Today’s guest is new Champagne author Ceci Giltenan. Her novel, Highland Solution, is a Highland romance which I can’t wait to read. Well, I’ll have to wait cause it’s not out yet, but, come September, it’s mine. Ceci shares a warm tale about her new husband’s initiation into her family’s rich Christmas traditions. LOVED IT. Then there’s her family recipes for Maryland Crab Soup and Irish Brown Soda Bread. DELICIOUS.
An Irish & American Love Story
First let me say that the Advent and Christmas seasons are my favorite times of the year and have been from my earliest memory. I grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC with rich family traditions. We decorated our home inside and out. We tucked packages wrapped with care and adorned with ribbons and bows safely under a Christmas tree that glittered with lights and an assortment of cherished decorations. My mother and I made cookies and candy during the weeks leading up to Christmas to the sounds of Christmas albums on the stereo and we always had an Advent wreath to help us remember to focus on the true meaning of the season.
When I married my tall, quiet Irish carpenter in 1991, he was surprised to learn that handing each other presents, on Christmas morning, wrapped only in the store bag simply would not do. My brothers pulled him aside, showed him how to wrap presents, and ran through the basic contents of a Christmas stocking. Over the years his creativity has blossomed. One year the multi-head screwdriver that I found in my stocking puzzled me. “Ah, ye might need that someday,” he said in his sweet brogue. When I opened one of my presents I found it contained two flat pieces of wood, held tightly together with different sizes and kinds of screws. In order to find out what my present was, I had to remove the screws, changing the head of the screw driver several times in the process, before I discovered the spa gift certificate trapped between the wood.
Our Irish-American merger has resulted in a unique blend of customs but one of my favorite has become our Christmas Eve dinner. When I was a child we always had soup on Christmas Eve, usually oyster stew but occasionally clam chowder. While my husband is not a fan of cream soups, he fell in love with a local favorite, Maryland Crab soup. I love the brown soda bread that I learned to make at his home in County Clare, Ireland. We pair the two for a hearty, but simple Christmas Eve dinner that allows plenty of time for last minute preparations. I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as our family does.
Maryland Crab Soup
|2 Tablespoons olive oil1 Cup chopped onion1 Cup chopped celery1 Cup chopped carrots
4 cloves garlic minced or crushed
1 quart Chicken broth
2 potatoes peeled and cut into bite sized cubes
1 14.5 oz. can green beans (with liquid)
|1 14.5 oz. can corn (with liquid)1 14.5 oz. can tomatoes1 14.5 oz. can tomato sauce1/3 Cup Old Bay Seasoning
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 quart water
1 lb crab meat
Heat olive oil in a large stock pot and add onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Sauté until onions are soft. Add all remaining ingredients. Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer. Allow to simmer until potatoes and carrots are tender.
Irish Brown Soda Bread
|1 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon sugar1 heaping teaspoon cream of tartar1 heaping teaspoon baking soda||2 Cups all-purpose flour4 Cups whole wheat flour2 Cups sour milk or buttermilk|
Sift salt, sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda and All-purpose flour. Add whole wheat flour and lift handfuls to aerate. Make a well in center and add liquid mixing until dough leaves sides of bowl. Knead slightly; form into a slightly flattened ball. Cut a cross in the loaf and brush top with milk. Bake at 400 for 40 minutes. Turn loaf upside down and return to oven for 5 minutes.
Niall MacIan, a Highland laird, desperately needs funds to save his impoverished clan. The rumors in Edinburgh suggest that Lady Katherine Ruthven, a lowland heiress, is “unmarriageable” and her uncle hopes to be granted her title and lands when the king sends her to a convent. King David II anxious to strengthen his alliances sees a solution that will give Ruthven the title he wants, and MacIan the money he needs. Laird MacIan will receive Lady Katherine’s hand along with her substantial dowry and her uncle will receive her lands and title.
Lady Katherine must forfeit everything in exchange for a husband who does not want to be married and believes all women to be self-centered and deceitful. Can the lovely and gentle Katherine mend his heart and build a life with him or will he allow the treachery of others to destroy them?
Highland Solution is scheduled for release by Champagne Books in September, 2013. Read more about Ceci and her stories (and get more recipes) at her webapage, http://cecigiltenan.com/. Tomorrow, new Champagne author, Debra Easterling.