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Mac n Cheddar Cheese

Mac n Cheddar Cheese

Mac n Cheddar Cheese

Baked Mac n Cheddar Cheese is a favorite for lots of us. I never tire of it. This is nothing like the bright orange powdered cheese mac that comes in a box. I used Clothbound Chedder from Grace Hill Farm in Cummington, MA. I found the cheese at Boston Public Market on a weekend trip with Taylor to visit Kristin. You should use your favorite cheddar. Or, use Gouda. If a cheese melts well and you like it, use it. You could add a little Mozzarella to make it stringy. I wouldn’t use all Mozzarella but maybe 25% of the total cheese would be great.mac n cheddar, mac and cheese, homemade, macaroni and cheese

Changing it Up

If you want to change up your mac and cheese you can add two teaspoons of dry mustard, or a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. I like to saute mushrooms and onions and add them to the cheese sauce. Remember those “helper” boxed meals you add a pound of ground burger to? You can fry your burger and add it to mac and cheese. Or, how about some slightly steamed broccoli? Variety is good!

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Chicken Marsala – Great with Upland Game Birds, too

Chicken Marsala – Great with Upland Game Birds, too

Chicken Marsala Recipe

When I mentioned to a friend that this week’s recipe is Chicken Marsala she said, “I thought you weren’t going to get complicated.” It sounds a little fancy, doesn’t it. This is a simple recipe. It takes a little time but it’s worth it. The Marsala is wine.

There are a few steps to Chicken Marsala but they’re more time-consuming than complicated. It’s worth the effort! Read the recipe a couple of times if you haven’t made it before. Then follow it step by step and you’ll catch yourself agreeing with me – this is simple. This works well with grouse, pheasant and other upland game birds.

If you’re cooking for a large group you can make this ahead of time. It will warm nicely in the oven. Great served over mashed potatoes or noodles, it’s a recipe most everyone will love.

Chicken Marsala, noodles, On The Fire

Homemade Italian Sausage Recipe

Homemade Italian Sausage Recipe

 Homemade Italian Sausage Recipe

When I look for recipes for sausage I find recipes using sausage, not making sausage. It took me quite some time to come up with our homemade Italian sausage recipe a few years ago. It takes trial and error, and we have to consider the freshness and quality of the herbs and spices we use.

I tucked this recipe away two years ago after we raised a couple of pigs out near the orchard. At that time I asked the butcher to grind our sausage meat for me. It came back in neat five pound packages ready to be seasoned. This year our pig was raised for us and went to a different slaughter house. I asked for our trimmings to be packaged and sent back to grind myself.

homemade italian sausage, recipe, Weston meat grinderThe trimmings had more fat on it than I wanted in our grind so a lot of it was trimmed away. I used the Weston meat grinder we bought when I shot the bear in September for a blend around 80% meat, 20% fat. Once the trimmings are ground it’s time to add seasonings. That’s all there is to it.

We have Italian sausages pan fried with onions and bell peppers during grilling weather. I love Italian sausage in spaghetti sauce, and at Gundy’s suggestion, in meatloaf. This recipe is mild enough that the sausage can also be used at breakfast.

Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe

Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe

The One Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe You Need

This is my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe. It might be my favorite cookie overall. Mum most often made peanut butter or chocolate chip cookies. I don’t remember many times when the cookie jar was empty.

Great for Kids

I’m a proponent of kids in the kitchen. This recipe is a great one for kids as well as for last-minute cookies.

It’s easy to remember, easy to make, and easy to eat an entire batch in a few days with a little help. I know people who can keep a batch of cookies in the house for two weeks. They eat one cookie a day. I am not them. Two cookies and a cup of coffee or rich hot chocolate and it’s goodbye cookies. I save a few for us and send the rest to work with Steve.

The ONE recipe is easy to remember. The only ONE peanut butter cookie recipe you really need. Most ingredients are measured in one cup or teaspoon.

PB&J

Peanut Butter & Jam cookwiches! I prefer my PB&J sandwich be made with jam between two peanut butter cookies. Use the soft cookies for this so that you can bite through the cookies without squeezing the jam out. A stiff jelly works well too.

peanut butter cookie recipe, peanut butter jelly sandwich, recipe

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Baked Beans Recipe – Traditional New England Saturday Night Supper

Baked Beans Recipe – Traditional New England Saturday Night Supper

Baked Beans Recipe

Baked beans were not my favorite Saturday night, or any night for that matter, supper. They’re as traditional as lobster bakes on the beach, clam chowder and moose tenderloin but that didn’t mean anything to me. Over the years I’ve tweaked the recipe, as you should do to make it suit your tastes, and now I love baked beans. Protein and iron rich, filling and satisfying, healthy fat from homegrown pork, and great for leftovers. What’s not to love!

baked beans, new england, recipe

Well…what’s not to love…”homemade” using baked beans from a can. I have nothing against them, some are delicious, but clearly they’re not homemade no matter what you do to them. It’s like melting butter, adding a little salt, pouring it into a bowl, and saying you made butter.

Bean Pot or Slow Cooker

baked beans

You can bake the beans in a traditional bean pot or your slow cooker. If the weather is bitterly cold I use the bean pot and keep the oven on to warm the kitchen. However, it’s easier to keep an eye on the beans using a slow cooker with a glass top so you can make sure they don’t dry out.

Warmed up baked beans for breakfast will hold you well to lunch time if you’re busy outdoors. They’re great in chili and refried beans.

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Fish Chowder – From Lake to Bowl

Fish Chowder – From Lake to Bowl

Fish Chowder

A steaming bowl of fish chowder, a thick slice of homemade bread slathered with good butter, and a big spoon. That’s all I need to make a meal that leaves me wanting more even after I’m stuffed to the gills (you see what I did there?). Chowder isn’t just for seafood. You can use fresh water fish, and it’s especially good if you’re using fish you’ve just caught while ice fishing. I stick with white fish and skip any that are oily. If you’d prefer to use ocean fish I suggest haddock, cod or pollock. Good fresh-water choices are cusk, yellow and white perch, and bass.

fish chowder

Mixing it Up

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Rather than tell you how to make fish stock let’s use Hank Shaw’s recipe. He makes great stock and it’s so similar to my recipe there’s no need for me to duplicate it.

You can exchange the butter for salt pork or bacon. Cut it into half-inch cubes and saute to release some of the fat before you add the onions to the pan.

I grew up with chowder made from canned milk instead of heavy cream, and now I sometimes use half ‘n half if I don’t have heavy cream. All three are good but I prefer cream.

Some folks add 1/2 cup of chopped celery when they saute the onions.

Chowder stores well in the refrigerator. Refrigerate leftovers immediately without letting the chowder cool to room temperature because of the dairy and fish.

This looks great served in bread bowls. Traditionally, it’s served with Saltines or Oyster crackers.

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Soup – venison, vegetables, seasoning, an ermine…

Soup – venison, vegetables, seasoning, an ermine…

Story of Soup

This is the story of soup and how it came together while the power was out. Soup is a comfort food for stormy days. I pulled a package of venison from the freezer. It was an old buck, hit by an old already falling apart pickup driven by an elderly man. The buck died instantly but the truck is still limping along, barely. I let the meat thaw until it was crystaly and easy to cut.

soup, venison soup

I retrieved the new three quart stainless steel pot and its glass lid from the pantry. Olive oil poured in and heated, I added a pre-mixed seasoning meant for beef, two cloves of minced garlic, the cubed venison, and stirred. The bits of meat hit the oil and seasons, splattering a little, sputtering as the last of the ice crystals I thought had melted hit the oil.

Chattering, banging and crashing on the back porch pulled my attention from the counter to the window. A red squirrel voiced its displeasure with something. I waited a few seconds, started to turn from the window to go back to cooking, and caught a glimpse of the offender – an ermine. An ermine. That explains the dearth of mice coming into the house. The snap traps have been empty for three weeks. Let’s hope he or she creates a lack of red squirrels as well.

Sauteing garlic, seasoning and browning venison pulled me back to the stack of carrots waiting to be peeled. The peeler works both ways, forward and back, and most of the peelings fly across the counter to land in a pile. A few crash land on the floor. Chop chop chop and carrot rounds are ready for the pot. Sizzle sizzle.

Celery, purchased at a grocery store because I don’t seem to be able to grow it, is next. There’s a lot of dirt between the stalks. Mum said we’re “going to eat a peck of dirt before we die.” I wipe the dirt away with a cotton kitchen towel and decide the residue is going to count toward my peck. Chop chop chop, sizzle sizzle sizzle. What’s next?

Bay leaves. I chose two nice bay leaves and added them to the pot. I haven’t added liquid yet and the seasoning has a little sugar so the mixture is starting to caramelize on the bottom of the pot. Two good glugs of Marsala wine instantly fill the air with an aroma so rich it makes my mouth water. I stir until the bottom of the pot is clear.

When the faucet finally runs with hot water I fill a quart mason jar with water and then pour the water into the pot. Not quite another. Another quart fills the pot almost to the top. I want the soup to simmer for a few hours before I do anything else with it. The old buck’s meat will tenderize as it cooks slowly. I leave the cover off so the liquid will evaporate, condensing the flavors and eliminating the need for stock (I’m out) or bouillon (don’t feel like using this time).

While the soup simmer I tackle a project new to me – knitting without a pattern. I saw cute ornaments on IG this morning. If I can figure out a pattern, I tell myself, I can buy more yarn. I’m not really a knitter but I want to think I am. I like to buy yarn. Soft yarn in warm, natural colors, bundles of creativity waiting to happen. I start to knit the ornament and by the time it’s time to check the soup the ornament is taking shape.

Barley. Dammit, I know I bought barley. Two pounds of pearled barley, in bulk. Where did I put it? My cupboards are neat and tidy now but, no barley. The pantry shelves, neat and tidy after my search but still, no barley. Noodles it is. Not as hardy and healthy and filling but I like noodles once in a while.

Tidying up, the garlic and carrot peels, carrot tops and tips and celery trimmings get tossed into a mixing cup. Ava and Zoey will have the meat scraps and the vermicomposting worms get the vegetable scraps.

It’s dark early, 4:3o pm and the hen house lights are the only light in the yard. The soup has simmered, reducing the liquid by a third. I add a little sea salt, a pinch of black pepper, two shakes of Italian seasoning and a quarter-teaspoon of onion powder. Blow blow blow the heat away. Taste taste taste. Yes, that’s it. It’s right now. I replace the lid, turn off the heat, and let it set until Steve comes home.

Hot Chocolate Recipes – Dark Chocolate & Red Wine

Hot Chocolate Recipes – Dark Chocolate & Red Wine

Hot Chocolate Recipes

I came across a recipe for hot chocolate and red wine – combined – while looking for a variety in hot chocolate recipes. Dark chocolate and red wine. Together. I had to try it immediately. All you need is milk, a dark chocolate candy bar or chips, and red wine. Add whipping cream to the list if you want whipped cream. If you don’t happen to have dark chocolate in the house you can substitute any hot chocolate you do have. A few curls of chocolate or a sprinkling of spice at the end adds to the decadence.

A note to On The Fire listeners – I’ve added the vanilla to the recipe. That little extra flavor makes a difference.

Another Homemade Hot Chocolate Recipe

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
4 cups milk (cow, goat, almond, whatever you like)
1 tsp vanilla

Bring the cocoa, sugar and water to a boil, stirring continually. Carefully mix in the milk, continuing to stir. Continue to heat until the milk is hot but not boiling, remove from heat, and then stir in the vanilla.

I enjoy a glass of wine before dinner if I’m still writing. On the coldest days of winter I’ll switch to Dark Red Hot Chocolate. Take note of the garnishing in the recipe, and if you have suggestions of your own, please leave them in the comments.

With these hot chocolate recipes there’s a nice way to unwind at the end of the day before turning in for a long winter night’s nap. Enjoy!

Breakfast Frittata with Sausage and Cheese

Breakfast Frittata with Sausage and Cheese

Sausage and Cheese Breakfast Frittata

Our “kids” are grown so Christmas morning is quiet at our house. This year Steve is working “weekend duty” at work so he’ll be out to morning meeting and make sure everything’s alright. While he’s gone I’ll make our breakfast. We traditionally have a hot breakfast, not too big, that holds us over until we have dinner in the early afternoon. This year I’m making a favorite, sausage and cheese breakfast frittata. I’ll give you a couple of ideas to make this a brunch frittata or even a breakfast-for-supper fritta, too.

breakfast frittata, fritatta, frittata recipeIt’s easy to change up the breakfast frittata. Add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes for a bit of heat. Fresh or granulated garlic changes the flavor slightly. When using fresh mushrooms, saute them first to remove excess moisture. Add leftover vegetables such as asparagus (there’s never leftover asparagus at my house) or broccoli.

For a buffet, remove the breakfast frittata from the oven in time to let it cool for five to ten minutes, then slice. Or, serve it cold. This dish travels well for potlucks because it can be served hot or cold. I’ve learned that when served cold, guests are more likely to add this to their plates if the pieces are small. Instead of cutting the frittata into eight pieces, try 12 or even 16.

 

Eggnog Cookies with Creamy Frosting

Eggnog Cookies with Creamy Frosting

Eggnog Cookies with Creamy Eggnog Frosting

Growing up, Christmas was about food, visiting family, food, presents, food, and food. Mum spent days baking and making candy. The dining room table, so big it seated eight easily and ten if we squeezed together, was covered with sugary treats. I carried that tradition on for decades. Now, with a waistline I have to keep a very close eye on and only two of us in the house, I seldom bake sweets. Or…I did until I realized I can bake, have a few cookies or whatever it is I’ve created, and send the rest to work with Steve. Winning! Eggnog Cookies have been on my “I’m going to make that next year” list for a long time. I finally made them this week and now I’m kicking myself for waiting for so long.

eggnog cookies, eggnog frostingThe eggnog cookies recipe I started with came from Pinterest. Looking at the ingredients and amounts, I knew I wasn’t going to love the cookies. I made adjustments twice and came up with a recipe so good I can’t stay out of the cookie jar. I packed them up and sent them to work with Steve this morning.

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