Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Seeing the World in Blue and White by Sherrie Hansen

Welcome to History Undressed, guest author, Sherrie Hansen! She's written a great post for us today about Scotland! Enjoy!

Seeing the World in Blue and White
by Sherrie Hansen

I’ve been hearing Scottish accents in my head for over a decade, and now, after returning from my second trip to Bonnie Scotland, my mind’s eye is just as steeped in images of the highlands and islands I’ve been writing about.

Our trip was a flurry of wildflowers and walled gardens, castles and keeps, and lochs and legends. My mind is whirling with the characters and construct of a new story, ancient ghosts and curses, and modern day longings and desires set to clash like pitchforks and swords at Culloden.

One of my characters is the “rightful” heir of a castle and as fascinated and enamored of Scotland as I am, the other is there only because she could find no other way to wiggle out of her duties as the legal heir of a castle she cares nothing aboot.

Even more exciting is the sense of déjà vu I feel about the Wildflowers of Scotland books I’ve already written.

As I spotted each of the wildflowers I’ve featured in Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, and Sweet William, and the castles and kirks that provide a backdrop for each of the stories, the characters have come to life for me all over again.

One of the highlights of the trip was the day I left a copy of Shy Violet with a random staff member at Eilean Donan’s Castle Café, where many scenes in the book take place. A few days later, on our way back from the Isle of Skye, we stopped once more to eat lunch. The recipient pulled me aside, and in her delightful Scottish accent, said “I’ve begun to read yer book, and I’m loving it! Ye’re a very good author, and I thank ye so much.” 

The whole time we were at Eilean Donan Castle, I kept catching glimpse of people who looked like Nathan or Violet. William and Lyndsie, the stars of Sweet William, felt very close to me when we were on Skye - walking around the mysterious Fairy Glen at Uig, watching the cows graze on Claigon Coral Beach near Dunvegan and dipping a toe in the Fairy Pools at Glenbrittle. Because I know what happens to William while he’s on Skye, I had a deep, sense of foreboding until we were on our way home, and I knew everything was okay.

There’s a magical connection between Scotland and me. I’m a Blue Belle, and always will be. (For those of you who don’t know me, I have a B&B and Tea House called the Blue Belle Inn.) Loving the blue and white Saltire of Scotland is a natural extension of my love of blue.

If you’ve yet to fall in love with Scotland, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of one of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels and see if the highlands and islands of Scotland resonate with you like they do me.

Age old castles and blue-watered bays,
White sandy beaches and quaint cottage stays.
A rainbow of colors and chocolates, hand-dipped,
A valley of bluebells and sheep, freshly clipped.

Legends galore, buried treasure, and more…   
In the Wildflowers of Scotland novels, that’s what’s in store.

Twenty-four years ago, Sherrie Hansen Decker rescued a dilapidated Victorian house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a B&B and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie and her husband, Mark, who is a pastor, live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart. Sherrie writes murder mysteries and novels whenever she’s not working at her B&B – or trying to be a good pastor’s wife. Her contemporary romantic suspense novels include Night and Day, Love Notes, and Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet and Sweet William, her Wildflowers of Scotland novels.

You can see what’s she’s up to at: 
www.BlueBelleInn.com or www.BlueBelleBooks.com

Sherrie’s new release is Sweet William.

He’s a real sweetheart. She’s a wee bit tart. When Minnesota farm boy, William McKnight, and sassy Scot, Lyndsie Morris, are forced to work together in the kitchen of Rabbit Hill Lodge, the atmosphere is as charged as an episode of Chopped. Will someone get cut, or will they find a recipe that works? Things just start to get spicy when an angry bull butts his way into the picture, and Lyndsie has to decide if she loves William more than everyone and everything she holds dear.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Bold...Brilliant...Brave...Heroines Throughout History PETTICOAT SPIES ~ Part Two by Tara Kingston

Welcome back to History Undressed, our regular 3rd Tuesday blogger, Tara Kingston! Today she's bringing us Part Two of her Petticoat Spies article. The first can be viewed here. Enjoy!

Bold...Brilliant...Brave...Heroines Throughout History

by Tara Kingston

Greetings! I’m Tara Kingston, historical romance author and lover of all things Victorian. I’m fascinated by history through the ages, especially the bold, brilliant women who helped shape our world, and I’m delighted to be a monthly contributor to History Undressed. I’ll be sharing facts about daring women through history—some famous, some not so well-known, but all remarkable with their own unique contributions.

Today’s post takes a look at several female spies of the Civil War era. Driven by fierce loyalty, women on both sides of the conflict faced incredible risks to gather intelligence that help defeat the enemy. This month, the focus is on some of brave women who spied for the Confederacy.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow ~ The widowed Washington, D.C. socialite known as “Rebel Rose” used her considerable connections to spy for the Confederacy. A charming hostess, Rebel Rose gleaned information on military activities and Washington’s defenses and passed this on to Confederate leadership. Her activities drew the suspicion of Allan Pinkerton, resulting in her house arrest and eventual confinement in the Old Capitol Prison for several months. Deported to the South, Mrs. Greenhow was sent on a diplomatic mission to Britain and France by Jefferson Davis. During her time in England, Mrs. Greenhow wrote and published her memoirs.

Belle Boyd ~ Born in West Virginia in 1844, Belle Boyd began spying for the Confederacy at the age of seventeen. Using her skill at flirtation to help her gather info, Belle served as a courier, passing information to Confederate generals such as Stonewall Jackson and P.G.T. Beauregard. The woman known as “Cleopatra of the Secession” and “Siren of the Shenandoah” was arrested on multiple occasions by Union forces and faced eventual imprisonment in the Old Capitol Prison. Following her release, Belle boarded a ship bound for England in 1864, intent on transporting Confederate papers. After the ship was intercepted by a Union Navy vessel, Belle was again arrested as a spy. She fell in love with a Union officer who was one of her captors, Samuel Hardinge; they later married and had a daughter. After the war, Belle Boyd wrote and published a memoir, Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison, and launched a career as an actress and performer, eventually touring the country giving lectures on her adventures as a Civil War spy.

Antonia Ford Willard ~ Born in Virginia in 1838, Antonia Ford gathered information from occupying Union soldiers in her hometown, Fairfax Court House and provided military intelligence to Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart and spied for Colonel John Mosby, leader of a group of Confederate rangers. Miss Ford received an honorary commission as an aide-de-camp from Stuart in 1861. Accused of spying in 1863, Antonia Ford was arrested and held in the Old Capitol Prison. Her arresting officer, Major Joseph Willard, had lobbied for her release. After taking the Oath of Allegiance, Antonia was released from prison and went on to marry Major Willard. Their son later became the lieutenant governor of Virginia.

Petticoat spies like these courageous women inspired my Secrets & Spies series. The three books in the series are available for Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Here’s a link to the first book in the series: Secrets, Spies & Sweet Little Lies on Kindle

Here’s a little about the story:

A heart's destiny cannot be denied when a daring Union spy abducts a beautiful runaway bride he suspects of being a traitor.

Emma Davenport was a model senator’s daughter: prim, proper, but hell-bent on escaping the dreaded fate of spinsterhood that awaited her under wartime Washington’s all-too watchful eye. She was going to be a bride, and no one was going to stop her. Not even the daring renegade who steals her from a train transporting her to a forbidden marriage. Her heart tells her this mysterious desperado is a dangerous man, but the pleasure of his touch is a more potent threat than any weapon.

Union Army Major Cole Travis is a highly trained operative, as skilled with deception as he is with a gun. Keeping a beautiful traitor from her rendezvous with a treacherous scoundrel shouldn’t be a challenge for the battle-seasoned spy—but he’s not the only one after his tempting captive. Emma Davenport must be kept out of enemy hands at all costs. Drawn to this woman whose innocent allure may be just another weapon in her arsenal, Cole risks his neck to shield her. Soon, however, protecting her from his own heart’s desire becomes another story entirely.

To Read More About Civil War Petticoat Spies:

All photographs are in the public domain.

About The Author:

Award-winning author Tara Kingston writes historical romance laced with intrigue, danger, and adventures of the heart. A Southern belle-out-of-water in a quaint Pennsylvania town, she lives her own love story with her real-life hero in a cozy Victorian. The mother of two sons, Tara's a former librarian whose love of books is evident in her popping-at-the-seams bookcases. It goes without saying that Tara's husband is thankful for the invention of digital books, thereby eliminating the need for yet another set of shelves. When she's not writing, reading, or burning dinner, Tara enjoys cycling, hiking, and cheering on her favorite football team.

In a world where a man’s loyalty doesn’t depend on the color of a uniform, danger, intrigue, and passion are facts of life for the men and women of Tara’s Secrets & Spies series, historical romances set against the backdrop of the Civil War. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GK677PY/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Outlander Kitchen: My Review & a Featured Recipe!

Happy Wednesday, friends! Yesterday saw the release of a cookbook, Outlander Kitchen by Theresa Carle-Sansders! I've been wanting to shout about! I had the pleasure of trying three of the recipes this past weekend at a party, and let me just say: all of them WINNERS! I was thrilled to be able to try a few of the recipes pre-release. See my pics and thoughts below!

Outlander Kitchen is a not to be missed cookbook for fans of the series, but also fans of really GOOD comfort foods (also, check out her blog!!!).

Here's a description of the book... 

Take a bite out of Diana Gabaldon’s New York Times bestselling Outlander novels, the inspiration for the hit Starz series, with this immersive official cookbook from OutlanderKitchen.com founder Theresa Carle-Sanders!

Claire Beauchamp Randall’s incredible journey from postwar Britain to eighteenth-century Scotland and France is a feast for all five senses, and taste is no exception. From Claire’s first lonely bowl of porridge at Castle Leoch to the decadent roast beef served after her hasty wedding to Highland warrior Jamie Fraser, from gypsy stew and jam tarts to fried chicken and buttermilk drop biscuits, there are enough mouth-watering meals along the way to whet the appetite of even the most demanding palate.

Now professional chef and founder of OutlanderKitchen.com Theresa Carle-Sanders offers up this extraordinary cuisine for your table. Featuring more than one hundred recipes, Outlander Kitchen retells Claire and Jamie’s incredible story through the flavors of the Scottish Highlands, the French Revolution, and beyond. Following the high standards for prodigious research and boundless creativity set by Diana Gabaldon herself, Carle-Sanders draws on the events and characters of the novels to deliver delicious and inventive dishes that highlight local ingredients and traditional cooking techniques. Yet amateur chefs need not fear: These doable, delectable recipes have been updated for today’s modern kitchens. Here are just a few of the dishes that will keep the world of Outlander on your mind morning, noon, and nicht:

• Breakfast: Yeasted Buckwheat Pancakes; A Coddled Egg for Duncan; Bacon, Asparagus, and Wild Mushroom Omelette
• Appetizers: Cheese Savories; Rolls with Pigeons and Truffles; Beer-Battered Corn Fritters
• Soups & Stocks: Cock-a-Leekie Soup; Murphy’s Beef Broth; Drunken Mock-Turtle Soup
• Mains: Peppery Oyster Stew; Slow-Cooked Chicken Fricassee; Conspirators’ Cassoulet
• Sides: Auld Ian’s Buttered Leeks; Matchstick Cold-Oil Fries; Honey-Roasted Butternut Squash
• Bread & Baking: Pumpkin Seed and Herb Oatcakes; Fiona’s Cinnamon Scones; Jocasta’s Auld Country Bannocks
• Sweets & Desserts: Black Jack Randall’s Dark Chocolate Lavender Fudge; Warm Almond Pastry with Father Anselm; Banoffee Trifle at River Run

With full-color photographs and plenty of extras—including cocktails, condiments, and preserves—Outlander Kitchen is an entertainment experience to savor, a wide-ranging culinary crash course, and a time machine all rolled into one. Forget bon appétit. As the Scots say, ith do leòr!

The party...

So, last Saturday, I was hosting a wine tasting party. Those who know me know I love WINE, and I love FOOD. I really enjoying cooking and hosting! (I have to give props to my oldest princess who was a HUGE help in preparing these recipes! She's 15. The recipes aren't complicated, but come off as though you've slaved for hours, which I'm cool with *winks*)

When I was approached by the author/chef and publisher, I thought it would be a great idea to try out a few of the recipes paired with wines and get a few opinions on the recipes from my guests.

We tried three of the recipes, Goat Cheese & Bacon Tarts, Apple Fritters and Mrs. Bug's Buttermilk Biscuits.

I'll start with the Goat Cheese & Bacon Tarts. These were FREAKING AMAZING! The recipe calls for puff pastry which you can buy in the store, or there is a recipe in the book. To save time, I actually used the puff pastry cups you can purchase in the frozen section.

These tarts were literally FILLED with flavor. We paired the tarts with a red zinfandel, but I thought it tasted equally good with a  dry rose and darker red wine (pinotage from South Africa).

This was the one thing on the table that they didn't leave me any leftovers of!

The fried sage on top I think it was really brought the tarts together, too, and so many people were skeptical of eating the sage. But, frying it actually changed the usually strong, earthy flavor into an explosion of deliciousness. Plus, I love goat cheese, so, it was a win-win!

The next recipe we tried was Mrs. Bug's Buttermilk Biscuits! They were so freaking good--and I stole a couple from my guests to try the next day. Some biscuits don't last overnight. These DID. We had a biscuit connoisseur with us, and she said they were the best she'd ever had. They were moist, dense and made me want to curl up on my couch and re-watch The Wedding episode.

We paired the biscuits with  cheese and a French dry rose. YUM!

When I tried them the next morning, I drizzled them with honey and sipped my coffee.

A versatile hunk of delicious carbs.

Onto the Apple Fritters! I am an apple fritter snob. When I was pregnant with princess #3 I tried apple fritters anywhere I could get them. That was my drug of choice. But when you buy a fritter normally, they aren't bite sized or filled with apples pre-soaked in Scotch Whisky. So, if you're looking for a grown up fritter--this is the way to go!  Also, a note to you on frying -- the oil has to be the right temperature for the fritters not to fall apart. We used a cook thermometer to test the oil. (We dropped it in, hold on tight to it, lol). We paired these with a sparkling dessert wine. SO GOOD!

Featured Recipe...

Because the Goat Cheese & Bacon Tarts were the favorite of the party, I'm going to post the recipe below and insist you make them!!!  Virtually no time at all. You defrost and pre-cook the pastry cups. If you're lazy about frying, like me, you bake you bacon at 425 in the oven fro 15-20 minutes. I was doing other stuff while waiting for the timer. Also, for "frying" the sage--I did that in the oven, too. I'm the worst fryer ever--see dropping thermometer into boiling oil above!

Goat Cheese and Bacon Tarts 

It was a savoury made of goat’s meat and bacon, and he saw Fergus’s prominent Adam’s apple bob in the slender throat at the smell of it. He knew they saved the best of the food for him; it didn’t take much looking at the pinched faces across the table. When he came, he brought what meat he could, snared rabbits or grouse, sometimes a nest of plover’s eggs—but it was never enough, for a house where hospitality must stretch to cover the needs of not only family and servants, but the families of the murdered Kirby and Murray. At least until spring, the widows and children of his tenants must bide here, and he must do his best to feed them. 
“Sit down by me,” he said to Jenny, taking her arm and gently guiding her to a seat on the bench beside him. She looked surprised—it was her habit to wait on him when he came—but sat down gladly enough. It was late, and she was tired; he could see the dark smudges beneath her eyes. 
—Voyager, chapter 4, “The Dunbonnet” 
Vegetarian options were tough to come by in the eighteenth century, and goat meat can be hard to find for some in the twenty-first, so I’m claiming food-from-fiction license with this switch-up from a meat pie to one-bite puff pastry rounds topped with a savory goat cheese spread. 
A delicious addition to the snack table at your next book club meeting or office party. 
Makes 36 
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into ¼-inch strips 
  • ½ recipe Blitz Puff Pastry (page 29), chilled, or 1 pound (450 grams) frozen puff pastry, thawed 
  • 8 ounces (225 grams) goat cheese 
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds 
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • Zest of 1 lemon, grated or minced 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 36 small fresh sage leaves, or 18 large ones, cut in half lengthwise 

  • Move a rack to the top-middle rung and heat the oven to 400°F. 
  • In a frying pan, crisp the bacon over medium heat. Drain on paper towels. 
  • On a lightly floured counter, roll the pastry out to a 16-inch square. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 10 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile, combine the goat cheese, bacon, poppy seeds, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir well. Cover and refrigerate. 
  • Lightly beat the egg with 1 teaspoon cold water to make an egg wash. 
  • Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut 36 rounds from the pastry. Transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet and brush with the egg wash. Bake until puffed and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool completely on the baking sheet. 
  • Reduce the oven to 300°F. 
  • In a small frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter until bubbling over medium heat. Fry the sage leaves in batches until crisp. Drain on a paper towel–lined plate and repeat with the remaining sage leaves. 
  • Top each puff pastry round with a teaspoonful of the goat cheese mixture and a fried sage leaf. Heat in the oven for 5 minutes and serve.