Friday, December 5, 2014

The Art of Fine Cookery ~ Milady's Lovely, Easy & Luscious Eggnog.....


“The house was bright that night, with candles lit in the windows, and bunches of holly and ivy fixed to the staircase and the doorposts. There were not so many pipers in the Highlands as there had been before Culloden, but one had been found, and a fiddler as well, and music floated up the stairwell, mixed with the heady scent of rum punch, plum cake, almond squirts, and Savoy biscuits.
Jamie had come down late and hesitant. Many people here he had not seen in nearly ten years, and he was not eager to see them now, feeling changed and distant as he did. But Jenny had made him a new shirt, brushed and mended his coat, and combed his hair smooth and plaited it for him before going downstairs to see to the cooking. He had no excuse to linger, and at last had come down, into the noise and swirl of the gathering.

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Voyager.”  

I love eggnog and it always takes me back to this scene in Voyager where Jamie was telling Claire about the first Hogmanay after he returned to Lallybroch.  I only wish that it had been Claire to share the rum punch with him instead of Loaghaire.....

 This recipe is no less magical and absolutely decadent! It's so easy to make and it's even better when served in a punchbowl surrounded by spicy yuletide greenery! You can make the recipe from scratch if you desire and if I have the time sometimes I will using whole organic eggs, milk, sugar and cream, but frankly when the good organic eggnogs are so plentiful why bother (and you have the added bonus of not having to worry about raw eggs)! Also, if you have anyone in your family who is allergic to milk or eggs, don't forget about Silk's soy eggnog or SoyNog as I believe it's called! 

Actually all of the milk substitutes (actually I think that it is a real disservice to call them that, as they are delicious in their own rights!) are creating wonderful "eggnogs" that you can use as the base for this recipe. They're absolutely delicious  and you will be able to serve a delicious and festive holiday beverage that leaves no one feeling left out! 

The good news for vegans this year is that you don't even have to omit the whipped cream because theres a fabulous whipped rice cream available in a can and ready to use like Redi Whip. Made by Soyana, you should be able to find it easily at your local Whole Foods.

At any rate every year, people beg me for this recipe and I'm always so embarrassed to tell them just how easy it is...with this one it's all in the presentation (and the rum!) At last years Winter Solstice party I think that we went through about 3 punch bowls of it and lots of the RSVP's for this years party start with "Ill see you around the eggnog bowl!" 

All you will need is :

3 quarts of organic eggnog ( Please splurge on the organic, you won't be sorry!)

About 2 cups of really good rum! I personally love the Captain Morgan's special reserve spiced rum for this recipe. It's already infused with spices and vanilla, it's practically perfume! ( And I have been known to use it as such!)

About 6 cups of dried raisins that you've soaked for about 6 hours in a lovely single malt scotch ,reserving the scotch for the eggnog as well! 

Lots of whipped cream that has been infused with vanilla extract, brown sugar and some rum flavoring. For this I like to beat my whipped cream by hand in a copper bowl with a whisk. It takes a little longer but the cream is a wonderful silken consistency. Don't worry if you don't have a copper bowl and just do it the traditional way. It will be just as yummy!

Then add a liberal sprinkling of:

Nutmeg for joy and good luck, Cinnamon for love and prosperity and Allspice for continuous good health throughout the year!

The recipe itself is quite easy, simply put the eggnog into a punch bowl and whisk in the rum and brandy. Ladle the whipped cream onto the eggnog so that it looks like fluffy clouds of cream, sprinkle with the spices and serve. Put some of the raisins in each serving. 

You will need to add more whipped cream on top as the evening unfolds because the cream continuously  gets folded into the eggnog, making it AMAZING! Serve in a lovely punch glass or a pretty tea cup with a kiss and a wish for a marvelous New Year! 

For more of my food musings please go to Stirring the Senses on
For lots more Outlander fun please visit me at Milady's Pantry and My Outlander Love Affair on Facebook!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Claires Herbs ~ Fire Cider


I don't know how cold it is where you live but here in Northeast Ohio it's very chilly at this time of year. In January when the temperatures dip into the single digits I really begin to feel rundown, almost like I just want to hibernate for a while. That's when I know that it's time to break out the Fire Cider!

Fire CIder 1
Fire Cider is an old fashioned herbalists remedy full of warming herbs, roots, vegetables and spices. Everything in it is dedicated to warming the blood and helping to stimulate the digestive fire. Unlike most of my tinctures this one is vinegar based so it's really a fermented food , not just a medicine. The apple cider vinegar base is so good for your digestion, helping you create an alkaline environment in your body which is necessary to keep the immune sytem functioning  in tip- top shape. Every person that I know makes theirs just a little bit differently so Fire Cider never tastes the same from one batch to the next. I like mine very spicy and heavy on the garlic and horseradish. I add beets for color and also as a blood purifier. Warning! Just a little of this goes a long way and if you've got blocked sinuses this is your perfect food!

For each mason jar of Fire Cider you will need:
1/3  cup of chopped onion
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh horseradish root
1 tablespoon of chopped Jalapeno
2 tablespoons of chopped red beet
2 tablespoons of chopped ginger
2 tablespoons of chopped garlic
1 cinnamon stick
1 stem of fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon each of Turmeric and Mustard Seed
1 slice of lemon
Layer all of these in a mason jar and cover with several tablespoons of red wine (antioxidants) and raw apple cider vinegar. Close the jars and shake until the ingredients are well blended and let them settle. this year I used my cuisinart to chop the vegetables and I noticed that within two hours everything had settled in the jar and I needed to add more apple cider vinegar, an outcome that I really liked. Next let them steep for a few weeks, then when you're ready strain and decant the Fire Cider into a larger jar. Add several tablespoons of raw honey and stir. Then strain the Fire Cider into small dark glass bottles or a larger bottle if you like.  When you're feeling rundown, take a small shot of it and prepare yourself. The heat produces such a wonderful energy, not a burning, but a warmth that spreads all the way down to your toes! 

I also like to use my Fire Cider to cook with. You can make slaw with it or thicken it with even more honey and use it as a glaze for a delicious pork tenderloin or chicken stir-fry. How about mixing it with a bit of walnut oil for a perfect salad dressing. Because of the earthy grounding nature of the ingredients I like to mix my Fire Cider with nut oils, not olive because I think that the blend tastes richer. Last but not least although I know that it sounds a bit blasphemous,  Fire Cider is absolutely delicious mixed into tomato juice and makes a perfect Bloody Mary! Either way, you'll be very glad that you've taken the time to make a batch the next time that you're feeling just a wee bit chilled! 

One last thing. I share my recipes  because I believe with all my heart that herbalism is a form of medicine that belongs to the people and I hope that you'll have so much fun making them. Herbal remedies like these have always been passed down from generation to generation; almost every herbal culture has some form of this Fire Cider.  

I'd love to hear from you! Please keep in touch with me at or at

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bubbling in the Cauldron-Pear Butter with Raisins & Figs

One of the things that I love the most about the Outlander series are the cooking scenes. I love to imagine myself in Jenny's kitchen stirring bubbling pots full of delicious things to feed my family. I can close my eyes and imagine myself throwing open the windows at Lallybroch and smelling the fresh clean air. I smile as I imagine myself reaching for my crystal decanter full of whiskey and pouring myself a wee dram to sip while I stir pots full of soup and jam over the wood burning oven. In my mind I prepare delicious cakes for tea and wonderful dinners for the long cold nights. It's the best fantasy ever for a girl like me!

 How I long for a wood stove again. When I had one at my farm, I would always use it to  cook with. I loved the self sufficiency of it. I remember many a cold morning when we would lose our power but I could always feed my family with a few logs and my favorite cast iron frying pan.I used to make slow cooked oatmeal on my woodstove and also flapjacks,bacon and soup. Occasionally I would make fruit butters. They were always delicious, thick, rich and smoky!

  Today was a beautiful autumn day so I spent it making pear butter. Lacking a fire and a cauldron I decided to use my slow cooker.The result was surprising and filled with a few twists and I even learned a cheat that I'm going to pass on to you. Of course I began with fresh pears, three different kinds. I diced them and put them into the slow cooker with a little bit of olive oil  and a knob of fresh butter. Then I added pear juice, cinnamon, anise,cloves,Cardamom and brown sugar.

I simmered this in the slow cooker on low for 10 hours. After 10 hours I added more diced pear and let it cook for a few hours more. At that point I decided that it was too juicy and I knew I needed to thicken it before I put it in the canning jars, but I jusst wasn't sure how to do it.

So I went to the grocery store and I bought raisins and currents.  I thought about buying figs and then a thought passed through my mind. Instead of dried figs, I bought a jar of French fig jam, full of figs and added pectin. My reasoning was that if I used the jam, perhaps my mixture would thicken on its own. I came home and started the pot simmering. I added the dried fruit and the fig jam. I continued to stir patiently.

 Lo and behold , the pear butter began to thicken! I poured it into canning jars to which I'd added a tablespoon of lemon juice ( each jar) and water processed them for 30 minutes. That fig jam was one of the best cooking cheats that I've ever discovered!

I cracked open a jar about an hour ago and it's absolutely yummy; beautiful, creamy , fruity and thick and ready for holiday gifting!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Art of Fine Cookery ~ Apple Butter & Oatmeal

“We had wakened in the dark after moonset, leaf-spattered, twig-strewn, bug-bitten, and stiff with cold. We had said not a word to each other, but laughing and staggering drunkenly, stumbling over roots and stones, had helped each other through the moonless wood and made our way back to bed for an hour’s brief sleep before dawn.
I leaned over his shoulder now and deposited a bowl of oatmeal in front of him, pausing to pluck an oak leaf from his hair. I laid it on the table beside his bowl.
He turned his head, a smile hiding in his eyes, caught my hand and kissed it lightly. He let me go, and went back to his parritch. I touched the back of his neck, and saw the smile spread to his mouth.”

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Drums of Autumn.”

I spent a wonderful day last week making apple butter and many of my readers asked for the recipe. Normally, the best way to make apple butter is over a hot wood fire, apples simmering away for hours in a large copper cauldron with pats of butter added and lots of brown sugar and cinnamon to finish. Lacking the 50 gallon cauldron and the woodfire, I've devised another method that works well. I use my slow cooker (which is a cauldron of sorts!) and it works verra weel!

All you do is take a bushel of apples  and dice them. You can peel them if you like and that makes a smoother apple butter, but my family loves the peels so I leave them on. I put them in the slow cooker until the pot is full and then I add about 2 cups of sweet cider, about 1/2 a cup of chopped crystallized ginger, a lot of cinnamon, 1 cup of bourbon or single malt and at least three cups of brown sugar. Then I turn the crock pot on low and I use the 10 hour setting. I watch it and stir occasionally and at a pat of butter every once in a while which keeps the foam down. As the mixture "melts" down, I add more apples and brown sugar. I let it cook for about 18 hours on low, stirring and tasting as I go.

At about the 14th hour I add about a cup and a half of maple syrup and 3 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice and stir. Then let it continue to cook for several more hours. You'll know it's done because it will have turned a lovely color (rich caramel) and will smell absolutely wonderful. Cooking it for that long concentrates the flavors and produces a butter that is absolutely delectable. Right before it's done, I add a tablespoon of smoked paprika. This adds a touch of smoky wildness that I love!

You can use your apple butter in so many ways......on hot buttered biscuits, waffles, pancakes, as a filling with fresh apples for pie or on oatmeal as I've done here with brown sugar, cinnamon, walnuts and fresh butter. It's a bit like having dessert for breakfast! A steaming cup of coffee with cinnamon or a delectable cinnamon tea seals the deal!
For more Outlander Love Affair ~

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Art of Fine Cookery : Craving some Comfort and a wee bit of Atholl Brose

It's freezing here in Northeast Ohio and it's time for a good old fashioned hot alcoholic know, something to warm your heart as well as your hands! I have plenty of toddies and hot buttered rum recipes in my arsenal but I really wanted something different; I just wasn't sure what!

Then I remembered the bottle of Apple Pie Moonshine that I had sitting in my cabinet and just as quickly I ran downstairs and took the lid off of the mason jar with the wicked looking brown liquid in it. 

Warning- This is not your uncles Moonshine...This stuff is unbelievable and it smells and tastes just like a fresh cinnamon spiked apple pie, but with a mule sized kick. For some reason (or maybe I'm just highly suggestible!) it made me crave a mug of Atholl Brose, that wonderful Scottish drink of oatmeal brose , honey , whisky and cream so I grabbed my copper kettle and filled it with 3/4 of a gallon of apple cider, 3 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice and 1 stick of butter. I let that simmer for a bit, whisking frequently and next added about 1 1/2 cups of blackstrap molasses and a sachet of one cup of oatmeal tied in the foot of a brand new pair of stockings that I'd cut the foot off of. (I keep plenty of cheap pairs around for that purpose) 

After that simmered for about 45 minutes there was still plenty of liquid but it was syrupy, wonderful and the molasses and oatmeal gave it a very earthy flavor. I squeezed the bag of oatmeal several times into the pot and then I added one jar of the moonshine, 1 cup of Buttershot schnapps, 1 cup of Drambuie, 3/4 of a cup of vanilla brandy and two teaspoons of vanilla extract. I brought it all to steaming, filled a camping thermos with boiling water , dumped it out and then added the piping hot Brew. It was delicious ~ I'm absolutely thrilled!  I've been sipping it all day with steaming Scottish breakfast tea, a shot of Laphroaig and some brown sugar whipped cream! It keeps well and I have enough for an army so perhaps a gathering of the clans is in order or at least a comfy chair, a soft blanket and your dog eared copy of Outlander! 

Bubbling in the Cauldron ~ Witches Brew
Bubbling in the Cauldron ~ Witches Brew
Bubbling in the Cauldron ~ Witches Brew

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Art of Fine Cookery : Corn Pudding with Cheddar, Maple Syrup and Sage

I love corn pudding and this is my favorite recipe. It's much lighter than most, using corn as it's primary ingredient and not too much filler! It smells so good when it's cooking and tastes even better. Corn pudding is the perfect midwinter dish and can be served by itself with a salad or with a pork roast, ham or sausages. Hard cider or winter beer is the perfect accompaniment. I can almost see Mrs. Bug in the kitchen every time I make this and If you can find the dehydrated corn use's absolutely delicious, sweet as sugar and feels very authentically 18th century. I reconstitute it in buttermilk and it's almost better than fresh!

 You'll need:

Two bags of frozen sweet corn( I use one white and one yellow) or reconstituted dried corn (about 6 cups)

2 cups of diced onion

2 tablespoons of fresh minced garlic

3 tablespoons of maple syrup

1 cup of diced sweet peppers

1 tablespoon of dried sage

1 large wedge of hard cheddar  (shredded)

1 bunch of green onions  (Chopped)

2 cups of organic buttermilk

4 organic eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the eggs and buttermilk in a bowl and whisk until frothy. Add the remaining ingredients  and fold together. Place the blended ingredients into a baking dish and bake at 350 until firm, approximately 45-50 minutes. My preference is that you use a cast iron skillet or baking dish because for some reason cast iron bakes the pudding very evenly.  Serve with  slices of country ham or sausage. 

Picture of corn from

Friday, January 17, 2014

Tartan: How to make a Kilt - Parts One and Two

Have you always wanted to design your own tartan? It's one of my long held personal fantasies! These fabulous videos are not only entertaining , but gorgeous too!  If I can't have my husband AND Jamie Fraser at least I'm currently hopeful that it may someday when I can afford it that I'll be able to wear this wickedly gorgeous blend of their plaids....

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Unraveling the Mysteries of Herbal Medicine

Many people over the years have asked me about my involvement with alternative medicine, most specifically my use of herbal remedies to address the various maladies that periodically plague me, my friends or my family. As we find out with more frequency about the corruption of the large pharmaceutical companies as well as the continuing abuse of the drugs that they create, I think that it's natural to have become fearful about the future of medicine in this country. 

The overuse of antibiotics in America has created some of the scariest , most resistant strains of Staphylococcus that we've ever seen and quite frankly I do believe that there is cause for alarm, so much so that we've seen a dramatic rise in the number of people turning to alternative remedies for self healing. With disasterous health insurance practices at the forefront of the current political debate it's clear that it's become time for a powerful paradigm shift relating to the way that we deal with illness. 

I became familiar with herbal medicine very early in my life, because as a child I had an Irish riding instructor from County Kildare who hardly ever used veterinary medicine to treat her common ills.  Colic , which is a horrible impaction of the gut was never an issue with our horses. Every morning she would boil flax seed on her stove and create a jelly to be given in the mornings feed. We rarely wormed our horses with the fancy new paste wormer filled with chemicals which she generally refused to use, but kept them parasite free with  the pine and spruce that she kept in the pasture for them to eat. She constantly rotated her pastures and I noticed that our horses were eating all kinds of different plants that were growing with rarely any ill effects and they ate them readily. Horses that seemed a bit lackluster  ate certain plants and when I pointed them out to her she was always able to tell me what was ailing them because of what they were eating.    One day, one of the horses went straight for a patch of yellow dock which she told me indicated a weakness in his stomach. After a day or two he brightened and was much happier and far stronger than he'd been several days before. Not a miracle cure at all, he was just an animal who in trusting his instincts chose the natural path towards healing. It was pretty amazing stuff for an impressionable 12 year old to see.  

We used tisanes of  chamomile tea and beer in the bran mashes that we made to help promote calmness. We  rarely used chemical liniments, relying on herbal vinegars that we made with saltpeter, sage , fresh mints and comfrey leaves. I think that it became natural for me to question the amounts of medicine that were being used by my family Dr.s  to "promote health" , because I had been exposed to something so different in my very young years which made complete and total sense to me. In my early 20's after a tangle with birth control pills, antibiotics and the ensuing amount of damage that they did to my body I really swore off of the convenience of modern medicine except as the last resort when I fell ill, never the first. 

In my mid 20's I was fortunate to find a wonderful teacher named LaWanna Rine who is a very experienced herbalist and healer. LaWanna has been a practicing herbalist for decades and graciously taught me by example. I spent many hours with her helping her to prepare teas,salves and tinctures and walking through her woods while we gathered the plants that we would use. Her practice is a very complete example of a whole body system for healing. She is is totally vegan and she practices her yoga and meditation everyday. She uses herbs from her property and water from her spring to create her healing teas. She uses aromatherapy in the wonderful treatments that she gives and her powerful medical intuition and her vast knowledge of the bodies systems as her most profound diagnostic tool. She is to this day, the only herbalist that I've ever met who I would trust with the dosage of the more poisonous herbs such as poke root, foxglove or celandine because she knows how to use them with a subtlety and precision that we wish that our Dr's practiced with their candy box of  pharmaceuticals.  I was very lucky to find her and she taught me that the practice of herbalism is everyones birthright. 

 LaWanna encouraged everyone in her circle to learn as much as possible so that  you could live well wherever you found yourself and not be at the mercy of a medical system that she felt had betrayed our humanity. She also was very firm about her belief that eating with the seasons ,harvesting and growing your own foods as well as wildcrafting your own herbs  provided the most potent medicine for   body, mind and spirit.   She taught me to  use fasting, whole foods  and mini cleanses as tools to promote a healthy digestive system thereby creating a strong immune system.  She's also 86 years old, still teaching and wildcrafting in her woods. She's really quite a remarkable woman!

Now that so many natural herbal preparations can be found in our local Whole Foods store and even in grocery stores that are not traditionally "Health Food " stores, it's more important than ever to learn as much as you can about this old and wise tradition of healing. There are many wonderful books available by herbal legends such as Susan Weed or  the late Juliette De Baricli Levy as well as several home study courses such as the delightful course by Rosemary Gladstar that you can purchase and enjoy at your own pace.   

 Herbal remedies  in most of their forms are very powerful medicine and should not be taken carelessly because they can be as toxic as  the  drugs we are trying to avoid.  Take the time to do the research and always remember to consult your pharmacist if you are taking any other prescription drugs.  Herbs CAN mix poorly with many pharmaceuticals so it pays to proceed with with caution. 

In this age of global uncertainty and instability , I truly believe as LaWanna does that it is  so very important to be able care for yourself and your family with as much self sufficiency as possible. We are fortunate to live in a world where so much is  readily available to us including excellent  chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists.  However,  the tradition of herbal medicine for healing has been passed down from generation to generation and it  belongs to everyone, not just a chosen few. Thankfully, herbalism is a traditional, yet sophisticated and effective folk medicine that can be readily utilized by anyone who cares enough to truly take the time to learn about , respect and understand fully the properties of the many herbs that are so easily available to us all. 
Antique Herbal Photo from Christies