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April 2019

A Breath of Snow And Ashes Cooking Drums Of Autumn Fraser's Ridge Outlander North Carolina Uncategorized

“If you can read, you can cook” – Julia Child

April 17, 2019
guest post by Harmony Lea Tersanchi

Apart from the more obvious reading of a recipe, cooking and reading arenʼt necessarily two things that youʼd normally think to put in the same category. However, I believe there arenʼt many things more closely aligned than these two activities. What has the power to transport you to another time or place without ever leaving the comforts of your own home, a good book and a good meal. What can bring people of different ages, nationalities, and religions together, a good book and a good meal. What can simultaneously invoke the feeling of love and also despair, coming to the last page of a great book, and realizing that youʼve taken the last bite of a great meal.

When your childhood best friend is Puerto Rican, there are a few things that you learn pretty early on in life, the love of food, music, and that nobodyʼs cooking holds a candle to Momʼs cooking! I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my love of cooking stems from those endless nights sitting on the stools at the bar of my best friend’s house, chatting away & watching while “Mom” was throwing down in the kitchen. As an adult now myself, I can say that there are few other things in life that bring me more joy than cooking and feeding those whom I love.

As most of you can probably relate, I may have a slight Outlander obsession. Whatʼs not to love, a handsome, drool worthy 18th century Scottish warrior, men in kilts, time travel, passion, romance, history, and did I mention men in kilts! Needless to say, I was shamelessly hooked at the first sight of James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser. I came to the books through the show and almost instantly became enthralled with the love story between Jamie & Claire. One other thing that stuck out to me, beyond the obvious, was how much of the story was centered around food. The gatherings, the family reunions, the celebrations, the banquets, Mrs. Fitz and her bannocks, the wine, whisky, and Rhenish. Food and drink were consistently present throughout the entire story. As I stated above, food has a way of bringing people together, a fact that wasnʼt lost on these 17th century characters.

Theresa is currently working on Outlander Kitchen 2!

Luckily for me, a woman by the name of Theresa Carle-Sanders decided to come out with a cookbook called Outlander Kitchen Cookbook: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook. Any opportunity I get to bring my love of cooking and reading together, you better believe Iʼm taking!

So thatʼs what brought me here–well, more like a slightly crazy obsession with a fictional character, then a realization that Iʼm not alone in my craziness, followed by a Facebook page and blog run by the wonderful Beth Pittman actually brought me here, but yʼall get where Iʼm going with this. So here I am fellow Sassenachs, with my “Outlander Companion Cookbook”, a glass of red wine, and a spatula, getting ready to throw down an Outlander-inspired meal from start to finish, and Iʼm bringing yʼall along for the ride.

Puff Pastry Boar Tusks

First up on this journey for the taste buds is “Murtaghʼs Gift to Ellen,” or Puff Pastry Boar Tusks. Asparagus and puff pastry and bacon…..oh my! The cookbook does have a recipe for a Blitz Puff Pastry, however I chose the easier route & visited the freezer section of the local grocery store for some Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets. Before you get all “Thatʼs not how they did it in the 18th century,” just know that the cookbook does offer that as an option in the recipe, and that was one modern adjustment I was definitely going to take! The construction of this adorable appetizer was quite simple & easy enough to do, yet looks as though great detail went into the prepping/cooking process. Would I make this again? With one minor adjustment, aye, I most definitely would. As for that adjustment I mentioned, Iʼd probably opt to coat the puff pastry part with a melted garlic herb butter once removed from the oven. That would take it from being a cute & tasty appetizer to a cute and delectable appetizer thatʼd impress anyone youʼd serve it to.

Brianna’s Matchstick French Fries

Letʼs talk sides. When youʼre slaving away over a meal of this magnitude, keeping it simple yet delicious is key, and boy did I unlock a couple of winners! I went for the “Broccoli Salad,” (p. 210), and the “Matchstick Cold-Oil Fries.” I have been making homemade fries for the past 10 years, and now I know that for the past 10 years, I have been doing them totally WRONG! Who wouldʼve thought that the trick to getting the most crispy and delicious homemade fries youʼve ever had, was to start off with cold oil? Certainly not me, but I can guarantee that I will never make fries using any other method again.  Iʼm here to tell you that the cost of this cookbook is well worth it for this recipe alone! My only regret is that I didnʼt make more!

Now, not to take any shine away from those seriously insane french fries, but the broccoli salad was pretty darn amazing in itself. Fresh, crunchy, tangy, with just a hint of sweetness, and did I mention bacon? Yes people, more bacon. Letʼs be honest, can you ever go wrong with a recipe that has crunchy bacon as an ingredient? The answer to that question, is absolutely not & this recipe was no exception. There isnʼt a single thing that I would change about this salad. So just to recap……yes, yes, and more yes when it comes to these two sides!

Sweet Tea-Brined Chicken

Moving right along, we come to the main entree, “Sweet Tea-Brined Fried Chicken,” (p.112). Now, I love a glass of sweet tea just as much as the next person, but I canʼt say that Iʼve ever imagined using it to brine chicken, or anything for that matter. Once I got beyond the initial “Huh?” phase, I was ready to jump right in. You start off by brining the chicken for a few hours in a homemade sweet tea concoction, filled with what else other than a ton of sugar. Yes, there are a few other ingredients, but youʼll have to buy the book to figure those out. Believe me when I tell you, I not only wanted to like this recipe, but I really wanted to love it, unfortunately that wasnʼt necessarily the case. Donʼt get me wrong, the chicken was outrageously juicy and tender, accompanied with a perfectly crisp outer coating, what lost me was the sweetness. Not overpowering, but enough to make the dish just “okay”. The crispness of the coating was spot on though, Iʼd only say it needed a little salt to make it fried chicken perfection. The recipe wasnʼt a total loss for me though, Iʼd definitely use that coating again, and like the idea of brining beforehand, however Iʼd personally stick with just a good ol’ salt water brine.

Last but certainly not least, I bring you the “Warm Almond Pastry with Father Anselm,” (p. 255) for dessert. Thereʼs really not much I can say about this dessert other than delicious! If you like a dessert that isnʼt overly sweet, then this is the dessert for you! Itʼs light and flaky, and would go perfect with a nice cup of hot coffee. I will for sure be making this again in the very near future.

Warm Almond Pastry

I hope youʼve enjoyed the ramblings of this food obsessed Sassenach. If you donʼt already own this cookbook, do yourselves a favor & go buy it ASAP. If the last thing you need is another cookbook lying around taking up space, then visit your local library, check it out and take pics of the recipes that interest you. You wonʼt regret it! This has been quite the tasty experience, but now itʼs time for me to summon my children and have them roll me into bed. Good night yʼall.

Harmony was born and raised in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, but found her forever home in the mountains of North Carolina in 2017. She is married to her “Jamie” and the mom of two boys whom she homeschools. Harmony discovered Outlander while Season 2 was showing on Starz, and instantly fell in love with Jamie and Claire’s love story. In her spare time, she enjoys being with her family and getting outside to explore their new home in the mountains. Harmony is a moderator for the Outlander North Carolina Facebook Group, and hosted “Happy Hour with Harmony” on Saturday evenings, using recipes from the Outlander Kitchen cookbook to make cocktails and mocktails. If you’d like to see the videos, join the Outlander North Carolina group on Facebook, and go to our Videos section–Harmony is a great hostess!

Do you have a copy of Outlander Kitchen, or have you been a follower of Outlander Kitchen website before there was a cookbook? What’s your favorite recipe?

Outlander North Carolina

droughtlander musings

April 10, 2019

guest post by Jan Grupp

I’ve lost track how many times I’ve gone back to reread Diana Gabaldon’s series of books about a certain Scottish Highlander and a time-traveling nurse, but living once more in Droughtlander territory makes me think about doing it all over again.

But re-reading after Season Four hasn’t happened for several reasons.

photo credit: janetoffkilter.blogspot.co

First, there is the issue of starting from the beginning.  A very wonderful idea, perhaps, and one that’s been accomplished by many of us, more than once.  But really a seriously LARGE project–something in the neighborhood of 5,000 pages, even for a voracious reader.  And where does this get me…to travel from that once upon a time, post-war belated honeymoon to now? A nice diversion, you say?

It would pass a goodly amount of days in the current wait for the next 900 pages or the start of Season Five to move Jamie, Claire and me forward, but only if my family doesn’t want to eat, the Spring pollen didn’t build up beyond EPA limits on my windowsills, and I get to sit in PJs all day. This sounds overly dramatic I know, but we re-readers, who absolutely love the complexity and length of living in close quarters with the Frasers, in reality do have other lives!

Secondly, I’ve been in and out of Droughtlander since the early 1990s.   Twenty-five years’ worth!   I fell in love with a young Highlander and his lucky wife back when my youngest was starting second grade.  After that final page, I didn’t know what I felt, or what to call it when I finished. Exhausted, perhaps, by the rather full life the Frasers were leading, but also, maybe a serious case of separation anxiety?

Now I know those feelings as big time Droughtlander.  Had it waiting for Book Two.  Then again between Two and Three.  What next? Darn! I had to wait some more.

Nothing has changed.  You get the idea. I like to think that agonized waiting back then made the excitement of coming home to this story even better.  You know, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Perhaps that’s only an obsessanach explanation, but I think it likely true.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, I don’t want to give up the tender moments that have held my attention all along, by plunging back into a storyline that requires reading a long way to relocate the special bits I already know almost by heart.  Sure, repeat readers like myself, always mention how FUN it is to find ourselves back in familiar story lines with both fondness of memory and insight from before. We also relish those aha moments when a re-read provides extra detail, little gifts rising up from the pages as additional nuggets of intimacy in the lives our favorite duo.  If we take a lesson from Diana’s hub who describes her fiction writing style as something akin to jumping from the frying pan into the fire, out and back in again, re-readers already know the delight of familiar adventure and predicament resolution that repeat storytelling offers.  All true.

But if re-reading is a bit like coming home, toting around Outlander, Voyager, Drums of Autumn. The Fiery Cross and the rest still may never quite make up for permanent memories of pages past, those Fraser “family stories” etched into my brainspace.  I don’t need re-reading to witness Claire treating Jamie’s shoulder dislocation because I forever see the very tender beginning of two people feeling attraction and uncertainty, along with my own slightly heady wish-it-were-so belief in time travel, anytime I want to think about it.  

I can’t hardly read about icky Jonathan Wolverton Randall’s outrageously dark brutalities and spurious sexual proclivities without thinking about the freakishly black screen portrayal (thank you, Tobias Menzies) and feeling sick.  So, let’s not think about (or re-read) that so much, but spend time instead embracing the blossoming of a two-hundred year marriage on a journey with no known finish, and that extra special moment of reunion twenty years into the heart of our Fraser family connections.  

Without a re-read, I can feel waves wash up against the Artemis anytime I want, and I sweat alongside the entire crew in the doldrums, finally finding myself amused by a trained pelican.  I have memorized the excitement of a giant bonfire, fueled with national pride and love. I go along through the stones with Brianna whenever I think about the bond of family, and (screen spoiler alert) nod to myself over Lord John’s eye problem, while hopelessly stuck picturing a group of travelers coming up the road yelling, “hello, the house.” Yep, I’m dying to know what happens next. Do I need to relive that again?

Do I need more time with Geillis Duncan? Uh, no. Do I need more time with J&C under the willows along the riverbank? Uh, maybe.

Do I miss hanging at Lallybroch with the fam? Of course. But I can conjure the heart-strong Jenny and the soothing fortitude of Ian anytime I want because I already know these guys.

Shouldn’t I just bide my time, or binge watch Seasons 1-4 again?  (Yes, of course, I’ve already done that, more than a few times). The real answer to more re-watching is likely a yes, especially the next time I’m stuck somewhere by weather and in for the long haul.  For now though, I confess to pulling out the guide and handpicking special episodes for a visual treat. Honestly, Season 1 has so much to offer, I find myself back there again and again—except for Wentworth Prison, and nobody wants to think about that!

So what else is an obsessed reader, forever fan of books and series, to do in these months while actors ply their craft, while set designers and costumers pull together more lush details for the season to come?  Find something else to read? Drown myself in all the internet options to stay connected to the Frasers? Study colonial history?

Right now, I think I’ll pray.  Yes. Pray. This story is all about life and love, and God certainly is present in this remarkable tale.  So, I’ll pray. Pray that the actors continue their talented efforts to get it right, pray that the producers don’t mess with THE STORY too much or apply too many contemporary critiques to historical fiction, and yes, pray that Diana locks herself away to finish the Fraser’s next installment so I can be with them again as soon as they show themselves.

But if it all that takes too long, my conviction to not re-read (again), might waver.  I may start randomly opening the books one by one, (sequentially, of course) and diving in, just to see where I find myself.  There’s an idea! Grab a few moments and time travel myself back to visit somewhere with dear old friends, the Frasers.

I miss these people too much.                   

Years ago, Jan was a newspaper reporter, a PR exec, editor, social services director for Red Cross, and a teacher. Mother of three, grandma of two, she divides her time between Florida(mostly), Michigan (some),and world travel as opportunity and dollars allow. She will publish Walking with Mom, a life care planning and living true story later this year. She and husband Bob recently celebrated 45 years of marriage by swimming with manatees, but she’s been in love with a fictional redhead (mostly), and his headstrong wife (some), since 1992. Thanks, for guest posting for us, Jan!

So tell us. What are you doing to treat your Droughtlander-itis?