstemon, Poppies, Queen Anne’s Lace, Spearmint, Statice, Stonecrop (Sedum), Sweet Alyssum, Yarrow, Zinnia.

A Closer Look At Borage:

Last year I did not plant flowers in my veggie patches, save for the rows of marigolds in between my tomato plants. For some reason they did not survive long. I deadheaded them and gave them plenty of water. I do not know what I could have done differently, and upon further research (that is, asking advice of local organic gardeners…) I have come to the conclusion there is nothing I could have done to extend their life span. 

It turns out that while marigolds are beneficial companions to tomatoes, there are other plants that are far superior. For instance, take borage. Borage reseeds itself, attracts bees and other pollinators and also staves off the tomato hornworm. It is a good companion plant and mulch for most plants, being an excellent source of minerals, especially calcium and potassium.

Borage Flowers

Borage Leaves
Borage Plants


In particular, borage and strawberries really like each other! An old time farm trick is to add a few borage plants in their strawberry beds to enhance the fruits flavor and yield. 

Borage and tomatoes also make great companions! Both seem to improve in growth and disease resistance when planted near each other. 

The borage plant blooms pretty little blue flowers and in folklore/magickal tradition, borage is a plant of courage. I have planted blue flowers in my flower beds for strengthCeltic warriors were said to drink a wine infused with the blooms of this plant before battle. Medieval knights wore scarves embroidered with borage blossoms for the very same reason. 

In the kitchen, the leaves can be eaten in salads (it has a fresh, cucumber like flavor.) What’s more, the leaves can also be used as a poultice, soothing and healing to inflamed or irritated skin. Additionally, an infusion of fresh, bruised borage leaves are an old-time herbal remedy for de-stressing. In fact, this is a great plant to have in the herbalist’s garden because it can be used to heal so many ailments. I encourage you to further research this lovely little plant!* (It does get big though, so stake off plenty of room for this one or plant along the edge of the garden!)



Mixed Fruit Salad and Borage-lime Syrup

Make a mixture of fruit e.g. Passion fruit, kiwi fruit, pineapple, selection of berries, melon. Combine fruit in a large bowl. Add borage-lime syrup, toss gently to combine, cover, refrigerate for several hours, even overnight. Upon serving, sprinkle grated coconut for a garnish.

½ c lime juice
½ c sugar
¼ c chopped fresh borage leaves

Combine juice and sugar in small saucepan, stir over heat without boiling, until sugar has dissolved. Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer, uncovered without stirring for 5 minutes, cool. Stir in borage.

Red, White & Blue Salad

1 medium cucumber
3 medium vine ripened tomatoes
¾ cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon course black pepper
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped dill leaves
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon finely grated red onion
salt to taste
Borage flowers to garnish
Combine all the ingredients except for the tomatoes and flowers. Slice tomatoes and arrange them, overlapping, around the edge of a serving platter. Mound the cucumber mixture in the center of the platter, just covering the inner edge of the tomatoes. Chill well, and place the borage flowers decoratively on the salad just before serving.
Serves 4 to 6

Friday, March 29, 2013

Kicking It Old School: Preserving Fruit (Paste Cakes)

Jen here and I had a interesting idea. Which I am calling Kicking it Old School... (AKA: KiOS)
I want to share older receipts and techniques for food & home products.

Orange Paste
Image is not mine. If yours let me know.

I love cook books and historical receipts  I wanted to share old techniques and recipes. So they are not lost as move through our modern world.

Today I wanted to share a way to preserve fruit. 
Some times we com across great deals on flats of fruits or it is just harvest time and we just don't have the time to can or make jelly or we havent decided exactly what to do with it. Here is an easy way to process the fruit until you are ready to use it

New Method of Preserving Fruit

From The White House Cookbook (1887) 


A new method of preserving fruit is practiced in England. Pears, apples and other fruits are reduced to a paste by jamming, which is then pressed into cakes and gently dried.  When required for use it is only necessary to pour four times their weight of boiling water over them and allow them to soak for twenty minutes and then add sugar to suit the taste. The fine flavor of the fruit is said to be retained to perfection. The cost of the prepared product is scarcely greater than that of the original fruit, differing with the supply and price of the latter; the keeping qualities are excellent, so that it may be had at any time of the year and bears long sea-voyages with out detriment. No peeling or coring is required, so there is no waste.

So What is Jamming?
Unlike traditional canning, quick jamming doesn't require sterilized canning jars or lids. The process relies on the pectin naturally found in fruit, store-bought pectin packets aren't used.
I know in the original receipt it says you don't have peel or core items. You don't. You can to make it ready to use. Like breaking off pieces for cooking. I would leave the skins on thin skin fruits. You might want to remove the cores of apple etc.
Put your Fruit, Herbs or Veggies. Place ingredients  in to a good sturdy pan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly and mashing with the back of the spoon 5 to 15 minutes, or until mixture becomes the consistency of a thick jam. Let Cool.  Mold in a form and dehydrate. Place in a air tight Container. 

If you are using the less juice fruits you may want to use a little water. You can add spices and Honey or Sugar during this Process. 

BE BOLD! Dont be afraid of Flavor! Have Fun! Let me Know what you think too

Monday, March 25, 2013

Guest Blogger: Kris Hughes


I have never doubted for a moment that animals have souls. However, what we should do about that, is such a complex question that it's easy to see why both religious and secular wings of the establishment have long preferred to either deny or cast doubt on the question. It's not the place of this piece to enter too deeply into the definition of what the soul might be.  Mirriam Webster's first definition is a pretty good one to be going forward with: "the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life" Further down the list were two more that I particularly liked: "the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe" and  "the quality that arouses emotion and sentiment"

Every once in awhile, a popular scientific periodical seems to run an article with a headline like "Scientists Find That Animals Actually Feel Love and Affection" or "Animals Have Emotions After All, Say Researchers". In the words of a no nonsense engineer I know "Geez! They'll be discovering steam power next!" and yet I'm always surprised to find animal loving friends sharing things like this on the internet, as if just one more half baked piece of pseudo-science will lend weight to what we all know in the first place! However, don't forget that it wasn't so long ago that there was a near consensus in the so-called scientific community that animals did not, in fact, even feel pain, and there are still those who try to hang on to this notion, either completely, or who say that "Okay, they feel physical pain, but they lack the same emotional associations (fear of death or incapacity, fear that the pain won't stop, etc.) and this is frequently tied in with the idea that animals don't really suffer in unpleasant or unnatural situations either. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir on these points, but at the same time it's when we come to the realisation that animals probably experience unpleasantness in a similar way to humans, and that they probably do have souls (whatever a soul is) that things start to get really difficult.

The trouble is, that most people who believe that there is such a thing as a soul, would also say that the soul is in some way sacred - and if the soul is sacred, the question of the body which contains it also being sacred has to arise, for if we cause suffering to the body, we probably cause suffering to the soul, and if we kill the body, perhaps we make the soul homeless, or kill it, too. It depends on what you believe, and it's easy to see why it has been easier for people in cultures which keep animals in captivity for their own use, to just say "Animals are not like us, so this is okay." Now, this is where things get really tricky. Let's say that we're agreed that animals do have souls and emotions a lot like ours. We could easily be headed for an enormous guilt trip. Some people deal with this by becoming vegans or working for animal liberation, and I'm not going to descry that at all.  Most of us are in a kind of partial guilt/partial denial place, though, and it's really this I want to talk about.

Is there a hierarchy of souls? Is the soul of an animal whose species is endangered more valuable than than of an alley cat? Is a human's soul of more importance than that of a bug? Should the cute, the pregnant or the seemingly noble be given extra points? Somehow, I doubt it, and this is why I personally give much greater importance to ending or averting suffering than I do to preserving life. That goes for humans and animals. Don't get me wrong, I don't view the ending of a life as nothing, but I do believe that life is a circle and death will be followed by rebirth in one form or another. I don't believe that death is the end, but I am absolutely sure that it is inevitable! Suffering, on the other hand, is a dirty business. Not only is the sufferer in some degree of misery, but that suffering besmirches all who contribute to it or who come into contact with it.

So now, let us step toward the dining table. Rather than starting with a big plate of guilt, or even denial, let's think about how we can nourish our body in mindfulness of other souls. When I eat meat, I try always to be mindful of the soul of the animal whose body I eat. That is a start. I also am mindful of the life that animal led, from birth to death, and I believe that it is my duty as a fellow traveler in this world, to know, if possible, whether that animal was kept in a life of misery. For that reason, I don't eat meat unless I feel pretty sure that the animal had a good quality of life. The result is I don't eat much meat, and at the same time I enjoy the meat I eat. Sadly, I love dairy, and knowing what I do about the commercial dairy industry in the US, I know I will have to change that next. (Time to learn to make my own cheese!) That said, though, I believe that we can easily get too hung up on images of cute calves, miserable pigs in restrictive crates, and other horrors, and forget the suffering that is caused to our fellow human and animal travelers by the way crops are grown and the way that food is manufactured and marketed to us. This is important, too. Was the Kenyan farm worker who picked those baby vegetables paid a living wage? How did the illegal field worker who hoed that melon field live while he sent most of his earnings back home to Mexico? What about the Walmart employee who is struggling on food stamps while they stack the shelves with your incredible bargains? Yeah, when you look at it like that, it's a tough call. Of course, you may say that those people have a choice, whereas the animals don't. Perhaps, but they don't always feel that they have a choice, so we might like to ask ourselves what we can do to change that a little.

So now we look at that dining table again, and it has become very fraught with worry for those of us who want to be ethical. Adding to your worry is not my intention, and neither is it my intention to trivialise the suffering of a single soul who contributed to your feast. If you are thinking about things like this, you are on a frontier of evolved thinking. It's a scary place at times, but when we are on a frontier, it never hurts to stop and look back, and look around, and try to gain a little perspective. Everything we do. Everything. Has implications. One of the first things we need to do is cut ourselves a little slack, for causing suffering in yourself probably isn't any better in the universal scheme of things than torturing chickens. As fellow travelers with animals in this world, we have ended up with a great deal of power. Remember that we all have  power to cause, and to potentially relieve, suffering in our fellow humans, too. It is a big deal, but it needn't be a heavy weight. We can only do our best. We may see changing some of our habits as arduous or unfair, or we can look at it as a great adventure and a way to feel much lighter in our own souls. Being kinder to those we meet is a form of mindfulness, being kinder in our eating habits, or our buying habits, or in how we treat the planet we all have to share - maybe these all carry equal importance. If we are not attentive in our eating habits, I do believe that it is a symptom of a lack of attention in a wider sense. However, if we eat "ethically" and then are unkind to others for making different choices, I don't think we will be helping anyone very much.

Because we all eat, it is one good place to begin a little mindfulness. That can go both for what we eat and how we behave at the table. It can go for learning to be thankful and for learning to share. The dining table has traditionally been a place of love and hospitality. Perhaps we can reclaim is as a place to nourish our souls and our bodies, and to show love and generousity of spirit to our fellow travelers again, and it might be interesting to see how the ripples of these attentive acts can flow out and into other parts of our lives and all the lives that are touched, as a result.

Since I wrote this piece on water, last week, my partner, Mark (who is an agnostic), and I have begun blessing our food and water, and the food and water we give to our animals. It is interesting to feel a shift in things here as we do this. That act is about sending good energy forward into those around us and what we all consume, but perhaps it is also possible to send energy outward, and backward, toward those who provided us with our food. This is about much more that the "quality" of what we put in our bodies, about more that ethical eating. It is an active and energetic expression of what the Lakota call hunkapi: all things are connected. I personally do not wish to be "self sufficient" in what I eat. How can I be? I recognise the threads which connect me to all life, and have no wish to cut these connections artificially. I would rather use the act of eating and drinking to increase my awareness of the connections.

Bio:Kris Hughes is a horsewoman, musician and writer, concentrating on topics such as meditation, divination, prayer and Celtic mysticism. She designs guided meditation cards and prayer cards, and offers oracle-based spiritual counselling. A native of SE Colorado, Kris spent most of her adult life in Scotland before returning to Colorado in 2008. 
Her work and thoughts can be found at Website: Go Deeper and at Facebook: Go Deeper Readings

Kris Hughes Will be our guest on  Magickal Harvest Radio! Tune in  March 30th at 3 PM MST for a great Show! 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The world is changing..

So I was sitting here on computer this morning having a nice warm cup of Salt Caramel Coffee. YUM.
Anyway, I came across something that made me smile and reflect about how much our world has changed.

No this isn't me :)
Especially the world of food. 
Just in my life time, which hasn't been that long, I have seen microwave ovens become everyday household items, I have watched the store shelving become laden with boxed ready to go foods and watched the produce section shrink. 
Everyone just moves through life to fast. we forget to slow down and take stock in the world around us.  ( I can ramble for hours..being that I have no voice still, boo, I wont) 

There is a point to this post. Maybe even two.  

So, my first thought that made me smile. Was the reclaiming of food by the individual. There is a whole growing movement of homesteaders and gardeners growing food for their own families and friends. It has gone beyond buy local and organic foods. It has become about growing them.

 In stead of people comparing cars and possessions. I have overheard people comparing gardens and what they are growing. You can see the pride beaming from these folks because they are in control of their own food. I have seen people carry pictures of their chickens along side pictures of the kids and dog.  This is truly an amazing time to live in.

The Second thing was seeing how people are reinventing jobs. The food a beverage industry is one of the most flexible in types of jobs.
So this is what prompted this post. I ran across a great site called 
Turntable Kitchen
Turntable Kitchen is a site connecting food and music. "We feature recipes with a focus on local, fresh ingredients, hand-selected ‘Musical Pairings,’ album reviews and musings on our city livin’ and country hoppin’ adventures" 
Talking about combining passions.. I LOVE IT!

If you listen to Magickal Harvest Radio you hear us talk about following your bliss. (Thanks to our Co-host Dawn "The Certifiable Joy Junkie" )  I find it amazing that the passion of food can bring joy and creativity to ones life and you can share it with the world. 

Thanks for meandering with me today. I starting to feel a little better so I am hoping to get the blogging thing rolling..

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Magick In The Kitchen: Jen's Kitchen Sink Strata

Magick in the kitchen....Ok i haven't gone grocery shopping in a week or so...creativity is your friend.. 
Jen's Kitchen Sink Strata 
Basic Strata recipe: 

1/2 cup liquid, such as milk, tomato juice, broth
1/4 tsp. dried thyme leaves OR herb of your choice
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. butter
Fillings of Choice.

Now most recipes use a bread or Pasta in the filling..
I have issues with with Flour..So I had left over Spaghetti Squash so I used that as a base. Placed in a Buttered baking dish.

Then I found a can of crab in the pantry. Some misc cheeses in the fridge with Fresh Spinach, onion, garlic and herbs. I chopped all this and tossed in with the Squash. Be creative here. The flavor is up to you!

Mixed Eggs, Liquid and Salt and Pepper in a dish and Pour over veggies.
Cover with Foil
Adjust oven rack to middle position. Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 50 or so minutes.
Remove Foil & Turn on broiler and broil until strata is spotty brown and puffy (watch carefully), about 5 minutes longer. Let stand for 8 to 10 minutes, then serve immediately.