Archive for December, 2011
*Times are Pacific Standard Time, unless stated otherwise. Planetary positions are expressed as the degree (rounded to the nearest whole degree) followed by the sign.
**If you aren’t already, be sure to follow Sher Astrology on Twitter to keep up with the daily astrological events.
Are you wondering why you feel some of the transits we talk about and not others or why a friend may feel one but you don’t? If the transiting planet affects a planet in your natal chart, that is, where the planets were at the time you were born, then you are more likely to feel the transit or may feel it stronger than one that does not affect a planet in your natal chart. Don’t have a chart? Would you like one? Let us know.
Winter Solstice arrives on December 21st at 9:30 pm as the Sun moves from high-flying Sagittarius into down-to-earth Capricorn. While each sign seems to be an antidote to its immediate predecessor in the zodiac, each one also comes equipped with the capability to take the gift of the preceding sign to the next level. According to Dane Rudhyar in The Universal Matrix, Capricorn “gives stability and substance to the metaphysical, religious or social enthusiasm of Sagittarian thinkers, seers and prophets. It establishes the dream into the soil of human collectivities and makes it take root in normality – in our ‘common humanity.’ Capricorn puts to practical use what Sagittarius has released. It builds substantial vehicles for the operation of ideas, engines for the operation of new powers, a body for the divine Spirit to function through, states and empires to serve the purpose of social revolution and social creativeness. Through states and empires, Capricorn glorifies and perpetuates culture-building power and those that hold collective power.” The Sun in Capricorn gives us our annual opportunity to focus on the foundations and structures of our lives and to build them up using the elements of our life’s purpose. Tuning into our internal CEO could give us the inspiration we need to take charge of our lives and slowly but steadily steer it towards our goals.
The Capricorn ingress is the chart most frequently used by mundane astrologers to analyze the energies that will be in play in the coming year for sovereign nations. For the United States, we look at the chart based in Washington, D.C., December 22nd, 12:30:03 am EST, which features the Sun 0° Capricorn 00’ in the third house of communication and short distance travel straddling the IC with Pluto in the fourth house of home. The focus of the powers that be in our government will therefore in 2012 likely turn to our country’s domestic challenges. Mars is rising in the east in Virgo, the sign of service, in the twelfth house of secrets, institutions and self-undoing. Will this bring greater awareness and attention to serving the needs of the masses or will those needs continue to be placed in the closet while tending to the needs of the few? Clandestine military maneuvers are also probable. Retrograde Jupiter is setting in the west, in Taurus in the seventh house of significant relationships, known enemies and contracts, and within orb of an opposition to Saturn in the first house of self. What challenges might these two pose for us? Saturn demands that we be forthright and disciplined. Jupiter will expand whatever is foremost in our minds – positive or negative. Are we focusing on our blessings or our misfortunes? Focusing on the poor economy, unemployment and other negatives could exacerbate the existing conditions. TIME’s Person of the Year “The Protestor” will certainly have a lot to shout out about in 2012 as the Uranus/Pluto first quarter square tightens its grip. The Moon, which represents the people, is in Scorpio in the second house of personal finances, how money is made and what is valued. The Moon is in the balsamic phase, the last of the waning crescent and going dark, possibly meaning that the needs of the 99% may be overlooked again in this election year. Mercury in Sagittarius joins the Sun in the third house asking for dialog about issues that are close to home. Our collective philosophies and belief systems ask to be addressed but, as Mercury is unaspected, the discourse may fall on deaf ears.
On December 22nd, six and half hours after the winter solstice, the Moon leaves fixed water Scorpio for mutable fire Sagittarius, leaving no planets in water signs for more than six days. This means that we will need to make a more conscious effort to tune into our emotions and those of others. Resist the temptation to stay numb over the holidays. Connecting with others on an emotional level, even if it seems negative, can be cathartic, especially if done with even a hint of conscious self-observance. Nine hours after entering Capricorn the Sun has the first of a series of major aspects during this period that offers up the theme of creativity, will, vitality, and perhaps most importantly the heart, the symbolic center of our being. When the Sun trines Jupiter, still retrograde but stationing at 0° Taurus 23’ it has the potential to pump up us with enthusiasm and add a sense of philosophical purpose to our daily lives. With the Sun in ambitious Capricorn and Jupiter in resource-conscious Taurus, both practical earth signs, we may find sensible tools to manifest our desired future for the coming year. And perhaps surprisingly original ones as, less than eight hours later, the Sun squares Uranus at 0° Aries 42’. We may also feel pulled by conservative or radical forces, depending on which side of the fence we’re on and how these aspects are hitting our natal charts. Uranus in Aries is the call of freedom squared, which liberates the mind of standard notions and formulas that inhibit the magic of invention. The Sun in Capricorn favors the inch-by-inch, brick-by-brick stable, reliable (i.e. predictable) approach to life building. Insisting on a truthful dialogue between the extremes of these two positions could foster a significant break-through where we most need it.
The New Moon on December 24th at 2° Capricorn 34’ sets the tone for the coming month. What better time for planting new seeds than Christmas Eve as we celebrate both giving and receiving. However, the annual conjunction of the Sun and Moon in industrious Capricorn strengthens selfish ambitions. Being so concerned with organizing, building and running the world, Capricorn does not always feel the love and so can act without conscience to achieve its goals. Amplified by the trine to stationing Jupiter and Square to Uranus, this New Moon is a powerful one so it is important to be conscious of what is motivating us. Under the influence of this heavy Capricorn energy, we could lose sight of our own humanity. Only if we are empowered with a higher purpose will the means justify the end. “We envision a future society,” says Rudhyar, “in which every individual who, having consecrated his or her life to the whole of humanity in Libra, having felt the power of our common humanity in Scorpio, and having seen the Pattern of a truly universal Order in Sagittarius, attempts to courageously and in utter self-sacrifice to perform, in Capricorn, the creative act of positive participation in the building of the new global society. In Capricorn, everyone can become an incarnation. This is the zodiacal Promise, the eternal “Glad News.”
Merry Christmas Day, December 25th, Jupiter stations direct at 0° Taurus 21’. Hopefully this will translate into a truly joyous day with our hearts expanding to encompass the universe. Excess is also possible, but what would Christmas be without a little over-indulgence? Now we enter a period of more than four weeks during which no planets will be retrograde and forward motion will seem easier. While the general energy may feel like full speed ahead, there is also a point of caution as both Mars and Saturn are slowing down and in their shadows (in the degree space that will be revisited during their upcoming retrogrades). With Mars having slowed down to just slightly more than 1/3 its normal speed, it may be more advisable to concentrate our energy on existing projects rather than starting new ones.
On December 28th the Sun completes its trio of aspects with the outer planets as it conjuncts Pluto at 7° Capricorn 13’. After walking through the expansive trine to wise Jupiter and the fractious square to rebellious Uranus, the Sun, which represents our Spirit, touches deep and profound places with Pluto, the source of our power. In Capricorn, this combo could bring forth a ruthless nature that could quash just about anything it wants to, and an intense will that can move mountains. Imagine what we could accomplish with this power if it were purified by a divine purpose. Then we could become a steward for real effective change.
On December 30th the Moon in Pisces goes void-of-course at 5:37 am for the next 20 hours giving us ample time to review our dreams of the past year and have a sense of which one we will ride on into the new year. Best to do this now as tomorrow will leave no room for reflection.
The last day of the year, December 31st, starts with the Moon charging into Aries ensuring all eyes will be forward to the year ahead and not sentimentalizing about days gone by. As the year draws to a close on the west coast, Mercury finally leaves its shadow at 20° Sagittarius 07’, ready to tread fresh ground in our way of perceiving and making new contacts. One hour later, at 10:14 pm, the Moon at 10° Aries 13’ makes the first quarter square to the Sun at 10° Capricorn 13’ and 10 minutes later Mercury at 20° Sagittarius 10’ makes a first quarter square to Mars at 20° Virgo 10’. This brings 2011 to an end on the west coast with a “crises of action” making it a potentially contentious rather than celebratory New Year’s Eve. The tests we encounter between what we feel (Moon) and what our hearts will (Sun) will be juxtaposed to the clashes between what we think (Mercury) and what we want (Mars). With the Sun and Mars in realistic earth signs and the Moon and Mercury in inspirational fire, we could best be supported if we look for balanced cooperation above the noise of complaint. Rather than succumbing to argument get out the Erector Set and build a bridge of hope into the New Year.
As 2012 begins the planets seem to be giving each other the silent treatment, as there are no major exact aspects between them until January 7th. However, we aren’t completely free of the astral dialogue as the Moon makes her rounds, touching every one of them during this time. With no other planets in water signs (other than the Moon) until Venus enters Pisces on January 13th, this makes the Moon our main resource for emotional awareness. While the Sun represents our Spirit, the Moon represents our Soul, which has the wisdom gained from living this all before. As we move into the symbolic new chapter of our lives in the legendary 2012, we would do well to look to the Moon and what she reflects back to remind us of what we’ve learned and the leaps we’ve taken to get where we are at this moment in history.
As we enter the winter season, Mercury has now gone back to its regular, direct motion and on Dec. 25th, 2011, when Jupiter turns direct, none of the planets will be in retrograde. This will be true until Jan. 24th, 2012 when Mars goes retrograde. I will be writing a great deal about this very significant transit later. Actually, it is not rare to have one or more planets in retrograde. Most of the time at least one planet is in retrograde motion. What is rare is to have all of the planets moving forward as they are about to be. This means that we can move forward in the latter part of this year and the first three weeks of January quite easily. The energy for this is there, but that may not help unless one can push past the inertia or lack of desire for movement that often occurs during the holiday season and the first few weeks of January. It may feel like a push-pull which will require us to really decide if we want to engage in action or wait until it feels better.
Having said this though, Mars is now moving much more slowly than it does normally. It usually moves almost one degree a day. But, right now it will only go about one degree per week. This tells us that the normal speedy Martian desire for movement is just not there. Many of us may be sensing this already. Hopefully this information will help us in that we can know that it isn’t just us feeling lazy. To act, we will have to really be conscious about it.
Right now, we are at the end of a Moon cycle. It is called the balsamic phase and lasts until the New Moon, which occurs on Dec. 24 at 10:06am PST. This is a phase of slowing down as the energy that began at the last new moon is running out. It is a time for evaluating where you are and looking forward to the coming new beginnings made possible by the next New Moon. The New Moon on the 24th is at 2°Capricorn which means that it is very cardinal. The Sun has now reached the bottom of its descent (latitude) and is now returning towards the north. We won’t feel it for several months, but the days will be getting longer again. So, even though the winter months represent dormancy in the northern hemisphere, new beginnings are both possible now and encouraged. But there is a caveat. With Mars going retrograde, something it only does once every two years, we can’t really depend on being able to start something completely new. What? OK, then. So, what is possible?
What is possible now is thinking about new ideas, new directions, and new possibilities. I have found that long before I actually make a significant change in my life that it is prepared for by many months, or sometimes years, of thought about it. It can’t go from the idea realm to the manifestation realm without having to go through many steps and even many levels of both contemplation and research. This New Moon is interesting because it contains an exact square to Uranus, the planet of sudden shifts, revolutions and independence. So, the next month is a time to consider major and even radical new ideas and concepts of where you would like to go in the coming future. It is not an ideal time to start completely new projects, though if you are in one now, it is necessary to use this time to move strongly towards furthering its development. And, if you can, try to bring it to some kind of completion.
The best use of this time period is to be very open to new ideas of what is possible for you.
Along with the square to Uranus, this New Moon also trines Jupiter. This is what makes me believe that there are a lot of opportunities presenting themselves. They may not be spectacular as Jupiter is in the stable earth sign of Taurus, but they can be important in a practical way that should not be underestimated. What we do now has a very good chance of succeeding. And, the more you have done the research and the ‘due diligence’, the better the odds.
This holiday season has Venus in Aquarius dominating the landscape. It is a great time for socializing, connecting with family and friends in a casual way that brings people together. Lively communication, some of it even being a bit out there is the way things can go. It should be a fun time for all of us. Maybe there will even be some sharing of astrological ideas. It can certainly stir up a party.
So, here’s wishing you a very happy holiday season.
I don’t know if it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s most indulgent, and as we all know, sometimes the most stressful. For one month there’s suddenly so much to do on top of normal living – the decorating, the shopping, the social engagements. But for me, the most frustrating part of the holidays is trying to figure out what presents to give. We all know what it’s like to rush shopping malls in desperation, where they willingly pack the isles with items we would never consider buying for people if we were in our right mind. (Oh admit it. Would you really want a cotton candy machine?)
There’s one person who I never have to second guess. Years ago I started a tradition of giving my mechanic Harry a basket of home-baked cookies. The thing is, be careful which traditions you start, as they will become expectations (and believe me, when you live in Los Angeles, you want to be very, very good to your mechanic). Now the assorted baked goodies are so anticipated that he starts dropping hints as early as October (I guess, just in case I forget. Ha.) One year I made a big batch of my grandmother’s famous spaghetti sauce, filled some nice mason jars and gave them to friends with fresh pasta and a big colander. Everyone loved it, and all I heard was how it was the best sauce they’ve ever tasted. (Don’t thank me – thank Nana!)
So I’m dedicating one last Dine Like Your Sign! to a suggestion of homemade gifts from your kitchen for each sign. Sure, you can pick up a box of assorted chocolates or those boring Danish butter cookies no one likes but will still eat when all the good stuff is gone. OR you can whip up some magic in your kitchen that is both sentimental and sensational. Make a tradition of your own. There are all kinds of wonderful delights you can create – fresh baked cookies, breads or muffins, or mason jars filled with dry mix recipes so they easily whip up their own goodies with a few ‘wet’ ingredients. For those with less of a sweet tooth (huh?), what about herb and spice blends or infused oils and vinegars in elegant bottles. Your creativity will also flourish coming up with ideas to decoratively wrap the gifts. And it’s even more fun (and less work) if you invite a friend over and spend an afternoon creating in the kitchen keeping pace with some classic Christmas tunes. Not only will it make for a mini-holiday party of your own, but it’s a whole lot more fun than spending an afternoon trying to find a parking spot at the mall and wresting the last foot massager away from that little old lady. (She had it coming.)
And don’t forget you-know-who.
(You don’t want to end up on the Naughty List again!)
Ho Ho Ho-liday Contest !!!
It looks like Christmas is coming a little early this year, because we’re having another Dine Like Your Sign Contest! Everyone has been so supportive in all the issues of DLYS! that I wanted to say a very special thank you. So here’s what I’m going to do…
- Send in your name, mailing address and astrological sign to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line reading DLYS! CONTEST.
- We’ll have a random drawing to choose not one, but TWO winners!
- The First Place Winner will be able to choose one item from any of the twelve editions of DLYS! If the winner happens to live in the Los Angeles Area, I will put on my apron and come to your home to make the recipe for you! (Or deliver it pre-made, if you prefer.) If the winner does NOT live in the Los Angeles Area, you can still choose any item from the entire year of DLYS! (as long as it is non-perishable) and I will send it as fast as the reindeer can fly.
- The Second Place Winner will receive the corresponding goodie for their astrological sign from this Special Holiday Issue of DLYS!
Note: Previous winners from DLYS! Cancer Contest are not eligible. So sorry Barbara & Dee!
The deadline is DECEMBER 27th!
This is your chance to tell them that they’re sweet and OK, a little hot, but they still make everyone nutty!
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups mixed nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and almonds
Preheat oven to 375°. Combine maple syrup, Worcestershire, chile powder, cumin, salt, and pepper in a large bowl, stirring well. Add nuts to syrup mixture; toss well to coat. Arrange nuts in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Let rest until cooled and the sugar has hardened, about 10 minutes Store in an airtight container.
Hand mixed jars of savory blends for the special carnivores in your life.
Assorted Meat Rubs
Each rub makes about 1 1/3 cups. Instructions to include on the gift tag: Store in airtight containers in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months. Up to 2 hours before cooking, coat 2 pounds of chicken, beef, pork, or seafood with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with 2 to 4 tablespoons of the rub. Cook as desired.
Mediteranean Herb Rub
3/4 cup dried basil
1/4 cup dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried sage
2 tablespoons fennel seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup kosher salt, finely ground
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons mustard powder
1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1/4 cup granulated garlic
2 tablespoons cayenne
A tingly citrus surprise. Send with an airy angel food cake, or in a breakfast basket with a lemon poppy seed pancake mix.
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup roughly chopped rosemary leaves
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring sugar and fresh lemon juice to a boil. Add rosemary leaves. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the zest of 1 lemon. Transfer syrup to a small metal bowl and let sit until cool, about 10 minutes. Strain (discard the zest and rosemary) and use warm, let cool to room temperature, or store, covered and chilled, up to six months.
Do they make scented candles to smell like freshly baked bread? If not, they should! Give them with a loaf of this — and a HUG! (They’ll probably like the hug best of all.)
Cranberry Orange Bread with Grand Marnier Glaze
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened, plus more for buttering pan
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup orange juice
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
2 cups powdered sugar
7 to 8 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
Preheat oven to 330° F. Butter two 6-cup-capacity loaf pans (or, if making the mini loaves, butter six 2-cup-capacity pans). With an electric or standing mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add orange juice, sour cream, orange zest, and vanilla; mix until blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture and cranberries to wet ingredients, and mix just until dry ingredients are absorbed. (Do not overmix.)
Pour batter into prepared loaf pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers of breads comes out clean, 70 to 75 minutes for large loaves and 60 minutes for mini loaves. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and 7 tablespoons Grand Marnier. (Glaze should have consistency of thick maple syrup or corn syrup. If it is too thick, thin with an additional tablespoon of liqueur.) Let loaves cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a cooling rack set over a large baking sheet. With a thin skewer or long toothpick, poke deep holes in tops of loaves. Drizzle with Grand Marnier glaze so that it coats the top, runs down the sides, and seeps through the holes. Let loaves cool completely, then wrap decoratively. Makes 2 regular loaves or 6 mini-loaves.
Fancy and seasonal. If the gift includes hand feeding them, I’m sure they won’t object.
8 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
8 oz good quality white chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
10 whole allspice berries
10 whole cloves
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger root (use micro-plane grater)
16 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted to 115 degrees, for enrobing
Cinnamon, for dusting
Heat the cream with the allspice berries, cloves, molasses, cinnamon, sea salt, and grated ginger in a small saucepan. When it reaches a boil, turn off the heat and let it steep at room temperature for 1 hour. Meanwhile, chop the bittersweet and white chocolate and place in a large heatproof bowl. When the cream has steeped for an hour, briefly heat it back up to a simmer then pour it through a fine-mesh sieve over the chopped chocolate. Let this mixture sit for about 5 minutes, so the chocolate will soften and melt. Stir with a spatula gently until all the chocolate has melted and the ganache mixture is smooth and glossy. Chill the ganache for 3 hours so it firms up before scooping it.
After 3 hours, scoop the ganache into 1-inch balls, using either a spoon, a spring-loaded cookie dough scoop, or a melon baller. Place the balls on a parchment-lined sheet pan, and chill overnight.
The next day, melt bittersweet chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Take the bowl off the heat, let the chocolate cool to 115° F, then begin the process of enrobing the truffles: place a ball in the chocolate, use a fork to gently turn it so it gets fully coated, then lift it out of the ganache with the fork, tapping the side of the fork on the edge of the bowl to remove any excess melted chocolate. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan. The chocolate will start to set up pretty quickly, so have your ground cinnamon nearby – sprinkle just a little on the top of each truffle. Chill the enrobed truffles in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, to harden fully. Makes about 32 truffles.
For all those health food nuts, here’s a little homemade nut butter with a mix for one of my absolute favorite bread recipes – dense and grainy. (If you’d prefer, you can make the bread and give it gift wrapped.)
Toasted Walnut Butter with Dried Cherries & Cacoa Nibs
2 cups raw, organic walnuts
1 tablespoon toasted walnut oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, plus more to taste
1/4 cup unsweetened, unsulphured dried cherries, chopped
Pinch or two of fine Himalayan or sea salt (start with one pinch, blend, taste, and add more if needed)
1-2 tablespoons cacao nibs or finely chopped dark chocolate
Heat oven to 300° F. Toast walnuts for 20 minutes and then cooled slightly (if you have time to soak your walnuts in water overnight first, go ahead and do so…this can help make them easier to digest; if you do soak them, rinse them in clean water and pay dry before toasting them, or skip the toasting step). Process walnuts in blender (or food processor). Add oil, if needed, to help blend them as they start to get sticky. Keep blending until the mixture smooths out. Add maple syrup, dried cherries, and salt, and process again. Taste and add more salt or maple syrup, if necessary. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the walnut butter into a small bowl and add the cacao nibs. Mix well, then pack into a decorative one cup glass jar. Store in the refrigerator! Will keep for a few weeks.
Swope Bread Mix
Mix dry ingredients in bowl and pour into mason jar. Wrap decoratively and include the following instructions.
Gift Card: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease 9×5 inch loaf pan. In a large bowl empty mix. In a separate bowl, dissolve 2 teaspoons baking soda in 2 cups buttermilk. Stir buttermilk into flour mixture. Beat well. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for one hour.
These cozy beverages will come in handy when company drops in to socialize. And homemade marshmallows, just as light and sweet as your Libras.
Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix with Bailey’s Marshmallows
Split and scrape vanilla beans and place in a large bowl or jar with the sugar. Work seeds into the sugar with your fingers. Bury the pods under the sugar. Cover tightly and let stand overnight (or up to months–vanilla sugar keeps forever) at room temperature.
In a food processor fitted with metal blade, process semisweet chocolate and dark chocolate until finely ground, using 4-second pulses. Process in batches, if necessary. Remove pod from sugar. Add ground chocolate and cocoa powder to sugar and whisk to blend, making sure to combine well. Store mix airtight at room temperature for up to six months. To serve, heat 2 Tbsp of mix with 8 oz of milk over medium heat. Makes 76 2-Tbsp servings
Place Baileys in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and sprinkle gelatin over top. All of the powder should absorb within a few minutes – you might need to swirl the liquid in the bowl if powder remains on top. In a medium sauce pan, heat sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water over medium heat and stir constantly until the temperature reaches soft ball stage (240°F). Add the heated sugar mixture in a slow, thin stream to the stand mixer while on low. Increase speed to high and whip for 15 minutes, until thickened and mostly cooled.
Spray an 8×8 pan with baking spray and coat with powdered sugar. Pour marshmallow into the prepared pan and let sit at room temperature for at least 4 hours (I always do overnight). Dust your work surface with powdered sugar and turn the marshmallow out of the pan (pull up one of the corners of the marshmallow, flip, and let gravity do the rest). Using a greased pizza cutter or knife, cut the marshmallows into 1-inch squares, dusting the cut edges with powdered sugar to prevent sticking. Makes 64 Marshmallows (minus the casualties along the way. Oh no you didn’t….)
Store the marshmallows in a gallon zip-top bag with a few additional spoonfuls of powdered sugar (shake the closed bag to evenly distribute the powdered sugar).
Mexican Hot Chocolate Mix with Maple Marshmallows
3 cups non fat dry milk powder
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 Tsp. salt
2 Tsp. corn starch
1/2 Tsp. cinnamon
1/4 Tsp. cayenne pepper
In a large bowl, whisk together all ingredients. In batches, pulse mixture in a food processor until smooth and well combined. Store in a sealed container in a dry and dark place.
To make hot chocolate, put 1/3 cup of mixture into a mug and mix with hot water or milk. Top with marshmallows and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
3 Tbsp. unflavoured gelatin powder (3 packets)
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons of cold water
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 Tsp. maple extract
3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1 cup corn starch, divided
Prepare a 9×13 in baking pan with cooking spray. (Ensure the entire dish is coated, as the marshmallow mixture is very sticky. Combine 1/2 cup of powdered sugar with 1/4 cup cornstarch. Sift mixture into the baking dish and shake so the dish is coated. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine gelatin, vanilla extract, and maple extract with 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons of cold water. Gently whisk mixture until well combined and no lumps remain. Continue to whisk until the gelatin reaches a consistency similar to baby food (about one minute). Set aside. In a medium saucepan combine 3/4 cup water, corn syrup, granulated sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover pot, reduce heat and simmer for about 2 and a half minutes . Remove from heat. Pour mixture over gelatin and beat on medium with an electric mixer until combined, about one minute. Increase speed to maximum and beat for 15-20 minutes until the mixture is glossy and makes meringue like peaks.
Pour marshmallow mixture into prepared 9×13 inch dish and spread evenly. Wet spatula and smooth the top until it’s even. Leave the marshmallow mixture uncovered on a counter for 24 hours to set. Once the marshmallows have set, prepare your workspace. Combine remaining powdered sugar and cornstarch in a medium sized bowl. Dust some of the mixture onto a cutting board.
Wet a sharp knife and drag it along the edges of the 9×13 inch dish to loosen the marshmallow mixture. Sprinkle some of the powdered sugar onto the top of the marshmallows and flip the dish onto prepared cutting board. Cut the marshmallows into squares, occasionally wetting the knife to make more precise cuts. Toss marshmallow squares in the cornstarch sugar mixture until well coated. Store marshmallows in a sealed container, layered between wax paper until gift wrapping.
That dark exterior is hiding a complex combination of salty and sweet. But you already knew that.
Dark Chocolate Cookies with Sea Salt Caramel Surprise
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa (Hershey’s sells it)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
30-36 sea salt caramel candies (Trader Joe’s carries them)
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 375° F. In a large mixing bowl, add sugar, brown sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla. Mix together until well blended. Add flour, cocoa and baking soda and mix well. Refrigerate and chill dough for 30 minutes. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place caramel candy in the center of each dough ball. Form the dough ball around the majority of the candy. Roll each dough ball in sugar. Very important step – do NOT pop in your mouth, but place sugar-side up on a baking sheet, about two inches apart. (It just had to be said.) Bake for 7-10 minutes. Let cool on pan for 1 minute then take off and place on cookie cooling rack. Makes about three dozen cookies (minus whatever dough was ‘lost’ in the preparation. Hee hee!)
The classic Italian holiday bread – fruity, but buttery light. After all, there’s a reason you see walls of them lining the stores during the holidays.
1 cup golden raisins (5 oz)
1/2 cup sweet Marsala
1/2 cup warm milk (105–115°F)
2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from two 1/4-oz packages)
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened, plus additional for buttering cans
1 cup diced fine-quality candied citron (not a supermarket brand; 6 oz)
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
**Special equipment: a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment; 2 (10- to 15-oz) clean coffee cans (paper or plastic labels removed); parchment paper
Simmer raisins in Marsala in a small saucepan 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until cooled to room temperature. Meanwhile, stir together warm milk and 2 teaspoons sugar in bowl of mixer. Sprinkle yeast over mixture and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If yeast doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.) Add 1/4 cup flour and beat at medium speed until combined. Add whole eggs, yolk, zest, lemon juice, salt, and remaining 2/3 cup sugar and beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to low, then mix in remaining 3 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Increase speed to medium-high, then gradually beat in butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to beat until dough is shiny and forms strands from paddle to bowl, 4 to 6 minutes. (Dough will be very soft and sticky.) Drain raisins, discarding Marsala, then add to dough along with candied citron and mix at low speed until incorporated. Scrape dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 2 to 3 hours.
While dough rises, generously butter coffee cans and line bottom and side of each with parchment (use a round for bottom and a rectangle for side). Punch down dough with lightly floured hands and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Halve dough and scoop 1 half into each can, pressing gently to expel any air bubbles. Loosely cover cans with lightly buttered plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until dough reaches top of cans, 2 to 3 hours. (Alternatively, let dough rise in refrigerator 8 to 12 hours; bring to room temperature, 3 to 4 hours, before baking.)
Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 375°F. Beat together yolk and water and lightly brush top of dough with egg wash. Bake until tops are deep golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped (remove from cans first), 35 to 40 minutes. (Firmly thump bottoms of inverted cans to remove.) Transfer loaves to a rack and discard parchment. Cool to room temperature.
Note: Panettone keeps, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and then foil, frozen 3 weeks. (Yeah, like it will last that long..)
The mighty goats aren’t much into the sweets, so why not go savory? Here’s a unigue homemade mustard with apricots steeped in bourbon. It can be paired with some specialty sausages, crackers, soft pretzels, etc.
Put the mustard seeds in a medium bowl and pour in 2/3 cup of the bourbon and the water. Soak the mustard seeds overnight or for up to 24 hours.
At least 1 hour before you plan to make the mustard, put the apricots in a bowl and pour in the remaining 1/3 cup bourbon. Macerate the apricots until most of the bourbon is absorbed. (The apricots need to soak for a minimum of 1 hour, or you can start soaking them at the same time you prepare the mustard seeds.)
Before making the mustard, wash the jars and lids in hot, soapy water and dry thoroughly. Alternatively, run the jars through the regular cycle of your dishwasher.
To make the mustard, first strain the mustard seeds, reserving the soaking liquid. Set aside the mustard seeds. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the apricots, any unabsorbed bourbon remaining in the bowl, cider vinegar, honey, and salt. Purée until almost smooth. Add the mustard seed soaking liquid and continue to purée until smooth. Add the mustard seeds and process until about half of the seeds are cracked and the others are incorporated but still whole. Evenly divide the mustard among the prepared condiment jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean and secure the lids. Label and refrigerate for at least 2 weeks to allow the flavors to develop and mature. Makes enough to fill four (6-ounce) condiment jars. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 weeks for full flavor and up to 3 months.
Gift Card: This Apricot-Bourbon Mustard was made on [give date] and can be enjoyed for up to 3 months, kept in the refrigerator.
Someone has to get the fudge. It’s tradition! Best to give to the Aquarians, because they’re all about communal property.
Peppermint Pistachio Fudge
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 oz. bitter-sweet, or dark chocolate chips
14 oz. can organic condensed milk
1 cup roughly chopped pistachios
1 teaspoon concentrated peppermint extract (my addition for a holiday flavor, vary this based on the strength of the extract you find – taste test before pouring into the pan to set!)
Over a double boiler, melt the butter on low heat. Add the chocolate and stir till it all melts smoothly. Add the condensed milk and peppermint extract, and mix. Add the nuts, mix, then take it off the heat and pour it into a big, shallow foil pan. A bigger pan means more pieces, and shallow means not as large a piece. Let the whole thing cool to room temperature, then refrigerate till the fudge sets. Slice the fudge into little squares of varying size, so you can decide just how Nice or Naughty the recipients are(!). Keep stored in a container lined with parchment in the fridge.
Egg Nog Fudge
(Featured from CatzintheKitchen.com)
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup dairy eggnog
10.5 ounces white chocolate bars, chopped into small pieces
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, plus a little more for the top of the fudge
7 ounce jar marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon rum extract
Line a 8 or 9-inch square pan with foil and let it hang over the sides. Butter the foil. In a heavy, 3-qt saucepan combine sugar, butter, and eggnog. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 8-10 minutes over medium heat or until a candy thermometer reaches 234°F, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat. Using a wooden spoon, work quickly to stir in chopped white chocolate and nutmeg until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in marshmallow creme and rum extract. Beat until well blended and then pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with a little freshly ground nutmeg on top. Let stand at room temperature until cooled. Refrigerate if you’d like to speed up the process. When completely cool, cut into squares. Store in covered container.
Enough of these magic balls, and you’ll be transported to a very dreamy place. Just make sure those sugar plum fairies don’t get you! They’re wicked.
Spiced Bourbon Balls
1/2 cup chopped raisins
1/4 cup bourbon
2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (about 18 ounce package)
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
Finely chopped pecans or cocoa powder for coating
In the small bowl macerate (soak) the chopped raisins in the bourbon for 15 minutes. In the large bowl stir well the chocolate wafer crumbs, dark brown sugar, pecans, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Add the raisin mixture and molasses and stir until the mixture clumps together. Shape the mixture into 1-inch balls (we made them smaller) . If the balls are a little dry and crumble, sprinkle some more bourbon over the mixture and stir again. Roll the balls in the chopped pecans or the cocoa powder. Store the bourbon balls in an airtight container in a cool dark place for at least 1 week before serving. (Time is what makes them extra boozie.) Makes about 36 balls.
Espresso Grand Marnier Balls
1 package (9 ounces) chocolate wafers
1 cup skinned toasted hazelnuts
1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder
1/2 cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
2-1/2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pulverize the chocolate wafers and hazelnuts together in a food processor. Add the confectioners’ sugar and process to combine. Dissolve the espresso in the Grand Marnier and add to the chocolate crumbs along with the corn syrup. Process until the mixture forms a moist mass. Break off small pieces of the dough and roll them into 1-inch balls. Place the granulated sugar in a shallow bowl and roll each ball in the sugar to coat. Store loosely packed between layers of waxed paper in a cookie tin. Let age 1 week before serving. Makes 4 to 4-1/2 dozen cookies.
*Times are PDT, unless stated otherwise. Planetary positions are expressed as the degree (rounded to the nearest whole degree) followed by the sign.
**If you aren’t already, be sure to follow Sher Astrology on Twitter to keep up with the daily astrological events.
***Are you wondering why you feel some of the transits we talk about and not others or why a friend may feel one but you don’t? If the transiting planet affects a planet in your natal chart, that is, where the planets were at the time you were born, then you are more likely to feel the transit or may feel it stronger than one that does not affect a planet in your natal chart. Don’t have a chart? Would you like one? Let us know.
We left you on December 6th with a lingering note to enjoy a period of relative planetary calm. Hopefully the transient Moon has been kind to you as she danced with all her partners. While the exact aspects coming up for this next two-week period will undoubtedly liven things up, there is an underlying note worth mentioning. By December 7th, Saturn, at 26° Libra comes within 2° of a trine to Neptune at 28° Aquarius. Although the aspect won’t be exact until late next year, the planets of structure and spirituality remain within a 2° orb of the trine until next February when Saturn begins to pull away during its retrograde period. Although the more complex and potentially volatile energies building through the holidays may draw our attention away to more immediate matters at hand, if we can manage to also pay attention to these undertones, we may be able to tune into the fog-lifting partnership adept at distinguishing real from unreal when in this harmonious aspect. Of any planetary pair, it seems this may be one that could give us the tools to make our dreams come true. All we have to do is pick them up and master their use.
On December 9th the “wild-n-crazy” revolutionary Uranus at 0° Aries, after five rampant months of retrograde motion, is stationing direct shortly before midnight. With Uranus stopping dead in his tracks, his potency is concentrated; at the 0° Aries point, what some regard as the most powerful degree of the zodiac, this is raw, unfiltered energy with freedom as its calling. Winter temperatures can’t cool the heated social, political and economic conditions that continue in the US, Europe and the Middle East, and a new flare up is possible during this time. While it could lead to social chaos, on an individual level it could also lead to significant strides in self-realization. For more on Uranus in Aries, read Jim Sher’s article here. The countdown now begins to the first exact square with Pluto on June 24, 2012 at 8° Aries/Capricorn. It is unlikely there will be a singular event at the moment of exactitude as the revolutionary and transformational archetypes of these two slower moving outer planets seldom manifest that way. Rather the energy that has been building this year will grow even more intense and, if we lose our heads, our reactions to it could become more erratic and extreme.
On December 10th, as the Sun rises at 18° Sagittarius and the Moon sets at 18° Gemini, we have a full Moon Lunar eclipse, the sixth and final eclipse of 2011. The culmination of what was set in motion at the Sagittarius New Moon (also an eclipse) marks the turning point in this monthly cycle between development of the seed and the harvest of it. This is the moment when we put it all on stage and see what works and what doesn’t. The annual opposition of the Sagittarius Sun and the Gemini Moon highlights the differences between the Message and the Messenger. The Gemini Moon is driven by the need to procure and disseminate information and the mental connections to others this process brings. The Sagittarius Sun is the quintessential idea man, reaching not just for the Moon but the Stars, other galaxies and beyond, the colossal hologram of existence. The challenge, as in all full moons, is to find the bridge between the two so that the best of each is allowed to shine with the support of the other. If Gemini deals in information just for the sake of being informed he could be lost in a sea of distractions. If he works with Sagittarius and pulls back to see the broader view then those bits of information will come together in purposeful context to aid in the evolution of our knowledge, and his value as a messenger is exalted. If Sagittarius comes down out of the clouds long enough to see the natural networking talent Gemini brings to the table then he will find the natural partner to take his insights out into the world. Sagittarius is concerned with the links between God and Man, Gemini with the links between humans. Imagine what can happen if the two get together, especially during an eclipse where time and space is warped and portals to new ways of being are opened to us if we seek them.
In the early afternoon of December 12th as Mars 14° Virgo continues to slow down, he finds himself in an unusual situation – he is alone, with no major aspects to any other planets. Generally, angular relationships reveal how planets communicate with each other and within our personal charts how we are able to access and utilize the archetypes represented by those aspects. When a planet is unaspected it is no longer able to connect with the others and the archetypal energy can become difficult to access or control. With the exception of a few hours when the Moon is within orb of a conjunction to Mars on December 16th and 17th and then on December 21st when the Moon sextiles Mars, the God of War will be unaspected by any of the other planets until late on Christmas Day, December 25th. Unanchored by other influences, tempers could flare, we could be more irritable or anxious, or unfounded fears may take hold. This can be a time to be wary of “war-mongers” and others who cry “foul” or “the sky is falling.” Caution and self-awareness is required before we assert ourselves so we can calmly choose our words more carefully and consciously act rather than impulsively react. It would be well to remember that during his retrograde in 2012 Mars retreats over this same territory in Virgo, and back for a third time before moving on in July 2012. With Mars in Virgo’s energy field fighting words are more likely than raw punches; precision-oriented strategies prevail over brute force; pre-planned military maneuvers are preferable to rag-tag rebel attacks. However we go about getting what we want, we’ll need to make an extra effort to access the help the other planets bring to balance out any approach. The benefit of this may be finding unique ways to manifest our desires as Mars is forced to go outside normal channels of communication to get guidance from his colleagues in space.
On December 13th at 1:48 pm, the Moon leaves its home sign of Cancer and moves into fixed fiery Leo. With this shift, there are now no planets in water signs, making it difficult to connect to our emotions and feelings. Conversely, Mercury stations direct at 5:43 pm at 4° Sagittarius emphasizing our thoughts and words. In Sagittarius, according to Dane Rudhyar, “Mercury here is the interpreter and recorder of social transfers of energy. Mercury loves to deal with big things; to give a brilliant formulation to vast social enterprises, or to broad abstract ideologies.” In essence, he is the “secretary” of Jupiter, and as such, he may “escape into social wittiness and superficiality, playing intellectual games or clinging to a wordy idealism while the tide of social evolution rolls mightily under his scaffolding of abstract phrases and concepts unrooted in the realities of human nature.” As Mercury is the second planet to change directions within a few days this could be a period of significant shift in direction for us here on Earth. It would be interesting to mark this time and take mental notes for when Mars stations direct at 4° Virgo in square to this point next year. Whatever we think and say today may manifest into action on April 13, 2012. As always, exercise caution and restraint now and make sure big words are backed by the equivalent in deeds lest the action then becomes “eating” one’s words.
December 14th is a rare day as neither the Moon nor any of the planets make an exact aspect to another. This is another opportunity for us to take note on how we feel. Without being moored by the archetypal energies, it is possible to experience anxiety, disconnection or the potentially nerve-wracking anticipation of the imminent unknown that is ready to descend and make its mark on our lives. If we do play the observer now, this short window of time becomes a great opportunity to assess where we stand in our emotional development.
On December 17th the Moon 25° Virgo makes its third quarter square to the Sun 25° Sagittarius. This monthly “crisis of consciousness” moment can be a practical time to reassess our beliefs on the issues at hand – which are founded in reality and which no longer hold water. Being able to let go of outmoded beliefs will always lead to our next stage of growth. The key to any readjustment or reorientation during this phase of the lunar cycle is to look at the signs – is there an obsession with details (Virgo) that may be inhibiting our view of the big picture (Sagittarius)? Is our desire for adventure and reaching for the stars (Sagittarius) lacking a firm foot on practical ground (Virgo)?
While never a speed demon, Saturn is moving slower than usual now, storing up energy in preparation for his retrograde cycle that commences on February 7, 2012. On December 18th Venus 27° Capricorn squares Saturn 27° Libra in what is called “mutual reception,” which means one is in the sign ruled by the other. This gives them a kind of kinship, or more harmonious working relationship, which should help to soften the normally tense nature of a square. Venus may have a hard time expressing femininity in Capricorn and in square to Saturn can be the archetypal old maid who has never known love. The key here is look inward – where are we unloving to ourselves? If we can see where we lack self-worth that is the first step to accepting ourselves for who we are and to be able to radiate love outward. Saturn is exalted in Libra so will have a dominant influence in making love pass the test of time. Saturn gives Venus the endurance to hold onto love through thick and thin. Adding the power of illumination to counteract the potentially stressful emphasis on our ability to give and receive abiding love, the Sun 27° Sagittarius sextiles Saturn still at 27° Libra the following day, December 19th.
December 20th could make us feel like Betty Davis: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” The Moon in sociable Libra starts the day with aspects to disciplined Saturn, the heroic Sun, dreamy Neptune and charming Venus, then shifts into penetrating Scorpio and aspects to retrograde philosophical Jupiter, rebellious Uranus and healing Chiron. That we may be engulfed by mixed emotions is putting it mildly. On a more positive note, if we can manage to deftly navigate this kaleidoscope of planetary energies, we would be able to synthesize them all into a multifaceted perspective. But there’s more: Venus jumps into the energy stew as she finds the antidote for passionate Scorpio by shifting into aloof Aquarius. “Venus in Aquarius,” says Rudhyar, “gives a decided trend toward social consciousness and a love of culture and beauty. This position stresses the refined aspect of all social processes, the factors of meaning and of social wisdom. The affections are usually very broad and rarely set upon any one personality.” We may be attracted to unconventional relationships or avant-garde art. While independence in relationships is highly desired under this influence, we should take care to honor commitments else we lose our precious connections. Then the Sun makes its annual conjunction with the Galactic Center, the highly sensitive point in our Milky Way galaxy that is a powerful source of radio waves and gravitational pull. When any planet conjuncts this point it could open a window in us to an otherworldly connection. The Sun’s visit will be brief but even an instant of psychic awareness can be life changing. Thus touched with galactic truth, the Sun then sextiles mystical Neptune as if to make the moment seem timeless, and the Moon then sextiles Pluto enabling us to feel the profoundness of it all. As the day ends, Venus 0° Aquarius squares still retrograde but almost stationary Jupiter 0° Taurus and then closes the day at 11:56 pm with a sextile to Uranus 0° Aries. We may feel ultra generous and want to give big, but also expect big returns, perhaps going overboard in pursuit of life’s pleasures, but we’ll do it with a gleam in our eye as if to say we’ve touched the divine and can’t go back to less than that.
As a coda to the previous day, on December 21st the Moon sextiles Mars to give us the energy to emotionally process what we’ve just been through before the Sun reaches Winter Solstice, which we’ll cover in the Capricorn edition.