Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions & Tomato Pie

If you have seen on my Facebook page, I've been a bit under the weather... Well, not entirely true, I just felt a giant throbbing toe for a few days longer than I would have liked! I sort of cheated in this weeks blog, I used a pre-made pie crust, but even certified chef's use a good cheat once in awhile! 

I think I should post a picture of the large amounts of paperwork needed to have a food truck that moves around from festival to festival! Each event requires permits, insurance paperwork, workers compensation documents, disability insurance documents, and fire safety equipment checks. Next week I will start to actually look at the truck. I have soaked all my oven parts in vinegar to get the rust off and guard against further rusting! I have to figure out how to cover the exhaust hood when it is just sitting out in my driveway when it rains! It leaks and it caused my cast iron stove top parts to rust! Vinegar is magic, a couple days soaking in it and it's all gone! I oiled them up and baked them long and low so now they are all seasoned up.

It was our book club meeting this week. The book didn't inspire any sort of food, but it is a great read! We read The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins. It is set outside of London and is centralized around a missing woman and a woman who drinks too many canned Gin and Tonics! I had actually lost track of the days that I had been lying around trying to stay off my foot that I almost forgot about book club, but I had finished the book weeks ago. Thank goodness my dear friend Michele reminded me and even made a beautiful salad. I'll list the ingredients she put in it, but take no credit for it. It was tasty and very pretty! 

I'll shut my pie hole and get to this weeks recipe!

Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onion and Tomato Pie

  • 1 thawed Pillsbury Pie Crust
  • 3 large tomatoes, cut into big chunks
  • 1 log of crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 large onion, sliced 

Roll out pie crust and place in pie or tart pan, cook according to one crust pie method printed on package. Set aside and assemble the filling. 

In a medium sauté pan, heat over medium-low heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter, the sliced onions, and cook low and slow until golden brown and sweet. Stir occasionally, be careful not to burn! When onions are browned, add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, cook until tender and some of the liquid is cooked away. Salt and pepper to taste.

Add cooked ingredients to pre-baked pie crust, top with crumbled goat cheese and bake at 365 for 25-30 mins. Drizzle with a good balsamic vinegar and serve! I love goat cheese and tomato tarts! It's even better when you can use fresh tomatoes from the garden. 

Lots of you know Michele from the Food Network race we were on, she and I are dear friends. She is also an amazing cook and way too much fun to hang out with! She makes a mean Texas Caviar! 

Michele's Salad

  • 1 large container of pre washed baby greens
  • 1 carton of baby tomatoes cut in half
  • 6 boiled eggs
  • 2 cups of blue cheese (or one you like) 
  • 1 pound of bacon cooked and crumbled 
  • 2 ears of thawed frozen corn, cut corn off of cob. 
  • 1 package of dried cranberries 

She just tossed the greens in a big bowl and lined up the ingredients on the top! It looked so pretty! I am never going to mix the ingredients into my salad again, they always end up in the bottom of the bowl and this way they didn't and you got as many of them in the bowl you liked and it looked so much better than a tossed salad! 

Everyday it gets closer to opening the truck up, I can't wait! We booked a couple new gigs, a couple are private gigs. We are also partnering with our friends over at Raymour and Flanigan for a blood drive later this summer! Good eats will be rolling around soon. Thanks for checking in. If you have anything you would like to see on the blog, let me know! 

Happy cooking from my kitchen to yours,  
Chef Carol

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Habanero Apricot Jam

I have been in truck mode for the last couple weeks. I finally have it back in my driveway! I am busy checking paperwork and permits, in fact today I have to go down to the DMV to sort out my plates. I may have learned a costly lesson, sad thing is I was trying to save money. 

There is a lot of behind the scene's stuff that goes on in owning a food truck. Sadly, I have to deal with state departments, have you ever tried to figure out NY State Tax website? And if you call, plan at least 45 minutes before you speak to anyone. Trust me they are very nice, if you're nice to them! There is workers compensation, disability insurance, health permits (different for every event outside of Jefferson and Lewis), and fees for all of them! New this year is a fee for a fire safety check, not complaining, I like when the firemen double check my tanks! The best part is, I get it all done now in the spring well before it needs to be done, so when I start to roll out, all my paperwork is in order. 

As well as paperwork stuff I am working on some new menu ideas. I have wanted to tweak the SGT. Cheesy. It is my most costly, mess producing sandwich. Don't get me wrong, I love bacon, but do you know it has gone up in price almost $1.00 per pound! I tested the recipe on my son and he loved it! I'm also going to spill my secret recipe to my Apricot Habanero Jam! 

I make a lot of homemade stuff on the truck, and sometimes I have to start with a base, in this case it's the apricots, after all, we are in Northern New York. Here's my secret! You see a lot of spicy jams out there, most of them costing way too much! You can do this with a lot of different jams that taste great and don't cost you $8.00 a jar!

Habanero Apricot Jam 

  • 1 Jar of Smucker's Apricot Preserves
  • 4-5 minced Habaneros (glove your hands!) 

I usually double or even triple the recipe!

Empty jar of jam into a small sauce pan, add minced habaneros, cook over medium-low heat until hot and slightly bubbling. Let cool. Put it back into jar and refrigerate. It will keep for months. It's great baked over Brie cheese. Perfect on pork chops! And killer on my new sandwich! 

Getting excited to get the truck back on the road. I hired my staff and locked in several very fun festivals, I love owning a food truck! 

If there is anything you like to see me cook, send us an email! 

Happy cooking from my kitchen to yours!

Chef Carol

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Browned Buttered Brownies

I had mentioned last week that my son had his tonsils out. He didn't eat for 8 days! Needless to say, he was quite hungry, and he now has made some food requests. One request was his favorite dessert, browned buttered brownies with mint butter cream frosting! We do love butter!

I love brownies myself and homemade ones are the best, especially when you take the time to brown the butter. So stop using the packaged stuff! I know this one by heart, and I think every chocolate lover should too.

Browned Buttered Brownies

  • 10 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1 & 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2 large eggs

Melt the butter over medium-low heat, it will brown as it bubbles, the browner it gets, the better, but as I have said before, butter burns easily so don't walk away from it. Remove from heat, immediately add the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt. Add the eggs one at a time and beat vigorously after each to blend. When it looks thick and shiny, add flour, stir until blended. Transfer batter to greased 8x8 pan and cook at 325 for 27 minutes. 

Mint Butter Cream Icing

  • 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar 
  • Dash of peppermint extract
  • And if you like, add some green food coloring

Mix until smooth

The truck is coming out of storage very soon! I am so excited! We are at a ton of festivals all summer long, and we are adding on some fun stuff! I didn't put a fryer on my truck because they stink! SO, I am adding some fresh sides that will be seasonal, fresh, and homemade! We cut our own cabbage to make the slaw and braise our meats daily! Come out and see us this summer. 

Happy cooking from my kitchen to yours,

Chef Carol

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Potato Soup & So Much More...

It has not been a normal week. My youngest son had his tonsils out. NOT fun for him! I couldn't bear to cook in the house after he commented the burnt cheese that dripped off my pizza smelled good! I felt terrible making the house smell good if burnt cheese smelled good! He wanted to try some mashed potatoes so I decided to make potato soup. We will get to that in a bit...

I messed with the truck a bit and added some more pink, love a can of spray paint! I also decided to have some fun t-shirts made up, after all Major Butts was our biggest seller last summer, we sold over 900 of them! The woman on the back was our ode to Rosie the Riveter, we plan to put her on our truck somewhere. We will have the shirts for sale on the truck this summer. My favorite is the fleece, I have been dying to get the pink camo embroidered onto something, it's so pretty! I want a dye cut key chain...ok I have to stop, I am obsessed with my very pretty pink camo food truck! Can't wait to get her out of storage and back on the road! 

One more distraction and then onto cooking.

I love the HGTV Show Fixer Upper! A few weeks ago I received an email about becoming a member of a team to help promote the book! It was an application process, I figured why not, you don't win if you don't try, so I filled it out and forgot about it. Well, they selected us to join the street team! So with that, I get sneak peaks I can share about their upcoming book! So if you love the show like I do, watch our site in the upcoming weeks for leaks on something super cool, makes me want to road trip to see them! Maybe I will take the truck! 

You can check them out at:

Chip & Joanna Gaines | HGTV Fixer Upper | Magnolia Market

Their first book is coming out! Love all things Chip and Joanna Gaines! 

Fixer Upper's Chip and Joanna Gaines' Book Cover Revealed - Get The Exclusive Sneak Peek! 

Now to the soup. It's simple for a nutty week! Who doesn't love a bowl of potato soup? It's one of my favorites!

Potato Soup

  • 6 potatoes peeled and cubed
  • 3 leeks chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 quart Kitchen Basics Vegetable stock
  • 1 bunch of fresh thyme
  • 1 pink of heavy cream
  • 1/2 quart of whole milk

In a large stock pot, over medium heat, add the butter, chopped leeks, chopped onions and garlic. Simmer for about 3 minutes. Slowly add the stock, cream and milk. Rinse and chop the potatoes add to the pot with the other ingredients, then add the thyme. I tied it with cotton string so I could take the steams out after the leaves fall off, saves you chopping it! 

Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot.

I like to put bacon crumbles and cheese to garnish! Enjoy!

I should get acceptance letters back soon about this years festivals! The line up looks good and I can't wait to take you behind the scenes of the food truck business! Kid Rock is at this summers Taste of Country and a little secret I will share... I always wanted to send him a note to see if he would come play at a party for my husband after one of his many deployments! I was going to cook him good food if he came! Maybe he will show up and get some food from my truck this summer? 

Happy cooking from my kitchen to yours,

Chef Carol

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Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, and Mushroom Fusilli

If you've followed my blog you may remember I started a book and dinner club. This past month we read the book, The Devil In the White City, by Erik Larson. It's a book about the World's Fair and a serial murder! Somehow, the head architect and the serial killer seem to share some traits. It paints a beautiful picture of the 1893 fair with the amazing landscape in which it was carved, as well as the grisly details of a psychopath's mind in a web of deceit, controlling not only his victims, but his quest to have more. I highly suggest reading it! It is going to be made into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and directed by Martin Scorsese. It's sure to bring to life the beauty of the fair, as well as the sinister mind of serial killer!

Interestingly, it has a lot of food in it! The world's fair attracts a lot of societies royalties. It includes whole menus of dinners I would have loved to attend! I didn't realize what world changing inventions come from a fair of that size! The syrup we all know, Aunt Jemima, was actually debuted along with Cracker Jacks, Juicy Fruit Gum, and Shredded Wheat. Inventions that were taken to Hershey, PA to aid in production of a little chocolate company we all know. Moving sidewalks, GE is what it is today because of the fair! And have you ever wondered how Pabst Blue Ribbon got its ribbon? It was at the 1893 World's Fair!

I decided to look up food from the fair and found the Gold Medal winner! It's a pasta dish called De Cecco pasta. I modified it a little bit because I think Brussels sprouts are pungent, and adding cauliflower with them is not something I would have thought of. It tasted good and the rest of the book club members liked it! So with that said, go pick up a copy of the book it will take you on a wild ride of beauty and ugliness!

Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, and Mushroom Fusilli

  • 1 pound fusilli
  • 8 ounces brussels sprouts, trimmed & finely chopped
  • 12 ounces cauliflower florets (about 4 cups), finely chopped
  • ¼ extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 ounces portabella mushrooms
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta and brussels sprouts according to pasta package direction, adding cauliflower during last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain, reserving ¼ cup pasta water.

While pasta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic; cook 15-30 seconds, stirring constantly, or until fragrant. Add mushrooms; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until browned. Remove from the heat.

Return hot cooked pasta, brussels sprouts and cauliflower to pot; add reserved pasta water and mushroom mixture. Set aside 2 tablespoons parsley. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons oil and remaining parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and reserved parsley.

Truck News: I'm mailing my application the attend Oswego's Harbor Festival this summer. It's the last weekend in July. If you read the blog or just follow the truck, come say hello and sign our wall of fame! We sold over 600 Major Butts last summer, so we made a T-shirt that we will be selling on the truck!

Happy cooking from my kitchen to yours!
Chef Carol

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Peanut Butter Cookies

It's still winter here, but I will say it's never bad to be able to sleep in because school was canceled. I didn't have to get up to make lunches today, so I snuggled into the covers for a little longer, gotta love some good flannel sheets up here in the north country! 

I have been craving a good peanut butter cookie lately. I don't make them too often, but man are they good on a day like today with a big glass of cold milk. There are many peanut butter cookie recipes out there, but look no further, these are fool proof and tasty!

I have a trick I learned in culinary school on how to get softer cookies, if that's how you like them. Sugar. Sugar is what makes cookies hard, too much and you get very hard cookies. I can still remember my pastry chef instructor breaking apart a cookie talking about the tunneling and how the cookie crumbles, tell tale signs for even the slightest miss scaling of ingredients or 30 seconds too long in the oven! The trick is to add more brown sugar than white sugar. I don't do this to all cookie recipes, but always to the household staples, chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies! Try reversing the amount if the recipe calls for 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of brown, switch them, you will get a softer cookie! So with that, here is my peanut butter cookie recipe.

Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick of butter (room temp) 
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste

Heat oven to 350. In a medium bowl add the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, whisk and set aside.

Cream the butter and peanut butter together, making sure there are not lumps of butter. Add the sugar and vanilla and mix until slightly fluffy. Add the egg and mix to incorporate, but don't over mix.  Add the flour mix half at a time and mix until it is incorporated, careful not to over mix. 

I added in some Nestle Delightfuls to half the batch (milk chocolates filled with peanut butter), and they were delicious!

Line a sheet pan with parchment. I like cookie scoops, they cook evenly and look great! Press each cookie with a fork crosswise and sprinkle with sugar in the raw. Bake for 9-10 minutes. 

Pour a glass of milk and enjoy one while it's warm! 

I am counting down the days until I get back in the truck. I don't sit still very well. Our first booked event is the Mom and Baby Expo here in Watertown, NY. Same day as the Armed Forces Day parade. It's a fun memory for us, we had only recently picked up the truck to ride in last years parade! We were waiting on some insurance pieces and our health inspection so we couldn't set up to sell food. This year we are not riding in the parade, but we will be set up on the square to sell food for all of you out there that may have missed our truck last summer. 

I am still working on our summer schedule. So far we have some very cool festivals lined up. The first two weekends in June we are at Country Jam June 3-5! If your into alternative music check it out online, a lot of tickets are sold out, but I think some may still be available, it's in a cool little skiing village in the Catskills about 3 hours from Watertown. There is camping available with a great line up of music all weekend and you will find our big pink camo truck with nothing but great homemade cooking! If country music is more of your idea check out the next weekends line up when Taste of Country is at the same venue June 10-12.

We also found out that it is a go to be in the St. Lawrence County Fair in Governor, NY. The opening line up is The Charlie Daniels Band! I am hoping Charlie shows up to try one of our sandwiches and signs our wall of fame on our back door! 

Later in summer we are up at the Thousand Island Winery for the Clayton Country Jam, the venue got too big to hold it at the opera house so it moved. It happens to be over the weekend of 9-11, it has been 15 years since 9-11, so there is a big show lined up and it's going to be broadcast world wide on AFN! So if you're looking for stuff to do this summer, we have tons of festivals lined up so all you have to do is find us for good eats and good times!

Happy cooking from my kitchen to yours! 

Chef Carol

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Winter in North Country

For those of you living in the North Country, we understand weather, or better yet, we understand when it's better to stay put! Generally, it is a day I like to spend in the kitchen cooking something hearty and warm, but I had planned to get on a plane to visit a campus my son is interested in attending next year and also to visit my oldest son already at college in the South. Flights got canceled, and like most people when you are headed out of town, you don't grocery shop for a few days before, ok, so it might have been more than a few! 

So with that, I didn't cook anything that you don't know how to cook already, just good ol' home-cooked cheeseburgers! Word of advice, toast the bun, it makes all the difference in the world! I will add that mine are made from a local cow, raised by some friends of mine, best burger you will ever eat! If you want to know where to purchase locally raised beef send me an email and I will hook you up. In the end, it is cheaper than the grocery store, and you know where it came from!

I am going to open the truck up this summer for burgers only. Done right with the best local ingredients from farmers just down the road! I am working on some great combinations. I made some horseradish mayo that is fantastic on a burger with blue cheese! My homemade pickles give it a good crunch. Tonight was nothing fancy, the burger in the picture is my growing 6'4, 17 year old's double cheeseburger!

I'll be back to cooking next week. I hope you are warm and cooking up good things in a warm kitchen somewhere! 

Happy Cooking! 

From my house to yours!

Chef Carol

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White Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

Sometimes we all need a little indulgence, moderation is the key! We are getting some snow today, which I happen to like, it's just added warmth when something smells so good in the kitchen. I was looking through my old books from culinary school and found this recipe. It's the perfect snowy day to make it!

White Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

  • 6 croissants, torn into pieces
  • 10 oz. heavy cream
  • 10 oz. whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 4 oz. white chocolate chips
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 additional egg yolk

Place chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl. Heat the milk, cream and butter in a microwave safe dish to just boiling, but not over! Add heated milk to the chocolate and mix until melted. Mix the eggs and yolk in separate bowl, and then slowly add to hot chocolate mixture. Go slow so you temper the mixture and do not cook the eggs! Add the cut up croissants and let soak for at least 20 minutes.

Bake the bread pudding in a water bath. I placed the mix it into a smaller cake pan and then put that one inside a larger one filled with water. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes, it will rise and be set in the middle. Remove from oven, it's best served warm!  

Thank you to those of you who weighed in on what to cook. It inspired me to bring out my old school culinary books, fun to look back at! I have all sorts of recipes from the basics to the complicated methods of Garde Manger! So if you have a hankering for something, let me know! 

I found some very cool festivals within a 3 hour radius of here, so if your looking for things to do this summer, I will post the ones the truck will be at as they get closer. For the music go-ers, if you don't know about a couple of festivals that happen in Hunter, New York, go online and check them out! It's a weekend of camping and great music! Country Jam and the Taste of Country have big name line ups and they sell out every year, so check them out online to get a ticket! I will put the list together and post it soon. Lots of music, crafts, arts, and antiques, and most importantly, great food served by the Military Moms Food Truck!

Thanks for tuning in, hope you're cooking up some good stuff!

Chef Carol

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Super Bowl Appetizers

Thank you to our followers on Facebook that sent in some suggestions for the blog this week, even as a chef I sometimes go blank with what to cook. The suggestion that struck me the most was appetizers! Perfect! It's Super Bowl weekend and I have done some Super Bowl parties as a chef in my day!

Check out the picture of my first chef gig after graduating culinary school, non other the The Busch Family, Mr. Budweiser. I still can't believe I did more than one Super Bowl party for their family while they watched the game like everyone else! (It's a fun story how I ended up there, maybe I will share sometime. Volunteering pays off in ways we can never imagine!) 

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I decided to give the traditional munchies we all crave on game day a twist!

Try these for something different for Super Bowl 2016! 

Thai Guacamole

  • 4 avocados, pitted and peeled
  • 1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese chili paste with garlic

In a large bowl, using a potato masher, mash the avocado to desired lumpiness (I like some chunks), mix in the chopped pepper, onion, mint, ginger, squeeze in lime juice, add soy sauce, fish sauce, and chili paste. Taste on a chip for saltiness before adding any additional salt. Do so if needed. Serve along side some blue corn chips and enjoy!

Now for the chicken wings, I can't lie, I am sitting here eating some as I blog, they are so good! 

I don't like the smell of grease in my house for days so I do not fry my wings and I prefer to use fresh not frozen wings. To get crunchy, fried-like results, this method works great without all the mess, smell, and cost of oil.

Ginger Hoisin Wings

  • 4 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
  • 6 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese hot chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce 
  • 2 tablespoon water
  • 20 chicken wings

Combine ingredients together and put in plastic ziploc with chicken wings, for at least 1 hour, can also be marinated over night if desired. 

My secret to crunchy oven baked wings is coating them with flour prior to cooking, but you will need to remove the wings from the marinade, dry mostly with paper towel, roll in 2-3 cups of seasoned flour, shake off extra, and place on a rack over a sheet pan. Spray lightly with cooking spray and cook in preheated 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Remove and place on tray with dipping sauce, enjoy!

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Dipping Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons of peanut butter, smooth or crunchy.
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • Splash of fish sauce
  • 3-4 tablespoons of honey

Mix together, it will be thick, if it needs to be thinned, add a little bit of hot water and stir. You want it thick so it sticks to the wing when you dip! Enjoy!

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I hope you like my twist on some traditional game day favorites!

Someone suggested bread pudding, so I am thinking about chocolate bread pudding for next week. Stay hungry and tune in next week to find out whats cooking in my kitchen! 

Happy Cooking, from my kitchen to yours!

Chef Carol

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Roasted Lemon Risotto

It's winter and I am missing working on the truck, so I decided to start a book club, well more like a dinner/book club. We met this past Monday to discuss the book "All The Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr. It's a beautifully written book that takes place during World War II. It intertwines charter's lives with such splendid detail that your minds eye sees ALL. Against all odds, there is beauty in even the ugliest parts of war. It's a must read! 

I felt like making something splendid, the book left me with a feeling of the goodness in all of us in some of the most unlikely of times. Risotto is a lovely thing to know how to make properly! It took me until I went to culinary school to learn the real tricks to making this dish that is often thought of as "too difficult to make".

On the menu -  
Roasted Lemon Risotto
Seared Garlic Shrimp with Browned Butter and a Pomegranate Glaze

 

Roasted Lemon Risotto

Start by roasting 2-3 lemons. Roll with the palm of your hand on a hard surface (this makes them juicer) and cut in half. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper, place lemons cut-side down. Roast in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, squeeze and set aside. 

  • 2 cups of Arborio rice
  • 2 quarts of good vegetable stock 
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1-1/2 cups of good white wine
  • 1 cup of finely grated Asiago Cheese
  • 1 cup of Manchego Cheese
  • 1 cup of cream
  • 1 bunch of chopped parsley
  • Juice of 1-2 roasted lemons  
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Browned Butter 
Add a stick of butter to a sauce pan over medium to low heat, stir occasionally, but don't walk away, it's like sugar, it burns easily! It will go thru a series of different bubbles and start to turn brown, this is the fat solubles in the butter caramelizing! When it's brown and toasted, set aside.

Risotto

You will need a large saute pan as well as a sauce pan. It is key that you heat the stock before adding to the rice, keep it hot as you slowly add it. Chop onion and set aside. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat, add the rice and butter, cooking for about 2 minutes while stirring, then add the onion and saute for an additional 3 minutes, allowing the onions to sweat a bit. 

Slowly add the wine, it will sizzle be careful. Let the wine absorb. Add 1 cup of the hot stock and stir, stir, stir, not adding another until each cup is absorbed. Stirring all the while! Continue to add stock 1 cup at a time until the rice is cooked through. *see note below for a dinner party trick!


The KEY to risotto is to slowly add liquid, not adding more until it is absorbed and stir, stir, stir! Good risotto should not be left alone. It is impossible to say how much liquid, you have to taste as you go, adding more until the rice it tender. When the rice is tender, add the cream, the cheeses and the chopped parsley. Remove from heat and serve immediately! 

*Culinary School Trick
Risotto is best served hot and steaming right from the stove! It takes a long time slowly adding the stock to reach perfection, and dinner guests are left waiting. So the trick is to stop the cooking process at just about al dente, when it is almost done take if off the stove, line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spread the al dente risotto out on the pan and refrigerate. When your guests arrive, get everyone settled, put the chilled rice into a pan and add some hot stock to finish the cooking until it's hot and ready to serve to guests! This is how every restaurant is serving good risotto, it takes a long time to cook and now you know the cheat! 

Glaze

  • 1-2 cups Pomegranate juice

Add juice to a small sauce pan over med low heat cook until reduced to about 1/3. This concentrates the flavors. It will be thick and will also thicken as it cools. Set aside.

Shrimp

  • 1 pound of peeled and deveined shrimp. Wild is best! If you want to know why, send me a comment and I will tell you the horrible truths of farmed shrimp! 
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped

Clean shrimp, add garlic and keep cold until needed. Heat a saute pan, add a drizzle of olive oil, then add the shrimp just before you are adding the hot stock to the risotto. Cook the shrimp on each side 3 minutes, no longer! Over-cooked shrimp is a pet peeve of mine, so I never order it out! It should be tender and sweet, not chewy at all! 

Serve over the risotto, drizzle with Pomegranate glaze and browned butter, YUM! 

 

Happy Cooking, from my house to yours!

Chef Carol

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Fish & Shrimp Tacos

With the snow finally falling and our weather getting colder, I decided to mix it up a bit and make one of our summertime favorites! After a day out on on the water, fish and shrimp tacos are quick and easy, with fun flavors. My boys all love them! I made them once on the truck at a private event, and I am hoping to do them again this summer - They were a huge hit! Which reminds me, I lined up a couple more festivals, it's going to be a fun summer in the truck! 

Back to the tacos. 
When I made them the first time my husband was very skeptical, but now he is hooked! 

I start with a good Tilapia, Tuna is better, but Owl's Head Fish man is not back in town until spring and I am very suspicious of most fish counters around here! You should NOT smell fish anywhere near the fish counter. So, I picked up some frozen fish at Sam's Club that I am happy with, it's not farmed and when I defrosted it there was no fishy smell. I also got the frozen raw shrimp there as well. I wish we had a Wegmans in town, I love a good grocery store! 

This recipe fed the three of us. I will add, my youngest son is 6'4 and while eating them he was talking about health class, and that they had calculated their caloric needs based on size. He needs 2500 calories, just to do nothing, that boy can eat! So realistically this will feed more than three people! 

Fish & Shrimp Tacos

  • 3 Tilapia filets cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 pound bag of peeled & deveined shrimp

Marinade

  • Good swirl of sesame seed oil
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Simply Asia Sweet Ginger Garlic seasoning (I have tried a few of them, this is the best!) 
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper. More if you like it spicy! 
  • 1/2 tablespoon of Chinese Five Spice Blend

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with the fish and let sit for about 20 minutes in the refrigerator. 
I made the same marinade for the Shrimp, but in a separate bowl. Cooked them for 3 minutes on each side, no longer! Shrimp should be very tender, not chewy! 

While that is marinating I make the ginger mayo. 

Ginger Mayo

  • 1 cup of Hellmann's Mayo
  • 1 large piece of ginger, finely grated and chopped. 

After you grate the ginger, squeeze it over the bowl of mayo, you won't lose the tasty liquid to the cutting board if you do this before cutting the ginger, but after grating. It is a bit stringy, so just give it a rough chop. Add it to the mayo and set aside. 
This makes more than you will use, but it is great as a spread on a chicken sandwich, with some cucumbers and fresh cilantro, yum! Or, add some crushed red pepper flakes and a splash of soy sauce. I love great tasting food!

After the fish has marinated, heat a saute pan over medium heat with a drizzle of sesame seed oil. Add the fish when the pan is hot, cook for about 3 minutes, turning & watching not to over cook. 

I bring the hot pan to the table along with some heated flour tortillas, grated cheddar, & some thinly sliced red cabbage. Spread a little of the ginger mayo on the bottom of a tortilla layering the fish, cheese and cabbage!  Yum, a little taste of summer in the middle of a snow storm, life is good!

I am hoping to do what I am calling pop-up dinners this summer. Picture a meadow, a band, wine and some delicious fish tacos! The trick is in properly cooking the shrimp for the tacos - it has to be done just right. 


I started a book club (with a twist!). We read a book, then I make a dinner based on the location that the book takes place. We read "All The Light We Cannot See", a great book! So next week I am making Roasted Lemon Risotto & Browned Butter Shrimp with a Pomegranate Glaze, topped with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. I will also do a wine pairing! Stay tuned, we are about to get more interesting! 

Happy Cooking! 

From my kitchen to yours,
Chef Carol

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Cream of Mushroom Soup

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Over the holidays I took some time off to spend with my family and cooked a lot of great food!

Now that the snow is falling, I'm thinking ahead to Summer. I am hoping to take you on the road with me, via the food truck. I am signed up for some great music, art, and antique festivals all summer long, even got my first wedding booked! 

I decided with the cold weather and falling snow I would make some good old Cream of Mushroom soup, I LOVE mushrooms! It's easy and makes the house smell fantastic, frankly I can't wait to eat it!  

The more variety of mushrooms you can get the better! It's not for the non-fat eaters out there, this one is bold, rich and oh so tasty! 

Cream of Mushroom Soup

4 packages of fresh mushrooms, sliced

(use a variety for the best flavor, if using pre-cut change to 5 packages)

2 pints of heavy cream
2 pints of half and half 

1 carton of vegetable stock (love the Kitchen Basics brand)

3 large finely chopped shallots
6 celery sticks finely chopped
1 large bundle of fresh Thyme
4 garlic bulbs, minced
1 tablespoon of onion powder
1 tablespoon of butter
salt and fresh pepper to taste

I started by chopping all the mushrooms, shallots, and celery, and then minced the garlic. In a large stock pot add the butter, over medium heat, add the shallots, celery and minced garlic and render for about 3 minutes, stirring so it doesn't burn. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook until they soften and lose their moisture. You'll want to add the cream & stock only after they have lost all their moisture, you want that good clean mushroom flavor that they have leached out! Thyme is a good one to tie together with some kitchen string, it will lose its leaves as it heats so there is no need to chop it. I like to simmer it for a couple hours so it reduces and the flavors intensify. 

At the end, I like to grate some fresh Parmesan cheese on top and serve with crackers! It's a great soup for a cold winter day, and it's perfect to use in a chicken casserole the next day instead of some over salted bland stuff you find in a can! 


Happy Cooking! 


From my kitchen to yours,
Chef Carol


P.S. I started a book club! I'll be adding a new monthly blog post called "Dinner and a Book Review", I hope you will like it! Our first book is "All The Light We Cannot See" by Robert Dooer, it's a great read! Not sure what I will be cooking, but it will have a French theme! 

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Shepherd's Pie

We don't have snow yet, but it is chilly out. I have a teenager at home, and he gives me dinner requests now and then. He asked me to make one of his favorites, Shepherd's Pie. It's a twist on the traditional, made with ground beef instead of lamb. I do like the lamb version, so I will do that one later this winter. It's good with a little mint and peas!  

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As I always say, I am only as good as the food I start with. I am fortunate to live near small farmers, so last week I picked up half a cow! Now I have a freezer full of the good stuff! It is processed locally by a USDA certified butcher, so if you visit my truck this summer, you will be eating local, no hormones, no antibiotic, free range, cows! It really makes a difference, and when you price it out it is cheaper. My local farmers will be advertising on our site soon, so check back if you want more information on how and when to order one. 

I am planning on a once a month "Burger Night" next summer with the truck, so you can taste what I am talking about! And like our Butts, these burgers will be the best in town! Our Major Butts ended up being our #1 seller this past summer, we came up with a very fun t-shirt that will be available soon via our website and sold on our truck next summer. 

Sorry, I got side tracked. Can you tell I am missing being on the truck?? 

Back to Shepherd's Pie...

I can and freeze just about everything. I will show you in the fall when I am in the process. I use corn in this version, it's super easy and freezes great. It's grown all around us, so it can be purchased and frozen the same day it's picked, tastes so much better and it's just corn, no added products! 

 

Shepherd's Pie

1 lb of Ground Beef

1 Medium Onion (minced)

2 Serrano Peppers (de seeded & minced)

1 Tablespoon of Garlic Powder

3 Tablespoons of Butter

3 Tablespoons of Flour

3 Cups of Good Beef Stock

2 Boiled Mashed Potatoes

1 Cup of Frozen Corn 

2 Cups of Your Choice of Cheese (more if you like, no such thing as too much cheese) 

Start by browning the meat in a large skillet. Line a large bowl with paper towels, drain the meat after it's browned and set aside. Peel and boil potatoes in salted water, cook until tender, mash and set aside. Meanwhile, add ground beef back to pan, add minced onion & peppers, add butter, and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the flour, stir until absorbed, slowly add the stock while stirring, it will thicken. Turn heat off. 

Start to assemble. In bottom of small oven proof bowl add a large spoonful of beef mixture.

Layer on some frozen corn, spoon on a heaping scoop of mashed potatoes.

Top with grated cheese and place on cooking sheet to bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until the top is slightly brown and bubbly. 

 

Recipe makes 4 small pies. If you don't need all 4, you can freeze the extra! They freeze better if frozen prior to cooking the assembled ingredients. I just wrap it tightly with cling wrap and it's a good dinner for my teenager when I am out. Someone recently asked me about dinners I make that freeze well, so I thought I would mention it. 


I spent the weekend at the Hops Spot in Sackets Harbor helping with their "12 Beers of Christmas". My oldest is home for college break too, so check back next week to learn how to make some great cookies. Chocolate shortbread with mint butter cream, the best sugar cookies ever! You can double the batch and cook more easily when your peeps eat all the ones you've made! 

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Share it with friends and send your requests. 

From my home to yours,

Chef Carol

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Chicken Wild Rice Soup

My husband and I just entered into a new phase in our life, he retired after 26 years and too many deployments to keep track of! I missed a week of blogging due to all the excitement, but I'm ready to see what's in store for this next chapter of our lives.   

We still haven't gotten but a brief dusting of snow, but it's cold enough outside that soups, stews and braised meats are on the menu. Today I am making one of my favorites, Chicken Wild Rice soup. My mom used to make this soup when I was a kid growing up in Minnesota. A lot of wild rice is grown in Minnesota, it is actually considered grass, but don't let that change your mind! It's really delicious, with all of its earthy goodness! Just cook it in a good chicken broth, add some hearty herbs and a little butter, and when it's cooked just add it to any dish, it makes a great side! Ok, I will shut my pie hole and get on with the soup.

Chicken Wild Rice Soup
1 Roasted Chicken (meat removed and set aside)
1 Large Onion (diced)
1 Head of Broccoli (only tips cut off)
Carrots (peeled and grated)
1 Carton of Good Sodium Chicken Stock (32oz)
2 Quarts of Heavy Cream

4oz of wild rice (cooked separately) 
In a sauce pan add rice and 4 cups of water, boil until it softens, rinse and add to soup. It will finish cooking in the soup. It turns the water brown, so I like to give it a start in its own water to cook that off. 

1/2 cup of toasted almonds
Add to small pan with a tab of butter over low heat until brown and bubbly.


I am only as good as the food I start with! So use the best ingredients you can find. I like to use roasted chickens in a lot of things I make. They are soaked in chicken goodness as they spin around in the oven, and are always tender and delicious. I have to add, use a good chicken stock if you are not making your own. I make my own sometimes, but even as a chef, not always. So my favorite is Kitchen Basics, beef, veggie, seafood, veal and chicken, with low sodium in each as well. I challenge you to buy a box of it and a box of whatever other brand you have been buying, go home pour them in a glass side by side, you will see the difference, now heat it a little bit and taste the difference! It's like I said, you are only as good as the food you start with! Personally, I think we eat too much sodium, we really don't know what food should taste like because it is so salted. Ok back to the soup.

Take the meat off the chicken and set aside. Dice one large onion, add to a large stock pot with a couple tablespoons of butter and cook until it is translucent. Add spices to simmer with the onions for extra flavor: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, & thyme. Slowly add in the chicken stock, chicken, and cream. Add the grated carrots and broccoli tips, and simmer for about 25 minutes stirring occasionally. Add in the cooked wild rice and let simmer about 10 minutes. While it's simmering, add about 2 tablespoons of butter to a small pan, add the almonds, and toast over low heat until the butter bubbles and turns brown, don't walk away, because it burns quickly! When it's browned, add it to the soup, it should bubble up. The browned butter adds a great flavor to the soup and toasting the nuts first keeps them crunchy!

I have been doing my calendar for the truck next Summer, it's looking pretty good! We even booked our first wedding! And this Winter, I am up in Sackets Harbor helping with "The 12 Beers of Christmas" at the Hops Spot. 

I'll be back next week with some more good food, until than happy eating and enjoy the season! If anyone would like to learn anything special, let me know and I will make it happen! 

Thank you,
Chef Carol

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Thanksgiving Feast

It's that time of year again! Snow is in our forecast and my oven is on. The house smells great and the kitchen is nice and warm. I love winter cooking, especially at Thanksgiving. 

Instead of a cooking a turkey today, I did a roasted chicken. I will do the very same thing to my turkey, but it's not Thanksgiving quite yet, and I am not sure my boys would let me get away with no Turkey on Thanksgiving Day! 

I love compound butters, they freeze well and add flavor to everything. Today I am making a couple of my favorites. I make them in a big batch so I have them on hand. They are great with pasta, vegetables, soups, you name it, I have a butter for it! 

Herb Butter

2 sticks of unsalted butter (room temperature)

1 bunch of Thyme

1 bunch of Sage

1 slightly smaller bunch of Rosemary

 

You will want to use only the leaves, stems are bitter. Chop herbs fine and mix about 3 with butter. I spread it out on a bit of saran wrap and make a log shape, wrap, and it will freeze for up to 3 months. It's great on poultry, potatoes, veggies and it's super quick to add some great flavor to chicken soup! It makes a big batch, so you will have plenty to store for later use.

 

 

Roasted Garlic Butter

2 sticks of unsalted butter (room temperature)

1 head of garlic

 

Cut the very top of garlic to expose garlic, place on a square of tinfoil, drizzle with olive oil and roast in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35-45 mins, or until garlic is knife tender. Let it cool and add it to the butter. I love it in potatoes, great with pasta of course, but definitely try it on popcorn! It freezes well, so wrap it up in saran wrap in a log shape and store it with your other compound butters! 

Other compound butter favorites: Blue cheese butter is great on steaks and the perfect topping on a burger, makes it that much juicier! Sage is also great to mix with butter! I love to add that one to a pasta dish, just add the butter to a pan and let it brown up a bit with the sage on low to medium heat, then add some cooked pasta and it's heaven! 

 

Herb Roasted Chicken

1 whole chicken (I always use organic, antibiotic free, they taste so much better!)

2-3 tablespoons of herb butter

 

Preheat oven to 425

Rinse chicken and pat dry, place on a shallow cooking sheet. Reach under the skin of the breast area and slide in a lump of butter, it will spread easily under the skin by rubbing on the top of the skin. I spread more all over the outside of the chicken. Then tuck the wings in behind and tie up the legs.

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Season with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 20 minutes at 425, then drop temperature to 375 and roast for an additional 35-45 mins or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165. 

 

I also wanted to share a trick I learned in culinary school on how to get light and fluffy mashed potatoes! After boiling your potatoes place them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper so that they don't stick. Roast them for about 10 minutes with the chicken. This steams all the water out of them so they are not a heavy, sticky mess. I always use a potato ricer.  Heat the cream or milk (whichever you prefer) before adding to the potatoes! 
 


All this Thanksgiving cooking got me thinking to what I am thankful for. I was watching CBS this past Sunday morning and they did a story on the growing communities that are being built around a working farm, and that these are popping up in large cities all over the US. It's nice to be living in the North Country where we are surrounded by farms and don't have to pay 750k to buy a house near one! In season, we are very fortunate to have farmers markets around us almost everyday of the week. My locally resourced cow is raised and butchered all within a 45 mile radius. I love it! Nothing like grass feed, locally grown beef. 

 

Military Moms News
I will be a Guest Chef at the Hops Spot in Sackets Harbor on December 12th at the 12 Beers of Christmas Celebration. Tickets are limited and sold only at the Skewed Brew in Salmon Run Mall. I also picked up a new gig for the truck next Fall. The Clayton Country Jam is moving to the Thousand Island Winery to make it bigger and better! I will be joining the line up as a food vendor. Make plans to come out! It's a special one because it will air on the Armed Forces Network. 

Thanks for checking in on our food journey, the cooking doesn't stop when the snow flies, it just comes indoors! Check back next week for another new recipe!
 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Chef Carol

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Military Moms Bourbon BBQ Ribs

The truck has been put in storage for the winter months and it also happens to my favorite time of the year to cook, so now is the perfect time to share recipes! 

I dusted off my old culinary school books, I have everything from the basics to advanced cooking. And boy did we make some good food in culinary school!

I had tried several times to cook ribs before becoming chef, but never achieved the "melt in your mouth, fall off the bone" ribs. I learned that there are two secrets to great ribs: get rid of the silver skin, and low and slow is the only way to go! Whether you are smoking them, or braising them, it's low and slow. Ribs shouldn't be chewy! 

I like to do ribs for a big party, because you can braise them the day before and just heat them up on a grill until hot on the day of the party. They fall apart every time! 
 

Military Moms Bourbon BBQ Ribs

I always start with a dry rub. 
Here is a simple one I make, and you can easily add more heat if you'd like. 


2 cups brown sugar

2 tbsp garlic powder

2 tbsp onion powder 

1 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp cayenne pepper

2 tbsp salt

 

Mix together & set aside. 

 

Next, you'll want to remove the layer of silver skin on the back of ribs. It doesn't break down in the cooking process, and it ends up as that rubbery bit, that I personally don't like! Just start at one end and scratch on the bone, you will see it separate and you can pull it away from the meat.
 

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Now, rub the ribs with the dry rub on both sides. Place in a medium sized roasting pan and add a small amount of water (if the ribs are standing on end you'll only want water 1/4 the way up). 
 


Cover tightly with tinfoil and roast in a 250 degree oven for no less than 4 hours, longer if the pan is full. They are done when they are fork tender.

Place them on a cookie sheet, add your favorite BBQ sauce (Bourbon BBQ is my favorite!), then place them under the broiler for a few minutes. It caramelizes the sugars a little bit and gives it good color. 
 

Serve with lots of napkins! 

Next week is Thanksgiving, so check out my Facebook page because I will be dishing out some quick tips all week long! I'll share how to make great mashed potatoes and what I think are the best products to help you make killer gravy for the big day! 

Please share your comments and let me know if you'd like me to show you something special. 

 

Happy Cooking! 

Chef Carol

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You can’t win if you don’t try…

The truck is back in Fort Drum after an exciting week at The Feeders Cup in Lexington, Kentucky.

I didn't win. I am not afraid to lose, it happens sometimes when you’re trying to win. 

The trip was a lot of fun and a great experience! I had a lot of laughs and made some killer Mac and Cheese. Kentucky has some great local cheese. I drove the truck a long way across the country, and got a lot of waves and smiles. We even ended up with a news reporter on our truck for a bit, she did a great piece that aired on the local news in Lexington. 

The best part of the trip was linking up with my dear friend Sheila, we hadn't seen each other in almost 4 years! She agreed to come along on the road trip and help me try to win a spot. Sheila was a big help in navigating us to the locations where we found the cheese to make the killer Mac and Cheese (seriously, you have to try this stuff!). We even found a couple military spouses to help too! Three of us hadn’t seen each other in years, but we had all been stationed together in Bamberg, Germany years ago. 

We had a blast on the road trip, but now Winter is just around the corner here in the North Country which means the truck will shut and be stored away for the season.

Winter is my favorite time to cook, so stay tuned and I will show you how to make some of my favorites: chicken pot pie, cheesy scalloped potatoes, a simple dry aged tenderloin, steal cut oatmeal, and banana strawberry pancakes. I have some simple recipe tricks that make food taste extra good and I might even dish out the secrets to my spicy jams! 

Ready for the next adventure!

Carol

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