Campground Cooking

Campfire Cooking

Campfire Cooking

Many folks will be heading out next week to celebrate the July 4th holiday.  The tradition for my family has become a yearly pilgrimage to the campgrounds of Old Orchard
Beach in Maine.  Whether camping in a tent or a trailer, one does not have to suffer a fate of endless peanut butter sandwiches and with a little pre-trip effort camp food can be fabulous!

Here are some basic tips to spruce up your campfire meals:

* Portion meats into zip-top bags or tightly sealed water proof containers enough for one family meal, remember to label them with permanent marker.

*  Pack meats such as beef, chicken, sausage or shrimp into quart sized zip top bags, add in flavorful marinades and/or seasonings, then freeze for a minimum of 24 hours at home before packing into coolers.

* The frozen meats will slowly thaw to refrigerator temperature over a few days, this will extend the quality of the meats.  Replenish coolers with fresh ice daily.

* Be sure to pack a probe thermometer to be certain the food in your cooler or camper stays below 41 degrees!  This can be done by opening packages and inserting directly into the piece of meat or by placing the thermometer between two packages, wait at least 20 seconds for an accurate reading.

* Pack firm slightly under-ripe fresh fruits such as peaches, bananas, or frozen berries in crush proof containers.  Bring along some aluminum foil to create pouches for the sliced fruit, butter, and a little brown sugar.  Place pouches on hot coals or on a cooler section of a grill until fruit is soft and the brown sugar makes a glaze, approximately 5-10 minutes.

* Bring some corn on the cob with the husks intact, remove the silks from each cob, carefully peeling back the husk to do so and replacing them.  Roast the corn in the husk on a grill away from direct flame or near hot coals.  Roast until the kernels are tender.

* Use foil pouches for small whole potatoes, drizzle lightly with olive oil or a pat of butter.  Pack your favorite dried herbs blend in a waterproof container and sprinkle over the potatoes.  Roast on indirect heat or on hot coals.

* Fresh vegetables such as asparagus, halved onions, halved sweet peppers can be oiled and placed directly over a direct heat source.  Smaller vegetable like mushrooms, sliced zucchini, and cherry tomatoes can be roasted in a foil pouch or on a skewer.

* Pre-portion healthy snacks such nuts, raisins and dried cranberries and granola in snack size zip-top bags for taking on hikes or walks on the beach.

Remember to eat as much fresh food as possible to help support the physical activities during your vacation and keep plenty of drinking water on hand!

Bones For Making Stocks


beef-bones-300x199As grilling season is slowing approaching, one starts to daydream of the aroma of seasoned meats and charcoal.  During those summer months we tend to cook a greater quantity of meats and seafood on either a charcoal or gas grill, tailgate with our friends or cook on an open camp fire.  So this leads to the question of “What to do with all the meat, fish and poultry bones and seafood shells?”  Well make homemade stocks of course!

When trimming off bones, carcasses and removing seafood from its shell, remember to save them for later use.  Simply separate by type of bone and place in a food safe freezer container or zip top bag.  Clearly label what type of bone or shell is inside along with the date.  These should be placed directly in the freezer and will hold for up to a year.

Here are some items to save:

Beef bones

Pork bones

Veal bones

Chick bones and the carcass

Turkey bones and the carcass

Fish bones and heads

Lobster bodies, meat removed

Shells of clams, oysters, crab

Once you have saved enough bones or shells you are ready to make a stock.  Locate a basic stock recipe for the amount of bones you have, these recipes will specify the weight of bones needed.  Most stocks will call for the use of a mirepoix, which is chopped carrots, celery and onions.  Darker beef, pork and veal stocks will also recommend baking the bones first to caramelize them and to draw out a richer flavor.

Always start a stock off with cold water, never hot, to keep the stock clear and prevent cloudiness.  Add in aromatics is a cheesecloth pouch tied with butcher’s twine including parsley stems, peppercorns, and bay leaves.  Lastly, remember to keep the stock at a gentle simmer to develop the flavor.  Remove any grease off the surface with a spoon throughout the cooking process.

Here are the general cooking guidelines:

Fish Stocks 1-2 hours

Poultry Stocks 4-6 hours, (chicken, turkey)

Brown Stocks 6-8 hours (beef, veal, pork)

Cool your stock completely, preferably over an ice bath, and store in containers in the freezer.  These stocks make a great addition to your homemade soups and sauces in the fall and winter months.  Enjoy!

Valentine’s Tuxedo Strawberries


TuxedoThese strawberries are dressed to impress your special Valentine!

What you will need:

1 quart fresh strawberries, washed and dried with a clean towel

1 package white melting chocolate (Wilton brand preferred)

1 package dark chocolate melting chocolate (Wilton)

1 disposable piping bag

1 cookie sheet

waxpaper or parchment


Rinse the strawberries in cold running water and immediately pat dry with a clean towel.  Place berries on several layers of paper towel to absorb remaining water.

Melt the white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl for 30-60 seconds at a time at half power, chocolate should be smooth and lump free.  Hold the berries by the green top and dip into the melted white chocolate, 3/4 up the berry, leaving a little bit of red showing at the top.  Place the dipped berries on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and refrigerate 10 minutes to set the chocolate.  While the white chocolate sets, melt the dark chocolate in the microwave.

Dip the strawberries carefully into the dark chocolate at an angle on each side to create the tuxedo jacket effect.  Return berries to lined tray and refrigerate to set.

Fill piping bag with remaining melted dark chocolate (reheat if necessary).   Cut a small opening on the end of the piping bag and use to add 3 dots and the bowtie on the front of the berry.  Return to refrigerator to chill, keep cold until ready to serve on in a decorative box or on top a romantic heart shaped cake!

Gameday leftover meals


veggie tray

Wondering what to do with your gameday leftovers?

Here are some tips on how to incorporate your gameday party leftovers into this weeks meals:

  • Remove the meat off the bone for leftover chicken wings and ribs
  • Use veggies such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and peppers in a stir fry with leftover rib or chicken meat
  • Pack cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and celery into zip style bags with small containers of leftover dip for snacking on the go
  • Chop up leftover hard cheeses, salami and pepperoni then add into your favorite cooked pasta and marinara sauce, bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted
  • Crush up leftover chips for breading chicken breasts, first dip chicken in flour, then egg and finally the crushed chips

Homemade Pico de Gallo


Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo

Courtesy of Chef Susan Brassard

Prep time: 10-15 minutes

2 Cups fresh diced tomatoes, approximately a pound

1 small red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/3 chopped cilantro leaves

1 to 2 jalapenos, finely diced (use 2 for more heat)

The juice and zest of 1 fresh lime

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate.  Allow to chill 2 hours before serving with your favorite tortilla chips. I prefer using a combination of blue and yellow corn chips for color contrast.  Also, you can serve with guacamole, limes and sour cream to create this festive game day platter (pictured above).

Q & A


Many People Thinking of Questions

This area is your opportunity to post your questions to me.  I would love to help with your cooking, baking and cake decorating dilemmas.  Please leave questions in the comments and I will get back to you ASAP.


Gingerbread all winter long.

Ready for winter fun!

Ready for winter fun!

Gingerbread is not just for the holiday season. This gingerbread man is all dressed up in winter gear and ready for those cold snowy days. Decorating with royal icing allows the design to dry hard and package for parties or bake sales.

Royal Icing Recipe:

1 lb. confectioner’s sugar
3 Tbsp. meringue powder (can be found at local cake decorating supply stores)
5 Tbsp. lukewarm water

Blend sugar and meringue powder using a mixer or hand blender on low speed to incorporate. Add water and mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until icing is bright white and smooth.

To complete this winter design you will need:

-pre-baked gingerbread men
-royal icing
-red paste food coloring
-small red hots for eyes
-piping bag
-#3 small round decorating tip





I am Chef Susan Brassard of Massachusetts.  Currently, I teach culinary arts and food studies courses at Lowell High school and teach as an adjunct culinary instructor at Newbury College.  My culinary career has spanned over twenty years with a focus on teaching garde manger, cake decorating techniques, pastry arts, culinary fundamentals, adult education cooking basics and hospitality management.  I have years of experience working in catering kitchens, private restaurants, hotels and country clubs.  I own “The Violet Rose”, a private catering company, established in 2004.  I am currently working towards a CAGS degree in Occupational Education and History, I hold a Master’s in Gastronomy from Boston University and a Bachelor’s in Culinary Management from Newbury College.

My current passion is the study of historic cookbooks and the techniques of eras gone past such as hearth cooking.  During my summer vacation, you will often find me perusing my own growing collection of cookery books, domestic manuals, and food pamphlets.  I am researching doctoral programs study works further as a magnifier on women’s history since vintage cookbooks offer so much information on a specific time, place and way of life.

I have established this blog and my Chef 411 facebook page as a way for students and culinary enthusiasts to connect to me with their specific questions, stories and a way to share my wealth of knowledge.  I hope you enjoy and welcome your active participation.

Bonne journée,

Chef Susan Brassard