today’s book: the hope of christmas past by stephenia h mcgee
As I said earlier, Christmas is still 39 days away according to Google (I don’t do my own math, folks), BUT now ’tis the season when I start craving cozy Christmas reads. (Okay – I crave them all year round but now’s when I can get away with talking about them LOL) This year I’m continuing my annual blog series spotlighting new and recently-released Christmas reads, and I’m super excited! Christmas books make me happy!
So… snuggle in, grab your fave hot beverage and comfiest blanket, turn on some Christmas tunes and start your own bookish Christmas list! Oh… and did I mention there are GIVEAWAYS with EACH POST in this series??!! (Because authors are awesome!)
Today’s featured book is an inspirational time travel Christmas romance – and author Stephenia H. McGee is here, too, to share some yummy traditional Scottish recipes!
THE HOPE OF CHRISTMAS PAST
GENRE: Inspirational Time Travel Christmas Romance
PUBLISHER: By the Vine Press
RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2019
When a mysterious painting offers her a trip to the past, will Isla find new hope for her future?
On the brink of aging out the foster system, the last thing Isla Laird wants is to spend Christmas in an old-fashioned plantation. What’s the point of bonding with her foster mom when it’s too late to ever be adopted? But when a mysterious painting suddenly thrusts her into the nineteenth century, Isla is forced to face hurts and memories she’s long tried to bury. With time running out and her heart in tatters, can God use an impossible miracle to bring Isla hope for a new future?
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Also available to read for FREE with Kindle Unlimited
traditions of a banned christmas
by Stephenia H McGee, author The Hope of Christmas Past
Did you know Christmas was effectively banned in Scotland for almost 400 years? In 560 Scotland split from the Catholic Church during the Scottish Reformation. In 1583 the Glasgow Kirk at St Mungo’s Cathedral (also known as Glasgow Cathedral) ordered the excommunication of those who celebrated Yule (which was celebrated on the twelve days of Christmas), while elsewhere in Scotland, even singing a Christmas carol was considered a serious crime.
Finally in 1640 an Act of Parliament of Scotland made the celebration of Yule illegal. This ban was officially repealed in 1712, but the Church continued to frown upon the festive celebrations. Punishments for celebrating Yule were harsh, and there was no public holiday for the Scottish people on Christmas Day. It wasn’t until 1958 that Christmas became an official holiday.
Since the Scotts couldn’t celebrate Christmas, they threw quite a bit of energy into Hogmanay, the New Year Celebration. Full of fun traditions like being the “first-footer” (the first guest of the New Year to bring good luck) and rounds of singing Auld Lang Syne. To this day, the Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburg are some of the largest New Year’s Eve parties in the world.
In The Hope of Christmas Past, Isla falls through a painting and finds herself back in the 1800s at Belmont Plantation. The lady of the house, Ella, is a fiery Scottish lady who, despite the ban her father’s homeland placed on the holiday, is determined to enjoy all the festivities of both Christmas and Hogmanay. As Ella shares her Scottish traditions, Isla begins understand the meaning of family and her place in the world.
I’d like to share a few of the traditional Scottish recipes that Ella makes with her daughters and Isla, which you will find in the back of The Hope of Christmas Past. If you get a chance to try any of these out, let me know what you think!
Scottish Black Buns
This moist, fruity cake covered with rich pastry is traditionally eaten at Hogmanay (New Year). Make it in advance so the flavors have time to mature.
Preparation time: less than 30 mins
Cooking time: over 2 hours
Equipment: a 900g/2lb loaf tin.
For the pastry
12 oz plain flour (3 cups)
3 oz lard (6 tablespoons)
3 oz butter or margarine (6 tablespoons)
(Note that if you don’t want to use lard, increase the butter/margarine by an equivalent amount)
Pinch of salt
Half teaspoon baking powder
For the Filling
1 lb seedless raisins (2¾ cups)
1 lb cleaned currants (2¾ cups)
2 oz chopped, blanched almonds (Third of a cup)
2 oz chopped mixed peel (¼ cup)
6 oz plain flour (1½ cups)
3 oz soft brown sugar (Third of a cup)
One level teaspoon ground allspice
Half level teaspoon each of ground ginger, ground cinnamon, baking powder
Generous pinch of black pepper
One tablespoon brandy
One large, beaten egg
Milk to moisten
Grease an 8-inch loaf tin. Rub the fats into the flour and salt and then mix in enough cold water to make a stiff dough (remember, it is going to line the tin). Roll out the pastry and cut into six pieces, using the bottom, top and four sides of the tin as a rough guide. Press the bottom and four side pieces into the tin, pressing the overlaps to seal the pastry shell.
Mix the raisins, currants, almonds, peel and sugar together. Sift in the flour, all the spices and baking powder and bind them together using the brandy and almost all the egg and add enough milk to moisten.
Pack the filling into the lined tin and add the pastry lid, pinching the edges and using milk or egg to seal really well. Lightly prick the surface with a fork and make four holes to the bottom of the tin with a skewer. Depress the center slightly (it will rise as it cooks).
Brush the top with milk or the rest of the egg to create a glaze.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 325F/160C/Gas Mark 3 for 2½ to 3 hours. Test with a skewer which should come out clean; if not, continue cooking. An uncooked cake sizzles if you listen closely!
Cool in the tin and then turn onto a wire rack. Cool thoroughly before storing until Hogmanay.
*Recipe courtesy of rampantscotland.com
Scottish Bannock Cakes
Oatcakes are a very traditional part of the Scottish diet. They were cooked on a griddle (a flat iron pot placed over the fire) but you can use a regular skillet or frying pan. In the story, this is what Isla pulls out of the oven.
4 oz (125g) medium oatmeal
2 teaspoons melted fat (bacon fat, if available)
2 pinches of bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
3/4 tablespoons hot water
Additional oatmeal for kneading
Mix the oatmeal, salt and bicarbonate and pour in the melted fat into the centre of the mixture. Stir well, using a porridge stick if you have one and add enough water to make into a stiff paste. Cover a surface in oatmeal and turn the mixture onto this. Work quickly as the paste is difficult to work if it cools. Divide into two and roll one half into a ball and knead with hands covered in oatmeal to stop it sticking. Roll out to around quarter inch thick. Put a plate which is slightly smaller than the size of your pan over the flattened mixture and cut round to leave a circular oatcake. Cut into quarters (also called farls) and place in a heated pan which has been lightly greased. Cook for about 3 minutes until the edges curl slightly, turn, and cook the other side. Get ready with another oatcake while the first is being cooked.
An alternative method of cooking is to bake them in an oven at Gas5/375F/190C for about 30 minutes or until brown at the edges. The quantities above will be enough for two bannocks about the size of a dessert plate. If you want more, do them in batches rather than making larger quantities of mixture. Store in a tin and reheat in a moderate oven when required.
*Recipe courtesy of rampantscotland.com
The Scottish tablet is a super-sweet, very sugary treat. It’s not soft like fudge, or chewy like toffee, but more crumbly in texture. The taste is one-of-a-kind. Impress your friends and family this year with a unique treat!
This generations old recipe has been converted to modern US measurements, so it’s easy for you to give it a try.
@ 4 Cups Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Unsalted Butter (NOT Margarine)
1 14oz can Condensed Milk (NOT Evaporated Milk)
1 Small (1 fl oz) Bottle Natural Vanilla Extract
- Lightly grease a baking tray (11 x 19 inches works well) with butter and set aside.
- Put the sugar and milk into a fairly large, preferably heavy stainless steel saucepan (mixture will double in quantity as it heats).
- Stir together
- Add the butter and condensed milk and stir again
- Put pan on medium-high heat and bring mixture to the boil (this usually takes somewhere around 10 mins), stirring occasionally
- Once mixture comes to the boil, reduce the heat until mixture is boiling gently
- Continue to let it boil for around 20 – 30 minutes, still stirring occasionally
- Remove saucepan from the heat and add Vanilla Essence… and now comes the ‘elbow grease’… beat the mixture vigorously for 4 – 5 minutes, or until the mixture starts to feel more ‘stiff’ and ‘gritty’ under the spoon
- At this point the Tablet is ready to be poured into the baking tray you prepared at the beginning. Allow mixture to cool a little and then mark it off into bars, or squares with a sharp knife
- Tablet is ready to eat when fully cooled.
YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- This Scottish Tablet recipe is pretty straightforward, but it can take a few tries to get it ‘just right’. But the good news is that even the ‘rejects’ usually taste great!
- The boiling mixture will be VERY HOT, and can burn you quite badly if it sticks to your skin. Be careful while stirring the mixture, and stand well back as you remove it from the heat towards the end of the recipe.
- Tablet hardens quickly once it’s removed from the heat, so soak the pan in warm, soapy water as soon as you’ve emptied its’ contents into the baking tray.
*Recipe courtesy of Scottish at Heart
Winner of the 2012 RONE Best Inspirational Book of the year (2012) and author of seven Historical novels, Stephenia H. McGee has a fascination with hoop skirts and ball gowns, Greek revival homes and horse-drawn carriages, quirky Southern sayings, and home-grown recipes. She currently lives in Mississippi with her husband and two boys, (accompanied by their two spoiled dogs and mischievous cat) where she writes stories of faith, redemption, and stories steeped in the South.
Visit her website at www.StepheniaMcGee.com and be sure to sign up for the newsletter to get sneak peeks, behind the scenes fun, the occasional recipe, and special offers.
Stephenia H. McGee is offering one of my readers winner’s choice of one of these autographed book bundles:
The Ironwood Plantation Family Saga
(The Whistle Walk, Heir of Hope, and Missing Mercy)
The Liberator Trilogy
(Leveraging Lincoln, Losing Lincoln, Labeling Lincoln)
Belmont Plantation book set
(In His Eyes, The Heart of Home (novella), The Hope of Christmas Past (novella))
*US residents only. International winner will select from ebook editions. This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What interests you most about The Hope of Christmas Past? Have you ever made any of the recipes that Stephenia H McGee included in her post? Which one would you like to try first?