Sunday, April 10, 2011

Torie's Clam Chowder

My friend Torie served this to us on Friday for lunch last week at school. Let me just say, I think Torie is my new best friend. She knows how to make us teachers feel special, and comfort food at the end of a long week is one of the ways she does that. THANKS AGAIN, TORIE!

1-51 oz can of chopped clams
1 pkg of bacon chopped
1 cup minced onion
2 cup diced celery
3 cups cubed potatoes
2 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart half-and-half cream
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
ground black pepper to taste

1. Begin with all your veggies prepped. Pan fry the bacon till crisp, add veggies and sautee them until they have absorbed a lot of that bacon flavor. (Sometimes I split the carrots, onions, celery in one batch, then potatoes in another batch because otherwise it takes a really large pan). Season these veggies as you go, they don't need a whole lot of salt because you are cooking in the bacon fat, but taste every step as you go.
2. Drain juice from clams over the onions, celery, potatoes and carrots. Add water to cover, and cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender. Season to taste.
2. Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth and cook for 1-2 minutes just to get rid of that raw flour taste. Whisk in cream and stir constantly until thick and smooth. Stir in vegetables and clam juice. Heat through, but do not boil.
3. Stir in clams just before serving. If they cook too much they get tough. When clams are heated through, stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.
4. This soup really cooks quickly. If you start with your veggies all prepped, it will only take about 30 minutes. And it really doesn't get 'that' much better as it simmers (like most soups would). It's stove to table with a very full bodied flavor as if it has cooked all day. Add milk if it gets too thick :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Signs of Spring

It all usually starts about Valentine's Day. I start looking for blossoms as I drive past the almond orchards on my way to school. This year, God's special Valentine came to me in the form of one perfect pinky/purplish blossom blinking its hello to me as I drove past the ornamental plum tree in my doctor's parking lot. The best Valentine's gift I ever got!

Next in line in the Spring parade are the lilacs. Their deep lavender color sends me right back to the backyard of my youth. I thought my dad was the most gifted gardener that ever lived. We had the prettiest yard in the neighborhood, and my mom often cut huge bouquets of gladiolas, calla lilies, roses, and snapdragons to put on the church altar. We had a huge lilac bush in the corner of the garden and I remember laying under that bush, staring up at the clouds through the clusters of fragrant blooms. I don't have any idea what I thought about during my youthful escapes, but the view of that dappled sunlight is so vivid I could swear I'm there now. My wonderful husband, Gary, has planted a lilac tree in the corner of our yard too. And for those of you who know him and have been to our house, you know he is one of the most gifted gardeners in the world! :-)

Before you know it, all my spring favorites are in bloom. There are daffodils of all sizes, clusters, and shades of yellow, cream, and orange. The iceland poppies wave hello to everyone who passes by. Their little round heads that bob in the wind right before they open remind me of some kind of party surprise. Before you know it, POP, the flower bursts forth with sunshiny shades of pinks, oranges, and yellows. Gary makes sure these happy flowers are in the front and the back so I can see them from everywhere.

Do I love Spring so much because the cold, gray dreariness of winter has left me longing for warmer, longer days? I think so. But I also know that these harbingers of Spring come just before my favorite holiday, Easter. Spring flowers symbolize what Easter is all about in my opinion. ..... the promise of New Life. This Spring, take time to notice the Signs of Spring, and enjoy them for the gifts that they are.