Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Its only Wednesday

Well its Wednesday evening, am having dinner while writing this post.........and dealing with cats & kittens who act like they're  starving. I've been working hard at Schlotzsky's (not!!!) making their fameous "Originals" among other sandwiches I was like 10 minutes late to work..............(thinking I was in at noon instead of 11a). Thank the Goddess I was only like 2 minutes away, I was in BIG LOTS which is like not even 30 seconds  away when my boss called me....oh well.

Last Friday, I signed up to be a PAMPERED CHEF consultant. My first "Pampered Chef Party/Grand Opening" is this Friday evening at my place with a few friends and of course Phil (my roomie). To include Phil, I have 3 possibly 4 others coming over for it, for a total of like 5 people, 6 if one includes my P/C sponsor. What makes this funny, my house isn't even decorated for Halloween/Samhain yet......which it should be completed by then  hopefully, if I get up off my dead lazy ass...........

A couple of weeks ago I made the following recipe for myself and Phil for dinner. Phil actually liked it even if he doesn't like goat cheese. Well I better get back to dinner before the cats realize I have been ignoring my bugger and start their own war. Enjoy the recipe......

by Deborah Bernstein: Warwick, New York
Yield: Serves 4
4 boneless chicken breast halves, skinned

1/2 cup fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet) (about 4 ounces)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3 basil leaves, shredded or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 egg, beaten to blend
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter melted

Mushroom-Wine Sauce
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
4 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cut into 4 pieces
Salt and pepper
For chicken:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Pound chicken between sheets of waxed paper to thickness of 1/4 inch using meat mallet. Pat chicken dry. Combine cheese, green onions and basil in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spread cheese mixture lengthwise over half of each chicken piece. Tuck short ends in. Roll chicken up, starting at one long side, into tight cylinders. Tie ends with string to secure. Dip chicken in egg, allowing excess to drip into bowl. Roll in breadcrumbs, shaking off excess. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Refrigerate.)
Place chicken in 8-inch square baking dish. Pour 2 tablespoons melted butter over. Bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes.

For sauce:
Meanwhile, melt 1/4 cup butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add wine and boil 3 minutes. Add stock and boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and swirl in 4 tablespoons cold butter 1 piece at a time. Season sauce with salt and freshly ground pepper. Remove string from chicken. Cut rolls crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Fan on plates. Serve immediately, passing sauce separately.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

La Santisima Muerte: A Practitioner’s Overview (From WitchVox)

La Santisima Muerte: A Practitioner’s Overview

Author: Santa Muertero 
Posted: October 7th. 2012 
Times Viewed: 393 

La Flaka (the Skinny Lady) , La Huesuda (the Boney Lady) , La Niña (the Girl) , La Madrina (the Godmother) , Santa Muerte (“Saint” Death) ...these are all names given to a very powerful and popular folk saint from Mexico, La Santisima Muerte (the Most Holy Death) . Santisima Muerte is a very complex figure, having taken on Her most recent manifestation through the same Catholic land that provided the world with what is believed to be the most widely venerated face of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Although the Mexican Catholic priests and bishops denounce her as a figure of satanic worship, Santisima Muerte’s popularity over the last decade has exploded. From an estimated 500, 000 devotees a roughly ten years ago to possibly over 5 million today, it seems that Lady Death is wasting no time in making known Her presence and power among the living. Her devotion has now bled across Mexico’s borders into many other Latin American countries, as well as into the U.S. Many chapels and churches have been established in many places where Mexican immigrants have settled, but these visible establishments are in no way indicative of the number of private altars and shrines most keep in their homes, secretly in many cases.

So, what lies behind this exponential growth of an enigmatic, borderline occult figure, bearing the stark image of the European Grim Reaper, complete with skeleton, cloak, and scythe? What is the appeal of a constant reminder of our own mortality and inevitable death? Despite being labeled a “Narco Saint, ” whose tattoos give law enforcement officers reason to detain and discriminate, Santisima Muerte refuses to allow any establishment, including the Catholic Church, to slow the growth of Her devotion or sway the minds of those for whom She has performed miracles. In this article, I’d like to share my own personal beliefs about Santisima Muerte, stemming from the teaching I received from a person who lived in Mexico and studied under an Hechicero (sorcerer) , as well as my own experiences with La Milagrosa (the Miraculous One) . My hope is to provide those interested with a bit of information about Santisima Muerte and to help dispel much of the misinformation, causing La Santisima to be feared and demonized by Her many detractors.

For those seeking more information in the form of books and media, I recommend the following: La Santisima Muerte – A Mexican Folk Saint, by E. Bryant Holman; Devoted to Death – Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint, by Prof. R. Andrew Chestnut; and the 2008 DVD documentary, La Santa Muerte – Saint Death, directed by Eva Aridjis (with English subtitles) .

In the Beginning, God Created...

Exactly from where the current figure of La Santisima Muerte originated is very hard to say. There are theories that She is the revival of the pre-Hispanic Mexican goddess of death, Mitchecacihuatl, that She may be a re-invention of the female Grim Reaper from Spain, La Parca, that She was once a Mexican Catholic nun, and that She came from Italy with roots going all the way back to the Fates of ancient Greece. Regardless of all this, Santisima Muerte now presents Herself as the embodiment of Death itself, with power over life unrivaled by any other saint, spirit, or deity. However, there is one catch. She chose to manifest through a Catholic culture, and Catholic is how She sees Herself. The Catholic/Christian creation story has been tweaked to include Her, for as Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, Death entered the world as an active force. Santisima also takes credit for being the Angel of Death who reaped the first-born sons of Egypt in the Book of Exodus. However, Her most proud moment was when God ordered Santisima to reap His only Son, Jesus, and therefore Good Friday is Her most holy feast day, a close second/third being All Saints Day/All Souls Day.

La Muerte has usurped the position of a few traditional Catholic figures, such as St. Michael the Archangel in standing and power. She is considered to be “second in command” after God, for whatever God creates, Santisima takes away. However, She hasn’t given the pink slip to the well-known warrior saint like She has to a few others, such as St. Jude. Although Santisima requires Her own space, She does allow two figures of Catholic Mexico to remain close to Her. St. Michael guards and protects Her altars, statues, and devotees from dark forces, while Guadalupe is said to be Her sister or Her “light half.” 

Although Death is present the world over, and many religions and spiritual traditions have their own images and names for it, when calling upon Death as La Santisima Muerte, it is through the Catholic prayers, always asking God’s permission to invoke Her, that She works the best and responds to prayers. Removing her from this paradigm is something I strongly advise against. For those who are uncomfortable with the Catholic aspects, think of it as being respectful to a very powerful force. You don’t have to be Catholic yourself to pray to or work with Her, although the vast majority of Her devotees in Mexico consider themselves Catholics. I also advise against placing Santisima into the hierarchy of other spiritual systems, such as Neo-Pagan traditions and the Afro-Caribbean traditions, i.e. Santeria, Vodou, and Palo. She is a very proud spiritual being who enjoys Her own services and altar spaces, and no matter how much a person believes he or she knows about different spiritual systems and how they work, Santisima will always know more. 

...A Holy Trinity...

Although I recognize that there are other ways of working with Santisima Muerte and see where many others in Mexico have her wearing many different colored robes, the way She came to me, and the way in which I was taught, was through a tri-colored system. For me, Santisima wears only three robes: white, red, and black. When She wears the white robe, She is La Blanca (the White) . She is called La Roja (the Red) while wearing her crimson cloak, and She is La Negra (the Black) when She wraps around Her the shadows of the night. Each cloak alters Her personality, and therefore, She is approached differently according to the color of Her robe. However, like Her masculine counterpart, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Santisima is three persons in one, a feminine Holy Trinity.

La Blanca is the eldest and purest of the three. She sits at the right hand of God, and She is the one most devotees begin with. Peace, healing, cleansing and purifying are all within Her domain. Her highest blessing is the death of old age and a content heart. Her purity is such that it must be protected by covering Her statue when one has any major dealings with La Negra.

La Roja is the robe associated with worldly matters. Money, love, sex, the courts, business, and justice all fall within Her domain. She is a most accomplished love sorceress, and is famous for bringing back wandering lovers and husbands, especially when there are children involved. However, She is equally skilled at manipulating court systems in favor of Her devotees. The type of death La Roja is associated with tends to involve a bodily fluid the same color as Her robe.

La Negra, though, is the hottest and most dangerous robe of La Santisima. She can protect against the darkest forces, spirits, and witchcraft; even the demons of Hell fear Her. But just as She can protect against them, She can also send them. This is where we are reminded that Death stands outside of our human systems of ethics and morality. Although it’s believed that Santisima only reaps at the order of God, I sometimes wonder if La Negra may sometimes use Her feminine powers of persuasion to gain the consent of the Divine Almighty in certain cases involving the wishes of Her most devout devotees. Diseases are considered to be among La Negra’s children, and these are the majority of the deaths given over to Her.

It is within this complete system of La Blanca, La Roja, and La Negra that a spiritual worker dedicated to Santisima Muerte can petition La Muerte for any problem a person may have. The media-driven reputation She has for only being honored by drug dealers and criminals is but a fraction of the services She has to offer. The majority of Her devotees who know the three-colored path focus mainly on La Blanca and La Roja, leaving La Negra to the more experienced spiritual workers. 

...To Help the People.

There are essentially two levels of dealing with La Huesuda. The first and most general is that of the devotee. Santisima will receive offerings and prayers from anyone. Using Her own system of justice, She will weigh each prayer in Her scales and decide for Herself if She will grant the request. For most people She will perform miracles for them from time to time, however She does expect life-long devotion after that. But Death gets everyone in the end, either way it goes, and it’s because of this that She does not discriminate and accepts everyone. Whereas the Catholic Church will turn its back on homosexuals, criminals, those on the fringes of society, La Madrina welcomes them all with open arms.

The other level is that of spiritual worker. In Mexico, there are three general areas of spiritual workers, but the lines between these blur quite a bit, so it’s difficult to categorize every individual and his or her practices. Curanderos (male) and curanderas (female) tend to focus on healing and doing what would be considered “right hand” spiritual work. Hechiceros (as) tend to draw more from Native practices and can, as they say, work with both hands. Brujos (as) are generally thought to be more adept with darker workings, those of the so-called left hand path. Any of these can and do incorporate Santisima Muerte into their workings, as She is thought to have knowledge of all magical and spiritual systems, though She tends to think more highly of some than of others. 

Presently, there are many from outside of Mexico and its traditional systems who Santisima is calling upon to work with her. And rest assured, Santisima chooses the worker, not the other way around. A person can receive all the training associated with Her, but if She rejects the person there is nothing to be done about it. Among those She does choose I’ve noticed several similarities, such as an intimate knowledge of how to work with the dead and the dangers associated with venturing into her home, the cemetery. She very much loves and protects those within her home, and She appreciates it when Her workers honor their own ancestors. There also tends to be a working knowledge of a system similar to Afro-Caribbean spiritual practices, the hoodoo of the Southern U.S., and traditional folk magic in general. Also, She tends to work better and faster for those who treat Her like a Catholic saint and observe certain guidelines.

In the End, La Muerte

Far from being the satanic symbol of cartels and criminal activity, Santisima Muerte came into my life with a force so powerful and beautiful that it completely redefined my previous spiritual beliefs. Being touched by this Heavenly Power brings with it a new understanding of Death, its place within the cycle of Life, and renews the appreciation I have for each day I’m given. She is a mother, a sister, a protector, a healer, and so much more. Her devotion continues to grow every day, as She turns no one away.

She’s done so much for me in my life that, like many others, I’ve built a public shrine to Her outside my home where anyone can come to pray to Her and leave offerings. Those people She’s brought to me to learn about Her gather once a week to recite the Chaplet, pray to Her, and give Her offerings in my private indoor chapel. 

Death, as La Santisima Muerte, is rising to a much higher place than it’s been in recent history. Why this is happening remains to be seen. Perhaps this is due to the current state of our Western societies. Perhaps it’s due to some larger phase in human existence for which we are on the threshold. Most likely, those of us alive today may not know until we are finally embraced by Her boney arms and given Her eternal kiss.

Copyright: Copyright Steven Bragg 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

Will Soon Join........

I just started going to classes/demonstrations at the WILLIAM-SONOMA store at one of the malls here in San Antonio........I come to realize that I am having a blast at these things, along with getting 10% off of stuff in the store after class.........

One of the friends I have made at this/these demos has invited me to join up with the PAMPERED CHEF, and I am going to do so toward the end of the month. It really could help me in my other little venture of being a personal cook/chef as well with the networking it does. It couldn't hurt me any........

Well, all in all I am doing okay for the most part........had a serious sinus infection some weeks back, and now I am dealing with a pinched nerve in my shoulder which is hindering me at work, so I have to get it checked out this weekend before returning to work on Monday.

Finally picked up what I needed for my Halloween costume at Spirit Of Halloween today after work which was fun. Spent just short of $40, which to me wasn't to bad for what I got. Will post pics of what happens through out the month..........

Well  please enjoy the recipes I have posted from Epicurious (precious posting) for the month. Yes I will find more recipes to join the Haunted Cooking

A few Halloween Recipes

Pumpkin TurnoversEpicurious | October 2012
by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith, and Evangelina Soza
Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor
Empanadas de Calabaza
At our house we welcome fall with sweet, tasty empanadas made with fresh pumpkin. The pumpkin simmering with piloncillo, cinnamon, and cloves gives off a sweet and earthy scent, reminding us that fall has arrived. To this day, whenever I smell cinnamon it evokes great memories of mi mamá baking in the kitchen. During the fall she would request that I bring her a pumpkin so she could make her delicious homemade pies and empanadas. She preferred the green striped pumpkins or the dark green ones, saying they were meatier. But if I could not find those, the orange ones were acceptable. She always made things work.
Yield: Makes 24 empanadas
Fresh Pumpkin Filling
4 to 5 pound pumpkin (orange or striped)
2 cups water
3 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
16 ounces piloncillo or 2 cups packed dark brown sugar

Empanada Dough
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Canned evaporated milk or egg white
Cinnamon-sugar mixture (1 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed with 1/4 cup sugar)
Make pumpkin filling:
Rinse off the exterior of the pumpkin in cool or warm water, no soap. Using a serrated knife cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the pumpkin seeds. Scrape out the stringy layer (pulp) with a spoon. Discard seeds and pulp. Cut pumpkin into 3- to 4-inch slices leaving the skin on.
In a steamer or large pot, steam the pumpkin in the 2 cups of water, making sure to keep the lid on tight, for 20 to 40 minutes, or until pumpkin is tender. The pumpkin is ready when your fork slides easily into the flesh.
Let the pumpkin cool. Once cooled, scoop the pumpkin flesh off the skins and into a mixing bowl. Discard the skins. Mash the steamed pumpkin with a potato masher and strain the liquid into a bowl. Reserve the liquid and set pumpkin puree aside.
In the same large pot, put the reserved liquid from the pumpkin (about 1/2 to 2/3 cup) and add cinnamon sticks and cloves. Bring liquid to a boil and then remove from the heat. Replace lid and let steep for 30 minutes.
Remove cinnamon and cloves and add pumpkin puree to the liquid. Add the piloncillo and over medium-low heat let it melt into the pumpkin puree, stirring occasionally so it will not burn or stick to the pot. The pumpkin puree will turn a dark color with the piloncillo making it sweeter.
Once the piloncillo has melted, lower the heat to low and let simmer uncovered until all the water evaporates. Remove from heat and allow pumpkin puree to cool down before refrigerating, about 15 minutes.
To help puree set, place in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight. If some liquid separates, remove it with a spoon before using so the filling is not watery.
You can make the empanada dough after your filling has chilled.

Make empanada dough: 
Mix the first 3 dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening. It is best to use your hands. Add the eggs, milk, sugar, and cinnamon. Continue to work in with your hands until you have a soft dough. Split the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Assemble and bake empanadas:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Take out half the dough and split it into 12 equal balls of dough.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough balls into small round circles. Place a small dollop of pumpkin filling on one half of each of the dough circles. Wet the bottom edge of the circles with water to help seal the two halves. Fold over the dough to cover filling and seal off the edges with a fork by pressing down along the edges. This also makes for a pretty pattern when baked. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Brush each empanada with some canned evaporated milk or egg whites, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Puncture the top of each empanada with a fork to allow steam to escape while baking.
Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray, place the empanadas on the cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes on middle rack in the oven. If after 15 minutes you notice the bottoms of the empanadas starting to brown, move the cookie sheet to the top rack and continue to bake for the last 5 minutes, until golden brown.
Enjoy the empanadas warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate baked empanadas for a few days. Reheat in a toaster oven or bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

Source Information
From Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor by by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith, and Evangelina Soza, © 2012 Hippocrene Books

El Chupacabra Martini Epicurious | October 2012
by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith, and Evangelina Soza
Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor
Translated into English as "the Goat Sucker," El Chupacabra is a mythical creature known for its nocturnal prowling and as the culprit in weird livestock deaths. There are various descriptions of the creature, which is believed to be heavy, the size of a small bear, with a row of spines stretching from head to tail. Maybe you've heard the silly stories. My fascination with this mythical creature inspired me to invent a drink as its namesake. This martini is infused with fiery red blood orange juice and the explosive Brazilian aphrodisiac açaí, making this an exotic bright red cocktail full of drama and flavor. Açaí juice is actually very healthy and has 33 times the antioxidant content of red wine grapes. Hints of guava and pineapple nectar in this drink are fruits from Puerto Rico (where Chupacabra sightings were first reported). The understated tones of coconut rum make this drink equally dangerous, so sip with caution.
Yield: Makes2 Drinks
Freshly squeezed juice of 4 blood oranges or 1 cup orange juice
4 ounces coconut rum
2 ounces açaí juice
1 ounce guava nectar
1 ounce pineapple nectar
1 cup crushed ice
1 blood orange, sliced, for garnish
1 star fruit, sliced (optional), for garnish
In a cocktail shaker combine all ingredients with ice. Shake until blended and then strain into 2 martini glasses.
Garnish each glass with a blood orange slice or a star fruit slice. Serve.

Source Information
From Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor by by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith, and Evangelina Soza, © 2012 Hippocrene Books

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies Gourmet Live | November 2011
by Gina Marie Miraglia Enriquez
Pumpkin pie is, hands down, the most iconic Thanksgiving dessert. And something that predictable can get to be, well, a tad boring after a while. This year, you can tell your friends you're serving pumpkin pie, and you will be, but it will be in a new, much more fun incarnation: whoopie pies! Any kids at the table will be squealing with delight, and the adults will be, too, when they sink their teeth into the moist pumpkin cake layers and bourbon cream cheese filling. Reminders of that other icon, pecan pie, turn up as chopped bits of candied pecans around the edge of the filling.
Yield: Makes 16 sandwich cookies
Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 1/2 hours
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Candied pecans:
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 tablespoon water
1/2 cup pecans

6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional; substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

Special equipment: 2 large baking sheets; parchment paper; 1-ounce round ice cream scoop (optional; see Cooks' Notes)
For cookie-cakes:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices in a bowl.
Whisk together sugar, oil, pumpkin, egg, and vanilla in a separate large bowl until well combined, then stir in flour mixture.
Using a 1-ounce ice cream scoop or tablespoon measure, drop a scant scoop's worth of batter or 2 scant tablespoons of batter onto a lined baking sheet to form 1 mound. Make 15 more mounds, arranging them 2 inches apart until baking sheet is full (you will have batter left over).
Bake until springy to the touch, 12 to 18 minutes. Transfer cookie-cakes to rack to cool.
Form and bake remaining batter on the other parchment-lined sheet. You should have a total of 32 cookie-cakes.
Leave oven on.

For candied pecans:
Line a small sheet pan with parchment paper.
Stir together sugar, salt, and 1/2 tablespoon water in a small saucepan. Heat over moderate heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to a boil. Stir in pecans.
Spread mixture on lined sheet pan and bake until coating is bubbling and golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Cool completely on pan on a rack.
Coarsely chop candied pecans.

For filling:
While cookie-cakes are baking, beat cream cheese, butter, and salt in a bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add confectioners' sugar and bourbon and mix on low speed until smooth.
Chill filling until firm enough to hold its shape when spread, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Assemble whoopie pies:
Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of filling each on flat side of half the cooled cookie-cakes, then top with other half of cookie-cakes. If necessary, chill whoopie pies just long enough to firm up filling again, about 30 minutes.
Gently press pecans onto filling around middle of each whoopie pie to help them adhere to filling.

Cooks' Notes:
•If you want perfectly round cakes, a 1-ounce ice cream scoop is a worthwhile investment, because you can use it for so many other baking projects, in addition to ice cream.
•Cookie-cakes can be baked 1 day ahead, and kept on racks at room temperature, covered with a kitchen towel.
•Filling can be made 1 day ahead, and chilled, covered.
•Pecans can be candied 3 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

Sweet Preserved Pumpkin Epicurious | October 2012
by Zarela Martinez
The Food and Life of Oaxaca: Traditional Recipes from Mexico's Heart
(Calabaza en Tacha)

The Days of the Dead (November 1 and 2) are not only one of the most dramatic of Oaxacan fiestas but among the most family-centered. Altars dedicated to los difuntos ("departed ones") appear everywhere—outside churches, on shop premises, and especially at family grave sites and in the home, where everyone is preparing for the annual reunion with late friends and relatives. At this time every marketplace in Oaxaca blazes with piles—absolute mountains&8212;of fuschia-red cockscombs and intense orange marigolds. Tall sugarcanes with long fronds and huge banana leaves tower like jungles nearby. The flowers will be used to adorn the altars and the giant fronds to mark arched entries for the souls of loved ones to pass through.

People buy their late cousin's favorite kind of cigarettes or their departed father's usual beer to place on the home altar. The other offerings usually include fresh fruit, candies in all kinds of macabre memento mori shapes, decorated breads made from a sweet egg-enriched dough like that for Pan Resobado, and this traditional spiced preserved pumpkin. Every home altar holds a plate of Calabaza en Tacha—an offering that represents about four days' labor of love.

The pumpkin—I use a regular Halloween pumpkin or sometimes the green West Indian type—is soaked first in a solution of the same cal (slaked lime) used to treat corn for tortillas. The alkali makes it firm enough to absorb the sugar without disintegrating. Oaxacan cooks like to make the preserve very sweet; I have slightly reduced the amount of sugar. It may not be traditional, but I like to serve it with vanilla ice cream.

I find that using fresh sugarcane as a support on which to arrange the pieces of pumpkin is a handy and flavorful trick (though not an indispensable part of the recipe). Look for it at Latin American and other tropical groceries; it can also be found as a specialty produce item in some large supermarkets.
Yield: 12 servings
One 7- to 8-pound pumpkin
1/2 to 3/4 cup cal (slaked lime)
4 or 5 short chunks (3 to 4 inches) fresh sugarcane, optional
3 1/2 pounds Mexican brown loaf sugar (panela or piloncillo) or 3 1/2 pounds (about 8 cups) dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons allspiece berries, bruised
1 6-inch piece canela
Cut the pumpkin into 6 equal wedges. Remove and discard the seeds and stringy pulp, then cut each wedge in half crosswise. Prick the rind all over with the tines of a fork to help the slaked lime solution and sugar penetrate.
Pour 5 quarts cold water into a stainless-steel or heavy-duty plastic bucket. Add 1/2 cup of the slaked lime and stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve thoroughly. Taste the solution; it should have a noticeably astringent "bite." If not, stir in more lime a tablespoon at a time. Add the pumpkin wedges and loosely cover the bucket. Let stand overnight (about 10 hours) in a cool dark place.
The next day, remove the pumpkin and rinse well under cold running water. The texture should now be firm.
Prepare a large heatproof earthenware vessel or non-reactive stockpot. You have to make a sort of prop in the center to lean the pieces of pumpkin against. For flavor as well as support, use the optional chunks of sugarcane placed together in a bunch. Or simply place one of the curved pieces of pumpkin in the center. In either case, rest the wedges of pumpkin, skin side out, against the supporting "platform," arranging them like petals coming out from the center.
Using a hammer, break up the loaf sugar into small pieces (no larger than 1/2 inch) and scatter over the pumpkin. Add the allspice and canela. Add enough water to cover the pumpkin by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat; cover the pot loosely and simmer over very low heat for 5 hours. Remove from the heat and let stand overnight, uncovered or just loosely covered.
The next day, return the pumpkin to a simmer over low heat and cook for 5 hours. Let stand again overnight. On the third day, return to a simmer; this time any remaining syrup should be absorbed after 2 to 3 hours. Watch very closely as the syrup disappears, since the dish tends to scorch easily at this point. Let cool completely before serving; it will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 1 week.

Ingredient Notes: 
Cal is sold as "slaked lime" at pharmacies and building-supply stores in the U.S. One ounce equals about 1/4 cup.

At herb and spice stores, ask for "soft-stick cinnamon" or "Ceylon cinnamon." This is our canela.

Source Information
Reprinted with permission from The Food and Life of Oaxaca: Traditional Recipes from Mexico's Heart by Zarela Martinez. © 1997 Wiley

by Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez
We guarantee you'll be cackling with delight as you roll and stretch bread dough into these shockingly realistic gnarled fingers, from the fungus-green almond-slice nails with bloody cuticles, to the pretzel-salt warts. Turn these into the centerpiece of a Halloween party and get your kids or your friends in on the action. Give prizes for the scariest and most realistic. Above all, let your freak flag fly high!
Yield: Makes 4 dozen fingers and 1 1/4 cups dip
Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 1/2 hours
For dough:
1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F to 115°F)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

For fingers:
10 drops green food coloring
48 sliced almonds or peanut halves
8 drops red food coloring, diluted with 1/4 teaspoon water
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water (egg wash)
1/2 tablespoon pretzel salt or coarse sea salt

For dip:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup coarse-grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup or mild honey

Special equpment: Stand mixer with paddle attachment and dough hook; 1 or 2 small paintbrushes
For dough:
Stir together water, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until sugar is dissolved; let stand until yeast bubbles, about 5 minutes.
Beat in 1 cup of flour on low speed until combined.
Clean dough from paddle, then attach dough hook. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 2 1/2 cups flour to mixture and beat until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 3 minutes. (If dough is too sticky, add enough of 1/2 cup remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is no longer sticky.)
Oil a large bowl and transfer dough to bowl, then turn dough over to coat it with oil. Cover bowl with a dry towel, then let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until it is double in size, about 1 hour.

For fingers:
While dough is rising, place green food coloring in a small bowl, and using a paintbrush, paint one side of the almond slices or the rounded side of the peanut halves.
Heat oven to 450°F with rack in middle. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Divide dough into quarters. Work with 1 piece at a time, and keep remaining dough covered.
Roll one quarter into a 12-inch log, then cut it into 12 (1-inch) pieces.
Dust work surface with additional flour, if necessary, to facilitate rolling. Roll and stretch each piece into a craggy 5-inch "finger." Transfer fingers to baking sheets and let stand at warm room temperature, loosely covered with a smooth kitchen towel, until fingers are slightly puffed, 15 minutes.
Pinch top of fingers to look like knuckles, then lightly score each knuckle with a sharp knife.
Brush fingers with egg wash, then press on nails. With cleaned paintbrush, dab a little red color around the cuticles. Sprinkle fingers all over with pretzel or coarse sea salt.
Bake fingers until deep golden, about 15 minutes (form more fingers while first batch is baking). Transfer to a rack to cool.
Repeat forming and baking in batches with remaining dough.

For dip:
Whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, and maple syrup until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Cooks' Notes:
•Witch's Finger Bread Sticks are best eaten the day they are made, but they can be made 1 day ahead and kept, tightly wrapped, in a resealable plastic bag, or frozen 1 week. Remove from bag and rewarm on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven before eating.

Happy Haunted Cooking