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Baked Beans Recipe – Traditional New England Saturday Night Supper

Baked Beans Recipe – Traditional New England Saturday Night Supper

baked beansBaked 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!

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

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.

Baked Beans – Saturday Night Tradition

Baked Beans – Saturday Night Tradition

Baked Beans

Saturday night in New England. Supper time. Baked beans, red hot dogs, brown bread, homemade bread or biscuits. Life is good. Baked beans are a winter tradition because they take hours to bake in the oven and add warmth to the house. There aroma of baking beans and bread or biscuits will make your stomach rumble even if you aren’t hungry.

We started with a basic recipe on a bag of dried yellow eye beans and worked with it until we were happy with the results. Steve makes better baked beans than I. It took me a while to figure out that I need to taste the broth before I add it to the beans.

Yellow eye are our favorite. I didn’t like baked beans growing up but Steve loved my Grampy’s recipe. Grampy used yellow eye beans so that’s what we use now. Don’t skimp on adding broth later on. Make up extra ahead of time. If you don’t use it all you’re out is some molasses. If you have chickens, give it to them!

This recipe makes a huge batch. It works just as well if you make half and use a smaller bean pot. The beans reheat well and are a great side with breakfast and lunch. You can also use a slow cooker / crock pot.

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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Hot Pepper Wine Jelly – Appetizers

Hot Pepper Wine Jelly – Appetizers

Hot Pepper Wine Jelly

Hot Pepper Wine Jelly, also know as Christmas Jelly because of it’s beautiful red and green peppers, is my favorite holiday party appetizer. It’s also my favorite Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and curled up on the couch watching a movie during a nor’easter appetizer. The zing from the peppers combined with the sweet sugar and the richness of sour cream is awesome.

hot pepper wine jelly, appetizers, hot peppers, cream cheese, dip, recipe

How Hot?

You can adjust the heat level with your choice of hot pepper. Heat is rated with the Scoville Heat Scale. I personally wouldn’t go higher than Jalepeno because I’m a heat wimp. If you’re using this recipe for a party appetizer I suggest putting a small sign in front of the serving bowl so everyone knows it has some degree of heat. I haven’t made this jelly without hot peppers. If you have I’d love to know how it tastes.

  • Bell peppers
  • 1,000 to 2,000 Poblano and Ancho
  • 2,000 to 5,000 Jalepeno
  • 100,000 – 350,000  Habenero

I make this jelly in late summer and hot water bath can it. To make and serve as an appetizer in the next couple of weeks you don’t need to can it. I still ladle it into pint canning jars and cover it with a canning lid and ring. The lid will seal but the jars should be stored in the refrigerator.

Serving Suggestions for Hot Pepper Wine Jelly

This recipe makes two pints. I use one pint for an eight ounce block of cream cheese. Place the cream cheese on a wide plate and scoop the jelly over it. Ritz type crackers are my favorite flavor of cracker to serve with this jelly but they break easily under the pressure of a knife spreading cream cheese, so be aware of that. A firmer cracker helps keep this convenient as an appetizer in a crowd.

I keep a few dip spreaders on hand to switch out in case jelly gets on them.

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Squash Soup – Turning Leftovers to a Main Course

Squash Soup – Turning Leftovers to a Main Course

Squash Soup

Squash soup is another favorite way to use Thanksgiving leftovers. Did you see the recipe for Potato Pancakes? Squash soup and a potato pancake with a little sour cream on both would be really good right now!

For vegetarian and vegan recipe, skip this step. To add a little heat and hardiness to this soup I like to slice a quarter-pound of Linguica or Chorizo sausage into 1/4″ thick pieces. Saute the sausage in a small pan to release some of the oil. Remove the sausage and set aside. Pour 1/2 cup hot chicken stock into the pan, turn off the heat, and let it sit. Chop a few pieces of sausage into crumbles to use as a garnish.

To one quart of leftover winter squash (Butternut is my favorite; any dry squash works well) I add one to two cups of vegetable or chicken stock. Heat the squash and stock to simmering, and then add the sausage. Using an immersion blender, blend the squash and sausage until the sausage is in small pieces. By hand, stir in a teaspoon or two of cinnamon or nutmeg. I find allspice to be too strong for squash soup but if you decide to try it, start with a quarter teaspoon and add. You can’t take it out once it’s blended so taste the squash soup as you add.

I like to serve squash soup with a slice of warm homemade bread with a little butter. Dip your bread into the soup. Go ahead… Eat with your fingers a little! A dollop of sour cream or a little shredded cheese with the sausage crumbles on top is also nice. Pumpkin seeds and croutons add a little crunch. What else could we do? I love hearing suggestions.

Leftovers are convenient. When used as the main ingredient in an entirely separate dish they’re no longer leftovers but a main course. Enjoy!

Potato Pancakes Recipe – Thanksgiving Leftovers

Potato Pancakes Recipe – Thanksgiving Leftovers

Potato Pancakes

I’ve adjusted the ingredient measurements for these Thanksgiving leftovers recipes. They’re a little more solid than the recipes I gave in this week’s On The Fire on air – but there’s still a lot of wiggle room. The moisture content in your mashed potatoes will determine whether or not you need to use an extra egg or add all-purpose flour in your potato pancakes mix.

You’ll find another Thanksgiving leftovers recipe in Squash Soup.

Thanksgiving leftovers are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving. We spend hours roasting, washing, peeling, slicing, stirring, mashing, smashing and serving the meal. Thirty minutes after we say Grace everyone’s pants are unbuttoned and dinner’s over. After Dad and his hunting buddies and their sons, nephews and grandsons left for hunting dinner Mum, Melissa (my sister), Aunt Betty and I got the leftovers from the fridge and ate again. I stood in front of the stove frying potato pancakes for half an hour. Waddle we did when we were done and it was worth every single bite and calorie.

I like to serve potato pancakes with a dollop of sour cream and maybe some fresh chives. Topping them with shredded cheese as they come out of the pan is always a winner. Or top them with a fried egg and Hollandaise sauce.