The wheel of the year turns on, and we arrive at the Sabbat of Yule on the winter solstice, when the sun enters Capricorn (December 20-22.) On this longest night of the year, we gather friends and family around the hearth fires, to jingle bells, feast on the sweet and savory, toast the wassail, and regale each other in song and story until the wee morning hours. We sit vigil to the birth of the new baby sun, the infant God reborn anew to the Goddess. Like the New Year’s traditions of old, we welcome “baby new year.”
Yule is the celebration of hope, returning light and life, even in the heart of the darkest night. Like the yin/yang symbol, each pole contains the essence of the other side. At Summer Solstice, when the light was strongest, we faced the defeat of the sun and the long dark shadows cast before us. Here at the Winter Solstice, in the cold and dark, we acknowledge that the darkness is defeated by the light once more and will grow stronger and the days longer each day from here.
In the Great Work, we’ve been “holding the space” since Samhain, reflecting on the previous year’s intentions, their harvest and what we’ve learned. Up until now we’ve been letting go of what no longer serves our highest good, clearing the fields, cleaning and putting away our tools. Now, the metaphorical snows have fallen to blanket the world in pure white, obscuring what was, so we can begin to imagine what could be. This is the purification and the starting fresh. This is the blank page, the primed canvas, awaiting inspiration.
With the dawning of Yule we turn the inner eye into the future. We stare deeply into the void of potential and play midwife to the birth of “what’s next,” and over the course of the next 6 weeks, until Imbolc, we will remain open to the messages of Spirit about what the next Great Work for us should entail. (See my Great Work: Holding the Space post on more about this process of remaining opening to the messages from Spirit. See my Imbolc recipes post for the next step in the Great Work.)
Here are some of my favorite Yule recipes that have helped to warm the cockles of the heart, and bring cheer to all at this most joyous of holiday seasons. Note, that so many of our “holiday” spices of cinnamon, orange, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, etc, all have solar and fire magickal associations. Wassail punch is a traditional alcoholic beverage at this time, as well as Mulled Cider, his non-alcoholic first cousin. For more information and another great traditional recipe, check out this article at Nourished Kitchen. These drinks become solar potions that actually do heat you up, but also would bring you in resonance with the newly returning solar energies. Merry Yuletides!
2 quarts apple cider (I prefer the organic, murky stuff in the refrigerated section over the refined clear apple juice in the aisles. But sometimes the cider needs a bit of sweetening with some honey.)
2 cups orange juice
2 cups brandy, or spiced rum (I prefer Captain Morgans.)
1 tablespoon dried All-spice berries
2 cinnamon sticks
1 small orange, sliced into 4-5 rings
1 tablespoon whole cloves
Slice the orange into rings and stud the peel with the whole cloves (this is pretty, but it also helps to keep the cloves from being scooped up into your cup this way, and that can make for some floating fire bombs in your cup.) In a crock pot, set to warm, add all the ingredients and let warm for several hours before serving. This is called “mulling.” If you would like to serve it to the kids, simply leave out the alcohol. You can also add a splash of ginger-ale to give it some kick and bubble for the little ones.
Veggie Wreath Appetizer
2 (8 oz.) packages of refrigerated crescent roll dough
1 (8oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups finely chopped green vegetables, like broccoli, bell peppers, green onions, cucumbers)
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove dough from cans in rolled sections, but do not unroll. Slice each dough section to yield 8 rounds each, 16 per package. Place a small round bowl, inverted on a cookie sheet. Arrange flat dough slices around the bowl to form a wreath shape, then arrange an outer ring. The slices should all be touching each other, but do not press together. Remove the bowl and and bake for 11-13 minutes or until golden brown. Cool one minute; loosen with spatula and slide off onto a serving platter to cool completely.
In a small bowl, add cream cheese, sour cream, dill and garlic powder and blend until smooth. Spread the mixture over the wreath and then top with the green vegetables to form the foliage. Sprinkle the red bell pepper to form the berries. Red pepper slices can also be used to form a bow. Refrigerate.
Deck the Halls Torta
(Makes 3 tortas)
1 1/2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 2/3 cups cream cheese, room temp.
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/3 cups drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 cup tomato paste
3/4 cup butter, room temp.
salt and pepper
slices of toasted baguette or crackers
In food processor, finely chop garlic. Add basil, pine nuts, oil and lemon juice. Process until well blended. Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and parmesan cheese. Using on/off turns, process until just blended. Transfer pesto to a medium bowl.
Again in food processor, coarsely chop tomatoes. Add tomato paste and process until almost smooth. Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and blend well.
Using an electric mixer, beat 2 cups cream cheese and butter in bowl until fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.
Spray 3 2-cup souffle dishes or bowls with non-stick spray. Line with plastic wrap as smoothly as you can manage, extending plastic over sides. To assemble, you will layer all three mixtures so that they have white, red and green stripes when finished. To begin, spread 1/4 cup of cream cheese mixture evenly on bottom of each dish. Next, divide tomato mixture into thirds and layer in each dish. Follow with a layer of 1/4 cup of cream cheese mixture in each dish. again, divide pesto mixture into thirds and distribute into each dish. For the final layer, divide remaining cream cheese mixture into thirds and distribute into each dish. Smooth evenly and fold plastic wrap over the sides to cover. Chill over-night. If you only need one torte, you can wrap the remaining two and freeze for up to 3 months then thaw for about 24 hours in the refrigerator prior to serving.
To serve, Invert chilled torta onto platter. Peel off plastic. Garnish with basil sprigs and toasted pine nuts. Serve with crackers or toasted baguette slices.
Sondra’s Chicken Divine
This was one of the most requested of all my mother’s recipes, especially at any holiday gathering. Whenever my sister and I would visit mom after we’d left home, she would be sure to have one waiting for us. This is especially a good recipe to make in advance in a disposable pan and freeze for later, or for taking to sick, recovering or grieving friends. My mother was always the best for arriving at just the right moment to support a friend with a hot meal. I share this family recipe in honor of her.
1 package Uncle Ben’s wild rice with original seasonings
3 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed.
2 can’s cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
a dash of white pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
3-4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tubes of while wheat Ritz crackers, crushed
3 Tablespoons melted butter
sprinkles of paprika
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Assemble this casserole in a large, deep baking dish. First layer: Prepare rice according to package instructions then spread in the bottom of the dish. Second layer: Evenly spread the broccoli over the rice. Third layer: Blend soup, mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, pepper, chicken, broccoli and 1 cup of the cheese in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Spread evenly over the broccoli. Fourth Layer: spread remaining cheese over the chicken mixture. Topping: Crush the crackers and blend with the melted butter, then spread over the cheese. Sprinkle paprika over the crackers. Cover with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes or until bubbling at the edges. Remove foil and brown for a few minutes more. Let stand a few minutes before serving.