Wednesday, October 31

Happy Halloween!!

Greetings from Port Austin, MI....Well, sort of. See, I'm actually writing this before I leave, because there's no internet access where I'm headed. Yikes is right. But it's the kind of distraction free environment I need right now. Especially right now. (Those who follow my Facebook posts are probably aware that we hit a deer coming home from Grand Rapids on Thursday.)

But that isn't really what I wanted to talk about today. Before I get on with it, one bit of business: winners have been (will be? since I'm writing this on Sunday) chosen for the blog hop, but won't be announced officially here--however, if you're a winner, my husband has contacted you by now! He's agreed to draw winners for me Tuesday morning, get in touch with them, and get their books out, so I can run away from home for a week of peace, quiet, and writing. 

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Okay, maybe it's tied with Yule. But this is far and away my favorite time of year. Changing leaves, a chill in the air (which right now is maybe a little colder than I prefer, but I still love it!) the first sighting of my favorite constellation, Orion (remember the blog post I did a while back about that book by Diana Wynne Jones?  :)  I loved Halloween long before I was a witch. I loved (and still love) jack o lanterns, fresh baked pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie (yeah, I know, more an American Thanksgiving thing, but still). This is also a time of great reflection; the crops that we bring in aren't just the literal crops, but the fruits of our endevours as well. As the saying goes, what you reap is what you sew--this is the time of year to reflect on where we are, how we got here, where we want to be and how to get there!

Although I'm assuming most of y'all are well educated folks, there are a lot of misconceptions about Halloween and Samhain (pronounced roughly "sow-ain"--it's Celtic, okay? They just don't pronounce letters the way we do. The only time it's pronounced as it looks is when you're talking about that heavy metal band). 

Anyway, Samhain translates to something along the line of "summer's end"--it's not the name of a deity (although at least one encyclopedia says otherwise) and it's not (specifically/historically) a celebration of the dead, god of the Underworld, ancestors, etc. In other words, it's not the Celtic version of El Dia de los Muertos--although most modern Pagans pick this time of year to honor our blessed dead, those who have gone on before. Like at all of the sabbats (holidays), we believe that the veil between the worlds is thinner this time of year then the rest of the time, making it possible for those who have gone on before to nip back over and check up on us. The veil is said to be the very thinnest at Samhain and Beltaine. 

For our ancestors--and many contemporary people as well--this was/is the time of year to get in the last of the crops before winter. It's also when the herds (of domestic animals) are culled and meat smoked for winter storage, simply because it would be impractical to try and feed the entire herd over the winter months. (Remember, we're talking about a time before corner convenience stores!) It is considered ill-luck to harvest anything after Samhain (what is left in the fields is said to belong to the Fae...or at least the deer and squirrels).

And as a quick point of note: the Celts did not carve pumpkins because they didn't HAVE pumpkins. They carved turnip sculls. Cool, huh? 

Between Samhain and Yule (the winter solstice), the sun grows dim and nights are very long and cold. During this time of hear the Crone as Hag reigns over the land; many Celts (Welsh Celts) called Her by the name Cailleach--that's the name I use, anyway. This time of year, I celebrate (yes, celebrate!) Cailleach and Arawn, light candles for those who have gone on before, and almost always write a letter to my grandmother to let her know about the year I've had. (She died the year before my daughter was born, and I've always wished my daughter could have known her). There are a few other special people I remember this time of year, too. In addition to lighting a few candles, I sometimes do a dumb (as in mute) supper, which is another tradition; I've never been sure what the silence was for, except that you have more time to reflect and think when you're not yammering away. A plate is set for the ancestors, too, of course. 

Yep, there you have it, a real witch's Samhain. Kinda dull, huh? ;-) Seriously, we're not half as scary as people think we are (okay, I'm a little scary before my coffee in the morning, but that's a different matter all together!) 

And for today's recipe...

Remember that pumpkin I hacked up and pureed? Well, I've still got TONS of it left. So the other day, I started experimenting. This is what I came up with:

Chicken and Apples in a Pumpkin Cream Sauce

  • 2 chicken thighs or one breast (boneless/skinless, although you could probably use bone in, too)
  • 1 medium apple (I like gala, fuji, and honey crisp...basically anything firm. Delicious apples are NOT firm. If you like tart apples, try a granny smith or macintosh). 
  • 3/4 cup of pumpkin puree (if you're using canned, you want PLAIN not spiced...but seriously, you don't want canned pumpkin!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (okay, I was being lazy)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder 
  • dash of salt
    • you can always alter spices to taste
  • a little olive (or whatever you have on hand) oil for sauteeing
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream (or whole milk)

Cut the chicken into chunks
Peel and core the apple and cut it into chunks
Sautee chicken until done, toss in the apple chunks, and let them cook until warm but not mush
Add in the pumpkin puree and spices, giving it a good stir
Add the cream/milk after you've turned off the heat

Dinner is served!
I think my total time beginning to end was thirty minutes or so, so it's a fast, easy, yummy autumn meal :)

That's a serving for one, by the way; I was cooking for myself that night and my husband isn't crazy about pumpkin, anyway. 

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